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ClassLoader.definePackage

I received a bug report [1] yesterday that Class.getPackage() wasn’t working for user-defined classes and classes written in the Interactions Pane:

I was trying to run one of our assignment projects on DrJava and kepts getting a NullPointerException because getPackage() returns null. Corky said it was best to contact you about this.

To reporduce:
1. Load the attached project in DrJava
2. Run the following on the interactions pane:
new edu.rice.comp211.laundry.Main().getClass().getPackage()

You’ll see null get printed.

This was a bit confusing for me because of several quick tests that I made: I tested it in the default package, and for the default package, the return value of Class.getPackage() is supposed to be null. I also compared DrJava’s Interactions Pane to running programs in DrJava using the “Run” button. I should have compared it to running programs on the command line.

I hadn’t heard of having to call ClassLoader.definePackage before. Somehow, it had never been mentioned in any of the documents I had read about class loaders. The documentation seems to say that
package information is optional (“It may be null if no package information is available from the archive or codebase.” [2]).

I figured out that we needed to call getPackage() in the class loader and check if it is null. If it is, and we are defining a class outside the default package, then we need to define a package by calling definePackage() before we call defineClass() (“Packages must be created before the class is defined” [3]).

I just don’t understand why this isn’t done automatically with default values. My call looks like this:

1
definePackage(packageName, null, null, null, null, null, null, null);

There isn’t any more information being provided, except to say that this package exists. After a class in the package has been loaded, a package cannot be defined anymore, so there is no reason for not defining a package without information.

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