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Sun brews fresh Java

Version 1.4 of Java 2 Standard Edition is the latest feature release, but Sun says there is still no Java 3 on the horizon

A week before its JavaOne conference gets under way, Sun Microsystems is promoting a new version of Java 2 Standard Edition.

Java 2 Standard Edition (J2SE) is the foundation of the Java technology and applies to both the server and client. With J2SE version 1.4, Sun will release a new software developer's kit and the Java 2 Java Runtime Environment.

"What we're trying to do with J2SE is to provide steady improvements of the platform over time," said Sherman Dickman, Sun's senior product manager for J2SE. "There is no Java 3 on the horizon. We're...creating feature releases every 18 months with performance and scalability improvements."

Version 1.4 is expected to ship this fall. The next version, code-named "Tiger," is scheduled for mid-2003.

New in J2SE 1.4 are the Java API for XML processing, which allows for the processing of Extensible Markup Language documents through a set of Java APIs, and a new scalable network I/O (input/output) API for high-performance Web and application servers that allows developers to establish several network connections per thread to serve more requests. J2SE 1.4 also offers improved memory mapping for faster retrieval of files stored in memory.

In addition, the XML Parser is now integrated as part of the core platform. "That's very important for laying the foundation for XML Web services," Dickman said.

On the security front, the latest SDK integrates the Java Cryptography Extension, the Java Secure Socket Extension and the Java Authentication and Authorization Service. Previously, those were available as optional add-ons. Also bundled with this version is JDBC 3.0 for database connectivity.

Bundled into J2SE 1.4 as well is Sun's new Web Start product, which allows users to launch Java applications by clicking on a Web page link and automatically downloads the necessary files and caches them on the user's computer. Users can relaunch the applications either with or without a Web browser.

J2SE 1.4 also supports multiple versions of the Java Virtual Machine.

J2SE 1.4 is the first release of the Java 2 Standard Edition to have gone through Sun's Java Community Process, which consists of Sun and other software vendors, although Sun retains the ultimate control over extensions or revisions to the technology.

The upgrade was lumped under one umbrella Java Specification Request (or JSR), with about a dozen subsets focused generally on improving reliability, serviceability and availability, Dickman said.

The included Java Logging APIs produce log reports about security failures, performance problems, and bugs for end users or system administrators.

Sun has also added performance improvements to the virtual machine for faster application startup and improved garbage collection. Also new is 64-bit support for Sun's Solaris SPARC platform. Dickman said Sun won't yet ship 64-bit support for Linux or Windows because both are based on Intel Corp.'s Itanium, which isn't shipping yet.

Also intended to boost performance is a new version of the Java 2D graphics engine.

"Swing applications run much, much faster, and 2D applications have been across the board accelerated," Dickman said.

Enhancements for rich clients include full drag-and-drop support, a full-screen mode and a preferences API to allow developers to store user preference information.

The beta for J2SE 1.4 is expected to be released either at JavaOne, which starts June 4, or shortly afterward. Final release is slated for the end of November for Solaris, Linux and Windows.

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