First Rays of a New Rising Sun
November 13, 2006 3 Comments
‘Right there over the hill you see the first rays of a New Rising Sun’ was what Jimi Hendrix said at the final Woodstock morning, after 3 days of rain and a couple of years of the hippie era, which at this time was riddled by drugs and apathy. He probably envisioned a new era starting up, which unfortunately didn’t really happen, except if you count John Lennon’s activism. And no I don’t see any (often cited) parallels between the hippie movement and the Free Software movement, despite both having ‘Freedom’ right on their forehead and often longish hair and beards 😉
So Sun is going to release Java under the GPL (+ex). That’s really awesome great news! That is really a surprising and bold move by Sun and I think this is the best thing that they could do to get their Java ship running well again. Not only is this a good thing for the Free Software community, which has long wined about the Java situation, I think this is also good for Sun. Now they can really embrace on Write Once Run Everywhere. Sun themselves so far were not 100% able to deliver their runtime for every kind of platform. Now the community can help out and get Java running on whatever platform you could think of. Just look at Kaffe (aka the NetBSD of the Java runtimes). Sun wouldn’t care about most of the supported platforms of Kaffe. And rightly so. Only now is the community that cares about these platforms able to lend a hand in porting Java over.
So what about the future of GNU Classpath? I can only speculate now, the chestnuts are too hot right now (and probably get even hotter), but let’s try anyway. And, this is from my developer POV only. The fact is that now there is really no hard need for the GNU Classpath project anymore. But I want to raise two aspects here: 1. Many projects are built around GNU Classpath right now. It won’t be exactly easy and trivial to port them over to Sun’s libraries. Surely, it can and will be done, but for the time beeing GNU Classpath is still needed. (And could IMO provide a migration path). 2. The development environment of GNU Classpath is much more flexible right now. This spirit of hack – test – commit is part of what makes GNU Classpath attractive for developers, including me. I don’t think that this will be possible with Sun’s code, and rightly so. So, what I really would like to see would be a development process on Sun’s (and our) side that would allow hackers to hack on whatever project they like, and let one project include code from the other. Now, that is not an easy task and might not be possible at all. But let’s dream for a moment (man, those endorphines seem to be high today 🙂 ). So, I think both codebases will peacefully coexist for a while, and most likely converge too quite a great degree. If at a later point they merge into one or if they will continue to coexist, time will tell.
For the Harmony people, I feel a little sorry right now. They won’t be able to easily include Sun’s code for some more time. But, the GPLv3 is there at the horizon, and hopefully this will be even more incentive to get the GPL vs APL issues worked out.
Last but not least, THANK YOU SUN! Now we’re sitting in the same boat. Lets go together and bring that ship to new glory!