Tuesday, July 19, 2005

JDeveloper: Like Aretha Sang...

My mate Duncan Mills recently complained of the lack of respect shown towards him by some Java heads on account of his choice of IDE. Now Duncan is a good bloke and I'm sure he would still maintain that JDeveloper is the best Java programming environment even if he didn't work for Oracle Corporation. But scepticism is understandable: JDeveloper was always going to be a hard sell to the Java community.

Firstly, JDeveloper is not open-source, it's proprietary. Java heads tend to make a fetish of platform-independence, and so suspect anything that threatens to lock them into a single supplier. Of course, Java itself is proprietary: the IPR belongs to Sun, they just give the JDK away to all and sundry. To paraphrase the Free_Software_Foundation, Java is free as in free beer not free speech. But at least IDEs like Eclipse, by being open, allow everybody to get involved.

Secondly, JDeveloper is belong to Oracle. Famously, Oracle make an RDBMS. Java heads, by and large, loathe RDBMS. They may tolerate open source quasi-databases like MySQL but they utterly detest commercial big iron databases like Oracle. Partly this is because relational database design is orthogonal to object-oriented modelling. But also the concept of platform independence means that the persistence layer of any system can supposedly be a database or a flat file, so why sweat the details. Either way there is a general reluctance amongst Java programmers (and other OO practioners) to tangle with RDBMS. In its extreme this leads to half-baked ideas like Prevalyer or hand-rolled persistence packages. More common is the tendency to use dont-worry-about-the-database tools like Hibernate. In such a climate few people are going to look favourably upon a tool developed by an RDBMS vendor for the purpose of making it easier to build Java front-ends to database systems.

Like it or not, people will regard JDeveloper as a Java version of Forms, that is a tool for building front-ends to Oracle databases. The fact that it is genuinely platform independent, standards compliant, etc. will not sway them. I know people who switched from using JDeveloper to using Eclipse, simply because they thought using the de facto industry standard would look better on their CVs. As they are now ex-colleagues of mine I guess they bet the right way.

Of course, Duncan is correct to say people ought to be more respectful of other people's opinions but it ain't going to happen anytime soon. Probably the two largest demographic groups on the net (and certainly amongst the l33t h4x0rz who care deeply about IDEs) are
  • potty-mouthed teenagers; and
  • social inadequates who get on better with machines than with people.
These people pro-actively scorn everybody else (to avoided being scorned first). Expecting respect from them is like expecting cabbies and bicycle couriers to obey the Highway Code. Given that the web is a tool that provides an instantaneous conduit for insults, with a virtual guarantee of no meaningful comeback, the real wonder is that there civilised discourse at all.

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