Stephen J. Hartley
Oxford University Press, New York, 1998, 260 pp.
ISBN 0-19-511315-2, $45.00
Concurrent Programming is a thorough treatment of Java multi-threaded programming for both a stand-alone and distributed environment. Designed mostly for students in concurrent or parallel programming classes, the text is also an excellent reference for the practicing professional developing multi-threaded programs or applets.
Hartley first provides a complete explanation of the features of Java necessary to write concurrent programs, including topics such as exception handling, interfaces, and packages. He then gives the reader a solid background to write multi-threaded programs and also presents the problems introduced when writing concurrent programs—namely race conditions, mutual exclusion, and deadlock. Hartley also provides several software solutions that do not require the use of common process and thread mechanisms.
Once the groundwork is laid for writing concurrent programs, Hartley then takes a different approach than most Java references. Rather than presenting how Java handles mutual exclusion with the synchronized keyword (although it is covered later), he first looks at semaphore-based solutions to classic concurrent problems such as bounded-buffer, readers-writers, and the dining philosophers. Hartley also uses the same approach to develop Java classes for monitors and message passing. This unique approach to introducing concurrency allows the readers to both understand how Java threads are synchronized and how the basic synchronization mechanism can be used to construct more abstract tools such as semaphores.
If there is a shortcoming with the text it is with the lack of sufficient coverage of remote method invocation (RMI), although there is a section covering RMI. This is quite understandable as RMI is a fairly recent phenomenon with the Java community. Also, the classes that Hartley provides could easily implement RMI rather than sockets to handle communication.
The strengths of the book include its ease in reading, several examples at the end of chapters, a package similar to Xtango that provides algorithm animation, and a supportive web site by the author (see www.mcs.drexel.edu/~shartley/ConcProgJava/index.html) including compressed source code. As Java becomes more dominant on the server side of multi-tier applications, writing thread-safe concurrent applications becomes even more important. Concurrent Programming is a strong step towards teaching students and professionals such skills.
Greg Gagne, Westminster College of Salt Lake City
Salt Lake City, Utah