… and a few lesser known Java tools

Very very busy lately, but I’d like to share some knowledge about a few useful Java OSS gems that were not easy to find. Mr. Google, please ‘index this’:

1. Aspirin is a self-contained SMTP server (send only) written in Java, open-sourced and free. It simplifies configuration and deployment by allowing your app server to send emails without passing through an external SMTP server. The project is heavily inspired from Apache James code (thus its licencing terms). The few problems I see right now are : possible performance issues when sending big volumes of mail, behavior still erratic (sometimes sending fails without plausible reason), failure reports which do not provide reasons of failure. However, the thingie works pretty well and is a big time saver because, well, configuration is not the most pleasant part of a complex server.

2. If you produce a lot of reports and want to send them automatically on a remote printing server you may use JIPSI (quickstart in English, but site in German) which implements CUPS as a Java Print Service API. This little beauty was found by one of my coworkers and the ‘report guys’ seem to be making good use of it.

3. You’re in for some serious processing on OpenOffice documents using the freely available DTD’s (downloadable from the OOo CVS server) ? Then hold your horses ! I’ve tried to make sensible use of them and failed abruptly. Let’s just say that those DTDs are a big pain in the a**: to begin with, no tool is able to transform them into a schema. I’ve tried XmlSpy and a few other exotic softwares, without success. Even basic stuff like parsing with a validating parser does not work. So much for the usefulness of open standards. Eventually, I have ended up by using the excellent Writer2Latex. Don’t be fooled by the name, you may do all sorts of conversions with it, including Writer to XHTML, which I was interested in. You can even write your own plugin to boot some exotic formats, because Writer2Latex is built around a modified version of XMerge. Officially, XMerge is the solution for visualizing documents on ‘Small Devices’, but it really is a fancy plugin-based document converter. Most probably (too lazy to check the sources), SAX-based with a nonvalidating parser. Go figure.

4. The Eclipse download site has now links to a BitTorrent tracker. I just used it succesfully in order to download RC3 at a reasonable download rate (anyway, being on wifi right now I wasn’t expecting blazing speed). I found interesting that all the other peers were using Azureus, a torrent client written in Java+SWT. Azureus is a fantastic source of knowledge, choke full of tips and techniques for writing professional-looking and very responsive SWT apps. But not only : Azureus is also a great example about how to write a plugin-ready app, which performs automatic updates from the net. Not bad, at all.

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