Improving Java for Linux

Tony Kimball alk at
Fri Nov 7 10:11:42 PST 1997

Quoth John D. Gwinner on Thu, 6 November:
: And was Java accepted for ISO?  They want to retain, no, OWN the rights to
: a language. I'd have a lot of problem with Sun owning an ISO standard

Obviously Sun can't own an ISO standard.  It's just not possible.
Sun does not want to own the rights to the language.  Why do you think
that?  Sun has said exactly the opposite and has made absolutely no
movement to indicate perfidy.

: Sun wants to make money.

And how does that bear upon free Java implementations?  Isn't that
just an observation that Sun is a for-profit company?  Am I to
understand that you do *not* want to make money?

: What I was talking about was a slight modification of this -- a 'subset'
: of Java if you will, which I think Jim was also thinking of.
: Why is that foolhardy?

It is of very limited applicability.  It means you can only run a very
small subset of the Java programs.  As a result, your JVM is
irrelevant for just about everyone.  Therefore, you cannot get
volunteers to help who would be willing to contribute to a generally
useful product.

: > Wait until ISO standardizes.  
: On what?  If ISO standardizes on a language that is wholly owned and
: controlled by Sun/JavaSoft (whoever) then I've got big problems with that.

Impossible.  The two conditions are mutually contradictory.
It's a PR boogeyman invented by Microsoft.

: > : Is Java patented?
: > 
: > No.
: Interesting -- then can we get away with this core of Kaffe as an ISO
: standard?

If you can get approved as a standards submitter.  Not likely, unless
you can get some substantial institutional support.  Sun, frankly, is
the only entity with any chance of becoming approved as an ISO
standards submitter.  If they do, and they submit for Java, they lose 
control of Java.  If they don't, they keep control, and Java does not
get standardized -- and everyone loses except Microsoft.

: In the sense that JavaSoft originally wanted 6 figures for me to include
: Java in my application, unless I wrote the app IN Java.  Nobody makes me
: pay 6 digits to write an application in C.

They wanted 6 figures for you to use *their* *code*.  Not to use Java.
You can go ahead and use Java if you want.  You just can't use their
code. You may think, as I do, that their licensing strictures are
unacceptable, even mistaken, but that is their business, not yours or mine.

: How is this counterfactual?  Are you saying that it's free to use Java? 

It depends on what you mean by Java.  If you mean what Sun wants it to
mean, i.e. their trademarked and certified products, no, I am not.
If you mean an execution environment which supports the JVM, yes, I
am -- see Kaffe, and JV-Lite.

: any company that can control a language the way they seem intent on doing,
: in my mind, is "proprietary".


: > In what way is Java being
: > treated as proprietary, aside from the trademark?  
: Well, that's a major way right there!  If I can't say that my program is
: written IN Java, then that's a bit of a restriction, isn't it?

You *can* say that.  

: It doesn't cost me anything to advertise that my application is written in
: C++.  What happens to me if I say that my native program can include Java
: programs?  Now I've violated a trademark, and you better believe that will
: hurt.

No, you've violated idiomatic English usage, perhaps, but not any
trademark -- at least no more so than were I to say that my nose can
be blown with Kleenex.  What you cannot do is claim that your product
conforms to the trademark.  If Sun were to feel that you were
violating their trademark, they would probably send you a nasty
letter.  You could ignore it, unless you actually were violating the
trademark.  If you were not, they would be very unlikely to take any
further action, since it would be a waste of time and money.  The
system usually works in cases such as this.

: I'm NOT a Java expert, but who decides what the language consists of? 

If it becomes an ISO standard, ISO decides.  Until then, whoever has
the most market share -- and that's Sun. 

: Isn't it's Sun's right to extend or modify the basic VM and language, but
: no one else's? 

Anyone can extend or modify the basic VM and language as they see fit.
But until there is a standard's body behind it, or someone with a
bigger market share than Sun's, anyone doing so is in a dilemma:
Either their name is Sun, or else their work is a waste of time.

: If I can't sell my program without paying royalties and annual maintenance
: to JavaSoft or Sun, then where's the freedom?  Again, this might have
: changed.

No one claims that the Sun code for the JVM is free.  But Java, the
language, is just as free as C++.  It's just less *cooperatively* (and
that only *de* *facto*, not *de* *jure*) standardized.

: Ok, that's is good point, but I've been careful to caveat the places
: where things might have changed, and I'm looking forward to more than just
: 'na na you're wrong' discussion of this.  If it's really changed, can you
: refer me to a license agreement?  The only one I got from Sun was quite,
: quite expensive (which was a matter of public record, I haven't broken my
: NDA with Sun).

You're missing the point.  Access has *no* license agreement with Sun
for JV-Lite.  Kaffe has no license agreement with Sun.  They are not
needed, precisely because Java, the language, is free, free, free.
Sun claims no rights over the language.  No license agreement is

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