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Series: Meet the Dream Team Members

(In January, 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 the coming weeks, we will publish profile articles about each Dream Team member. Discover who they are, why they are passionate about NetBeans and what goals they have for the NetBeans project.)

Joerg Plewe

As a Speaker and a Blogger, what topics command your interest?

Currently, I'm more of a blogger than a speaker. I blog on Java primarily about desktop Java but also about general topics ranging from Ant techniques, OO databases and benchmarks, to flight simulators. When I get the opportunity to speak, I like to talk about my simulation project, FlyingGuns, which is a networked simulation framework with a World War One flight simulation action game as a demo. I had the great opportunity to discuss FlyingGuns at JavaOne, and just recently at a local Java users group here in Germany.

When was your introduction to NetBeans?

That was a long time ago. I think I started with version 3.1 or so. Those days, I preferred it over JBuilder for reasons I cannot explain. I just liked the way NetBeans felt. I liked the approach of a filesystem that project files had to be 'mounted' on. This was known to be infamous and was removed with NetBeans 4.0, but well ... I liked it. Also in those days, free IDEs were not as common as today. The quality of NetBeans as a free tool back then was very impressive. It was one reason more to use and support it.

How have you participated in the NetBeans Project?

Basically, I haven't been a NetBeans "developer", I'm more of a user. I always try to give feedback about my experiences with NetBeans to help to make it better. I've filed issues since October for various (pre) releases of NetBeans in different areas: project system, UML, UI. I always enjoyed working with the daily builds and not missing out on the slightest improvement. The good thing about the NetBeans project is that these issues are really read by someone and acted on very quickly in many cases. I encourage people to take part—you really can have influence on the product! "Community driven" is not just a marketing slogan in the case of NetBeans.

And I enjoyed talking with Roman Strobl about my feelings on NetBeans. We talked a lot about IDE usability, not so much about APIs or RCP concepts.

What stands out for you in the evolution of NetBeans?

NetBeans 5.0, with the broadening of the features set: Matisse, Profiler, Mobility, UML, etc. Each day, there's something new. For about a year, watching the incredible progress of NetBeans has been fun. So, there is no single feature that stands out for me but the speed of improvement.

What are your goals as a member of the Dream Team?

I'd like to evangelize NetBeans by demonstrating NetBeans usage in an unspectacular but believable way.

But we like spectacular!

Here in Germany, where people are less enthusiastic than, for example, Americans, if we say, “Hey, look how cool NetBeans is!”, we quickly become suspected of being highly biased. That approach is the way Sun evangelists usually work. But the Dream Team has the chance to appear unbiased and hence more believable. We use NetBeans because we are convinced and not because we get paid for it. We are experienced professionals and not enthusiastic kids. Being too loud and spectacular could ruin that impression.

As an example: in a former company, I developed a data binding framework and a GUI development process. This worked with any IDE, but together with Matisse it was a strong bundle. So I used NetBeans in presentations but didn't emphasize that fact by any means; I just showed its power with a real world problem. Doing this kind of "silent evangelism" very effectively avoids religious IDE discussions. That's a thing only people not paid by Sun can do.

Do you plan to write articles, tutorials, and the like?

I think writing articles and tutorials about NetBeans is a task for the full-time evangelists. The Dream Team should write articles about other things like real world projects thereby mentioning that NetBeans is the best and natural choice. This will increase believability and trust.

One of my proposals is to create a project done by the Dream Team. For example, a mind-mapping tool connected to the IDE's features. The main focus should not be NetBeans itself but the tool that everybody might consider useful. The side benefit to NetBeans is that it will show how this can be done in the IDE. It's neither an article nor an tutorial, but a public development that appeals to a general interest. The first steps of this are available on a wiki page.

The Dream Team was selected over three months ago, what is the group up to?

We are trying to constitute ourselves, to find our inner structure. The group consists of very different people with very different skills. So any topic can be discussed and an expert is available. This enables us to do projects like the one I mentioned above. For me, doing this project alone would be hard because my knowledge of module development or project integration might be missing. No problem with the team around me. Additionally, members of the NetBeans teams are on our mailing list and tracking our progress and are willing to support us.

You're a flight pilot in your spare time. How long have you been doing that?

Flying is a dream that I've had since my childhood but I didn't realize it until early. I also tried finding an IT job in the aviation industry, but that's barely possible in the area I live.

How did you use NetBeans to develop your flight simulation game,  Flying Guns?

FlyingGuns (or DRTS – Distributed RealTime System) is not just a game, but also a fun demo for the simulation technology used to develop it:

  • HeadQuarter – Networking backbone, distribution framework
  • JXInput – Non-standard input devices like joysticks
  • JTrackIR – Headtracker for Java
  • Scene3D – High-level 3D engine abstraction

  • I started the project with a friend in being that I was both an aviation enthusiast and a technology geek. And of course I wanted to prove it could be done in Java, which was heavily doubted those days. First, we had in mind to sell either the technology or the game. Unfortunately, we couldn't find an appropriate customer, so we decided to open-source it in early. Nevertheless, some subprojects have been used outside the actual game and the JXInput module even found its way in orbit on board of the International Space Station.

    (Click on image for larger view.)

    Today, FlyingGuns is my personal pet project. The components are still free (BSD license) and everybody is invited either to use it or join me as a developer.

    I used some NetBeans 3.x in the beginning and felt very comfortable with it. The introduction of NetBeans 4.0 with the new Ant based project structure brought me short of switching to another IDE. FlyingGuns was just too hard to build because it consists of many subprojects in a deeply nested structure. With 3.x, I could just mount all the folders and the project was set up. For 4.0, I had to edit and maintain a lot of dependencies in so many places. The most severe constraint was that NetBeans 4.0 only allowed a single source directory per project, which tripled the number of projects I had to maintain. But the situation relaxed with NetBeans 4.1 opening for multiple source directories. With NetBeans 5.0 and its increased number of features, for example, Matisse, Profiler, ant debugger and so on, using NetBeans was pure fun again. Today, I'm considering dropping my own ant build structure in favor of the common NetBean ant project files. They are just better. I wish some of the features, like JNLP generation, appeared earlier to save me a lot of work.

    One of the coming subprojects of FlyingGuns will be the scenario editor. For the project to always try to stay close to Java standards (Java3D, Swing, javac, ant, etc.), NetBean RCP will be the choice.

    Compared to French, Chinese, Brazilian users of NetBeans, German users seem quiet. Why is this?

    I totally agree. NetBeans is not that visible in Germany, but I don't know the reason exactly. Other IDEs are very strong here. This confuses me a bit, because German developers don't even require a localized version—they prefer the original English versions (in contrast to France I think).

    One reason might be that NetBeans had the reputation of being slow, and reputations, especially bad ones, last very long here. Whenever I point other developers I know towards a new release of NetBeans they admit that NetBeans has improved a lot. But they just don't care for J2EE integration or web support that much. The main thing they work with is the editor where NetBeans is still a little bit behind. Matisse has been the only feature where they really thought using NetBeans is great! 

    Will you lobby to get a NetBeans Day event in Germany?

    Absolutely. NetBeans is not that strong here which means the room for improvement is very big. :) I'd connect it to a popular conference like JAX.

    More Dream Team Profiles:

    Vincent Brabant

    Wade Chandler

    Edgar Silva