Geertjan's Blog

  • June 30, 2009

Three NetBeans Platform Applications You Never Knew Existed

Geertjan Wielenga
Product Manager
Right now, as we speak [type], I am working on articles/interviews relating to three applications on the NetBeans Platform... none of which anyone in the broader NetBeans Platform community knows about. So, to give you a sneak preview, here they are, with a little bit of background info on each. (Not too much info, otherwise why would you want to read the completed article/interview?)

First of all, I present... a financial application, which is created in Brazil, by Paulo Canedo, and a team of developers around him, who work for the Tribunal de Contas do Estado do Tocantins, a state in Brazil, where all the financial management related to the state is done on the NetBeans Platform. The application was started in 2007 and, in particular, Paulo's team likes the wizard framework of the NetBeans Platform, as well as the update center. Combined, these features enable the application to be responsible for all finances in the city, i.e., purchases and payments. The application processes data via XML and then transforms and stores in a Derby database. Furthermore, the application is used to analyze the data thus obtained and stored.

And here is a sneak preview screenshot (more in an upcoming article):

Next, an application by Ingmar Hendriks, and others, who are students at the Hogeschool van Amsterdam. Not very long ago, they completed a NetBeans Platform Certified Training. (My blog entry "Amsterdam on the NetBeans Platform" tells you all about it.) Ingmar's graduation project was to create a sensor monitoring application. He had to make two programs, a server and a client. Because he didn't have a whole laboratory full of sensors at school, he had to simulate the sensors by generating random values within a certain parameter. The generation of these random values had to be done on the server, with a time interval of a few hundred milliseconds and the server needed to store these values. This itself sounds very doable until you realize that over 400 sensors had to be simulated, each with an interval of a few hundred milliseconds and that these had to be stored into memory and not on the hard drive.

In order to achieve this, the memory had to be controlled, which is not possible with Java because you have no control over memory management... so C++ had to be used. The client, however, was a different story. It only needed to access the values of a sensor and show them in a chart. If a value on the server exceeded its preset safety parameter, it needed to show a warning or error in the client. Here's a sneak preview screenshot of the application that resulted from all of this:

And, finally, let's take a look at Central Washington University's programming tools for the blind that, hopefully, will make them more accessible. These tools are very complicated, as they involve custom compilers, debuggers, and sound architectures. These architectures then need to be built into standard IDEs.

Here is a screen capture of the environment as a whole, annotated with details of what was added at Central Washington University. Notice that, while the screen capture looks just like NetBeans IDE, what has been added is a new programming language (Hop). In addition, the debugger is "omniscient", which means that you can execute code forward and backward. For example, in most debuggers, you can click "Continue" (the green button) and step the code to the next breakpoint. In this debugger, you can also "Rewind" (the blue button) to the previous breakpoint. Similarly, most IDEs let you step over a line of code. This one also lets you step back:

What do these applications gain from being based on the NetBeans Platform? Modularity (i.e., you can create plugins for these applications), while being based on Swing (the standard UI toolkit). That's a combination that no other framework provides natively. Typically, a developer using the NetBeans Platform begins by appreciating the NetBeans Platform's Swing extensions, such as the window system and explorer views. Later, the modularity becomes increasingly useful, both from the side of development (i.e., encapsulate code on a level higher than packages, which makes it easier to create work areas for distributed development teams) and from the side of deployment (i.e., the end user is able to extend the application, by means of plugins, without needing to download/understand the entire codebase).

But, of course, this is simply the tip of the iceberg. To find out about several other NetBeans Platform applications, click here and browse through the whole showcase. Several known applications on the NetBeans Platform cannot be advertized, i.e., must remain secret, since they're the basis of, for example, military or financial systems whose underlying technologies cannot be made public. In many ways, that's a pity, because the full length and breadth of NetBeans Platform usage will probably never be known.

Want to advertize your application on the NetBeans Platform? For free? Drop me an e-mail at geertjan DOT wielenga AT sun DOT com and it will be given all the attention you desire (plus more).

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