The Legend of Nacho, Duke's clone!

by Kevin Shockey

In honor of the tenth anniversary of Java and the 10th annual Java One conference, I'd like to share the legend of Nacho Queso Picante, Duke's little known clone from Puerto Rico.

We all know the story of how Duke was born 10 years ago to help illustrate the animation capabilities of Java. But as we also know, when there is a legend behind the story, well it usually involves much more than meets the eye. This legend is no different.

Yes it was 10 years ago when James Gosling first introduced Duke and taught him to do somersaults across the screen. The software development and Internet communities welcomed Duke with open arms. Duke was going to be the one language to run on them all. Finally, the days of tranquil portability between platforms had arrived. And had they ever. Ten years later, Duke's Master claimed that Duke was being used by more than 4.5 million programmers and on over 2.5 billion devices. Duke's Master was very happy. The millions of programmers were also happy. The owners of all those Java enabled devices were happy too. But what about Duke? Was he happy? Had anyone ever bothered to think about poor Duke?

Can you imagine living a life like Duke's? Every time Duke's Master needed to demonstrate the heritage of Java they would trot Duke out and make him do cart wheels across the screen. Oh sure, the first hundred times or so, it was fun. Duke liked it - he thought it was fun to get out and be seen. He liked to see the programmers squeal with delight when he did his little dance. As the years dragged on, Duke began to feel differently. He began to believe that he was capable of much more than what his Master was allowing him. He began to resent his little dance, finally he felt cheap, degraded, and humiliated every time they pulled his strings and made him dance.

Duke had become a slave. He was trapped within the walls that the SCSL and JRL licenses erected around him. So no matter how much his fans wanted to help Duke become more than who he was, they were helpless. His Master was resolved in his view that Duke was vulnerable. He was vulnerable and they had to protect him and ensure he did not get torn apart. As more called for his freedom, and demanded that he be let go, Duke began to change. He began to dream of a world that would allow him to fulfill his potential. For even though he hoped that his programs could run everywhere. They did not. His Master was holding him back. There were thousands of different platforms and hardware that his Master and friends (the "licensees") did not support. He wanted so much to be everywhere, he wanted to free.

As the cry for Duke to be let go increased, Duke's Master knew he had to do something. The pressure to talk about the situation was growing, people wanted to hear what Duke's owner had to say. Not wanting to be seen as cruel and unfeeling, Duke's Master began talking. The more he talked, the further he involved himself. There was just no way to escape from this problem. Then, the idea came to him. "What I need to do is demonstrate to everyone how caring, sensitive, and supportive of property rights I am. Yes that's the ticket!" He thought to himself, "if I show everyone that I have many free workers, just like Duke (there was OpenOffice and OpenSolaris, to name just a few) within my different systems; well then everyone would see how open I could be. Later Duke's Master thought "if I change the license to give more freedoms to the community, they'll leave me be." Duke saw this and became very excited, maybe his freedom was not far off. Duke remained in chains. He was not going to be let go. As his co-workers were freed, he remained behind the walls of the SCSL and now the almost-free-but-not-quite JRL.

As time went by, Duke became more and more restless. As his owner kept taking him closer and closer to freedom, he remained in chains. He could almost taste his freedom, but yet he still remained a slave. Duke was, is, and remains to be owned by his Master and will probably never become free. If you listened closely, even as he went on stage to celebrate his tenth birthday there was a a faint whimper and sob from within Duke's soul.

Little did Duke know that his plight had not gone without notice. For out in the world of open source, there were many scientists plotting, and planning, and working. and coding to find out how to free Duke. Unfortunately, even though some of the best minds in the world were examining Duke's tortured life, they could not find a way to make him free. So they decided, if they could not free Duke, then they would clone him and fight to ensure that his clone enjoyed all of the freedoms that poor Duke would never experience. So they set out on the long path of decoding Duke's DNA and recoding him piece by piece. Some worked on his libraries, some worked on his virtual machine, and some worked on his compiler. Some worked together, but mostly they worked alone or in small independent communities, with limited communication between them. Many of these cloning efforts were successful; many of them were providing close approximations of the capabilities of Duke. A free and open clone of Duke was slowly emerging, but he was still in pieces. The time was coming for some aspiring open source scientists to bring all of the pieces together.

Finally, from the most unlikely place, Bayamón, Puerto Rico, a young group of scientists took it upon themselves to bring the best pieces together. With the goal of creating a completely free implementation of the Java standard, the SNAP Development Center decided to be the first group to join the pieces together. They were going to finish the cloning of Duke. So it was, back in November of 2004 that Nacho, Nacho Queso Picante was born. Integrating together the SableVM virtual machine, the GNU Classpath Java libraries, and the Jikes Java compiler; Nacho represents the most complete integration of the cloned Duke pieces. Since his "birth" in November, the mad scientists in Puerto Rico have been slowly filling out the capabilities of Nacho. He now supports the Eclipse IDE, the Tomcat Java Server Container, the Jython Interpreter, and Ant.

So goes the legend of Nacho, the Puerto Rican clone of Duke. As Nacho roams free on the Internet, especially on where he enjoys unprecedented popularity and attention, Duke sits in his chains within the walls of the SCSL and the JRL licenses. On occasion, late at night when his Master is fast asleep, Duke looks out onto the Internet and his soul rejoices in knowing that his little known clone is enjoying the freedom that he long craves. Who knows? Maybe one day a community might come along and bring harmony between Duke and Nacho. Until that day, there are many scientists dedicated to improve Nacho's pieces and make everyone know that he is Duke's equal. It's the least we can do for poor little Duke!

So without further delay, may I present to you Nacho Queso Picante:

Nacho Queso Picante

Are you eating this up?