Improving Java for Linux

Dave Glowacki dglo at SSEC.WISC.EDU
Fri Nov 7 13:09:09 PST 1997

[This whole conversation is straying far from the charter of the kaffe
 mailing list, so I'm going to send this last message and bow out,
 though I'd be happy to continue it in email]

> > Using a nonstandard extension also means that any Java program you write
> > won't be useable for anyone who isn't using your platform (which is why
> > Microsoft wants people to use their API)
> But is that so bad if it is a GNU platform, which is supported even on
> Win32, OS/2 and Rhapsody?

Yes, as long as it isn't supported in Netscape, Explorer, or any
of the other common Java environments, that's bad.

> > Therefore, if you don't mind the fact that you won't be able to run other
> > people's apps and they won't be able to run yours, go ahead and ignore
> > the extensions.
> But if you ship a JVM with your app (as JavaSoft advocates) - why can't
> you ship the one you want to ship.

Sorry, I've never seen Javasoft advocating that you ship a JVM with
your app.  Do you have a reference for this handy?  (I'm not doubting
you, I've just ignored most of the licensing stuff since I don't plan
to distribute anything except free JAR files and/or JNI libraries)

> > Second, I'm a veteran of the Unix wars of the '80s so I've watched one
> > great technology Balkanize itself into obscurity.  I really don't want
> > to have that happen to Java, since it'd probably be another decade or so
> > before something else got up enough momentum to replace it.
> That sounds like an argument against proprietary software to me.  Of
> course, I've been pretty well brainwashed by this free software movement.

I've been in the "free software movement" for over 10 years.  'xless'
is probably the most well-known program I maintained (though it's not
very well-known :-)  I have contributed patches to lots of packages,
X and Kerberos being the biggest, msql and mSQL-JDBC the most recent.

Just because it's "free software" doesn't mean it's a *good* thing.
A lot of "free software" is only free to those who have the technical
knowledge to find it, build it and puzzle out how to use it.  This
limits the audience to computer geeks (like me and you)

I think it's more important that software be used than that it be free.
I'd *like* it to be free (or at least have access to the source), but
I'd settle for a useful, popular proprietary system over a free
system with a tiny set of users.  (Though I do have my limits;  I
haven't written a program for a Microsoft system in about 15 years :-)

> > In other words, I think a big gaping hole in the API is better than
> > a non-portable hack.
> Huh?  I hope I wasn't advocating that.

Sorry, I shouldn't have used such an emotional word.

The big thing I learned in the aforementioned Unix wars was that
portability matters.  Writing an app for a single platform means only
those with the same platform can use it.  This is something the Linux
people haven't yet learned (or actively avoid, in the hopes that others
will "see the light", convert to Linux and be saved.)

I hope Java will open up the free software market to a wider audience.
Ideally, everyone from the Microsoft drones to the WebTV bumpkins will
be able to download the program I wrote on my Unix system and have it
do something useful.

If a GNU Java program depends on software or libraries outside the JVM
or if every GNU Java program requires people to download a gigabyte or
two of class files and JNI libraries, it won't be used by most people
because they won't bother to jump through all the hoops to get it
(unless its a REALLY cool game or app)

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