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Sun-Blackdown go on a bumpy ride. On December 7th, Sun issued a press release proudly announcing the upcoming release of the Java 2 platform on Linux. Within it, the following paragraph had a strong impact within the java-linux community, which has been working with the Blackdown team on a JDK for Linux for many, many years.
"Sun worked with Inprise to produce this Linux port of J2SE. The first release candidate, or final preview, of the Java 2 platform on Linux is now available at http://developer.java.sun.com/developer/earlyAccess/j2sdk122/ and will also be included in shipments of Jbuilder, Inprise's award winning integrated development environment. In early 2000, Sun and Inprise will ship their final Linux port. Sun will internally produce future Linux ports, for the next version of J2SE, which will be available in Q1 Y2000."
Two issues arose: the lack of credit to the Blackdown team and, perhaps more critically, the indication that Sun tends to "internally produce" future Linux ports. This led many, including people on the Blackdown team, to presume that Sun no longer intended to work with the Blackdown team. After all, Inprise's product is presumably for sale. They have a reason to want to make their product clearly better than the freely available efforts of the Blackdown team.

At a minimum, this press release represents a colossal marketing blunder on Sun's part. It highlights a communications gap that exists on three sides, for Sun, Inprise and for the Blackdown team.

To lay some background for people unfamiliar with some of the issues, Sun's JDK has only recently been released under the Sun Community Source License. Even now, development versions of the JDK are not openly available. Signed agreements must be filled out and accepted before someone is allowed access to Sun's source code. Even then, under the agreements in question or the SCSL, the modifications made to Sun's code belong to Sun, unquestionably, and legally there is no requirement that they give credit to anybody. The software that the Blackdown Team creates is thus not truly free software, since it is encumbered by these licensing issues.

However, within the free/open source community, the efforts of the Blackdown Team have still been appreciated and have resonated with the ideals of the community because they are volunteer efforts; no money is earned by the Blackdown Team in exchange for the years of effort they have put into making Sun's source code run on Linux. Enhanced reputation is essentially the only coin by which the Blackdown Team can be paid.

As it turns out, it appears that Sun and Inprise both understood this. We spoke with Susan Struble at Sun whose name appears on the press release. She stated that the Blackdown team was mentioned in all meetings with Inprise, that they were mentioned in all public forums in which the announcement was discussed and that a series of historical articles on the development of Java also talks clearly about the level of their contributions. When we asked what happened with this particular press release, she blamed it on the short time frame in which the deal developed, the difficulty in issuing press releases jointly with another company (to which we can personally testify) and difficulties reaching the Blackdown team in advance, due to the fact that their current primary contact, Juergen Kreileder, is in Germany. At this point, there is no reason to doubt Sun and Inprise's intent to credit the Blackdown team.

However, the more important issue involved may be the communication gap between Sun, Inprise and the Blackdown team. This has led to a situation, currently, where the JDK 1.2.2 for Linux has been developed in parallel by Inprise and the Blackdown team with little to no cross-pollination. That means that the Inprise release contains bugs that the Blackdown team has fixed and vice versa. It has been commented that perhaps competition between the two groups is actually good for the community. How can a true competition exists if your competitor has free access to what you do, but you have no access to what they do? That has not exactly been the case in the past few months, since the Blackdown team only releases its code back to Sun generally after it has passed regression testing, but overall the Blackdown team is required to share what it does with Sun, while Sun can choose whether or not to share its work or Inprise's work with the Blackdown team.

Unfortunately, we did not get a chance to talk directly with the Blackdown team about this situation. Susan indicated again that Sun had spoken today with Kevin Hendricks and that there was no issue here, that Sun has worked and will continue to work with the Blackdown team, that Inprise plans to do so as well. We would like to hear a confirmation of that from the Blackdown team members. It is likely that they would like to see a demonstration of that intent, to bolster their own trust.

Nonetheless, it is to the benefit of all of us for these communication problems to be addressed as quickly and as well as possible. The Blackdown Team currently supports x86, PowerPC, ARM, and Sparc ports. The Sun/Inprise product only supports x86. If the Blackdown team pulled out of the development effort, it would have an extremely bad impact on support for Java on the other platforms.

Sun and Inprise probably both realize the potential seriousness of this blunder. A break with the Blackdown team would give a the shot in the arm to IBM's efforts in this area (see http://www.alphaworks.ibm.com for more details), which are being released under an open source license. They expect to have an initial 1.3 version available for Linux by first quarter 2000.

Resources for additional information/opinions on this issue:

High Availability

Alinka cluster management tool released. A company called Alinka has released a management tool for Linux clusters - it has been placed under the GPL. It looks like a useful tool for the creation and administration of Beowulf clusters; some more information can be found from the Alinka LCM documentation.

Linux in Education

Linux for Kids has added BombObomb to its list of arcade-style software for kids. This is a Bomberman-style game and gets good marks for sound, special effects and add-ons, which come out every month.


KDevelop 1.0 released. Version 1.0 of the KDevelop C++ development environment has been released. Congratulations to the KDevelop team for having reached this major milestone.


The MagicPoint Gallery. Version 2.0 of the MagicPoint Gallery has been announced, including over 41 MagicPoint templates.


Mozillazine in Chinese is a new site which provides a Chinese translation of Mozillazine, the best source of information for keeping up to date with Mozilla.

Updates to Mozilla.org. According to this week's Mozilla Status Report, several new pages have been added to the Mozilla.org site, including:


GraphOn patent and Wine. We mentioned in last week's Development Summary that GraphOn had filed a patent that might impact Wine. This topic was discussed again in the November 29th edition of the Wine Weekly News. Those interested can check the text of the patent.

Concensus seems to be that Wine is not impacted by the patent, "Anyway, it turns out that Wine should be safe regarding this, because:

  • the techniques used by Wine are rather different than the one Doug pointed out in the claim ("device driver interception").
  • patent has been applied in 1995 (as an extension of a 1994 patent), so Wine (which started in 1993) has anteriority
  • we have no clue of GraphOn wills on this matter. So, no need to spread more FUD."

Meanwhile, moving on, the Wine Weekly News for December 6th provides links to the slides from the Wine talk at Comdex and from Peter Ganten's Wine demonstration at LinuxTag.

The big non-technical issue discussed this week was the possible evolution of Wine's license. Richard Stallman reviewed the license and pointed out some problems with it that could make it incompatible with GPL code (surprise, surprise). Anyway, the discussion seems to be progressing in a positive manner, with a preference being expressed to adopt an existing license that suits their purpose rather than monkey with the current one. The license that drew the most interest is the X11 license.


Release delays. The XFree86 team did not quite make its goal to release 4.0 before the end of the year. Here is the latest news:
The XFree86 Project has been working very hard to get the 4.0 release out the door. It is taking a little longer than expected so we will be releasing the next pre-4.0 snapshot (3.9.17) before the end of the year. We expect to release 4.0 about two months later in mid-Q1/2000.

XFree86 3.3.6 will be released in parallel with 3.9.17 as well.


Zope 2.1.0 released. Zope 2.1.0 has been released. This release includes both bug fixes and a number of new features.

LinuxPlanet reviews Zope. LinuxPlanet has run this review of Zope. "... the application-server market has largely settled on Java and Enterprise JavaBeans (EJBs) as tools that can be deployed on any application server, allowing for different servers from different vendors to interoperate on a useful level. There's no hint at all within Zope or the Zope documentation that Java/EJB support was ever considered, much less implemented. This is a major drawback within Zope; you can argue all day and night that Python is superior to Java, but one simply can't ignore the realities of the marketplace."

Zope Weekly News. The December 8th edition of the Zope Weekly News covers new products, general announcements (including a new Spanish Zope Portal) and some organizational updates. It also comments on the above review. "Kevin Reichard (the reviewer) brings with him a fresh perspective as someone coming from outside the "Zope community". He gives Zope an overall 4/5 rating and raises a number of concerns, some valid, some perhaps less so. Kevin represents a demographic destined to become the majority of Zope users (namely, those who view Zope as a tool rather than as a way of life. ;-) ) and so his review deserves careful consideration."

Section Editor: Liz Coolbaugh

December 9, 1999

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High Availability

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Development tools


Simultaneous to the Sun/Inprise announcement which is covered in detail above, the Blackdown Team announced their JDK 1.2.2 RC3, a release candidate for an official 1.2.2 release if it passes all the required tests. Reports are that this latest version is the speediest yet. " With the SUN/Inprise 1.2.2-port, the speed increased alot from what I've experienced with 1.2.2-pre2, but the Blackdown 1.2.2 RC3 with nativethreads runs past these guys without any doubt. Menus poping up like a menu and not like a curtain being pulled down on my PII-400/128MB :)", mentioned Jo Uthus on the java-linux mailing list.

The list of Known Bugs (and Workarounds) for the Blackdown Team's JDK1.2.X project has been updated as of December 8th.

Meanwhile, Inprise also stayed in the news with their announcement of JBuilder for Linux, a commercial Java development tool that is currently available for free download.

Tower Technology Corporation unveiled the latest release of its Java deployment environment, TowerJ 3.5. Including support for the Java 2 specification, TowerJ 3.5 will enter beta testing this month and will be generally available during 1Q2000.

Tritonux, a "freeware implementation of the JavaSound 0.9 API for Linux" has published a developer's page, "where people interested in helping can find which features are not implemented and where programming information or hints can be found". However, a quick check on the site shows that the source code has been made available and is distributed under the GPL, so this is actually a "free" software package.


A 1999 look at the Seven Deadly Sins of Perl. In 1996, Tom Christiansen discussed The Seven Deadly Sins of Perl, "suboptimal" design choices, as he found them. Mark-Jason Dominus has in revisited the topic, giving a prognosis for the problems originally reported by Tom (only one is proclaimed "fixed" and that has lingering issues ...) and adding two of his own, that the documentation has grown too big and the API too complicated. Sounds like topics to start some new flame wars ... [From Perl News.]

PerlMonth issue 7 released. PerlMonth #7 is out. It includes seven development-related articles, and also inaugurates a new Perl job board.


Python-URL!. Dr. Dobbs' Python-URL! for Tuesday, December 7th, mentions downtime for python.org this week, a summary of 3D python projects, new features on the Job board and more development discussions and ideas. "Interest in type safety has made a comeback after nearly a year's hiatus".

Essential Python Reference bug database. David Beazley has announced that a "bug database" for his "Essential Python Reference" has been put up on the net. The list of problems is satisfyingly short, but it's still nice to know what they are. There is also a contest for those who would like to find other problems... (LWN reviewed this book in November).


Dr. Dobbs' Tcl-URL!. This week's Tcl-URL! contains a lot of Tcl tips, such as how to handle the odd EOL character or a detailed case analysis of proper quoting. In addition, August 0.50 has been announced. It is a Tcl/tk-based text editor.

Section Editor: Liz Coolbaugh


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