October 7th, 2009

SVG Open 2009 Results and Other Things

It’s been awhile since I’ve posted here because I’ve been very busy doing interesting work! First, I had to prepare for the SVG Open 2009 conference, where I presented a paper on modelling the reactive behaviour of user interfaces with class diagrams and statecharts. The paper and presentation can be found online here.

I have to say, the conference went really well! My feeling about it was that many developers are already using state machines to describe the behaviour of their objects. Many saw the techniques I presented as the more developed version of the techniques they were already using. All in all, my experience at the conference convinced me that people are ready to begin using these techniques and incorporating them into their workflows. What is lacking is tooling, in the form of a good Statechart editor and Statechart-to-JavaScript compiler. These tools need to be high-quality, free and open source, and have a clean code base that is hacker-friendly. It has always been my intention to fill this gap, but I now feel highly motivated to renew my efforts.

In order to write the SVG Open paper, I had to learn to use Docbook. Getting set up in an environment that was conducive to being creative with this format turned out to be nontrivial, and I hope to make this the subject of a future post. Suffice it to say, I now quite like it, and I’ve found it to be a very productive format. I’m considering using it to write my master’s thesis, as opposed to LaTeX.

I’m doing very interesting work for my courses this year as well, especially my course in Distributed Systems. The Prof has granted me permission to do my own project, and so I’m focusing on distributed user interfaces. Of course, I’m targeting the browser as the preferred client. On the server, I’m running Batik inside a servlet, with SVG documents and objects exposed via a RESTful API that I rolled myself. The project is going to focus on issues of performance and concurrency. This is really great stuff, and I hope to write more about it as it develops.

Finally, Google Chrome for Linux is just amazing. Where Firefox always feels sluggish, even on my new 64-bit AMD Turion X2 Dual Core laptop, Chrome is always lightning fast. Unfortunately, I need Firefox for 3 reasons: plugins, plugins, plugins. Actually, I need it for Zotero, Firebug, and Xmarks. Once this gap is filled, once developers can begin writing extensions for Chrome, that may be the endgame for Firefox.

August 17th, 2009

GSoC 2009 Final Report

Today is the last day of GWT, and so I’ve put together a rather long post talking about several different things.

A brief recap of the project

    The original project goals were to port GMF to the web, which is to say, to create a graphical, web-based diagram editor frontend that would interface with an EMF model living on the server on the backend. I had related experience in this domain, prior to this project, from my work as a researcher for the McGill University Modelling, Simulation, and Deisgn Lab. My research explored the development of modelled, web-based diagram editors, and included the the production of a prototype editor. My hope was that with Google Summer of Code would allow me to extend this work, such that it would be possible to build a web-based diagram editor that would interact with a full meta-modelling kernel (Ecore) hosted on a server. You may see my original project proposal here

    The project
proposal was informed by the fact that GMF was built on top of GEF (a
generic diagram editor library), and that GEF was built on top
of Draw2D (a graphical drawing library).

    My project was mentored by e4 committer and Architexa employee Vineet Sinha. Vineet has had experience porting the GEF stack to the web via flash. Limitations in the capabilities of Flash support made us consider a non-Flash based solution for this project.

    Looking back, I would say that this project has been divided up into about three phases:

  1. Trying to get code already checked into e4 to work. In this phase, we attempted to leverage an existing body of code checked into in the e4 repositories. This code attempted to port the SWT API to GWT, and thus would have made an appropriate foundation for implementing SWT/GC, SWT’s low-level, immediate-mode graphics API, on top of the HTML5 Canvas API. Unfortunately, the result of this was that we spent 1.5 months simply trying to compile the existing code, without success. After this time we focused on starting from scratch in bringing Draw2D into web browsers.
  2. Trying to implement Draw2d on top of SWT/GC by using Java2Script. This was done because Java2Script provided good support for SWT, and was an alternative to GWT, which we had had trouble with in Phase 1. The result was that we found bugs in the Java2Script compiler, and had to return to GWT.
  3. Trying to implement Draw2d on top of SVG by using GWT. This was done because we wanted to use GWT, but decided it would be more productive to start a level higher in the SWT/Draw2d/GEF stack.

    As you can see, we ended up trying many different strategies throughout this project, and therefore, the work that I am doing now is the third time I’ve started over from scratch. This may be understandable, given the experimental nature of the project and the methods by which were attempting to achieve the project’s goals (using a Java-to-JavaScript cross-compiler, etc).

Overview of implementation details of Phase 3

    We use an adapter pattern: each org.eclipse.draw2d.Figure class composes an  handle object native to the environment, which is in this case an org.w3c.dom.svg.SVGElement instance. Then internally, the Figure’s API is implemented in terms of this native DOM object. Here’s a snippet that should clarify what this means:

public class Figure<T extends SVGElement> implements IFigure<T> {
    //in this implementation, Figure is no longer lightweight
    protected T handle;
    public Figure(){
        //create the handle
        handle = (T) DOM.getDocument().createElementNS(SVGConstants.SVG_NAMESPACE_URI, SVGConstants.SVG_G_TAG);


There are three interesting things to note in the above snippet:

  1. Figure composes a handle of type <T extends SVGElement>. SVGElement is a subclass of org.w3c.Node and the parent class of all SVG elements.
  2. The type of handle can be further specified using Java 5 syntax. This is useful, because a Draw2d Rect shape may want the compose a SVGRectElement rather than a generic SVGElement. Adding a generic parameter to Figure is thus useful, and has the additional advantage of extending the API without breaking compatibility with existing code.
  3. Figure is not abstract, and may be instantiated to contain other Draw2d elements. It is therefore roughly analogous to the SVGGElement, and this is what is instantiated in the constructor using the statically exposed method DOM.getDocument() and standard SVG DOM API’s.

    Implementing Draw2d in terms of SVG is theoretically achievable because the Draw2d API is attempting to achieve roughly the same thing as the SVG DOM API, namely, providing a retained-mode graphics API.

Nevertheless, there are architectural and conceptual differences between the two. Here are few that I’ve noticed:

  • SVG lacks a concept of connectors and layout, which Draw2d has.
  • Draw2d provides access to an immediate-mode API to its Figures through the Graphics object. SVG does not provide access to such an API
  • In many Draw2d examples, it is common to see a class inheriting from Figure. While it might be sometimes possible to do the same thing in SVG, it is more common to see composition used, rather than inheritance.
  • SVG hides paint events from its user. In Draw2d, you can force a manual refresh of the scene graph.
  • Draw2d allows fine control over updates in the scene graph, while SVG will in general always update its scene graph synchronously, whenever you change a value in DOM.

    It’s also worth noting that, by implementing Draw2d in terms of SVG, the org.eclipse.draw2d.LightweightSystem class is no longer really a Lightweight System, as it’s composing a System-native handle, which, among other things, can handle its own event dispatching. This means that, rather than having events be dispatched through a single source, the LightweightSystem, inner DOM node handles should instead be connected to the proper interfaces on their host Figure when the Figures are instantiated.

Figures will also have to handle tearing down the DOM node when they are destroyed.

What has been implemented

    Everything required to get org.eclipse.draw2d.HelloWorld to work. Here’s a snippet that should illustrate this:
 public static void main(String[] args) {

    Display d = new Display();
    Shell shell = new Shell(d);
    shell.setLayout(new FillLayout());
    FigureCanvas canvas = new FigureCanvas(shell);
    canvas.setContents(new Label(“Hello World”));

    while (!shell.isDisposed())
        while (!d.readAndDispatch())

  • GWT-compatible classes have been created for Display, Shell, FigureCanvas, and Label.
  • Instantiation of SWT objects, passing parents into the constructor should work in general, as occurs with Shell and FigureCanvas classes. The rest of the SWT API has been stubbed out.
  • The Figure class and some subclasses, including Label and Rectangle have been created. The API has been completely stubbed out and partially implemented.
  • The class will create JavaScript code which, when included in an XHTML document, will create a new HTMLDivElement, SVGSVGElement, and SVGTextElement, which will display “Hello World” on the page.

What has not been implemented

Everything else, notably:

  • Most subclasses of Figure lack implementations.
  • Most methods of Figure superclass lack implementations.
  • Connectors
  • Layout
  • Colors
  • Fonts
  • Event Handling
  • There are still holes in the gwt-svg library, the library that exposes native SVG and HTML DOM to GWT:
    • not every SVGElement has an implementation.
    • even those that do, not every element is properly wrapped in SVGElementImpl.wrapElement. So if you’re getting ClassCastExceptions, check to make sure that your element is properly handled in SVGElementImpl.wrapElement
    • The whole business of wrapping Elements should probably be cleaned up a bit. It’s currently quite spread out and a bit confusing. Was already a bit crufty when I started using gwt-dom.

Most recent dev experience

General Approach

    So the goal of Phase 3 was to implement the Draw2d API in terms of the SVG DOM API by way of GWT.

I worked very conservatively, only merging in code that I felt I understood quite well, and would not break the compiler. In that way, I was able to avoid most of the mysterious compiler errors that had occurred for me in Phase 1 of the project.

Problems with SVG Embedding and the SWT API

I did run into a few interesting problems that are worth talking about. Let me set up the problem like this:

  1. Since GWT 1.4, GWT out of the box does not support XHTML or SVG (XML) documents. It only support HTML4 in quirks mode and standards mode.
  2. SVG can be viewed by a web browser in the following ways:
    1. As a plain SVG document (image/svg+xml mimetype, usually with a .svg extension).
    2. Included in an (X)HTML document in the following ways:
      1. Inline in an XHTML document, in which the SVGSVGElement root element is loaded synchronously with the rest of the page.
      2. Embedded via the object, embed or iframe tags in an XHTML or XML document in which the SVGSVGElement in the embedded SVGDocument is loaded asynchronously, independent of the rest of the page. Basically, to get the SVGSVGRootElement, you need to set a LoadListener, otherwise, the internal contentDocument will simply be null. In general, listening to load events like this is quite common in web programming, and usually not problematic, but you will see that this did cause a problem of competing requirements…
  3. The SWT API requires widgets to be instantiated synchronously. The reason for this is simply that the method calls are synchronous, so for example, new FigureCanvas(shell), does not take a callback.

    This system cannot be solved. 1 blocks 2.1 and 2.2.1. On the other hand, 3 blocks 2.2.2. I actually had been using option 2.2.2, with an object tag and the SVG document encoded in a data URI, and I had a first implementation of basic SWT support that used this, and tried to do some tricky things involving managing widgets’ internal state and setting callbacks in order to fake some kind of synchronicity, but it clearly was not going to scale, and I felt that that was not the place spend my effort. So, basically, I had to change one of the assumptions, and the one I decided to change was GWT. This meant going into the GWT core and figuring out what it was doing to break XHTML support. I found most of these answers here and here, and it basically has to do with the fact that they’re using document.write and document.body in the module loading code, neither of which are supported in XHTML DOM. Rather than go into the GWT core to change this, I just fixed it once by hand, and then wrote a little patch which I ran each time I compiled. Here’s the patch, which you can see is not very much:


< $doc_0.write('<script id="' + markerId + '"><\/script>');


> var scriptElement = document.createElement("script");

> scriptElement.setAttribute("id",markerId);

> document.getElementsByTagName('head')[0].appendChild(scriptElement);


< while (thisScript && thisScript.tagName != 'SCRIPT') {


> while (thisScript && thisScript.tagName.toUpperCase() != 'SCRIPT') {


< $doc_0.body.appendChild(iframe);


> document.getElementsByTagName('body')[0].appendChild(iframe);


< $doc_0.write('>script defer="defer">org_eclipse_draw2d_e4_examples.onInjectionDone(\'org_eclipse_draw2d_e4_examples\')<\/script>');


> var scriptElement = document.createElement("script");

> scriptElement.setAttribute("defer","defer");

> scriptElement.text = "org_eclipse_draw2d_e4_examples.onInjectionDone('org_eclipse_draw2d_e4_examples')";

> document.getElementsByTagName('head')[0].appendChild(scriptElement);

    Now, I highly suspect that there would be problems using GWT’s widget library in the XHTML document context, as they’re probably using innerHTML. But for the purposes of getting basic GWT’s module loading and DOM API up and running, this small patch was perfectly sufficient. I would be very happy to see it get integrated into the GWT core, and get pushed upstream, and I imagine a lot of SVG developers would be as well.

Hacking on SWT API’s confuses GWT

    There was another issue involving GWT, namely that hacking on API’s in the SWT namespace seems to confuse it a lot. When I attempted to launch Hosted mode, it complained about missing methods in some SWT classes. Those methods were missing in my emulated SWT classes. In any case, this meant that I couldn’t use GWT Hosted mode, and hence did all of my debugging on the generated JavaScript code in Firefox and Firebug. This was challenging at first, but became easier as I became better acquainted with the kind of code GWT produces, and the most common errors I could run into.

Zero-Argument Constructors on Figures

    In my implementation of Draw2d, every Figure is supposed to wrap a <T extends SVGElement>. The only way to create new SVG Elements is to use the Document factory. What I would have preferred to do was use dependency injection, and pass in the handle to a new DOM node to each new Figure in the constructor. Unfortunately, the Figure API only has a zero-argument constructor, and it was thus not possible to achieve this  without changing the API. My solution to this was somewhat evil, which was to simply use a “global variable”, namely, the statically exposed DOM.getDocument() method to obtain the document factory inside of the constructor. This is similar to what you might see in pure javascript, though (the document is a global variable), so I think it’s not so bad.

Considerations about future work

GWT vs. Java2Script

    My experiences with GWT in Phase 1 were not very favorable. After spending 1.5 months, I was still not able to get the code already checked into e4 to compile.

    After that experience, I found that it was much easier to get set up with Java2Script. It compiled all of my Java code to JavaScript transparently, and without complaint. I found that it had excellent integration with Eclipse, especially with regard to building my code (it’s actually hooked into the incremental compiler that comes with JDT!). This spared me the constant edit-compile-debug cycle one experiences with GWT. This was very refreshing.

    However, while compiling a large body of Java code to JavaScript was very easy with Java2Script, I found I was running headlong into bugs in the Java2Script compiler. It would throw runtime errors in the core lib which were highly time consuming for me to debug.

    I also wasn’t very favorably disposed to the way Java2Script handled native JavaScript embedding, versus GWT’s JSNI. Java2Script uses scriptdoc annotations before empty braces, with JavaScript being put in the comments. Compared to GWT’s JSNI, was very easy to set up and use, and, while not perfect, I felt that it much easier to read than JSNI.

    Unfortunately, there are two problems with Java2Script’s method of native JavaScript injection versus JSNI. First, I feel it encouraged poor coding practices, as, rather than necessarily having native JS separated nicely out into its own method, where it is clearly marked as native and encapsulated, you instead find JavaScript code mixed intermittently with the Java code. For example, see the Java2Script implementation of org.eclipse.swt.widgets.Display. I find this method of programming very difficult to understand, and not very maintainable. The second reasons that I preferred JSNI is that the very awkward, ugly constructions used to preserve type information in JSNI actually serve a useful purpose, in that the compiler is able to do more useful checks at compile-time to prevent run-time bugs. It’s also important for the way GWT optimizes the generated JavaScript code.

    My mentor and I decided we needed a rock-solid cross-compiler, and for that reason elected to revisit GWT, this time moving one layer up the stack, focusing directly on Draw2d rather than SWT. With regard to my initial difficulties, when I adopted a more conservative approach in Phase 3, I did not have any trouble compiling a fairly complex project that leveraged an existing body of Java code. Also, I have yet to experience any compiler bugs in GWT.

    Also, GWT should theoretically create code that loads and runs faster than Java2Script. However, with this gain in speed, you lose some flexibility, namely that dynamic class loading in GWT (class.forName) impossible. Dynamic class loaing is very possible in Java2Script. Other forms of reflection should be possible in both GWT and Java2Script.

    An optimal middle-ground may be to take Java2Script’s SWT implementation and port it to GWT. This would be very challenging, though, I think primarily because of the use of native JavaScript code inlining that I mentioned above.

SVG vs. Canvas

    The approach we took in Phase 2 was to implement one immediate-mode Graphics API in terms of another: SWT GC on top of HTML Canvas. As we suspected, synchronizing these API’s was not very difficult, and I experienced some success with that, as you may see in the demo here.

    One difficulty with this approach, however, was that a common pattern in SWT is to attach a PaintListener to a Drawable (usually a Canvas), and and then put your your drawing logic there. HTML Canvas does not give you native paint events, so this would need to be somehow emulated. I moved onto Phase 3 before I resolved this.

Draw2d and SVG, on the other hand, both have much bigger API’s, and are conceptually different from one-another in many ways. It is significantly more challenging to implement one API in terms of the other, and ensure that they have identical semantics.

    Still a retained mode API is a necessary part of the stack we are trying to build, and the only question is, what is the best way to get there. I believe that one consideration that works in SVG’s favor is speed. All things being equal, given an implementation of a retained-mode API in C++ vs. one in pure JavaScript (albeit highly optimized using GWT), it seems likely that the C++ implementation would be faster. Perhaps not, though… perhaps a lightweight system, with a single event handler and dispatcher (like org.eclipse.draw2d.LightweightSystem), would be faster than the slow DOM with all of event listeners. This is worth investigating.

Where is this being hosted?


    Right now you need a few libraries that are not included in that repo. I have a releng project which is almost done which I’m planning to commit soon, and I will also post explicit build instructions later.

    I’m going to put some compiled examples up on my personal page as well.

Good project. I hope I have the opportunity to do more with it in the future.

July 29th, 2009

How to Use Foxit PDF Reader 3.0 on Ubuntu 8.04 under Wine

I figured out how to set up and run Foxit PDF Reader on Ubuntu 8.04 a little while ago, and I’m just now writing it down. Foxit works extraordinarily well under Wine: displaying documents, editing PDF form fields, annotating documents, and printing to a USB printer all worked for me out of the box. There are certain tricky things involved in setting it up, though, hence this How To blog post.

First, download Foxit. The Foxit Windows installer didn’t work for me, but fortunately Foxit offers a .zip which contains the application frozen into a single Windows executable. Here’s a direct link at the time of this writing:

Unzip the executable and put it somewhere in your home directory where it won’t be touched, for example, ~/apps/.

You’re now going to make a small shell script to run Foxit under Wine. Copy the following text into a file on your PATH, and make the file executable. I put it in /usr/bin/foxit.


#got code to test whether path is absolute, here:


PATH_TO_FOXIT="/home/jacob/apps/Foxit Reader.exe"

case $1 in

/*) absolute=1 ;;

*) absolute=0 ;;


if [ "$absolute" = "1" ]; then

#we assume that root is mounted at Z: as is default on most wine distro

wine "$PATH_TO_FOXIT" "Z:/$1"


wine "$PATH_TO_FOXIT" "$1"


This shell script is smart enough that it will actually take arguments that you pass to it on the command line, and pass it into the Foxit executable. This makes it possible open a PDF in Foxit from the command line, e.g.

jacob@jacob-laptop:~$ foxit Documents/Research/papers_to_read/MDAUML.pdf &

You should now be able to open PDF’s in Nautilus by right-clicking the PDF and choosing Open With -> Open With Other Application -> Use a Custom Command -> {type in “/usr/bin/foxit” and click “Open”}. PDF files should now open automatically in Foxit when you open them from Nautilus.

Finally, you can configure Firefox to open PDF’s in Foxit whenever you download a new PDF. Just go to Edit -> Preferences -> Applications -> {type “pdf” into the search bar} -> {under the dropdown menu, select “Use other …”} -> {select file “/usr/bin/foxit” and click “Open”}. Note that this doesn’t fully change the default PDF reader for Firefox, as, for example, when you open a PDF from the Download dialog, it will still open in Evince, the GNOME default. I, unfortunately, haven’t found a way to change this behaviour, and I’d be very grateful for any comments anyone might have on this.

July 26th, 2009

SVG Development with GWT 2 – Well that worked

July 25th, 2009

SVG Development with GWT 1

In order for me to fulfill my project’s goal of implementing the retained-mode graphics API of Draw2d in terms of the retained-mode API of SVG, I need to be able to develop SVG using GWT. I remain confident that this is feasible, but it has been nontrivial to set up.

I was originally going to use a GWT library called Tatami, the role of which is to expose much of the functionality of the Dojo JavaScript toolkit to Java, including the excellent, cross-browser dojox.gfx retained-mode graphics API. Unfortunately, Tatami turned out to be unsuitable right out of the gate, as its graphics API does not allow the developer to assign event listeners to individual objects, only to the top-level canvas. I have no idea why they chose to impose this restriction, as setting event listeners on individual objects is an extremely common pattern in retained-mode graphics API’s (certainly in Draw2d), and, from a technical standpoint, dojox.gfx allows event listeners to be attached to individual canvas objects, so there shouldn’t have been any massive technical barriers to implementing it. In any case, this restriction made Tatami unsuitable for this project out of the box, and so I began investigating alternatives.

I’ve since been investigating the feasibility of scripting pure SVG using GWT. The first possibility I looked into was using GWT’s DOM API to manipulate SVG.

The initial consideration was what kind of document would I use to deliver the SVG content? There roughly three possibilities for displaying SVG on the web today, and they are:
1. Via a pure SVG document
2. XHTML document with inline SVG; or an XHTML document with SVG embedded via the object or iframe tags
3. HTML4 document with embedded SVG via the object or iframe tags

HTML5 documents will also allow SVG inlining (without even needing to use XML namespaces!), but I don’t think that there are any browsers that currently support this, so I didn’t consider this.

What I found was that options 1 and 2 were not feasible, as GWT threw JavaScript exceptions while being loaded in these documents, so that left only option 3.

Option 3 proved to be problematic as well. In principal, what should have occurred was to have the object tag reference an SVG document in its data attribute, and then set an onload event listener on the object tag. Once the object tag has finished loading, then it would be possible to script its DOM via the object tag’s contentDocument property. Setting a load listener on a document before scripting its DOM is a very common pattern in web front-end programming, and so I assumed that this would be straightforward to implement with GWT.

Not so. GWT, unfortunately, doesn’t support setting event listeners on DOM nodes! I couldn’t believe this, because it is such a basic, fundamental feature of HTML DOM, but it’s true. I think the motivation for this is that GWT would prefer that you use its built-in widgets rather than low-level DOM. In any case, the effect of this is that it is not possible to listen for an onload event on a document simply using GWT’s implemnetation of DOM, so I couldn’t script the SVG DOM inside the object tag out of the box with GWT.

I found other problems with GWT’s DOM implementation as well. To begin, it does not implement the standard Java interfaces published by the W3C (distributed by the Apache XML Commons). This is problematic because SVG has its own DOM, and while it is not necessary to use it (you can script everything in terms of the standard XML DOM), it would be beneficial to use the SVG DOM in development. Because of the way GWT’s DOM has been implemented, it cannot be easily extended to make use of the standard W3C interfaces for SVG.

With these two shortcomings in mind, it seemed that the solution was to actually create a full DOM implementation for GWT in a way that used the standard W3C interfaces. The gwt-dom project started to do this back in 2007, but stopped development after GWT 1.5 included a DOM implementation. On the project page, they say that the project has been made “completely obsolete” by GWT 1.5, but I disagree, as there is still a need for a standards-compliant DOM implementation in GWT, at the very least in order to fulfill the needs of this project. Still, it makes sense to reuse as much of GWT’s DOM implementation as possible: it’s less work for me to implement and maintain.

To achieve this, my solution has been to use the Adapter Pattern as follows: create DOM implementation classes that extend the standard w3c.dom.* interfaces; these DOMImpl classes compose a type <T extends> object, and the DOMImpl classes delegate to this object whenever possible; where not possible, they use JSNI. In this manner, it is mostly possible to delegate to GWT DOM, while exposing a standards-compliant API to DOM that uses w3c interfaces, and I don’t have to hack on the GWT core. The gwt-dom project actually has provided a good foundation for this work, as it uses a similar pattern to achieve. One improvement that I have made to gwt-dom is to use Java 5 type annotations so that, rather than simply having each DOM implementation class compose a JavaScriptObject, the wrapped object is a and thus may be specified as far as is practical (for example to a, and thus we can have fairly deep integration with GWT. But, overall, I have been able to reuse most of the code in gwt-dom.

There have been some problems so far with this approach so far, but I think this is mostly me tripping over the me tripping over Java’s type system. I often need to convert between arbitrary objects that implement DOM interfaces, and GWT DOM objects, and this can be a bit tricky. I have a solution, but it’s an ugly one, and I’m hoping to find a better way. I’ll post more about this later.

So, my status is as follows: I have HTML DOM scripting working, and I’m now hooking up events. After that, it should be possible to test scripting of SVG content, and I will hopefully be able to start programming against it with respect to Draw2d very soon.

I’m not to sure where this work is going to live when I’m done… upstream in the now-defunct gwt-dom project? I may try to contact the author and see what he thinks.

July 8th, 2009

Initial Exploration of Draw2d on GWT/SVG

It’s been some time since I updated this blog. The short story is, I made some progress with Java2Script, and produced a small prototype of SWT GC on HTML Canvas, which you can see here.

Unfortunately, when trying to compile the next level of the stack, Draw2d, I ran into low-level compiler bugs. I’m continuing to work with the Java2Script developers on these issues, but I don’t really feel like I’m in a position to fix or work around bugs in the Java2Script compiler, so my mentor and I have been discussing alternative strategies.

One such alternative is to start a level higher up the SWT/Draw2d/GEF stack, at the Draw2d layer, and attempt to implement the Draw2d API in terms of SVG or dojox.gfx, and use GWT to compile it. This is very interesting to me for a number of different reasons, so I’ve been drilling down into it. Here is what I have initially determined about the feasibility of this project:

The main problem with this strategy is that the architecture of Draw2d encourages the use of an immediate-mode graphics API, exposed by the org.eclipse.draw2d.Graphics class, which is just a thin wrapper over GC’s immediate-mode API.

The way Draw2d encourages the use of this API is by way of subclassing the Figure class. Figure subclasses implement, among other things, the paint or paintFigure methods, which get passed a Graphics instance, and use that instance for drawing. I think the whole process is that LightweightSystem sets up UpdateManager, which knows when to call the Figure’s paint method.

This is a problem, because if Draw2d is to be implemented in terms of SVG (or some other browser-based, retained-mode graphics API, e.g. VML), it can’t be implemented in terms of an immediate-mode API.

In my opinion, this is a limitation in Draw2d’s architecture with regard to our intentions, and I should note that it could have been easily avoided by making Figure protected. This would have forced everything outside of Draw2d to only use the API exposed by Draw2d. Now, however, there’s external code that depends on being able to subclass Figure.

Less code than you might think, though. Here are all of the classes in GEF and GEF examples that extend Figure:

org.eclipse.gef.editpolicies - src - org.eclipse.gef



org.eclipse.gef.examples.flow.figures - src - org.eclipse.gef.examples.flow

SubgraphFigure - src - org.eclipse.gef.examples.flow


org.eclipse.gef.examples.logicdesigner.figures - src - org.eclipse.gef.examples.logic



org.eclipse.gef.handles - src - org.eclipse.gef


org.eclipse.gef.internal.ui.palette.editparts - src - org.eclipse.gef








org.eclipse.gef.internal.ui.rulers - src - org.eclipse.gef




RulerFigure - src - org.eclipse.gef



So, not that many, and nothing from any of the GEF examples. So implementing Draw2D in terms of SVG may not be a perfect fit, but it might still be OK. Basically, the solution would be to limit usage of the Draw2d API only to those Figures that are declared in Draw2d (e.g. org.eclipse.draw2d.Triangle), and to those that are declared in GEF. Here’s how we would then proceed:

Each class that implements Figure would keep a private member which is basically an SVG handle, which maps it into SVG. Or, if we don’t want a direct dependency on SVG, we can make it even more abstract and just create an INativeGraphicsAdapter interface, then implement classes that basically just a wrap around a handle to the native JS object, exposed via JSNI. Unfortunately, dependency injection is not an option here because Draw2d’s figure API doesn’t support it and we can’t change it. Messing with the class hierarchy (specializing for a particular implementation of this interface), is also not an option. So it seems as though we’ll have a strong dependency on some implementation class. I can’t see a way around this right now, unfortunately… But maybe the solution is in GWT’s deferred binding technique. I’ll research this more and see. For the moment, I’ll continue to think in terms of having a direct reference to a wrapped native SVG DOM node handle, because it’s easier to think about.

The way it would then work is, for each Figure concrete subclass, either in the constructor, or in some init() method, an SVG DOM node gets created, but does not get added to the Document. The IFigure.add() method would add the node in DOM. IFigure.dispose would remove it. All operations in the IFigure API would then get mapped onto whatever native operations on the SVG DOM node are required.

Also note that even though SVG does not natively include a concept of asynchronous updates (where you make a number of updates to a Figure, and it gets applied later on, asynchronously), it would still be possible to make use of this pattern by taking advantage of the fact that we have an extra API wrapping the native SVG. The way this would work is we implement the Command pattern, such that for most operations on IFigure, we create a command and save it in a private queue on each Figure object, and then wait until UpdateManager calls paint to flush all of the operations in the queue.

And that’s it.

We will also have some SWT requirements to satisfy, but I expect these to be very minimal, and now that I have a deeper understanding of SWT, I feel I should be able to spec these out fairy quickly and easily.

May 31st, 2009

Initial Exploration of Java2Script

For reasons I will better explain later I have been investigating alternatives to GWT. In particular, I spent the last week working with Java2Script. Here are my initial impressions of this project:

First, what it is: Java2Script fulfills a greatly similar role to GWT, in that it acts as a Java-to-JavaScript language compiler. It provides a similar emulation layer for the core JRE class library. Additionally, where GWT provides its own custom widget toolkit API, Java2Script provides an emulation layer for SWT. Java2Script is, in fact, older than GWT. It seems to be less focused on optimizing for performance, and as such allows for such things as dynamic class-loading, a by-design limitation of GWT.

Java2Script only has a few developers, and I think only one main one (Zhou), but so far, I have been very impressed at how supportive and responsive they have been. My first task was to attempt to compile the draw2d API, such that it was able to load without errors. In attempting to accomplish this task, I discovered several bugs in the j2s compiler. I reported them, and within a day or two, Zhou had published fixes. Zhou and the other developers have also been very supportive in terms of offering me guidance with respect to my particular project. And so, by Saturday evening, I had accomplished the first task I set out: the draw2d Hello World example successfully compiled and loaded in the browser. It didn’t do anything, but that is to be expected as GC is currently only implemented as stub code.

The next step is to get simple examples of GC working. I don’t have a clear idea of how I will accomplish this, yet, as most patterns of using GC rely on setting a Paint event listener on a SWT widget, and using the GC returned on the event. The browser, unfortunately, doesn’t expose a native Paint event (only Firefox 3 nightlies, at the moment, as far as I know) so I’ll have to find another way to accomplish this. In any case, I have a thread going on this, some sample code to work from, and a good dialogue in progress with one of the developers, so I’m optimistic that I will get a reduced example of GC working by the end of this coming week.

May 9th, 2009

Top-Down 2

Warning: Extremely Boring, Project-Specific Post

Onto the next puzzle: I’m trying to compile without importing any JCL code, in order to find out what JRE code needs to be emulated that is not covered by GWT. I’m getting this very peculiar output:

Buildfile: /home/jacob/workspace/gsoc-phase-1/org.eclipse.swt.e4.examples/dojo/build.xml



WARNING: '' is deprecated and will be removed in a future release.

Use '' instead.

(To disable this warning, pass as a JVM arg.)

Compiling module controlexample

Refreshing module from source

Validating newly compiled units

Removing units with errors

[ERROR] Errors in 'file:/home/jacob/workspace/gsoc-phase-1/org.eclipse.swt/Eclipse%20SWT/common/org/eclipse/swt/internal/image/'

[ERROR] Line 294: The method getProperty(String) is undefined for the type System


Why on earth is the GWT compiler trying to go inside of org.eclipse.swt/Eclipse SWT/common/org/eclipse/swt/internal?

May 9th, 2009

Top-Down 1

Warning: Extremely Boring, Project-Specific Post

Moving forward. In the post before my last post, I mentioned the swtlibs.gwt.xml file which was confusing me. Here it is again:


<source path=""/>

<source path="events"/>

<source path="graphics"/>

<source path="layout"/>

<source path="widgets"/>

<source path="dnd"/>

<source path="printing"/>

<source path="animation"/>

<source path="accessibility"/>

<source path="custom"/>

<source path="graphics2"/>

<source path="internal"/>

<source path="net"/>

<script src="swt/loading.js"/>


The thing that was confusing me was the path entries. One would assume that they are relative paths… and I’ve now decided that, in fact, they are. First of all, the GWT documentation makes it pretty clear that this is the case:

<source path="path" /> : Each occurrence of the tag adds a package to the source path by combining the package in which the module XML is found with the specified path to a subpackage. Any Java source file appearing in this subpackage or any of its subpackages is assumed to be translatable. The <source> element supports pattern-based filtering to allow fine-grained control over which resources get copied into the output directory during a GWT compile.

But this was nonobvious in this case, because all of the paths referenced except for graphics and widget, are not accessible as relative paths. One could interpret them as being poorly-documented indicators of “future work”, but only if the it was certain that the GWT compiler wasn’t doing something clever like pulling in other, actual SWT folders on the classpath, that have the same name; for this to be true, the GWT compiler needed to be silently ignoring the missing referenced paths. To test this, I set up a sample GWT project with a source package that does exist. I also added a reference to a source package that did not exist:

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?>

<!DOCTYPE module PUBLIC "-//Google Inc.//DTD Google Web Toolkit 1.6.4//EN" "">

<module rename-to='test'>

<!-- Inherit the core Web Toolkit stuff. -->

<inherits name=''/>

<!-- Inherit the default GWT style sheet. You can change -->

<!-- the theme of your GWT application by uncommenting -->

<!-- any one of the following lines. -->

<inherits name=''/>

<!-- <inherits name=''/> -->

<!-- <inherits name=''/> -->

<!-- Other module inherits -->

<!-- Specify the app entry point class. -->

<source path="exists"/>

<source path="doesnotexist"/>

<source path="client"/>

<entry-point class=''/>


End result: the Java classes in subpackage exists were found usable in both hosted mode and compiled mode. The compiler just ignored the reference to a package that did not exist.

So what does all of this finally mean for my project? It shows me the scope of the SWT emulation that they had at one point presumably been working. At the very least, it sets an upper bound on the work that was done in this regard: emulation of graphics and widgets package. That’s all. But they were aiming to emulate the entire SWT library.

With that in mind, I dug a bit deeper into the widgets package. As expected, there were a bunch of methods using JSNI. Not the nicest JavaScript code… But I won’t criticize it to much, as I understand that it never got past the prototype phase.

May 9th, 2009

Bottom-Up 1

Warning: Extremely Boring, Project-Specific Post

I’m ignoring the work that has already been done on this, for the moment, and imagining how I would do it if I were starting from scratch.

There are two components that would need to be implemented: the jre emulation layer, and the SWT emulation layer. GWT already provides a JRE emulation layer, but it will likely be necessary to enhance it.

SWT is big. All we really care about is GraphicsContext and event handling.

The graphics part should slot nicely into the way SWT graphics is already organized, in that it has different drawing backends. We just need to use the API exposed by GWTCanvas. It should be possible to look to swt graphics for guidance on this, in that it already supports many different target implementations.

Draw2d may have other dependencies on SWT beyond GC and events. Here’s a bit of script I used to found out what dependencies org.eclipse.draw2d has on SWT:

jacob@jacob-laptop:~/workspace/gsoc-phase-1/org.eclipse.draw2d$ grep -o -r "import org.eclipse.swt.*" . | sed 's/[^:]*:\(.*\)/\1/' | sort | uniq

import org.eclipse.swt.accessibility.ACC;

import org.eclipse.swt.accessibility.AccessibleAdapter;

import org.eclipse.swt.accessibility.AccessibleControlAdapter;

import org.eclipse.swt.accessibility.AccessibleControlEvent;

import org.eclipse.swt.accessibility.AccessibleControlListener;

import org.eclipse.swt.accessibility.AccessibleEvent;

import org.eclipse.swt.accessibility.AccessibleListener;






































import org.eclipse.swt.printing.Printer;

import org.eclipse.swt.SWT;

import org.eclipse.swt.SWTError;

import org.eclipse.swt.SWTException;

import org.eclipse.swt.widgets.Canvas;

import org.eclipse.swt.widgets.Caret;

import org.eclipse.swt.widgets.Composite;

import org.eclipse.swt.widgets.Control;

import org.eclipse.swt.widgets.Display;

import org.eclipse.swt.widgets.Event;

import org.eclipse.swt.widgets.Listener;

import org.eclipse.swt.widgets.Shell;

GWT modules will glue the project together. There will be a top-level example module which has an entry point, and imports the modules for SWT emulation and JRE emulation. That’s basically it.

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