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Jikes Open-Source Issues... a report from OSI

The OSI has sent us a report on the Open Source discussions they had with IBM. What's cool is that the opening-up of the Jikes Parser has been discussed, which would make Jikes more open, and provide a tool with better error correction capabilities than Yacc/Bison. The report is below, so people know what the fuss is about. update Dave Shields updated us on events at his end. There's a nice hacker anecdote at the end.
" IBM staff and I discussed the Jikes license in a conference call on December 10. I brought up all of the problem areas that I found and that people on the net communicated to me, even those that would not effect whether or not Jikes complies with the Open Source(TM) Definition.

They said that some of the license problems are not their intent and expressed a willingness to clear them up. They say they are working on making the parser generator Open Source. Their concerns are not giving away IBM's entire patent portfolio to large companies who incorporate a single line of Jikes in their software, and not fragmenting the Java language. They are going to get more community feedback for several weeks through a Jikes-license mailing list, and they will need some time to discuss what they are doing and to prepare licenses.

Their attorney warned that licenses get longer when you try to make them "friendly" by avoiding legal jargon, but he accepted that the programmers who would contribute to Jikes should not have to consult a lawyer for interpretation before they mail in a patch.

The list of topics I brought up is attached to the end of this announcement. If you want to bring up other topics or discuss these, IBM is creating a Jikes-license discussion forum.

Bruce Perens

By order of the Open Source Initiative Board

Things I brought up:

0. Title: Need a (TM) after "Open Source".

1. Definitions:

Definition of licensed code is over-restrictive in that it limits the license to Java 1.1 compilers.

2. Grant of Rights:

* Paragraph one, the copyright license, appears to restrict the distribution of modified works to the point that those rights are granted _only_ by paragraph two, the patent license. This is because the words at the end of the paragraph, "the Program as distributed by IBM", belong after "prepare derivative works of" and not where they are in the paragraph. This increases the effect of the 60% language in paragraph two to effect the copyright license as well as the patent license.

* Paragraph two last sentence is unparseable and appears to negate the rest of the paragraph.

* Paragraph three last sentence is unparseable and appears to negate the rest of the paragraph.

* Paragraph four gives right to terminate due to any intellectual-property suit at all, even one not related to Jikes or the patents used in Jikes.

5. Termination:

Too broad. Potential for termination due to any frivilous claim exists. There should be a possibility to terminate an individual contribution because of a valid claim without causing all contributions and IBM's initial grant to terminate. IBM should lose right to contributions if it terminates. Is there the possibility of a Contributor losing a significant investment that they have made in Jikes modification in case of termination?

Parser generator: Parser generator used to build Jikes is not Open Source. "

And Dave's report

Jikes News: 11 December 1998

Phone call with Bruce Perens re Jikes License, Jikes Parser Generator

I was a participant in a conference call with Bruce Perens yesterday, along with an IBM manager and attorney. In the words of diplomacy, "It was a frank and open exchange". We discussed Bruce's concerns about the Jikes License and also the question first raised by the Debian group about releasing the source for the Jikes Parser Generator.

At the end of the call, Bruce said he would prepare a report on the call and submit it to slashdot. He graciously offered to send us a preliminary copy for our review. We declined, as we trusted his judgment. We also said we would not write our own report, lest confusion result from two reports trying to relay the same news.

Jikes Mailing Lists

I apologize for the delay in setting up the Jikes mailing lists, and I appreciate the support of slashdot and LinuxToday in posting my notes on their sites, so I could honor my pledge to have all discussions in "full public view".

I ordered a new 6 gig disk for the server machine (100 Mhz Pentium, 32MB memory) a few weeks ago. I had two 1 gig disks. A colleague suggested I should wait for new disk to arrive, as what I had might not suffice to manage the mail lists. The disk arrived yesterday morning. I had a lot of meetings that day, but did find the time to install the disk and did a fresh install of RedHat 5.2.

I've asked for some help in setting up the system. Though I've used Unix for almost two decades, I've hardly ever had the opportunity to log in as root. Indeed, I'm still such a newbie in this area that when I log in as root I still feel a rush -- it's like sitting in a Ferrari and putting the pedal to the metal. Away we go!

Unfortunately, I have proven very adept at doing a great deal of ecological damage to a pristine Linux landscape in a short time. My specialty is reducing /etc/aliases to rubble -- think of the oft-shown TV footage of an old building being demolished by a few pounds of dynamite.

I've asked for help doing things right, and hope it will arrive soon. If not, I'll steam on and promise to be more careful. I will make a best effort to be able to accept subscriptions early next week.

The Jikes Coupon

I drive my daughter Jennifer to school every morning. Ever since the start of the school year, she's been the object of a constant flood of news and concerns about releasing the Jikes source code. She has always been a rapt listener; indeed, I boasted to a friend recently that my daughter was "THE world export in open source licensing issues in the 14-and-under age category".

We both share the same birthday -- December 8. My favorite present was a set of six Jikes Coupons. Here is the text of a Jikes Coupon:

Jikes Coupon Value: 10 Minutes

This coupon entitles David Shields to 10 free minutes of Jennifer's undivided attention to talk about Jikes or whatever he sees fit. During this time, Jennifer may not think or say in any way, "Oh, gosh, here he goes again." Even phrases such as, "We're playing with the big boys" will be tolerated with a pleasant nod and smile.

I realized that I had mistaken a pleasant node and smile for keen interest and concern. However, I have learned a valuable lesson and it forms the basis of my new policy when asked about open source licensing issues.

While I had a role in drafting the Jikes License, now that it is out it has become the responsibility of the IBM attorneys, and only they have the authority to effect changes to it. My making statements about it, especially misdirected efforts to interpret it, can only lead to confusion. So from now on, when asked to speak about these matters my response will be silent and simple -- a pleasant nod and a smile.

I have great confidence in our attorneys. I know they want to do the right thing. I have found them to be quite pleasant, and have even seen them smile from time to time.

Congratulations to Rob Malda

I know that all fellow members of the slashdot community join me in congratulating Rob Malda on completing the work for his undergraduate degree. Sengan informs me Rob is getting a B.S. in Computer Science, and also a B.A. (or perhaps minor) in the Arts. I regret that I do not know the name of his college. I know he is eager to resume hacking.

Newest Member of the Jikes Team: Vadim Zaliva

We posted the source for Jikes at 1PM EST on Monday, December 7th. I received an e-mail the same day 9:13 PM from Vadim Zaliva ( that included a patch file. He also posted the patch in the "Discussion Area" for Jikes Source at the alphaworks site.

Philippe is on vacation, and I didn't get a chance to speak to him after we published the source until late Wednesday afternoon. He asked me if I had seen the patch at alphaworks. I said I had gotten an e-mail but hadn't had time to look at. He said he was "flabbergasted". Though the patch contains only a few lines, it shows a good understanding of much of the compiler structure. I view this as our first success story, and I am sure there are more to come; I view it as a joint tribute to Philippe's design and Vadim's demonstrated skills.

At the end of the call, we had the following exchange:

Philippe: Dave, this guy is good. Think he could come work with us?

Dave: Philippe, he already is working with us -- and for free!

I asked Philippe to report in full on the technical knowledge displayed, but he has some personal business, and I have gone ahead here, as I did not want to delay recognizing Vadim's work. We are pleased to welcome him aboard as the first contributor to join our project since we released the source (there are other contributors I wish to name for work done before we released the source, and I'll try to provide details on our web site early next week).

It's hard to express a "pleasant nod and a smile" over the internet. It's also hard to express a hand shake. My daughter Jen designed a great masthead for the Jikes web site using a masthead design tool built by Chet Murthy and others (Chet is the guy who used to do the libc5 builds -- I told him he had done his last build late last week). Unfortunately, IBM requires a uniform look-and-feel on its web pages, and I am not able to use her work, though I will put up a copy elsewhere on the Jikes web site soon, and am enclosing a copy of it along with this note, and hope that slashdot and LinuxToday can find a way to display it as a sign of welcome -- both to Vadim and to all the future contributors that I expect to meet soon via the Jikes mail lists.


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Jikes Open-Source Issues... a report from OSI

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