Thursday, May 18, 2006

Java liberated a little

The biggest news from JavaOne this year is the little-noticed fact that Sun's Java license has been loosened up a little. The idea is to make it possible to preinstall Java on Linux distributions.

It's always struck me as extremely annoying that Java wasn't properly integrated in Linux distributions. It's not just the annoyance of clicking through license agreements, downloading and then ending up with files unmanaged by the package system. It's also the difficulties it causes for anyone wanting to distribute Java software on Linux: You can't just specify a standard distribution version as a prerequisite. This is even worse if you wanted to include a Java program in the standard distribution.

Now if Sun had been charging money for Java on Linux it would be clear why it couldn't just be in the standard Linux distributions. But Sun were giving Java away the whole time, they just weren't giving it away in a way that was usable for Linux distributions.

There are of course open source alternatives to Sun's Java. None of them are quite as bug-free or complete as Sun's version as far as I can see, and none of them come preinstalled on the distributions I've tried.

Now Red Hat (and by extension Fedora) have a history of developing GCJ, an alternative to Sun's Java tools. So they may not be interested in including Sun's Java on Fedora. But there are 3rd party RPM repositories, like ATrpms, and thanks to the wonders of Yum they are fairly easy to use. Debian probably won't use Sun's Java until it is hopefully open sourced properly, but some of the Debian-based distributions like Knoppix or Ubuntu may not be so holy.

So I guess my main question re. Java on Linux is why did it take so long


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