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Oracle Open Source News

33 Developers Leave OpenOffice.org 500

Posted by Soulskill
from the onward-and-upward dept.
dkd903 writes "We all knew it would come to this, and it has finally happened — 33 developers have left OpenOffice.org to join The Document Foundation, with more expected to leave in the next few days. After Oracle acquired Sun Microsystems, OpenOffice.org fell into the hands of Oracle, as did a lot of other products. So, last month a few very prominent members of the OpenOffice.org community decided to form The Document Foundation and fork OpenOffice.org as LibreOffice, possibly fearing that it could go the OpenSolaris way."
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33 Developers Leave OpenOffice.org

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  • Re:Bravo.... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Lunix Nutcase (1092239) on Monday November 01, 2010 @02:10PM (#34093030)

    and its open source roots

    You mean except for the fact that its roots are the proprietary StarOffice suite?

  • by MightyMartian (840721) on Monday November 01, 2010 @02:11PM (#34093042) Journal

    You can blame your employer for this one. The open source community is just making sure an important project isn't shelved by Oracle.

  • Kudos to the devs. (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 01, 2010 @02:12PM (#34093058)

    Cheers for LibreOffice.

    I'm starting to wonder how Oracle survives as a company. It seems like they promote themselves as "The company that kills off software".

  • ... to X.org. Oh wait, that DIDN'T HAPPEN AT ALL.

    When was the last time you installed XFree86? When was the last time you heard of any X aside from X.org?

    Did you think it was just re-named? Heck no! Basically this exact same process occurred.

    This happens in the OSS world all the time. The firm backing a popular open source project gets bought, does not support the open source project, the other developers behind the project all leave, the new project is adopted by every major distribution and has huge success, while the original project dies a slow long death.

  • by Tharsman (1364603) on Monday November 01, 2010 @02:13PM (#34093068)

    Although that can be true for many OSS projects, I'd say this case in question is far from "someone not being too happy", we are talking about 22 developers right now going to the same project, along with the ones that already were there.

    Up to now I see no hints at LibreOffice going the crazy branching path. I would not rule it out, but for now I'll be testing LibreOffice, if I find it's as useful as OpenOffice then I'll be removing OO from my computers.

  • After OpenSolaris met its demise, plus Oracle's reputation in general, I think many of us (including myself and some former Sun employees that are friends of mine) have added not from Oracle or MS to the list. KOffice and WordPerfect seem to work just fine for me.

  • by MBGMorden (803437) on Monday November 01, 2010 @02:14PM (#34093084)

    Linux might have 300+ variations (probably more), but around 5 of them really matter. Heck when it really, really comes down to it, only 1 types matter for desktop usage: Debian-based or Redhat based. If you're not on one of those you're probably adept enough to make something besides your typical pre-packaged stuff work anyways.

    The same is true for almost any app. You're trying to twist a strength into a weakness. Many GOOD applications and operating systems have died over the years because the people running them were too stupid and/or stubborn to adapt. Open source gives the USERS the ability to take things in the direction they want if they disagree with the current controlling body.

    The fork from Xfree86 into xorg is the PERFECT example of a good fork. XFree86 wasn't doing much of anything, despite being one of, if not THE most important software product in the open source world. They split it, EVERYONE went to the fork, and life continued on quite happily.

    Would you prefer that we still be screaming at the Xfree86 guys to do something, praying that don't silently ignore us? If not, why is OpenOffice any different?

  • by spun (1352) <`moc.oohay' `ta' `yranoituloverevol'> on Monday November 01, 2010 @02:14PM (#34093092) Journal

    Why is 300 variations a problem? If the free market provided 300 different options in a market, economists would be lauding said market for providing customers with so much choice. Would we complain that efforts were being split 300 ways? Would we ask why we need 299 inferior versions of said product? No, we would not. When open source provides consumers with choices, people complain, and they do not even think about the hypocrisy of that position, as they would never complain about choice in a free market.

    Please explain how having 300+ variations of something impacts you personally in any negative way. And how in the world would you consider Linux or Open Office 'unfinished?'

    This is not merely a matter of a few people being disgruntled and splitting a project for trivial reasons. This is a mater of a fundamental difference between the corporate culture of Oracle and the culture of open source. You can't just buy yourself a seat in the clubhouse, Ellison. You need to play by our rules if you want to play with our toys. Otherwise, we will take them and go home, leaving you the box they came in.

  • by jedidiah (1196) on Monday November 01, 2010 @02:16PM (#34093120) Homepage

    > ...in no time, with 300+ variations. This is what I hate about OSS.

    No. You hate OSS because it doesn't come from Microsoft (or perhaps Apple).

    In truth, open standards should mean that it doesn't matter what "brand" I use.

  • by Anarke_Incarnate (733529) on Monday November 01, 2010 @02:17PM (#34093154)
    Sure....Tell that to the Xfree86 guys. xorg took over and almost everybody went toward it.
  • by Crudely_Indecent (739699) on Monday November 01, 2010 @02:17PM (#34093158) Journal

    Because choice is such a burden.

    Better to let the corporations decide what you need. Besides, Oracle has done a fine [zdnet.com] job [zdnet.com] with open source so far.

    I doubt ODF and OOo will have 300 variations. Likely 2, the outdated OOo variation that has Oracle's name on it which hasn't received an update since yesterday will fade into obscurity, and the ODF variation that enjoys a healthy development community.

  • by spiffmastercow (1001386) on Monday November 01, 2010 @02:20PM (#34093194)

    I don't mean to be ignorant or trollish, but isn't this a good thing for Oracle?

    Oracle wouldn't make any money out of Open Office and now ( or soon ) they will not have the burden of it.

    Yep, and that's exactly what Oracle thinks about everything they bought from Sun (aside from the patents they plan to use to sue Google). It just sucks for all of us peons is all.

  • Re:Unstable (Score:4, Insightful)

    by spun (1352) <`moc.oohay' `ta' `yranoituloverevol'> on Monday November 01, 2010 @02:23PM (#34093238) Journal

    How, exactly, have you been left high and dry? Do you not understand how open source works? Nobody can sell out. They can try, but this is what happens. The sell out has absolutely no power to coerce anyone else into selling out, and no power to block them from moving forward without him. For example, see, uh, this very story.

  • by gbjbaanb (229885) on Monday November 01, 2010 @02:23PM (#34093250)

    its not so bads - sure, things get forked all the time... but that's nearly always because of issues with the original organisation. Once forked, one thrives and the other withers away (usually the original, but then, you could say that was going to happen anyway - or the inpetus for the fork would never have ben there in the first place).

    Sometimes, the fork occurs for more political reasons than anything, but the forkers fail. Often that's becuase they had grand ideas that the original knew better than to implement, those overblown ideas being the reason the fork fails.

    So, really.. this is all a good thing,. The openness that allows forks simply offers a means for 'ownership' to continue with a group that will nurture the product.

  • by pak9rabid (1011935) on Monday November 01, 2010 @02:24PM (#34093266)

    I'm starting to wonder how Oracle survives as a company.

    Oh I dunno..maybe the $500 thousand they charge per company to run a few instances of their database software might have something to do with it?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 01, 2010 @02:29PM (#34093356)

    just like 300 variants of GCC and X, right?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 01, 2010 @02:30PM (#34093380)

    On the contrary, that is one of the great strengths of Free Software; you can't just buy out the owner and kill the project. If you cut off the head, it'll grow a new one. It won't wither and die unless it no longer has a will or reason to live - and since there is, as you say, still significant demand for a free, open-source, stable, cross-platform office productivity suite, the project as a whole will live on.

    Even prior to Oracle's recent acquisition of Sun, some were apprehensive about Oracle's reputation - whether deserved or otherwise - for destroying projects they buy out (MySQL is a rare exception, so far, but many are looking at PostgreSQL as a safety net just in case).

    The effect of a bad master is far worse than the effect of dilution. In the open-source world, all compatible projects can help each other, learn from each other, and grow from each others' work. Forks and derivatives can even help drive things forward when the pool becomes stagnant - look what EGCS did for GCC, for example.

    Given Oracle's recent vindication of its bad reputation by its switch to aggressively destructive tactics with OpenSolaris and Java, the community seems to feel unwilling to trust it any further with stewardship of an important project like OpenOffice.org.

    In short, right now, people trust Oracle about as little as MS, I'm afraid.

  • Re:Well... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by spun (1352) <`moc.oohay' `ta' `yranoituloverevol'> on Monday November 01, 2010 @02:33PM (#34093414) Journal

    Right, given Oracle ownership I'd say starting a fork is the safest option to keep the project alive at this point. But maybe Oracle will surprise us all and do the right thing. I doubt it.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 01, 2010 @02:39PM (#34093528)

    Just because there are 30 billion sound systems out there it doesn't mean you have to use them all (the ubuntu way), does it? I only use alsa and gstreamer here and I don't need anything else.

  • by cheesybagel (670288) on Monday November 01, 2010 @02:40PM (#34093538)

    There are two issues with Oracle. One is that they did not issue a clear statement shortly after the merger about which products would be sustained and cut, and shelved things without giving prior notice or indication of alternative strategy (one example of this is OpenSolaris). The other is that Larry Ellison does not seem to know how to play along with FLOSS developers. In fact Oracle use actively hostile tactics of buying out the competition and shriveling the R&D on it until the product becomes unviable. You only need to remember what happened to MySQL not so long ago.

    I have nothing against Oracle employees. I have known more than a few and some are even quite competent. But Larry is Larry.

  • by SplashMyBandit (1543257) on Monday November 01, 2010 @02:41PM (#34093546)
    Thanks for the disclaimer. What you're missing is that these people also want to use something that works *forever* (eg. no matter what Oracle chooses to do their contributions cannot be taken from them).

    With Oracle suing Google over 'Java' (actually Android, so Oracle don't have an open and shut case here) they are not really winnng the hearts and minds of the rest of the tech world.

    Oracle is currently damaging its own reputation in the eyes of the tech community. These people have long memories - look at how long the flaming of Microsoft endures no matter how many things Microsoft does to repair the damage. I'm afraid no amount of future PR budget will make up for Oracle's current attitude to the OS and Java ecosystem. Given that I am very fond of the platform independence of Java this is a great shame. I hope Oracle wakes up before they really ruin things both for themselves and for all the Javaphiles out there.
  • by dimeglio (456244) on Monday November 01, 2010 @02:41PM (#34093550)

    You make it sound like tech support and documentation people are not essential roles. I'd fire you right now for such a statement.

    Also, how many is that? 1%, 5%, 50% of the entire project??

  • Re:Bravo.... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Desler (1608317) on Monday November 01, 2010 @02:41PM (#34093558)
    Why do you assume that cheering for the demise of Java means you want .NET to take over? What's with this false dichotomy? Both are monster fail.
  • by poena.dare (306891) on Monday November 01, 2010 @02:43PM (#34093592)

    "...dilute any chance of completing the damn thing..."

    FOSS is a journey, not a destination!

  • by Bill_the_Engineer (772575) on Monday November 01, 2010 @02:43PM (#34093596)

    However, being honest and not a fan-boy it isn't that great for GUI apps.

    I disagree.

    Java is great for cross platform GUI apps. I can write a Java app and as long as I use Swing, I'm sure that the app will run on a different platform. You're blaming Java for Open Office's design decision to use "wizards". Wizards are not exclusively tied to Java. Sure Sun made a Swing library to make creating wizards easier, but so did Qt, and WxWidget.

  • by Angst Badger (8636) on Monday November 01, 2010 @02:44PM (#34093610)

    The really important thing here is not how many OO.o forks there are, it's that they all handle the same document formats properly. If that much is granted, then having many competing versions is a good thing. Not only will some of that competition result in improvements on all sides, but the variations will suit a larger set of users.

  • Re:Well... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Daniel Phillips (238627) on Monday November 01, 2010 @02:47PM (#34093642)

    will the free fork progress more than the Oracle fork?

    Yes, just as X.org eclipsed XFree86.org [xfree86.org]

  • by Anarke_Incarnate (733529) on Monday November 01, 2010 @02:50PM (#34093676)
    By that logic, then Red Hat is Yellow Dog, because they use YUM, and PCLinuxOS is Debian, even though they use .deb files on a Mandriva based OS. Package management similarities are not what make the core of the OS.
  • by keeboo (724305) on Monday November 01, 2010 @02:50PM (#34093678)
    Oracle survives (and well) thanks to PHBs who believe that Oracle's DB is the only one able to do the job.
  • by Angst Badger (8636) on Monday November 01, 2010 @02:53PM (#34093702)

    I've been trying to figure out if this is a strategy by Oracle, or a side-effect they don't really care about.

    It's a side-effect. Oracle isn't in the application software business. They wanted Sun because their OS and hardware are a good platform for their database, which is where their money comes from.

    Now, we know they want Java because they've invested a lot in it.

    They want Java because their primary commercial competitor, IBM, is heavily invested in Java, so it gives them a solid inroad to luring IBM's customers away and breaking compatibility with IBM's Java solutions. They just wanted MySQL just to kill it.

    There's nothing mysterious about Oracle's actions if you remember that they are here to sell their database software and associated services. That's how they made their billions, and that's how they plan to continue making more billions. Microsoft tries to compete with everyone on everything; Oracle is just aiming to absolutely dominate the database space. Everything else is useful or not in terms of that single-minded goal. OO.o and its development team are a total non-issue to Oracle. They're not in the office suite business, and it's entirely irrelevant to the database.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 01, 2010 @02:56PM (#34093736)

    Matched by none as a server side language? How about of all the server side languages I've used, there is not one I wouldn't choose over Java.

  • Re:Bravo.... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 01, 2010 @03:02PM (#34093830)

    Well, Sun purchased StarOffice because:

            "The number one reason why Sun bought StarDivision in 1999 was because, at the time, Sun had something approaching forty-two thousand employees. Pretty much every one of them had to have both a Unix workstation and a Windows laptop. And it was cheaper to go buy a company that could make a Solaris and Linux desktop productivity suite than it was to buy forty-two thousand licenses from Microsoft. (Simon Phipps, Sun, LUGradio podcast.)"

    And they wanted Solaris to be a more complete product as well. They chose the open-source license for OpenOffice because it best served their purposes. Buying something and open-sourcing it should be considered just as legitimate an "open-source root" as building it from scratch.

  • by Mongoose Disciple (722373) on Monday November 01, 2010 @03:10PM (#34093932)

    They are very essential roles (especially in the Open Source community, which is stereotypically bad at documentation), but the title says developers, and those roles are not developers.

  • by vlm (69642) on Monday November 01, 2010 @03:11PM (#34093964)

    I don't see that happening -- they have Google Docs, why would they compete with themselves?

    Step 1 Massage google docs and oo.org to have identical user interfaces, or at least as close as possible.

    Step 2 Then set up some sort of weird file sharing/syncing service between them so you'll have access and backups anywhere you have internet, or you can work locally on an airplane or in the boonies if necessary, perfectly transparently and reliably.

    Step 3 Charge a fee for business corporate accounts, maybe blur the issue with the use of encryption on the gdocs side for corporate sekrets. As long as its cheaper than the MS Office upgrade treadmill...

    Step 4 Profit. Big profit. Sure your development process is harder because you have more features, but you get at least some of it for free from the open source side.

  • Re:Well... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by jimicus (737525) on Monday November 01, 2010 @03:17PM (#34094040)

    Most of the LO guys were being paid by Sun. Unless The Document Foundation can get some serious money coming in, those guys are going to be seeking alternate day jobs sooner or later - and if they can't get jobs in a F/OSS friendly company developing LO, I imagine it'll be relegated to hobby and "when they have time".

  • Re:Well... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Andy Dodd (701) <atd7&cornell,edu> on Monday November 01, 2010 @03:21PM (#34094096) Homepage

    I think the question is - How much money is behind the fork? What status do the 33 that left have within the project? Are they smaller contributors or core devs?

    If most of those that are left are volunteer developers with little financial backing, it might not go as well as X.org did.

    In the case of X.org, it was founded by a number of core developers, many of whom had financial backing (primarily from distribution vendors), and it was a very short period of time before other distribution vendors and other companies depending on X "jumped in" and started pumping money in.

    The thing is that OO is not quite as core of a component as the X server is, so - will distro vendors and others pump as much financial backing into the project? Is as much financial backing needed?

  • by 0123456 (636235) on Monday November 01, 2010 @03:33PM (#34094270)

    Well, more seriously, the problem with Linux is the lack of a stable API.

    The problem with Windows is the stable API which they can't kill off because no-one would buy Windows if it didn't support proprietary binaries from 1990 that they still run. The benefit of Linux is that most software is open source, so the developers can throw away crappy old APIs whenever they become too cruddy to continue to support.

  • by unity100 (970058) on Monday November 01, 2010 @03:59PM (#34094604) Homepage Journal
    This will show what happens when you attempt to herd open source. It is like cats ; if they like it, they come. if they dont, there is no way in hell you can make them do what you want.
  • by BobMcD (601576) on Monday November 01, 2010 @04:15PM (#34094834)

    So you're merely arguing over the definition of the word, specifically using your own, rather than accepting the common use of it?

    That's fine, but you're kind of wasting time having not just said so in the very beginning.

    Linux is linux, which is not Windows. You're effectively saying that Windows 7 offered by Compaq and Vista offered by Dell are different Operating Systems. Again that's fine, but I'm not aware of anyone else who uses the terms in this manner. To the rest of us, in a discussion about platforms and their variants, those are examples of the Windows operating system. Their exact version and which exact binaries they were bundled with are just details.

    If I uninstall the Dell keybind utility for the f-keys, am I no longer using Windows 7? I simply don't use the term that way...

  • by hedwards (940851) on Monday November 01, 2010 @04:43PM (#34095132)
    MS and Oracle are sort of the extremes. More sanely run corporations look for a balance. Just look at Apple. They've diversified, but not put themselves in the position of being spread thin, which means that they can be a serious force in whatever space they enter, but not tied down if something changes significantly in one of their markets.
  • Re:Unstable (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Galestar (1473827) on Monday November 01, 2010 @05:01PM (#34095386)
    They can sell the brand and the name. The name is what users recognize, and building brand-awareness on LibreOffice is what will determine its success in the coming months.
  • by spun (1352) <`moc.oohay' `ta' `yranoituloverevol'> on Monday November 01, 2010 @05:03PM (#34095410) Journal

    I was hoping someone would bring up the paradox of choice, I even worded my post to encourage it. We are all afraid of suffering the buyer's remorse, and the more choices we have, the more likely we are to make the wrong one, and end up wishing we had made a different choice. Being able to choose your own life path out of billions of possible ways of being human is satisfying, and an expression of free will. Having to choose one out of thirty nearly identical brands of ketchup is annoying, not satisfying, and not really an expression of free will at all.

    Tat being said, I don't think this fork really counts as being 'too much choice.' The fork in this case is the only choice. Anyone familiar with open source will see that.

  • Re:Well... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by MrSenile (759314) on Monday November 01, 2010 @05:10PM (#34095496)

    Only if the 'right thing' is Oracle looking back to find any and all possible copyright and intellectual property tags that could possibly be attached to the openoffice product, making a cease and desist, then releasing their new OracleOffice for profit.

    That would be the 'right thing' in Oracle's eyes.

    Oh wait, you were talking from the eyes of the consumer.

    Funny, all I see from the eyes of the consumer is my own ankles as I bend over..

  • Re:Well... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by spun (1352) <`moc.oohay' `ta' `yranoituloverevol'> on Monday November 01, 2010 @05:28PM (#34095744) Journal

    That's exactly right, that is what Oracle would do, and why they will fail. Come after us with IP lawyers? Yeah, uh, we got that covered, no problem. Oracle does not understand open source, so they will come after OO as if it were a for profit they were trying to kill. That is what they understand. It also won't work. In the end, all they will end up doing is pissing off the smart people. Oh well, it is not as if Oracle had any standing with smart people to begin with...

  • Re:Well... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Mitchell314 (1576581) on Monday November 01, 2010 @06:34PM (#34096428)
    I'd bet on both
  • Re:Well... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by TheRaven64 (641858) on Monday November 01, 2010 @06:48PM (#34096544) Journal
    X.org was a fork done by the people who were developing XFree86, which was controlled by people who were no longer contributing code (one of the steering committee wasn't even using *NIX anymore, let alone XFree86). Last time I checked, 80% of all OO.o contributions were from people paid by Sun. Unless these people are all leaving Oracle and being hired by someone else to work on OO.o, the project may not have enough momentum for a fork to survive as anything other than a patch set applied on top periodic code dumps from Oracle (if they continue).
  • Re:Well... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Grishnakh (216268) on Monday November 01, 2010 @07:38PM (#34096910)

    Maybe, but not necessarily. A free office suite is strategically important to many players in the industry, including Google with its piles of cash. Remember, MS is the enemy to many companies, and anything they can do to unseat MS from its de facto monopoly status on the desktop will be good for them. Without MS Office being a de facto standard, many corporate customers could switch their employees to Linux desktops with OO/LO and save a fortune. This would mean lots of new business for distro vendors like Red Hat, Novell, and Canonical. MS and Google are always at odds too, so Google would be happy to help push MS off its throne.

    Strangely enough, Oracle has never been a big friend of MS either, and much more of an enemy (their database competes with SQL Server), and I've heard Larry Ellison has a lot of animosity towards MS. However, it seems that they're so greedy and shortsighted that they simply can't figure out how to use their newfound assets to battle MS and improve their own revenue. I wonder how much of this is simply from their horrible corporate culture. That Java guy that quit a couple months ago mainly cited their corporate culture as his reason for leaving, and perhaps that's why these 33 guys left too. Heck, I myself just left a job a couple months ago because I couldn't stand the corporate culture and work environment I was in, not because the work was uninteresting.

  • Re:Bravo.... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by sconeu (64226) on Monday November 01, 2010 @08:50PM (#34097308) Homepage Journal

    I wonder if it's the AV software kicking in on the JRE as well as OO.o proper?

  • by demars (232969) on Monday November 01, 2010 @09:18PM (#34097438) Homepage

    You'd put words in his mouth and then fire him for those words? Gee, I'm glad I don't work for you...

    The title of the Slashdot post says 33 developers. That's a lot of developers. This is an important clarification.

  • by Gadget_Guy (627405) * on Monday November 01, 2010 @10:20PM (#34097716)

    The problem with Windows is the stable API which they can't kill off because no-one would buy Windows if it didn't support proprietary binaries from 1990 that they still run.

    Actually, the 64-bit version of Windows wouldn't run binaries from 1990 since it doesn't include the WOW [wikipedia.org] subsystem for 16-bit code. The inability to run Window 3.1 software doesn't seem to have affected [steampowered.com] the adoption of the 64-bit version of Windows 7.

    And since the old code was handled by a separate subsystem (eg. GDI system is in gdi.exe for 16-bit and gdi32.dll for 32-bit), it didn't stop Micrsoft from making changes to the API when the moved to 32-bit (and later 64-bit).

  • by Grishnakh (216268) on Monday November 01, 2010 @10:52PM (#34097902)

    But you completely ignored the 7-10 million failed forks. ... for every fork that succeeds, hundreds if not hundreds of thousands go no where and aren't worth mentioning out side of this comment.

    So what? If they don't go anywhere, what does it matter? How does that harm you?

    Just like in any field, 95% of everything is crap. It's like that with music, movies, everything. We only remember the 5% of stuff that was great, which is why we view the past with rose-colored glasses. So what if 95% of forks are crap? They'll be quickly forgotten, while the other 5% live on.

  • Re:Well... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by TheRaven64 (641858) on Tuesday November 02, 2010 @05:18AM (#34099112) Journal

    Regardless, now that the heavy hand of Sun bureaucracy is removed from the code base the fun factor of the project should improve tremendously.

    What heavy hand? They required contributions to be either copyright assigned or MIT licensed, but that's a weaker constraint than the FSF (which requires copyright assignment and doesn't provide any other option). The reason that there are so few outside contributors is that the code base is a pig. It is huge, massively interconnected, and impossible to do a quick hack on without understanding a large proportion of the code. If you honestly think that the reason it lacks outside contributors is Sun, then you've never looked at the OO.o code.

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