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Learning Java, 4th Edition

Cover of Learning Java, 4th Edition by Daniel Leuck... Published by O'Reilly Media, Inc.
  1. Learning Java
  2. Preface
    1. Who Should Read This Book
    2. New Developments
      1. New in This Edition (Java 6 and 7)
    3. Using This Book
    4. Online Resources
    5. Conventions Used in This Book
    6. Using Code Examples
    7. Safari® Books Online
    8. How to Contact Us
    9. Acknowledgments
  3. 1. A Modern Language
    1. Enter Java
      1. Java’s Origins
      2. Growing Up
    2. A Virtual Machine
    3. Java Compared with Other Languages
    4. Safety of Design
      1. Simplify, Simplify, Simplify...
      2. Type Safety and Method Binding
      3. Incremental Development
      4. Dynamic Memory Management
      5. Error Handling
      6. Threads
      7. Scalability
    5. Safety of Implementation
      1. The Verifier
      2. Class Loaders
      3. Security Managers
    6. Application and User-Level Security
    7. A Java Road Map
      1. The Past: Java 1.0–Java 1.6
      2. The Present: Java 7
      3. The Future
      4. Availability
  4. 2. A First Application
    1. Java Tools and Environment
    2. Configuring Eclipse and Creating a Project
      1. Importing the Learning Java Examples
    3. HelloJava
      1. Classes
      2. The main() Method
      3. Classes and Objects
      4. Variables and Class Types
      5. HelloComponent
      6. Inheritance
      7. The JComponent Class
      8. Relationships and Finger Pointing
      9. Package and Imports
      10. The paintComponent() Method
    4. HelloJava2: The Sequel
      1. Instance Variables
      2. Constructors
      3. Events
      4. The repaint() Method
      5. Interfaces
    5. HelloJava3: The Button Strikes!
      1. Method Overloading
      2. Components
      3. Containers
      4. Layout
      5. Subclassing and Subtypes
      6. More Events and Interfaces
      7. Color Commentary
      8. Static Members
      9. Arrays
      10. Our Color Methods
    6. HelloJava4: Netscape’s Revenge
      1. Threads
      2. The Thread Class
      3. The Runnable Interface
      4. Starting the Thread
      5. Running Code in the Thread
      6. Exceptions
      7. Synchronization
  5. 3. Tools of the Trade
    1. JDK Environment
    2. The Java VM
    3. Running Java Applications
      1. System Properties
    4. The Classpath
      1. javap
    5. The Java Compiler
    6. JAR Files
      1. File Compression
      2. The jar Utility
      3. The pack200 Utility
    7. Policy Files
      1. The Default Security Manager
      2. The policytool Utility
      3. Using a Policy File with the Default Security Manager
  6. 4. The Java Language
    1. Text Encoding
      1. Javadoc Comments
    3. Types
      1. Primitive Types
      2. Reference Types
      3. A Word About Strings
    4. Statements and Expressions
      1. Statements
      2. Expressions
    5. Exceptions
      1. Exceptions and Error Classes
      2. Exception Handling
      3. Bubbling Up
      4. Stack Traces
      5. Checked and Unchecked Exceptions
      6. Throwing Exceptions
      7. try Creep
      8. The finally Clause
      9. Try with Resources
      10. Performance Issues
    6. Assertions
      1. Enabling and Disabling Assertions
      2. Using Assertions
    7. Arrays
      1. Array Types
      2. Array Creation and Initialization
      3. Using Arrays
      4. Anonymous Arrays
      5. Multidimensional Arrays
      6. Inside Arrays
  7. 5. Objects in Java
    1. Classes
      1. Accessing Fields and Methods
      2. Static Members
    2. Methods
      1. Local Variables
      2. Shadowing
      3. Static Methods
      4. Initializing Local Variables
      5. Argument Passing and References
      6. Wrappers for Primitive Types
      7. Autoboxing and Unboxing of Primitives
      8. Variable-Length Argument Lists
      9. Method Overloading
    3. Object Creation
      1. Constructors
      2. Working with Overloaded Constructors
      3. Static and Nonstatic Initializer Blocks
    4. Object Destruction
      1. Garbage Collection
      2. Finalization
      3. Weak and Soft References
    5. Enumerations
      1. Enum Values
      2. Customizing Enumerations
  8. 6. Relationships Among Classes
    1. Subclassing and Inheritance
      1. Shadowed Variables
      2. Overriding Methods
      3. Special References: this and super
      4. Casting
      5. Using Superclass Constructors
      6. Full Disclosure: Constructors and Initialization
      7. Abstract Methods and Classes
    2. Interfaces
      1. Interfaces as Callbacks
      2. Interface Variables
      3. Subinterfaces
    3. Packages and Compilation Units
      1. Compilation Units
      2. Package Names
      3. Class Visibility
      4. Importing Classes
    4. Visibility of Variables and Methods
      1. Basic Access Modifiers
      2. Subclasses and Visibility
      3. Interfaces and Visibility
    5. Arrays and the Class Hierarchy
      1. ArrayStoreException
    6. Inner Classes
      1. Inner Classes as Adapters
      2. Inner Classes Within Methods
  9. 7. Working with Objects and Classes
    1. The Object Class
      1. Equality and Equivalence
      2. Hashcodes
      3. Cloning Objects
    2. The Class Class
    3. Reflection
      1. Modifiers and Security
      2. Accessing Fields
      3. Accessing Methods
      4. Accessing Constructors
      5. What About Arrays?
      6. Accessing Generic Type Information
      7. Accessing Annotation Data
      8. Dynamic Interface Adapters
      9. What Is Reflection Good For?
    4. Annotations
      1. Using Annotations
      2. Standard Annotations
      3. The apt Tool
  10. 8. Generics
    1. Containers: Building a Better Mousetrap
      1. Can Containers Be Fixed?
    2. Enter Generics
      1. Talking About Types
    3. “There Is No Spoon”
      1. Erasure
      2. Raw Types
    4. Parameterized Type Relationships
      1. Why Isn’t a List<Date> a List<Object>?
    5. Casts
    6. Writing Generic Classes
      1. The Type Variable
      2. Subclassing Generics
      3. Exceptions and Generics
      4. Parameter Type Limitations
    7. Bounds
      1. Erasure and Bounds (Working with Legacy Code)
    8. Wildcards
      1. A Supertype of All Instantiations
      2. Bounded Wildcards
      3. Thinking Outside the Container
      4. Lower Bounds
      5. Reading, Writing, and Arithmetic
      6. <?>, <Object>, and the Raw Type
      7. Wildcard Type Relationships
    9. Generic Methods
      1. Generic Methods Introduced
      2. Type Inference from Arguments
      3. Type Inference from Assignment Context
      4. Explicit Type Invocation
      5. Wildcard Capture
      6. Wildcard Types Versus Generic Methods
    10. Arrays of Parameterized Types
      1. Using Array Types
      2. What Good Are Arrays of Generic Types?
      3. Wildcards in Array Types
    11. Case Study: The Enum Class
    12. Case Study: The sort() Method
    13. Conclusion
  11. 9. Threads
    1. Introducing Threads
      1. The Thread Class and the Runnable Interface
      2. Controlling Threads
      3. Death of a Thread
    2. Threading an Applet
      1. Issues Lurking
    3. Synchronization
      1. Serializing Access to Methods
      2. Accessing class and instance Variables from Multiple Threads
      3. The wait() and notify() Methods
      4. Passing Messages
      5. ThreadLocal Objects
    4. Scheduling and Priority
      1. Thread State
      2. Time-Slicing
      3. Priorities
      4. Yielding
    5. Thread Groups
      1. Working with ThreadGroups
      2. Uncaught Exceptions
    6. Thread Performance
      1. The Cost of Synchronization
      2. Thread Resource Consumption
    7. Concurrency Utilities
      1. Executors
      2. Locks
      3. Synchronization Constructs
      4. Atomic Operations
    8. Conclusion
  12. 10. Working with Text
    1. Text-Related APIs
    2. Strings
      1. Constructing Strings
      2. Strings from Things
      3. Comparing Strings
      4. Searching
      5. Editing
      6. String Method Summary
      7. StringBuilder and StringBuffer
    3. Internationalization
      1. The java.util.Locale Class
      2. Resource Bundles
    4. Parsing and Formatting Text
      1. Parsing Primitive Numbers
      2. Tokenizing Text
    5. Printf-Style Formatting
      1. Formatter
      2. The Format String
      3. String Conversions
      4. Primitive and Numeric Conversions
      5. Flags
      6. Miscellaneous
    6. Formatting with the java.text Package
      1. MessageFormat
    7. Regular Expressions
      1. Regex Notation
      2. The java.util.regex API
  13. 11. Core Utilities
    1. Math Utilities
      1. The java.lang.Math Class
      2. Big/Precise Numbers
      3. Floating-Point Components
      4. Random Numbers
    2. Dates and Times
      1. Working with Calendars
      2. Time Zones
      3. Parsing and Formatting with DateFormat
      4. Printf-Style Date and Time Formatting
    3. Timers
    4. Collections
      1. The Collection Interface
      2. Iterator
      3. Collection Types
      4. The Map Interface
      5. Collection Implementations
      6. Hash Codes and Key Values
      7. Synchronized and Unsynchronized Collections
      8. Read-Only and Read-Mostly Collections
      9. WeakHashMap
      10. EnumSet and EnumMap
      11. Sorting Collections
      12. A Thrilling Example
    5. Properties
      1. Loading and Storing
      2. System Properties
    6. The Preferences API
      1. Preferences for Classes
      2. Preferences Storage
      3. Change Notification
    7. The Logging API
      1. Overview
      2. Logging Levels
      3. A Simple Example
      4. Logging Setup Properties
      5. The Logger
      6. Performance
    8. Observers and Observables
  14. 12. Input/Output Facilities
    1. Streams
      1. Basic I/O
      2. Character Streams
      3. Stream Wrappers
      4. Pipes
      5. Streams from Strings and Back
      6. Implementing a Filter Stream
    2. File I/O
      1. The Class
      2. File Streams
      3. RandomAccessFile
      4. Resource Paths
    3. The NIO File API
      1. FileSystem and Path
      2. NIO File Operations
      3. Directory Operations
      4. Watching Paths
    4. Serialization
      1. Initialization with readObject()
      2. SerialVersionUID
    5. Data Compression
      1. Archives and Compressed Data
      2. Decompressing Data
      3. Zip Archive As a Filesystem
    6. The NIO Package
      1. Asynchronous I/O
      2. Performance
      3. Mapped and Locked Files
      4. Channels
      5. Buffers
      6. Character Encoders and Decoders
      7. FileChannel
      8. Scalable I/O with NIO
  15. 13. Network Programming
    1. Sockets
      1. Clients and Servers
      2. author="pat” timestamp="20120926T110720-0500” comment="one of those sections I hate to get rid of but is less relevant in terms of the example... should probably find a more modern example...”The DateAtHost Client
      3. The TinyHttpd Server
      4. Socket Options
      5. Proxies and Firewalls
    2. Datagram Sockets
      1. author="pat” timestamp="20120926T141346-0500” comment="I actually rewrote this as a standalone client but then decided to leave it as an applet”The HeartBeat Applet
      2. InetAddress
    3. Simple Serialized Object Protocols
      1. A Simple Object-Based Server
    4. Remote Method Invocation
      1. Real-World Usage
      2. Remote and Nonremote Objects
      3. An RMI Example
      4. RMI and CORBA
    5. Scalable I/O with NIO
      1. Selectable Channels
      2. Using Select
      3. LargerHttpd
      4. Nonblocking Client-Side Operations
  16. 14. Programming for the Web
    1. Uniform Resource Locators (URLs)
    2. The URL Class
      1. Stream Data
      2. Getting the Content as an Object
      3. Managing Connections
      4. Handlers in Practice
      5. Useful Handler Frameworks
    3. Talking to Web Applications
      1. Using the GET Method
      2. Using the POST Method
      3. The HttpURLConnection
      4. SSL and Secure Web Communications
      5. URLs, URNs, and URIs
    4. Web Services
      1. XML-RPC
      2. WSDL
      3. The Tools
      4. The Weather Service Client
  17. 15. Web Applications and Web Services
    1. Web Application Technologies
      1. Page-Oriented Versus “Single Page” Applications
      2. JSPs
      3. XML and XSL
      4. Web Application Frameworks
      5. Google Web Toolkit
      6. HTML5, AJAX, and More...
    2. Java Web Applications
      1. The Servlet Lifecycle
      2. Servlets
      3. The HelloClient Servlet
      4. The Servlet Response
      5. Servlet Parameters
      6. The ShowParameters Servlet
      7. User Session Management
      8. The ShowSession Servlet
      9. The ShoppingCart Servlet
      10. Cookies
      11. The ServletContext API
      12. Asynchronous Servlets
    3. WAR Files and Deployment
      1. Configuration with web.xml and Annotations
      2. URL Pattern Mappings
      3. Deploying HelloClient
      4. Error and Index Pages
      5. Security and Authentication
      6. Protecting Resources with Roles
      7. Secure Data Transport
      8. Authenticating Users
      9. Procedural Authorization
    4. Servlet Filters
      1. A Simple Filter
      2. A Test Servlet
      3. Declaring and Mapping Filters
      4. Filtering the Servlet Request
      5. Filtering the Servlet Response
    5. Building WAR Files with Ant
      1. A Development-Oriented Directory Layout
      2. Deploying and Redeploying WARs with Ant
    6. Implementing Web Services
      1. Defining the Service
      2. Our Echo Service
      3. Using the Service
      4. Data Types
    7. Conclusion
  18. 16. Swing
    1. Components
      1. Peers and Look-and-Feel
      2. The MVC Framework
      3. Painting
      4. Enabling and Disabling Components
      5. Focus, Please
      6. Other Component Methods
      7. Layout Managers
      8. Insets
      9. Z-Ordering (Stacking Components)
      10. The revalidate() and doLayout() Methods
      11. Managing Components
      12. Listening for Components
      13. Windows, Frames and Splash Screens
      14. Other Methods for Controlling Frames
      15. Content Panes
      16. Desktop Integration
    2. Events
      1. Event Receivers and Listener Interfaces
      2. Event Sources
      3. Event Delivery
      4. Event Types
      5. The java.awt.event.InputEvent Class
      6. Mouse and Key Modifiers on InputEvents
      7. Focus Events
    3. Event Summary
      1. Adapter Classes
      2. Dummy Adapters
    4. The AWT Robot!
    5. Multithreading in Swing
  19. 17. Using Swing Components
    1. Buttons and Labels
      1. HTML Text in Buttons and Labels
    2. Checkboxes and Radio Buttons
    3. Lists and Combo Boxes
    4. The Spinner
    5. Borders
    6. Menus
    7. Pop-Up Menus
      1. Component-Managed Pop Ups
    8. The JScrollPane Class
    9. The JSplitPane Class
    10. The JTabbedPane Class
    11. Scrollbars and Sliders
    12. Dialogs
      1. File Selection Dialog
      2. The Color Chooser
  20. 18. More Swing Components
    1. Text Components
      1. The TextEntryBox Application
      2. Formatted Text
      3. Filtering Input
      4. Validating Data
      5. Say the Magic Word
      6. Sharing a Data Model
      7. HTML and RTF for Free
      8. Managing Text Yourself
    2. Focus Navigation
      1. Trees
      2. Nodes and Models
      3. Save a Tree
      4. Tree Events
      5. A Complete Example
    3. Tables
      1. A First Stab: Freeloading
      2. Round Two: Creating a Table Model
      3. Round Three: A Simple Spreadsheet
      4. Sorting and Filtering
      5. Printing JTables
    4. Desktops
    5. Pluggable Look-and-Feel
    6. Creating Custom Components
      1. Generating Events
      2. A Dial Component
      3. Model and View Separation
  21. 19. Layout Managers
    1. FlowLayout
    2. GridLayout
    3. BorderLayout
    4. BoxLayout
    5. CardLayout
    6. GridBagLayout
      1. The GridBagConstraints Class
      2. Grid Coordinates
      3. The fill Constraint
      4. Spanning Rows and Columns
      5. Weighting
      6. Anchoring
      7. Padding and Insets
      8. Relative Positioning
      9. Composite Layouts
    7. Other Layout Managers
    8. Absolute Positioning
  22. 20. Drawing with the 2D API
    1. The Big Picture
    2. The Rendering Pipeline
    3. A Quick Tour of Java 2D
      1. Filling Shapes
      2. Drawing Shape Outlines
      3. Convenience Methods
      4. Drawing Text
      5. Drawing Images
      6. The Whole Iguana
    4. Filling Shapes
      1. Solid Colors
      2. Color Gradients
      3. Textures
      4. Desktop Colors
    5. Stroking Shape Outlines
    6. Using Fonts
      1. Font Metrics
    7. Displaying Images
      1. The Image Class
      2. Image Observers
      3. Scaling and Size
    8. Drawing Techniques
      1. Double Buffering
      2. Limiting Drawing with Clipping
      3. Offscreen Drawing
    9. Printing
  23. 21. Working with Images and Other Media
    1. Loading Images
      1. ImageObserver
      2. MediaTracker
      3. ImageIcon
      4. ImageIO
    2. Producing Image Data
      1. Drawing Animations
      2. BufferedImage Anatomy
      3. Color Models
      4. Creating an Image
      5. Updating a BufferedImage
    3. Filtering Image Data
      1. How ImageProcessor Works
      2. Converting an Image to a BufferedImage
      3. Using the RescaleOp Class
      4. Using the AffineTransformOp Class
    4. Saving Image Data
    5. Simple Audio
    6. Java Media Framework
  24. 22. JavaBeans
    1. What’s a Bean?
      1. What Constitutes a Bean?
    2. The NetBeans IDE
      1. Installing and Running NetBeans
    3. Properties and Customizers
    4. Event Hookups and Adapters
      1. Taming the Juggler
      2. Molecular Motion
    5. Binding Properties
      1. Constraining Properties
    6. Building Beans
      1. The Dial Bean
      2. Design Patterns for Properties
    7. Limitations of Visual Design
    8. Serialization Versus Code Generation
    9. Customizing with BeanInfo
      1. Getting Properties Information
    10. Handcoding with Beans
      1. Bean Instantiation and Type Management
      2. Working with Serialized Beans
      3. Runtime Event Hookups with Reflection
    11. BeanContext and BeanContextServices
    12. The Java Activation Framework
    13. Enterprise JavaBeans and POJO-Based Enterprise Frameworks
  25. 23. Applets
    1. The Politics of Browser-Based Applications
    2. Applet Support and the Java Plug-in
    3. The JApplet Class
      1. Applet Lifecycle
      2. The Applet Security Sandbox
      3. Getting Applet Resources
      4. The <applet> Tag
      5. Attributes
      6. Parameters
      7. ¿Habla Applet?
      8. The Complete <applet> Tag
      9. Loading Class Files
      10. Packages
      11. appletviewer
    4. Java Web Start
    5. Conclusion
  26. 24. XML
    1. The Butler Did It
    2. A Bit of Background
      1. Text Versus Binary
      2. A Universal Parser
      3. The State of XML
      4. The XML APIs
      5. XML and Web Browsers
    3. XML Basics
      1. Attributes
      2. XML Documents
      3. Encoding
      4. Namespaces
      5. Validation
      6. HTML to XHTML
    4. SAX
      1. The SAX API
      2. Building a Model Using SAX
      3. XMLEncoder/Decoder
    5. DOM
      1. The DOM API
      2. Test-Driving DOM
      3. Generating XML with DOM
      4. JDOM
    6. XPath
      1. Nodes
      2. Predicates
      3. Functions
      4. The XPath API
      5. XMLGrep
    7. XInclude
      1. Enabling XInclude
    8. Validating Documents
      1. Using Document Validation
      2. DTDs
      3. XML Schema
      4. The Validation API
    9. JAXB Code Binding and Generation
      1. Annotating Our Model
      2. Generating a Java Model from an XML Schema
      3. Generating an XML Schema from a Java Model
    10. Transforming Documents with XSL/XSLT
      1. XSL Basics
      2. Transforming the Zoo Inventory
      3. XSLTransform
      4. XSL in the Browser
    11. Web Services
    12. The End of the Book
  27. A. The Eclipse IDE
    1. The IDE Wars
    2. Getting Started with Eclipse
      1. Importing the Learning Java Examples
    3. Using Eclipse
      1. Getting at the Source
      2. The Lay of the Land
      3. Running the Examples
      4. Building the Ant-Based Examples
      5. Loner Examples
    4. Eclipse Features
      1. Coding Shortcuts
      2. Autocorrection
      3. Refactoring
      4. Diffing Files
      5. Organizing Imports
      6. Formatting Source Code
    5. Conclusion
  28. B. BeanShell: Java Scripting
    1. Running BeanShell
    2. Java Statements and Expressions
      1. Imports
    3. BeanShell Commands
    4. Scripted Methods and Objects
      1. Scripting Interfaces and Adapters
    5. Changing the Classpath
    6. Learning More . . .
  29. Glossary
  30. Index
  31. About the Authors
  32. Colophon
  33. Copyright
O'Reilly logo

HelloJava4: Netscape’s Revenge

We have explored quite a few features of Java with the first three versions of the HelloJava application. But until now, our application has been rather passive; it has been completely event-driven, waiting patiently for events to come its way and responding to the whims of the user. Now our application is going to take some initiative—HelloJava4 will blink![5] Here is the code for our latest version:

    import java.awt.*;
    import java.awt.event.*;
    import javax.swing.*;

    public class HelloJava4
      public static void main( String[] args ) {
        JFrame frame = new JFrame( "HelloJava4" );
        frame.add( new HelloComponent4("Hello, Java!") );
        frame.setDefaultCloseOperation( JFrame.EXIT_ON_CLOSE );
        frame.setSize( 300, 300 );
        frame.setVisible( true );

    class HelloComponent4 extends JComponent
        implements MouseMotionListener, ActionListener, Runnable
      String theMessage;
      int messageX = 125, messageY = 95; // Coordinates of the message

      JButton theButton;

      int colorIndex; // Current index into someColors.
      static Color[] someColors = {,,,, Color.magenta };

      boolean blinkState;

      public HelloComponent4( String message ) {
        theMessage = message;
        theButton = new JButton("Change Color");
        setLayout( new FlowLayout() );
        add( theButton );
        theButton.addActionListener( this );
        addMouseMotionListener( this );
        Thread t = new Thread( this );

      public void paintComponent( Graphics g ) {
        g.setColor(blinkState ? getBackground() : currentColor());
        g.drawString(theMessage, messageX, messageY);

      public void mouseDragged(MouseEvent e) {
        messageX = e.getX();
        messageY = e.getY();

      public void mouseMoved(MouseEvent e) { }

      public void actionPerformed( ActionEvent e ) {
        if ( e.getSource() == theButton )

      synchronized private void changeColor() {
        if (++colorIndex == someColors.length)
          colorIndex = 0;
        setForeground( currentColor() );

      synchronized private Color currentColor() {
        return someColors[colorIndex];

      public void run() {
        try {
          while(true) {
            blinkState = !blinkState; // Toggle blinkState.
            repaint(); // Show the change.
        } catch (InterruptedException ie) { }

Compile and run this version of HelloJava just like the others. You’ll see that the text does, in fact, blink. Our apologies if you find this annoying—it’s all in the name of education.


All the changes we’ve made in HelloJava4 have to do with setting up a separate thread of execution to make the text blink. Java is a multithreaded language, which means there can be many paths of execution effectively running at the same time. A thread is a separate flow of control within a program. Conceptually, threads are similar to processes. Unlike processes, multiple threads share the same program space, which means that they can share variables and methods (but also have their own local variables). Threads are also quite lightweight in comparison to processes, so it’s conceivable for a single application to be running many (perhaps hundreds or thousands) of threads concurrently.

Multithreading provides a way for an application to handle many different tasks at the same time. It’s easy to imagine multiple things going on at the same time in an application like a web browser. The user could be listening to an audio clip while scrolling an image; at the same time, the browser can be downloading another image. Multithreading is especially useful in GUI-based applications because it improves the interactive performance of these applications.

Unfortunately for us, programming with multiple threads can be quite a headache. The difficulty lies in making sure routines are implemented so they can be run concurrently by more than one thread at a time. If a routine changes the value of multiple state variables, for example, it may be important that those changes happen together, without overlapping changes affecting each other. Later in this section, we’ll examine briefly the issue of coordinating multiple threads’ access to shared data. In other languages, synchronization of threads can be extremely complex and error-prone. You’ll see that Java gives you powerful tools that help you deal with many of these problems. See Chapter 9 for a detailed discussion of threads.

The Java runtime system creates and manages a number of threads. (Exactly how varies with the implementation.) We’ve already mentioned the repaint thread, which manages repaint() requests and event processing for GUI components that belong to the java.awt and javax.swing packages. Our example applications have done most of their work in one thread. Methods such as mouseDragged() and actionPerformed() are invoked by the windowing thread and run by its thread, on its time. Similarly, our HelloComponent constructor runs as part of the main application thread (the main() method). This means we are somewhat limited in the amount of processing we do within these methods. If we were, for instance, to go into an endless loop in our constructor, our application would never appear because it would never finish initializing. If we want an application to perform any extensive processing, such as animation, a lengthy calculation, or communication, we should create separate threads for these tasks.

The Thread Class

As you might have guessed, threads are created and controlled as Thread objects. An instance of the java.lang.Thread class corresponds to a single thread. It contains methods to start, control, and interrupt the thread’s execution. Our plan here is to create a Thread object to handle our blinking code. We call the Thread’s start() method to begin execution. Once the thread starts, it continues to run until it completes its work, we interrupt it, or we stop the application.

So, how do we tell the thread which method to run? Well, the Thread object is rather picky; it always expects to execute a method called run() to perform the action of the thread. The run() method can, however, with a little persuasion, be located in any class we desire.

We specify the location of the run() method in one of two ways. First, the Thread class itself has a method called run(). One way to execute some Java code in a separate thread is to subclass Thread and override its run() method to do our bidding. Invoking the start() method of the subclass object causes its run() method to execute in a separate thread.

It’s not usually desirable to create a subclass of Thread to contain our run() method. The Thread class has a constructor that takes an object as its argument. If we create a Thread object using this constructor and call its start() method, the Thread executes the run() method of the argument object rather than its own. In order to accomplish this, Java needs a guarantee that the object we are passing it does indeed contain a compatible run() method. We already know how to make such a guarantee: we use an interface. Java provides an interface named Runnable that must be implemented by any class that wants to become a Thread.

The Runnable Interface

We’ve implemented the Runnable interface in HelloComponent4. To create a thread, the HelloComponent4 object passes itself (this) to the Thread constructor. This means that HelloComponent4 must implement the Runnable interface by implementing the run() method. This method is called automatically when the runtime system needs to start the thread.

We indicate that the class implements the interface in our class declaration:

    public class HelloComponent4
        extends JComponent
        implements MouseMotionListener, ActionListener, Runnable {...}

At compile time, the Java compiler checks to make sure we abide by this statement. We have carried through by adding an appropriate run() method to HelloComponent4. It takes no arguments and returns no value. Our run() method accomplishes blinking by changing the color of our text a few times a second. It’s a very short routine, but we’re going to delay looking at it until we tie up some loose ends in dealing with the Thread itself.

Starting the Thread

We want the blinking to begin when the application starts, so we’ll start the thread in the initialization code in HelloComponent4’s constructor. It takes only two lines:

    Thread t = new Thread(this);

First, the constructor creates a new instance of Thread, passing it the object that contains the run() method to the constructor. Since HelloComponent4 itself contains our run() method, we pass the special variable this to the constructor. this always refers to our object. After creating the new Thread, we call its start() method to begin execution. This, in turn, invokes HelloComponent4’s run() method in the new thread.

Running Code in the Thread

Our run() method does its job by setting the value of the variable blinkState. We have added blinkState, a Boolean variable that can have the value true or false, to represent whether we are currently blinking on or off:

    boolean blinkState;

A setColor() call has been added to our paintComponent() method to handle blinking. When blinkState is true, the call to setColor() draws the text in the background color, making it disappear:

    g.setColor(blinkState ? getBackground() :

Here we are being very terse, using the C language-style ternary operator to return one of two alternative color values based on the value of blinkState. If blinkState is true, the value is the value returned by the getBackground() method. If it is false, the value is the value returned by currentColor().

Finally, we come to the run() method itself:

    public void run() {
      try {
        while( true ) {
          blinkState = !blinkState;
      } catch (InterruptedException ie) {}

Basically, run() is an infinite while loop, which means the loop runs continuously until the thread is terminated by the application exiting (not a good idea in general, but it works for this simple example).

The body of the loop does three things on each pass:

  • Flips the value of blinkState to its opposite value using the not operator (!)

  • Calls repaint() to redraw the text

  • Sleeps for 300 milliseconds (about a third of a second)

sleep() is a static method of the Thread class. The method can be invoked from anywhere and has the effect of putting the currently running thread to sleep for the specified number of milliseconds. The effect here is to give us approximately three blinks per second. The try/catch construct, described in the next section, traps any errors in the call to the sleep() method of the Thread class and, in this case, ignores them.


The try/catch statement in Java handles special conditions called exceptions. An exception is a message that is sent, normally in response to an error, during the execution of a statement or a method. When an exceptional condition arises, an object is created that contains information about the particular problem or condition. Exceptions act somewhat like events. Java stops execution at the place where the exception occurred, and the exception object is said to be thrown by that section of code. Like an event, an exception must be delivered somewhere and handled. The section of code that receives the exception object is said to catch the exception. An exception causes the execution of the instigating section of code to stop abruptly and transfers control to the code that receives the exception object.

The try/catch construct allows you to catch exceptions for a section of code. If an exception is caused by any statement inside a try clause, Java attempts to deliver the exception to the appropriate catch clause. A catch clause looks like a method declaration with one argument and no return type.

    try {
    } catch ( SomeExceptionType e ) {

If Java finds a catch clause with an argument type that matches the type of the exception, that catch clause is invoked. A try clause can have multiple catch clauses with different argument types; Java chooses the appropriate one in a way that is analogous to the selection of overloaded methods. You can catch multiple types of exceptions from a block of code. Depending on the type of exception thrown, the appropriate catch clause is executed.

If there is no try/catch clause surrounding the code, or a matching catch clause is not found, the exception is thrown up to the calling method. If the exception is not caught there, it’s thrown up to another level, and so on until the exception is handled or the Java VM prints an error and exits. This provides a very flexible error-handling mechanism so that exceptions in deeply nested calls can bubble up to the surface of the call stack for handling. As a programmer, you need to know what exceptions a particular statement can generate. For this reason, methods in Java are required to declare the exceptions they can throw. If a method doesn’t handle an exception itself, it must specify that it can throw that exception so that its calling method knows that it may have to handle it. See Chapter 4 for a complete discussion of exceptions and the try/catch clause.

Why do we need a try/catch clause in the run() method? What kind of exception can Thread’s sleep() method throw, and why do we care about it when we don’t seem to check for exceptions anywhere else? Under some circumstances, Thread’s sleep() method can throw an InterruptedException, indicating that it was interrupted by another thread. Since the run() method specified in the Runnable interface doesn’t declare that it can throw an InterruptedException, we must catch it ourselves, or else the compiler will complain. The try/catch statement in our example has an empty catch clause, which means that it handles the exception by ignoring it. In this case, our thread’s functionality is so simple that it doesn’t matter if it’s interrupted (and it won’t be anyway). All the other methods we have used either handle their own exceptions or throw only general-purpose exceptions called RuntimeExceptions that are assumed to be possible everywhere and don’t need to be explicitly declared.


At any given time, we can have lots of threads running in an application. Unless we explicitly coordinate them, these threads will be executing methods without any regard for what the other threads are doing. Problems can arise when these methods share the same data. If one method is changing the value of some variables at the same time another method is reading these variables, it’s possible that the reading thread might catch things in the middle and get some variables with old values and some with new. Depending on the application, this situation could cause a critical error.

In our HelloJava examples, both our paintComponent() and mouseDragged() methods access the messageX and messageY variables. Without knowing more about the implementation of the Java environment, we have to assume that these methods could conceivably be called by different threads and run concurrently. paintComponent() could be called while mouseDragged() is in the midst of updating messageX and messageY. At that point, the data is in an inconsistent state and if paintComponent() gets lucky, it could get the new x value with the old y value. Fortunately, Swing does not allow this to happen in this case because all event activity is handled by a single thread, and we probably would not even notice if it were to happen in this application anyway. We did, however, see another case in our changeColor() and currentColor() methods that is representative of the potential for a more serious “out of bounds” error.

The synchronized modifier tells Java to acquire a lock for the object that contains the method before executing that method. Only one method in the object can have the lock at any given time, which means that only one synchronized method in that object can be running at a time. This allows a method to alter data and leave it in a consistent state before a concurrently running method is allowed to access it. When the method is done, it releases the lock on the class.

Unlike synchronization in other languages, the synchronized keyword in Java provides locking at the language level. This means there is no way that you can forget to unlock a class. Even if the method throws an exception or the thread is terminated, Java will release the lock. This feature makes programming with threads in Java much easier than in other languages. See Chapter 9 for more details on coordinating threads and shared data.

Whew! Well, it’s time to say goodbye to HelloJava. We hope that you have developed a feel for the major features of the Java language and that this will help you as you explore the details of programming with Java. If you are a bit bewildered by some of the material presented here, take heart. We’ll be covering all the major topics presented here again in their own chapters throughout the book. This tutorial was meant to be something of a “trial by fire” to get the important concepts and terminology into your brain so that the next time you hear them you’ll have a head start.

[5] The title of this section, “Netscape’s Revenge,” refers to the infamous <BLINK> HTML tag introduced with an early version of the Netscape web browser.

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