Open Source Java - Be careful what you read

by Daniel H. Steinberg

Related link: http://today.java.net/jag/page7.html#62



It's been kind of fun to follow the "will they - won't they" discussion around the possibilty of Sun open sourcing Java and Solaris. Yesterday, ZDNet ran a story that quoted Sun Java Technology evangelist Raghavan Srinivas saying "We haven't worked out how to open-source Java -- but at some point it will happen [..] it might be today, tomorrow or two years down the road". There is also James Gosling's blog which indicates that thought is being given to how this might be done in his post Open Sourcing Java.



As for the Solaris front, Cnet Asia recently ran the story Sun confirms plans to open source Solaris quoting Sun president Jonathan Schwartz as saying "I don't want to say when that will happen, [..] But make no mistake: We will open-source Solaris."



And then there is this sneaky article which appears to add more to the discussion. The following was published today.


< questionable content >

Sun's CEO Scott McNealy has squashed hopes that its Java programming language could be made open source, and cast a shadow over Sun COO Jonathan Schwartz's statement yesterday that the Solaris operating system was to go the same way.


At a news conference during the public sector technology showcase FOSE 2004, McNealy said he couldn't understand how open sourcing Java would solve anything.


< /questionable content >



Doesn't Matt Whipp's PC Pro article make it seem as if McNealy made his remarks after Schwartz. How else could McNealy squash hopes over Schwartz's statement from yesterday? It is true that McNealy made the comments about open sourcing Java - but he did so back in April at the FOSE news conference mentioned in the second paragraph. Later in the story comments from March are referenced. Where is the news in this story that is labeled "news" and subtitled "latest".



My local JUG mailing list has picked up on this story and there is an active discussion. I don't know whether or not Sun will or will not open source Java and/or Solaris - but before anyone gets worked up over what is and isn't happening, we need to consider the source.


6 Comments

nzheretic
2004-06-05 19:55:03
It makes a lot of sense for Sun to open source the Java Libraries and Solaris Kernel
It makes a lot of sense for Sun to open source the Java Libraries and Solaris Kernel.
jwenting
2004-06-06 23:29:16
It makes a lot of sense for Sun to open source the Java Libraries and Solaris Kernel
It's sound business for Sun to (A) Open source licensing the Java J2SE,J2EE and J2ME framework libraries ; and (B) Release a fork of the Solaris Kernel under the GPL license.
It would benefit the entire Java based industry, including the free software, open source and proprietary based vendors, to open license the core J2ME,J2SE,J2EE libraries and Java to bytecode compilers.



If you believe that you've fallen straight for the ESR religion that everything should be open source.


Throwing the GPL at Java is the surest way to destroy the platform as (as I hope you're aware) the GPL dictates that anything using GPL'd software must itself by released under the GPL.
That would make ALL software written in Java immediately GPL which would kill all commercial use of the language.


In fact, noone benefits by open sourcing Java except those who want to destroy the platform. They'll be able to immediately divide the language by forking it and releasing dozens or hundreds of non-compatible implementations which will make writing code to run on different JVMs nigh on impossible (as is their goal).


A better way would be to increase the pace of the JCP which now is too unresponsive and bureaucratic.
Under the JCP code is already available and fixes can be submitted for inclusion, it just takes a long time for them to be incorporated.

bnivens
2004-06-07 04:42:43
It makes a lot of sense for Sun to open source the Java Libraries and Solaris Kernel
Throwing the GPL at Java is the surest way to destroy the platform as (as I hope you're aware) the GPL dictates that anything using GPL'd software must itself by released under the GPL.
That would make ALL software written in Java immediately GPL which would kill all commercial use of the language.


Please read the GPL before making statements like this. You only show yourself as someone who has bought into the GPL FUD without even doing the most basic investigation.


In case there is anyone else on the O'Reilly Network who does not understand the basics of the GPL, you can use GPL'ed software in your commercial code without distributing your source. Of course, INAL, so if you need to modify the GPL'ed code or copy the GPL'ed code into your source, read the GPL to find out what your obligations are.

fmitchell@acm.org
2004-06-07 18:16:32
GPL , Open Source, and Java
While IANAL, my reading of GPL is that any program compiled and linked with GPL code *must* be GPL. Obviously, it was written back in the days of assembler and C, but mixing bytecodes would fall under the same category.


However, there's the LGPL (Lesser GPL), which avoids this restriction as long as one links only to the published interface, and doesn't modify code below that interface. A number of third-party Java libraries are LGPL.


Also, look at GNU's "CLASSPATH" library, a GPL reimplementation of the Java standards: http://www.gnu.org/software/classpath/faq/faq.html#faq2_1
Sun could license its J2SE (or ME or EE) and JVM with a similar exception ... or for that matter, use a less controversial open source license like Apache's or Perl's.

nzheretic
2004-06-07 21:30:58
It makes a lot of sense for Sun to open source the Java Libraries and Solaris Kernel
"Throwing the GPL at Java is the surest way to destroy the platform".


For a start, I stated "Release a fork of the Solaris Kernel under the GPL license", which may not be the best open source license for the Java J2SE,J2EE and J2ME Framework libraries. My Original reply goes into the detail over additional license clauses, compatable with the open source definition but not the GPL, which would prevent incompatible forks.


Read my reply, and stop spouting Microsoft-inspired anti-GPL FUD Ducks. The Linux kernel is also GPL'ed, but that does not prevent proprietary software being run on top of the Linux kernel in user space. OpenOffice.org is dual licensed with LGPL and Sun still manages to sell StarOffice.

aristotle
2004-06-09 09:15:47
Ridiculous horseplay.
The Linux kernel, the GCC, and the glibc are all under GPL.


You can still develop non-free, proprietary applications with them.


Please do a modicum of research before spouting nonsense / reproducing FUD like that. You risk making yourself a fool to the knowledgeable and causing damage among the ignorant otherwise.