Sun, Java and Free Software

Since it seems every 6 months or so Sun makes some noise about Java and Free Software I asked Dalibor Topic and Ean Schuessler about their recent experiences with getting access to the TCK for Kaffe and Ean his encounter with Simon Phipps at FISL. Dalibor still hasn’t heard anything about how he or the rest of the Kaffe team can get access to the TCK. And Ean his story about what Sun told him about supporting Free Software and the Kaffe project didn’t convince me they are really serious. Ean asked me to put in a little disclaimer if I wanted to quote him. “Feel free to reproduce this message in any channels you consider relevant to the cause. Keep in mind that my memory is most certainly imperfect and this little story may bend or extend the facts. That said, I’ve tried to represent what I experienced factually. Include this notice.” So with that out of the way, here is part of what Ean said:

In essence, Simon said everything that a Free Java fan would like to hear. Sun supports Free Software, Sun thinks Kaffe is a good thing, Sun would like to find a way to certify Kaffe and go team go. This isn’t suprising considering that Simon’s title is “Open Source Evangelist” or something along those lines. I found the subtext of the conversation less encouraging.

Simon continued to harp on the same cliche reasons for not releasing the source to the JVM. Microsoft would subvert it by forking, the Free Software community would subvert it by forking, IBM would subvert it by forking and so on. I naturally pointed out to Simon that Free Software is entirely held together by standards (POSIX, TCP/IP, etc.) and that some of the most important Java standards were based on Free Software (SAX, DOM, etc.). He resisted these points mostly by repeating himself. To me that signals that he was reiterating the corporate position and not his personal one. He also had a tendency to obliquely refer to some point in the future where he might abandon his position at Sun if they don’t do something significant with Free Software and Java.

To me this looks like they (Sun the company) aren’t really serious about supporting the Free Software implementations. Tom Tromey pointed out some questions you might want to ask when attending any debate about free implementations of java. But for now it seems it is better to concentrate on our Free Software implementations then to go into debate again and again with Sun about what they want to do. I cannot force them to do anything they don’t want to. So I just concentrate on making sure that the next GNU Classpath 0.10 “Independence” release will rock!