Java 8 Friday: Language Design is Subtle

At Data Geekery, we love Java. And as we’re really into jOOQ’s fluent API and query DSL, we’re absolutely thrilled about what Java 8 will bring to our ecosystem.

Java 8 Friday

Every Friday, we’re showing you a couple of nice new tutorial-style Java 8 features, which take advantage of lambda expressions, extension methods, and other great stuff. You’ll find the source code on GitHub.

Language Design is Subtle

It’s been a busy week for us. We have just migrated the jOOQ integration tests to Java 8 for two reasons:

  • We want to be sure that client code compiles with Java 8
  • We started to get bored of writing the same old loops over and over again

The trigger was a loop where we needed to transform a SQLDialect[] into another SQLDialect[] calling .family() on each array element. Consider:

Java 7

SQLDialect[] families = 
    new SQLDialect[dialects.length];
for (int i = 0; i < families.length; i++)
    families[i] = dialects[i].family();

Java 8

SQLDialect[] families = 
Stream.of(dialects)
      .map(d -> d.family())
      .toArray(SQLDialect[]::new);

OK, it turns out that the two solutions are equally verbose, even if the latter feels a bit more elegant. :-)

And this gets us straight into the next topic:

Backwards-compatibility

For backwards-compatibility reasons, arrays and the pre-existing Collections API have not been retrofitted to accommodate all the useful methods that Streams now have. In other words, an array doesn’t have a map() method, just as much as List doesn’t have such a method. Streams and Collections/arrays are orthogonal worlds. We can transform them into each other, but they don’t have a unified API.

This is fine in everyday work. We’ll get used to the Streams API and we’ll love it, no doubt. But because of Java being extremely serious about backwards compatibility, we will have to think about one or two things more deeply.

Recently, we have published a post about The Dark Side of Java 8. It was a bit of a rant, although a mild one in our opinion (and it was about time to place some criticism, after all the praise we’ve been giving Java 8 in our series, before ;-) ). First off, that post triggered a reaction by Edwin Dalorzo from our friends at Informatech. (Edwin has written this awesome post comparing LINQ and Java 8 Streams, before). The criticism in our article evolved around three main aspects:

  • Overloading getting more complicated (see also this compiler bug)
  • Limited support for method modifiers on default methods
  • Primitive type “API overloads” for streams and functional interfaces

A response by Brian Goetz

I then got a personal mail from no one less than Brian Goetz himself (!), who pointed out a couple of things to me that I had not yet thought about in this way:

I still think you’re focusing on the wrong thing. Its not really the syntax you don’t like; its the model — you don’t want “default methods”, you want traits, and the syntax is merely a reminder that you didn’t get the feature you wanted. (But you’d be even more confused about “why can’t they be final” if we dropped the “default” keyword!) But that’s blaming the messenger (where here, the keyword is the messenger.)

Its fair to say “this isn’t the model I wanted”. There were many possible paths in the forest, and it may well be the road not taken was equally good or better.

This is also what Edwin had concluded. Default methods were a necessary means to tackle all the new API needed to make Java 8 useful. If Iterator, Iterable, List, Collection, and all the other pre-existing interfaces had to be adapted to accommodate lambdas and Streams API interaction, the expert group would have needed to break an incredible amount of API. Conversely, without adding these additional utility methods (see the awesome new Map methods, for instance!), Java 8 would have been only half as good.

And that’s it.

Even if maybe, some more class building tools might have been useful, they were not in the center of focus for the expert group who already had a lot to do to get things right. The center of focus was to provide a means for API evolution. Or in Brian Goetz’s own words:

Reaching out to the community

It’s great that Brian Goetz reaches out to the community to help us get the right picture about Java 8. Instead of explaining rationales about expert group decisions in private messages, he then asked me to publicly re-ask my questions again on Stack Overflow (or lambda-dev), such that he can then publicly answer them. For increased publicity and greater community benefit, I chose Stack Overflow. Here are:

The amount of traction these two questions got in no time shows how important these things are to the community, so don’t miss reading through them!

“Uncool”? Maybe. But very stable!

Java may not have the “cool” aura that node.js has. You may think about JavaScript-the-language whatever you want (as long as it contains swear words), but from a platform marketing perspective, Java is being challenged for the first time in a long time – and being “uncool” and backwards-compatible doesn’t help keeping developers interested.

But let’s think long-term, instead of going with trends. Having such a great professional platform like the Java language, the JVM, the JDK, JEE, and much more, is invaluable. Because at the end of the day, the “uncool” backwards-compatibility can also be awesome. As mentioned initially, we have upgraded our integration tests to Java 8. Not a single compilation error, not a single bug. Using Eclipse’s BETA support for Java 8, I could easily transform anonymous classes into lambdas and write awesome things like these upcoming jOOQ 3.4 nested transactions (API not final yet):

ctx.transaction(c1 -> {
    DSL.using(c1)
       .insertInto(AUTHOR, AUTHOR.ID, AUTHOR.LAST_NAME)
       .values(3, "Doe")
       .execute();

    // Implicit savepoint here
    try {
        DSL.using(c1).transaction(c2 -> {
            DSL.using(c2)
               .update(AUTHOR)
               .set(AUTHOR.FIRST_NAME, "John")
               .where(AUTHOR.ID.eq(3))
               .execute();

            // Rollback to savepoint
            throw new MyRuntimeException("No");
        });
    }

    catch (MyRuntimeException ignore) {}

    return 42;
});

So at the end of the day, Java is great. Java 8 is a tremendous improvement over previous versions, and with great people in the expert groups (and reaching out to the community on social media), I trust that Java 9 will be even better. In particular, I’m looking forward to learning about how these two projects evolve:

Although, again, I am really curious how they will pull these two improvements off from a backwards-compatibility perspective, and what caveats we’ll have to understand, afterwards. ;-)

Anyway, let’s hope the expert groups will continue to provide public feedback on Stack Overflow. Stay tuned for more awesome Java 8 content on this blog.

Java 8 Friday: The Dark Side of Java 8

At Data Geekery, we love Java. And as we’re really into jOOQ’s fluent API and query DSL, we’re absolutely thrilled about what Java 8 will bring to our ecosystem.

Java 8 Friday

Every Friday, we’re showing you a couple of nice new tutorial-style Java 8 features, which take advantage of lambda expressions, extension methods, and other great stuff. You’ll find the source code on GitHub.

The dark side of Java 8

So far, we’ve been showing the thrilling parts of this new major release. But there are also caveats. Lots of them. Things that

  • … are confusing
  • … are wrong
  • … are omitted (for now)
  • … are omitted (for long)

There are always two sides to Java major releases. On the bright side, we get lots of new functionality that most people would say was overdue. Other languages, platforms have had generics long before Java 5. Other languages, platforms have had lambdas long before Java 8. But now, we finally have these features. In the usual quirky Java-way.

Lambda expressions were introduced quite elegantly. The idea of being able to write every anonymous SAM instance as a lambda expression is very compelling from a backwards-compatiblity point of view. So what are the dark sides to Java 8?

Overloading gets even worse

Overloading, generics, and varargs aren’t friends. We’ve explained this in a previous article, and also in this Stack Overflow question. These might not be every day problems in your odd application, but they’re very important problems for API designers and maintainers.

With lambda expressions, things get “worse”. So you think you can provide some convenience API, overloading your existing run() method that accepts a Callable to also accept the new Supplier type:

static <T> T run(Callable<T> c) throws Exception {
    return c.call();
}

static <T> T run(Supplier<T> s) throws Exception {
    return s.get();
}

What looks like perfectly useful Java 7 code is a major pain in Java 8, now. Because you cannot just simply call these methods with a lambda argument:

public static void main(String[] args)
throws Exception {
    run(() -> null);
    //  ^^^^^^^^^^ ambiguous method call
}

Tough luck. You’ll have to resort to either of these “classic” solutions:

    run((Callable<Object>) (() -> null));
    run(new Callable<Object>() {
        @Override
        public Object call() throws Exception {
            return null;
        }
    });

So, while there’s always a workaround, these workarounds always “suck”. That’s quite a bummer, even if things don’t break from a backwards-compatibility perspective.

Not all keywords are supported on default methods

Default methods are a nice addition. Some may claim that Java finally has traits. Others clearly dissociate themselves from the term, e.g. Brian Goetz:

The key goal of adding default methods to Java was “interface evolution”, not “poor man’s traits.”

As found on the lambda-dev mailing list.

Fact is, default methods are quite a bit of an orthogonal and irregular feature to anything else in Java. Here are a couple of critiques:

They cannot be made final

Given that default methods can also be used as convenience methods in API:

public interface NoTrait {

    // Run the Runnable exactly once
    default final void run(Runnable r) {
        //  ^^^^^ modifier final not allowed
        run(r, 1);
    }

    // Run the Runnable "times" times
    default void run(Runnable r, int times) {
        for (int i = 0; i < times; i++)
            r.run();
    }
}

Unfortunately, the above is not possible, and so the first overloaded convenience method could be overridden in subtypes, even if that makes no sense to the API designer.

They cannot be made synchronized

Bummer! Would that have been difficult to implement in the language?

public interface NoTrait {
    default synchronized void noSynchronized() {
        //  ^^^^^^^^^^^^ modifier synchronized
        //  not allowed
        System.out.println("noSynchronized");
    }
}

Yes, synchronized is used rarely, just like final. But when you have that use-case, why not just allow it? What makes interface method bodies so special?

The default keyword

This is maybe the weirdest and most irregular of all features. The default keyword itself. Let’s compare interfaces and abstract classes:


// Interfaces are always abstract
public /* abstract */ interface NoTrait {

    // Abstract methods have no bodies
    // The abstract keyword is optional
    /* abstract */ void run1();

    // Concrete methods have bodies
    // The default keyword is mandatory
    default void run2() {}
}

// Classes can optionally be abstract
public abstract class NoInterface {

    // Abstract methods have no bodies
    // The abstract keyword is mandatory
    abstract void run1();

    // Concrete methods have bodies
    // The default keyword mustn't be used
    void run2() {}
}

If the language were re-designed from scratch, it would probably do without any of abstract or default keywords. Both are unnecessary. The mere fact that there is or is not a body is sufficient information for the compiler to assess whether a method is abstract. I.e, how things should be:

public interface NoTrait {
    void run1();
    void run2() {}
}

public abstract class NoInterface {
    void run1();
    void run2() {}
}

The above would be much leaner and more regular. It’s a pity that the usefulness of default was never really debated by the EG. Well, it was debated but the EG never wanted to accept this as an option. I’ve tried my luck, with this response:

I don’t think #3 is an option because interfaces with method bodies are unnatural to begin with. At least specifying the “default” keyword gives the reader some context why the language allows a method body. Personally, I wish interfaces would remain as pure contracts (without implementation), but I don’t know of a better option to evolve interfaces.

Again, this is a clear commitment by the EG not to commit to the vision of “traits” in Java. Default methods were a pure necessary means to implement 1-2 other features. They weren’t well-designed from the beginning.

Other modifiers

Luckily, the static modifier made it into the specs, late in the project. It is thus possible to specifiy static methods in interfaces now. For some reason, though, these methods do not need (nor allow!) the default keyword, which must’ve been a totally random decision by the EG, just like you apparently cannot define static final methods in interfaces.

While visibility modifiers were discussed on the lambda-dev mailing list, but were out of scope for this release. Maybe, we can get them in a future release.

Few default methods were actually implemented

Some methods would have sensible default implementations on interface – one might guess. Intuitively, the collections interfaces, like List or Set would have them on their equals() and hashCode() methods, because the contract for these methods is well-defined on the interfaces. It is also implemented in AbstractList, using listIterator(), which is a reasonable default implementation for most tailor-made lists.

It would’ve been great if these API were retrofitted to make implementing custom collections easier with Java 8. I could make all my business objects implement List for instance, without wasting the single base-class inheritance on AbstractList.

Probably, though, there has been a compelling reason related to backwards-compatibility that prevented the Java 8 team at Oracle from implementing these default methods. Whoever sends us the reason why this was omitted will get a free jOOQ sticker :-)

The wasn’t invented here – mentality

This, too, was criticised a couple of times on the lambda-dev EG mailing list. And while writing this blog series, I can only confirm that the new functional interfaces are very confusing to remember. They’re confusing for these reasons:

Some primitive types are more equal than others

The int, long, double primitive types are preferred compared to all the others, in that they have a functional interface in the java.util.function package, and in the whole Streams API. boolean is a second-class citizen, as it still made it into the package in the form of a BooleanSupplier or a Predicate, or worse: IntPredicate.

All the other primitive types don’t really exist in this area. I.e. there are no special types for byte, short, float, and char. While the argument of meeting deadlines is certainly a valid one, this quirky status-quo will make the language even harder to learn for newbies.

The types aren’t just called Function

Let’s be frank. All of these types are simply “functions”. No one really cares about the implicit difference between a Consumer, a Predicate, a UnaryOperator, etc.

In fact, when you’re looking for a type with a non-void return value and two arguments, what would you probably be calling it? Function2? Well, you were wrong. It is called a BiFunction.

Here’s a decision tree to know how the type you’re looking for is called:

  • Does your function return void? It’s called a Consumer
  • Does your function return boolean? It’s called a Predicate
  • Does your function return an int, long, double? It’s called XXToIntYY, XXToLongYY, XXToDoubleYY something
  • Does your function take no arguments? It’s called a Supplier
  • Does your function take a single int, long, double argument? It’s called an IntXX, LongXX, DoubleXX something
  • Does your function take two arguments? It’s called BiXX
  • Does your function take two arguments of the same type? It’s called BinaryOperator
  • Does your function return the same type as it takes as a single argument? It’s called UnaryOperator
  • Does your function take two arguments of which the first is a reference type and the second is a primitive type? It’s called ObjXXConsumer (only consumers exist with that configuration)
  • Else: It’s called Function

Good lord! We should certainly go over to Oracle Education to check if the price for Oracle Certified Java Programmer courses have drastically increased, recently… Thankfully, with Lambda expressions, we hardly ever have to remember all these types!

More on Java 8

Java 5 generics have brought a lot of great new features to the Java language. But there were also quite a few caveats related to type erasure. Java 8’s default methods, Streams API and lambda expressions will again bring a lot of great new features to the Java language and platform. But we’re sure that Stack Overflow will soon burst with questions by confused programmers that are getting lost in the Java 8 jungle.

Learning all the new features won’t be easy, but the new features (and caveats) are here to stay. If you’re a Java developer, you better start practicing now, when you get the chance. Because we have a long way to go.

Nonetheless, thigns are exciting, so stay tuned for more exciting Java 8 stuff published in this blog series.

Are you in for another critique about Java 8? Read “New Parallelism APIs in Java 8: Behind the Glitz and Glamour” by the guys over

Java 8 Friday Goodies: Local Transaction Scope

At Data Geekery, we love Java. And as we’re really into jOOQ’s fluent API and query DSL, we’re absolutely thrilled about what Java 8 will bring to our ecosystem. We have blogged a couple of times about some nice Java 8 goodies, and now we feel it’s time to start a new blog series, the…

Java 8 Friday

Every Friday, we’re showing you a couple of nice new tutorial-style Java 8 features, which take advantage of lambda expressions, extension methods, and other great stuff. You’ll find the source code on GitHub. tweet this

Java 8 Goodie: Local Transaction Scope

The JavaScript folks often abuse anonymous functions to create local scope. Like any other language feature, this can be abused, but in some contexts, local scoping is really awesome. Java also allows for local scoping, although until Java 8, this has been equally cumbersome:

JavaScript

(function() {
    var local = function() { 
            scoping(); 
        },
        scoping = function() { 
            alert('If you really must');
        };

    local();
})();

Java

new Object() {
    void local() {
        scoping();
    }
    void scoping() {
        System.out.println(
            "Ouch, my fingers. Too much typing");
    }
}.local();

Both examples look really awkward, although the JavaScript folks call this a design pattern. No one would create such local scope in Java, even if the two pieces of code are roughly equivalent.

tweet thisAwkwardness can be a design pattern in JavaScript.

Local scoping in Java 8

But with Java 8, everything changes, and so does local scoping. Let’s have a look at how we can creat a local semantic scope for transactions. For this, we’ll create two types. The Transactional interface:

@FunctionalInterface
interface Transactional {
    void run(DSLContext ctx);
}

For the example, we’re going to be using jOOQ to avoid checked exceptions and verbose statement creation. You can replace it by your SQL API of choice. So, jOOQ provides us with a locally scoped ctx object, which implicitly contains the transaction state. This transaction state is generated using a TransactionRunner:

class TransactionRunner {
    private final boolean silent;
    private final Connection connection;

    TransactionRunner(Connection connection) {
        this(connection, true);
    }

    TransactionRunner(Connection connection,
                      boolean silent) {
        this.connection = connection;
        this.silent = silent;
    }

    void run(Transactional tx) {
        // Initialise some jOOQ objects
        final DefaultConnectionProvider c =
            new DefaultConnectionProvider(connection);
        final Configuration configuration =
            new DefaultConfiguration()
                .set(c).set(SQLDialect.H2);

        try {
            // Run the transaction and pass a jOOQ
            // DSLContext object to it
            tx.run(DSL.using(configuration));

            // If we get here, then commit the
            // transaction
            c.commit();
        }
        catch (RuntimeException e) {

            // Any exception will cause a rollback
            c.rollback();
            System.err.println(e.getMessage());

            // Eat exceptions in silent mode.
            if (!silent)
                throw e;
        }
    }
}

The above is framework code, which we’ll write only once. From now on, we can use the above API trivially in our Java programs. For this, we’ll set up a TransactionRunner like such:

public static void main(String[] args) 
throws Exception {
    Class.forName("org.h2.Driver");
    try (Connection c = DriverManager.getConnection(
            "jdbc:h2:~/test-scope-goodies", 
            "sa", "")) {
        c.setAutoCommit(false);
        TransactionRunner silent = 
            new TransactionRunner(c);

        // Transactional code here ...
    }
}

And now, behold the wonders of Java 8!

// This is a transaction
silent.run(ctx -> {
    ctx.execute("drop table if exists person");
    ctx.execute("create table person(" + 
                "  id integer," +
                "  first_name varchar(50)," +
                "  last_name varchar(50)," +
                "  primary key(id)"+
                ")");
});

// And this is also one transaction
silent.run(ctx -> {
    ctx.execute("insert into person" +
                "  values(1, 'John', 'Smith');");
    ctx.execute("insert into person" +
                "  values(1, 'Steve', 'Adams');");
    // Ouch, fails -------^
    // Transaction rolls back
});

// And this is also one transaction
silent.run(ctx -> {
    ctx.execute("insert into person" + 
                "  values(2, 'Jane', 'Miller');");
    // Works, yay!
});

// And this is also one transaction
silent.run(ctx -> {
    ctx.execute("insert into person" +
                "  values(2, 'Anne', 'Roberts');");
    // Ouch, fails -------^
    // Transaction rolls back
});

What do we get from the above? Let’s check:

silent.run(ctx -> {
    System.out.println(
        ctx.fetch("select * from person"));
});

The above program will yield this output:

SQL [insert into person values(1, 'Steve', 'Adams');];
Unique index or primary key violation: "PRIMARY KEY ON PUBLIC.PERSON(ID)"; SQL statement:
insert into person values(1, 'Steve', 'Adams'); [23505-174]
SQL [insert into person values(2, 'Anne', 'Roberts');];
Unique index or primary key violation: "PRIMARY KEY ON PUBLIC.PERSON(ID)"; SQL statement:
insert into person values(2, 'Anne', 'Roberts'); [23505-174]
+----+----------+---------+
|  ID|FIRST_NAME|LAST_NAME|
+----+----------+---------+
|   2|Jane      |Miller   |
+----+----------+---------+

So, our commits and rollbacks worked as expected!

Nested transactions

We can also create nested calls to our TransactionRunner, e.g. when we’re inside methods calling other methods. For this, would have to adapt our TransactionRunner to count the nesting level, and remove the “silent” functionality. On the other hand, it would be very easy to implement savepoint functionality this way. Each time we nest another transaction, we’ll create a new savepoint.

Conclusion

As always in this series, we didn’t invent anything new. All of these things could be done with vanilla Java 7. But the client code of this TransactionRunner certainly wouldn’t look as lean as our lambdas.

Next week in this blog series, we’re going to look at how Java 8 will allow you to define local caching scope very easily, so stay tuned!

More on Java 8

In the mean time, have a look at Eugen Paraschiv’s awesome Java 8 resources page

Java 8 Friday Goodies: Lambdas and Sorting

At Data Geekery, we love Java. And as we’re really into jOOQ’s fluent API and query DSL, we’re absolutely thrilled about what Java 8 will bring to our ecosystem. We have blogged a couple of times about some nice Java 8 goodies, and now we feel it’s time to start a new blog series, the…

Java 8 Friday

Every Friday, we’re showing you a couple of nice new tutorial-style Java 8 features, which take advantage of lambda expressions, extension methods, and other great stuff. You’ll find the source code on GitHub. tweet this

Java 8 Goodie: Lambdas and Sorting

Sorting arrays, and collections is an awesome use-case for Java 8’s lambda expression for the simple reason that Comparator has always been a @FunctionalInterface all along since its introduction in JDK 1.2. We can now supply Comparators in the form of a lambda expression to various sort() methods.

For the following examples, we’re going to use this simple Person class:

static class Person {
    final String firstName;
    final String lastName;

    Person(String firstName, String lastName) {
        this.firstName = firstName;
        this.lastName = lastName;
    }

    @Override
    public String toString() {
        return "Person{" +
                "firstName='" + firstName + '\'' +
                ", lastName='" + lastName + '\'' +
                '}';
    }
}

Obviously, we could add natural sorting to Person as well by letting it implement Comparable, but lets focus on external Comparators. Consider the following list of Person, whose names are generated with some online random name generator:

List<Person> people =
Arrays.asList(
    new Person("Jane", "Henderson"),
    new Person("Michael", "White"),
    new Person("Henry", "Brighton"),
    new Person("Hannah", "Plowman"),
    new Person("William", "Henderson")
);

We probably want to sort them by last name and then by first name.

Sorting with Java 7

A “classic” Java 7 example of such a Comparator is this:

people.sort(new Comparator<Person>() {
  @Override
  public int compare(Person o1, Person o2) {
    int result = o1.lastName.compareTo(o2.lastName);

    if (result == 0)
      result = o1.firstName.compareTo(o2.firstName);

    return result;
  }
});
people.forEach(System.out::println);

And the above would yield:

Person{firstName='Henry', lastName='Brighton'}
Person{firstName='Jane', lastName='Henderson'}
Person{firstName='William', lastName='Henderson'}
Person{firstName='Hannah', lastName='Plowman'}
Person{firstName='Michael', lastName='White'}

Sorting with Java 8

Now, let’s translate the above to equivalent Java 8 code:

Comparator<Person> c = (p, o) ->
    p.lastName.compareTo(o.lastName);

c = c.thenComparing((p, o) ->
    p.firstName.compareTo(o.firstName));

people.sort(c);
people.forEach(System.out::println);

The result is obviously the same. How to read the above? First, we assign a lambda expression to a local Person Comparator variable:

Comparator<Person> c = (p, o) ->
    p.lastName.compareTo(o.lastName);

Unlike Scala, C#, or Ceylon which know type inference from an expression towards a local variable declaration through a val keyword (or similar), Java performs type inference from a variable (or parameter, member) declaration towards an expression that is being assigned.

In other, more informal words, type inference is performed from “left to right”, not from “right to left”. This makes chaining Comparators a bit cumbersome, as the Java compiler cannot delay type inference for lambda expressions until you pass the comparator to the sort() method.

Once we have assigned a Comparator to a variable, however, we can fluently chain other comparators through thenComparing():

c = c.thenComparing((p, o) ->
    p.firstName.compareTo(o.firstName));

And finally, we pass it to the List‘s new sort() method, which is a default method implemented directly on the List interface:

default void sort(Comparator<? super E> c) {
    Collections.sort(this, c);
}

Workaround for the above limitation

While Java’s type inference “limitations” can turn out to be a bit frustrating, we can work around type inference by creating a generic IdentityComparator:

class Utils {
    static <E> Comparator<E> compare() {
        return (e1, e2) -> 0;
    }
}

With the above compare() method, we can write the following fluent comparator chain:

people.sort(
    Utils.<Person>compare()
         .thenComparing((p, o) -> 
              p.lastName.compareTo(o.lastName))
         .thenComparing((p, o) -> 
              p.firstName.compareTo(o.firstName))
);

people.forEach(System.out::println);

Extracting keys

This can get even better. Since we’re usually comparing the same POJO / DTO value from both Comparator arguments, we can provide them to the new APIs through a “key extractor” function. This is how it works:

people.sort(Utils.<Person>compare()
      .thenComparing(p -> p.lastName)
      .thenComparing(p -> p.firstName));
people.forEach(System.out::println);

So, given a Person p we provide the API with a function extracting, for instance, p.lastName. And in fact, once we use key extractors, we can omit our own utility method, as the libraries also have a comparing() method to initiate the whole chain:

people.sort(
    Comparator.comparing((Person p) -> p.lastName)
          .thenComparing(p -> p.firstName));
people.forEach(System.out::println);

Again, we need to help the compiler as it cannot infer all types, even if in principle, the sort() method would provide enough information in this case. To learn more about Java 8’s generalized type inference, see our previous blog post.

Conclusion

As with Java 5, the biggest improvements of the upgrade can be seen in the JDK libraries. When Java 5 brought typesafety to Comparators, Java 8 makes them easy to read and write (give or take the odd type inference quirk).

Java 8 is going to revolutionise the way we program, and next week, we will see how Java 8 impacts the way we interact with SQL.

More on Java 8

In the mean time, have a look at Eugen Paraschiv’s awesome Java 8 resources page

Java 8 Friday Goodies: Lambdas and XML

At Data Geekery, we love Java. And as we’re really into jOOQ’s fluent API and query DSL, we’re absolutely thrilled about what Java 8 will bring to our ecosystem. We have blogged a couple of times about some nice Java 8 goodies, and now we feel it’s time to start a new blog series, the…

Java 8 Friday

Every Friday, we’re showing you a couple of nice new tutorial-style Java 8 features, which take advantage of lambda expressions, extension methods, and other great stuff. You’ll find the source code on GitHub. tweet this

Java 8 Goodie: Lambdas and XML

There isn’t too much that Java 8 can do to the existing SAX and DOM APIs. The SAX ContentHandler has too many abstract methods to qualify as a @FunctionalInterface, and DOM is a huge, verbose API specified by w3c, with little chance of adding new extension methods.

Luckily there is a small Open Source library called jOOX that allows for processing the w3c standard DOM API through a wrapper API that mimicks the popular jQuery library. jQuery leverages JavaScript’s language features by allowing users to pass functions to the API for DOM traversal. The same is the case with jOOX. Let’s have a closer look:

Assume that we’re using the following pom.xml

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?>
<project xmlns="http://maven.apache.org/POM/4.0.0"
     xmlns:xsi="http://www.w3.org/2001/XMLSchema-instance"
     xsi:schemaLocation="http://maven.apache.org/POM/4.0.0 http://maven.apache.org/xsd/maven-4.0.0.xsd">
  <modelVersion>4.0.0</modelVersion>

  <groupId>org.jooq</groupId>
  <artifactId>java8-goodies</artifactId>
  <version>1.0-SNAPSHOT</version>

  <dependencies>
    <dependency>
      <groupId>org.jooq</groupId>
      <artifactId>joox</artifactId>
      <version>1.2.0</version>
    </dependency>
  </dependencies>

  <build>
    <plugins>
      <plugin>
        <groupId>org.apache.maven.plugins</groupId>
        <artifactId>maven-compiler-plugin</artifactId>
        <version>2.3.2</version>
        <configuration>
          <fork>true</fork>
          <maxmem>512m</maxmem>
          <meminitial>256m</meminitial>
          <encoding>UTF-8</encoding>
          <source>1.8</source>
          <target>1.8</target>
          <debug>true</debug>
          <debuglevel>lines,vars,source</debuglevel>
        </configuration>
      </plugin>
    </plugins>
  </build>
</project>

Let’s assume we wanted to know all the involved artifacts in Maven’s groupId:artifactId:version notation. Here’s how we can do that with jOOX and lambda expressions:

$(new File("./pom.xml")).find("groupId")
                        .each(ctx -> {
    System.out.println(
        $(ctx).text() + ":" +
        $(ctx).siblings("artifactId").text() + ":" +
        $(ctx).siblings("version").text()
    );
});

Executing the above yields:

org.jooq:java8-goodies:1.0-SNAPSHOT
org.jooq:joox:1.2.0
org.apache.maven.plugins:maven-compiler-plugin:2.3.2

Let’s assume we only wanted to display those artifacts that don’t have SNAPSHOT in their version numbers. Simply add a filter:

$(new File("./pom.xml"))
    .find("groupId")
    .filter(ctx -> $(ctx).siblings("version")
                         .matchText(".*-SNAPSHOT")
                         .isEmpty())
    .each(ctx -> {
        System.out.println(
        $(ctx).text() + ":" +
        $(ctx).siblings("artifactId").text() + ":" +
        $(ctx).siblings("version").text());
    });

This will now yield

org.jooq:joox:1.2.0
org.apache.maven.plugins:maven-compiler-plugin:2.3.2

We can also transform the XML content. For instance, if the target document doesn’t need to be a POM, we could replace the matched groupId elements by an artifical artifact element that contains the artifact name in Maven notation. Here’s how to do this:

$(new File("./pom.xml"))
    .find("groupId")
    .filter(ctx -> $(ctx).siblings("version")
                         .matchText(".*-SNAPSHOT")
                         .isEmpty())
    .content(ctx ->
        $(ctx).text() + ":" +
        $(ctx).siblings("artifactId").text() + ":" +
        $(ctx).siblings("version").text()
    )
    .rename("artifact")
    .each(ctx -> System.out.println(ctx));

The above puts new content in place of the previous one through .content(), and then renames the groupId elements to artifact, before printing out the element. The result is:

<artifact>org.jooq:joox:1.2.0</artifact>
<artifact>org.apache.maven.plugins:maven-compiler-plugin:2.3.2</artifact>

More goodies next week

What becomes immediately obvious is the fact that the lambda expert group’s choice of making all SAMs (Single Abstract Method interfaces) eligible for use with lambda expressions adds great value to pre-existing APIs. Quite a clever move.

But there are also new APIs. Last week, we have discussed how the existing JDK 1.2 File API can be improved through the use of lambdas. Some of our readers have expressed their concerns that the java.io API has been largely replaced by java.nio (nio as in New I/O). Next week, we’ll have a look at Java 8’s java.nnio API (for new-new I/O ;-) ) and how it relates to the Java 8 Streams API.

More on Java 8

In the mean time, have a look at Eugen Paraschiv’s awesome Java 8 resources page

Where’s the Self-Confidence when Advertising Java 8, Oracle?

I have often wondered, why the team around Brian Goetz has been heading towards a “decent compromise” so strongly from the beginning, both from a marketing AND technical point of view, instead of adding more boldness to how Java 8 is advertised. At Devoxx Belgium 2013, Brian Goetz seems to have really sold his accomplishments completely under value, according to this interesting article. Having extensively followed the lambda-dev mailing list, I can only stress how little the creators of Java 8 loved their new defender methods feature, for instance.

Java 8 is what we have all been waiting for, for so long! After all, the introduction of lambda expressions and defender methods (equally impactful, if not as often advertised!) is one of the most significant improvements to the Java language since the very beginnings.

Given the tremendous success of LINQ in .NET, I have recently contemplated whether Java 8, lambda expressions and the Streams API might actually be an equally interesting approach to adding features to an ecosystem, compared to the “scariness” of comprehensions and monads as understood by LINQ: https://blog.jooq.org/2013/11/02/does-java-8-still-need-linq-or-is-it-better-than-linq/

While my article above certainly wasn’t well received with the .NET community (and even Erik Meijer himself smirked at it), it did get quite a bit of love from the Java community. In other words, the Java community is ready for Java 8 goodness. Let’s hope Oracle will start advertising it as the cool new thing that it is.

Does Java 8 Still Need LINQ? Or is it Better than LINQ?

Photo by Ade Oshineye
Erik Meijer, Tye Dye Expert. Photo by Ade Oshineye. Licensed under CC-BY-SA

LINQ was one of the best things that happened to the .NET software engineering ecosystem in a long time. With its introduction of lambda expressions and monads in Visual Studio 2008, it had catapulted the C# language way ahead of Java, which was at version 6 at the time, still discussing the pros and cons of generic type erasure. This achievement was mostly due to and accredited to Erik Meijer, a Dutch computer scientist and tye-dye expert who is now off to entirely other projects.

Where is Java now?

With the imminent release of Java 8 and JSR-355, do we still need LINQ? Many attempts of bringing LINQ goodness to Java have been made since the middle of the last decade. At the time, Quaere and Lambdaj seemed to be a promising implementation on the library level (not the language level). In fact, a huge amount of popular Stack Overflow questions hints at how many Java folks were (and still are!) actually looking for something equivalent:

Interestingly, “LINQ” has even made it into EL 3.0!

But do we really need LINQ?

LINQ has one major flaw, which is advertised as a feature, but in our opinion, will inevitably lead to the “next big impedance mismatch”. LINQ is inspired by SQL and this is not at all a good thing. LINQ is most popular for LINQ-to-Objects, which is a fine way of querying collections in .NET. The success of Haskell or Scala, however, has shown that the true functional nature of “collection querying” tends to employ entirely other terms than SELECT, WHERE, GROUP BY, or HAVING.  They use terms like “fold”, “map”, “flatMap”, “reduce”, and many many more. LINQ, on the other hand, employs a mixture of GROUP BY and terms like “skip”, “take” (instead of OFFSET and FETCH).

In fact, nothing could be further from the functional truth than a good old SQL partitioned outer join, grouping set, or framed window function. These constructs are mere declarations of what a SQL developer would like to see as a result. They’re not self-contained functions, which actually contain the logic to be executed in any given context. Moreover, window functions can be used only in SELECT and ORDER BY clauses, which is obvious when thinking in a declarative way, but which is also very weird if you don’t have the SQL context. Specifically, a window function in a SELECT clause influences the whole execution plan and the way indexes are employed to pre-fetch the right data.

Conversely, true functional programming can do so much more to in-memory collections than SQL ever can. Using a SQLesque API for collection querying was a cunning decision to trick “traditional” folks into adopting functional programming. But the hopes that collection and SQL table querying could be interfused were disappointed, as such constructs will not produce the wanted SQL execution plans.

But what if I am doing SQL?

It’s simple. When you do SQL, you have two essential choices.

  • Do it “top-down”, putting most focus on your Java domain model. In that case, use Hibernate / JPA for querying and transform Hibernate results using the Java 8 Streams API.
  • Do it “bottom-up”, putting most focus on your SQL / relational domain model. In that case, use JDBC or jOOQ and again, transform your results using the Java 8 Streams API.

This is illustrated more in detail here: http://www.hibernate-alternative.com

Don’t look back. Embrace the future!

While .NET was “ahead” of Java for a while, this was not due to LINQ itself. This was mainly due to the introduction of lambda expressions and the impact lambdas had on *ALL* APIs. LINQ is just one example of how such APIs could be constructed, although LINQ got most of the credit.

But I’m much more excited about Java 8’s new Streams API, and how it will embrace some functional programming in the Java ecosystem. A very good blog post by Informatech illustrates, how common LINQ expressions translate to Java 8 Streams API expressions.

So, don’t look back. Stop envying .NET developers. With Java 8, we will not need LINQ or any API that tries to imitate LINQ on the grounds of “unified querying”, which is a better sounding name for what is really the “query target impedance mismatch”. We need true SQL for relational database querying, and we need the Java 8 Streams API for functional transformations of in-memory collections. That’s it. Go Java 8!

JDK 8: State of the Collections

Here’s the latest publication by Brian Goetz, Oracle’s project lead for JSR 335, a.k.a. Project Lambda. Here’s a nice example showing new collection features, such as “Streams” using method references:

List<String> strings = ...
int sumOfLengths = strings.stream()
                          .map(String::length)
                          .reduce(0, Integer::plus);

Another nice example showing the use of lambda expressions:

int sum = shapes.stream()
                .filter(s -> s.getColor() == BLUE)
                .map(s -> s.getWeight())
                .sum();

See more, here:
http://cr.openjdk.java.net/~briangoetz/lambda/sotc3.html

When will we have LINQ in Java?

LINQ is one of Microsoft’s .NET Framework’s most distinct language features. When it was first introduced to languages such as C#, it required heavy changes to the language specification. Yet, this addition was extremely powerful and probably unequalled by other languages / platforms, such as Java, Scala, etc. Granted, Scala has integrated XML in a similar fashion into its language from the beginning, but that is hardly the same accomplishment. Nowadays, Typesafe developers are developing SLICK – Scala Language Integrated Connection Kit, which has similar ambitions, although the effort spent on it is hardly comparable: one “official” Scala developer against a big Microsoft team. Let alone the potential of getting into patent wars with Microsoft, should SLICK ever become popular.

What does Java have to offer?

There are many attempts of bringing LINQ-like API’s to the Java world, as the following Stack Overflow question shows:

http://stackoverflow.com/questions/1217228/what-is-the-java-equivalent-for-linq

Here’s another newcomer project by Julian Hyde, that I’ve recently discovered:

https://github.com/julianhyde/linq4j

He tried his luck on the lambda-dev mailing list, without any response so far. We’re all eagerly awaiting Java 8 and project lambda with its lambda expressions and extension methods. But when will we be able to catch up with Microsoft’s LINQ? After all, jOOQ, linq4j are “internal domain specific languages”, which are all limited by the expressivity of their host language (see my previous blog post about building domain specific languages in Java).

Java 9 maybe? We can only hope!

Array, list, set, map, tuple, record literals in Java

Occasionally, when I’m thrilled by the power and expressiveness of JavaScript, I find myself missing one or two features in the Java world. Apart from lambda expressions / closures or whatever you want to call “anonymous functions”, it’s the use of advanced literals for common data types, such as arrays, lists, sets, maps, etc. In JavaScript, no one would think about constructing a constant Map like this:

var map = new Object();
map["a"] = 1;
map["b"] = 2;
map["c"] = 3;

Instead, you’d probably write

var map = { "a":1, "b":2, "c":3 };

Specifically, when passing complex parameters to an API function, this turns out to be a very handy syntax.

What about these things in Java?

I’ve recently posted about a workaround that you can use for creating a “List literal” using Arrays.asList(…) here:

https://blog.jooq.org/2011/10/28/javas-arrays-aslist-is-underused/

This is somewhat OK. You can also construct arrays when you assign them, using array literals. But you cannot pass an array literal to a method:

// This will work:
int[] array = { 1, 2, 3 };

// This won't:
class Test {
  public void callee(int[] array) {}
  public void caller() {
    // Compilation error here:
    callee({1, 2, 3});
  }
}

Brian Goetz’s mentioning of various literals on lambda-dev

Missing this feature for quite a while, I was very thrilled to read Brian Goetz’s mentioning of them on the lambda-dev mailing list:

http://mail.openjdk.java.net/pipermail/lambda-dev/2012-May/004979.html

The ideas he was listing were these:

#[ 1, 2, 3 ]                          // Array, list, set
#{ "foo" : "bar", "blah" : "wooga" }  // Map literals
#/(\d+)$/                             // Regex
#(a, b)                               // Tuple
#(a: 3, b: 4)                         // Record
#"There are {foo.size()} foos"        // String literal

Unfortunately, he also added the following disclaimer:

Not that we’d embrace all of these immediately (or ever)

Obviously, at this stage of current Java language evolvements for Java 8, he cannot make any guarantee whatsoever about what might be added in the future. But from a jOOQ perspective, the idea of being able to declare tuple and record literals (with the appropriate backing language-support for such types!) is quite thrilling. Imagine selecting arbitrary tuples / records with their associated index/type, column/type pairs. Imagine a construct like this one in Java or Scala (using jOOQ):

// For simplicity, I'm using Scala's val operator here,
// indicating type inference. It's hard to guess what true
// record support in the java language should look like
for (val record : create.select(
                           BOOK.AUTHOR_ID.as("author"), 
                           count().as("books"))
                        .from(BOOK)
                        .groupBy(BOOK.AUTHOR_ID)
                        .fetch()) {
  
   // With true record support, you could now formally extract
   // values from the result set being iterated on. In other
   // words, the formal column alias and type is available to
   // the compiler:
   int author = record.author;
   int books = record.books;
}

Obviously, this is only speculation, but you can see that with true tuple / record support in the Java language, a lot of features would be unleashed in the Java universe with a very high impact on all existing libraries and APIs

Stay tuned! :-)