Covers the Fundamentals of RMI

Fundamentally object oriented

Month: August 2020

Primitive Data Types

The Java programming language is statically-typed, which means that all variables must first be declared before they can be used. This involves stating the variable’s type and name, as you’ve already seen:

int gear = 1;

Doing so tells your program that a field named “gear” exists, holds numerical data, and has an initial value of “1”. A variable’s data type determines the values it may contain, plus the operations that may be performed on it. In addition to int, the Java programming language supports seven other primitive data types. A primitive type is predefined by the language and is named by a reserved keyword. Primitive values do not share state with other primitive values. The eight primitive data types supported by the Java programming language are:

  • byte: The byte data type is an 8-bit signed two’s complement integer. It has a minimum value of -128 and a maximum value of 127 (inclusive). The byte data type can be useful for saving memory in large arrays, where the memory savings actually matters. They can also be used in place of int where their limits help to clarify your code; the fact that a variable’s range is limited can serve as a form of documentation.
  • short: The short data type is a 16-bit signed two’s complement integer. It has a minimum value of -32,768 and a maximum value of 32,767 (inclusive). As with byte, the same guidelines apply: you can use a short to save memory in large arrays, in situations where the memory savings actually matters.
  • int: By default, the int data type is a 32-bit signed two’s complement integer, which has a minimum value of -231 and a maximum value of 231-1. In Java SE 8 and later, you can use the int data type to represent an unsigned 32-bit integer, which has a minimum value of 0 and a maximum value of 232-1. Use the Integer class to use int data type as an unsigned integer. See the section The Number Classes for more information. Static methods like compareUnsigneddivideUnsigned etc have been added to the Integer class to support the arithmetic operations for unsigned integers.
  • long: The long data type is a 64-bit two’s complement integer. The signed long has a minimum value of -263 and a maximum value of 263-1. In Java SE 8 and later, you can use the long data type to represent an unsigned 64-bit long, which has a minimum value of 0 and a maximum value of 264-1. Use this data type when you need a range of values wider than those provided by int. The Long class also contains methods like compareUnsigneddivideUnsigned etc to support arithmetic operations for unsigned long.
  • float: The float data type is a single-precision 32-bit IEEE 754 floating point. Its range of values is beyond the scope of this discussion, but is specified in the Floating-Point Types, Formats, and Values section of the Java Language Specification. As with the recommendations for byte and short, use a float (instead of double) if you need to save memory in large arrays of floating point numbers. This data type should never be used for precise values, such as currency. For that, you will need to use the java.math.BigDecimal class instead. Numbers and Strings covers BigDecimal and other useful classes provided by the Java platform.
  • double: The double data type is a double-precision 64-bit IEEE 754 floating point. Its range of values is beyond the scope of this discussion, but is specified in the Floating-Point Types, Formats, and Values section of the Java Language Specification. For decimal values, this data type is generally the default choice. As mentioned above, this data type should never be used for precise values, such as currency.
  • boolean: The boolean data type has only two possible values: true and false. Use this data type for simple flags that track true/false conditions. This data type represents one bit of information, but its “size” isn’t something that’s precisely defined.
  • char: The char data type is a single 16-bit Unicode character. It has a minimum value of '\u0000' (or 0) and a maximum value of '\uffff' (or 65,535 inclusive).

In addition to the eight primitive data types listed above, the Java programming language also provides special support for character strings via the java.lang.String class. Enclosing your character string within double quotes will automatically create a new String object; for example, String s = "this is a string";String objects are immutable, which means that once created, their values cannot be changed. The String class is not technically a primitive data type, but considering the special support given to it by the language, you’ll probably tend to think of it as such. 

Default Values

It’s not always necessary to assign a value when a field is declared. Fields that are declared but not initialized will be set to a reasonable default by the compiler. Generally speaking, this default will be zero or null, depending on the data type. Relying on such default values, however, is generally considered bad programming style.

The following chart summarizes the default values for the above data types.

Data Type Default Value (for fields)
byte 0
short 0
int 0
long 0L
float 0.0f
double 0.0d
char ‘\u0000’
String (or any object)   null
boolean false

Variables

As you learned in the previous lesson, an object stores its state in fields.

int cadence = 0;
int speed = 0;
int gear = 1;

The What Is an Object? discussion introduced you to fields, but you probably have still a few questions, such as: What are the rules and conventions for naming a field? Besides int, what other data types are there? Do fields have to be initialized when they are declared? Are fields assigned a default value if they are not explicitly initialized? We’ll explore the answers to such questions in this lesson, but before we do, there are a few technical distinctions you must first become aware of. In the Java programming language, the terms “field” and “variable” are both used; this is a common source of confusion among new developers, since both often seem to refer to the same thing.

The Java programming language defines the following kinds of variables:

  • Instance Variables (Non-Static Fields) Technically speaking, objects store their individual states in “non-static fields”, that is, fields declared without the static keyword. Non-static fields are also known as instance variables because their values are unique to each instance of a class (to each object, in other words); the currentSpeed of one bicycle is independent from the currentSpeed of another.
  • Class Variables (Static Fields) A class variable is any field declared with the static modifier; this tells the compiler that there is exactly one copy of this variable in existence, regardless of how many times the class has been instantiated. A field defining the number of gears for a particular kind of bicycle could be marked as static since conceptually the same number of gears will apply to all instances. The code static int numGears = 6; would create such a static field. Additionally, the keyword final could be added to indicate that the number of gears will never change.
  • Local Variables Similar to how an object stores its state in fields, a method will often store its temporary state in local variables. The syntax for declaring a local variable is similar to declaring a field (for example, int count = 0;). There is no special keyword designating a variable as local; that determination comes entirely from the location in which the variable is declared — which is between the opening and closing braces of a method. As such, local variables are only visible to the methods in which they are declared; they are not accessible from the rest of the class.
  • Parameters You’ve already seen examples of parameters, both in the Bicycle class and in the main method of the “Hello World!” application. Recall that the signature for the main method is public static void main(String[] args). Here, the args variable is the parameter to this method. The important thing to remember is that parameters are always classified as “variables” not “fields”. This applies to other parameter-accepting constructs as well (such as constructors and exception handlers) that you’ll learn about later in the tutorial.

Having said that, the remainder of this tutorial uses the following general guidelines when discussing fields and variables. If we are talking about “fields in general” (excluding local variables and parameters), we may simply say “fields”. If the discussion applies to “all of the above”, we may simply say “variables”. If the context calls for a distinction, we will use specific terms (static field, local variables, etc.) as appropriate. You may also occasionally see the term “member” used as well. A type’s fields, methods, and nested types are collectively called its members.

Naming

Every programming language has its own set of rules and conventions for the kinds of names that you’re allowed to use, and the Java programming language is no different. The rules and conventions for naming your variables can be summarized as follows:

  • Variable names are case-sensitive. A variable’s name can be any legal identifier — an unlimited-length sequence of Unicode letters and digits, beginning with a letter, the dollar sign “$“, or the underscore character “_“. The convention, however, is to always begin your variable names with a letter, not “$” or “_“. Additionally, the dollar sign character, by convention, is never used at all. You may find some situations where auto-generated names will contain the dollar sign, but your variable names should always avoid using it. A similar convention exists for the underscore character; while it’s technically legal to begin your variable’s name with “_“, this practice is discouraged. White space is not permitted.
  • Subsequent characters may be letters, digits, dollar signs, or underscore characters. Conventions (and common sense) apply to this rule as well. When choosing a name for your variables, use full words instead of cryptic abbreviations. Doing so will make your code easier to read and understand. In many cases it will also make your code self-documenting; fields named cadencespeed, and gear, for example, are much more intuitive than abbreviated versions, such as sc, and g. Also keep in mind that the name you choose must not be a keyword or reserved word.
  • If the name you choose consists of only one word, spell that word in all lowercase letters. If it consists of more than one word, capitalize the first letter of each subsequent word. The names gearRatio and currentGear are prime examples of this convention. If your variable stores a constant value, such as static final int NUM_GEARS = 6, the convention changes slightly, capitalizing every letter and separating subsequent words with the underscore character. By convention, the underscore character is never used elsewhere.

What Is a Package?

A package is a namespace that organizes a set of related classes and interfaces. Conceptually you can think of packages as being similar to different folders on your computer. You might keep HTML pages in one folder, images in another, and scripts or applications in yet another. Because software written in the Java programming language can be composed of hundreds or thousands of individual classes, it makes sense to keep things organized by placing related classes and interfaces into packages.

The Java platform provides an enormous class library (a set of packages) suitable for use in your own applications. This library is known as the “Application Programming Interface”, or “API” for short. Its packages represent the tasks most commonly associated with general-purpose programming. For example, a String object contains state and behavior for character strings; a File object allows a programmer to easily create, delete, inspect, compare, or modify a file on the filesystem; a Socket object allows for the creation and use of network sockets; various GUI objects control buttons and checkboxes and anything else related to graphical user interfaces. There are literally thousands of classes to choose from. This allows you, the programmer, to focus on the design of your particular application, rather than the infrastructure required to make it work.

The Java Platform API Specification contains the complete listing for all packages, interfaces, classes, fields, and methods supplied by the Java SE platform. Load the page in your browser and bookmark it. As a programmer, it will become your single most important piece of reference documentation.

What Is an Interface?

As you’ve already learned, objects define their interaction with the outside world through the methods that they expose. Methods form the object’s interface with the outside world; the buttons on the front of your television set, for example, are the interface between you and the electrical wiring on the other side of its plastic casing. You press the “power” button to turn the television on and off.

In its most common form, an interface is a group of related methods with empty bodies. A bicycle’s behavior, if specified as an interface, might appear as follows:

interface Bicycle {

    //  wheel revolutions per minute
    void changeCadence(int newValue);

    void changeGear(int newValue);

    void speedUp(int increment);

    void applyBrakes(int decrement);
}

To implement this interface, the name of your class would change (to a particular brand of bicycle, for example, such as ACMEBicycle), and you’d use the implements keyword in the class declaration:

class ACMEBicycle implements Bicycle {

    int cadence = 0;
    int speed = 0;
    int gear = 1;

   // The compiler will now require that methods
   // changeCadence, changeGear, speedUp, and applyBrakes
   // all be implemented. Compilation will fail if those
   // methods are missing from this class.

    void changeCadence(int newValue) {
         cadence = newValue;
    }

    void changeGear(int newValue) {
         gear = newValue;
    }

    void speedUp(int increment) {
         speed = speed + increment;   
    }

    void applyBrakes(int decrement) {
         speed = speed - decrement;
    }

    void printStates() {
         System.out.println("cadence:" +
             cadence + " speed:" + 
             speed + " gear:" + gear);
    }
}

Implementing an interface allows a class to become more formal about the behavior it promises to provide. Interfaces form a contract between the class and the outside world, and this contract is enforced at build time by the compiler. If your class claims to implement an interface, all methods defined by that interface must appear in its source code before the class will successfully compile.

What Is Inheritance?

Different kinds of objects often have a certain amount in common with each other. Mountain bikes, road bikes, and tandem bikes, for example, all share the characteristics of bicycles (current speed, current pedal cadence, current gear). Yet each also defines additional features that make them different: tandem bicycles have two seats and two sets of handlebars; road bikes have drop handlebars; some mountain bikes have an additional chain ring, giving them a lower gear ratio.

Object-oriented programming allows classes to inherit commonly used state and behavior from other classes. In this example, Bicycle now becomes the superclass of MountainBikeRoadBike, and TandemBike. In the Java programming language, each class is allowed to have one direct superclass, and each superclass has the potential for an unlimited number of subclasses:

The syntax for creating a subclass is simple. At the beginning of your class declaration, use the extends keyword, followed by the name of the class to inherit from:

class MountainBike extends Bicycle {

    // new fields and methods defining 
    // a mountain bike would go here

}

This gives MountainBike all the same fields and methods as Bicycle, yet allows its code to focus exclusively on the features that make it unique. This makes code for your subclasses easy to read. However, you must take care to properly document the state and behavior that each superclass defines, since that code will not appear in the source file of each subclass.

What Is a Class?

In the real world, you’ll often find many individual objects all of the same kind. There may be thousands of other bicycles in existence, all of the same make and model. Each bicycle was built from the same set of blueprints and therefore contains the same components. In object-oriented terms, we say that your bicycle is an instance of the class of objects known as bicycles. A class is the blueprint from which individual objects are created.

The following Bicycle class is one possible implementation of a bicycle:

class Bicycle {

    int cadence = 0;
    int speed = 0;
    int gear = 1;

    void changeCadence(int newValue) {
         cadence = newValue;
    }

    void changeGear(int newValue) {
         gear = newValue;
    }

    void speedUp(int increment) {
         speed = speed + increment;   
    }

    void applyBrakes(int decrement) {
         speed = speed - decrement;
    }

    void printStates() {
         System.out.println("cadence:" +
             cadence + " speed:" + 
             speed + " gear:" + gear);
    }
}

The syntax of the Java programming language will look new to you, but the design of this class is based on the previous discussion of bicycle objects. The fields cadencespeed, and gear represent the object’s state, and the methods (changeCadencechangeGearspeedUp etc.) define its interaction with the outside world.

You may have noticed that the Bicycle class does not contain a main method. That’s because it’s not a complete application; it’s just the blueprint for bicycles that might be used in an application. The responsibility of creating and using new Bicycle objects belongs to some other class in your application.

Here’s a BicycleDemo class that creates two separate Bicycle objects and invokes their methods:

class BicycleDemo {
    public static void main(String[] args) {

        // Create two different 
        // Bicycle objects
        Bicycle bike1 = new Bicycle();
        Bicycle bike2 = new Bicycle();

        // Invoke methods on 
        // those objects
        bike1.changeCadence(50);
        bike1.speedUp(10);
        bike1.changeGear(2);
        bike1.printStates();

        bike2.changeCadence(50);
        bike2.speedUp(10);
        bike2.changeGear(2);
        bike2.changeCadence(40);
        bike2.speedUp(10);
        bike2.changeGear(3);
        bike2.printStates();
    }
}

The output of this test prints the ending pedal cadence, speed, and gear for the two bicycles:

cadence:50 speed:10 gear:2
cadence:40 speed:20 gear:3

What Is an Object?

Objects are key to understanding object-oriented technology. Look around right now and you’ll find many examples of real-world objects: your dog, your desk, your television set, your bicycle.

Real-world objects share two characteristics: They all have state and behavior. Dogs have state (name, color, breed, hungry) and behavior (barking, fetching, wagging tail). Bicycles also have state (current gear, current pedal cadence, current speed) and behavior (changing gear, changing pedal cadence, applying brakes). Identifying the state and behavior for real-world objects is a great way to begin thinking in terms of object-oriented programming.

Take a minute right now to observe the real-world objects that are in your immediate area. For each object that you see, ask yourself two questions: “What possible states can this object be in?” and “What possible behavior can this object perform?”. Make sure to write down your observations. As you do, you’ll notice that real-world objects vary in complexity; your desktop lamp may have only two possible states (on and off) and two possible behaviors (turn on, turn off), but your desktop radio might have additional states (on, off, current volume, current station) and behavior (turn on, turn off, increase volume, decrease volume, seek, scan, and tune). You may also notice that some objects, in turn, will also contain other objects. These real-world observations all translate into the world of object-oriented programming.

Software objects are conceptually similar to real-world objects: they too consist of state and related behavior. An object stores its state in fields (variables in some programming languages) and exposes its behavior through methods (functions in some programming languages). Methods operate on an object’s internal state and serve as the primary mechanism for object-to-object communication. Hiding internal state and requiring all interaction to be performed through an object’s methods is known as data encapsulation — a fundamental principle of object-oriented programming.

Consider a bicycle, for example:

By attributing state (current speed, current pedal cadence, and current gear) and providing methods for changing that state, the object remains in control of how the outside world is allowed to use it. For example, if the bicycle only has 6 gears, a method to change gears could reject any value that is less than 1 or greater than 6.

Bundling code into individual software objects provides a number of benefits, including:

1- Modularity: The source code for an object can be written and maintained independently of the source code for other objects. Once created, an object can be easily passed around inside the system.
2- Information-hiding: By interacting only with an object’s methods, the details of its internal implementation remain hidden from the outside world.
3- Code re-use: If an object already exists (perhaps written by another software developer), you can use that object in your program. This allows specialists to implement/test/debug complex, task-specific objects, which you can then trust to run in your own code.
4- Pluggability and debugging ease: If a particular object turns out to be problematic, you can simply remove it from your application and plug in a different object as its replacement. This is analogous to fixing mechanical problems in the real world. If a bolt breaks, you replace it, not the entire machine.