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Sun's Simon Phipps Answers ESR On Java 707

comforteagle writes "Sun's Chief Technology Officer Simon Phipps has answered Eric Raymond's open letter calling on Sun to open source Java." In the quoted response, Phipps says (condensed) "I'd say this is 100 per cent rant... His simplistic accusations don't hold water... If this is the way that Open Source treats its friends, I'd hate to see how it treats its enemies... It's pretty difficult to respond to this. He's so out of touch."
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Sun's Simon Phipps Answers ESR On Java

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  • foresight (Score:3, Insightful)

    by exekewtable ( 130076 ) on Wednesday February 18, 2004 @04:18PM (#8319081)
    Shame they can't see the writing on the wall
  • by spankalee ( 598232 ) on Wednesday February 18, 2004 @04:19PM (#8319098)
    I used to want Sun to open source Java, but they've actually been a pretty good steward and I quite like what they're doing with it. The Java Community Process seems to be working.
  • ESR is primiadonna (Score:3, Insightful)

    by bsDaemon ( 87307 ) on Wednesday February 18, 2004 @04:19PM (#8319099)
    has he done anything actually /useful/ other than fetchmail? why is fetchmail his only example in all of his writings? and saying that CatB is responsible for the Netscape decision is only slightly more vailid than saying that "The Manifesto of the Communist Party" was responsible for the 1916 Easter Rising.
    that said, "geeks with guns" is kind of cool. however, ESR is not cool. I piss on him and his "CatB"
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 18, 2004 @04:21PM (#8319120)
    How does the OSS community treat SCO? It rants and raves while SCO's stock price goes up. Meanwhile, it rants and raves at Sun while Sun's stock price goes down. Meanwhile it rants and raves at MS, whose stock price continues to go up.

    Were I not aware of the problems with mistakenly assuming causation where none exists, I'd say it is better to be an enemy than a friend.

    I am aware of that pitfall, though, so I will simply say that all the OSS community does is rant and rave - everything else is dependant on the entities' own actions and choices.
  • rings a bell. . . (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jafac ( 1449 ) on Wednesday February 18, 2004 @04:22PM (#8319127) Homepage
    ah, the old ad hominem attack.
    Is that all they're teaching folks in MBA school anymore? Don't respond to valid arguments and criticism; instead, discredit your detractors by branding them as "out of touch" or "communist" or a "tree hugger".

    I find it incredibly discouraging to know that everything I need to know about running a global billion dollar software company, I learned on the playground in kindergarten.
  • Not representative (Score:5, Insightful)

    by AsparagusChallenge ( 611475 ) on Wednesday February 18, 2004 @04:22PM (#8319130)
    If this is the way that Open Source treats its friends...

    For the eleventh time: neither Eric nor any other single institution represents Open Source! This is the way Eric S. Raymond treats people, nothing more, nothing less.
  • Re:I say yeah! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Lacutis ( 100342 ) on Wednesday February 18, 2004 @04:23PM (#8319145) Homepage
    *Languages* are free in the sense that it's pretty hard to program in a language that won't tell you about it's syntax, keywords or structure.

    I think you meant *compiler* but even then, because gcc is open source and borlands free compiler isn't, does that mean C++ is a bad language? Does it mean gcc is better than bcc? Or does it mean that it doesn't make a difference?

    I don't follow your logic there.

  • Sun's mismanagement of Java is worth about $500 million in bad publicity for Sun, I'm guessing. Failing to pursue excellence with Java makes the entire of Sun seem mediocre. Whoever in Sun is failing to support Java cannot possibly be making a decision for Sun that makes economic sense.
  • by donnz ( 135658 ) on Wednesday February 18, 2004 @04:24PM (#8319153) Homepage Journal
    So should the world judge all proprietary software vendors by SCOs activities - that position seems a rather simplistic rant and doesn't hold water.

    If we are supposed to differentiate bewteen SCO and SUN (hard to do with names that share such commonality) can he not do us the favour of tarring a whole community with one broad brush.
  • ESR is overrated (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 18, 2004 @04:24PM (#8319156)
    Why exactly does this man think he's the Voice of the open source movement? I'm an active contributor to three projects, and he doesn't have the respect of any of my friends and fellow coders from those projects - and his book is based on a flawed assumption and is far from enlightening (no, they did not build cathedrals that way).
  • I call bluff (Score:4, Insightful)

    by FreemanPatrickHenry ( 317847 ) on Wednesday February 18, 2004 @04:25PM (#8319157)
    If this is the way that Open Source treats its friends, I'd hate to see how it treats its enemies..

    Since when is Sun a friend of open source? They may be more "open sourcey" than, say, Microsoft, but I wouldn't call them friends. Maybe temporary allies.

    It's like IBM. I'm glad they're running pro-Linux ads. It's helpful. It's nice to see corporate support. But remember when IBM was the "bad guy?"

    My question is: what is a "friend" of open source? The GNU project is a friend of open source. Eric Raymond is a friend of open source (if an embarrassing one at times like these). Until I see more proof, I'm hesitant to call Sun any more a friend of Open Source than Microsoft a friend of IBM in the 80s.

    Bottom line: Raymond was off the cuff and out of line. He was (and rightly so) called for it. But I'll wait until I see more "friendship" from Sun before I jump ship.

    (And let the karma burn begin.)
  • by Rotten ( 8785 ) on Wednesday February 18, 2004 @04:28PM (#8319212) Journal
    Ok, this time Sun is Ev!L because is not open sourcing a product they own..

    Dude, asking a little more is good, asking too much is instantly very bad... companies who like the open source model would easily scare if a preacher starts asking them to open source every product they own.

    I still don't see the point of a open source java...sorry, you can write open source code for it...that's good for me.
  • by gral ( 697468 ) <kscarr73@NoSpAM.gmail.com> on Wednesday February 18, 2004 @04:30PM (#8319225) Homepage
    What is the problem? There is already implementations of Java that are OpenSource. All the specs are open, and allow for this.

    Just because Sun doesn't want to open up their code itself doesn't mean that Java can't be open source.

    Mono/C# are interesting, but I want to see C# in a couple years when Microsoft is looking for more ways to make money. All it will take is a little twist and Mono/C# will be a different implementation of C# than MS version. At that point, which one would be "Correct".

    Microsoft tried this with Java. They failed because Java is held by Sun. Multiple OS's are what Sun wants for Java. They could have made a Java that ONLY worked on Solaris, but they didn't.

    Again, I ask, what is the problem?

    P.S. I am not a Sun Employee, I am an Open Source volunteer for OpenOffice.org.
  • by Captain Tenille ( 250795 ) <.jeremy. .at. .satanosphere.com.> on Wednesday February 18, 2004 @04:30PM (#8319235) Homepage
    Sure he's done useful stuff, like the "Sex Tips for Geeks" (has anyone actually ever used those) and remaking the Jargon File to update the hacker image to fit himself.

    OK, you're right. He's pretty useless. At least he likes Jaegermeister, I hear.

  • by zapp ( 201236 ) on Wednesday February 18, 2004 @04:30PM (#8319236)
    Funny, this seems to be one of those double standards. People like ESR and Linus are praised and recognized as the fathers of OSS, heros among their kind, but as soon as they say something offensive you disown them.

    In life, whether personal, corporate, OSS, whatever, when you associate yourself with an organization, your actions reflect that organization to some degree. If ESR had said "these comments are solely my own and do not represent any organization I take part in", I could agree.

  • Re:I say yeah! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by shamino0 ( 551710 ) on Wednesday February 18, 2004 @04:32PM (#8319258) Journal
    Languages should be open source, be it C, C++, Java, or C#. If they aren't, they don't seem like good languages to me!

    The language specification should be open. This should include the specification of conformance tests. Otherwise we end up with many dialects that are not completely interoperable.

    On the other hand, I don't think matters either way if any particular language's implementation is open-sourced. You shouldn't need to see Sun's source code in order to write a fully-compliant Java compiler/interpreter/runtime. Just like you don't need to see AT&T's (or Microsoft's or Borland's or anyone else's) C-compiler sources in order to develop a compiler that fully complies with the ISO standard. Having those sources would make it easier to port the language to a new platform, but they should never be necessary. If they are necessary, then the language specification isn't specific enough.

    Mind you, I would love to be able to see Sun's sources as much as the next guy, but I really fail to see how their choice to keep their code proprietary in any way lessens the value of the language itself.

  • by SFEley ( 743605 ) on Wednesday February 18, 2004 @04:32PM (#8319263) Homepage
    has he done anything actually /useful/ other than fetchmail?

    Yes. He's one of those helpful fairies that most open source programmers don't really believe in, but who sometimes sneak into their workshops at night to finish cobbling their shoes. These mythical creatures are sometimes called "documenters."

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 18, 2004 @04:33PM (#8319266)
    Well, as they also say in kindergarten, "he started it". Did you read ESR's letter? Full of the sophomoric bluster and name-calling that typifies his writing. "Sun is clueless", "Sun lost the war", blah blah blah. I for one am glad someone finally stood up to him with more than the usual standard corporate-PR blandishments.
  • by GillBates0 ( 664202 ) on Wednesday February 18, 2004 @04:33PM (#8319267) Homepage Journal
    Haven't had a chance to read the response, but I definetly agree with the quotes in the summary. ESR's letter is no way to write to *anybody*, and this is the CEO of Sun you're talking about...not Daryll or somebody from SCO.

    The following quotes of his just make him sound unprofessional and mannerless more than anything else:

    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.

    This was totally uncalled for, I can think of a million better ways to phrase it.

    Matters aren't helped by the fact that Sun appears, with Microsoft, to be one of the two companies doing most to stuff SCO's war chest for its attack on Linux.

    I don't see any concrete proof that Sun is *indeed* behind the fiaSCO. You don't go about making false/unfounded accusations against people, just because you read it on Slashdot.

  • Yeah biyatch (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 18, 2004 @04:33PM (#8319269)
    ESR is a blow-hard and Sun called him on it. Way to not back down to the idealogues.

    I find is incredibly ironic that OSS zealots ask for everything to be free, hence destroying the software industry.
  • Re:I say yeah! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by memmel2 ( 660484 ) on Wednesday February 18, 2004 @04:33PM (#8319273)
    For J2SE part of the Spec is shared code so controlled by Sun. Also the spec is controlled by Sun and so are the test. They have not clearly stated that they would not attack a clean room effort. So in general your statement is not corrent. The JVM spec is open except for a patent held by Sun on what are called quick opcodes Sun does not say what they would do to someone who implemented them. So there are enough minefields in this to make creation of a open source java a careful endevour. This is why Gnu Classpath is following a strict clean room approach to development. Which does slow the process quite a bit.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 18, 2004 @04:35PM (#8319304)
    So you can write a bad program in any language...
  • by Mr. Piddle ( 567882 ) on Wednesday February 18, 2004 @04:36PM (#8319325)

    Fallacy: You are assuming that ESR actually wrote valid arguments and criticism.

  • by schon ( 31600 ) on Wednesday February 18, 2004 @04:36PM (#8319327)
    It's actually a good response in situations where any response would be the wrong one.

    No, at most, he should have simply said "we have a fundamental disagreement in our philosophies" and left it at that.

    Insulting people who criticize you is never a "good" response.
  • by John Harrison ( 223649 ) <johnharrison@gmail. c o m> on Wednesday February 18, 2004 @04:39PM (#8319360) Homepage Journal
    I think that people tend to view ESR and RMS in a different way than they view Linus. People in the community are aware of the contributions of all three, but also aware that ESR and RMS can come off as a bit nutty. I think this has been recognized from the start, so it isn't as much of a "double standard" as you claim.

    I can't remember a time when Linus has been "disowned" as you say. What has he done/said that is offensive?

  • by dmeranda ( 120061 ) on Wednesday February 18, 2004 @04:40PM (#8319362) Homepage
    Stewardship is an important issue, a very important one actually. But there are still those sticky semi-legal points which can't be completely ignored. In this respect RMS, and to a lesser extent ESR, both are our stewards of Free Software. Just because Sun may be doing a good job, doesn't mean that we can ignore the technicalities.

    Compare this to other important commercial "stewardships", such as Postscript and PDF as managed by Adobe. Those "standards" are completely under the control of Adobe, but aside from some recent DMCA nonsense, they've been very good stewards from a technical perspective. I mean compare Postscript with HP's PCL...which one has served Open Source/Free Software better?

    But I think the Free Software community should hold higher standards of Freedom to language technologies like Java, whereas we may be willing to give a little more slack to data formats like PDF. But you know what, if Adobe stopped being good stewards then we'd be in trouble. Same for Java, only moreso. That's the threat ESR is trying to address.
  • by __past__ ( 542467 ) on Wednesday February 18, 2004 @04:40PM (#8319364)
    Do you honestly think RMS would write something better than ESR on this matter?
    I can easily imagine that. He would likely claim that non-free Java implementations are useless, and that people should support projects like Kaffee and Classpath to create a free one, instead of denying the existence and possibility of these projects as ESR did.
  • by Lysol ( 11150 ) on Wednesday February 18, 2004 @04:44PM (#8319427)
    Yah, honestly, I don't know how OS'ing Java would help.

    While the JCP isn't as loose as developing the Linux kernel and other OS projects, it still has contributions from the major industry players - who have a vested interest to see Java go forward, not back - as well as small companies and individuals.

    Proclaiming everything OS isn't necessairly the prize at the end of the day. If you look at M$'s efforts to ECMAize .NET and C#, it still doesn't hold off the threat of patent infingement for Mono and dotGnu. M$ can claim it's an open standard, but if the threat of litigation hangs over ones head, then it's probable safe to reason that developing a compatible version might not be a good thing to do.

    I love Free and Open Source software. In fact, I make a decent living working on projects that use it. And most, if not all, of my projects use Java as well. Personally, I don't think something like Java will gain any benefits from following the route ESR proposes. By setting the Java source code free will fragment it more than ever. And for an industry that needs to hold off M$ as much as possible, I think this would be a bad move.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 18, 2004 @04:44PM (#8319433)
    Quoted from Eric Raymond's letter:

    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.

    This suggests to me that Eric Raymonds doesn't really know what he's talking about. Oh yes, let's look at Red Hat!

    For the most recent annual period (taken from globeinvestor.com), Red Hat had revenues of just over 90 million, and net income of -6.3 million. Open Source does seem to be working for them, doesn't it, Eric?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 18, 2004 @04:45PM (#8319443)
    Sun, like many others, are just jumping on the OSS bandwagon. Anyone who believes that they are really behind the OSS movement is naive. At least MS isn't trying to hide who they really are. Sun would close the door and lock the key if they could; OSS for them, is a timely marketing campaign.
  • by __past__ ( 542467 ) on Wednesday February 18, 2004 @04:48PM (#8319492)
    I have never seen ESR praised by anyone but himself, actually.

    Technically, he certainly is a "father of OSS", as he was one of those (together with Tim O'Reilly and others) who came up with, and implemented, the idea of avoiding the "freedom" rethoric to appeal to suits, and unfortunatly he even is the head of OSI, but I doubt that there are many people who both understand what he is saying and take him serious.

  • Re:I call bluff (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Imperator ( 17614 ) <slashdot2@omersh ... 159.net minus pi> on Wednesday February 18, 2004 @04:49PM (#8319496)
    And they also funded SCO after it was clear what such funding would go towards. Sun has at best a mixed record of support for free software. I don't know enough about the Java situation to comment, but I do know that Sun continues to invest heavily in Solaris and (as they see it) free software is a direct threat to that investment.
  • Oh, please. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by sammy baby ( 14909 ) on Wednesday February 18, 2004 @04:49PM (#8319506) Journal

    This isn't, strictly speaking, an ad hominem attack.

    "Ad hominem" refers to a form of logical fallacy where you attempt to discredit the person making an argument, instead of the argument they actually made. Had Phipps simply said, "ESR is a doo-doo head, and therefore his argument holds no water," it would be one thing.

    However, that's not what happened. Phipps spent some time pointing out specific problems with Raymond's analysis. They are (paraphrased, and without critical analysis):

    • Raymond takes McNealy's comments out of context.
    • Raymond fails to note important contributions made to open source by Sun
    • Raymond makes an ill-advised comparison between Perl and Java
    • Raymond misstates Sun's control over the Java programming language

    Regardless of your opinion of the merits of Phipp's analysis, it certainly rises above the level of "tree hugger," or "communist," two epithets which would be ridiculously applied to ESR, an avowed gun-nut and libertarian. In fact, other than referring to him as "out of touch," I don't see a single negative statement regarding Eric Raymond personally in the article.

    But hey, way to go with your sly anti-businessman attack. Because as everyone knows, MBAs are all simpletons and schoolyard bullies.

  • Re:I say yeah! (Score:2, Insightful)

    by memmel2 ( 660484 ) on Wednesday February 18, 2004 @04:50PM (#8319519)
    Then they need to clear out the legal minefields scattered through java ( patents and shared source ) In a legal document. More important they need to clear up how much if any of the specifcations and documentation can be used for a open source project. Later they need to clear up how compatibility testing work. Sun may be busy with 1.5 now but these issues have existed for years. If the explicity support Gnu Classpath in a verbal letter thats fine. Unless Suns lawyers are coding on 1.5 I don't see how these legal issues are affected by work on 1.5. SCO is the only company I know where the lawyers are also coders.
  • by rjamestaylor ( 117847 ) <rjamestaylor@gmail.com> on Wednesday February 18, 2004 @04:51PM (#8319527) Journal
    An S is "such commonality"?

    Then how do you distinguish between Microsoft and IBM?
    Israel and Iraq? -- or Iran and Iran?
    Going back a few years, USA and USSR?

    There's only 26 letters in the English alphabet, and the most commonly used are RNSTLE (can a WheelWatcher verify this for me?) so some amount of overlap is to be expected...

    That SCO and SUN are sharing the same bed of fornication is proven by their debt instrument investment vis-a-vis "SCOSource License Agreement."

  • by spen ( 26179 ) on Wednesday February 18, 2004 @04:51PM (#8319530)
    I for one don't acknowledge ESR as being a 'steward' of Open Source. I think of him as a self appointed PR, not really for Open Source, but for himslef. He is trying to keep himself relevant (not that he is, or ever was) by trying to pick a fight that will only cause more harm than good.

    There are many self proclaimed ambassadors of Open Source who end up doing more damage than good. In the end I only acknowledge those who write more code than manifestos and open letters as being the true promoters of open source.

    ESR should shut up and pick up a copy of the Java standard, and then start coding with the other open source java projects if he really wants to help. If he wants to keep promoting himself as a self proclaimed emissary, at the expense of Java and Open Source, then he should probably keep doing what he's doing now.
  • by vondo ( 303621 ) * on Wednesday February 18, 2004 @04:52PM (#8319543)
    ESR may have a bit of a primiadonna attitude, but compared to RMS he is humble as they get.

    I don't agree. RMS (who I am no big fan of) certainly has strong and unrelenting views, but Raymond is much bigger into self-promotion than RMS is. Plus, as the original poster points out, RMS has done a lot more for the open (small caps) software movement than Raymond has, so I'm more inclined to cut him slack.

    Raymond seems as interested in getting his name in lights as helping "the cause."

  • Re:Rant? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by cmburns69 ( 169686 ) on Wednesday February 18, 2004 @04:55PM (#8319569) Homepage Journal
    Did you even read the article? Mr Phipps response does start with an inflamatory attack, but he follows it up with some good supporting evidence:

    "In fact, Sun has contributed more to Open Source than anybody else bar Berkeley [University of California]. We understand Open Source better than anyone else. IBM is just wrapping itself in the flag, but it still behaves like an old-fashioned systems company. Sun is actually taking the risks. [Raymond] isn't well informed and is ignoring most of the stuff that Sun is doing. He completely ignores things like the Java Desktop, the Java Enterprise System running on Linux in its new servers. He's very selective about what he wants to write about"

    He doesn't refute the "high-level" arguments that ESR makes, because he is attacking the "low-level" premises that ESR's arguments are based on.
  • by Mr. Underbridge ( 666784 ) on Wednesday February 18, 2004 @04:56PM (#8319578)
    Notice how Phillips takes the cheap shot ("rant") in order to play to ESR's current unpopularity with the slashdot crowd? He doesn't try to refute the issues ESR raises.

    He did in the non-excerpted version. He mainly says that making a full OSS version of Java would be expensive, and doing this for free isn't a workable business model. He also says that ESR is wrong about Java being closed, citing the community development aspect of it. He also mentioned a lot of other OSS friendly things they've done, and pointed out that ESR's attacks were very narrowly focused and ignored things that didn't jive with the conclusions he wanted to draw.

    I think Sun didn't need to take those cheap shots, but he did mention a number of other things as well. Basically what it comes down to, I think, is that they need to make money because they're a company and they haven't figured out how to reconcile that with dreams of a free Java. And it's hard to find fault with that.

    I guess it's hard to be coherent when your company doesn't really know where it stands wrt open source.

    I'd like to see that substantiated. First, they're a company, not a non-profit OSS charity like GNU. They have to make money, first and foremost. Second, other than turning over their code to the general public, what do they do that's not OSS friendly? Hell, turning over OpenOffice and developing a linux desktop sound like pretty good support to me.

    It's hard to think of any big company who is more OSS-friendly than Sun. I think that's why he was so pissed - they've bent over backwards for the OSS community, and they got blindsided by someone who supposedly is one of the community's pillars.

  • Uh... Riiight. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Svartalf ( 2997 ) on Wednesday February 18, 2004 @04:56PM (#8319582) Homepage
    I do believe that Microsoft ended up doing exactly what he said would happen if it were open sourced- and it wasn't under an Open Source or Free Software license at all. They took MS to court over it, even. Microsoft's response was to take their altered version, add a few extra Windows specific features and called it .NET.

    If they'd GPLed the silly thing, we could have more assurances that Java would be interoperable- because any "proprietary" enhancements wouldn't be possible or would get pulled as they'd be infringing.
  • by Spazmania ( 174582 ) on Wednesday February 18, 2004 @04:57PM (#8319592) Homepage
    Phipps is right, but so is Raymond.

    Java's major consumer right now is large-scale contractors. Particularly government contractors. You know, the folks who care about CMM3 and similar such stuff. Those folks couldn't care less about open source or closed source. The only thing that worries them about Java is sun's stock price -- an indicator that Sun may not be around much longer.

    If Sun is missing the boat with those consumers, they're doing so in their failure to charge enough money for Java's use. These organizations have big budgets and could afford to pay Sun for Java if Sun could figure out how to ask.

    On the other hand, ESR is right too. Windows is an aberration in the history of computing in the sense that just about nothing else has ever become and stayed ubiquitous when the company that started it held the reins too tightly. Even Windows didn't hold the reins tightly on its rise to ubiquity -- DOS was widely pirated by computer vendors without retribution and Windows leveraged that existing monopoly on its rise.

    Sun has a choice to make with Java: They can keep 99% of a small market or they can keep 20%-30% of a market that's 10 times larger or more. They seem to have chosen the former, and their stock price reflects this.

    I have to disagree with ESR on one point, though: The key problem with Java is not that it isn't open source. They key problem is that the presence of the runtime environment is not transparent to the user.

    If you're using a C program or a visual basic program or a fortran program or a just about any other kind of program, you don't know it and don't care. The program installed itself when you clicked on the install file or when you told the package manager to go get it. End of story.

    If you're running a Java program, you know it. You know it, because you had to go through Sun's specific Java installer, and read and agree to a massive click-through license. You had to do that even if the Java program came with a JRE.

    If Sun wants Java to become ubiquitous, they will have to give up the click-through license on the JRE and also give up control of the installer for the JRE. No other language's runtime libraries require such a ridiculous thing, and none should.

  • by kid_wonder ( 21480 ) <public@@@kscottklein...com> on Wednesday February 18, 2004 @04:58PM (#8319600) Homepage
    How about market capitalization?

    Red Hat $3.2 billion
    Sun $19.2 billion

    nice try though. idiot.
  • by brett_sinclair ( 673309 ) on Wednesday February 18, 2004 @05:00PM (#8319618)
    Sure, Sun's been a pretty good steward. But that's not the point: java could be doing so much better as free software. A free java would have at least two big advantages:

    Sun has basically left some parts of the "standard java libraries" to rot. That applies to Swing in particular: no major changes here the last few years. One example: there is still no support for Cleartype or Xft, so fonts are looking pretty 1997-ish in Swing. And fonts are kind of a big deal in any gui-based app.

    But more importantly: free software is more dependable. If Sun should fold, no one knows what would happen to java. If Sun gets into serious financial difficulties, it might stop making the JDK available as a free download. Etc.

    That risk would disappear over night if java was free software.

    At the very least, the libraries should be opened up. It is fairly easy to create an open source VM (comparatively): java's virtual machine is fairly well specified.

    The libraries are much harder to implement: the fine folks at GNU Classpath [gnu.org] are working hard to provide a free version of the library (which is used in gcj, kaffe, jikes rvm, etc.). But since large parts of the library are so poorly specified, they will always be lagging "official java" quite a bit.

    Free java! Or at least the libraries.
  • by RodgerDodger ( 575834 ) on Wednesday February 18, 2004 @05:00PM (#8319622)

    Now what Sun did was hire the project lead from Jakarta's Structs to write the spec and an implementation of JSF.

    JSF is a direct competitor to Structs! If a Jakarta was a company this would be an incredible agressive tactic. Hire the project lead and get him/her to develop a new more featureful version of his old product.

    Let's revisit that again: they approached the lead developer of the dominant MVC web framework for Java. They said "there's this JSR to standardise MVC web frameworks, at an integration API level, so that components written for one can work with the others. Want to head it up?"

    Let's think. Benefits of helping:
    • Get to define an industry spec, and be personally identified with it.
    • Get a heads up in modifying Struts to comply

    • whereas the benefits of not helping include seeing someone else getting that chance (with their own framework).

      In any case, Sun nearly always approach the market leader in this case. Look at who writes the EJB specs, for example: there's representatives from every major EJB vendor ('cept JBoss). That is, after all, the point: the Sun specs mandate how compliant software interacts with other compliant software. It kind of helps to get agreement.
  • Re:I'm confused (Score:4, Insightful)

    by bahamat ( 187909 ) on Wednesday February 18, 2004 @05:01PM (#8319634) Homepage
    Aren't there already open source compilers and runtimes for Java (blackdown, etc)? What was it ESR wanted?

    Blackdown is not Free Software, and is Open Source. It's a binary only implimentation that some linux guys had to sign an NDA to create.

    It's no more what ESR wanted than the ingredients to a cup of coffee.

    ESR makes a good point, and a good plea. What exactly is Sun gaining by keeping Java? They could pull a Star/OpenOffice with it. All of the things that you can currently download free from java.sun.com or java.com dual license GPL/SISSL, the things that they charbe for (ie, the application server that's priced at 10k/cpu) they can still charge ungodly ammounts of cash for. Anybody who was willing to pay for it before, would still be willing after.

    Why not? Everybody's happy, everybody wins. Sun wins, ESR wins, GNU and RMS win, Linux wins, Apache wins, Apple wins. Everyone except Microsoft. And wasn't that kind of the point of Java in the first place?
  • Re:Sun on IBM (Score:4, Insightful)

    by __past__ ( 542467 ) on Wednesday February 18, 2004 @05:02PM (#8319639)
    Personally, I think having NFS, NIS, PAM, Gnome, OpenOffice, DocBook, freedesktop.org etc. developed or supported by Sun is worth more than them being sued by SCO, but that is just my personal opinion. I just wonder, do I have to deinstall KDE and Qt? Trolltech wasn't sued either.
  • Re:I call bluff (Score:5, Insightful)

    by dasmegabyte ( 267018 ) <das@OHNOWHATSTHISdasmegabyte.org> on Wednesday February 18, 2004 @05:05PM (#8319674) Homepage Journal
    Dude. It's software. There are no good guys. There are no bad guys. There are just different ways of doing things. Idealism isn't going to get my clients' work done any more efficiently, or make my code run faster, or make my interfaces more intuitive. Smart programmers will make those things happen -- and I'll use whatever product works best.

    And I'll remind you that there are TONS of great Open Source projects which utilize the ease and ubiquity of Java -- great utilities from Tomcat to Freenet. There's a number of great open source Java IDEs. Sun is a friend to open source because it is actively mixing closed source tools with open ones, filling in the gaps of each to the benefit of both.

    Your claim that Open Source doesn't need friends who actually MAKE MONEY off of what they're doing is foolish. Sun and IBM are paying some of their programmers to write Open Source code. How is that not "befriending" the community?

    I'll tell you. Sun and IBM don't have to befriend the community -- they're already members of it.
  • by edw ( 10555 ) <edw@poseur.com> on Wednesday February 18, 2004 @05:08PM (#8319690) Homepage
    From his open letter:

    "Open source is hardly a zero-revenue model; ask Red Hat, which had a share price over triple Sun's when I just checked."

    Comparing stock prices of two companies is nonsensical. Sun's market capitalization is over six times larger than Red Hat's. The following data is current as of approximately 4pm ET on 18-Feb-2004.

    Red Hat (RHAT): $3.20 billion
    Sun Microsystems (SUNW): $19.19 billion

  • Have some respect (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Linus Sixpack ( 709619 ) on Wednesday February 18, 2004 @05:09PM (#8319707) Journal
    They wrote the code, they license it as they want.

    'Outing' Sun in public letters is pretty rude. Some may say its warranted, some may agree with ESR but I have a healthy dose of respect for Sun and I'm willing to give them some slack on a request to 'give us your copyrights because I think its a good idea'(paraphrase).

    I actually think he deserves a fair treatment for responding at all. Having an 'official version' can be good for interroperability. An open source Java might be split and hijacked by Redmond. If Sun has not been the best stewards in my mind they certainly have not been the worst.

  • by lpp ( 115405 ) on Wednesday February 18, 2004 @05:11PM (#8319735) Homepage Journal
    Sun owes it to their shareholders to make sure the company remains profitable. From their perspective (and obviously as opposed to virtually every other company out there), it made sense to pay the fee and not have to worry that any of their clients would jump from Sun's Linux based products due to some licensing nit.

    In addition, if it is proven that SCO was wrong, Sun could possibly sue to get their $8 mil back. They would be out legal fees but would have a strong legal leg to stand on should they need to push the issue.
  • Re:Mono (Score:2, Insightful)

    by DarkOx ( 621550 ) on Wednesday February 18, 2004 @05:15PM (#8319802) Journal
    Then you are a fool. Keep in mind that while M$ man not have patented and locked down the technology they still control it. Anyone who develops with mono or mono itself is an idot sorry but its true. M$ is not stupid for a product like .net/C# to be successful its gota be cross platform to compete with java so what do they do they work hard at the windows version which they no best how to do and maybe do some work on UNIX and Mac all while the do backburrner development on the Linux and truely portable versions. In the mean time they have they can sell there windows compiler and development tools make their money and tell their customers their application will be supported on other platforms (Thank you mono). When they are good and ready the are just gonna add a patented feature to .net/c# and release the linux development tools for sale. This is there classic embrace and extend move the only twist is they are extending their own technology for once. Mono will now be legaly prevented from developing a truly competitive alternative and will become insignifigant and die. C# is a good langue and if you are doing work on strickly M$ supported platforms by all means uses it where its the best tool but mono is a dead end why people can't see that escapes me. I am gonna keep saying this until people listen.
  • by edw ( 10555 ) <edw@poseur.com> on Wednesday February 18, 2004 @05:21PM (#8319901) Homepage
    From ESR's original letter:

    "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."

    ESR's theory that Python and Perl have more users than they deserve due to Java's merely gratis license is insulting to the people who work hard to make Python and Perl as good as they are.

  • by hikerhat ( 678157 ) on Wednesday February 18, 2004 @05:24PM (#8319950)
    Don't be a wanker. And why do posts like yours - that are clearly false - always get a +5 interesting? Since when are blatant lies interesting? Besides fetchmail, ESR has contributed to the linux kernel, GNOME, python, nethack, EMACS, SourceForge, Texinfo, the PNG libraries your browser is using to render all those pretty pictures after the whole gif thing, and no doubt a lot more. He's written books, FAQs, documentation, etc. He gained the ear of executives in the computer industry. Go ahead and grep the files on any flavor of unix, commercial or free, and ESR is one of the few names that is almost guaranteed to come up.
  • Re:Sun on IBM (Score:5, Insightful)

    by LeoDV ( 653216 ) on Wednesday February 18, 2004 @05:26PM (#8319968) Journal
    I realise you're being humorous, but Phipps does make excellent points. Yes, I'll defend the clean-cut suit against the moustachioed idiotarian.

    First off, the only reason SCO are suing IBM isn't because of the relevance of their contribution to the OSS community, but simply because they're bigger and they're a household name -> more publicity.

    But Phipps is right : IBM's long term strategy is basically to switch from "big iron" to becoming an IT consulting firm. Linux is a big part of that strategy, so they're advocating Open Source all over the place to get support from the community. But fundamentally they still do behave like an old-fashioned company, no matter how much you and I may love their ads.

    But more to the point, I wholeheartedly agree with Phipps. ESR/RMS et al have pretty much become OSS ideologues who see everything as black and white. Open Source means Utopia, absolute freedom, great code and happiness for the people. Closed Source means totalitarian control by blood-sucking suits, kludgy software and the death of dozens of cute, cute kitties.

    This is why he proclaims that Sun must choose between ubiquity or control for Java -- when they already made that choice! No other development platform became so predominant so quickly! And why was that? Because the runtime was always free and good tools were cheap or free. Sure, they were free as in beer, not "free as in speech", but Sun did give up control, and now they did get the ubiquity in return. But ESR can't see that distinction, that blurry area of grey, because all is black and white for the President of the Open Source Initiative.

    Every company that wants to be successful selling a platform must make the obcious-yet-ballsy choice to give up control for the sake of ubiquity, and Sun have made that choice, and it has profited everyone -- them, the developers and the users. ESR just can't understand that there can be freedom and beauty outside of the Brave New Open Source World. I recognize his great skills as a programmer, writer and thinker, but his ideological tendancies just get the better of him and make him spin out of control into ideological rants that don't make sense in the real world.

    Let me just finish by throwing something he wrote in the Jargon File [catb.org] back at him, on the Weaknesses of the Hacker Personality [catb.org] : "Because of their passionate embrace of (what they consider to be) the Right Thing, hackers can be unfortunately intolerant and bigoted on technical issues, in marked contrast to their general spirit of camaraderie and tolerance of alternative viewpoints otherwise."
  • by Jason Earl ( 1894 ) on Wednesday February 18, 2004 @05:31PM (#8320034) Homepage Journal

    Fetchmail is the application that ESR is most well known for, but it's not the one that he has done the most work on. He simply used it as an example in CatB. Pick up any book on programming and you are likely to find examples. These examples are generally trivial, but the book wouldn't be the same without them. CatB was instrumental in explaining how Linux had become such a useful tool in so little time, fetchmail was simply a contrived example to prove the point.

    As for the rest of ESR's hacker credentials. Well the initials ESR show up quite a bit in the software that I tend to use. Huge portions of Emacs were done by him (at one point he was the single largest contributor besides RMS, I don't know if that is true today), ESR also has credits in Python, the Linux kernel and piles of other projects that lots of people use everyday (like Nethack or bogofilter).

    Here's [catb.org] a more comprehensive list of the ESR's work. Don't forget to click on the "projects" link for work that isn't classified as "software (termcap/terminfo database maintainer, for example, or the fact that he wrote the former Sunsite's Trove software). If you can honestly read that list of software and still come to the conclusion that ESR has done "nothing," then I would love to see your long list of Free Software accomplishments.

    Don't get me wrong. I don't always agree with ESR, but I at least know enough about him to know better than to dismiss his credentials as a hacker.

    Besides, on this ESR is right. Sun's Java desktop is indicative of the staggering amount of truly good stuff that is coming out of the Free Software community. Free Software hackers want to support Sun in its fight against Microsoft, but they aren't interested in using Sun's non-free Java language to do it. The funny part of Sun's Java Desktop is that there is essentially no Java involved. In fact, some of the same folks that wrote the Gnome desktop that comprises the bulk of Sun's Java desktop are right now working feverishly to finish off the first version of Mono, a .NET-alike for Linux. If Java was Free Software there would be a lot less incentive to do this, but Java isn't Free, and so the Mono hackers are cooking up a set of tools that can take its place for Free Software hackers.

    What's worse, it's not like Sun can honestly say that they don't want to Free Java for commercial reasons. Java is currently available as a free download. Sun doesn't really make any money from Java.

  • by tromey ( 555447 ) on Wednesday February 18, 2004 @05:33PM (#8320052) Homepage
    Speaking as someone who has spent a lot of time
    implementing Free Java:

    It would be convenient if Sun released all their
    source under a free or open license. That would
    be a huge help, it would really speed things along.

    It isn't really necessary, however. The necessary
    parts are much smaller.

    First, access to the TCK would be very useful.
    To my knowledge no free implementation has ever
    been run against the TCK; Sun has not ever made
    it available under terms acceptable to free
    software developers. (E.g., requiring a Sun
    license or otherwise making us give up our
    "cleanroom" status is not acceptable.)

    Second, allowing Free Java developers to participate
    in the JCP would be nice. My understanding
    is that there are still legal barriers making
    this inadvisable.

    Finally, it would be useful if Sun recognized
    the reality of free software development,
    namely that we are likely to have to subset
    the platform temporarily, simply due to lack
    of manpower to implement the whole thing in
    one big release.

    Generally speaking, Sun has done a pretty good
    job of stewardship, and things move closer to
    openness every year. There's just a few short
    steps remaining.
  • Re:Uh huh. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Mr. Piddle ( 567882 ) on Wednesday February 18, 2004 @05:44PM (#8320175)

    The high performance and ease of use of Sun's C Compiler did more to promote GCC than anything those GNU folks ever did.


    My informal testing puts Sun's cc at making executables that are a solid 10% to 15% faster than GCC.

    Sun ships very decent documentation with their compiler.

    dbx is awesome.

  • by czei ( 121516 ) <michaelNO@SPAMczeiszperger.org> on Wednesday February 18, 2004 @05:49PM (#8320231) Homepage
    All the arguments I've read in favor of having Sun make Java "open source" never mention the difference between a specification and an implementation. As a former Sun employee, I can tell you the corporate strategy was to make all specifications public, and allow integration and competition by having each competitor do a separate implementation. This worked well with networking standards, but has run afoul of the open source crowd.

    If Java was defined by its source rather than the specification MS or any other company would put out their own versions, and cross-platform compatibility would be destroyed in an instant. As it is anyone is free to do their own implementation of Java and open source it. Why not ask IBM to open source their JVM?

  • by Ogerman ( 136333 ) on Wednesday February 18, 2004 @05:51PM (#8320256)
    Personally, I don't think something like Java will gain any benefits from following the route ESR proposes. By setting the Java source code free will fragment it more than ever. And for an industry that needs to hold off M$ as much as possible, I think this would be a bad move.

    The benefit to Sun of GPL'ing their Java implementation would be expansion of their market influence. Right now, there aren't very many open source Java apps (comparitively speaking). This would change rapidly if a complete JVM/JDK could be included legally with every Linux/BSD distribution. Complete adoption of Java by the Open Source community would mean a sharp rise in the popularity of the language and this would help Sun tremendously.

    Keep in mind that if Sun GPL'ed their Java implementations, it would not mean a true loss of control. They would still own the Java and related trademarks. So even if somebody forked Sun's GPL code, it couldn't be called Java. And, in like manner, Sun would still control the specifications defining what "Java" is -- they would still have the right to certify what is and is not "Java". In reality, the situation would be no different than today, where 3rd parties are welcome to write their own Java implementations using the open specification.

    So in the end, both ESR and Phipps are each right on certain things. But Sun has no advantage in keeping their JVM/JDK sources under a license more restrictive than GPL. The other question perhaps, is whether something legally prevents Sun from changing the license -- 3rd party code, etc.
  • by lokedhs ( 672255 ) on Wednesday February 18, 2004 @05:54PM (#8320283)
    Java isn't a standard. It's a specification with multiple implementations. That's the whole point. C# has been submitted to ECMA for standardization, the same way C and C++ have been standardized.
    While youre words may be accurate, the meaning is very cunningly incorrect. Yes, C# the language has been submittedto ECMA. However, implementing the language is the easy bit. The hard part is implementing all these libraries that run on top of Java. The libraries is what make Java great and without them there would be no reason to use Java.

    Last I looked Microsoft hadn't submitted the class libraries to ECMA, so stop claiming they are for open standards. The whole C# submitted to ECMA thing was a huge publicity stunt, and apparently it worked.

  • Re:Conversation! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jadavis ( 473492 ) on Wednesday February 18, 2004 @05:59PM (#8320323)

    However, the perception is that java is largely a free, open platform. And that perception is largely accurate.

    In the article the question is raised: why has nobody created a free java platform? One answer is that it's a deep platform and expensive to build and maintain. However, look at GNU/Linux and FreeBSD, which are even larger. So why no free java? Because it's already free enough for most people. Sun has reached a compromise (gasp!).

    Linux and FreeBSD are answers to something like windows or propretary UNIX, which aren't anywhere near a compromise in terms of freedom. So it was much more critical.

    Maybe it's good for Sun to open java more. It's definitely better for the community (and how could you argue otherwise?), but Sun needs to look out for itself to a degree. And don't think for a second that it's an "evil company" or something.

    If 10% of the people who want java open donated 10% of the increased usefulness of java being open to Sun, java would be bought into the public domain in no time. So, don't blame Sun.

    Perhaps what we need is a little organization. If someone started a fund to buy Java into the public domain, or buy sun engineers to maintain an open java implementation and standard, I'd donate. I don't even use java, but I figure it would benefit me indirectly enough to make it worthwhile. Of course, we need real organization, I want to either see java be open or my money again, one or the other.
  • by fupeg ( 653970 ) on Wednesday February 18, 2004 @06:25PM (#8320570)
    The benefit to Sun of GPL'ing their Java implementation would be expansion of their market influence. Right now, there aren't very many open source Java apps (comparitively speaking). This would change rapidly if a complete JVM/JDK could be included legally with every Linux/BSD distribution. Complete adoption of Java by the Open Source community would mean a sharp rise in the popularity of the language and this would help Sun tremendously.
    How would including a JVM with every Linux distro help Sun? Do you reall think there are people who say "let's not do this open source project in Java because its not included with XYZLinux 9.3." Java has had a huge following on enterprise Linux servers. When Microsoft was trying to attack Linux, one of their "studies" [microsoft.com] was on TCO of a .NET/Windows stack vs. J2EE/Linux. They picked J2EE/Linux becuase it's such a popular combination. Look at some of the optimized JDKs built for Linux such as Blackdown [blackdown.org] and JRockit [bea.com]. So are you referring to desktop Linux? That's such a small marketshare, and again it's not like most Linux desktop users don't know where to get a JVM. So it's hard to see how there would be JVMs on Linux machines that currently do not have JVMs. If it had no change on the number of Linux users who have a JVM, then how would it make Linux open source software developers more likely to write things in Java?
  • by Trejkaz ( 615352 ) on Wednesday February 18, 2004 @06:41PM (#8320713) Homepage
    Well, you can download the source for Java. I think the issue at hand was openness and 'free software', because the source is already there for you to read.
  • by ruhk ( 70494 ) on Wednesday February 18, 2004 @07:07PM (#8321002)
    I for one don't acknowledge ESR as being a 'steward' of Open Source. I think of him as a self appointed PR, not really for Open Source, but for himslef.

    Funny, that's how a lot of us feel about RMS. Its all a matter of how you pick your figureheads, isn't it?

    I, for one, do consider ESR a 'steward' of the open source initiative. He's done as much as RMS, and isn't half so obnoxious. That is, of course, my opinion, and worth exactly as much as yours.
  • by trg83 ( 555416 ) on Wednesday February 18, 2004 @07:46PM (#8321357)
    The important thing to remember here is not who is or is not a good steward of open source or Java. The important thing to remember is that Sun owns Java. They can license it however they see fit.

    Here's an analogy for all of you who think all major programming languages, etc. should be open source no matter what. Imagine I am a car enthusiast who sees a very elderly person driving a Nissan 350Z at approximately 40 mph down an interstate. Now, just because I would be able to make better use of that property does not give me the ability to dictate that old person turn the car over to me. Urging open source and advocating it is one thing--demanding it as a right from the developer/owner is another, entirely stupid thing.

  • by KevinJoubert ( 161224 ) on Wednesday February 18, 2004 @08:10PM (#8321576)
    The last time I checked... a friend was defined as someone that does something solely for the benefit of the friend and not the self.

    SUN may be have contributed to the open source movement, but its never been as a "friend". More like a reluctant used car salesman trying to make sure they stay included in the purchase process.

    Java blows anyway.

  • Re:Conversation! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by MourningBlade ( 182180 ) on Wednesday February 18, 2004 @08:42PM (#8321849) Homepage

    If 10% of the people who want java open donated 10% of the increased usefulness of java being open to Sun, java would be bought into the public domain in no time. So, don't blame Sun.

    First off, the desire is not for it to be public domain, it is for it to be Free as in speech. There is a difference. (probably just a slip, but it needs correcting).

    Secondly, your basic Linux-based and BSD-based platforms are not designed to meet a spec that is controlled by a third party, though they may incorporate several of those specs (ACPI, OpenGL, etc, etc).

    Keep in mind that whatever Sun releases as Java is Java. Unless the open source group were involved in the formulation of the next spec, they would be constantly chasing, and that's not the key to success.

    In my opinion, that is the major block, and that is what ESR was talking about.

  • by ajagci ( 737734 ) on Wednesday February 18, 2004 @08:54PM (#8321953)
    I used to want Sun to open source Java, but they've actually been a pretty good steward and I quite like what they're doing with it. The Java Community Process seems to be working.

    Working in what way? In the sense of producing a language that works for some people? Sure. But the same can be said for Microsoft and VisualBasic.

    The real problem is that the Java core is heavily covered by Sun intellectual property (restrictions on the specifications, patents, copyrights). That means that all this wonderful free work that the JCP puts in around the periphery ends up effectively contributing only to a Sun-controlled platform.
  • Re:foresight (Score:3, Insightful)

    by dspeyer ( 531333 ) <dspeyer@@@wam...umd...edu> on Wednesday February 18, 2004 @08:55PM (#8321960) Homepage Journal
    He has taken quotes given by Scott McNealy to analysts and attacked them as if they were spoken to the Open Source community.

    I didn't believe it until the article finished loading for me. Yes, Phipps really did say that. Forgive my doubt.

    Is he saying that everyone lies to analysts so that's all right? Is he admitting that Sun lies to the open-source community, and that we shouldn't try to find out the truth? Is he saying that all statements are true, but we should stick with the ones that are meant for us?

    Seriously, if Sun has been telling different listeners contradictory things, that's bad. If they think it's all right, that's worse.

  • by Jason Earl ( 1894 ) on Wednesday February 18, 2004 @08:57PM (#8321979) Homepage Journal

    Which is all the more reason to release Java under a dual GPL plus some commercial license. The Gnome hackers would love to be able to integrate Java more directly into the Gnome framework, but because of licensing issues this simply cannot be done (or at least it becomes much more difficult). For example, I can embed a Python interpretter in any GPLed application I choose (or any commercial application for that matter). But if I want to write an application that is extensible in Java, well I have to write the whole thing in Java.

    Or take the Java-Gnome folks. They are currently primarily working towards being able to compile Java applications to native binaries with gcj and GNU classpath. They are about as excited about Java as a platform as Sun is about .NET as a platform. Sure, they support a few JVMs, but not well.

    Like I said, the Free Software community would be happy to help, because Java really is pretty cool, but they can't because of the licensing issues. If Sun had a good reason for their reluctance that would be one thing, but they don't really have a good reason.

    For example, one of the reasons that is sometimes forwarded for Sun keeping Java entirely in house is that they are afraid that if they free Java that it will split into divergent paths. However, Python, Perl, PHP, and the rest of the Free Software languages haven't had this problem. Heck, the closest we have come to a split in a development language was the gcc-egcs split. Java, on the other hand, is *currently* being split apart. IBM is making a big deal of SWT, and the GNU folks are making pretty good headway with their gcj compiler. gcj already compiles most software that people actually use (since there are so few GUI Java apps), and the is a GTK-Swing that is also making real headway. Not to mention the crazy Mono folks that are running Eclipse via IKVM.Net. If Sun continues on its current path Java is going to explode in several directions.

    And on the other hand Java is facing increased competition from both .NET and the bevvy of competing Free Software tools.

    The Free Software community doesn't need Java. They'll get along fine without it. However, Sun needs the Free Software developers to get on the Java train.

  • by Aumaden ( 598628 ) <.moc.liamg. .ta. .relliM.C.noveD.> on Wednesday February 18, 2004 @09:01PM (#8321999) Journal
    Open sourcing 'Java' is an issue of binaries. It's a misnomer in fact. Its not really Java that ESR is calling for to be open sourced. Its Sun's implementation of Java, their JVM. At least as far as I can tell that is what he is calling for.

    Many years back, I had a hand in the development of AT&T's SVR4 and saw an interesting side of ownership.

    At the time (late 80's) there was some fierce headbutting going on between Unix International (UI) and OSF; each promoting their own flavor of Unix. UI was pushing SVR4 and OSF was pushing a SVR3 derivative. One of the not-so-public discussions between the opposing camps consisted of UI offering OSF the SVR4 source code. AT&T did not want ownership of the code. Here's why...

    The owner of the code maintains the base from which everyone else creates their own ports. As a result, the base had to remain more-or-less architecture agnostic. This meant that the Unix that AT&T's sold was neither the fastest or sleekest in the marketplace.

    Granted, they could have created a second development team for the version they sold, but that was deemed too costly at the time and there was concern that it would be perceived that they were distributing inferior code to their licensees.

    So, it may not be in Sun's best interest to open source Java until there is someone willing to develop and maintain the porting base.

  • by Qwavel ( 733416 ) on Wednesday February 18, 2004 @09:02PM (#8322012)
    Whoa, read some history please. Putting too much faith in any figurehead is very dangerous.

    You can like RMS or ESR because of the things they've done, but you should be constantly re-evaluating.

    If ESR writes an open message to Sun that happens to contain some really embarassing errors (eg. the stock price thing) then we should re-evaluate down. We shouldn't support him just because he is ESR or just because he is on our side.

    Don't get me wrong - it's quite important to me that Sun open Java, because I'm a C++ developer who would like to switch to Java.

    Also, I think that the open source community is so diverse that no one can claim to represent it. It is represented by all the individuals who help it along.

    I personally really like Torvalds, but I'm always ready to change my mind, and I never accept what he says on faith.
  • by HuguesT ( 84078 ) on Wednesday February 18, 2004 @09:40PM (#8322336)
    I have a great deal of respect for both figures even if I don't agree with everything they say. One thing that should be clear though is that RMS is *not* a figurehead for Open Source, he doesn't believe in it, and he think Open Source Software (OSS) is a dilution of his original ideas about Free Software (FS), which is a completely different concept.

    All FS is by definition OSS, but the converse is not true. For example RMS is adamant that the Apple version of BSD Unix, Darwin, is not FS, because Apple has final and complete control over the source. RMS considers Darwin OSS.

    I'm not saying who is right or wrong, there is a place in my opinion for both OSS and FS, and even for proprietary software, but it should be made clear that ESR and RMS are not competing for the same pie slice.
  • The comment was about open source and Java, not about GNU/Linux. IBM's record of starting and maintaining open source projects isn't that great, whereas Sun has a whole lot more history - see SunSource.net [sunsource.net] for all the details. But I'm sure there are plenty of folk here who will argue with me :-)

    By the way, Sun bought the source rights to Unix (and thus became immune to SCO's unethical behaviour, which I believe IBM are rightly resisting) many years ago, long before SCO held them.


  • by sharph ( 171971 ) <sharp@sauropod.org> on Wednesday February 18, 2004 @10:03PM (#8322511) Homepage
    I don't always agree with ESR...on a lot of things...

    But I have to side with him on this one. Phipps arguement isn't valid at all.

    Phipps says Sun is taking risks. WHAT RISKS?

    Just because Java Desktop RUNS on linux, does NOT make it open source.

    And this just goes to show that they do NOT understand Open Source, as the responce suggests.

    ESR wasn't comparing Java to perl/python, but suggesting that we would be limited to those if Sun does not open up Java.

    But yeah, the thing that ticks me off the most is that they say they understand Open Source.
  • Re:Conversation! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by FredGray ( 305594 ) on Thursday February 19, 2004 @12:59AM (#8323540) Homepage
    In the article the question is raised: why has nobody created a free java platform?

    I think the answer is that it's underspecified. In particular, the Swing GUI is pretty much defined only by its source code. There are reasonable free replacements for most everything except Swing.

  • Raymond is Right (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 19, 2004 @01:51AM (#8323828)
    Eric can be something of a blowhard at times, but on this he is right on the money. Sun is Java's worst enemy. To this point Java has been almost completely a "Cathedral" development model instead of a the Bazarre.

    Not to mention Sun's really weak rubuttal. Nearly every point of rebuttal is a case of Sun setting up a strawman to be knocked down.

    If Java is truly already "open source" or as good as open source then why not just formalize it and declare it so under the GPL or whatever close approximate Sun might agree to.

    My guess is that Sun sees a Java lock-in as some sort of driver of large Sparc boxen sales. I'm not sure exactly how.

    Let's face it, Java has some great things going for it, but Sun is not one of them. James Gosling, yes. Sun, no.

    It's sad really. Java has had since 1995 to flourish. That 9 Internet years. 9*7 is 63 in dog-equivalent years. I'm not sure what the multiplier is for Internet applications, but I think its more like 10 or 14. Thats at least 90 equivalent years and what has Java really done?

    1. Tried to be a desktop virtual environment. With minor exceptions, a major failure. Nearly every serious Java desktop app has become a vastly bloated anachronism that only runs on IE and Windows. Where did you want to run it? Linux and Netscape? Sorry that's not supported.

    So you end up implementing a virtual machine running on a re-implemented GUI (poorly) on top of a new Operating Environment/OS (semi-poorly) on top of the real GUI on top of the Real OS....

    Net result: A program that could have been written in a couple hundred K of VB code ends up burning 256MB or more of core and running like a TRS-80 on Windows. Massive lossage.

    2. Tried to succeed in the CGI/Servlet environment as a clean and serious web app development environment. Since most web servers have a minimal operating environment, the new environment is somewhat welcome as is the portability. Unfortunately the runtime takes forever to load. Never mind that most of the "serious" enterprise environments that J2EE is targetted for is growing into so-called "web services". Web services are really just MIME-encoded IPC services wrapped in XML wrapped in an enigma (not the crypto machine ). A whole slew of CPU, Memory and other precious resources are being wasted on this fracas. Entire encyclopedias and several PhD theses could be written on the security holes it opens up.

    So what we really have is a portable MIME-over-XML enabled IPC environment that could have been implemented in Python, PERL or C++ (easily) and distributed on any modern operating system without the need for a web server at all. In fact, "web services" is a huge misnomer anyway. It's just marketing hype. Web services used to be based on CORBA over HTML, but no longer. Now it's a billion f'ing pages of bloat. Guaranteed to sell lots of CPU, Disk and Memory.

    But if you don't wrap all the hype in a bunch of unfamiliar and constantly changing terminology you won't be able to sell more hardware and that is Sun's core business.

    After having read this, please don't think that I'm just some sort of Jacobian neo-Luddite. Java is a wonderful *language*. Now if it's supporters could only free it from the quick-sandbox that Sun has built for it, perhaps it could really succeed.

    Perhaps, it's the fact that I have perspective. The thought of all those wasted terabytes of RAM and Terahertz of CPU chasing its tail brings a tear to my eye.

    To Bill Gates I'm sure it brings tears of Joy.

    Maybe it is good that Java is being replaced by Python. Python is arguably a much better OO language in any case. It's certainly more productive.

    Mr. Raymond has waxed poetic before on the wonderful features of Python and I find myself in total agreement. Perhaps he doth protest too much?

  • by miniver ( 1839 ) on Thursday February 19, 2004 @02:05AM (#8323899) Homepage

    Precisely! If you look at the GNU Classpath compatibility reports (GNU Classpath vs: JDK 1.0 [sab39.org] JDK 1.1 [sab39.org] JDK 1.2 [sab39.org] JDK 1.3 [sab39.org] JDK 1.4 [sab39.org]) you'll see that the biggest piece that's missing is Swing, largely because there isn't a specification for Swing.

    The other problem is performance -- the OSS JVM's are much slower than the commercial JVMs, but that's really a chicken and egg problem, driven by adoption rates. Few people (comparatively) are using the open JVMs, so there isn't much incentive to improve them ... and until their performance improves (and package coverage improves), there isn't much reason to use them.

    Of course, since Eclipse's SWT is open source and doesn't depend upon Swing, I'm hoping to see more Java applications built using SWT, which might bridge the gap and kickstart Java adoption. This is probably the biggest threat to Sun, and the largest potential fork for the Java specification, which is why Sun isn't interested in working with Eclipse.org.

  • by Ridgelift ( 228977 ) on Thursday February 19, 2004 @02:24AM (#8324025)
    Ad Hominem - Latin meaning "to the man." The act of attacking the person or oppenent rather than debating the issues.

    Rather than taking point with ESR, Simon's main point is 'It's pretty difficult to respond to this. He's so out of touch'. Nothing else he says is really a response. So rather than attack ESR's points, he attacks Eric. Ad Hominem
  • by lokedhs ( 672255 ) on Thursday February 19, 2004 @05:25AM (#8324636)

    These are the standardised (ISO-standard mostly) languages I can think of right now:

    C and C++ - One billion libraries, very poor compatibility between platforms, naming conventions differs wildly between teams and my favourite point: not even the character sets are the same.

    Lisp - Nice language, very flexible, very much like Java in many ways. However, few users, no standard libraries for stuff like XML processing or graphics. Even basic stuff like networking is not entirely compatible between implementations.

    ADA - Exactly how do you go about adding new stuff to that language? Anything even remotely like the JCP? (yes, that was a rhetoric question)

    ECMAScript - To be fair to the standardisation process, let's just conclude that it sucked as much before it got standardised as after. SQL - If standardisation is so great, why can't I ever move SQL code from one database to another? I can in Java, and it's not even standardised!

  • by Felonious Ham ( 709958 ) on Thursday February 19, 2004 @05:46AM (#8324687) Homepage
    You're obviously referring to the cathedral and bazaar (which I haven't read), but his Art of Unix Programming [catb.org] is one of the best books on programming that I've read. Not just for its solid and tested ideas, but also because it's written with an honest and engagin style.

    I don't know ESR the man, but I respect him as an engineer (for lack of better word). And for that matter, I didn't find his Open Letter all that inflammatory--he makes a case for Sun to open Java with only a minimum of drama (the bit about RedHat share piece). As for his position as a leader, the fact that Sun responded suggests he possesses some influence.

  • Out of preportion (Score:2, Insightful)

    by margal ( 696859 ) on Thursday February 19, 2004 @07:00AM (#8324916)
    Simon Phipps has missed the point. ESR acknowledges the contributions Sun have made to the Free and Open Source communities, and appreciate them, but the point ESR was getting at was that those contributions are inconsistent with how they treat the Java platform. Why don't they support the GNU Java Compiler, or Kaffe more than they do? Why don't they release the specification for SWING so all virtual machines can implement it? Why don't they remove the intrusive license which prevents distributions bundling the virtual machines?

    That's what ESR was getting at, not the FUD Phipps thinks he was. He should learn not to react on impulse.

    To me, Suns licensing policy for the Java platform is self-detrimental. It would do alot for our community, and for Sun if all users of the GNU operating system were to have a capable Java VM installed by default.

    Finally, what was that crap about the "too-hard" list. What an insult!?! You may be our friend, but we're having a row!

"Well, social relevance is a schtick, like mysteries, social relevance, science fiction..." -- Art Spiegelman