Save Java!

By Damien Cave

Published July 26, 2001 7:33PM (EDT)

Read the story.

The article about Clay Shirky and his suggestion to computer manufacturers to include the JVM [Java Virtual Machine] is interesting, but lacks one central piece of information: Sun's attitude toward the computer industry is similar to Microsoft's, albeit much less successful.

Sun's proprietary hold on Java, which essentially gives the company a lien on any software written in the language, reveals its intent.

In the language spoken by many Java devotees, code written in C/C++ is referred to as "legacy code" or "deprecated code." The interfaces to methods written in C++ have been purposely designed to be extraordinarily difficult.

The clear intent is to persuade people to dispose of -- rather than reuse and integrate with -- this legacy or deprecated code, the world's existing base of software, and replace it all with "Pure Java."

Furthermore, Sun took advantage of anti-Microsoft fervor and persuaded the ANSI language committee to certify Java as a standard language while allowing Sun to continue to own and define the language. This was a terrible precedent; all previous languages approved as languages were in the public domain, and the committee approved standard additions to them.

For a full analysis, see my article "The Dark Color of Java."

-- Jon Campbell

As a systems programmer with many years of experience developing on various platforms and using various languages, I have learned that "diversity" in languages, operating systems and desktops is what holds back the evolution of computer systems, and persists only because we are still on a very low rung in the evolutionary ladder. The need to continually retool, recompile and convert from language to language and from platform to platform is counterproductive, wasting millions of dollars and work hours. What would our world be like if telephones made by different manufacturers used different wiring systems and plugs? Competition and diversity in the software world are appropriate with respect to the services and features offered by applications, not the infrastructure that supports them.

-- Michael Nachison

Oh, please. Windows doesn't come with Flash, QuickTime or RealPlayer, so why is it a big deal that it won't come with Java?

If there is compelling content, people will download the application necessary to access said content. I suspect the problem Java faces is that there is no compelling Java content.

-- Walt Roberts

Microsoft's abandonment of Java on the Windows XP platform isn't going to hurt Java on the PC one bit. Just as a test, I downloaded the latest version of the JVM from Sun and went looking for programs to use. After spending about an hour searching popular download sites, I couldn't find any programs that I could just grab and run. Most of them have to be recompiled for your platform, something that the average end user just can't do. The real problem for Java on the PC is the level of computing skill required for its use, not lack of support by Microsoft. After all, we're talking about users who sometimes can't figure out the difference between a single and a double click. Now we want them to download, compile and configure their own programs? If that were possible, everyone would be running Linux and we'd be saying, "Micro-who?"

-- Ed Macauley

Salon regularly publishes stories about Java and "open" source, and neglects to mention aspects that developers understand but that are lost on the general public. Salon should publish a background story differentiating the pragmatic aspects of software development from the ideological.

Software can be placed in the public domain, and then it is truly free and open. Stuff in the public domain doesn't belong to anyone, and developers can inspect it and build whatever they want with it. "Open" and "community" software is licensed software, with a lot of obfuscation to confuse the public, and is not in the public domain.

So-called open, free and community software is anything but that. Java is 100 percent the copyrighted property of Sun Microsystems. GPL software is 100 percent licensed. Sun has gone to court to prevent others from releasing faster and richer JVMs and libraries. Those are the facts. Most of the substance of your software articles skirt those facts. Instead your articles are a forum for the anti-Microsoft ideologies of the developers who write for you. Your articles imply that the struggle is between the evil empire Microsoft and the noble software developers.

Ninety percent of the world uses Microsoft platforms, but judging from Salon's perspective, 100 percent of the developers are fighting Microsoft. Are we the victims of some massive conspiracy?

In reality, most developers are not caught up in the ideological prejudices Salon writes about. Most developers earn a living writing code for Microsoft platforms -- over half of full-time developers use Visual Basic. These developers are by and large normal folk. They are not zealots wrapped up in their own ideological metaphysics. They do so for pragmatic reasons, because it is easier and cheaper to write code on and for Microsoft platforms.

When you wonder how to increase the subscriptions to Salon Premium, you might consider adopting attitudes closer to the mainstream, or ask Sun for payola in exchange for your propagandizing.

-- Pete

I dread looking down at the status line in my browser and seeing the term "Java applet." If I'm lucky, it'll just take about 30 seconds to load whatever piece of crap the idiot Web page designer made. But often enough it crashes my browser. I use a Mac, with OS 9 and the latest Java Virtual Machine, and still Java is a buggy waste of my time. It always has been, and frankly I couldn't care less how wonderful Java's possibilities are. It is beta software forced down our throats. It's incredibly stupid for Java programmers to continue growing the code without taking care of fundamental bugs. Software that crashes a browser is worse than useless in the Internet age.

-- Scott Bodenheimer

By Salon Staff

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