Duke's Choice Awards 2015

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    In Java’s Twentieth Year, Duke’s Choice Winners Tackle a Mix of Today’s Social, Business and Technology Challenges



    This year Java turns 20, and just like a 20-year-old, Java has grown up but still has a long and productive life ahead of it. That is evident in this year’s Duke’s Choice Awards winners, who reflect Java’s vitality, mixing social consciousness, serious business and just cool technology.

    The 2015 Duke’s Choice Awards Winners’ Circle



    Water is a scarce resource, not just in drought-parched California but around the world. Helping people manage water more effectively inspired Hania Gulagoussou, who is perhaps the youngest ever Duke’s Choice winner.


    The 16-year-old California high school student used Java to develop the Water Saver app for a county science fair. She chose Java because it is a simple, mature and reliable platform that runs on many devices. ”At the time there was a lot of news about the California drought," she explains. “And there was not simple and affordable home water management tool for the ‘average Joe.’”


    “The main goal of Water Saver is not to save a given amount of water amount or percentage of use,” she continues, “but to provide the user flexibility to control his or her water resource from anywhere using day-to-day devices and automatically limit the overuse of water when not needed.”


    For thousands of students in developing countries, access to adequate food supplies is just as important. If one of this year's winners sounds familiar it's because e-Finance, a Cairo, Egypt, Java software house, is back this year with the United Nations’ World Food Program (UN/WFP) School Subsidy Card.


    Taking its cue from last year's award winning project, the UN/WFP Food Subsidy Card, e-Finance developed the School Subsidy Card for Egypt’s Ministry of Education. It also provides students with food subsidies.


    ”This application is now live in Egypt as a pilot that helps 20,000 families in two poor cities," says Mohammed Taman, e-Finance’s enterprise architect and software development manager. "By the end of this year the program will cover 500,000 families in all the main Egyptian cities and will be rolled out in other countries.”



    Data science is the new frontier for Big Data that combines big data, statistics and machine learning, and Data Science for Advertising Technology from TailTarget, São Paulo, Brazil, is a Java-based system that helps advertisers in Latin America sift through large volumes of data to determine the best bang for their pesos and reales.


    “As Java developers and data scientists, we always thought that Java would be the key technology to deliver data science at scale,” explains the three-year-old firm’s chief data scientist Fabiane Nardon. “Real-time insights from the big data, generated by multiple data sets connected to a data intelligence platform such as Tail Target, enable a new approach for decision making and instant marketing.”


    Gluon BVBA, which takes its name from particle physics, is a Leuven, Belgium, software house that offers consulting, development services and products to JavaFX developers. Rather than a piecemeal approach, Gluon is looking at the needs of Java developers holistically with Gluon Cloud, Gluon Charm and Gluon Particle.


    The goal, writes the Gluon team, is to “to pull together and add new functionality in a compelling product library for client-side development. This is because Gluon Charm and soon Gluon Particle can help to rapidly kickstart the development of applications on desktop, mobile devices and embedded devices, like Raspberry Pi.”



    A common theme among this year was the need to address common programming issues. That was the inspiration for Java developers Arjan Tijms and Bauke Scholtz, two programmers from Amsterdam, The Netherlands, who wrote OmniFaces for JSF, a free utility library for JavaServer Faces (JSF).


    “We saw the same solutions to the same problems being invented over and over again—every new JSF project we went to work on had some kind of utility class for easily setting Faces message,” says Tijms. “At the same time, we encountered a lot of verbosity in the JSF and small gaps, mainly evidenced by people asking the same questions again and again and our direct co-workers running into the same problems.”


    That same drive was behind the development of AsciidocFX, says developer and author Rahman Usta, who is also an Istanbul JUG leader. When writing his third book, Utsa says he wasn’t satisfied with the markup languages he found, so he went looking for an alternative. Upon finding Asciidoctor, he realized that however good a language it was, it didn’t have a proper multi-platform user interface; hence, he wrote one using the JavaFX platform, dubbed AsciidocFX. AsciidoxFX is an open-source project licensed under Apache 2.0.


    Many Java developers dissatisfied with service oriented architectures (SOAs) are turning to a microservice architecture instead, to take advantage of better scalability, manageability, flexibilitiy and  upgradeability. That’s why Kumuluz, a Ljubljana, Slovenia, software house developed one of this year’s winners, the KumuluzEE framework.


    “KumuluzEE is the first framework for micro services using standard Java APIs,” explains co-founder Matjaz Juric. “A microservice architecture focuses on developing applications into services and deploying these independently; a true micro service architecture is not possible in Java EE without a framework that automates deployment and configuration.”


    Byte Buddy is an open-source meta programming library from Rafael Winterhalter an independent Java programmer and developer in Oslo, Norway. "Most of the existing libraries do not support the newer features of Java and the JVM in an appropriate manner," Winterhalter says. "For example, an increasing number of Java applications make use of annotations and generic types to determine their runtime behavior. When generating code, it is therefore important to take such meta data into account."


    Another open source project among this year's winners is the Constrained Application Protocol (CoAP) from ARM Research Labs Inc. The Cambridge, U.K., firm developed CoAP as a "very efficient RESTful protocol ideal for constrained devices and networks, specifically used in machine-to-machine (M2M) applications.”


    ARM donated CoAP to the Java OpenJDK Community for use in Internet-of-Things (IoT) applications.

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    Hania Guiagoussou (photo: Robert Adler)



    Mohamed Taman



    Fabiane Nardon (right) (photo: Paulo Fridman)



    Johan Vos of Gluon (photo: Ton Hendriks)



    Zach Shelby of ARM (photo: Robert Adler)


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    Philip J. Gill is a San Diego writer and editor who has been following Java for almost 20 years.