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Open letters

Posted by daniel on February 27, 2004 at 8:08 AM PST

Who is an open letter really addressed to and what is its purpose.

Recently there has been an explosion of open letters. Sun's open letter to Eclipse, Eric Raymond's two letters to Sun, and IBM's letter to Sun. In today's
Weblogs , John Mitchell's Sun to meet with IBM on open-sourcing Java? links to an article which promised an open response from Sun yesterday. Why were the letters signed by Sun's Rich Green to the Eclipse board or the letter from IBM's Rod Smith to Sun's Rob Gingell published as "open letters". In both of these cases, the communications were between parties that knew each other. There has been ample opportunity for private conversation.

The reader feedback here on java.net has been thoughtful. There seems to be a desire to ensure that open sourcing Java really benefits the Java community before heading down that path. With the broadcast of these open letters, Java developers know that IBM and Sun are considering the implications and possibly a plan for open sourcing Java. Java, of course, is not specific enough. The discussion seems to be around J2SE starting with, perhaps, version 1.5.

But, there is a downside to the open letters. In Sun's open letter to Eclipse, one of the most telling sentences was the following. "All those involved in the meetings would agree that the sticking points in the discussion were not so much technical in nature as they were business-related. " This is certainly going to be true when it comes to open sourcing Java. Business and political considerations will be a key part of the internal discussions. These discussions are as necessary and important as the technical discussions.

I am encouraged by this ongoing discussion. As I noted in yesterday's ONJava.com newsletter, the current US presidential race is a possible metaphor. There the supporters of Nader and supporters of the eventual Democratic nominee may end up with a majority of the votes as they did last time. Yet in competing against each other they may end up with an outcome that neither camp desires. There have been arguments elsewhere about whether or not this means that Nader should not run. In our case, neither Sun nor IBM needs to drop out of the race. The fact that IBM and Sun are exploring the possibility of open sourcing an implementation of J2SE together could be seen as a very good sign. Each has built strong alliances of other Java vendors and neither wants a lack of agreement among Java developers to lead to a win for Microsoft's C#/.Net.

Our other featured weblog today is Dan Milstein's first post, Edge East 2004 - A Skeptic's Tour. In his report from the conference he cites the Orbitz strategy "hire the brightest programmer you can find; set up a process which keeps out of their way; allow them to use Open Source tools if they like them. But, especially, hire bright programmers. Sadly, this never seems to be management's answer to anything. " Dan is not a fan of Web services. In fact he listened to Chris Hjelm's talk about what they are doing at Orbitz thinking "if I had to integrate multiple data sources from various legacy airline reservation systems, would I resort to Web Services? I was just scribbling 'maybe' in my notebook when he announced that they don't use Web Services almost at all. They use Jini. "


Today's Featured Articles now includes Thomas Kunneth's article on Using Swing's Pluggable Look and Feel . There has been a lot of discussion about native vs. uniform on java.net. Kunneth addresses a weakness in the call to getSystemLookAndFeelClassName(). He points to efforts to provide nicer look and feels such as the WinLAF project and notes that "In current versions of Java, the value returned by this method is hard-coded. Sun must have been aware of this issue, since the upcoming J2SE 1.5 allows the user to set the return value of getSystemLookAndFeelClassName()."


In
Also in Java Today
, Andrei Cioroianu begins his series on Java Desktop Development with an overview and comparison of AWT, Swing, and SWT. Andrei thinks that Swing's problems were less to do with performance and more around bugs present in early implementations. He adds that although Swing and SWT "compete for the hearts and minds of the Java developers, [...] they complement each other, since they address different requirements."

The ServerSide is streaming their panel discussion on The Future of J2EE from last year's conference as they get ready for this year's. If you can play Windows media follow the link at the top of the page and listen to last year's debate and the Q and A session that followed. The panel discussed "the complexity of J2EE, the need for more leadership in the Enterprise Java community, the importance of aligning the SE, EE, and ME platforms, the effectiveness of standardization by committee, and the role of open source in driving standardization."


In today's Projects and Communities The Java Desktop homepage features tips on help with GUI testing and on Minimizing screen updates in Swing apps.

Build your own Sumo Wrestling Robot and, like the US Battlebots, push your oponent out of the ring "through strategy, quickness, and brute strength".


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