REVIEW - Hands On Java


Hands On Java


Bruce Eckel



Silicon Press ()




Francis Glassborow


December 1999



This comes as a single CD. The main elements consist of a machine readable copy of Bruce's Thinking in Java , an audio recording of his seminar on Java and the source code for the book wrapped up in one large jar file. What is notably missing is any form of Java implementation. I guess that is not a big problem and most will prefer to use the package of their choice - which remember all behave alike :-).

One excellent feature about the book is that two versions have been included. Both are provided as Acrobat files (requires an Acrobat Reader 3.0 or higher. No problem as versions for most platforms are provided on the CD). The first is formatted for screen reading and the second for printing hardcopy. This is much to be commended. I can comfortably read a relevant section on screen or I can print it for study in the bath or on the coach. The book claims to be aware of Java 1.0, 1.1 and 1.2 and the author says that he has tried to indicate where it matters. That is a claim that is always hard to validate. I am quite happy to take it on trust while commenting that I find it a little weird that this great write once, run anywhere, ready to standardise, language is spawning so many modified (officially) versions.

The jar file is fine as a way of providing access to the source code, but perhaps some kind reader will write and tell me exactly what advantages this has over alternative archiving mechanisms. And how do I unarchive should I wish to, or does this depend on having a suitably recent version of the JDK?

Now what about the great selling point, Bruce's seminar all 14+ hours of audio recording. Well they have managed to avoid wasting storage on 'talking heads'. However I find the production amateurish in the extreme. You hear Bruce's voice (more about that in a moment) while a slide is displayed. But why no use of highlighting on the slide? We know it can be done and we generally expect it from professional presenters. As each point on the slide is covered I expect to have that point highlighted to help me track what is being said. Surely this is not hard to do?

Now back to the audio. This sounds like a recording by using a handheld (or possibly lapel mounted) microphone with a speaker working without a script. When a presenter is physically present we are much less sensitive to broken sentences, hesitations etc. But we expect more from a pure recording. After all it can be edited, the sounds of thought can be removed etc. In addition we do not expect sentences to remain incomplete. Much worse is the changing volume of the recording as the relative position of the speaker and the microphone change. Why wasn't a lip mike used?

The audio production is no worse than many others but my point is that it is yet another example of computer professionals thinking they can do it all for themselves. They would rightly be critical of a recording engineer who reckoned he could present Java training so why do they think they are competent to do audio production and recording. Computer experts must learn to respect other people's professional skills and to use them as appropriate.

The material provides a good introduction to Java and many will find the audio provides added value. It is certainly orders of magnitude less expensive than paying to attend the seminars live. Of course you do not get the chance to interact with the presenter, nor do you have the insights and answers to questions you never thought to ask which a live course provides.

Finally the package, at a price not much more than the book alone is fair value for money but it should and could have been much more.

Book cover image courtesy of Open Library.

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