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How to Prevent Flex Numeric Nulls From Turning to Zeros in BlazeDS

A workaround for unwanted Flex/Java data conversion

I’d like to use this opportunity and invite Flex developers living in Europe to attend our Advanced Flex Master Class in Brussels, Belgium on March 1 and 2, 2010.

This question we get on almost every new client project: “We’re struggling with handling of null values for numeric data types in Flex/Java projects.

Every time there’s an update, we end up replacing the original nulls with zeros when the user didn’t actually change that value. 

Have you guys come up with a silver bullet for handling numeric nulls?”

Consider a Java method with a Double parameter. You pass uninitialized ActionScript Number, that is, Number.NaN. What will BlazeDS deserialize (unmarshal)? Double.NaN.

At this point your Java code may use something like (value==Double.NaN)?null:value, capitalizing on the fact that information about special value of NaN had been delivered from your client code to your server code. Now, let’s assume you change the signature of the Java method to accept Long instead of Double. You pass NaN and you get … 0!

The same happens with marshaling ActionScript object that carries Number.NaN properties: they turn into 0, if, god forbid, their Java counterparties are declared as Long or Integer.

The reason is that while Java has Double.NaN it does not support either Long.NaN or Integer.NaN. Looking at the following snippet of code you can see how differently Double and Long variables get treated by Java:

More Stories By Victor Rasputnis

Dr. Victor Rasputnis is a Managing Principal of Farata Systems. He's responsible for providing architectural design, implementation management and mentoring to companies migrating to XML Internet technologies. He holds a PhD in computer science from the Moscow Institute of Robotics. You can reach him at [email protected]

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