Monday, October 15, 2018

Drombler FX: Version 0.12 and 0.13 released

Since introducing a modular StatusBar and ProgressMonitor earlier this year, I've released v0.12 and v.013 of Drombler FX - the modular application framework for JavaFX.

In this releases some of the Drombler FX/ ACP start-up code has been moved to Drombler Commos.
This allows also non-Drombler FX/ ACP applications, such as the Drombler JStore Client Agent, to reuse start-up code such as:
Because the code has been moved, please note that some of the packages and Maven dependencies changed as well.

Please also note that org.drombler.commons.fx.scene.GraphicFactory moved to org.drombler.commons.client.graphic.GraphicFactory with these releases.

 

Small Enhancements

There are small enhancements to work with directories, data handlers, collection bindings and TreeViews. 

Please check the documentation to learn more about them.


Additional Information

Projects like this one need to be build by a community working together to be really successful. There are several ways how you can contribute to this project. Contributions are highly welcome! See the "How to Contribute"-page for more information.

You can find the complete list of fixed issues here: https://github.com/Drombler/drombler-fx/issues?q=milestone%3A0.13


There's a Getting Started page which explains how to create, build and run a Drombler FX sample application with a few simple steps.


The following table provides you an overview of the different Drombler components, links to the modules, which are available from Maven Central, and links to the Javadocs.
  


Name Modules
(incl. Maven Coordinates)
Javadoc Description
Drombler FX Modules Javadoc Drombler FX, the modular application framework for JavaFX based on:
Drombler ACP Modules Javadoc Drombler Abstract Client Platform (ACP) is an abstract, GUI-toolkit agnostic, modular Rich Client Platform based on:
Drombler Commons Modules Javadoc Drombler Commons is a collection of reusable libraries and frameworks. They ship with OSGi meta data but don't require an OSGi environment.


If you find issues or have enhancement requests, you can file a ticket here: https://github.com/Drombler/drombler-fx/issues.
 

Monday, September 24, 2018

Drombler JStore News: JRE REST service and JAP packaging

The work on the Drombler JStore, the next generation of Java application deployments, goes on.

The way an application is identitfied has been changed to reuse the Maven GA(V) coordinates: groupId + artifactId
The packaging format is fixed (currently it's called "jap") and together with a version an application package can be uniquely identified.

There are now 4 REST services:
  • search for application updates (currently uses mock data)
  • new: download an application (currently mocked)
  • new: search for JRE updates (all recent versions of Oracle Java SE 8 and 10 supported!)
  • new: download a JRE (Swagger does not work yet here, but the service can successfully be called by the Drombler JStore Client Agent)
The search services already get called by the Drombler JStore Client (JavaFX based rich client).

The Drombler JStore backend service is now open sourced, too. This allows to discuss how we want to implement things and opens up for contributions.

The following JSON shows how we could manage JRE versions:



You can find the complete file here. There is also a JSON Schema.

Also work has gone on with the application desriptor specification. 
Here is a sample:


You can find the accordant JSON Schema here.

The JAP Maven Plugin can generate an application descriptor for you. You can find the Maven Plugin documentation here.

The project is moving forward and contributions are highly welcome! The current code base is not very complex. You should be able to get started quickly. Please don't hesitate to ask me, if you have any questions.

We can use your inputs especially in the following areas:

  • What should the platform-independent application packaging format and meta data look like to support your applications? What information is needed by the agent? What information is only needed by the discovery feature of the rich client?
  • Help us to make sure the agents have the necessary native OS integration to support your applications.
  • Help us to create a great user experience with the rich client (some UX and JavaFX skills required)
  • Help translate the texts of the rich client to different languages (i18n/ l10n)
  • Help us to get the basic features of the agent right
  • File enhancement requests for the various components
  • Join the discussions in the issues or on Gitter.
  • Help with the documentation (GitHub Pages, README files)

Since the proposed solution requires a backend, this will also require some resources to run the service. Any donations are welcome!

Saturday, June 16, 2018

The next generation of Java application deployments

A lot is going on in the Java world. So let's first have a look at where we currently are.

Oracle discontinues Java Web Start with Java 11

After discontinuing the Applet technology, which required browser plug-ins, Oracle now announced that they will also discontinue the Java Web Start technoloy.

Java Web Start, however, was a great way to easily deploy Java applications. It made sure Java application deployments don't fall too far behind the instant deployment feature of web applications - a point which already let many companies to choose web applications over Java based applications.

With Java Web Start gone, it will become harder again to compete with web applications, if we don't find a good alternative (please read on).

Oracle changed to a biannual major Java release cadence

Every 6 month there will be now a new "major" Java version, though the term "major" likely won't be used anymore and differences will be smaller than with the 2-3 year cadence (see Java 8 -> Java 9 vs Java 9 -> Java 10).

With every "major" release the support of the previous release seems to be discontinued.

Every 3 years there will be a LTS (Long Term Support) version, starting with Java 11 targeted for September 2018 (there is a small video and a FAQ about this from Oracle).

As far as I understand (please correct me if I'm wrong) you will need to buy this LTS. If you don't, then it's recommended to upgrade to the next major version or find another distributor which provides updates (more on this see below).

Interestingly and to some surprise, the long awaited Java SE 9 release with the new module system didn't become a LTS version and already has been superseded by Java SE 10.

Oracle also mentions that developers often package the JRE with their applications nowadays. End users should not need to install a JRE anymore.

Oracle and OpenJDK binaries

While Sun started to open source the JDK with the OpenJDK project back in 2006 and Oracle continued this process, there are still some differences between the OpenJDK builds and the Oracle Java builds.

Now Oracle plans to ship OpenJDK binaries for non-LTS releases and with this shift they also plan to finally close those technical differences, which currently still exist.

Once these differences are closed, this will make projects such as AdoptOpenJDK much more appealing, as it seems they will provide free updates for LTS versions in the future.

Modular JRE and JLink

Together with the JPMS (Java Platform Module System), which modularizes the JRE and can be used to modularize applications, Java 9 introduced a new tool called JLink.

JLink allows you to create custom runtime images which only consists of your application modules and those JRE modules which your application requires.

The result is likely a smaller runtime image which uses less resources than using a default JRE.

This should also make Java more appealing to IoT devices.

JavaFX

Since JavaFX 2.2 and Java SE 7 update 6, JavaFX has been included in Oracle's JDK. With JavaFX 8 and Java SE 8 the version has been aligned and JavaFX has become available on the default classpath.

Now Oracle announced (see the link at the top) that with Java SE 11 JavaFX will be removed again from the JDK.

With a modularized JRE it might be more natural to let feature modules have their own cycles.

But since JavaFX also includes native parts, it seems to me WORA (Write Once, Run Anywhere) will become a bit trickier - at least the packaging part of JavaFX applications.

Please read on for a possible solution.

The Java Packager Tool

JavaFX also introduced a new tool to create platform-specific native packages with an embedded JRE. With JavaFX 8 the tool has been added to the JDK as the javapackager tool.

Since Java SE 9 the javapackager tool integrates with the jlink tool.

In Java SE 11 the javapackager tool will be removed again from the JDK along with JavaFX.

There is a JEP request (JDK Enhancement Proposal) for a new jpackager tool, however.

While I think we do need a tool such as javapackager/ jpackager, javapackager and the proposed jpackager also have some major drawbacks:
  • no cross-compilation support: You have to create the native packages on the target platforms, e.g. msi-packages on Windows, deb-packages on Linux. Creating a one-click release pipeline is non-trivial.
  • platform specific configurations: Each native package has slightly different requirements.
  • no automatic security updates: The users have to rely on the application vendors to ship a new application version which contains a JRE with the latest security fixes (though not all security bugs might affect all applications in the same way).
  • expensive managed deployments: In heavily managed enterprises, where the average users don't have local admin rights and can't install applications themselves, the processes of application deployments tend to get very expensive (up to several thousand CHF per deployment). This is another reason why enterprises nowadays tend to either Java Web Start or to web applications.
  • slow managed deployments: In these heavily managed enterprises, deployments also tend to be slow and can take up to several weeks until the application is deployed to the user machine. This also makes it hard to coordinate frontend deployments with backend deployments and is definitely not DevOps-friendly. This is yet another reason why enterprises nowadays tend to either Java Web Start or to web applications.

Drombler JStore


Given the above mentioned issues with tools such as  javapackager/ jpackager, which create application packages with an embedded JRE, I don't think this is the solution for the majority of Java applications.

On the other hand, I too think that we should not require anymore from end-users to pre-install a JRE, which likely doesn't fit for all applications anyway.

It's however unlikely that Oracle will provide another solution than the jpackager.

If we need something different then it will have to be community driven.

So I'm proposing here a new deployment model with the working title (likely to change): Drombler JStore

At the core of this deployment model is a new application store with first class support for Java applications.

In general, most applications should be able to define a platform-independent package which also describes the dependencies to some managed native components such as the JRE.

The tooling will then make sure that the required native components are available on the end-user machine. The tooling will also configure the environment for the process which starts the application.

The currently proposed solution consists of 4 major software parts.
I've already written a PoC (Proof of Concept) for each of those, which I think can serve as a starting point. Please note that everything is still subject to change.
  • Drombler JStore Client Agent:
    • Current goals:
      • headless background service
      • targets: end-user devices (desktops, NAS, IoT devices,...)
      • download and update applications from Drombler JStore
      • download and update applications using a JNLP-like file
      • download and update native components:
        • JREs (supporting multiple parallel major version installations)
        • custom runtimes created by JLink (supporting multiple parallel major version installations)
        • JavaFX native components?
        • Other native components, e.g. SWT?
      • support Security Manager
      • start applications in a configured environment
      • OS integration: 
        • desktop shortcuts
        • URL protocol registration
        • run as native OS service/ deamon
    • PoC:
      • Access a first Drombler JStore REST service
      • Download a JRE from Oracle
    • GitHub: https://github.com/Drombler/drombler-jstore-client-agent
  • Drombler JStore:
    • Current goals:
      • a free service (backend) run by Drombler
      • Provide access to applications / application updates
      • Provide access to native components and updates (JREs etc.)
      • Search applications
      • Rate applications
      • Comment on applications
      • Register vendors
      • Provide vendor contact options
    • PoC:
      • a first deployed REST service is available (likely to change)
    • Swagger: http://drombler-jstore-staging.us-east-1.elasticbeanstalk.com/swagger-ui.html
  • Drombler JStore Client
    • Current goals:
      • JavaFX-based rich client
      • Remote management of multiple Drombler JStore Client Agents
      • Discover applications on Drombler JStore
      • Rate applications on Drombler JStore
      • Comment on applications on Drombler JStore
      • Register vendors
    • PoC:
      • Drombler FX-based rich client
      • Initial multiple Drombler JStore Client Agent management support
      • Plugable feature support
      • Connect to the Drombler JStore REST service
    • GitHub: https://github.com/Drombler/drombler-jstore-client
  • JAP Maven Plugin
    • Current goals:
      • Define a platform-independent application packaging format and meta data
      • Provide Maven tooling
    • PoC
      • Creates a ZIP-based package, which contains the application in a nested ZIP-file. 
    • GitHub: https://github.com/Drombler/jap-maven-plugin 
    • in the future there could be similar solutions for other build tools such as Gradle

Call to the Community

As mentioned above, if we need a different deployment model then it will have to be community driven.

What do think about this proposed solution?
Do you have a need for an alternative deployment model?
Do you think we're running in the right direction with this proposed solution or did we miss something?

Contributions and Donations 

Even for a MVP (Minimal Viable Product) there is quite some work to do.
Contributions are highly welcome! The current code base is not very complex. You should be able to get started quickly. Please don't hesitate to ask me, if you have any questions.

We can use your inputs especially in the following areas:
  • What should the platform-independent application packaging format and meta data look like to support your applications? What information is needed by the agent? What information is only needed by the discovery feature of the rich client?
  • Help us to make sure the agents have the necessary native OS integration to support your applications.
  • Help us to create a great user experience with the rich client (some UX and JavaFX skills required)
  • Help translate the texts of the rich client to different languages (i18n/ l10n)
  • Help us to get the basic features of the agent right
  • File enhancement requests for the various components
  • Join the discussions in the issues or on Gitter.
  • Help with the documentation (GitHub Pages, README files)

Since the proposed solution requires a backend, this will also require some resources to run the service. Any donations are welcome!

Further Readings

Here are some further blog posts about similar topics:

Conclusion

A lot is going on in the Java world. But these changes also provide opportunities for new solutions.

Join and help to shape the next generation of Java application deployments!

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Drombler FX v0.11: modular StatusBar and ProgressMonitor

I recently released v0.11 of Drombler FX - the modular application framework for JavaFX.

This release comes with the integration of two new JavaFX controls.

StatusBar

The first is a rather simple one: a StatusBar. It maintains three lists of elements: leftElements, centerElements and rightElements. The elements are layed out accordingly.
The control is Skinnable and Styleable and can also be used in non-OSGi JavaFX applications. As you might guess, the main intention of this control is to show the user additional information at the bottom of your application.

Drombler FX provides declarative, modular integration of this StatusBar:

The annotated Node sub-class will be added to the according StatusBar elements list at the specified position.

If two adjacent StatusBar elements are positioned in different thousand groups (e.g. position = 910 and position = 1120), a Separator gets automatically registered between them.

For more information see the new StatusBar tutorial trail.

ProgressMonitor

The second new JavaFX control is ProgressMonitor.
This control allows to monitor any number of running, cancelable Workers.

ProgressMonitor

[1] a label bound to Worker#titleProperty
[2] a label bound to Worker#messageProperty
[3] a progress bar bound to Worker#progressProperty
[4] a button to execute Worker#cancel
[5] an indicator if there are additional workers being monitored
[6] a popup showing all monitored workers

The control is Skinnable and Styleable and can also be used in non-OSGi JavaFX applications. The main intention of this control is to be added to a StatusBar.

Here is a small sample application showing the ProgressMonitor and the StatusBar in action:



You can find the sample application also here.

Drombler FX provides out-of-the-box support for ProgressMonitor (as an optional feature). It registers a StatusBar element and provides a loosely-coupled notification mechanism via the Context Framework.

For more information see the new ProgressBar tutorial trail.


Application Layout

As there is no one-size-fits-all solution, the application layout of a Drombler FX application is pluggable so you can provide your own implementation tailored to your needs. This allows you to get the most out of Drombler FX and JavaFX.

While this feature is available for some time, there is now a new tutorial trail explaining it in more detail.


API Changes

Please note that some APIs have changed, especially the following ones:

Additional Information

Projects like this one need to be build by a community working together to be really successful. There are several ways how you can contribute to this project. Contributions are highly welcome! See the "How to Contribute"-page for more information.

You can find the complete list of fixed issues here: https://github.com/Drombler/drombler-fx/issues?q=milestone%3A0.11


There's a Getting Started page which explains how to create, build and run a Drombler FX sample application with a few simple steps.


The following table provides you an overview of the different Drombler components, links to the modules, which are available from Maven Central, and links to the Javadocs.
  


Name Modules
(incl. Maven Coordinates)
Javadoc Description
Drombler FX Modules Javadoc Drombler FX, the modular application framework for JavaFX based on:
Drombler ACP Modules Javadoc Drombler Abstract Client Platform (ACP) is an abstract, GUI-toolkit agnostic, modular Rich Client Platform based on:
Drombler Commons Modules Javadoc Drombler Commons is a collection of reusable libraries and frameworks. They ship with OSGi meta data but don't require an OSGi environment.


If you find issues or have enhancement requests, you can file a ticket here: https://github.com/Drombler/drombler-fx/issues.