Computer programming in the Internet Age: experiences converting a X-Window monitoring program to Java

Paper: 215
Session: E (talk)
Speaker: Zito, Giuseppe, INFN, Bari
Keywords: application programming, WWW applications, Java

Computer programming in the Internet Age:
experiences converting a X-Window monitoring program to Java

Giuseppe Zito
Sezione INFN,Bari Italy


Over the past year, the Java programming language has sparked considerable
interest among software developers. Its popularity stems from its flexibility,
portability, and relative simplicity (compared with other object-oriented
programming languages).

Many experiments in HEP are currently evaluating the possibility to use Java
in data analysis , visualization and other applications.

In order to have a first-hand experience,I converted to Java a moderately
complex application :the Aleph Hcal monitoring display. This program is
used to visualize data coming from a subdetector of the Aleph apparatus for
monitoring purposes. The original application was written in C and Fortran
using X-window for the graphical user interface on Openvms workstations.It
is available only on X-terminals. The Java implementation is platform
independent and consists in the integration of a few applets in an already
existing hypertext ("The Hcal Control room") used for monitoring.

After spending a few weeks learning the language, I found the coding in Java
easier than the original coding. The whole process has lasted two
man-months of work (compared with around a year of the original). Up to
now, the best platforms to run these applets are PC with Windows95 or NT
but presumably this will change in future.

What is the lesson gained? Being in the programming business since 30
years, Java is not my first language. But in a certain sense, it was a completely
new experience.The difference was in the incredible support to my work
coming from Internet. For example, for the first time I had all the
documentation online. For the first time I could look at the source and run
programs developed from thousands of other programmers. Problems that
previously would have required days to be solved, could be sorted out in few
minutes with a query to a search engine like Altavista.I didn't even need a
compiler on my machine:I could have compiled my code on a computer
offering a remote compiling service,etc,etc So my conclusion is that,like
HTML, Java is not only here to stay but will change completely the way we do
our business.