Mustang/ATI Graphics Freeze-Fest

Mustang (the groovy codename for the upcoming Java 6) is looking more and more promising on the desktop. Sun has wisely opened up its development process - at least, to the extent that we can suffer the blog rollings of the increasingly excited programmers who are, as we speak, busily wrapping up Mustang ready for its fall 2006 release.

The prospect of being able to efficiently create hardware-accelerated Java2D effects inside a Swing component is rather mouth-watering to say the least.

It's easy to get caught up in all this zing and fervor - very easy, actually - but the feeling I get from the Sun blogs is that chasing down all the system hangs and graphical artifacts must be like playing a game of "Whack-a-Mole", with one spongy hammer and several hundred fleet-footed moles hiding out in an acre of woodland.

For example, the theme that emerges from this improvements to Java2D's OpenGL rendering blog entry is that hardware-accelerated Java2D is going to work pretty well on nVidia boards, but less well on ATI boards; especially boards that are a couple of years old.

The Sun programmers can't very well be blamed for this though, as the ATI drivers for non-gaming applications are notoriously flaky.

So we should remain positive. The upside is that Sun is finally taking notice of the native platform and not doing the lowest common denominator thing. (Talking of which, if they'd just allow native Windows COM integration, that would be incredibly useful, if not exactly "pure").

This change of heart by Sun should allow for more Java-based 3D games and the like; and for neat tricks like integrating 3D rendering into 2D interfaces. With all the improvements to the rendering pipeline, graphics-accelerated Java2D should run blindingly fast; paving the way for advanced Flash-like vector graphics UIs and effects.

Here's hoping that Sun can deliver a sufficiently stable business-ready desktop platform with Mustang.

About the Author

Matt Stephens is a senior architect, programmer and project leader based in Central London. He co-wrote Agile Development with ICONIX Process, Extreme Programming Refactored, and Use Case Driven Object Modeling with UML - Theory and Practice.