May 9, 2005 10:51 AM PDT

Apache eyes open-source Java project

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compatibility problems because Apache will have to follow Sun's testing guidelines for J2SE.

"I think it's wonderful Apache wants to do (this), but it will be a long time before there's a seriously competitive implementation with commercial vendors," she said. "It will take a long time to do clean-room implementation of J2SE because it's a very big piece of code."

Mixed reaction
Last year, there were loud calls to make Java open source, notably from IBM, which said such a move would simplify the bundling of Java software with Linux.

The initial reaction to Project Harmony from some Java programmers, however, was less than enthusiastic.

Java developers on Monday urged the people behind Project Harmony to concentrate their efforts on other work at Apache. Many noted that the task of creating a J2SE "runtime" from scratch is difficult and that commercial versions are already available. The runtime is software needed to run the Java programs.

"From my experience and after having seen several shows of hands on this question at many conferences, I am confident claiming that hardly anybody cares about an open-source Java," Cedric Beust, a highly regarded Java engineer who left BEA Systems last year to join Google, wrote in a posting on TheServerSide.

"And in the (unlikely) case where you would actually reach a 100 percent compatible version of J2SE, why would anyone use your version of it instead of Sun's?" he asked.

In addition to Sun, BEA and IBM have their own versions of J2SE. However, none of the versions is available with an open-source license, as defined by the Open Source Initiative, which provides guidelines on licenses.

Sun, however, has changed the development process of J2SE significantly by regularly publishing the code that is going into the next version of J2SE, which is due out next year.

There are other types of Java runtimes. Besides the J2SE desktop software, there is a server version called Java 2 Enterprise Edition (J2EE), as well as another for handheld devices, called Java 2 Micro Edition (J2ME).

There already are J2EE servers available with an open-source license, including the JBoss application server and one called Jonas from a France-based consortium called ObjectWeb. The Apache Foundation also has its own project, called Geronimo, which is close to gaining J2EE certification.

Geir Magnusson Jr., a member of Apache and one of the submitters of Project Harmony, said making J2SE available with an open-source license will help encourage new development of Java software.

"I think J2SE should be a common 'dial tone' on every platform," Magnusson wrote in response to critics.

"Developers should be able to count on a set of services available to them. Those creating the platforms should be able to focus on what makes them different, not what makes them the same, and share in the maintenance of that 'commons,' if they wish," Magnussson said. He reiterated that the effort would seek to create compatible versions of the J2SE runtime.

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Maybe they should ask Microsoft for their code
Since Sun sued to get Microsofts code made unusable by MS they could donate their code for their VM to this project in order to get it available sooner (the MS code wouldn't be usable as is but it could shave a lot of time off of any development effort).
Posted by aabcdefghij987654321 (1721 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Not a good idea...
There are a few reasons why they wouldn't ask
for Microsoft's code:

1. it's wedded to the Win32 APIs and carries
considerable "intellectual property" (sic)
encumbrance that would make it unsuitable;

2. Microsoft's coding practices (style, quality,
and documentation) are generally not up to the
standards required by the Apache project or more
generally for open-source software;

3. While good for it's time, the MS JVM is now
comparatively outdated;

4. Fixing 1, 2, and 3 above would take as much
time as doing the work de novo, and the de novo
approach eliminates any undesirable association
of the project with MS (with whom many have
product quality issues, contractual issues, or
just plain personal disdain)
Posted by Gleeplewinky (289 comments )
Link Flag
An Open-Source Java OS!
With this Apache's Foundation initiative and given the fact that IBM's OS/2 Warp was determined to be Operating System with the best JVM... perhaps there is now need for both IBM and Sun to consider donating code towards the development of the much earlier proposed Java OS by the two companies!

Posted by (187 comments )
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I'm not sure I understand this
Why is Apache doing this from scratch? Why don't they start with GCJ? Surely that could cut their development time and time-to-market significantly. And I don't think I understand why they're doing this at all--except perhaps to provide a solid implementation of J2SE to more platforms than Windows, Solaris, Linux and MacOS.

I'm also not sure why Java *has* to be open-source. There are already tons of Java applications, many of them open-source, that were compiled with Sun's compiler and are run with Sun's runtime.
Posted by (1 comment )
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I Agree
I think working on GCJ would be more fruitful. If they could
create a Java compiler that could crank out standalone single-
file executables (a la REALbasic), then that would be something.
Posted by open-mind (1027 comments )
Link Flag
messy in the beginning, could be good for the long run
From my experience with Apache's other projects, this could create a mess in the beginning. Since I am a big Apache fan, I am still experiencing the frequent build/release from apache and can't resist the urge to try on the latest one (of any apache software I am using). So from the point of view to maintain a J2SE standard, this won't be good in the first few years.

However, if the project can be successful as Apache/HTTP server. I have no doubt someday it will become the de facto standard for Java environment for any open source developers.

And before that comes, relying on an open source run-time is just too scary a thing to be considered in a real production system.

Of course, if IBM is willing do donate their J2SE implementation (I am think Eclipse......), that'd be a different story.

Posted by (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
apple also builds its own JVM etc in mac os/x
apple's java environment is also independently built ... indeed, so good is the implementation that sun has licensed from apple certain technologies (relating to JIT for hotspot).

and if popularity at sun itself is anything to go by, it is worth noting that apple's powerbook laptops are the java develoment platform of choice by sun employees!

(which is kinda like the situation at microsoft where the most popular media player is the ipod - the highest compliments are always when your compettion prefers your own products over theirs ;-)
Posted by zahadum (28 comments )
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Seems like an awful lot of work for little gain
You can already create open source apps in java using the tools supplied by Sun. So what value is there is having a OS version of J2SE?

Having a competing version of J2SE is more then likely going to not be 100% compatible with Suns version, which will cause endless problems. It will also cause the fracturing of a good, solid language. How is this a good thing?

What if Apache adds to the API in a way that programs compiled by Apache can not be run with Suns JRE? That is not a good thing.

This project will take years to complete, and may not always be up to date with Sun implementation, which will cause problems.

It seems to me that the only reason for this is so open source developers can feel 'pure' by only using os tools. That is a stupid reason for risking a good language and putting in years of effort into a project. Especially when os programmers can use the tools already available to create their programs. With Eclipse everything but the compiler can be open source. There are already os tools for parts of J2SE like replacements, for the excellent javadoc program.

I could see the need for it, if Sun charged for J2SE, especially if it were stupidly expensive like competing products. But, it costs nothing, and doesn't put undue restrictions on the programer. It is highly cross-platform and a consistant language that has, so far, avoided the tangled mess that languages like C++(still a excellent and powerful language) has become. There are already tons of os java apps, not too mention the fact that GCC has java support.

So what is the point of this project?
Posted by pcLoadLetter (395 comments )
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