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Ubuntu, Free Software, and Sun's JDK

Posted by joconner on September 19, 2006 at 2:16 PM PDT

I may have just experienced the easiest OS install of my life. I've been a long time Windows user, and I'm just now hoping to move completely away from that to Solaris or a Linux flavor. My employer recently provided me a new desktop from Sun Microsystems. It was supposed to have Solaris 10, but it was pretty much brain dead from the first boot. Multiple boot errors, incomprehensible messages, crazy rebooting...I gave up after a month of part-time effort. During that time I saw an Ubuntu ad and ordered a free CD. It came in the mail last week. On a whim, I decided to try Ubuntu on this Sun branded has an AMD 64 chip in it.

The Ubuntu installation booted from the CD, and after only a couple simple questions (really, not more than a few), Ubuntu was running within 10 minutes. I was amazed. This had to be the simplest, least painful experience I've ever had installing an OS. The hardest part was getting a wireless connection, but that's another story involving multiple trips to local electronics/computer stores. I finally got it to work...and this particular entry is from my new, strange Ubuntu & Sun hardware branded combo.

So what's this have to do with Java? I noticed that this Ubuntu has a JDK installed, but it's JDK 1.4.2. Hey, wait, is that really Java? doesn't look like it's from Sun. The version info says gij, Version 4.1.0. OK, I suppose that's ok; companies/people can create their own version of the JDK after all. But J2SE 5.0 has been around for a long time, certainly long enough to put it on a Linux distribution. So, why isn't it there? I'm not completely brain dead...unlike the Sun hardware-Solaris x86 combination I received earlier. However, I am new to Linux, really new, so please excuse my ignorance on the subject. The version info for this gij tool says "Copyright (C) 2006 Free Software Foundation, Inc." I didn't expect that. Hey, this is all part of that war between the Sun/Java camp and the open source crowd isn't it? Otherwise, wouldn't this system just make whatever tweaks are necessary to have Sun's own JDK 5 on it?

I'm going to head up to to get the latest JDK. J2SE 5 from Sun will run on this right...despite not being from the Free Software Foundation? I feel a little strange about this though, like how I might feel if I hadn't been paying attention and had walked into the middle of a family feud. Or maybe how I might feel if I discovered that I'd accidentally walked across a yard with a "Don't walk on the grass" sign. Yeah, I know, weird.

I've never completely understood the open/free software complaint against Sun's Java. I suppose I need to read the licenses better. I always figured that I could use Sun's JDK to create any software I wanted, free or...what...not free. So, why would an open source project like Ubuntu (which is just beautiful by the way) not have Sun's JDK? Can't the free software people use Sun's JDK to create open source software too? I do admit ignorance about this subject. I'm just a developer who might have stumbled into something I didn't know much about. Although I just want to write some cool software on my new system, I think I might have to learn more about licenses, free software, and open source than I had planned. I'll just add that to my list of to-do study items, right there after Java Server Faces, Struts, web services, annotations, EJB 3, POJOs, Hibernate, Java Studio Creator...did I mention that I want to learn a little more about Java EE? On second thought, maybe I won't learn much more of anything about open and free software or why Sun's JDK isn't on this system. I've got lots of other work to do.

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