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Open source Java? 341

Posted by Zonk
from the open-source-that-wakes-you-up-in-the-morning dept.
Bruce writes "Newsforge is reporting that Java 2 Standard Edition, may soon be set free of Sun Microsystems' notoriously complicated licensing. A group of 12 Apache developers have put together a proposal called Harmony. The proposal appeared as a simple project call last Friday on an Apache incubator mailing list. It would make this new, built-from-the-ground-up version of Java available under the Apache 2.0 free software license. And it's causing quite a stir in the Java community, especially since respected Sun frontmen Tim Bray, Simon Phipps, and Graham Hamilton have given the project their blessing. As yet there has been no reaction from Dr. Java, James Gosling himself, who is in Brazil talking to developers. In a FAQ on the Apache site, Harmony project leader Geir Magnusson Jr. wrote: 'We believe that there is broad community interest in coming together to create and use an open source, compatible implementation of J2SE 5, the latest version of the Java 2 Standard Edition specification. While the Java Community Process has allowed open source implementations of JSRs for a few years now, Java 5 is the first of the J2SE specs that we are able to do due to licensing reasons.'"
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Open source Java?

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    • Nah, not really. A lot has happened arounf the Harmony project in the last week, and the articles linked in the story gives a decent summary.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 15, 2005 @04:59PM (#12537808)
    That there was an open source java project already, BlackDown. I fail to see what the big deal is here really, and arn't the Java standards open anyways and anybody could just write up an open JVM/Compiler? I mean nothing is stopping anybody on /. (or in the world) from writing say their own C Compiler, or Lisp compiler, or their own Virtual machine software, once you know the hardware of the target system it shouldn't be complicated to get a "working" emulation/compiler. Now for performance you would probably be better off using an existing solution, but thats why we have Sun's Compiler.
  • Dupes Ahoy! (Score:5, Informative)

    by jalefkowit (101585) <jason@jasonlefko ... net minus author> on Sunday May 15, 2005 @04:59PM (#12537810) Homepage

    I liked this story better when it was posted a week ago [slashdot.org].

    C'mon, "editors". This has to be getting embarrassing. Right?

  • by jgarzik (11218) on Sunday May 15, 2005 @04:59PM (#12537814) Homepage
    gcj is getting pretty close. It sports a full virtual machine, and implements large swaths of awt and swing.

    Why start from scratch? It this simply because the Apache folks don't like the GPL?

    • by k98sven (324383) on Sunday May 15, 2005 @05:36PM (#12538060) Journal
      Why start from scratch? It this simply because the Apache folks don't like the GPL?

      Actually it hasn't been decided if they will start from scratch yet. They might adopt an existing VM. They might adopt the GNU Classpath class library.

      The discussions on checking up the inevitable licensing issues are already underway.
  • Quite a stir? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 15, 2005 @05:03PM (#12537834)
    I think this "quite a stir in the community" is wishfull thinking. The Java community at large doesn't care much about an open source Java. People want to or have to write code, not fighting holy OSS wars.

    This is a home-made a storm in a teacup. There is already an initiative to create a free Java: GNU GJC. And no one cares about it. The Apache people are just running some propaganda now, but it will be forgotten in a few weeks.
    • Re:Quite a stir? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by m50d (797211) on Sunday May 15, 2005 @05:25PM (#12537985) Homepage Journal
      The Java community at large consists of people who don't care about open source java precisely because there is no (good) open source java. There's a pretty huge sample bias there.
      • Re:Quite a stir? (Score:3, Informative)

        by radish (98371)
        Speaking as a member of the Java community, the reason I don't care about an OS Java (beyond the "oooh neat" factor) is simply that I don't need one. I write Java for work, we need a stable, supported platform to run our apps on. Linux is _just_ getting to where it's useful for us, which is great. Java is there and has been for years. It doesn't cost us anything to run it, we get support, it works. Why again should we replace it?
        • Re:Quite a stir? (Score:3, Insightful)

          by m50d (797211)
          Exactly. But the point is if you didn't feel that way, you wouldn't be using java. Which means it's stupid to talk about the community not caring, because the people who do care, like me, are naturally not a part of the community. Who knows how many more people would be using java if it were open source? You certainly can't tell just by asking the current java community.
    • by btarval (874919) on Sunday May 15, 2005 @07:16PM (#12538771)
      You may well be right for PCs and Servers. But frankly, the current licensing scheme of Sun's Java is really getting in the way in the embedded space.

      What typically happens is that some company has a neat idea for an embedded device. But they quickly find that the Java applications they want there won't fly because Java isn't supported on the hardware they were planning to use. They either have to fall back to a different CPU (which is usually more expensive), or pay a lot just to put Java on the CPU. Or go with C/C++ for their applications.

      x86 and PPC are simply not the entire embedded world. There are many other superb (and cheaper) solutions out there, in this space. And no, Java support is far from prevalent on MIPS processors, despite what MIPS might try to claim. I know, as I've been there.

      Please keep in mind that there are far more embedded CPUs around than there are PCs or Servers. So there is a clear need for Java, if it were available in this space. But it's not. gcc however, usually is, fortunately.

      If Java were indeed Open Sourced, it just might be as popular as gcc is in the embedded space. Until then, people in the embedded space have far more flexibility by going with C/C++ than with Java.

    • The Java community at large doesn't care much about an open source Java.

      The vast majority of users of any zero cost technology don't care if it's open source.

      While you may be correct about the Java community at large, I think you may be off the mark with respect to senior Java developers. I think a fair number of senior Java developers have, at least once or twice, had language recommendations coldly rebuffed by Sun (and, to Sun's credit, probably have had a few accepted through the JCP). Sun is renowned
    • Re:Quite a stir? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Tim C (15259) on Monday May 16, 2005 @02:42AM (#12540762)
      I've been a professional Java developer for 5 years now, and I completely agree. I have never, not once thought "if only Java were open source!". (For comparison, I first started using Linux nearly 8 years ago)

      I have no desire or need to change or add features, I have no desire or need to run it on unsupported OSes, and I have no desire or need to distribute it to third parties. I have no desire or, as far as I can see, need for Java to be open sourced.

      Your mileage my vary, of course, but for myself, I see no value in it.
  • ...what are the catches of Apache v2.0 license vs standard Free license like GNU?
  • Dupe, and why? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by m50d (797211) on Sunday May 15, 2005 @05:03PM (#12537842) Homepage Journal
    Why does this attempt get so much attention? There are plenty of existing attempts at getting a free java, why does apache feel the need to start a new one?
    • Re:Dupe, and why? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by mikaelhg (47691) on Sunday May 15, 2005 @06:15PM (#12538271)
      We don't just need a Open Source Java, we need a Open Source Java implementation fit for production use.

      To produce such a thing, we need a community of competent people committed to that goal. This is what other Open Source Java projects lack.

      To get such community going, one needs to communicate in a certain manner. This is what the Harmony people are now doing. The strenght of this project is, to me, that it has both excellent technical competence and competence in community management and in setting and achieving goals in a reliable manner.

      This attempt is getting so much attention because senior people who understand that there is more to life than mere technical details pay attention when people who have a track record in producing results, speak.
      • Re:Dupe, and why? (Score:3, Insightful)

        by killjoe (766577)
        What makes you think the people behind the current open source java projects are incompetent and not committed?

        What an insulting thing to say.
    • possibly because there are so many successfull apache jakarta projects.

      still doesn't warrant posting it twice, zonk is obviously having a bad day.
  • by Sv-Manowar (772313) on Sunday May 15, 2005 @05:05PM (#12537851) Homepage Journal

    Bringing open source Java runtimes to fruition should be an important step for open source java projects that are currently held back from entering distributions and packages because of this requirement. Also the requirement of Sun Java to use Java 5 on Linux (this situation may have changed..) would be a good thing to challenge.

    Having such a fundamental and established organization like the Apache project behind the effort should really aid & help to posture this effort within the wider open-source community.

  • by stevew (4845) on Sunday May 15, 2005 @05:06PM (#12537858) Journal
    What is interesting is that another project by this name got started during the QT is BAD days. Several developers started the "Harmony" project to replace the QT library with a GPL'd clone. Trolltech relicensing the library stopped this in it's tracks.

    Odd how history DOES repeat itself ;-)
  • Da Name (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Harmony, thats an interesting name. Its the same name that was used when QT was going to be replaced. Hum is Harmony going to be the name of the closed source killers?
  • Zzzzzz. Wake me up (Score:3, Insightful)

    by thammoud (193905) on Sunday May 15, 2005 @05:10PM (#12537890)
    when this topic dies down. As a Java developer for the past 7 years, can someone remind me as to how Java will benefit from being open source? Sun along with the JCP has done an incredible job in advancing the platform. Java is the number one development environment for business applications. Bar none.

    Why would someone encourage fragmentation and resource wasting ala KDE, Gnome and the gazzillions of Linux flavors is beyond me.

    Sun, keep up the great stwerdess of the Java platform.
    • by dmaxwell (43234) on Sunday May 15, 2005 @05:50PM (#12538141)
      Sun won't even take reasonable steps to allow distros to pre-install Java. Yes, it is simple for me to install Java after the fact. It is a legal licensing pain to distros to offer well integrated Java installs. That is one problem.

      The other problem is that only platforms that are directly important to Sun or IBM get full featured Java environments. Java on PowerPC Linux is still substandard. IBM makes a JVM availiable but you have to jump through hoops even as an end user to get it and you still don't have a browser plugin. An Open Source Java would be available on just about all platforms with equal functionality.
      • OK, this is the first substantive reason I've heard for spending years re-implementing what Sun and others have made reasonably available. Evidently Sun has not quite reconciled itself to playing in the OSS sandbox when it comes to Java, and they will probably have the jitters for a while yet while they figure out what exactly they're trying to sell.

        But aside from licensing holy wars, if the problem is that Java is hard to distribute w/ OSS, shouldn't the solution figure out how to pressure Sun or IBM int
        • if the problem is that Java is hard to distribute w/ OSS, shouldn't the solution figure out how to pressure Sun or IBM into distributing Java with OSS?

          People have been working on that problem for almost ten years, and no progress has been made. It's time for a different approach.
    • by MrDomino (799876) <mrdomino@gm[ ].com ['ail' in gap]> on Sunday May 15, 2005 @05:51PM (#12538149) Homepage
      As a Java developer for the past 7 years, can someone remind me as to how Java will benefit from being open source?

      Ever tried running Java on *BSD? It works to some extent, but it isn't pretty. Having an open implementation could mean that Java and Java Server Pages would become more widely accepted in servers running open systems.

    • by jyoull (512280)
      Cuz then those of us who use Java on Mac OS/X might finally have a faint chance of timely access to new Java releases, and JREs that aren't threaded thru with tripwires and platform-specific bugs that don't seem to be fixed very quickly.

    • As a Java developer for the past 7 years, can someone remind me as to how Java will benefit from being open source?

      By not giving excuses to rabid, open-source fundamentalist freaks to attack every worthwhile project that uses Java?
    • As a Java developer for the past 7 years, can someone remind me as to how Java will benefit from being open source?

      It's not whether it's open source or not, it's whether it can be shipped with an open source OS or not. Right now the biggest problem Java has is that when you get your BSD or Linux system set up, you can just click buttons in the installer and you're good to go.

      Unless the packages depend on Java, then you have to download Java from Sun's website (which can be really annoying when you're beh

  • Has Sun donated to the Apache foundation before (XML parsers ??)

    If they were trying to release source code as a seperate effort wouldn't the Apache group be a likely outlet ?

  • OpenOffice.org (Score:2, Insightful)

    by codergeek42 (792304)
    Perhaps a usable F/OSS Java implementation would quelch the OpenOffice.org 2.0 and Java issues...
    • Absolutely, except the problem is they use internal sun-only classes (sun.* packages), so no other JVM, even a completely standard-compliant one, can run OOo.
  • What about patents? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by unoengborg (209251) on Sunday May 15, 2005 @05:27PM (#12537990) Homepage
    Didn't Sun and Kodak have some patent dispute over Java a while ago where Kodak won. What risks would this Apache projects involve with respect to Kodak patents?
    • What risks would this Apache projects involve with respect to Kodak patents?

      The Kodak patent is so broad that it could be used to sue anyone using an object oriented programming language. It is not Java specific. Sun settled with a $92 million payment, Microsoft has taken a license.

      Unfortunately it seems to have survived a court test, so it will take a lot to get it declared ivalid. However most people believe that it should be because of prior art going back to the days of Simula.
  • Getting ridiculous (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Exaton (523551) <exaton@@@free...fr> on Sunday May 15, 2005 @05:31PM (#12538020) Homepage
    Zonk, you are an embarassement, an icon of shame for this website.

    You've been around long enough now. Time to start quickly checking /. archives before accepting news submissions.

    I hope you're really, really ashamed of the multiple editorial failures you're responsible for. Time to step up and do something about it, man ! No need to follow bad examples !

    And I choose not to go AC to say that.
  • Tell me please: Why should I, as an end user, download and use Apache's Harmony instead of using SUN's "real" Java. They are both "free" for me to obtain. In short, I wouldn't. I also believe that for software that requires Java, application developers will continue to direct users to http://java.sun.com/j2se/1.4.2/download.html [sun.com]. So there you go!
    • As an end user? No real reason why you should download one over the other. Ideally one will do as well as the other.

      However, if you're using Linux (most distros don't accept Sun's licensing) you won't have to do that, since a FOSS distro wouldn't have the same terms.

      If you're using an operating system which Sun's java doesn't support, you're plain out of luck. A FOSS JVM is more likely to be ported. And you can do it yourself if bad comes to worse.

      Lastly, having a second implementation avoids vendor loc
    • by damiangerous (218679) <1ndt7174ekq80001@sneakemail.com> on Sunday May 15, 2005 @05:49PM (#12538135)
      Tell me please: Why should I, as an end user, download and use Apache's Harmony instead of using SUN's "real" Java.

      Scenario 1: You as an end user wouldn't have to. It would be included with your operating system, which is not currently the case. If you have to seek one out you would probably seek out Sun's, but if your Linux distro came with Apache's you would just use it unless it was unsuitable in some way.

      Scenario 2: You develop Java apps. Right now you have to direct end users to another website (Sun's) and follow instructions found there to download and install Java. You could instead offer an install package that already includes Harmony.

      Scenario 3: You want to use Java on an unsupported machine. Right now you don't really have many options for running Java apps on PocketPCs, for example (Like my Jornada 568). An Open Source JVM would almost certainly be ported a wide variety of platforms (considering how many platforms have reimplementations like Waba attempted for them the demand is obviously there).

      • Scenario 1: You as an end user wouldn't have to. It would be included with your operating system, which is not currently the case. If you have to seek one out you would probably seek out Sun's, but if your Linux distro came with Apache's you would just use it unless it was unsuitable in some way.

        This would make sense except that Dell and HP already sell Windows machines with Sun's latest JVM installed by default. So more than likely an "end user" already has Java installed. If its linux well, the same

    • As end user, you aren't interested in Java per se, you are interested in applications. So, you want to run an application written in Java.

      Currently, the download is:

      "[download NOW] --- This program requires a Java Virtual Machine. You can obtain one from [SUN website]" and then several steps of separate install to get Sun J2SE working.

      This would look now like this:

      "This program requires a Java Virtual Machine. If you already have one, download [standalone version]. If you don't, or aren't sure, downloa
    • Why should I, as an end user, download and use Apache's Harmony instead of using SUN's "real" Java.

      As an end user... you won't have to go to anyone's website and accept a clickthrough license to download Harmony. It'll be there on your system, like Perl and bash are.
  • IBM connection (Score:4, Informative)

    by wrmrxxx (696969) on Sunday May 15, 2005 @05:41PM (#12538088)

    What makes this slightly interesting is the IBM connection:

    Geir Magnusson Jr. is a lead in the proposed Har mony Project

    Geir Magnusson Jr. is from Gluecode [codehaus.org], which IBM has acquired.

    If it weren't for that, I'd just say "yeah, whatever - it's just another JVM implementation."

    • by mparaz (31980)
      Geir Magnusson Jr. replies here [theserverside.com]:


      Apache Harmony has nothing to do with Gluecode. Gluecode focuses on Java application servers. It has nothing to do with J2SE implementations, and has no interest in J2SE implementations.
  • I don't get it... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mark-t (151149) <markt@@@lynx...bc...ca> on Sunday May 15, 2005 @06:21PM (#12538334) Journal
    People wine at Sun "Open Java... Open Java... Open Java...".

    And when they finally look at doing so, all I see people saying are things like "We already have GJC, you fuckers... we don't need you anymore".

    I just don't get it.

    • I don't care if they open Java at this point... I just want them to allow verbatim redistribution of their own j2se because I'm getting really tired of having to download the right version of Java separately from Sun's site when I need to set up Java-based packages on Open Source UNIX.

      That's what's more or less burned out whatever interest I ever had in Java. It's just another checkbox to slow down setting up a production system.
    • People wine at Sun "Open Java... Open Java... Open Java...".

      Those people are whiners anyway; they have no credibility.

      And when they finally look at doing so...

      You didn't understand the article correctly. Sun is still not planning to open source their VM.

      all I see people saying are things like "We already have GJC, you fuckers... we don't need you anymore".

      One benefit of open source is that it makes users independent from vendors. Not needing Sun is very important for some people.

      Apache made the p
  • Why ask why? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by rdean400 (322321) on Sunday May 15, 2005 @06:21PM (#12538335)
    The fact of the matter is that there are certain of Sun's terms that don't suit the business model or philosophy of other parties. Harmony will provide a way to provide a version of Java that is compatible with those interests.

    I'm a power user that doesn't need support for my operating system, so there's no reason to buy the boxed versions other than to provide financial support to the vendor or to acquire software the distribution is prohibited from providing for free download due to licensing restrictions -- like Java. It doesn't make sense to pay to get something free.

    Kaffe and GCJ don't cut it because they are not completely compatible to the spec and their performance is woeful compared to Sun's JVM, let alone JRockit or J9. This will provide a version of Java that distro vendors and others can bundle with their products on terms compatible with their licenses, business models, or other philosophical beliefs.
  • Geir Magnusson Jr. claims in the FAQ that "While the Java Community Process has allowed open source implementations of JSRs for a few years now, Java 5 is the first of the J2SE specs that we are able to do due to licensing reasons." Looking at the license files for the API specification of J2SE 5.0 versus J2SE v1.4.2, I'm not sure what the difference is. It seems to me that there is still a requirement that one implement every specified class, and only every specified class, and that one passes the TCK.
  • Thanks, Bill (Score:2, Offtopic)

    by Doc Ruby (173196)
    Another preposterous propaganda for Microsoft apologists: MS monopoly abuse forces their impotent competition to open their source to survive.
  • by shaitand (626655) on Sunday May 15, 2005 @11:13PM (#12539845) Journal
    Did anyone else read this as, "java gods declare sun evil, fork and establish new and open authority to replace them?"

    Something about the overall tone seemed to imply that they weren't just writing an implementation, but intended it to supercede Sun's closed implementation.

    Sounds good really.

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