[kaffe] Future directions for Kaffe

Jim Pick jim at kaffe.org
Sun Mar 25 21:37:48 PDT 2007

Hi everybody,

It's been a quiet month on the mailing list so far.  That's partly my
fault, I think, since the mailing list was broken for some time.

It looks like the last CVS commit was 5 weeks ago.

I see Dalibor went to FOSDEM, and did some talking about Kaffe there.
So I'm assuming that the project isn't dead, it's just somewhat dormant.
 It's been somewhat dead/dormant throughout much of it's history, but
it's still here, isn't it?  :-)

And clearly, all the free Java runtimes and Classpath are in a state of
transition, as we wait for Sun to release the rest of OpenJDK.

I'd like to liven up the list a bit, and maybe start a bit of discussion
on where Kaffe should go next.

Here are some things I'd like to talk about:

* I definitely need to do some work on upgrading the server, and fixing
up the website.  Currently it's running a really old version of Debian,
so it needs to be upgraded.  I'm just scared of all the breakage that
will happen.  I'm slowly building up my hosting capabilities, but it's
just a hobby, and I have real life things going on, so I move at a
glacial pace.  If anybody wants to help out with any of that, I'd really
appreciate it.  I happy to keep hosting it indefinitely.

* I think a wiki running on top of Kaffe would be really nice.  :-)

* On the other hand, there are establishing free software hosting
platforms like Sourceforge, Savannah, Google Code, etc. that might
work better than just running everything on our own server.  Our current
infrastructure is pretty much still using technology from the 1990s.  We
don't even have a blog or a wiki, or any continuous integration or
distributed version control.  I'm open to migrating things if that's
what people would prefer.

* Technically speaking, I'm still the project leader, by virtue of
rescuing it from the ashes of Transvirtual.  But Dalibor is really the
guy who has been doing most of the work.  I'm not really doing much with
Kaffe personally, so if anybody else wants to step up and be a real
project leader, feel free to volunteer.  I'm still happy to keep hosting
the project and helping out with the releases.

* Speaking of releases, we really should do another release sometime.

* I'm embarrassed to admit that I don't even have Kaffe running on my
new MacBook under OS X.  I got it to compile, but I couldn't get it to
even run "Hello World".  If I spent some time on it, I imagine I could
figure it out.  I just haven't spent the time.  I hope it still runs OK
on Linux, but I haven't tried that recently either.

* I also haven't been responding to emails asking me for help getting
Kaffe to run.  I'd like to, but since I don't even have it working for
myself, I'm not really in a position to help out.  I get so much spam
nowadays that I hardly even use email anymore.  I notice that most
requests for help to the mailing list are going unanswered as well.

* I'm still interested in playing with Java virtualization, and I'm very
excited about OpenJDK coming out.  JRuby looks really interesting to me.
 For my own projects, I'm guessing I'd probably use OpenJDK in
preference to Kaffe in the future, since it's likely to be a lot less
effort to get it working the way I want it to.

* That said, I think Kaffe has been a seminal project in terms of
getting free Java off the ground, and I'd hate to see it die.  A lot of
interesting projects have used Kaffe as a starting point.

* I imagine that in the future, people will most likely look to OpenJDK
as a starting point to add their enhancements.  Is there still a role
for Kaffe to play here?

* I think Kaffe probably is still the simplest full JVM implementation
that isn't just an interpreter.  It's been used for all manner of exotic
porting projects that might just be too hard to do using something like
OpenJDK or gcj.

* Kaffe is licensed under the GPLv2.  So is OpenJDK.  But Kaffe doesn't
require copyright assignment, and we're pretty open.  Sun doesn't have
to vette the code going into Kaffe.  That suggests that perhaps we could
merge in large parts of OpenJDK, and provide a place for people to do
really experimental stuff that Sun isn't going to permit in their
version.  Is this something we should consider?

* In other words, should we go big?  And merge in as much stuff as
possible.  That could be problematic, since Kaffe is already pretty
huge.  Maybe we could adopt more of a "distribution" approach, and break
things into a bunch of modules that are all developed to work together?

* Or maybe we should try to stay small?  And just try to be an easily
hackable, simple virtual machine with a crude compiler framework, and
nothing else?  That would involve jettisoning or spinning out a lot of
the integration work that's been done over the last few years, I think.

* I think we've been trending towards the "go big" direction for some
time, with all the Classpath merging and other projects, and the core
has been somewhat neglected.  It's been really good to support Classpath
this way, and it's helped to get a lot of Java stuff integrated into
Debian.  On the other hand, I think the build itself is just too
intimidating.  It's massive.  I think most prospective developers would
probably give up before getting it to build the first time.  Our
configure scripts are almost an operating system in and of themselves.  :-)

* If anybody is currently doing something interesting with Kaffe, or has
any aspirations for it, please send some email to the list!  We need the
ideas and the traffic!


 - Jim

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