Obfuscators and Name-Shortening in Java

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When developing in an assembly language, every variable or method is represented by an address (16- or 32-bit in small device processors) that points to a memory cell Whatever mnemonic a developer uses for a variable or method name, the size of the variable in memory stays the same (2 or 4 bytes) Needless to say, Java is not like assembly language Instead, Java's focus is on making code easy to write and maintain Typical variable and method names might be GoldMonster or LowLevelInterfaceControl In the world of desktop computing, where machines have a few hundred extra megabytes to play around with, there's usually no need to give these names a second thought But in the limited world of handhelds, every little byte counts:
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Each letter in the name of the class adds an additional byte to the execution code Each letter in the name of the public method adds an additional byte to the execution code Protected and private methods don't have any impact on the class size Each letter in the name of the public variable adds an additional byte to the execution code Protected and private variables don't have any influence on the size of the class Also, the name length of local variables and parameters don't change the size of the class Every letter in the name of the constructor adds an additional byte to the class file
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Does this mean that you should try to write a game using tiny method and variable names Imagine changing all method names like moveEnemy(), drawScene(), and makeNextMove() into a(), b(), and c() Not fun! The length of the class file would immediately be shortened, but the source code would be muddled and impossible to maintain There is a better solution Instead of making the source code dirty and unreadable, developers can use a special application called an obfuscator An obfuscator's main job is to protect applications against illegal decompilation by making the code hard to read and difficult to unravel The obfuscator is run only when the code is ready to be released It takes normal Java files and outputs tight, special class files Luckily for J2ME developers, most obfuscators will also drastically shorten class, variable, and method names An obfuscator's output code is typically 5 to 20 percent smaller than original class files The size of the reduction is based on the number of classes, methods, and variables There are many different obfuscators on the market, some available commercially and some free Check them out:
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IBM's JAX (http://wwwalphaworksibmcom/tech/JAX)
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For example, to run Jax on a class, you would use the following code fragment:
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java jax TestClassclass
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Jax will output the compressed class into a Zip file called TestClass_jaxzip NOTE Note that you may not want to change the name of your main MIDlet class Most obfuscators let you specify classes whose names should not be changed
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The Object-Oriented Dilemma
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Java is an object-oriented language Developers typically separate their code into many different objects, each represented by a separate class Each class has number of public methods and variables available to other classes, and then has private methods for the class' internal usage With good object-oriented design, programmers can easily reuse pre-developed components and speed up the development cycle Code is also more tightly written and separated by functionality For example, a game may typically have a separate class for game logic and one for actually drawing visual graphics The following illustrates a typical object-oriented approach, in which two different classes will use the same method name to achieve different functionality Class Ext1 sets the global variable to the same value as the parameter, and class Ext2 sets it to the square value of the parameter:
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public abstract class Base { protected int value; public abstract void setValue(int value); } public class Ext1 extends Base { public void setValue(int value) { thisvalue = value; } } public class Ext2 extends Base { public void setValue(int value) { thisvalue = value * value; } }
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This type of programming is very useful if you want to create an abstract concept that acts differently at different times For example, you might have a RaceTrack interface that returns different values depending on whether the track is in the country or the city
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The result of the three classes listed above, however, is that they take up 654KB worth of storage space Another option is to use a non-object-oriented approach, and put all three classes into one:
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public class Base { public static final int EXT1 = 0; public static final int EXT2 = 1; private int type; private int value; public Base(int type) { thistype = type; } public void setValue(int value) { switch (type) { case EXT1: thisvalue = value; break; case EXT2: thisvalue = value * value; break; default: } } }
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In this case, the execution code only takes up 431 bytes The code size is reduced by one third! Although it is not recommended that you abandon all object-oriented techniques altogether, you should be aware of not over-designing your game into too many classes A good rule of thumb is to design and build your game in a way that is easiest for you, and when you are ready to release the game, combine classes that don't offer much extra functionality WARNING Some devices, such as the Siemens Java phone, have a 16KB class size limit In this case, it may make sense to split big classes into several objects
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