JBoss: A Developer's Notebook by Norman Richards and Sam Griffith, Jr. (ISBN: 0-596-10007-8); JBoss at Work: A Practical Guide by Tom Marrs and Scott Davis (ISBN: 0-596-00734-5)Norton

Reviewed by: Songmuh Jong, November 2005
Published by: O'Reilly
Requires: JDK, JBoss, Ant, XDoclet
MSRP: US$29.95, CA$41.95, UK£20.95 (JBoss: A Developer's Notebook); US$34.95, CA$48.95, UK£24.95 (JBoss at Work)

(Ed. Note: While reading the books for this review, Songmuh Jong made quite a few notes before starting the writing process. Midway through the process, he realized that the two books had so many interrelated qualities that it might be more informative to provide readers with a combined review in which the strengths and weaknesses of both books are clearly juxtaposed. We don't do this often, but it seems appropriate for this pair of publications)

Java 2 Enterprise Edition (J2EE) started out as a specification that leaves the implementation to each container vendor. It's readily apparent that wo of the earliest vendors, WebSphere and WebLogic, implemented J2EE in vastly different ways. As a result, early books on J2EE or Enterprise JavaBeans (EJB) frequently either avoided or severely limited the discussion of a specific server because the details were better referenced from server vendors' manuals. JBoss changed the picture. It is an open source product and freely downloadable, and it is a certified J2EE server. Both books come with access to the digital editions on Safari for 45 days, something which appears to be a new trend at O'Reilly.

Most new books on the subject(s) start to discuss J2EE or EJB in the context of JBoss. This is a good trend for Java developers. The two books reviewed here are focused completely on this server. JBoss: A Developer's Notebook is part of the developer's notebook series from O'Reilly. The second book, JBoss at Work: A Practical Guide, aims to provide practical examples for using JBoss.

Both books start with the installation of JBoss on a UNIX/LINUX machine. JBoss: A Developer's Notebook spends one chapter on showing developer-oriented details about starting, shutting down, and configuring JBoss. It then spends another chapter on deploying an application on JBoss, including the packaging. JBoss at Work takes you through the server installation and running JBoss with a list of server directory structures. It quickly shows how to deploy an application by copying the example file to the default server directory.

Using databases with JBoss is a common topic for both books. JBoss: A Developer's Notebook starts with the Hypersonic database embedded in JBoss and goes on to provide examples using MySQL. It treats persistence and data mapping as a separate chapter, but limits the discussion about the JBoss descriptor. JBoss at Work discusses the JBoss datasource descriptor in greater detail, and also provides reference material about using Hibernate with JBoss.

Security is a common topic in both books. However, the two books show a difference in their scope of discussion. JBoss: A Developer's Notebook focuses on many details of login security and mentions briefly how to enable SSL. It adds a section on using LDAP server for user logins. JBoss at Work discusses security broadly, from the standpoint of web security and JAAS.

The rest of the two books show their different emphasis and approaches for the subject. JBoss: A Developer's Notebook aims to discuss all the developer-related issues with respect to using JBoss, including logging, managing and monitoring JBoss, and rolling out JBoss. It doesn't aim to develop a complete application from the beginning to the end. JBoss at Work attempts to show a practical and complete example of a web application running on JBoss. As a result, it discusses web applications in general, and adds chapters on building EAR, session beans, JMS and message-driven beans, JavaMail and web services. It also has appendix on classloaders, logging and a tutorial on JAAS.

The authors of both books at JBoss experts. JBoss: A Developer's Notebook looks at managing the JBoss server itself, while JBoss at Work looks at a web application running on a JBoss server. Both books provide detailed insights into their specialized fields, and both are valuable for Java developers who plan to use JBoss for application development. Both books are recommended for Java developers. JBoss: A Developer's Notebook is also recommended for UNIX administrators who manage JBoss servers. Web developers should own both books to take advantage of every possible feature, function and detail when installing, implementing and using JBoss. Recommended.

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