Book Review: A Starting Point for Wireless Java

Because of the recent inroads Sun has made into Java development for mobile devices, new books on the technology are once again facing the same problems they did in 1995: Nobody knows where Java will go from here. However, according to reviewer David Fisco, one technical writer in Ontario has found a way around this problem.
Book Information
REVIEW: Java 2 Micro Edition: The Ultimate Guide to Programming Handheld and Embedded Devices.
By Eric Giguhre.

John Wiley & Sons, Inc. 2000. 295 pages. $49.99 USA, $77.50 Canada, softcover.
Writing a technical book on an emerging technology is one of the most challenging tasks any technical writer can face. Think back to the mid-1990s, when the first wave of Java books appeared on the shelves. No one quite knew where the technology was going, so many books were a major disappointment because they lacked advanced technical content. A few years would pass before Java matured and the really meaty books hit the market.

With the Java 2 Micro Edition (J2ME), Sun is beginning to make inroads into one of the hottest-growing sectors: mobile devices. Currently, however, only a handful of developers are creating serious application for the J2ME. So, in a way, we're back in the mid-90s, where difficulties arise in writing a comprehensive development book on a technology that is subject to revision.

In Java 2 Micro Edition, author Eric Giguhre approaches this dilemma from a different angle. He provides the reader with a framework for exploration in the J2ME. He gives some basic information about the structure of Java programming for smaller devices and tells you where to find resources, such as specifications and integrated development environments (IDEs), how to use them, what to ignore and what technical decisions you might want to make. The reader, who should have prior Java experience, will learn what makes programming for the J2ME different from the J2SE and how to embark on small device development.

Located in Waterloo, Ontario, Eric Giguhre works on handheld and wireless Java computing for iAnywhere Solutions, a Sybase company. He has written about Java Beans for Dr. Dobb's Journal and authored "Palm Database Programming: The Complete Developer's Guide" (Wiley, 1999, ISBN 0-471-35041-5).

Java 2 Micro Edition is divided into three parts. Part one introduces the general characteristics of small computing devices and the mechanisms of the Java platform, such as garbage collection and bytecodes. Giguhre also discusses code optimization techniques for small device applications, including an introduction to model-view-controller (MVC) technique.

While not nearly as comprehensive as works such as Peter Haggar's "Practical Java" (Addison-Wesley, 2000, ISBN 0-201-61646-7), Java 2 Micro Edition presents important information developers should keep in mind when writing Java code. More experienced developers will want to skim some of part one.

Part two discusses the J2ME specifications, focusing on configurations (the VM and core classes for a family of devices) and profiles (classes specific to a particular set of applications, such as UI classes or database storage).

Part three looks at J2ME Implementations, focusing on Palm connected organizers, Motorola cell phones, and BlackBerry wireless handhelds. The code of a simple tic-tac-toe game is woven throughout the book, showcasing how it is implemented on the various Java implementations.

Be sure to read the book with a Web browser nearby. Giguhre rested his pen in October 2000, and some of the material is already dated. Luckily, the text contains URLs for updated information, and Giguhre maintains a Web site for the book here.

If you are one of the developers who has already taken the plunge into the J2ME, this book isn't for you. If, however, you are just beginning your journey into the wireless arena, Java 2 Micro Edition will give you a starting point. While the author claims the book is for developers, many technical managers should give it a read. The technical information is not too advanced for most competent managers.

On the Web
For information on the J2ME, visit Sun's J2ME Web page. To learn more in-person, consider attending JavaOne in San Francisco from June 4 to 8, 2001.

Dave Fisco is a developer, consultant and writer. He can be reached at

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