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Linux and Java will help you create apps while keeping your budget in check. Linux Advisor hed: Good economic developments dek: Linux and Java will help you create apps while keeping your budget in check. by Maggie Biggs

It’s funny. Most of my siblings are involved in technology in one way or another. Some are network engineers, while others are software developers. Our discussions are usually quite lively. No surprise there: Most technologists also have strong opinions about what they like and don’t like.

During a recent family discussion, one of my siblings said he felt that Linux was a great platform for Java developers. For once, he’s right. But Java is also a winner for business.

By combining the economical open-source operating system with the plethora of open source and commercial Java tools available, companies can save a lot of money. Whether you’re a small business with a single technical person or a larger company with one or more development teams, there is much to gain by leveraging Linux and Java to create or enrich applications.

Some of the major business benefits of adopting Linux and Java to create applications include: reduced development costs; increased developer productivity; platform plurality; leveraged open-source collaboration; and reduced developer training costs.

To the lab!

Most recently, I’ve been testing three different Java Integrated Development Environments (IDEs) for Linux. They are: Sun’s Forte for Java-Community Edition, which is available as a free download; Borland’s JBuilder 4 Foundation, which is also available as a free download; and Metrowerks CodeWarrior 6.0 Professional Edition, which costs $149. The Metrowerks tool supports both Java and C++ development on Linux. Sun and Borland also have fee-based versions of their tools that offer developers additional functionality.

Since I started programming many moons ago when GUI-based IDEs did not yet exist, I’m fairly critical of integrated development environments. But all three of these tools are very straightforward and, whether new to Java or experienced, developers will only need to spend minimal time learning how to work with them.

Likewise, plenty of low-cost material is available to teach staffers about Linux and Java. For example, the three Java tools I tested all had educational materials available. In particular, Metrowerks has set up an educational site that offers free classes.

You might leverage Java and Linux to add applets to Web applications or to create full-blown business applications that run on wired and wireless platforms. Because of Java’s cross-platform capabilities, you can leverage Linux for creation while deploying to the same platform or other platforms.

For my test, I created the same e-commerce applications using the three tools I tested. I also tried creating the same e-commerce applications with my text editor since that is my normal modus operandi. When all of my applications were complete, I found that using the tools allowed me to complete my projects approximately 10 to 20 percent faster on average than manual coding (your mileage may vary).

JBuilder 4 Foundation on Linux is a good IDE to program in if you are just beginning to learn Java. It provides a bit more handholding than the others. Newer developers may find the included wizards a useful jump-start. All the tools for development are housed in a tabular metaphor that makes navigation easy. Forte for Java Community Edition does a good job of not consuming all of your screen while you’re using it. The IDE loads in approximately one quarter of your screen. Smaller windows are then launched based on the action you are performing, such as editing, debugging, compiling, or running a program.

CodeWarrior for Linux launches in a manner similar to Forte, and it too launches various smaller windows based on your actions. CodeWarrior offers good compilation support and easy access to plug-in third-party tools for the development environment. If you have a favorite debugger, you can easily launch it from CodeWarrior.

And, all three development tools work under the latest Java language standards.

The other plus

Aside from reduced development costs for businesses, a bevy of tools for developers, and an ample supply of educational material, there is another plus for those who leverage Linux and Java. A very active open source Java community exists and plenty of collaboration and help can be found among this large global group of developers.

I’ve hit a snag more than once while creating applications, and I’ve posted questions to various mailing lists, newsgroups, and at several community sites. I’m amazed at how quickly I receive a response and how helpful everyone is.

This type of collaboration helps developers rapidly increase proficiency, and it helps businesses speed up the time it takes to get applications up and running.

Developers who leverage the open-source community for assistance might also consider getting involved in one or more open-source projects as a way to increase programming proficiency while giving something back to the community.

The Net gain

Linux and Java together produce a solid set of gains for businesses that fits well with the rapid pace of Web and wireless development. As we move toward architectures that are more service-oriented to support forthcoming peer-to-peer technologies, I expect the dynamic duo will continue to add good value for businesses small and large.

Java resources for Linux developers

A plentiful amount of data exists to help developers new and experienced with Java who wish to leverage Linux as a development platform.

Sun Microsystems Java Resource www.sun.com/software/linux/resources/java/

Sun Forte for Java www.sun.com/forte/ffj/index.html

Blackdown Java Tools www.blackdown.org/java-linux/products/javatools.html

Yahoo Open Source Web ring http://nav.webring.yahoo.com/hub?ring=osj123&list

Emacs JDE http://jde.sunsite.dk/

Borland JBuilder www.borland.com/jbuilder/foundation/

Metrowerks CodeWarrior www.metrowerks.com/desktop/linux/

IBM VisualAge for Java

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