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Java Cookbook by Ian F. Darwin

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Preventing ClassCastExceptions with SerialVersionUID

Problem

Your class got recompiled, and you’re getting ClassCastException s that you shouldn’t.

Solution

Run serialver and paste its output into your classes before you start.

Discussion

When a class is undergoing a period of evolution, particularly a class being used in a networking context such as RMI or servlets, it may be useful to provide a serialVersionUID value in this class. This is a long integer that is basically a hash of the methods and fields in the class. Both the object serialization API (see Section 9.17) and the JVM, when asked to cast one object to another (common when using collections, as in Chapter 7), either look up or, if not found, compute this value. If the value on the source and destination do not match, a ClassCastException is thrown. Most of the time, this is the correct thing for Java to do.

However, there may be times when you want to allow a class to evolve in a compatible way, but you can’t immediately replace all instances in circulation. You must be willing to write code to account for the additional fields being discarded if restoring from the longer format to the shorter, and having the default value (null for objects, for numbers and false for boolean) if restoring from the shorter format to the longer. If you are only adding fields and methods in a reasonably compatible way, you can control the compatibility by providing a long int named serialVersionUID. The initial value should be obtained from ...

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