Series: Meet the Dream Team Members(In January 2007, we announced the 11 charter members of the NetBeans Dream Team, a community-oriented group of highly skilled NetBeans users devoted to promoting NetBeans and working on the NetBeans Project. In these interviews discover who they are, why they are passionate about NetBeans and what goals they have for the NetBeans project.)
Please tell us a bit about yourself and how you discovered NetBeans.Well, I'm a Java enthusiast and work primarily as a Java Architect. I run my own company: Tidalwave s.a.s; it's essentially a one-person firm, so it's more appropriate to say I'm a freelancer. Since last year, I've worked mostly with SourceSense s.r.l. I live as a quantic particle with spread over Northern Italy, with the highest probabilities of realization in Genoa and Milan.
I had my first experience with NetBeans circa version 3.6 as a support for teaching Java courses for Sun Educational Italy. At the time, most Italian instructors used NetBeans since it was much to have students not get lost while writing their first EJB, for example. But at the time I thought it was too slow and good only for teaching. Eclipse was more productive and was my favourite IDE until the beginning of 2006. NetBeans 5.0 had just been released and I was a skeptic. But I think that every prejudice should be validated (or invalidated) by proof, so I started playing with it. After some months, I understood the potential of the new NetBeans—it was a completely different product. When 5.5 came out (and being aware of the roadmap to 6.0), I abandoned Eclipse.
What are your thoughts on the previews of NetBeans 6.0?I've been using Milestone 10 for production (J2SE and J2EE) since July, and I completed the conversion of my RCP applications this summer. I've just done some minor adjustment this past week to upgrade to 6.0 Beta 1. The changes to NetBeans since 4.x are unbelievable and the gap with Eclipse has been completely filled in most areas. I find NetBeans much better for things such as J2EE development, but the Rich Client Platform is probably the thing that I like more.
Let's put you in the hot seat! What are some things NetBeans could do better?The team in Prague has done an excellent job. The roadmap from 5.0 to 5.5 to 6.0 has been pretty dead-on to recover lost ground. Today we have an IDE with excellent support for J2EE; an excellent Swing designer; support for other languages such as Ruby (and the Schliemann Project will foster support for even more); an effective debugger and an unbelievable profiler. Everything out-of-the-box! Now people must concentrate on stability and improving performance for 6.0 FCS. (I also hope that UML and J2ME problems with Mac OS X will be addressed in some way, even though they depend on factors that are out of Sun's control.) The next steps must include even better refactoring support and looking at IDEA as an ideal target. Today we already have Jackpot, a refactoring engine that can be programmed with a declarative language, but we need stuff ready to work in a few keystrokes.
You'll be attending and presenting at the three NetBeans Software Days scheduled this month in Italy—Rome, Milan and Cagliari. Can you give us an overview of your presentation: ”Sailing on NetBeans Platform”?It's an introduction to the Rich Client Platform based on my experience with an open source project named blueMarine, a platform for managing photo workflow. It's something I started working on in 2003 initially for fun just after I bought my first digital reflex camera. In the presentation, I'll share my experience with blueMarine, from the first two years of development which were frustrating because Swing was too slow and lacked a serious platform, until I completely redesigned the application on top of the NetBeans Platform.
Why did you create blueMarine? How does it differ from other photo management applications?During my first years with serious photography, I realized that I was deeply unsatisfied with existing software on the market. You needed one software for editing, one for cataloguing, another for publishing, and so on. Also, I had a vision of a generic expandable platform that would go beyond mere cataloguing and editing, and instead include some of the cool stuff that we have today, such as geotagging, the ability to associate geographic coordinates to a photo and use them to share the photo or plan new trips. I also wanted the program to be an open platform where people could integrate their own stuff. Of course, several years later the panorama has changed, and we have programs such as Adobe Lightroom and Apple Aperture. Still I feel that they are not expandable and open enough, and Linux is lacking such a comprehensive application.
What were the benefits of using the NetBeans Platform for blueMarine?The added value is that it's Swing. Before the NetBeans experience I had looked quickly at Eclipse RCP; at the time it was probably the only viable framework for developing desktop applications. But I hated the idea of learning a new set of APIs —Eclipse is based on its own SWT—and throwing away my knowledge, even though limited at the time, of the Swing APIs. Furthermore, I felt that if you deal with photography you need to provide a pleasant user interface beyond mere effectiveness. Swing had a good foundation in this area, even though developing a new Look-and-Feel was a pain initially. Today Swing provides a huge set of Look-and-Feel choices (Substance, Synthetica, Nimrod, to mention a few) and when Jasper Potts finishes his new Nimbus Look-and-Feel and the related design tools we'll go another leap forward. And with the tremendous evangelizing effort of people such as Romain Guy, people tdday should have no doubt about Swing's ability to realize rich clients. As far as I know, there's nothing of the sort in the SWT world.
Is there a strong community of NetBeans users in Italy? Are the three NetBeans Software Days a strategy to grow one among Italian developers?Really, I don't know. The coming NetBeans Days will be our chance to measure the Italian enthusiasm about NetBeans and to get direct feedback. In the following months and in 2008 I plan to travel a bit and visit the many JUGs we have in Italy to get an even better picture and spread the word about NetBeans. Some JUGs are working on some cool initiatives about NetBeans, but they are in the early stages and I prefer not to disclose details now.
Let's talk about the Dream Team: How has it enhanced your participation in the NetBeans project?The Dream Team is a wonderful idea. You know, it's not only that you have a direct channel to Sun Engineers, Evangelists and the other excellent professionals on the NetBeans team, it's also a matter of “feeling like part of a team”. I mean it's not only about the technology, there's the human value in it. It's really stimulating.
What's next in your efforts as a “Dream-Team-er”? Is there a
project you want community help
I think I've received a lot from the Dream Team (both technically and
in enthusiasm), but I'm not satisfied with what I have given back so
far. I plan to improve my contributions in 2008. On the whole, the
Dream Team is producing very good results and thoughts, but it can do
much more. When we are able to work more closely maybe on a common
activity, we will experience a quantic leap. At the moment the fact
that we are physically apart is perhaps a limiting factor, and I hope
that during one of the next major conferences most of us will be able
to meet personally. Yes, it is the age of Second Life—which I hate, by
the way—but shaking hands and laughing together is still another thing.