Beyond Java by Bruce A. Tate, ISBN: 0-596-10094-9

Reviewed by: Songmuh Jong, November 2005
Published by: O'Reilly
Requires: Ruby On Rails, SeaSide on SmallTalk
MSRP: US$24.95, CA$34.95, UK£17.50

"Once upon a time, all the great talents that had made Java into a leading edge language started to feel the boredom of contributing to the routines of this beast and decided to jump into new and exciting frontiers". The above lines might be part of the computer history in the future. Interestingly, it may not take too long for this to happen. Beyond Java speculates on the future of Java programming, citing two frameworks from the programming languages Ruby and SmallTalk. The author estimates that Ruby On Rails makes him 5 to 10 times more productive than using Java with Spring, Hibernate and Web Work.

This book looks deceptively simple, but tackles a very big topic. Why would a successful consultant like Bruce Tate take on this new turn in his career? Is he giving up Java in favor of other unrelated languages? Readers will find out the answers by reading the book. Why not just fix Java to make it do things other platforms can do? This book also provides some thoughts about that.

Tate tactfully starts and continues the book by repeating his central theme: Java is not the only solution, there are jewels in other languages. He explains the trigger of his changes, and his boost in productivity after taking Java "out of the equation".

To convince readers to favor his opinions, Tate cites the history of client/server computing and the Internet, the C++ issues, the DLL hell, the CORBA compromises, and the rise of Java. The author goes on to describe the golden days of Java dominance, the open source movement, and the emergence of J2EE. He quickly points out many benefits of developing in Java, its virtual machine, its portability, its security, and its enterprise integration.

The book then turns to the myths of Java and points out its disadvantages: Java is not the greatest application development tool. Java is not the most productive language. Java has a steep learning curve. Tate goes into the core of the Java language and find its limitations.

Several important requirements are listed in the book for a successful web development tool, such as portability, Internet focus, interoperability, enterprise integration and database integration. The author then identifies several languages that suits the requirements, including Perl, PHP, Python, Smalltalk and Ruby. The book concludes with two examples: Ruby On Rails and Continuation Servers such as Seaside on Smalltalk.

From time to time throughout the book, Tate inserts excerpts from other people to strengthen its main points. Examples include why Java won, Java's success, Java's limitations, why Java will be hard to replace, the next big thing, Python, Ruby and Groovy. It's all well organized and Java developers will find it very easy to follow Tate's thought processes throughout the book.

This book is intended to target Java developers and inform them about the developments in other fields that may shake the industry. The writing style of this book is characteristic of Tate's travel-initiated presentations, which add some myths to the discussion. It doesn't go into code details, so readers can comfortably read it anywhere.

It is recommended that you pick up this book before going on a vacation and read it on the plane. I think you'll be entertained beyond Java. Recommended.

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