CyberTech Rambler

June 30, 2008

Why a free java is good for developer

Filed under: Uncategorized — ctrambler @ 10:14 pm

Neil McAllister “Java is Free at last, so what?” article puzzle me. His generalization that before Java was Free, Linux application developers has a “dilemma” on whether to use Java or not for the fear of alienating Free Software supporters in my mind just simply do not exists.

First and foremost, there are a _lot_ of people writing proprietary Linux application. To them, they don’t care whether Java is free since free software users are not their client base. No dilemma there.

Those of us who count Free software supporters inside our customer base knows that Free software supporters come in many shape and kind. There are a portion of ardent free software supporter that will simply not use any other software. If they formed the bulk of one’s target base, not being allowed to use Java is just the norm as they would had accepted that they have a more restricted set of software tools available.  So what dilemma?? To be truely honest, that position is simply just another position. With the proprietary software route, one’s ability to use software depends on one’s ability to pay. This would had in a lot of case restricts the available software for you more severely than free software do. In a lot of ways, restricting oneself to free software is ironically, liberating. The fact that you know you do not have to deal with a large class of potential problems, such as keeping up licensing fees, forced to rework your software is in the long run, a fringe benefit. The best part is actually being able to resolve bugs yourself, rather than convincing another person there is a problem, then wait for them to fix it. Moreover, the more you dive into the Free Software Universe, you will find that you have a lot of quality software to work with to build your own software.

Most Free Software supporters are like me, practical people who wants and will make sacrifices to write free software; When it comes to buying in software, we will take free software over proprietary one if both are equivalent in functionality, and will even give Free Software the edge if free software is slightly more awkward to use and does not have the features that we like but can live without.  Richard Stallman’s Java Trap argument is read simply as a warning that there is risk with Java. Most importantly, RMS did not tell us to stop writing in Java. He just asked us to be selective in the java VM vendors we choose.

Now that we have a truely free Java, what’s the upside? First and foremost, it simplify the software deployment process. And with this, I mean for all developers. Most users of Linux uses a distribution to manage their software, and more likely than not they got their hands on a distribution that only do Free Software on initial installation. This means no Java by default and this complicates the installation process for Java-based Program.  Take me for example, I put a copy of Java VM in every download. It is either this, or I can instruct my users on how to download and get Java.  Most people like me will choose to bundle java: Less hassle in the long run.

And a free Java just extended the horizon of free software available immediately!  Being practical and working on Free Software using Java with others work on freeing Java means now that Java is finally freed, software do not have to play catch up but can compete immediately with other software. Of course I cannot take credit for this. It is those who write the Free Java that earns all the kudos. I also know this is a choice that RMS would not had made, but I am not RMS.

So, Free Java is a major milestone for developers, All develepors.



  1. Nice article – I think it would do really well on JavaLobby. If you’re interested, drop me an email and we can organise it.

    Comment by James — July 1, 2008 @ 2:03 pm | Reply

  2. Is “Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 United States License” (or the same license for any country of your choice) good enough for you?? Or do you have any other requirements that I have to satisfy?

    Comment by ctrambler — July 1, 2008 @ 5:44 pm | Reply

  3. To be honest there is still a very long road to go before the effects of SUN’s ill-advised former licensing regime are totally repaired.

    The free-ing of the JVM is just the first step. The next ones are agreeing on some sort of java resource dependency tracking (no Linux distros won’t accept the “bundle everything, manual classpaths” mode of deployment that was good enough for Solaris and Windows, and JSR 277 is a joke by people who’ve never seen a real dep system into action), convincing projects to use this system, packaging java bits, draining the huge code swamp lack of deployment standards created, convincing people that gave up on Java in the dark years that yes you can do cool Free software java apps (even on the desktop), etc

    In other words, integration and ecosystem. It will likely take a few years. And yes SUN missed many opportunities but the past is the past, Java is a solid stack and there’s no reason it can not flourish on Linux now it’s been unshackled.

    Comment by Nicolas Mailhot — July 2, 2008 @ 8:47 am | Reply

  4. SUN’s licensing regime made sense when Java was first introduced. It survived Microsoft “embrace, extends, extinguish” attempt and that is not easy.

    It was good for an embryonic programming language, but I agree with you it must evolve. Java can now stand on its own feet and just like Eclipse, more can be achieve if SUN relinquish control to a foundation/organization.

    SUN’s former regime did a lot of mistakes, including propping up the SCO-IBM lawsuit with a free cash injection. It did, however, changed with Scwartz at helm. Nowadays, most people would not automatically view SUN’s open source overture or steps suspiciously. I hope it will translate to Java licensing and certification, which Scwartz made some promises and seems to need more pushing before we can cash those promises.

    The decrease in hostility between Eclipse and SUN and NetBeans is also a good sign.

    “Bundle everything, manual classpath” is the biggest pain in delivering Java to end users. I am sure system administrator also feel the pain during deployment, but at least we can reasonably hope they have the skill to configure the classpath propertly. With joe end users, no hope whatsoever. The manual classpath is SO painful that I think a lot of people would just throw their jar files into jre/lib or equivalent place to get it read automatically and hope everything works. By doing so, defeat some of the purpose of classpath. The truth is, part of the reason I used Eclipse is to get rid of classpath management and resource dependency management.

    I agree a proper java resource dependency tracking and management is long overdue. I cannot believe that they did not put anything solid to do version check at the minimum given that the DLL hell problem is well known since Java’s inception. Of course, nowadays you can find add-ons to Java like Eclipse which does a lot of good management stuff.

    For me, I would also like to see a good scientific library.

    Comment by ctrambler — July 4, 2008 @ 12:18 pm | Reply

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