May 9, 2005 10:51 AM PDT

Apache eyes open-source Java project

The Apache Foundation has proposed creating an open-source version of Java on the desktop, a plan that Sun Microsystems has initially welcomed.

Project Harmony, which was formally proposed Friday, aims to write from scratch the software, called Java 2 Standard Edition (J2SE), that is needed to run Java programs on desktop PCs.

The project was proposed by members of Apache--the foundation behind several popular open-source products--and other individuals involved in Java development. The submitters plan to create a Java virtual machine, related "libraries" and testing software--all of which would be available under the Apache open-source license.

If accepted, the project would create something that open-source developers and others have demanded for years but that Sun has resisted.

Sun is the primary author of J2SE and provides testing tools and a reference implementation to ensure compatibility among different Java software licensees. The company has not made its own J2SE software available with an open-source license because of legal considerations and customers' concerns with Java compatibility.

In the Project Harmony proposal and FAQ, the group of submitters said there is "broad community interest" in creating an open-source version of J2SE. It said that Project Harmony does not intend to compete with Sun directly and that it will use a code-submission process designed to avoid legal problems.

The group is taking on the project now because Sun changed the rules in the Java standardization effort, called the Java Community Process, to better accommodate open-source software.

Graham Hamilton, a Sun vice president and fellow, said that Sun welcomes the project, although he questioned the need for it.

"I am very curious about how the Harmony project will work out--creating a full-scale implementation of J2SE is a mammoth task, as the Sun J2SE team knows only too well," Hamilton said in his blog.

Hamilton added that Sun will likely participate in the project in some way.

Although open-source Java advocates will likely welcome Project Harmony, the results of any project could take three years to five years to appear, said Anne Thomas Manes, an analyst at the Burton Group. She said there should not be

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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 )
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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 )
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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 )
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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 )
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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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