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178bWalkingCollection Generics

Posted: 2009-11-17Category: LanguageJava Version: 1.5+Dr. Heinz M. Kabutz

Abstract: Generics can be used to further improve the WalkingCollection, shown in our previous newsletter.


When I wrote the WalkingCollection, I was not very happy that PrintProcessor was defined with a generic type, since it could always be called on Object. I was also not happy with the WalkingCollection.iterate() method signature as it was too restrictive. At the very least, it should have been defined with <? super E> type parameter. One of my subscribers, Per Claesson, a Java specialist from Gothenburg, Sweden, picked up on this issue, so together we improved the code a bit.

We are planning an informal get-together next week Thursday evening (26th Nov 09) at 18:30 in Montreal (Quebec), where I will be presenting my "Secrets of Concurrency" talk. Seating is limited. There is no cover charge to attend. Please let me know if you are interested.

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WalkingCollection Generics

In the WalkingCollection newsletter, we looked at how we could control the iteration from within the Collection, thus making concurrency easier. However, the interface was more restrictive than necessary. Instead, we could have written the following iterate() method:

public void iterate(Processor<? super E> processor) {
  try {
    for (E e : wrappedCollection) {
      if (!processor.process(e)) break;
  } finally {

This would allow us to write the PrintProcessor to be defined on Object, rather than on the same generic type parameter as our WalkingCollection. Infact, any Processor can be defined on a super type of the WalkinCollection's type parameter.

public class PrintProcessor implements Processor<Object> {
  public boolean process(Object o) {
    System.out.println(">>> " + o);
    return true;

The CompositeProcessor is now changed to contain a collection of super classes of E, as follows:

import java.util.*;

public class CompositeProcessor<E>
    implements Processor<E> {
  private final List<Processor<? super E>> processors =
      new ArrayList<Processor<? super E>>();

  public void add(Processor<? super E> processor) {

  public boolean process(E e) {
    for (Processor<? super E> processor : processors) {
      if (!processor.process(e)) return false;
    return true;

Instead of constructing the PrintProcessor with a type parameter, we simply construct it with Object. The rest of the WalkingCollectionTest class remains the same:

public class WalkingCollectionTest {
  public static void main(String[] args) {
    WalkingCollection<Long> ages = new WalkingCollection<Long>(
        new java.util.ArrayList<Long>()


    PrintProcessor pp = new PrintProcessor();

    AddProcessor<Long> ap = new AddProcessor<Long>();
    System.out.println("ap.getTotal() = " + ap.getTotal());

    // composite
    System.out.println("Testing Composite");

    CompositeProcessor<Long> composite =
        new CompositeProcessor<Long>();
    composite.add(new Processor<Long>() {
      private long previous = Long.MIN_VALUE;
      public boolean process(Long current) {
        boolean result = current >= previous;
        previous = current;
        return result;
    System.out.println("ap.getTotal() = " + ap.getTotal());

Paul Cowan sent me another interesting piece of code that is related to what we have done here. It compiles in Java 6, but not in Java 5:

import java.util.*;
import java.util.concurrent.*;

public class CompilesOnJava6Not5 {
  public static void main(String args[]) throws Exception {
    List<WorkerTask> tasks = new ArrayList<WorkerTask>();
    ExecutorService executor = Executors.newCachedThreadPool();
    executor.invokeAll(tasks); // fails in Java 5, but not in 6

  public static class WorkerTask implements Callable<String> {
    public String call() {
      return "some work";

The reason is a change in the signature of the invokeAll() method. Previously, it would only accept Collection<Callable<T>>. However, in Java 6 they changed that to also accept Collection<Callable<? extends T>>:

<T> List<Future<T>> invokeAll(Collection<? extends Callable<T>> tasks)
  throws InterruptedException;

As a result, we can now upcast the List<WorkerTask> to Collection<? extends Callable<T>>.

Kind regards



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