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James Gosling On The Sun/Microsoft Settlement 361

greg_barton writes "James Gosling has responded to the two previous commentaries cited on Slashdot about the Java Dilemma. Some interesting excerpts: "In Rick Ross's 'Where Is Java In This Settlement?' he worries that Sun may have sold out the Java community. We didn't. We have not sold our soul to the Dark Side." and "There's a long thread of discussion on Slashdot 'Two Takes on the Java Dilemma' that is pretty entertaining, from a wow, what are they smoking! point of view. There are voices of reason, and conspiracy nuts.""
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James Gosling On The Sun/Microsoft Settlement

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  • Not that there is anything particularly wrong with having a viewpoint that perhaps GPL-like freedom is not the most important thing to preserve in computing, but Gosling's personal attacks on RMS are a little over the top. He starts off by accusing RMS of redefining "Free" and then proceeds to deconstruct the entire concept of Software Freedom based on the hinge that RMS is essentially a kook.

    I respect Gosling as a very intelligent programmer and language designer, but his willingness to engage in personal attacks against others in the Software Community makes me question his personal judgement.

    Java does not need to be Free to be useful, but such can be said without resorting to deriding the entire Software Freedom movement, IMO.
  • by smd4985 ( 203677 ) on Tuesday April 13, 2004 @10:00PM (#8856066) Homepage
    i'm going to 'have a little faith' and trust gosling and mcnealy. we haven't even seen what Sun's next move is yet hoards of /.'ers are freaking out. lets give these guys a chance before we dismiss them.
  • by tonythepony ( 716819 ) on Tuesday April 13, 2004 @10:06PM (#8856110)

    Unlike GPLd software, the Java sources don't come with a viral infection clause that requires you to apply the GPL to your own code

    Didn't sell your soul, huh?

  • by alan_dershowitz ( 586542 ) on Tuesday April 13, 2004 @10:11PM (#8856147)
    As for Richard Stallman's "Free but shackled: The Java trap," it's hard to know where to begin. He has his own rather peculiar definition of "free" that I think violates the First Law of Thermodynamics (energy is conserved): Developers put a huge amount of energy into creating software, and if they can't get that energy back in a way that balances, then the system falls apart.

    Art doesn't obey the first law of thermodynamics either. Some people put their whole life, unrecognized, into creating art, and when they are long gone, their work is still with us. COMPENSATION and BUSINESS obey the 1st law of thermodynamics, but that is by no means the only driving force behind people.

  • Re:mmhmm (Score:5, Insightful)

    by AKAImBatman ( 238306 ) <{akaimbatman} {at} {}> on Tuesday April 13, 2004 @10:12PM (#8856154) Homepage Journal
    People think with their feelings and not with their head. My favorite "conspiracy theory" is that Sun sold out to Microsoft to defeat Linux. Right after they released one of the *best* Linux desktops on the market. Go figure.

  • Re:Great! (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 13, 2004 @10:15PM (#8856181)
    When .NET is.
  • by elmegil ( 12001 ) on Tuesday April 13, 2004 @10:25PM (#8856238) Homepage Journal
    RMS is essentially a kook.

    Let's see. My first exposure to RMS was being told as an undergrad that if I wanted to, I could go log into his accounts at MIT because he didn't bother to keep a password. He has proceeded to rant and rave and rail against anything that is not his pure community of software technicians giving their every line for the greater good.

    RMS is essentially a kook.

    I couldn't have said it better myself. He has certainly done many great things with his efforts, but in the general scheme of things, he's a kook. If you weren't so hung up on taking the observation personally and finding people to label "Anti Free" perhaps you'd be better able to accept this.

    Finally, and to the point, Gosling doesn't call him a kook; he comments that RMS has a peculiar (as in unique) definition of "Free". Some of his comments about GPL are less charitable, but they don't involve whether RMS is a kook or not.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 13, 2004 @10:27PM (#8856253)
    About a third to half of the article you're supposedly responding to consists of Mr. Gosling claiming the exact set of baseless allegations your post brings up to be false. In fact, attempting to refute such allegations appears to have been one of his primary reasons for writing said article.

    Did you just not notice this? Or did you not read the article? I'm leaning toward the second, since first off it references nothing in this article whatsoever, and second that's an awful long and carefully-formed post to have gotten FP on. Either you read and type reeeal fast, or you wrote this beforehand and waited for another Sun story so you could grab an early post number and get up to Score:5.

    So, at any rate, let's give you the benefit of the doubt and assume you read the article. So is what you are implying by your post that you believe Mr. Gosling to be lying when he explicitly brings up the things you allege and says they are entirely untrue and without basis? Why?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 13, 2004 @10:30PM (#8856270)
    While his comments in the article were troubling and very poorly backed up, I believe the reason that he was putting a personal attack on RMS was that RMS was, personally, attacking Sun and Java.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 13, 2004 @10:31PM (#8856274)
    I hate to reply, but $50,000 IBM app servers aren't a real competitive threat to Microsoft. Expect it to happen a third time.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 13, 2004 @10:32PM (#8856286)
    IBM is trying to kill Sun, not save them. By 'kill' I don't mean to reduce market share. I mean that IBM intends to put the company out of business. Completely.

    Sun is weak right now, and they really don't have a good strategy to counter the full attack of IBM support and services, combined with Linux on their pSeries, xSeries, and mainframe platforms.

    Ultimately, Sun will try to adopt the Opteron platform, but that's going to go over with Sun fans just about as well as SGI's foray into Intel workstations and Windows went over with SGI's fans.
  • by sporty ( 27564 ) on Tuesday April 13, 2004 @10:33PM (#8856294) Homepage
    In some ways, RMS is a kook. He's taken a basic word, "free" and redefined it. Free doesn't have to mean, free for anyony to get and use. Free can also mean, as gosling pointed out, free of charge. In some ways, the bsd license is "free-er" than GPL, as you owe no one anything other than a statement in the source. You can sell it in binary form, no hooks attached.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 13, 2004 @10:34PM (#8856296)
    Not to mention the fact software compiled with gcj or linked with libgcj don't fall under the GPL. You can write proprietary software and compile with gcj and not be "infected" by the GPL. So this part of Gosling's anti-RMS rant is pure FUD.

    While that bit was very confusing, what I believe Gosling was trying to do with his "viral license" paragraph was that he was simply trying to set up a comparison between the license on the Java materials and the GPL. I think he wasn't so much trying to say "the GPL is viral, and it's bad", as he was trying to say "the GPL has restrictions to reflect the agenda it's trying to push; the Java licenses have restrictions to reflect the agenda it's trying to push, and these restrictions aren't any more limiting from the developer perspective than what the GPL requires", as part of his defense of those restrictions.

    This was of course just my interpretation and I could be wrong.
  • Hillarious! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Jonathan ( 5011 ) on Tuesday April 13, 2004 @10:34PM (#8856298) Homepage
    Gosling really has his head in the sand in regard to the future of Sun by claiming that Sun is platform neutral and has nothing to fear from x86. Sun makes its money by selling Sparc workstations. Simply claiming that Sun isn't tied to a hardware architecture is just silly. Yes, it has made software for the x86, but like Apple, Sun is a hardware company -- all the software (including Java) exists simply to sell hardware. What happens when people realize that Sparcs no longer have the price/performance ratio?
  • by Anarcho-Goth ( 701004 ) on Tuesday April 13, 2004 @10:35PM (#8856308) Homepage Journal
    It kills me that all these OpenSource advocates want things to be FREE. The opensource developers donate all their FREE time to developing Linux which IBM can turn around and sell hardware to run linux which they get for FREE which returns PROFITS for IBM.

    Funny, I thought that was the whole point of the GPL, it is so free, you can make money off of it.

    But I think it will be a while yet until we see Linux take over AIX. But it would be nice to have smit on linux.

    This reminds me of a quote in someone's .sig:

    • ESR: I want to live in a world where software doesn't suck.
    • RMS: Any software that isn't free sucks.
    • Linux Can I have Free Beer?

    Primarily what I want is software that doesn't suck.
    If it is GPLed too all the better.
    If IBM makes a profit from it good for them.
    If I can make a profit from it then I'm really happy :)
  • by Bill, Shooter of Bul ( 629286 ) on Tuesday April 13, 2004 @10:41PM (#8856344) Journal
    Companies are the wrong place to put trust. They are a nessisary evil that is to be watched carefully to ensure that they do not abuse their power. They are not God, their whitepapers are not to be followed religeously. As always do whats in the best interest of your particular company. Never fall in love with a company or technology, or you will be burned.
  • by divec ( 48748 ) on Tuesday April 13, 2004 @10:43PM (#8856358) Homepage
    James Gosling writes:
    Our [...] commitment to Java is very strong. [...] Java is most definitely not for sale. Not to IBM, not to anyone. [...] GPL software is not "free": it comes with a license that has a strong political agenda. [...] the [licence] for the JDK [has] a different catch: redistribution requires compatibility testing.

    I'm sure James Gosling only wants Java to flourish. But the big catch about the JDK's licence (SCSL) is that it gives Sun a Nuclear Button. Sun has the power to force the Java platform's development to go only in directions they approve. And however pure their intentions are, as a public company they have a legal duty to use that power in a way that makes the most money for their shareholders. If it is ever more profitable to kill Java, for Microsoft cash, say, then Sun will be legally obliged to do it.

    Compare this to Perl or Python, where there is no Nuclear Button. No-one has the power to prohibit derivatives. And so Perl and Python developers have a much more concrete guarantee that those languages will still be living languages in 20 years' time. Meanwhile there's no sign of the "fragmentation problem" which James Gosling argues they ought to suffer from being truly Open-Source.
  • by nudicle ( 652327 ) on Tuesday April 13, 2004 @10:44PM (#8856362)
    I don't know why MSFT and Sun chose the settlement payment scheme as they did, but one explanation could be that since apparently Microsoft is trying to extinguish as much of its litigation as possible not taking an equity stake was the safer bet. Taking an equity stake in Sun would draw criticism in the form of "Now Microsoft owns ANOTHER big player in the market!" and the anti-trust types (and Europe) would get suspicious, the slashdot theorizing even more wild, etc .... Even if its equity stake were in non-voting shares people would still look askance at the deal.

    Seems to me making the payments as part of a settlement agreement and simply disengaging might have been the more sensible option from a pragmatic point of view.

    That said, I don't actually know.

  • by jarrettwold2002 ( 601633 ) on Tuesday April 13, 2004 @10:45PM (#8856374)
    I disagree that IBM is at the moment, capable of engaging Microsoft in a multiple front competitive battle with Microsoft.

    They are capable of going directly against the Windows Server platform and that is essentially it. Gerstner transformed most of the company into a best of breed systems integration provider. In addition IBM's far flung divisions at the beginning of Gerstner's reign, are still more or less far flung.

    The two critical areas that Microsoft maintains dominance in are: Office and Windows consumer editions. IBM has no product offerings that rival in any reasonable shape those two dominant areas. We can speak of OS/2 and so forth, but market reality is what it is.

    At the core IBM is a fundamentally different Big Blue. Their largest competitors are no longer Microsoft in a large way, but Oracle, SAP and others.

    IBM is a complex organization. It has teriffic potential in many of the research projects. However, how these concepts are utilized in products is another matter.

    Sun and Java are for the most part inseperable. I doubt very highly that after the investment of billions into Java, that Sun will part ways with it for 2 Billion dollars. The future of their company in many ways rides on Java. If they do part with it, then they part ways with running a company.

    Litigation encourages further litigation. Microsoft paid Sun off as a)nuisance fee b)avoid precedent setting and c)to rest. You have to realize Microsoft has been in almost constant litiagtion with fairly large companies for just under a decade.

    Microsoft is a predatory animal. However even predators need some R&R before the next hunt.
  • by SRMoore ( 87075 ) on Tuesday April 13, 2004 @10:56PM (#8856456)
    Actually.. I think artists get a lot out of putting effort into their work. It may not be money. But they do get a satisfaction in doing the work and completing it and sharing it with the world. (At least I do when I work on my art.)

    Or sometimes it is purely personal, and they only do it to please themselves. So it isn't a one way thing where they put in all this energy to create and get nothing in return.

    I really do believe that there is a return of some sort on every action that is taken by any one person, and most of the time it isn't cash that is the return.
  • RMS _is_ a kook, and GPL'd software isn't free. I personally think authors should be able to choose whatever licence they please, including the GPL, but the only truly free software is public domain software. GPL'd software is free of charge, and free for modification / redistribution, but it's only free so long as you only ever want to do the same things with it as RMS wants you to.
  • by G-funk ( 22712 ) <> on Tuesday April 13, 2004 @11:13PM (#8856596) Homepage Journal
    What? It's true. How free is code that I can't use unless I want to give away my sofware, mo matter how little a part the GPLd software is?
  • by Halfbaked Plan ( 769830 ) on Tuesday April 13, 2004 @11:31PM (#8856710)
    There's no forced either/or proposition here. People can dislike the GPL and not be Microsoft partisans.

    It isn't the black/white world you make it out to be.
  • by dfghjk ( 711126 ) on Tuesday April 13, 2004 @11:32PM (#8856717)
    He didn't attack RMS and RMS did, in fact, redefine "free". No one in their right mind would suggest that the GPL is unburdened. Gosling's comments were absolutely spot-on. At least he recognizes that Java license is burdened with an agenda and defends it.
  • by ClosedSource ( 238333 ) on Tuesday April 13, 2004 @11:45PM (#8856800)
    Since RMS *is* a person who wrote an opinion, he should expect some to disagree with it. Gosling didn't make a personal attack on RMS, he just challenged some of his arguments and assumptions.
  • by dmaxwell ( 43234 ) on Wednesday April 14, 2004 @12:19AM (#8856983)
    You're perfectly free not to use even the tiniest bit of GPLed work in your project in the first place. You and many others seem to be confusing "freedom" with "utter lack of obligation". The GPL is intended to preserve certain freedoms for both users and developers.

    A developer with no obligations to others can impose any condition he wishes on a user who desires to use his creation. If you wrote it all yourself and didn't put that tiniest bit of GPLed code in then by all means exercise that freedom.

    A user with no obligations to developers can claim any benefit of the code for himself, up and to and including claims of authorship and invention. A user in that position can profit from that code in any way he wishes and return nothing to the developer....not acknowledgement, not improvements, absolutely nothing he doesn't feel like doing.

    In the real world, there isn't a way for both users and developers to have no responsibilities whatsoever regarding software. There are a lot of ways to balance the situation so that both sides can retain significant freedoms hence the spectrum of FOSS licenses. Most of these compromises between original developers and downstream recipients can reasonably be called free. ALL of them have restrictions or obligations for at least the recipient of a software package. Even the "truly free" BSD licenses absolutely require that the copyright notice be preserved. It also implictly requires acknowlegement that author had the right to license his work that a way and indeed still owns the original work. It is a dangerous subtlety for the likes of SCO to miss if they try to do to the BSD community what they are doing to the Linux community.

    The GPL preserves certain liberties (the so-called "four freedoms") as long as certain responsibilities are accepted. You seem to want those liberties without the responsibility, that "tiniest bit of GPLed code". If you don't use that code then there isn't much argument is there?

    I suppose that leaves room for the ongoing semantic debate over what freedom actually is. But there is no reasonable definition of freedom that doesn't include responsibility.

  • by Kunta Kinte ( 323399 ) on Wednesday April 14, 2004 @12:19AM (#8856988) Journal
    If Java is GPLed, e it could not be used in an application that is not GPL compatible.

    Remember Java is a library. They'd have to go with the LGPL.

    Personally, I am a big fun of java and have been for years. I am a big fan of Open source, and have been for even longer. But I can not understand why people see the need for merging the two.

    I have serious doubts that Java would continue at its current development schedule if open sourced. Nothing is stopping open source groups from working on a free Java right now. In fact GCJ and Kaffe people have been working on it for years.

    Are they anyway close??

    How can we tell Sun what to do with their developer time? Why not go donate some time/money/resources to an effort like instead?

  • by nathanh ( 1214 ) on Wednesday April 14, 2004 @12:34AM (#8857096) Homepage
    Are any of those certified for production use? Would you trust your ecommerce site to them?

    Would you trust your ecommerce site to Linux?

    Let's face it, certification gives a certain amount of trust, but familiarity gives the rest.

  • by Chuck Chunder ( 21021 ) on Wednesday April 14, 2004 @12:50AM (#8857196) Homepage Journal
    While that's a lot more definitive than any of the patent grant stuff I've read relating to the ECMA C# and CLI standards [] it still isn't Free Software or probably even Open Source friendly.

    Notably the fact that the patent grant only applies for implementations that:
    • include a complete implementation of the current version of this specification without subsetting or supersetting;
    • implement all the interfaces and functionality of the required packages of the Java 2 Platform, Standard Edition, as defined by SUN, without subsetting or supersetting;
    • pass all test suites relating to the most recent published version of the specification of the Java 2 Platform, Standard Edition, that are available from SUN six (6) months prior to any beta release of the clean room implementation or upgrade thereto;
    seem (at least on the face of it) problematical [] for Open Source development. Those are fairly rigid requirements and if you are only 99% of the way there then you simply don't have a patent grant....
  • by jmorris42 ( 1458 ) * <> on Wednesday April 14, 2004 @02:04AM (#8857544)
    > Would you trust your ecommerce site to Linux?

    Depends. Linux and *BSD power a majority of the really impressive sites on the network so I'd certainly be in good company. Solaris is just too expensive for something so clusterable like web services.

    Might use a big Solaris box to host the DB on the backend if the site was really major. Postgresql has made a lot of progress and I'll probably revise this remark in another year or so, but Oracle/DB2/Sybase is still what I'd want running the backend if a lot of money was riding on it just because it they have been doing replication and other such enterprise level things long enough to be trustworthy. Of course Oracle and IBM both support Linux as a tier 1 platform these days so running Linux all the way to the backend is certainly possible for all but the largest users who need the 128way Sun boxes.

    And I think it goes without saying that Windows has no place in the enterprise except as legacy desktops. Period, end of story. Anyone suggesting otherwise has instantly proven themself to be incompetent and not to be trusted for advice on IT matters.
  • I mostly agree with this, and I'm hypersensitive to RMS bashing. The Gosling article did not include ad hominem attacks on Stallman.

    However, it did contain stunningly misleading comparisons between the GPL and Java's licensing. He hides it all in a clever ruse- he accuses Stallman of redefining freedom to suit Stallman's agenda, then redefines freedom himself to suit Gosling's agenda. I'll leave as an exercise to the reader which license gives you more freedoms. Hint: it's the GPL.

  • by Eminor ( 455350 ) on Wednesday April 14, 2004 @03:16AM (#8857789)
    i'm going to 'have a little faith' and trust gosling and mcnealy.

    I'll have to agree with that sentiment.

    Java is not like a web browser where the users would be ignorant, and just use Microsoft's because that's what they are given. Java developers _know_ who is the authentic source for Java technology. So it's not like Java developers in their masses are going to adopt whatever idiosyncrasies Microsoft implements next.

    I think that Sun should be able to keep ahead of Microsoft on the curve of giving developers what they want (history shows that when somebody implements a good idea, Microsoft copies).

    I don't think McNealy would let Microsoft steer the ship. I think this is a chess match. The current move may perplex you, as it should, but the reasons why the move was made will be clear soon.

    Sun is a fierce in nature when it comes to Microsoft. Don't let yourself think that they gave in so easily. How many Microsoft competitors do you know of that were able to grep a $2 billon settlement out of them?

  • by RdsArts ( 667685 ) on Wednesday April 14, 2004 @03:34AM (#8857843) Homepage Journal
    That's what they do.

    That's why a patch set for Java's sources was in the FreeBSD ports forever, yet everyone says 'freebsd didn't have Java.' There was no binary distribution of that possible because it hadn't passed through Sun yet.

    The Java specs are available for the most part. The only problem is no one knows what the tests for Java compliance are, but anyone with the cash can send software to take them and be able to be called 'Java.' Other then that, everything you asked for in your post is already true.
  • by Alsee ( 515537 ) on Wednesday April 14, 2004 @04:30AM (#8857978) Homepage
    little meaningful technological change in either Microsoft's or Sun's products as a result of the settlement

    I dissagree.

    Has it not dawned on anyone else that Microsoft current averarching agenda is the Trusted Computing rollout? The information on the Microsoft/Sun deal is very light on details, but it sure looked to me like it included all the licencing and protocals Sun would need to produce Trusted Computing servers to operate with Microsoft Trusted desktops. It specifically mentioned "identity management" interoperability.

    With Sun on board Microsoft gets to avoid charges that it's "Palladium" system is a monopoly. Suddenly it is a multi platform multivendor standard. $2 billion to sweepaway past anti-trust charges, to ensure .NET becomes the standard rather than Java, and most of all to firmly entrench and spread their ultimate goal of Trusted Computing.

    And mere days later Microsoft hands over nearly another half-billion to InterTrust to scoop up all of the DRM patents rights for Trusted Computing.

    Microsoft is spreading the money around to pave the way for Trusted Computing. And for Microsoft it's pocket change.

    What really catched my attention though is the timing on the two deals. Suns deal with Microsoft clears up past infringents by both parties, it grants Sun future rights to the required patentas Microsoft held. BUT! Microsoft did not yet hold InterTrust's DRM patents. Did Microsoft just pull a fast one on SUN? Possibly leaving Sun totally screwed because the deal did NOT include the InterTrust patents that Sun would actually end up needing?

    That would be EXACTLY the sort of "sharp" business tactics Microsoft is notorious for. They dazzle their business "partners" with huge dollar signs to sign a deal, all the while holding a plan to yank the rug out from under them.

    I think Sun better examine the InterTrust deal under a microscope then review their own contracts.

  • by Alsee ( 515537 ) on Wednesday April 14, 2004 @04:38AM (#8857997) Homepage
    How free is code that I can't use unless I want to give away my sofware, mo matter how little a part the GPLd software is?

    I have one question for you:
    What do you think would happen if you included a "little part" of Microsoft code?

    *ALL* copyright is viral. If you use even a single line of Microsoft code you are infected by Microsoft's copyright.

    If GPL is viral then Microsoft is ebola. GPL code may "infect" you if you choose to use it, but Microsoft code infects and instantly kill your entire project.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 14, 2004 @04:54AM (#8858032)
    I think you missed the point of what he said. He never claimed that Java was free software. He was simply illustrating that a there are redistributio restrictions on GPL code and there are restrictions on using the Java spec to produce and distribute code. Both with equally valid arguments.

    GPL to keep the source open. Java to make sure all implementations are compatible with the spec in order to keep the langage true write once run anywhere.

    Debian are right not to include Sun's Java implementaion in the distro. It is not free as in freedom software. Sun are well within their rights not to let you use thier trademark or dilute their brand by calling an incomplete implementation of the spec Java or extending the spec and calling that Java.
  • by jrumney ( 197329 ) on Wednesday April 14, 2004 @05:43AM (#8858188)
    I'm baffled by most of Gosling's comments about RMS and the GPL.

    It is no surprise to see Gosling attack the GPL. He is personally responsible for it's creation, and I don't mean that as a compliment. If it wasn't for him, RMS would have continued releasing his work into the public domain, at least until the next Gosling came along and demonstrated that freedom needs to be protected.

  • by Kombat ( 93720 ) <> on Wednesday April 14, 2004 @08:46AM (#8858781) Homepage
    You're perfectly free not to use even the tiniest bit of GPLed work in your project in the first place.

    But that's not "free!" Don't you get it? Your response is analogous to someone saying, "Music CDs are not 'free', because I'm not allowed to rip them to MP3 and give them to my friends," and you responding "You're perfectly free to not buy the CDs, and to make your own music."

    Just because you happen to agree with the agenda in the GPL doesn't mean you can deny that the agenda exists.

    The original poster is correct. If I am not free to use your software however I want, including closing up my derived source and selling the whole she-bang, then it is not truly "free."

Never buy from a rich salesman. -- Goldenstern