Warp 35

Soapbox of a GNU/Linux lovin' guy.
FOSS just works.

My Photo
Location: Groningen, Groningen, Netherlands

I'm a Dutch guy born in 1974. Growing up I went from a dreamer to halfway mature. In 2002 I met my life partner and I'm living happily with hime ever since. I'm seconded at Stork Technical services since 2001. Right now I'm pretty happy with where I'm at.

Saturday, May 07, 2005

Sun is a friend

Over the past few months Sun Microsystems has been met with distrust in the GNU/Linux camp. Mostly brought about by the impending release of OpenSolaris and the heavier use of Java in OpenOffice.org.

Sun's public messages related to OpenSolaris have been less than flattering about GNU/Linux and the GNU General Public License. Is it a sign that Sun is an enemy of FOSS? No. Sun is trying to compete with an Open Source Solaris and being controversial brings them press time.

It is just a tad insulting to our flagship OS GNU/Linux. Must we hold this against Sun? I think not. I think that every entity will trashtalk its major opponent. Heck, look what the community has to say about Microsoft. Sun is just trying to compete and a little mudslinging keeps the presses rolling. Even if Sun's message doesn't sing our praise, it does give us air time too. There is no such thing as negative publicity.

Then we have Sun stewarded OpenOffice.org. OOo 2.0 is relying heavily on Sun's Java to get a more capable and database enabled Office suite out of the door. Is this an attack on GNU/Linux, an attempt to diminish FOSS? Not really, Sun is trying to carve an MS free zone to survive in, just like the rest of the community is trying to do. They are familiar with their own platform independant software environment and it makes Java more relevant on the desktop.

Sun has to try and preserve Java against obsolescence through the massive onslaught of Microsofts .NET. If MS get to control the next VM languages, we can all rest assured that truly platform independant languages are defacto a thing of the past. So it makes sense for Sun to tie new functionality to Java. OOo by the way is the opportunity for Sun to prove that Java is ready for Desktop use, isn't slow and is more than capable.

"Java isn't Free." True. Java is not Free in the FSF sense. Maybe Sun wil release Java under the CDDL one day, but they haven't done this right now. Does this mean that OOo is becoming less Free? Depends. One is Free to compile OOo without Java support. Then you miss out on functionality, but your OOo is not encumbered by Sun's un-Free Java.

We could see OOo's reliance on Sun's Java as an incentive to bring GNU Classpath up to snuff too. It clearly gives a signal that we need a Free implementation of Java more than ever. If we want to keep the code running under a Free VM that is. If GCJ is further augmented with missing Java functionality to the point of being able to compile the OOo Java components to the native platform, then the problem is solved too.

The mild "hurdles" imposed by Sun form a challenge. We should not condemn Sun for wanting to compete. They do it rather bluntly and unflattering, but they don't use underhanded tactics to grab a piece of the market. If we can't stand a little competition from Open Solaris, then we should reconsider if GNU/Linux is all that. I think GNU/Linux will thrive, even if a "Real UNIX" has now become Open Source.

Java is not a threat either, it is an incentive to reimplement it under Free licenses. If the specifications are to restrictive for FOSS development, we should not ask Sun to Open Source Java, we should lobby them to make the specs more accessible. We all strive for compatibility, despite Sun's fears for the opposite. What good does a fork do, if all the previous Java code becomes useless through it.

Sun is a friend, although it is a flamboyant one, with a tendancy to taunt and pester us. It is time we don't take the abrasive actions as seriously as we do. Sun takes care of itself without extinguishing the others. We should reciprocate with a "O yeah? Well, show us what you got!" whenever Sun makes one of their hallmark snides against GNU/Linux again. Sun maybe pesky at times, but they have been a better friend than some former FOSS shops I remember.