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Sun Releases Java 6 Update 10

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Sun Microsystems has released Java 6 Update 10, the so-called "consumer JRE" because of its ability to be deployed in a lighter-weight footprint (the "Java Kernel" or the core JRE classes) and download other classes on the fly as needed. The move is considered a necessary precursor to Sun's push into the RIA (Rich Internet Applications) space, where the accumulated bulk of the JRE is considered a drawback to faster, easier end-user distribution. Many of the improvements in Java 6u10 also pave the way for the future release of JavaFX technologies.

The New Java Plug-In

The Java Kernel is the key to the "Next Generation Java Plug-In Technology" for web browsers, which makes its debut in Java 6 Update 10. The most significant improvement in the new Java plug-in is the ability to launch applets from Java Network Launch Protocol (JNLP) files. This allows Java applets to reuse some of the extensions which had been previously available only for JNLP/Java Web Start technology, including access to JavaFX runtime libraries, support for 3D graphics via OpenGL, persistent data storage, and local filesystem storage. Other improvements in the Next-Gen Plug-In include better Java to JavaScript interoperability, a unified deployment mechanism for JNLP and applets, multiple JRE version support, classloader caching, new parameter arguments to <applet>,<object>, and <embed> tags, as well as numerous small improvements to the reliability and usability of applets. A full list of the new features is here.

Java Quick Starter

Also new to Update 10 is the Java Quick Start service, which preloads portions of the JRE onto the system disk cache, substantially decreasing the startup time. It is turned on by default in Windows 2000 and XP systems, but turned off in Vista since Vista offers its own preloading mechanisms.

Nimbus Look and Feel

Update 10 also comes with a new Swing look and feel, Nimbus. Nimbus gives a much needed face-lift to some of the stock L&F's available in the base platform with a richer, more attractive set of widgets.

Other Items of Note

Patch in Place. Update 10 brings the ability to do a patch in place when updating the JRE/JDK, allowing the simple upgrading of your installation.

Direct3D Support. On Windows platforms, the Direct3D pipeline has been completely revamped, offering much-improved rendering of Swing or Java2D applications which rely on alpha compositing, gradients, arbitrary transformations, filtering and other more advanced 2D operations. This upgrade relies on hardware acceleration (video cards) as well as the DirectX 9c runtime.

A complete set of notes on the changes in Java 6 Update 10 is available here.