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That Open Source Feelin'

Posted by eitan on December 4, 2006 at 10:38 AM PST

I wanted to wait for the dust to settle a bit before
airing my comments on the now dated news that Sun
Microsystems has open-sourced Java.

I recall clearly a period of activity on java.net where
many (including me) voiced their desire to see Java
open-sourced.

Now that this has happened I'm amazed at the correlation
of this event with my own experiences. In my career
I've open-sourced two projects: ashkelon
and JMatter.

Each time the process of letting go and embracing open
source was very difficult, even arduous. I took what
felt like forever to arrive at the decision.
Surprisingly after the decision was made, the feeling was
very positive, very rewarding: that I'd shared my work with
the community. The same thoughts reverberate: "why did it
take me so long to do this?" I believe the reward is of
equal or greater magnitude to the effort; that is, it's worth
doing.

With my first project, I hadn't yet read Eric Raymond's
Cathedral and the Bazaar. I was a novice when it came
to managing an open source project. I still regret that
I wasn't able to make the project flourish, though I
don't regret for a moment open-sourcing the project. Many
used my code and some sent me improvements. There was
also at the time an obstacle to this project: the fact
that one could not legally publish online javadocs for
Java's APIs.

Another correlating fact was my choice of license. Both my
projects are available under the GPL. So it's a great feeling
of validation to see that Sun has also chosen this license.

One odd way to describe how I feel about Sun open-sourcing Java
is that the positive feeling is of equal magnitude to the
negative feeling I had when hearing the news of the Novell
ship sinking. It gives me hope for the future.

In my mind the parallels that exist between
the events that play out in real life: the battle being
waged between the forces of open and close code, and between
the Star Wars saga are striking. I don't mean to sound
cheesy here, but we see time and again how sometimes organizations
exert their force by proxy, sometimes anonymously (as in the
case of SCO).

One item I've been ranting about to friends (and on this
site) for too long is how companies can get away for charging
people for software they don't use. Each time I purchase
a notebook computer and quickly wipe the disk clean to
install Ubuntu, I pay the famous "microsoft tax" for a license of
windows I did not ask for.

I would like publicly thank Sun Microsystems for choosing
to side with its community, to side with the open-source community
on Java. I sincerely hope that a few years from now Sun will be able
to say: "we made a good decision; and it has paid off handsomely."

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