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ESR's Open Letter to McNealy: Set Java Free! 671

yukster writes "Eric Raymond has posted an open letter to Sun Microsystem's Scott McNealy asking him to 'Let Java go.' He says Sun can 'have ubiquity or [it] can have control.' The excellent improvements made to Java in the upcoming 1.5 release help re-level the playing field with C#. But, it seems like if Sun really wants Java to rule the world, they should heed ESR's advice. Hey Mr. McNealy, listen to this guy... set Java free!"
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ESR's Open Letter to McNealy: Set Java Free!

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  • by Alex Reynolds ( 102024 ) on Saturday February 14, 2004 @03:08PM (#8280887) Homepage
    ...would you give away the only technology that might possibly save your company from bankrupcy?
    • by Urkki ( 668283 ) on Saturday February 14, 2004 @03:11PM (#8280913)
      But what if giving that away (at least partially) would actually be just the way to save the company from bankruptcy...?
      • by AKnightCowboy ( 608632 ) on Saturday February 14, 2004 @04:05PM (#8281264)
        But what if giving that away (at least partially) would actually be just the way to save the company from bankruptcy...?

        Hey, it worked for Netscape right?

    • by ultrabot ( 200914 ) on Saturday February 14, 2004 @03:14PM (#8280946)
      ...would you give away the only technology that might possibly save your company from bankrupcy?

      How do you expect them to cash in on Java?

      It would be more beneficial for Sun to open up Java to combat the .Net threat. Or are they waiting for .Net to eat 30% of Javas lunch first?

      As it stands, the choice b/w Java and .Net is a choice b/w two evils. Sun could stop .Net on it's tracks by opening up Java.
      • by Florian Weimer ( 88405 ) <> on Saturday February 14, 2004 @03:47PM (#8281169) Homepage
        How do you expect them to cash in on Java?

        Change the license terms and withdraw all support for older versions, thus forcing everyone to upgrade and pay the bucks?

        There's quite a bit of business-critical software running on Java now, and the alternative Java implementations often can't run them. Worst of all, you'd probably lose certifcation and support from other vendors if you don't run the official Sun Java version.

        Java could become the cash cow for Sun, they just have to stop the half-baked attempts to milk it (by selling tools nobody needs or tools which compete with significantly better free software alternatives) and go for the real money.

        Would the current Java users keep using Sun Java? It depends, but if the introductory pricing is not too extreme, there's hardly any incentive for porting (or investing in non-Sun Java technology). Sun could raise the costs over the years. But maybe it's too late for that, and there isn't so much time left for the company.
        • by RyuuzakiTetsuya ( 195424 ) <taiki AT cox DOT net> on Saturday February 14, 2004 @03:51PM (#8281192)
          The thing is, because Java is free, that's why there are so many apps that run on it.

          I think your solution combined with ESR's solution would be best for Sun.

          That is, sell the compiler(and possibly an Enterprise version of the virtual machine), but allow others to develop compilers of thier own for free. With any luck, it might just sell Java to those who would buy it and get support and keep Java free for those who don't want/need support.
          • by mindstrm ( 20013 ) on Saturday February 14, 2004 @03:58PM (#8281228)
            You are allowed to develop compilers on your own, for free. Youy are also allowed to develop your own JVM for free.

            You are just not allowed to use Sun's code to do it.
        • good plan (Score:5, Funny)

          by n3k5 ( 606163 ) on Saturday February 14, 2004 @05:32PM (#8281835) Journal
          Change the license terms and withdraw all support for older versions, thus forcing everyone to upgrade and pay the bucks?
          1. Blackmail and piss off the whole world, even though open source implementations of your technology are getting better by the day.
          2. ?????
          3. Profit!
    • accurate picture (Score:5, Insightful)

      by DavidNWelton ( 142216 ) on Saturday February 14, 2004 @03:17PM (#8280975) Homepage
      What portion of their revenue comes from what sources? How much does Java generate, and how? How much does developing it cost them?

      It's hard to get an accurate picture without asking some questions like these and getting answers. Otherwise, you can't make an informed judgement.
      • How much control? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by gidds ( 56397 ) <> on Saturday February 14, 2004 @04:06PM (#8281277) Homepage
        You'd also have to know how much of that revenue would be at risk by 'setting Java free' -- I suspect not much. But money isn't the only issue here -- not for Sun, and certainly not for the rest of us.

        Part of the problem is its cross-platform nature. As a user of more than one minority platform, I see this as being a massive advantage. However, I know that people who only use Windows (and some who only use Linux) see it merely as a speed penalty; should those people have the right to fragment the platform, making it a little better for the majority, but much much worse -- or even impossible -- for the rest? Is 'majority rule' such a good thing in this case?

        If Java had been completely free in its early days, I think there's little doubt that, er, a certain company would have embraced and extended it in their traditional fashion, turning it into a de facto Windows language. Sun's strong control early on was necessary to prevent this. They've slowly relaxed their control, though; the Java Community Process lets anyone propose improvements, and many of the current ones have come from outside Sun. And the platform has always been open in the sense that anyone can make a clean-room implementation of the spec and call it Java if it passes the compatibility tests.

        The question, I think, is just how much control they still need to have. Too much, and people will worry about their motives and Java's future; OTOH, too little, and maybe even now the platform will fragment, making it far less useful to developers, and possibly leaving room for a less altruistic company to take control of it? A similar question is how fast should the platform change -- too slow, and it risks losing out to more modern ones that have whizz-bang features; too fast, and it risks losing developers who don't want to keep relearning or rewriting.

        So, while I generally agree with open-source principles, I think Sun has generally done the right thing for Java so far. But how much control do they still need? I don't know. Does anyone?

        • by Jason Earl ( 1894 ) on Saturday February 14, 2004 @05:08PM (#8281684) Homepage Journal

          Why is it that people believe that opening the source code to Java is going to make it less cross-platform. That's ridiculous. Heck, Python and Perl run everywhere. Python is available on far more platforms than Sun's JVM is, and yet nearly all Python and Perl modules operate on all platforms that the interpreter runs. Those few exceptions of module that isn't cross platform are generally modules that only make sense on a specific platform (like COM or Gnome bindings). And guess what, Java has similar libraries use these platform specific bindings right now. People that write code using the Java-Gnome bindings or the SWT-Windows bindings aren't writing portable Java code right this minute. The cat is already out of the bag.

          If Java would have been released under a Free Software license then two things would have happened. The first would have been that Microsoft wouldn't have touched it with a ten foot pole. The only reason that Microsoft dared to create their own GUI classes for Java was that they knew that no matter what happened they weren't going to have to fork over the source code to their changes. And if Microsoft still tried to embrace and extend Java, well the rest of us would have their source code. If the rest of us wanted to use their GUI classes we would simply have to port them to our native GUI o' choice (much like IBM has done with SWT).

          Sun has bungled Java from the beginning. The reason that Java never took off on the desktop is that Sun's cross-platform GUI was suboptimal everywhere. Yes, Swing has gotten better, but the bar has been raised in what is expected from a GUI toolkit as well.

          Now Sun faces increased pressure from Microsoft in the form of .NET, and they are going to find that a large chunk of Java developers (who happen to do most of their development and deployment on Windows boxes) are interested in .NET's promises. The fact of the matter is that .NET is "good enough" for backend work, and it is a heck of a lot nicer to use for GUI front ends than Java. .NET also has a fairly distinct tools advantage. Developers find that they like VS.NET.

          Free Software hackers would like to root for Java on this one, but they can't because Java isn't Free. So instead they are spending their time creating Mono or working with Python, Perl, or Ruby.

          • Re:How much control? (Score:4, Interesting)

            by Ogerman ( 136333 ) on Saturday February 14, 2004 @05:35PM (#8281848)
            Exactly. Fact is, an Open Source Java would gain more platform support and would become faster and more stable on the platforms that already exist.

            Free Software hackers would like to root for Java on this one, but they can't because Java isn't Free. So instead they are spending their time creating Mono or working with Python, Perl, or Ruby.

            Right again. I would love to use Java instead of Python, but if I do, my software won't be picked up by Linux distros. Java is, hands down, far superior to any of the interpreted languages available to us. Python has it's benefits in other areas, but it can't compete on speed. Perl is.. well.. I won't go there. OK, it's good for simple scripting tasks like it was originally designed for: extraction and reporting.

            Here's the bigger issue: Enterprise business software. This is by far the largest weak spot in the whole world of Open Source. We have absolutely nothing to compete here other than fledgling projects like GNU Enterprise (Python), which aren't ambitious enough to meet the needs of serious business software. Except for.. JBoss, which is Open Source and.. You guessed it: It requires Java!! While I'm not saying that J2EE is the ultimate platform, it does do a lot of things right and it's available now. If Sun opened its JVM/JDK, Linux distros could include JBoss and Free Software hackers would actually start using it! Sure, we should have more than one solution. I still see projects like GNU Enterprise as worthwhile for developing "middle of the road" solutions that aren't as complex as J2EE and aim for the KISS principle. However, Java is a powerful tool that is direly needed in the Open Source toolbox.
            • Re:How much control? (Score:5, Interesting)

              by Jason Earl ( 1894 ) on Saturday February 14, 2004 @07:50PM (#8282598) Homepage Journal

              I personally see Zope as the Free Software answer to JBoss, and I think that it is pretty darn good answer as well. As an application server Zope is a fairly amazing piece of work. However, it won't run your applications designed to run in a Java application server :). There are a lot of companies that have based their businesses around Java, and Free Software doesn't really have an answer to that. JBoss is a great application server, but it isn't really enterprise business software. It certainly isn't going to replace SAP or Peoplesoft anytime soon. It's barely more than the tools you need to build your own business software. Compiere, on the other hand, is business software, and it is also written in Java (and requires Oracle to boot, argh...).

              As for Gnu Enterprise. It's problem is not one of not scaling high enough. It's problem is that it's less than half done. I am convinced that Python (especially with a bit of C for speed) can scale high enough to compete with Java. Especially when you consider the fact that hardware continues to get more and more powerful.

              However, Java would fill a very important niche in the set of available Free Software tools. Java is nicely situated between the purely interpretted languages like Python and managing your own memory with C and C++. I am just afraid that Sun will react too slowly to take advantage of their current head start. I have been playing with Mono a bit lately, and it is really impressive.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday February 14, 2004 @03:18PM (#8280989)
      So what if Redhat's share price is higher than SUN's? Whose market cap is larger? Who has a higher revenue stream?, Yes, SUN.

      SUN's is almost 6 times larger than RHAT in term of market cap and that means SUN is almost 6 times more valuable as a company that RHAT in term of dollars!

      Just as IBM makes money on Linux, so can SUN, but then again, so what does that have to do with JAVA, necessarily?

      Even his asshole doubles in pain for the shit he stuff in his mouth.

      "But the casual equation between "open source" and "zero revenue" suggests that on another level you don't really know what you're talking about. Open source is hardly a zero-revenue model; ask Red Hat, which had a share price over triple Sun's when I just checked. Or ask IBM, which is using Linux as a lever to build a huge systems-integration business in markets like financial services that Sun has historically owned."
      • by duffbeer703 ( 177751 ) * on Saturday February 14, 2004 @09:45PM (#8283239)
        Since Sun has been losing money for almost five years and is trading at 3x book value at its current state (with its market distintigrating more and more ever day) and Red Hat has a P/E ratio of 384, I would assert that both of their market caps are grossly out of line with their true value.

        Think about their businesses... Red Hat sells free software... Sun sells overpriced hardware that nobody wants.
    • by Repugnant_Shit ( 263651 ) on Saturday February 14, 2004 @03:19PM (#8280993)
      But they don't really make any money on it now. I can download all the tools I need straight from Sun's website.

      The point of opening Java up is to let it become an official standard (much like ECMAScript or C#). Then other organizations (IBM, Eclipse, etc.) will be able to have more input on what goes into the official version of Java.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday February 14, 2004 @03:42PM (#8281140)
      You don't seem to understand Open Source. This *will* save Sun from bankruptcy. By making Java Open Source, Sun will gain a huge number of developers who will work on it for free. Development staff (namely, programming talent) is hugely expensive and most of them can be laid off save a few who can coordinate and integrate volunteer submissions. As a result, they can cut back on the most expensive part of maintaining Java (the labor!) and dramatically increase their profit margins.
  • by Organized Konfusion ( 700770 ) on Saturday February 14, 2004 @03:09PM (#8280893) Journal
    If you have been following gcj's [] progress recently it is maturing rapidly, just give those dirty gnu hippies a few more years they'll be on par with Sun's own implimentation.

    Gcj is far more mature than mono [] is.
    • by Espectr0 ( 577637 ) on Saturday February 14, 2004 @03:16PM (#8280966) Journal
      As long as awt and swing are missing, gcj's is still in diapers.
    • by Carl ( 12719 ) on Saturday February 14, 2004 @03:21PM (#8281007) Homepage
      Wait till you see what happens if you are truely Free to mix and match all that goodness! Sun and Microsoft would never allow something like combining Java and C#. But that is precisely what thos GNU-heads have been doing!

      IBM has been much nicer with Eclipse []. And You can now combine that, with GNU Classpath [] and IKVM.NET [] to bring you Java Eclipse on Mono .NET! []. Be free to mix and match the best of two languages. With Free Software you are free to do what some coorporations would never want to happen. Even if it is the best for developers and users!

      Amazing! And of course you can just use java as a as a normal language [] with GCC (gcj). We even have native eclipse []! Super fast, no slow bytecode interpreter needed.

      Go away Sun with you proprietary closed non-free java! We don't need you anymore.

    • by robbyjo ( 315601 ) on Saturday February 14, 2004 @03:34PM (#8281079) Homepage

      If you have been following gcj's progress recently it is maturing rapidly, just give those dirty gnu hippies a few more years they'll be on par with Sun's own implimentation.

      Two facts:

      • GCJ still far behind Sun's Javac. Lookie, they just "invent" ah so Java 1.2 Swing!
      • GCJ's progress is less than Sun's progress. See Java 1.5 maturing. I'm wondering when GCJ will catch up?

      This lead me to conclude that GCJ would never catch Sun's level unless something drastic changes happen. Don't get me wrong, I like GCJ's idea and try to support it, but I firmly believe that they need to change to boost more progress.

  • why? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by BobTheLawyer ( 692026 ) on Saturday February 14, 2004 @03:09PM (#8280895)
    What is the point of writing an open letter, particularly one as snarky as this? Does anybody think McNealy will see it, much less care?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday February 14, 2004 @03:09PM (#8280898)
    ...but not both. Good point. Except that Microsoft seemed to have managed both with Windows, Office, etc.
    • by RoLi ( 141856 ) on Saturday February 14, 2004 @03:37PM (#8281102)
      Microsoft just surfed on the wave of success that was generated by the open PC platform.

      And in the times when DOS/Windows was the only serious x86-OS, it was the most open option out there.

      Now with Linux things have changed, everybody who understands the business (including Microsoft, that's why they are so afraid of Linux) knows that Linux will take over, because openness always wins (another example is Beta vs. VHS - VHS was open to all vendors, Beta was for too long a Sony-only technology), it's just a question when because the huge market-inertia of the Windows-desktop platform will keep it going for quite some time - but not forever.

  • SUN wont release (Score:5, Insightful)

    by kyndig ( 579355 ) on Saturday February 14, 2004 @03:09PM (#8280899) Homepage
    SUN knows exactly what cards they hold in their deck. While the letter does point out that SUN has much to gain, it is filled with nothing more than well wishing and potential profits. SUN already owns the source, and it will take more than a "if we work togeather as friends" to get them to assist in the continued expansion of the Open Source community.

    The cards are all in their deck. Open Source needs to provide something more profitable than a "cant we all get along" letter.

    Money talks...
    • by qtp ( 461286 ) on Saturday February 14, 2004 @04:18PM (#8281352) Journal
      Money talks...

      You left out the part that applies to your post.

      How much revenue does a tech that a company is making available for free (as in beer) generate?

      I'll give you a hint: The same amount as they would make from opening the source.

      If Java were open sourced, Sun would still be able to retain the copyright and sell their "Java Enterprise System" as a product. Java development would gain the benefit of more coders working on the project, Sun would likely retain the "upstream developer" mantle to direct the project, and they would not be losing any revenue stream as they already make the SDK and JRE available for free (as in beer).

      Yeah, the cards are all in their deck, and unfortunately they are already giving them out for nothing in exchange. Community development would at leasdt be an opportunity for the Java users to give something back, and that is what appears to be missing from Sun's current Java plan.

  • Not gonna happen (Score:5, Insightful)

    by IshanCaspian ( 625325 ) on Saturday February 14, 2004 @03:11PM (#8280911) Homepage
    What do you expect the guys at sun to do if they turn the development of Java over to the open-source community? Sure, open standards are great, and so is OSS, but don't forget, Sun is a commercial entity that needs to make money. Why would anyone invest in Sun or take them seriously when they don't exercise control over their flagship product anymore? If you want a free, open language, try using c++ with gcc. I'm sure the good folks at Sun like trying to make the best possible software, but you can't expect them to destroy their company for a shot at making their software even better.
  • Setting Java free (Score:5, Insightful)

    by possible ( 123857 ) on Saturday February 14, 2004 @03:11PM (#8280914)
    Java is already more ubiquitious than C# -- so what would Sun stand to gain from setting it free? For all intents and purposes, it's as free as I need it to be. I have full access to the Sun's source code for the JVM and the Java classes. I can use it the JVM for free in commercial applications. I have many different virtual machine implementations to choose from, on a wide variety of platforms. I'm afraid that setting Java "free" is going to lead to future revisions of the language being designed by committee -- we don't need another C++ thank you very much.
  • by LostCluster ( 625375 ) * on Saturday February 14, 2004 @03:11PM (#8280915)
    Sun needs its tight control over Java in order to, well, tightly control it. Remember what happened when Microsoft tried to "embrace and extend" Java with Windows extentions, Sun was able to kick Microsoft completely out of the Java business.

    Open Source would allow Microsoft to create WinJava so long as they released the source, which might not be that hard of a thing to do. I don't think Sun wants to go there...
    • by J. J. Ramsey ( 658 ) on Saturday February 14, 2004 @03:31PM (#8281065) Homepage
      "Sun needs its tight control over Java in order to, well, tightly control it. Remember what happened when Microsoft tried to "embrace and extend" Java with Windows extentions, Sun was able to kick Microsoft completely out of the Java business."

      Sun's leverage was not its control over the source to the JVM, but that the Java standard was well enough defined that it could be established that MS's extensions were out of compliance with the standard, and thus MS could not legally call their J++ VM "Java."

      "Open Source would allow Microsoft to create WinJava so long as they released the source, which might not be that hard of a thing to do. I don't think Sun wants to go there..."

      Why not, especially if Sun were allowed to reincorporate MS's extensions into the "canonical" JVM? "Embrace, extend, and extinguish" is only a good strategy if one can own the extensions. A properly drafted copyleft license would have made Java open enough to be a commodity while discouraging incompatible proprietary extensions.
  • Comeon! (Score:5, Funny)

    by jeffkjo1 ( 663413 ) on Saturday February 14, 2004 @03:11PM (#8280916) Homepage
    Comeon McNealy! Follow Microsofts lead, set java free!
  • by Arslan ibn Da'ud ( 636514 ) on Saturday February 14, 2004 @03:12PM (#8280920) Homepage
    I always thought Sun's tight control over Java was so that they could keep Microsoft from polluting it, using their usual 'embace, extend, extinguish' method.

    After all, Sun did force MS to change their product name from Java to J++, since it did not follow the spec.

    Even if such a tragedy would not recur, can you blame Sun for being paranoid?
  • by !Squalus ( 258239 ) on Saturday February 14, 2004 @03:12PM (#8280923) Homepage
    Setting Java Free was actually Gosling's idea first, but the idea is correct. It should be free as in open source.

    Maybe the critical path to being able to think simply involves being able to listen to ideas regardless of your personal feelings toward the messenger? Give the ideas some thought - it makes sense.
  • Open what? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by D-Cypell ( 446534 ) on Saturday February 14, 2004 @03:15PM (#8280959)
    The Sun SDK comes with sources to the standard API classes, there are alternative opensource virtual machines and compilers available for Java and changes to the environment are made via the community process.

    What is it that is being ask of Sun here?

    Even in GPL style open source development there is a central core of people who decide which patches make it into the product and which dont.

    I see absolutely nothing wrong with the way Sun are managing Java as long as it remains freely available.

    As for 1.5 helping to 'level the playing field' with C#, I dont think suitable credit is being given here. Java is ahead of C# in the vast majority of ways that count. All C# has done is formalize well know design patterns into syntax (delegates vs observer pattern). This is not worthy of accolade.

    Make no mistake, it is Microsoft that is playing the catch-up game!
    • Re:Open what? (Score:5, Informative)

      by Chris Pimlott ( 16212 ) on Saturday February 14, 2004 @03:42PM (#8281141)
      There are some issues with Sun's licensing for the Java JDK and JRE that make it difficult to include in a free software distribution. Debian has an informative Java FAQ [] that specifically outlines Java licensing concerns [] that make it impossible for them to include Java in the main distribution. This includes both items that Debian has philosophical issues with as well as more concrete terms that set strict limits on distributing Sun's Java products.

      Basically, Sun makes it hard for free software & open source distributions to include Java, which makes it an additional hassle for the user to install and use. As a result, Java use in the open source community is probably much lower than it could be.
  • by roman_mir ( 125474 ) on Saturday February 14, 2004 @03:17PM (#8280972) Homepage Journal
    Because noone is listenning [] to my rants anyway.

    I I posted it a few times [] maybe ESR read it? :)

    Well, I am posting it last time now.

    I would like to see GNU/Linux to become a more powerful platform and by a more powerful platform I mean a platform that provides the user with a pleasant experience. Now, to provide a pleasant experience a platform must give the user a choice - a choice of applications that exist for the platform is a step in the right direction. However, GNU/Linux is not such a platform yet. If it were, it would have been embraced by the masses already and it is not. There are a few things that GNU/Linux system is lacking and one of the more important lacking components is a convenient tool that allows a novice create his/her own software for the platform, software that easily manipulates data imported from multiple sources and allows to create graphical interfaces to that data. In the Microsoft this functionality is provided by such a ubiquitous tool as Visual Basic. In the Free Software world there are many tools that are extremely powerful but none of them have the same kind of momentum that Visual Basic delivers on Microsoft platform. VB is taught at schools, it is the language of macros under MS platform.

    To answer the question- "What can be the VB for Free Software?" we need to look at the kind of problems that will have to be solved by this tool. The problems solved by VB are of many kinds, but for the general public VB provides the bridge that closes the gap between a user and a multitude of small problems that the user wants to solve. Of-course it is possible to just create a VB IDE for FS platforms but I believe there is a more interesting solution to this problem and it is Java. Just like VB, Java runs in a virtual machine, so the user will never really have direct access to any hardware resources, but an abstract layer of JVM can provide a nice buffer between the user and the hardware and at the same time Java will always behave in the same way on multiple other platforms, including Windows. Java is an OO language but at the same time it is very easy to write functions in Java (static everything). Java has thousands of convenience libraries, there is enough Free Software written for Java that can be integrated into an IDE. However there is a big problem with the language itself - it is not Free.

    Sun allows anyone to use Java for free but nobody can modify the language itself except for Sun. In order for Java to become for Free Software and Gnu/Linux what VB became for Microsoft, Java has to be Freed and put out under the GPL. There is also probably a good business sense in it for the Sun Microsystems as well - their language suddenly becomes the language of choice for millions and thousands will work on improving the language, the virtual machine, the compiler etc. In this case Sun will stay in a position that Linus finds himself in - they become the gate-keepers for the vanilla Java tree, but Java will branch and will become much more spread than it is right now. Sun can capitalize on that by providing more Java based solutions and services.

    Now it is likely that Sun management will not agree to the change of their Java's status, however, if there was an immediately profitable reason for them to do this, they just may turn around and start thinking about it. A reason that is profitable could be a large sum of cash available to them upon releasing Java under the GPL. Where could this money come from? These money could be collected by the FS and OS supporters, the developers and the users who would like to see more momentum in the GNU/Linux movement towards a successful (wide spread) desktop solution. I suppose no one will seriously object to have one more powerful tool in their Free Software tool-bag. Java can be this tool and it can be just the thing needed to tip the scales over towards quick appearance of a useful and a popular GNU/Linux desktop.

    * I use Free to mean Free Software (Libre) and I use free to mean free of charge.

    • by ultrabot ( 200914 ) on Saturday February 14, 2004 @03:22PM (#8281023)
      "What can be the VB for Free Software?"

      That's easy to answer. Python. Java is too low level for RAD, and quite possibly won't be Free Software in the predictable future.
    • While I am at it (Score:4, Interesting)

      by roman_mir ( 125474 ) on Saturday February 14, 2004 @03:24PM (#8281031) Homepage Journal
      (I wrote this yesterday and tried to post it as an article on /., but apparently there are so many more interesting and better written articles posted on the front page here that mine did not meet the qualifications to be posted. Or maybe it is just so off-topic and does not represent any real new ideas or news for nerds, you know, no stuff that matters is expressed in it, so don't read it.)

      I am sure that all of you would agree that the free software community has been facing some bad publicity since the entire SCO incident started about a year ago. I am also sure that when the SCO goes away another publicity stunt will be performed by some other corporation or an entity that could potentially cause more trouble. An earlier article [] on /. reminded us that there are other dangers that could stall the development of free software projects - an illegally distributed application source base can become the next battlefield for the free source community. Whether this source code could be distributed with an intent to contaminate is not the issue, the issue is that it is important to convey the message to the public that this community does not want to contaminate its source code with proprietary software. We know that the Linux kernel for example is maintained by a group of people who would never want to be faced with the problem of proving in the court of law that their creation is really their own code. What about other projects? How many lawsuits are comming towards this community? I do not know that. But I understand that some preventative measures should be taken, some measures that will clearly display that this community wants free software and free software will not be stolen from other source bases.

      How can this be ensured and how can it be easily shown in a court of law that this community takes copyright issues seriously? One way that I see is to set up a server that runs the comparator [] by ESR against any new submission to any open source project against any code released either by mistake on with malice by a closed source vendor.

      This will help to identify copyright problems before they arise. Of course to have a proprietary source code base on this server would probably be illegal in itself but it is unnecessary to have the proprietary source code, all that is needed is a set of hash-keys that identify that source code.

      How could this work? A copyright protection server (CPS) would have hash-keys supplied by different vendors of software that falls into various categories and the free software projects are also divided into these categories. Let's say there is a free software project that deals with image manipulations. The CPS would run a hash-key generator on the new code submission and then would compare the generated keys with the keys supplied by Adobe or other companies specialized in image manipulations. Of-course the closed source companies would have to run the hash-key generators on their code and supply their keys, and someone has to tell them to do that, but if it is done right then the following would happen:

      1. The Free Software community would have better protection from inappropriate code submissions.

      2. This can be publicised and shown that the Free Software community takes their work seriously and goes to the great length, much more than any corporations to make sure that their code is Free and free of inappropriate submissions.

      3. In a court of law this can be very useful, it shows good faith on the part of the free software community.

      4. This would make it easier to also figure out whether the closed source vendors are misusing GPLed software :)

      5. This makes a nice project that can be commercialized (with all the lates IP propaganda and lawsuites.)

      6. This hopefully will prevent many possible infringement claims.

      Well, this is just a thought, but I think this kind of verification will become part of reality at some point in the future, given more lawsuites.

      Any thoughts, comments, suggestions, ideas?

  • by The Lynxpro ( 657990 ) <> on Saturday February 14, 2004 @03:20PM (#8281002)

    Oops. Wait. Wrong freedom fest... :)

  • Don't do it! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ybmug ( 237378 ) on Saturday February 14, 2004 @03:21PM (#8281013)
    I like the fact that there is only one "branch" of java. I can write a program once and compile it anywhere. I hate C++ because I need #ifdef's everywhere in my code just so I can build it on other platforms/compilers. If someone feels that it is lacking, they should get involved in Sun's community.

    Just my $.02
  • WTF? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by 0x0d0a ( 568518 ) on Saturday February 14, 2004 @03:24PM (#8281034) Journal
    Okay, ESR is writing an open letter to a CEO of Sun. Why the *hell* is he comparing Red Hat and Sun by *share price*? Share price means effectively nothing when comparing company worth -- market capitalization is what should be looked at, as it takes into account the number of shares. RHAT's market cap is impressive, but it's still 1/6th Sun's, not the three times Sun's value that ESR implies when comparing share prices.

    So, there are two possibilities that I see here.

    A) ESR is unaware of the difference between share price and market cap. This seems a pretty awful knowledge hole. If he doesn't know, he just made himself look pretty dumb in front of some major business folks while advising them on business strategy. It's pretty embarrassing to consider that ESR can't even have had a savvy person read over his letters before he tries to speak for the open source community.

    B) ESR knows what the difference is, and is hoping that "three times" sounds better. Since there is no *way* that ESR can fool a CEO into blindly going along with him (if there's one thing a CEO of a publically traded company knows, it's stock value), he must be putting this in the letter for the masses of people that are completely unversed in market economics, which pretty means *maybe* some high school and below kids. This is nothing more than a propaganda job. I'd view this as extremely disappointing, coming from someone who I consider capable of putting out good, straight arguments about open source. Propaganda does not work well on online forums. A few people inevitably punch holes in it, other folks spread the problems, and your argument is left without any meat. It happens to Microsoft all the time.

    Either way, it's a disturbingly unprofessional job. It reads like some of the worse "I just sent this in to the company" Slashdot posts. For someone who is concerned about the business credibility of open source, ESR sure as hell isn't holding up his end of things.

    He compares, in an incredibly simplified manner, three projects that Sun has done (throwing out all but one factor -- whether they were open source), and then claims that Sun should free Java. That's absurd. Sun execs will have gone over this in far more detail many times before, and the only thing this does is ensure that ESR emails go in the wastebasket. The fact that this letter is open makes it doubly embarassing.

    I have deep respect for the work that ESR has done, and I like his famous study "The Cathedral and the Bazar". However, I really wish he'd refrain from writing open letters, or at *least* show them to a couple of people before blasting them off.
  • by jsburke ( 264711 ) on Saturday February 14, 2004 @03:35PM (#8281084) Homepage
    'But the casual equation between "open source" and "zero revenue" suggests that on another level you don't really know what you're talking about. Open source is hardly a zero-revenue model; ask Red Hat, which had a share price over triple Sun's when I just checked.'

    ESR's casual equation between "share price" and "value" suggests that he doesn't really know what he's talking about. Sun's market cap is 6 times Red Hat's!

    But this is nitpicking. His larger point is good.
  • by methano ( 519830 ) on Saturday February 14, 2004 @03:35PM (#8281086)
    I have no idea whether Sun should let go of Java or not. But I don't think I'd accept any business advice from someone who compares company value by stock price.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday February 14, 2004 @03:52PM (#8281195)
      I'm not really a software engineer, but I do know something about finance. How can anyone expect to take seriously a guy like Raymond when, even beyond using stock price for comparison, he uses SHARE price? The price of a company's share is totally irrelevant. What matters is the total market value of the company. Sun has a market cap. of ~$18bn, and Red Hat is ~$3bn. That the SHARE prices are ordered differently is totally irrelevant.

      It's a good thing Raymond doesn't actually manage any money, even though he claims McNealy doesn't know what he's talking about.
  • by scrubjay ( 130275 ) on Saturday February 14, 2004 @03:44PM (#8281155)
    It would seem a bit difficult for ESR to have much credibility with McNealy after he trashed them in his "Sun is dead" article [].
  • Embrace and extend (Score:5, Insightful)

    by maroberts ( 15852 ) on Saturday February 14, 2004 @03:46PM (#8281166) Homepage Journal
    ...but in a different way.

    We all know that Java has its perceived flaws and many people say that, whilst Java is good, if they were doing it again, they would not go the same route.

    So what I ask is - why not design an open source Java type language and libraries for the next decade, and start from basics all over again?

    Like many people on Slashdot, I don't believe absolutely everything must be free in the fullest sense of the word. Companies have a right to keep their products as closed if they wish to. If we truly believe open source is better then we should design a new Java equivalent from beginning to end.
  • Huh? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by jkabbe ( 631234 ) on Saturday February 14, 2004 @03:50PM (#8281184)
    Has this guy not heard of the Java Community Process [] or am I just really mistaken about how it works?
  • by forgetmenot ( 467513 ) <atsjewell@g[ ] ['mai' in gap]> on Saturday February 14, 2004 @03:52PM (#8281197) Homepage
    I'm too lazy to look, but this isn't the first time slashdot has covered some yahoo with a grudge blasting Sun over not releasing Java to the public domain or whatever.

    I consider myself a "Java Developer" by profession. I switched years ago and have avoided C++ ever since. I love Java because it ISN'T C++.
    And I can't help but feel that Sun's control over Java is what has kept it from degenerating into a mess like C++.

    As another poster has mentioned, everything you want to know about Java's internals and source code is there for anyone who wants to look.

    About the only thing you can't do is break standard's compliance and still claim to be Java and thank god for that. If Java was not under Sun's control then there would have been no recourse against MicroSoft for pulling that stunt.

    How many companies have been taken to task for claiming to have a C, C++, Pascal, Fortran, Cobol - you name it compiler that wasn't standards compliant? When's the last time you wrote a non-trivial program using VisualC++ that compiled and ran out of the box on Linux EVEN with strict standards compliance turned on? Yeah, a lot of it's library issues and not language itself, but with Java everyone has access to the same rich library, and with few exception, most third party libraries are fully cross-platform as well (at least if they claim %100 pure Java).

    Thank god for Java and thank god for Sun's control over it. The JSR is enough openess we need.
  • That's smart... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by black mariah ( 654971 ) on Saturday February 14, 2004 @03:54PM (#8281204)
    Yeah, the best way to convince someone to do what you want is by telling them they don't know what they're talking about. Open Source IS a zero-revenue model. IBM and Redhat don't make money on the software, they make money on hardware and/or support. This is something that Sun obviously understands (as quoted in the article), and the condescending tone of ESR's letter doesn't help this cause very much.

    A better first step, IMO, would be to convince Sun to loosen up their distribution restrictions so that the Java SDK could be included in Linux distros. It's not bloody likely that Sun's just going to jump up and let all of their stuff go at once. It would be better to work on smaller things before moving on to the big battle.
  • by blockhouse ( 42351 ) on Saturday February 14, 2004 @03:56PM (#8281218)
    And after these things, Eric Raymond went in and spaketh to McNealy: "Thus saith Eric Raymond of the open source movement. Let Java go that my people may develop on it in the desert." But McNealy answereth, saying: "Who is Eric Raymond, that I should hear his voice and let Java go? I know not Raymond, neither will I let Java go." And McNealy said, "Seeth thou how the developers of Java are numerous, and how their multitude is increased. How much more if it be set free?" And McNealy's heart was hardened, and he did not hearken to them, as Eric Raymond commanded.
  • inaccuracy (Score:4, Interesting)

    by amway_sales ( 752626 ) on Saturday February 14, 2004 @04:05PM (#8281266)
    It's amusing how Eric Raymond points out the success of Red Hat's open-source business model and how Red Hat's share price is 3x Sun Microsystem. Open source business model must be working. But wait! Mr. Raymond forgot to multiply by outstanding shares, aka market cap. Looks like Red Hat is worth around $3.2B, and Sun about $18B. Lovely. Really showing some insight.
  • ESR is crazy (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Nick The Second ( 752627 ) on Saturday February 14, 2004 @04:05PM (#8281270)
    What a bizarre letter. ESR must have some heavy-duty Open Source fanboy goggles to see things that way.

    I can't imagine what he was thinking when he said that Java is losing out to Perl and Python among Open-sourcers. Java does not compete with P&P on any front whatsoever. Java has proven to be an awkward, heaviweight technology on the client side, and makes a very poor scripting language. But it shines on the server end, where its strong, secure type-checking and exception handling makes programs reliable, and where long-running repetitive tasks allow JIT technology all the time it requires to do an excellent optimization job.

    IBM is totally behind Java. It's not going anywhere, libre or not, and Sun is in a good position setting the standards. If I take off my own Free Software fanboy goggles for a minute, it's pretty clear there's no motivation for Sun to make Java free.

  • Nope (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Get Behind the Mule ( 61986 ) on Saturday February 14, 2004 @04:17PM (#8281346)
    I think ESR doesn't understand that there could be open-source implmentations of Java if only he wanted one (in fact, there are). The Java specs are public, and anyone can implement against them if they feel like it. In fact, this whole thing can be thrown back to ESR -- he has said that open source projects come into existence because someone somewhere needs to "scratch an itch". So if Eric has an itch, he's free to start scratching.

    Maybe he's talking about opening up the specs, but what would that mean exactly? There's good reason to say that it's happened already. Sun flirted with the idea of turning the specs over to a standards body some years ago, but it soon became clear that Microsoft would try to influence any such organization and bastardize the language. Remember, cross-platform portability is one of the highest-priority features of Java, the main reason it's interesting at all for Sun and many other players, but it's precisely what Microsoft most urgently would try to destroy. About the same time, Microsoft created a version of the JVM shot through with Windows dependencies and lacking some libraries they were required to implement, all in violation of the license, for which they were duly bitch-slapped by the courts (a set of facts that many Slashdotters curiously like to overlook). Sun learned the hard way that they couldn't go along with any standards process that could endanger cross-platform portability.

    So now there is the Java Community Process [], over which Sun has only limited control, and in which organizations such as the Apache Group participate. Arguably, this is at least as open as the standards processes for many open-source projects. Anyone can access the code to Apache software and the Linux kernel, for example, but only voting members of the Apache Group decide what goes into and out of Apache software, and essentially Linus and his lieutenants decide what goes into Linux. The JCP has its faults, but being strictly proprietary or less open than most of the open-source projects are not among them.

    Finally, I'd like to know the grounds for ESR's claim that Sun's alleged control of Java is "throttling acceptance of the language in the open-source community, ceding the field (and probably the future) to scripting-language competitors like Python and Perl." Java has one of the largest development communities in the world with lively activity among open-source developers -- think of Jakarta. And although Perl and Python developers tend to disintegrate into a blue rage when somebody says this, Java is the language of choice for a wide range of industry projects, including the most business-critical applications, and Perl and Python certainly are not. (Flame away if you like, flail against the windmills, rage impotently against the stubborn truth.) I think ESR's insinuation of a dim future for Java due to the displeasure of open source developers is just blowing smoke.
  • hmmm... why? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jonathanduty ( 541508 ) on Saturday February 14, 2004 @04:40PM (#8281494) Homepage
    Hmm... Lets see....

    Sun creates Java, releases it for almost all platforms. Then, they maintain it and allow other companies to produce products to sell and run with their standards for free(just look how many J2EE servers there are out there).

    Then, Sun goes a step further by creating a developer's network and allowing other developer networks to arise to further the advancement of java based products.

    On the otherside, Microsoft creats C#, sells it for a hell of a lot of money, and says it can only run on these platforms and by the way, all your previous VB stuff, throw it out, we don't care.

    Who cares if Sun wants to keep the source code, they have done a great job with Java and I only see good things in the future. Just because something isn't open source doesn't mean its not good. I love open source but some people in that world need to get over themselves and thank the companies (like Sun) that work so hard to provide us with tools. Where would organizations like the Jakarta organization be if Sun had not helped them so much.

    Kudos to Sun!
  • by EmilEifrem ( 11066 ) on Saturday February 14, 2004 @04:40PM (#8281495) Homepage
    What I do not understand is how Sun could let the Gnome opportunity slip!

    Sun announced several years ago that they would be standardizing on Gnome for their enterprise desktops. They have made significant contributions since then (let's not be fooled: none of these recent public sector / governmental success stories would have been possible without Sun's accessibility work). When they decided to go with Gnome, they already had a production JVM for Linux that equalled the Windows and Solaris (in that order) virtual machines in performance and stability.

    When they went with Gnome, Microsoft had long been banging the .NET / C# drum and Miguel had allocated his devoted team of Mono hackers at Ximian with the explicit intent of bringing a modern programming language, C#, to Linux and integrate it tightly with Gnome.

    And Sun does nothing! This is an impossible equation to me:

    • Sun hates Microsoft above all.
    • The biggest threat from Microsoft is .NET and C#. [1]
    • Therefore, Sun hates .NET and C# above all.
    • Sun wants to push Gnome as the desktop platform of the future.
    • There's a big movement within Gnome to make .NET and C# the ubiquitos programming environment in Gnome.
    • Therefore, Sun will push a desktop platform which at its core[2] will have Mono and C#.

    1] Because it invades Sun's most priced asset: the Java and J2EE mindshare.
    2] Maybe not technically, at least not yet, but well in developer mindshare.

    I don't understand how Sun can let this happen. That's where Java should be! Everything is prepared: all underlying frameworks are in place (industrial-strength JVM on Linux, the new GTK Swing LF, some native Gnome/GTK-Java integration already works [], JVM sharing in the pipeline), it's a great way to bring Java to the desktop masses (without having to go through a hostile monopoly) and if Sun doesn't do it, very soon every one will be using their shiny "Java Desktop Systems" to build GTK# applications in .NET on top of Mono.

    So I say to Sun:

    • Let Java free! You will never get full community and Gnome acceptance until you do.
    • Allocate tons of resources to integrating Java with Gnome! And we want real bindings, a buggy Swing Look and Feel is not enough! When a developer sits down to build a Gnome app, they should want to use Java because it's so easy and powerful and well integrated.
    • Let people use gcj, GCC's Java-to-native compiler, to produce native binaries from their Java Gnome apps, they're already building for one desktop so screw Write-Once-Run-Anywhere!
    • Make your client JVM so good that there's no need to. You're almost there already, most Java apps are today equal to or faster than their C/C++ counterparts on the server side. If Swing hadn't been such a hog and you could tweak that JVM startup time some more, no one would notice the difference on the client-side either.
    This may slow down Microsoft's emerging dominance on the free desktop and make that "Java Desktop" brand of yours more than just a PR move.


  • by delmoi ( 26744 ) on Saturday February 14, 2004 @04:49PM (#8281540) Homepage
    God what an idiotic article. Lets just look at a few issues, OK?

    The open-source community has been hearing reports that you have recently said of Sun Microsystem's strategy "The open-source model is our friend". We're glad to hear that, and Sun's support of certainly puts some weight behind the claim. But that support is curiously inconsistent, spotty in ways which suggests that Sun is confused in the way it thinks about and executes its open-source strategy.

    Oh, I see. So if you want to be our "Friend" that means you have to move lock-step with us and everything you do must benefit us.

    Open Office is a huge boost to the Open Source community. It's one of the most powerful weapons in the "war" against Microsoft that a lot of us seem to be emotionally invested in. It provides a real alternative to MS office and a way for business to move away from windows.

    But ESR seems to think that to be a "friend" of the open source movement, everything you do must benefit it. And of course, if you don't, you must be "confused." Apparently ESR views the Open Source community as a sort of single-minded Totalitarian regime lead by him, in which any decent is labeled "confusion."

    But the casual equation between "open source" and "zero revenue" suggests that on another level you don't really know what you're talking about. Open source is hardly a zero-revenue model; ask Red Hat, which had a share price over triple Sun's when I just checked. Or ask IBM, which is using Linux as a lever to build a huge systems-integration business in markets like financial services that Sun has historically owned.

    Okay, share price. Great. As if that isn't a totally meaningless indicator. Why didn't ESR look at market cap, or revenues? Oh yeah, because then RH wouldn't be "bigger". Ever heard of a stock split? How are shares of the company who's board you're on, VA Software, doing? I see you provided them a lot of good advice.

    If Sun were prepared to go all the way with open source it could seize back its position of industry leadership. Sun is one of a small handful of companies that would both have the smarts and the street cred to do even better than IBM has from a full-fledged alliance with the open-source community.

    Of course, as we all know, street cred == money. Please. And how does IBM have a "full commitment to open-source."? They still sell proprietary software, along with contributing to OSS last I checked.

    when Bill Joy came to a Linux conference to push Jini as a universal network-service protocol, we in the open-source community told him straight up "You can have ubiquity or you can have control. Pick one." He picked control, and Jini failed in its promise. The contrast with NFS could hardly be more stark.

    This is the best part. So the OSS community's huge sway with OEMs prevented Jini from being implemented in lots of imbedded hardware. Right. It also prevented OSS's great nemesis from flourishing. Oh wait.

    There are a lot of reasons why Jini failed, and anyone claming to know exactly what "went wrong" is out of their mind. It may not have succeeded even if it were an open standard.

    Today, the big issue is Java. Sun's insistence on continuing tight control of the Java code has damaged Sun's long-term interests by throttling acceptance of the language in the open-source community, ceding the field (and probably the future) to scripting-language competitors like Python and Perl.

    Uh yeah. The vast majority of programmers pick the tool they like, and most people in the OSS community use Python because it's a fun programming language that's easy to write (same with Perl, although I kind of think most people it because 'that's what they know') . Most large OSS projects still use C++, and lots of projects are written in Java. I think the percentage of OSS projects that chose a language based on political issues is pretty damn small. Hell, there are probably
  • by bsdcow ( 743021 ) <gilbertf@netbsd-fr. o r g> on Saturday February 14, 2004 @05:08PM (#8281677) Homepage

    i am mainly a C user but i tried java years ago when i was using a Mac and i have kept an eye on Java since. my problems with it and how Sun behaves are :

    1. the claimed "portability" of Java

    i think this is a fine joke. a java program has portability trouble across different JRE on the same processor and OS. dont even try to think of this about different processors or even various operating systems. the high deniability of people when you tell them about this tells a lot of the inner problems of Java : axioms you are not allowed to discuss even if everything shows there's something wrong.

    let's get an exemple. you can install NetBSD 1.6.1 and in its kernel you have compatibility options that allow you to use binaries compiled on previous versions of NetBSD like a binary coming from ten years ago, compiled on NetBSD 0.9

    how can i be able to run BINARY code that is ten years old on a machine, and not be able to run Java bytecode on the same machine with two different JRE properly ?

    i can even grab a binary for a proprietary unix system years and years ago and have it run... so we are able to run today programs from machines whom are no longer available and that existed before Java even came to birth.

    2. Writing non-portable code using Java

    Java is said to be impossible to be used to write non-portable programs. fine. so why does the applet that works fine under Internet Explorer and Windows doesn't work on a Macintosh under MacOS or MacOS X ?

    3. Standards

    C is a standard. We had the ANSI C that was followed by ISO C and more recently the C99 which GCC supports. So if you write code relatively cleanly it will get compiled (sometimes with a few fixes) on weirdo platforms. C should suck compared to Java about portability. So a few monthes ago why did I run into so much trouble to try to run Freenet ? It has been written using Java so it would be as portable as possible. But when you try to run it with JRE A it doesn't work so you move to JRE B but you get even worse problems so you try another JRE... Excuse-me ?!

    While in the same time we got programs written in C that can be compiled on Linux, BSD, Windows, HP-UX, AIX across a dozen different kind of processors. We could be able to find rpm, debian packages, Free/Net/Open's entries in their respective Ports/pkgsrc...

    NetBSD 1.6.1 released in august 2003 runs on 52 different architectures, with 17 disctinct hardware architectures and 11 different processors and it's mainly based on C code. The beauty of it ?

    If I find a PCMCIA card and write a device for it, it will also mean that if you got a Zaurus (which runs a different archictecture and processor as the i386 I could have used to write a PCMCIA driver) you can plug the PCMCIA card and have it work. It means that if you install NetBSD on a Mac and it has a PCI port, you can plug a x86 supported card and have it work while you have no driver for that very same card available under both MacOS and MacOS X.

    I'm not saying that C is the answer but that proper design and continuous work can achieve great results. Linux is also available on an incredible number of platforms, probably even more than NetBSD currently has from small cards with tiny processors to big 8-way monster machines.

    Last, let me reproduce the words of someone from Advogato [] about this, dej [] who says :

    The only real problem with Java is that it is proprietary.

    I cannot legally use Java in any way, without giving Sun the ability to impair my business. This does not hold true for C++.

    The license that accompanies the JRE you can download from Sun gives you the right to use it to test your own applications. It does not give you the right to run other people's applications arbitrarily. I suppose you can buy a JRE from Sun for this purpose. But then Sun controls

    • by iapetus ( 24050 ) on Saturday February 14, 2004 @06:57PM (#8282294) Homepage

      i think this is a fine joke. a java program has portability trouble across different JRE on the same processor and OS.

      Can have portability trouble. If this is a problem for you, you can use the old JRE, and things will work well - the equivalent of using a special compatibility layer within NetBSD, IMO. You're comparing apples to oranges here: if nothing changes in the supporting layer, there is no chance of breakage (or more breakage than you had in the first place). If something changes, the chance goes up. Well duh - no surprise there.

      Against that, Java (in my experience) does a better job of running across hardware platforms and JRE versions than C does. As part of my current job I've had to run the same code on Windows 2000, Windows XP, Linux and Solaris boxen, using JREs from 1.3.1 to 1.5 (well, I didn't have to try 1.5, but I wanted to know...) and it worked fine everywhere. I can guarantee this won't happen with your C binaries.

      As long as you don't expect miracles, Java pretty much lives up to the promises of 'Write Once, Test Everywhere'. And more often than not, for the vast majority of code I've worked with, it really has managed to be 'Write Once, Run Anywhere' - or at least anywhere I've needed to. YMMV, especially depending on what sort of app you're writing.

      Java is said to be impossible to be used to write non-portable programs.

      Possibly, but only by people who are wrong. Sun certainly never claimed that, nor did anyone who knows what they're talking about when it comes to Java. The rantings of the clueless should never be held against a language, or we'd never get any code written.

      C is a standard. We had the ANSI C that was followed by ISO C and more recently the C99 which GCC supports. So if you write code relatively cleanly it will get compiled (sometimes with a few fixes) on weirdo platforms.

      Provided you don't want to do anything complex, like have a GUI, I believe.

      The license that accompanies the JRE you can download from Sun gives you the right to use it to test your own applications. It does not give you the right to run other people's applications arbitrarily.

      Not by my reading of it, though IANAL. "Sun grants you a non-exclusive, non-transferrable, limited license without license fees to reproduce and use internally Software complete and unmodified for the sole purpose of running Programs." The supplemental license terms extend that allowing developers to redistribute the JRE with their own code under additional constraints and has a reference to use of the code for development and testing, but AFAICT it doesn't supercede your right to use the license for running programs as defined in the main body of the license.

      When it comes to terminating the license, you actually have more rights than Sun do - you have the ability to terminate it just because you want to, which they do not reserve for themselves.

      Perhaps your source is getting confused and reading the license agreement for beta software (such as the new 1.5 early access release) which I believe is only available for testing. Which is what betas are normally for anyway.

      If Sun does not free their Java as C or C++ or various other languages are free to use and build upon, it will remain in its niche sadly.

      In very much the same way, if Microsoft doesn't free up their Windows as Linux or NetBSD are free to use and build uppon, it will remain in its niche. I'm sure they don't cry themselves to sleep at nights over that, though.

      Don't get me wrong - I'd love to see Java as an open standard in a real way, provided it didn't just open things up for Microsoft to do a demolition job on it. It would be my preferred way for the language to go, for a variety of reasons which others have probably explained in g

  • by -tji ( 139690 ) on Saturday February 14, 2004 @05:09PM (#8281686) Journal
    How can this yahoo keep getting press? Why does anyone think that having him as the self appointed mouthpiece for Open Source would be a good thing?

    All of his writings show a distinct lack of depth. He has a superficial understanding of most topics he writes on, and quickly exposes that fact. I'll give him the benefit of the doubt in Unix/Linux/Coding. But, beyond that he should STFU.

    As an example, check out the ill-advised, simplistic, racist ramblings from his blog: []

    In the Java essay, he exposes the fact that he has no clue about business financials by comparing the share price of Sun & Red Hat. Anyone who has invested at all knows this is meaningless.. A company with 1M shares @ $100 is worth a lot less than a company with 1B shares @ $33.

    So please, ignore the troll and he'll go away.
    • by DesScorp ( 410532 ) <> on Saturday February 14, 2004 @06:06PM (#8282036) Homepage Journal
      "How can this yahoo keep getting press?"

      Because he has friends in the right places. Like here. Rest assured, whenever ESR posts a public statement, Slashdot will do its part to make sure it gets as much publicity as possible.

      "Why does anyone think that having him as the self appointed mouthpiece for Open Source would be a good thing?"

      Good question, considering the track record of his predictions (specifically, his Microsoft predictions).

      "In the Java essay, he exposes the fact that he has no clue about business financials by comparing the share price of Sun & Red Hat. Anyone who has invested at all knows this is meaningless"

      Ok, so he doesn't know what he's talking about. That's never stopped him before.

      I've got a belief that the open source movement (and free software movement) is sometimes more of a religious movement than a technology or community movement. We have our established dogmas, even when they're bullshit. And all it takes for some moron to get mucho press is to find a writer that will refer to him as "an open source community leader". Like other so-called "community leaders" (especially in religion) there doesn't seem to be any real qualifications except for a big ego and a drive to promote yourself. Make no mistake, folks. We have plenty of Al Sharptons in our own ranks.

  • by DavidinAla ( 639952 ) on Saturday February 14, 2004 @05:13PM (#8281711)
    Memo to the banks:

    Set the money free. We want to be given what isn't ours. ;-)
  • Free Java (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ajs318 ( 655362 ) <`sd_resp2' `at' `'> on Saturday February 14, 2004 @05:23PM (#8281781)
    I have never got along with the whole object-oriented thing anyway -- I'd rather tell the computer how to process the data, than tell the data how to let the computer process it. Assembly language will always be free, of course; but not everybody thinks in the same way, and learning a programming language can be as big a job as actually writing a programme in it.

    Java really is as close as it gets to open source without being open source -- and it still isn't close enough. There is also the question of whether Java would have matured so well without someone keeping a tight rein over it. Sometimes you have to protect your little ones while they are growing -- but you have to realise that the thing about children is that they eventually grow up and learn to live without you. Sun once has a lot to lose by opening the Java source, but today it has far less to lose in doing so. There soon will be "clean" Java interpreters that contain no Sun code anyway, and the choice for Sun will be whether to free up Java or break it.

    But there is always the option of multiple-licencing. Sun's licence restrictions -- particularly the bit about not distributing competing products -- are there deliberately to keep Microsoft from spoiling Java. What if some Linux vendor were to negotiate a separate licence from Sun, permitting them to distribute Sun's Java interpreter ready-to-go with and their Web browser?

    Their distribution probably would be "tainted" and not freely redistributable in its entirety {thus introducing logistical difficulties, but not insurmountable ones}; but at least it would give Sun a toe in the waters of open source.
  • by carlfish ( 7229 ) <> on Saturday February 14, 2004 @07:57PM (#8282645) Homepage Journal
    ESR, once more, is publicity-whoring on a subject he either knows nothing about, or chooses to be deliberately ignorant of. Any [] brief [] perusal [] of the [] Java [] scene [] will uncover an enormous amount of Open Source work going on, some of it very high quality. (And much less so, of course, but that's the same all over).

    What ESR really means is that there's a lack of adoption of Java from Unix/C programmers. This has nothing whatsoever to do with whether Java is Open Source or not, and everything to do with the perception amongst such programmers (whether deserved or not), of the Java language itself. People don't choose Perl, Python or Ruby over Java because the former are open source. People choose them because they prefer using the scripting languages.

    I have this feeling that Scott McNealy isn't sitting there thinking "Damn, I guess if we totally cede control over this language, all those Unix nerds who hate Java anyway are going to drop their copies of Python and come rushing to embrace us!"

    Charles Miller

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