Peter Pilgrim is professional software developer, designer and architect. Since 1998 he has worked in the financial services industry, investment banking mainly, developing IT for clients. He is a well known specialist in Java Enterprise Edition (Java EE) technology, focused on the server-side and the implementation of electronic commerce. Peter has built professional Java EE apps for top-tier investment banks such as Lloyds Banking Group, UBS, Credit Suisse, Royal Bank of Scotland and Deutsche Bank. Peter is the 91st Oracle Java Champion. Peter is a DZone MVB and is not an employee of DZone and has posted 34 posts at DZone. You can read more from them at their website. View Full User Profile

JavaOne 2010 Part 2: Whatever Happened To Christopher Oliver, Inventor of JavaFX Script?

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Whatever happened to Christopher Oliver? What would he say now about the state of the affairs in JavaFX development? I wonder whether if he would be pleased or disappointed with the fact that Oliver are deprecating support for JavaFX Script in JavaFX 2.0. In fact, Chris Oliver, the inventor / creator of JavaFX Script is conspicious by his absense.

Christopher Oliver originally presented the research for Form Follows Function (F3) in his infamous blog. I have been to every JavaOne since 2004 until now, and over here, in San Francisco, recorded his technical session from 2007. I have embeded it here again in order to give you all a chance to look at it.

Having spoken recently to some very knowledgeable people, Christopher Oliver, was not the best effective communicator out there regarding the internal goings on at Sun Microsystems. On the Carl Jungs chart of introversion / extroversion versus task / people oriented person quadrants, from hearsay, at least to me, and I am probably going rather inappropriate here, Christopher Oliver is/was a "competitive" personality. This stands to reason since majority of entrepreneurs and leaders have been foundto fit the profile.

Chris Oliver deserves credit for his F3 invention again. I do wonder what I would be feeling if I was stepping in his shoes now? If I had created a brand new scripting language, which was then accepted and turn into an alternative JVM language, then witnessed its takes up by marketing and business analysts and sales galore, or those "other" people, then watched for the three years while they struggled to get the releases out. I think I would be more than a little upset.

In terms of execution, I would asking myself, how a company like Apple Corporationcan break into the mobile phone market so spectacularly and surmount the barriers to the entry like they did, with the spectacular success of iOS devices? How came they could do it and my own company Sun Microsystems just could not succeed with it all?

I think I would be feeling pretty rotten that JavaFX Script has suddenly come to an end. Boy! If I had known this would going to happen, then perhaps I should have developed both Java APIs and the compiled JavaFX Script language simultaneously. It would have been in my best interest to ensure that the delivery was completed largely 80% on schedule. I would have also fought too and nail to make sure software was not closed source. I could have achieved a balance between agility of implementation and transparency to the rest of the world.

I would also accept the failures, because I spent a far too much time on research on graphics, performance and probably should spent time on helping the FX team get the official releases out, especially in the later stages of the delivery. Bloody hell, because I am Christopher Oliver and the architect and the vision it was my sole duty to support the entire team.

Ok! Dream over. Wayne's World transition starts and finishes:

Yours truly, yes it is I, Peter Pilgrim, do not actually know where it all went wrong with JavaFX in the time between 2007-2010. I do know that the future. JavaFX is not dead yet as some technical journalist. Oracle just are no longer supporting JavaFXScript, JavaFX will be part of the Oracle JDK 7 and JDK 8 and so it will be accessible everywere on the desktop. What does Oracle need to do to make JavaFX 2.0 a success:

  • JavaFX with Java must be delivered on time with no further delays in H2 2011. I repeat. There can no longer be anymore slips. This is it. This is Oracle chance to take the reins and if this delivery fails then fatigue will set in absolutely inside the community.
  • If the Oracle JavaFX teams needs outside community help, advice or opinion on the design then bloody hell they should be able to get it! Just ask us.
  • The outside community needs regular drops of the Java API of the JavaFX 2.0 sprints in order that they see the upcoming development. For those of like who dabble alternative JVM languages, Scala, Mirah, etc, then we would lilke to see those APIs quicker. It would also help Stephen Chin with Visage project.
  • Oracle do not be afraid of making mistakes with JavaFX for Java, especially the API, in the run up to version 1.0. Because the API is in Java, then the Domain Specific Language providers, like yours trul (I hope), Stephen Chin, Charles Oliver Nutter, Andres Almiray, etc we have the passion to fix up our code. We do not care if the API change. 
  • Learn the lessons of the past, JavaFX must have tooling.

Most of all, we as supporters of JavaFX, the idea to bring the Java platform up to speed in order that it can deliver compelling rich applications with effects, must keep faith, keep on working, communicating the issues and solutons; in order that we deliver the end result. It is going require strong coffee and green teas or whatever energises your soul in order get a result. I see now that JavaFX with Java APIs will give us the feeling of elite-class runtime capable of running the smart phone / smart top applications speculated for middle of this decade (2015).  It is excellent that JavaFX has a Java API, and plans to do so, especially for a Scala enthusiast like me.

I do hope that Christopher Oliver is not locked in a dungeon and festering sores, I feel that somehow he is taking this decision to stop JavaFX Script in his stride. When I met Oliver  in 2007, he sort of came across as an aloof clever physically fit hardworking guy, a Sir Clive Sinclair figure type. I would love to get his opinion on what Stephen Chin should do with JavaFX Script the compilation language, if we do get our hands on it. What would have he liked to add or remove to JavaFXScript before its deprecation? If you go back to the original JavaFX, which are interpreted mode, there was many reserved keywords, which were left out from the compiled JavaFX language. Chris Oliver, all the best, wherever you thanks for your vision.

This is Peter Pilgrim, who in San Francisco for the JavaOne 2010 conference. Out



Published at DZone with permission of Peter Pilgrim, author and DZone MVB.

(Note: Opinions expressed in this article and its replies are the opinions of their respective authors and not those of DZone, Inc.)



Casper Bang replied on Fri, 2010/09/24 - 1:03pm

There was nothing inherently wrong with JavaFX Script the language, except that it was pushed exclusively as an applet 2.0 technology. Given the sorry state of Java, and people flocking to the complex beast that is Scala, I still think it was a mistake not to target general purpose development and a successor to Java.

Since Sun demonstrated time and again that backwards compatibility is more important than innovation, and that they preferred to push entropy problems in front brute-force style like a bulldozer would, this was their only option. So while I don't think there was anything wrong with Chris Oliver's vision, there was something wrong with Sun managers, and their vision and timing.

I wonder whether people won't be studying this last decade and what went wrong. Personally I think Sun got too comfortable and forgot to look at the competition, open source is a great feature but it does not make up for innovation. However, Sun's failure with F3 takes nothing away from Chris Oliver and his achievements.

Michael Bien replied on Fri, 2010/09/24 - 2:04pm

well, if you attended SIGGRAPH this year you could have met him (and friends) :)

Anthony Ve replied on Fri, 2010/09/24 - 2:34pm

Isn't Chris Oliver working on the slim shady project? It 's been a while since his last blog post, but Anthony Rogers' last one is only a week old. I was hoping to hear more about slim shady at this JavaOne, btw...

Richard Osbaldeston replied on Sat, 2010/09/25 - 5:54pm

I've also been wondering where Alexander Potochkin & Danny Coward are? Both have been very quiet since the acquisition was finalised. Alex is supposedly the head of the Swinglabs/SwingX & Swing JSRs and was supposed to attend the Swinglabs BOF at JavaOne, but days before the event it was leaked that he wouldn't attend.

Reading James Goslings posts among others it seems Oracle typically dosnt encourage communication about products in development. For their flagship database - a closed proprietary box-able product with several major competitors that might be fair enough. But Java is quite a different beast.. at least I think it is, that communication is as vital to me as good documentation.

Richard Bair, Amy Flower (Jonathan Giles already has his own blog) have all created their own personal blogs. Its something I questioned at the time, but theyve made a choice to use these rather than continue with their old ones. It might just be the hidden developers havnt got around to creating their own blogs to work around Oracles anti-community policies..?

OTOH if you happen to know anyone at a certain Mt View company it wouldnt hurt to ask them to check the phone list for these names. Thats where Ken Russell turned up I've heard.

Robert Casey replied on Thu, 2010/09/30 - 11:04am

Good post, Peter.  I think that F3 was a solid language foundation and the early releases of Java FX script were powerful in that you had essential GUI tools that could be easily invoked and tied to Java data models.  F3 was an excellent language construct that perhaps needed only a little bit of syntactic tweaking to stand the test of time.  It really helped developers create good MVC applications.

Sun blew their opportunity, in my opinion, by taking this technology and bungling it by 1) significantly altering the syntax, 2) removing essential GUI power widgets in favor of flashy animation tools, and 3) ignoring a critical mass of developers interested in writing portable and useful desktop applications.  They turned it into a media-flashy RIA offering and they were late to the game in doing so.  Adoption by new developers was slow as a result.  Abandonment by F3 experimenters was inevitable.

I hope to find out what Chris Oliver is up to these days and hope it involves more fresh innovation such as F3.

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