Eclipse, the Java IDE


Until about the end of 2001, Visual Age for Java was IBM's strategic Java product. VAJ is one of several Java development IDEs, somewhat unique in that it stores the source code in a repository and lets the user work on packages, classes and methods rather than source files. Takes a little getting used to, but an interesting and eventually productive experience to work with.

For all its advantages, the Visual Age paradigm is not without its flaws. It seems that maintenance, and especially keeping up with Sun's frequent updates of the Java language and libraries seems to have turned out to be a Sisyphean task. Thus, late in 2001 IBM began to leak to its customers that version 3.35 would be the final version of VAJ.

Rebirth in the Open

Of course IBM would not be IBM without a backup plan. Going with the flow, they conceived Eclipse as the Open Source successor to VAJ1. The Eclipse source code is available to the public under the Common Public License.

While Eclipse is still somewhat IBM's baby, and while some of the developers of Eclipse are former developers of VAJ, IBM has invited and received lots of outside participation in the project. The Consortium claims that

More than 1,200 individual developers from over 150 leading software tool suppliers in 63 countries have already participated in the community.2
However, the "hard core" of Eclipse is a conglomerate of well known entities from the IT business world. The initial Board of Directors (an Open Source product with a Board of Directors??), in alphabetical order, had these members: No need to worry that all these software powerhouses are going soft and dedicating their fortunes to charity: The site clearly mentions that these companies, among others, are planning to release commercial add-ons to Eclipse.

Less publicized but also noteworthy is the participation of Erich Gamma, one of the Gang of Four group who literally wrote the book on Design Patterns. It can be speculated that he is a contributing force behind some of the advanced design-oriented features of Eclipse, such as Refactoring.

The combination of big money from the industry and "a thousand eyes" from the Open Source Community is helping Eclipse become a highly successful project. There are established and publicized roadmaps and milestones, announced and agreed-on priorities for bug fixes and features, and good progress is being made toward all stated goals. Eclipse R1, the first release version, is already a fully usable programming environment offering in some cases a viable alternative to competing products like Visual Café, JBuilder and Forte for Java.

The Product

Eclipse is first and foremost an environment for creating programs. Its design is very modular and component-oriented, with a view to being able to easily combine different components (plugins) to enhance the original product. The "soul" of the product is of course a source code editor and various browser view for the Java language, but already a plugin for C++ is in the works.

Eclipse is written almost completely in Java. Because the AWT does not offer enough GUI features and Swing is too slow to provide a smoothly flowing user experience, the Eclipse team has designed and implemented their own set of GUI components, called the Standard Widget Toolkit, or SWT. The SWT can be used separately from Eclipse in unrelated Java projects.

Eclipse shows some similarities to its predecessor, VAJ. VAJ developers will recognize many of the wizards, as well as the "running man" and "bug" buttons for starting program execution or the debugger, respectively. However, Eclipse also shows refreshing tendencies to find new roots in public domain tools and practices. For example, Eclipse is based on individual files, most of which are ASCII formatted and accessible to other tools. IBM's proprietary repository, whose unfathomable structure was sometimes subject to corruption and often the cause of nightmares to VAJ's users, was replaced by CVS, the Internet's favorite source code control system. Program compilation, execution, debugging and other tasks, including user-configurable ones, are controlled by Ant, the Apache/Jakarta project's successor to the Unix Make utility. Also, Eclipse is much more configurable for different JVMs than VAJ.

Eclipse has a very tolerable learning curve, with a more responsive GUI than most Java-based IDEs. R1 is already remarkably robust and stable. The editor, with syntax highlighting, automatic formatting, outlining and context sensitive help is easily adequate for most tasks, but can be replaced by an external editor. A unique feature of Eclipse is its Refactoring capability, which allows a programmer to make sweeping logical changes to one or more classes, rather than simple syntactic changes. One example of refactoring is "smart" renaming: This will rename a class and all references to it, project-wide, without affecting names of which the original name is a substring.

The Future of Eclipse

Work on Eclipse continues unabated. Release 2 is due out in May 2002. The Eclipse Team is concentrating mainly on bug fixes and usability enhancements, but a modest number of "cool" new features is also scheduled to creep in.

A visual GUI editor is planned for the near future. I expect this will make Eclipse a world class Java development tool at an unbeatable price.

Pricing and Availability

Eclipse is available for download free of charge from the Web site, . Source code, discussion groups, FAQs and other documents can be found there as well. Eclipse runs on Windows, Linux and (recently) a number of other platforms. Rather than read stale information here, you should check out the Web site if you're wondering about a particular one.

For those who scoff at free offerings, Eclipse is also sold as part of IBM's WebSphere Developer product.

  1. They declared the project Open Source on November 7, 2001.

The Eclipse is a top-of-the-line aquarium filter put out by Marineland. It is the best filter you can buy, for any freshwater tank up to 37 gallons.

The Eclipse is ideal for freshwater tanks, especially of the tropical variety, and both encourages plant growth and keeps even the most delicate fish thriving. Goldfish and cichlid tanks will push the filter to its limit, but may be successful if regularly cleaned and carefully maintained. Eclipses can be used on tiny saltwater systems if the tank is stocked at about a quarter of a normal saltwater capacity. (This means maybe four or five small fish, tops, in a 37 gallon tank. Ideally, saltwater tanks should be 55+ gallons.)Don't put anything expensive in a saltwater Eclipse. It's too risky.

So what is it that makes the Eclipse so special? The most obvious answer is it looks elegant. Instead of a flat hood with the omnipresent protruding light and obvious filter hanging off the back, it's a single unit that's light and filter both with a smooth, streamlined profile. It also makes the fish glow and the plants thrive because in most cases, it has two lightbulbs built in instead of a single bulb like every other hood.

But what makes it really worth the money is the filtration. They call it a "three stage filtration, but it's really sort of a "two" stage--at least the filter has two parts. The intake tube reaches nearly to the bottom of the tank, instead of midwater like most filters. The output spout is also totally diagonal from the intake, so there's a lot more vertical circulation in the tank. Once the water reaches the filter, there's a long blue cartridge which provides both "physical" filtration (strains out the particles) and "chemical (runs the water through charcoal to detox it. Now, most power filters have these two stages. This filter should be changed once a month, or rinsed every 2 weeks and replaced within 3 months.

What makes the Eclipse unique is its bio-wheel. It's in a chamber always half filled with water. The many meshy folds in the wheel, and the fact it turns to air and water respectively, allow a LOT more benificial bacteria to culture on the wheel than on most filters. The second advantage to the wheel is that, while bacteria will culture on a cartridge, when it's then replaced you lose most of the culture. The biowheel is never replaced (unless your dog eats it--they seem unnaturally fond of them) so the culture never has to restart. Now, in all fairness, there are some filters on the market that also have biowheels, but they're generally for larger 55+ tanks. The Eclipse is the first one for smaller tanks.

The Eclipse comes in several sizes;

"tiny tanks"

  • Eclipse Explorer, a two gallon bowfront tank with no light, comes in five colors
  • Eclipse system 3, a three gallon bowfront with a single bulb
  • Eclipse hex 5, a 5 gallon hexagonal tank with a single bulb
  • Eclipse system 6, a six gallon bowfront with a single bulb
  • Eclipse system 12, a twelve gallon bowfront with a single, extra-strong bulb. This bulb is sufficient for live plants to thrive.

    Eclipse hoods/tanks:
    (All are available as a setup or hood only. However, many stores stock systems only and the hoods will have to be ordered online. The hood is a better deal than the setup. An empty tank costs maybe 15 bucks, but the systems cost usually half again as much as the hood alone.

  • Eclipse1 : fits 10x20" tanks (10, 15 'tall', 18 'tall') and moves 150 Gallons Per Hour. Comes with a single bulb, but Eclipse1's with a dual bulb can sometimes be special-ordered. Get a dual-bulb if you want lots of live plants.
  • Eclipse2 : 12X24" tanks (15, 20, 25 'tall') and filters 200 GPH. All 2's have a dual bulb. The Eclipse2 setup is probably the best starter system on the market. A 20 gallon is ideal to begin, and the Eclipse makes maintaining the tank easy.
  • Eclipse3 : 12X 30" tanks (20 'long', 29 or 37 gallon) filters 250 GPH. All Eclipse3's also have the dual bulb.

    Eclipses are by no means the cheapest tanks on the market. The Explorer is about 20 bucks, a whole lot more than a fishbowl, but with a whole lot fewer dead fish in the end. The system 12 runs about 80-90 bucks all told. Going back to hoods alone, they're a little cheaper. The Eclipse1 usually starts at about 70 bucks, the 2 80 and the 3 at 100. Setups, the prices vary wildly from store to store, but they're usually overly costly.

    However, the Eclipse brand, in my mind, is well worth it. I've had fish for 14 years now. I bought a 2 hood for my 20 gallon the year they came out. Cost me nearly 150 bucks all told and I haven't regretted a minute of it. In fact, I bought another 2 hood just two days ago for a new tank I acquired. I've had a couple of mini-systems in there as well. Whenever I can afford it, they're the only things I use. I've never had great success with live plants, but the Eclipse (with proper fertilization of course!) has given me wonderfully green, thriving tanks. Buy one. You won't be sorry. (pricing)

  • An Eclipse is a formation where 3 heavenly bodies align into a straight line. There are 2 types of Eclipse (Lunar Eclipse and Solar Eclipse).

    E*clipse" (?), n. [F. 'eclipse, L. eclipsis, fr. Gr. , prop., a forsaking, failing, fr. to leave out, forsake; out + to leave. See Ex-, and Loan.]

    1. Astron.

    An interception or obscuration of the light of the sun, moon, or other luminous body, by the intervention of some other body, either between it and the eye, or between the luminous body and that illuminated by it. A lunar eclipse is caused by the moon passing through the earth's shadow; a solar eclipse, by the moon coming between the sun and the observer. A satellite is eclipsed by entering the shadow of its primary. The obscuration of a planet or star by the moon or a planet, though of the nature of an eclipse, is called an occultation. The eclipse of a small portion of the sun by Mercury or Venus is called a transit of the planet.

    ⇒ In ancient times, eclipses were, and among unenlightened people they still are, superstitiously regarded as forerunners of evil fortune, a sentiment of which occasional use is made in literature.

    That fatal and perfidious bark, Built in the eclipse, and rigged with curses dark. Milton.


    The loss, usually temporary or partial, of light, brilliancy, luster, honor, consciousness, etc.; obscuration; gloom; darkness.

    All the posterity of our fist parents suffered a perpetual eclipse of spiritual life. Sir W. Raleigh.

    As in the soft and sweet eclipse, When soul meets soul on lovers' lips. Shelley.

    Annular eclipse. Astron. See under Annular. -- Cycle of eclipses. See under Cycle.


    © Webster 1913.

    E*clipse", v. t. [imp. & p. p. Eclipsed (?); p. pr. & vb. n. Eclipsing.]


    To cause the obscuration of; to darken or hide; -- said of a heavenly body; as, the moon eclipses the sun.


    To obscure, darken, or extinguish the beauty, luster, honor, etc., of; to sully; to cloud; to throw into the shade by surpassing.

    "His eclipsed state."


    My joy of liberty is half eclipsed. Shak.


    © Webster 1913.

    E*clipse", v. i.

    To suffer an eclipse.

    While the laboring moon Eclipses at their charms. Milton.


    © Webster 1913.

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