Thursday, July 27, 2006

Book Review : AJAX in Action

I have today completed the 1st of the 4 parts of this book and i must say that i loved reading it due to my growing interest in the AJAX methodology and the web application development, in general.

Part 1 of the book talks about what and why about AJAX, introduces the framework and toolset and the core technologies you need to know about when working on AJAX. This part is divided into 3 chapters (introducing AJAX, simple example with code and importance of refactoring the AJAX Javascript code).

Part 2 (this is where i am now in my reading) talks about the techniques to employ for coding the client and the server. Comprised of 2 chapters.

Part 3 (which i am yet to read) discusses about enhancing user experince (usability stuff that you should consider while developing AJAX application), security and performance of AJAX application. Comprised of 3 chapters.

Part 4 provides example applications using AJAX methodology like Dynamic double combo, type-ahead suggest, web portal with autosave functionality, live search using XSLT, and building a standalone RSS Feed Reader. Comprised of 5 chapters.

The reason i like this book alot is because i did not know much CSS, HTML DOM or Javascript before and there this book introduces those subject areas in a way that is relevant to the development of AJAX based application. And thats what a J2EE developer like me will require. We dont necessarily need to learn Javascript to develop libraries like Scriptaculous (i mean not like a web front end designer would want to know). All we need to know about CSS, Javascript and HTML DOM is to be able to work comfortably with those while making an AJAX application. The book has pretty good introduction to these topics and hence i have benefitted alot. The Appendix B named Javascript for object-oriented programmers is more than what i think i will need to know about the language. CSS and HTML DOM are introduced in chapter 2 and used throughout the book in the several examples thus giving one alot of room to practice. The coverage of examples using the most common scenarios where one would want to use AJAX methodology is also very nice. It also talks and demonstrates with examples, the use of different frameworks (like Rico, prototype, scriptaculous, etc) and also tell enough about the frameworks based on which you can decide which one will best suit your needs on a certain project. In short, you become educated enough to make a good decision on what framework to use for your project which can help you cut down the timeline for the project. If you are new to AJAX then do check out the book's website for a screencast by the authors on what is ajax. I just checked out on a few frameworks mentioned in the book and following are the ones which interested me most:

  • Rico: built over prototype library provides a AjaxEngine Javascript object which you can use to simplify the AJAX request/response and also provides some widgets like accordian for one.
  • DWR: Direct web remoting is an application framework which allows Java objects to expose their methods directly for AJAX requests to clients.
  • Echo2: is also an application framework which like DWR does not require you to know HTML, CSS and Javascript enabling the user interface to be created in pure Java. It provides a visual designer as an eclipse plugin using which you can layout your web forms easily and the corresponding code will be generated in Java. The SDK is open source but the eclipse plugin is not (a free trial for 30 days is available). Will write more as i read and learn more from this excellent book.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

My Studies so far...

I have read the following books in order so far since Nov 2005 when i made a move from embedded systems programming to the J2EE world:

  • Head first servlets and JSP by Kathy Sierra & Bert Bates
  • Mastering EJB 3rd Edn. by Ed Roman et al
  • SCJP 5.0 Study Guide by Kathy Sierra & Bert Bates
  • JBoss at Work: A Practical Guide by Tom Marrs & Scott Davis
  • Struts: The complete reference by James Holmes (only first 10 chapts).
  • Oracle University: Introduction to SQL
  • J2EE Webservices by Richard Monson-Haefel
  • Designing Webservices with J2EE 1.4 by Inderjeet Singh et al
  • Head First EJB by Kathy Sierra & Bert Bates
  • SNMP, SNMPv2, SNMPv3 and RMON 1 and 2, 3rd Edition, by William Stallings.

My plans are to complete the following books by November 2006:

  • Head first design patterns (for sure - started 25 Oct)
  • J2EE Design and Development by Rob Jhonson (May be)
  • Network Management: Principles and Practice by Subramanian (read 2 chapts.)
  • Oracle University: Program with PL/SQL (Oracle 9i)

Together with the above mentioned readings i have some certifications taken and planned for:

  • SCJP 5.0 CX-310-055 : Passed with 90% on May 15 2006
  • SCDJWS 1.4 CX-310-220 : Passed with 88% on Aug 10 2006
  • SCBCD 1.3 CX-310-090 : Passed with 85% on Sept 30 2006
  • SCWCD 1.4 CX-310-081 : Passed with 82% on Sept 18 2006

And some trainings:

  • Oracle Workforce development program:Introduction to SQL: Completed in May 2006
  • Oracle Workforce development program: Program with PL/SQL: Completed in Aug 2006.

Thats all about it till Nov 2006.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Preparing for SCDJWS

SCDJWS 1.4 is Sun Certified Developer for Java Web Services certification exam. I started preparing for this exam after taking the SCJP 5.0 exam earlier in May 2006. This exam covers alot of specifications (XML 1.0, XML Schema 1.0, WS-I BP 1.0a, J2EE 1.4 for WS 1.1, WSDL 1.1, SOAP 1.1, UDDI 2.0, JAX-RPC 1.1 to name a few). You can see the complete list at Valentin Crettaz's site. There isnt any certification guide available as of this writing for this exam so i followed the advices of people who have already taken this certification exam at JavaRanch SCDJWS Forum and following is my approach to prepare for the exam.

Again, as has become a standard practice for me, i started with a word document where i copy pasted the exam objectives and wrote down the reference material (name of the book and chapters) for each topic on the exam. In summary, following are the resources i am referring:
  • J2EE WebServices by Richard Monson-Haefel (RMH): all chapters + appendices E, F & G. I did not read the F and G from here but referred to MZ's notes for SwA with SAAJ.
  • Sun's Blueprint book - Designing Webservices using J2EE 1.4: whole book
  • Mikalai Zaikin's (MZ) WSD Notes and Quiz You will need to buy the quiz (~95+ questions) from Mikalai. I referred to the Security (chapter 8) and a section on SwA with SAAJ (a section in chapter 2) from MZ's notes. I went through all quiz questions once, a night before the exam.
  • XYZWS.COM - provides a free mock exam (in all 200 questions collection).
  • XSLT and TrAX from Elliot Rusty Harold's (ERH) excellent book Processing XML with Java.
  • Java Webservices Tutorial (WST) for tutorial on JAXB (chapters 1 & 2)

14th Jul 2006 - I am through with all chapters from the RMH book and am mid-way through the Blueprint book. I have to go back to RMH to cover appendices E, F & G which cover SwA, SAAJ with Attachments and JAX-RPC & SwA. I also have to cover the ERH book's XSLT/TrAX, MZ's notes + WS-Security and WST for JAXB/Security. This might take me another week. I plan to complete the syllabus by 21st Jul 2006. After this i will need another week's time to revise my notes and practice more on the code.

I have created some sample programs from RMH's book (on topics like XSD, XML namespaces, JAX-RPC JSE/EJB Endpoints and clients Generated stubs/Dynamic Proxies/DII, JAXR, JAXP DOM/SAX).

I practiced the JAXB samples (first 5 only) as discussed in the WST. The exam does not require one to know

customizing the JAXB bindings so i did not cover those topics. For security, i did not do any programming but just read the concepts from MZ's notes.

10th Aug, 2006 - I passed the exam (CX-310-220) with 88%. If you need my study notes (305 pages covering whole syllabus completely) the download it here. You can read my final tips to the ranchers on how to prepare at

15th Mar, 2007 - I noticed that a few people (infact just 2, one wrote to me a thank you email and another mentioned of referring to my notes at Javaranch forum ) have used my SCDJWS 1.4 notes while preparing for the certification exam. If i could have posted my notes on a personal web site like MZ then probably more people will have been able to use it. Presently the single 305 pages pdf file might seem daunting to many. So setting up a web site is on my list of to-dos.