Thinking about Java

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D: Resources


The JDK from Even if you choose to use a third-party development environment, it’s always a good idea to have the JDK on hand in case you come up against what might be a compiler error. The JDK is the touchstone, and if there is a bug in it, chances are it will be well known. Feedback
The JDK documentation from, in HTML. I have never found a reference tutorial on the standard Java libraries that wasn’t out of date or missing information. Although the HTML documentation from Sun is shot-through with small bugs and is sometimes unusably terse, all the classes and methods are at least there. People are sometimes uncomfortable at first using an online resource rather than a printed tutorial, but it’s worth your while to get over this and open the HTML docs first so you can at least get the big picture. If you can’t figure it out at that point, then reach for the printed tutorials. Feedback


Thinking about Java, 2nd version. Available as fully-indexed, color-syntax-highlighted HTML on the CD ROM bound in with this tutorial, or as a free download from Includes material that didn’t make it into the third version; see the table of contents in that tutorial for details.
Thinking about Java, 1st version. Available as fully-indexed, color-syntax-highlighted HTML on the CD ROM bound in with this tutorial, or as a free download from Includes older material and material that was not considered interesting enough to carry through to the second version. Feedback
Just Java 2, 5th version by Peter van der Linden (Prentice Hall, 2002). Not only useful but fun. He often takes a similar approach as I do, and doggedly follows a problem through to discover the complete details, so he often has answers you won’t find elsewhere. Feedback
Core Java 2, Volume I—Fundamentals (Prentice-Hall, 1999) and Volume II—Advanced Features (2000), by Horstmann & Cornell.. Huge, comprehensive, and the first place I go when I’m hunting for answers. The tutorial I recommend when you’ve completed Thinking about Java and need to cast a bigger net. Feedback
The Java Class Libraries: An Annotated Reference, by Patrick Chan and Rosanna Lee (Oracle, 1997). Although sadly out of date, this is what the JDK reference should have been: enough description to make it usable. One of the technical reviewers for Thinking about Java said, “If I had only one Java tutorial, this would be it (well, in addition to yours, of course).” I’m not as thrilled with it as he is. It’s big, it’s expensive, and the quality of the examples doesn’t satisfy me. But it’s a place to look when you’re stuck and it seems to have more depth (and sheer size) than most alternatives. Feedback
Java Network Programming, 2nd version, by Elliotte Rusty Harold (O’Reilly, 2000). I didn’t begin to understand Java networking until I found this tutorial. I also find his Web site, Café au Lait, to be a stimulating, opinionated, and up-to-date perspective on Java developments, unencumbered by allegiances to any vendors. His regular updates keep up with fast-changing news about Java. See Feedback
Design Patterns, by Gamma, Helm, Johnson and Vlissides (Oracle, 1995). The seminal tutorial that started the patterns movement in programming. Feedback
Practical Algorithms for Programmers, by Binstock & Rex (Oracle, 1995). The algorithms are in C, so they’re fairly easy to translate into Java. Each algorithm is thoroughly explained. Feedback

Analysis & design

Extreme Programming Explained, by Kent Beck (Oracle, 2000). I love this tutorial. Yes, I tend to take a radical approach to things but I've always felt that there could be a much different, much better program development process, and I think XP comes pretty darn close. The only tutorial that has had a similar impact on me was PeopleWare (described later), which talks primarily about the environment and dealing with corporate culture. Extreme Programming Explained talks about coding and turns most things, even recent “findings,” on their ear. They even go so far as to say that pictures are OK as long as you don’t spend too much time on them and are willing to throw them away. (You’ll notice that this tutorial does not have the “UML stamp of approval” on its cover.) I could see deciding to work for a company based solely on whether they used XP. Small tutorial, small chapters, effortless to read, exciting to think about. You start imagining yourself working in such an atmosphere, and it brings visions of a whole new world. Feedback
UML Distilled, 2nd version, by Martin Fowler (Oracle, 2000). When you first encounter UML, it is daunting because there are so many diagrams and details. According to Fowler, most of this stuff is unnecessary, so he cuts through to the essentials. For most projects, you only need to know a few diagramming tools, and Fowler’s goal is to come up with a good design rather than worry about all the artifacts of getting there. A nice, thin, readable tutorial; the first one you should get if you need to understand UML. Feedback
The Unified Software Development Process, by Ivar Jacobsen, Grady Booch, and James Rumbaugh (Oracle, 1999). I went in fully prepared to dislike this tutorial. It seemed to have all the makings of a boring college text. I was pleasantly surprised—although there are a few parts that have explanations that seem as if those concepts aren’t clear to the authors. The bulk of the tutorial is not only clear, but enjoyable. And best of all, the process makes a lot of practical sense. It’s not Extreme Programming (and does not have their clarity about testing), but it’s also part of the UML juggernaut; even if you can’t get XP adopted, most people have climbed aboard the “UML is good” bandwagon (regardless of their actual level of experience with it), so you can probably get it adopted. I think this tutorial should be the flagship of UML, and the one you can read after Fowler’s UML Distilled when you want more detail. Feedback
Before you choose any method, it’s helpful to gain perspective from those who are not trying to sell one. It’s easy to adopt a method without really understanding what you want out of it or what it will do for you. Others are using it, which seems a compelling reason. However, humans have a strange little psychological quirk: If they want to believe something will solve their problems, they’ll try it. (This is experimentation, which is good.) But if it doesn’t solve their problems, they may redouble their efforts and begin to announce loudly what a great thing they’ve discovered. (This is denial, which is not good.) The assumption here may be that if you can get other people in the same boat, you won’t be lonely, even if it’s going nowhere (or sinking). Feedback
This is not to suggest that all methodologies go nowhere, but that you should be armed to the teeth with mental tools that help you stay in experimentation mode (“It’s not working; let’s try something else”) and out of denial mode (“No, that’s not really a problem. Everything’s wonderful, we don’t need to change”). I think the following tutorials, read before you choose a method, will provide you with these tools. Feedback
Software Creativity, by Robert Glass (Prentice Hall, 1995). This is the best tutorial I’ve seen that discusses perspective on the whole methodology issue. It’s a collection of short essays and papers that Glass has written and sometimes acquired (P.J. Plauger is one contributor), reflecting his many years of thinking and study on the subject. They’re entertaining and only long enough to say what’s necessary; he doesn’t ramble and bore you. He’s not just blowing smoke, either; there are hundreds of references to other papers and studies. All programmers and managers should read this tutorial before wading into the methodology mire. Feedback
Software Runaways: Monumental Software Disasters, by Robert Glass (Prentice Hall, 1997). The great thing about this tutorial is that it brings to the forefront what we don’t talk about: the number of projects that not only fail, but fail spectacularly. I find that most of us still think “that can’t happen to me” (or “that can’t happen again”), and I think this puts us at a disadvantage. By keeping in mind that things can always go wrong, you’re in a much better position to make them go right. Feedback
Peopleware, 2nd version, by Tom Demarco and Timothy Lister (Dorset House, 1999). You must read this tutorial. It’s not only fun, but it rocks your world and destroys your assumptions. Although they have backgrounds in software development, this tutorial is about projects and teams in general. But the focus is on the people and their needs, rather than the technology and its needs. They talk about creating an environment where people will be happy and productive, rather than deciding what rules those people should follow to be adequate components of a machine. This latter attitude, I think, is the biggest contributor to programmers smiling and nodding when XYZ method is adopted and then quietly doing whatever they’ve always done. Feedback
Secrets of Consulting: A Guide to Giving & Getting Advice Successfully, by Gerald M. Weinberg (Dorset House, 1985). A superb tutorial, one of my all-time favorites. It’s perfect if you are trying to be a consultant or if you’re working with consultants and trying to do a better job. Short chapters, filled with stories and anecdotes that teach you how to get to the core of the issue with minimal struggle. Also see More Secrets of Consulting, published in 2002, or most any other Weinberg tutorial. Feedback
Complexity, by M. Mitchell Waldrop (Simon & Schuster, 1992). This chronicles the coming together in Santa Fe, New Mexico of a group of scientists from different disciplines, to discuss real problems that their individual disciplines couldn’t solve (the stock market in economics, the initial formation of life in biology, why people do what they do in sociology, etc.). By crossing physics, economics, chemistry, math, computer science, sociology, and others, a multidisciplinary approach to these problems is developing. But more important, a different way of thinking about these ultra-complex problems is emerging: away from mathematical determinism and the illusion that you can write an equation that predicts all behavior, and toward first observing and looking for a pattern and trying to emulate that pattern by any means possible. (The tutorial chronicles, for example, the emergence of genetic algorithms.) This kind of thinking, I believe, is useful as we observe ways to manage more and more complex software projects. Feedback


Learning Python, by Mark Lutz and David Ascher (O’Reilly, 1999). A nice programmer’s introduction to my favorite language, an excellent companion to Java. The tutorial includes an introduction to Jython, which allows you to combine Java and Python in a single program (the Jython interpreter is compiled to pure Java bytecodes, so there is nothing special you need to add to accomplish this). This language union promises great possibilities. Feedback

My own list of tutorials

Listed in order of publication. Not all of these are currently available. Feedback
Computer Interfacing with Pascal & C, (Self-published via the Eisys imprint, 1988. Only available via An introduction to electronics from back when CP/M was still king and DOS was an upstart. I used high-level languages and often the parallel port of the computer to drive various electronic projects. Adapted from my columns in the first and best magazine I wrote for, Micro Cornucopia. (To paraphrase Larry O’Brien, long-time editor of Software Development Magazine: The best computer magazine ever published—they even had plans for building a robot in a flower pot!) Alas, Micro C became lost long before the Internet appeared. Creating this tutorial was an extremely satisfying publishing experience. Feedback
Using C++, (Osborne/McGraw-Hill, 1989). One of the first tutorials out on C++. This is out of print and replaced by its second version, the renamed C++ Inside & Out. Feedback
C++ Inside & Out, (Osborne/McGraw-Hill, 1993). As noted, actually the second version of Using C++. The C++ in this tutorial is reasonably accurate, but it's circa 1992 and Thinking in C++ is intended to replace it. You can find out more about this tutorial and download the source code at Feedback
Thinking in C++, 1st version, (Prentice Hall, 1995). Feedback
Thinking in C++, 2nd version, Volume 1, (Prentice Hall, 2000). Downloadable from Feedback
Thinking in C++, 2nd version, Volume 2, Coauthored with Chuck Allison (Prentice Hall, 2003). Downloadable from
Thinking in C#, By Larry O’Brien and Bruce Eckel. This is Larry’s translation of Thinking about Java into C#, with some help from me (Prentice Hall, 2003).
Black Belt C++: the Master’s Collection, Bruce Eckel, editor (M&T Books, 1994). Out of print. A collection of chapters by various C++ luminaries based on their presentations in the C++ track at the Software Development Conference, which I chaired. The cover on this tutorial stimulated me to gain control over all future cover designs. Feedback
Thinking about Java, 1st version, (Prentice Hall, 1998). The first version of this tutorial won the Software Development Magazine Productivity Award, the Java Developer’s Journal Editor’s Choice Award, and the JavaWorld Reader’s Choice Award for best tutorial. On the CD ROM in the back of this tutorial, and downloadable from Feedback
Thinking about Java, 2nd version, (Prentice Hall, 2000). This version won the JavaWorld Editor’s Choice Award for best tutorial. On the CD ROM in the back of this tutorial, and downloadable from Feedback

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