15: Network programming

Thursday Mar 1st 2001

Historically, network programming has been error-prone, difficult, and complex.

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Historically, network programming has been error-prone, difficult, and complex.

The programmer had to know many details about the network and sometimes even the hardware. You usually needed to understand the various “layers” of the networking protocol, and there were a lot of different functions in each different networking library concerned with connecting, packing, and unpacking blocks of information; shipping those blocks back and forth; and handshaking. It was a daunting task.

However, the concept of networking is not so difficult. You want to get some information from that machine over there and move it to this machine here, or vice versa. It’s quite similar to reading and writing files, except that the file exists on a remote machine and the remote machine can decide exactly what it wants to do about the information you’re requesting or sending.

One of Java’s great strengths is painless networking. As much as possible, the underlying details of networking have been abstracted away and taken care of within the JVM and local machine installation of Java. The programming model you use is that of a file; in fact, you actually wrap the network connection (a “socket”) with stream objects, so you end up using the same method calls as you do with all other streams. In addition, Java’s built-in multithreading is exceptionally handy when dealing with another networking issue: handling multiple connections at once.

This chapter introduces Java’s networking support using easy-to-understand examples.

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