Thursday, September 21, 2006

Applet revival: JGraphpad CE BLACKJAX applet size cut from 450K down to 110K thanks to Pack200!

Pack200 is an underestimated widely deployed java tool to speed up dramatically the download time of applets or webstart applications.

I was already aware of an other 'BLACKJAX' like applet deploying Apache Derby on the client. Then I heard its creator claimed he cut Derby from 2Mb down to 600kb using Pack200..

So Pack200 is a class compressing/deflating tool deployed along with the JRE since version 1.5 (Tiger). How it works: in short applets and webstart apps are still requesting a jar archive on the server. But on the server side, you catch the fact the a different encoding (pack200-gzip) is requested by java 1.5+ clients. When requested, you'll then return the "packed" jar version, else (JRE prior to 1.5) you'll return the normal jar archive. JRE 1.5+ webstart and applet clients will deflate the packed archive on the fly saving a huge amount of server load and bandwidth.

Of course, this transfer win is only worth the CPU overhead on the client side if your archive was large enough. Make your benchmark.

Results are here:
So what about JGraphpad Community Edition? Without plugins (but with JGraph) - that's configured as the minimal online diagram editor - JGraphpad CE is weighting about 450K. Pack200 cut down the archive to 110K which is a very big win! Frankly I didn't benchmarked the extra overhead against the transfer win, but overall the win is HUGE! Overall, the applet startups 3 times faster!

So, yes it means that JGraphpad CE which is by far a more complex app than TinyMCE or FCKEditor which are 'only' online word processors, is still something 2 times smaller to download!!! (And with our "Javascript sugar", it starts up just as fast). Really amazing.

Now consider that JGraphpad CE is architectured so that you can download some plugins in the background (until you really need them) while diagramming with the core JGraph application, it turns JGraphpad CE really credible for diagram online edition.

Limits: JGraphpad CE require java 1.4.2 at least to run. But with java 1.4.2 you'll have to download the classic jar (it's totally transparent however). Only happy java 1.5 and 1.6 users will get their first download time boosted thanks to the Pack200 compression.

Server Side details:

JGraphpad CE has been designed to be server side agnostic. It only two use standard GET and POST HTTP methods to download/upload a diagram from the server. So you can use what you want to handle your uploads. I personally use Python within the MoinMoin wiki (normal file upload feature), but you could use Java, PHP or Ruby, no problem.

Still getting the Pack200 trick properly configured is server side dependent. It's easy to find out how to do with a Java server.

For an Apache server, the trick is really easy, it's explained in that excellent article.

Finally, if you can't o don't want to bother with Pack200, just put the jar in the root of the applet codebase directory as usual and this will work.

I'll soon provide a bunch of official documentation about that new JGraphpad CE release. Don't hesitate to send your feedback.


weidenrinde said...

Hi Raphael, seems to be gone. Is there still some documentation forthe jgraphpad for moinmoin project?

Raphaël Valyi said...

Hi weidenrinde,

yep weidenrinde, I'm very sorry, I had really hard times at coding my new site ( and my hosting for visualmodeller just got overdue. I didn't had much time to put it back. I'll do it soon hopefully. If not please remind me I could eventually send you the wiki tarball. Sorry for the trouble.


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