Tuesday Jun 17, 2014

Neuroph/JMonkeyEngine SDK Mashup

I recently attended a presentation where Milos Randjic demonstrated JMonkeyEngine SDK visualization within Neuroph, together with Tihomir Radosvljavic, who is working on the development of an AI Engine that will be used to integrate Neuroph and JMonkeyEngine SDK. Both Milos and Tihomir are working with Zoran Sevarac (Duke's Choice Award Winner, Java Champion, NetBeans Dream Team member) at the Open Source Development Center at the University of Belgrade in Serbia.

To give an impression of the result of the integrated visualization, here's two screenshots I got from Zoran:

I mentioned this on Twitter, where Sean Phillips, a Duke's Choice Award winner and NASA contractor, then asked how this is achieved. Well, of course, both these applications are based on the NetBeans Platform. That makes it possible to share modules with each other, as the Neuroph team has done, in discussion with the JMonkeyEngine SDK team.

But the question is "how". There are several answers imaginable, here they are.

  • Reuse the Sources. Both of the two projects are open source. So you can download the JMonkeyEngine SDK sources, copy NetBeans modules from there into your own, e.g., Neuroph sources. This is the approach that the Neuroph team took and it is definitely only a good idea if you want to change the sources somehow. I.e., if you want to tweak the sources in some way. But the better approach would be to ask the JMonkeyEngine SDK team to tweak their sources themselves, if making this request makes sense. The Neuroph team mentioned that their main challenge was to make the JMonkeyEngine SDK sources compilable within Neuroph. Ideally you wouldn't have this problem because you'd use one of the other approaches below.

  • Create Library Wrappers. Instead of copying source files, here you take the JARs and wrap them into an existing NetBeans module or create a new library wrapper module that contains the JARs. In general, this is a good approach if you're wanting to incorporate a few JARs that don't already belong to a NetBeans Platform application. Via the library wrapper module project template in the IDE, you can browse to the JARs you need on disk and then you'll have a new module that contains your JARs. Or you can go to the Project Properties dialog of an existing NetBeans module, open the Libraries tab, and you'll see a tab for browsing to the JARs you need on disk.

  • Create Clusters. If you're incorporating JARs that come from another NetBeans Platform application, that is, as in the case of JMonkeyEngine SDK, a set of JARs created and organized as part of a NetBeans Platform application, you can add the entire NetBeans Platform application as a new cluster, i.e., a set of related modules that will be organized into a separate folder in the installation directory, such as 'platform' and 'ide', as described here, as well as here. From the cluster, you can select which specific JARs, which might only be two or three, that you need to include in your application. The user will install your application and then have a new folder named "jme" (or "jmonkeyengine" or whatever the cluster name is that you define) containing the JARs from JMonkeyEngine SDK that you can then treat as APIs, i.e., use their classes as you would any other JARs in your application. You'll also benefit from the public/private package-level settings, e.g., you'll only have access to those packages that have been explicitly declared public.

The latter is the preferred approach that the Neuroph team should take, except if they need to get at the sources somehow, which is not desirable.

As an alternative to incorporating JMonkeyEngine SDK, the team also considered using JavaFX 3D instead. But they decided to pursue the JMonkeyEngine SDK approach, rather than use JavaFX in their existing Java Swing application.

About

Geertjan Wielenga (@geertjanw) is a Principal Product Manager in the Oracle Developer Tools group living & working in Amsterdam. He is a Java technology enthusiast, evangelist, trainer, speaker, and writer. He blogs here daily.

The focus of this blog is mostly on NetBeans (a development tool primarily for Java programmers), with an occasional reference to NetBeans, and sometimes diverging to topics relating to NetBeans. And then there are days when NetBeans is mentioned, just for a change.

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