FX and the City

NightHacking with Stephen Chin and the LJC

The first stop on JavaFX evangelist Stephen Chin’s European road tour was London, where JAXenter’s offices happen to be based. As well as interviewing Russel Winder, Stephen Colebourne and Trisha Gee during his stay in London, Chin found time to present a talk to the London Java Community.

Broadcast live on his Ustream channel (and later uploaded to YouTube), the talk was a mixture of prepared slides, live demos and plenty of questions, followed by a brief hands-on with JavaFX itself. With the event organised late, only a small number could make what ended up being an intimate session.

Chin’s opening demo was a simple recreation of the iconic Star Wars intro, with text scrolling across a static photo of the moon. This was unimpressive in of itself, until Chin delved into the source code to change the effects, which included drop shadows, 3D transforms and animation, all with simple snippets of code.

One of the highest-profile announcements of this year’s JavaOne was support for ARM devices such as the hacker’s delight Raspberry Pi, and so Chin had brought along a Pi loaded with an as-yet-unreleased JavaFX build to wow the crowds. He transferred the ‘Star Wars’ demo’s .jar file to a USB drive, plugged it into the Pi and it ran without a hitch.

Chin then went on to discuss the way in which JavaFX apps can be bundled with a specific version of Java and placed in app stores. A recent example of this was Ensemble, an app notable not only for its demos of JavaFX features but also the fact that it made it into the closely-vetted Mac App Store.

James Gosling, who Chin interviewed last week in the run-up to his Nighthacking tour, even described Ensemble’s inclusion in the store as “an earthquake”, adding that he “can't wait to start playing with” JavaFX in a recent blog post.

It was difficult to judge from Chin’s demos and the limited hands-on time precisely how useful JavaFX will be in the long run. It seems to be attempting to reclaim the desktop for Java, as well as providing shortcuts for building “immersive visual applications” (as stated in promotional materials); a lack of focus perhaps a result of its troubled past.

Of course, as Chin himself pointed out, JavaFX is already available within Java 7, so there’s no need to take our word for it - you can try it yourself now.

The evening ended with a quick play with the source code - producing little more than a quick “Hello world” - before the LJC retired to the pub. Today, Chin will be on his way to J-Fall in the Netherlands, and will of course be broadcasting his sessions live on Ustream.

Elliot Bentley

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