If Java just doesn't jibe, maybe you're missing the applets' real appeal

"So, in the words of the Human Torch, 'Flame on!' " the Rat quoth.


The caffeinated one likes Java; there's no secret about that.


And it has nothing to do with his fondness for a good, cup of black coffee. Considering
the many systems he supports, the write-once, run-anywhere idea has a certain appeal.


Just because Corel Corp. was foolish enough to try to write an entire office
application suite in Java and has now seen the error of its ways and ceased production,
doesn't necessarily mean that it's time to rethink Java. But that's exactly what some
other, brand-X trade rags are saying, especially the ones that are a little too close to
Redmond, Wash.


Microsoft Corp. has pulled out all the marketing and public relations stops over the
last few months, trying to squash the Java market like a bug. Except, of course, for the
Java market created by Microsoft itself.


Say something often enough and it'll be true, think the folks from the Mother Ship.
Well, it worked with Microsoft Windows 95, didn't it? Some poor users in Eastern Europe
even bought Windows 95 CDs without computers to install them, sort of like a spin-off of
the South Pacific cargo airplane cults.


So now Microsoft's mind-control unit is trying to use Corel's withdrawal of the Java
suite to persuade people that Java isn't all it's cracked up to be.


Suddenly everyone is realizing that Java is--gasp--an interpreted language and not as
fast as native compiled applications.


And horrors, Java isn't even open, because it's still controlled by Sun Microsystems
Inc., not Microsoft.


Suddenly they're saying Java isn't the solution they thought it was supposed to be,
because all they've listened to is the Java hype engine.


To these purveyors of partisan pap, the Rat says, "Engage your brains."


The whole point of Java is that it's designed to be multiplatform. It can be
implemented on pretty much anything with a modicum of processing power.


But it's not supposed to be the guts behind full-blown word processors or spreadsheets.
It's for small, task-specific applications.


That's why they call them applets.


Java's real promise has nothing to do with desktop applications and everything to do
with distributed network applications. Someday soon, the Rat will be able to run a World
Wide Web browser application to reconfigure and administer his routers, switches, servers
and coffeepot.


Try doing that with Windows CE, friends.


But that's something the pundits will never do, because they hardly ever speak from
experience.


"They wouldn't know a bad packet if it bit them," the wired one mutters.


Flame over, the Rat pours his first cup of coffee for the day.


He gets really testy when denied his morning Java.


The Packet Rat once managed networks but now spends his time ferreting out bad packets
in cyberspace. E-mail him at rat@gcn.com.


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