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Monday, January 23, 2012

Java under Mac OS X 10.7 Lion

Lion is the first version of Mac OS X that doesn't come with Java already installed. Earlier versions not only had the Java Virtual Machine or runtime element installed, but they also had the JDK installed, which is the part that lets you write your own Java programs.

Once, Java was an important part of Apple's strategy. They maintained their own version of Java for the Mac and encouraged its use by developers every bit as much as they encouraged the use of Objective-C.

The success of the iPhone and the iPad have changed that, however. Apple decided that Java would not be part of those platforms. The lack of Java is the very reason I've chosen not to get an iPhone. Instead, I get phones with Java so that I can run my own Java applications that I write for my own use.

Now that Lion doesn't have Java pre-installed, what do you do? Fortunately, a deal has been struck where Java is still available for the Mac. It's much the same arrangement as Java for other platforms. In fact, it's easier to install Java on your Mac than any other platform. And you get the JDK along with the runtime (JVM) environment.

Simply use Finder to go to Applications=>Utilities. There, start Terminal. Once Terminal starts, type in the command 'javac'. Your Mac will tell you that Java isn't installed, and let you install it.

I'm pleased that the Mac has not entirely forsaken Java, even if it's not an integral part as it has been. The basic software supplied with the Mac has declined severely over the past few years, but fortunately Java is still available and easy to install when you want it.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Embedded Java

Embedded Java sounds almost like an oxymoron. Taking a high level, large, interpreted language like Java and using it in an application field dominated by assembly and C certainly seems odd. But it's a reality.

For one thing, the microcontrollers of today are not the limited 1K to 2K ROM, 8-bit, 200kHz machine cycle rate CPUs of yesteryear. They're more powerful than the desktop systems of 10-15 years ago in many cases. And we were playing Quake II on those. So maybe Java isn't quite such a stretch, after all.

NanoVM is a small, subscale Java-ish virtual machine that runs on tiny 8-bit microcontrollers like the AVR ATMega8. It's not a full Java, but it covers most of what's interesting to the microcontroller programmer.

The JStamp is a Java development system for the aJile micros. It's also not a full Java SE implementation (what would you do with the extra bits, even if it was?), but it is a verifiable real-time Java system for embedded development.

Also, IS2T has MicroEJ, another embedded Java for a number of processors. Everything from the basics of execution and I/O up to GUIs, SOAs, and safety-critical libraries are available.

I still remember when it was considered laughable to consider a C-language embedded development system. But it has either nudged assembly out of the top spot for embedded development or is close to it, now. Any language that is popular enough can be brought to the task now, and Java is no exception.

It's all just a bunch of ones and zeroes in the end.