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No more "Java Trap" as Java goes open source?

Posted by bboyes on November 14, 2006 at 11:30 AM PST

"It'll be very good that the Java trap won’t exist anymore. It'll be a thing of the past," said Richard Stallman...president of the Free Software Foundation. The so-called Java trap was a situation in which distribution of free software containing Java was inhibited by Java's previous licensing terms.

This Infoworld article is one of many announcing the open-sourcing of Java, including the Micro Edition, under the GPL license. Oddly (I don't understand it, but maybe someone else does) IBM whined about this, insisting Java should have been made part of the Apache Foundation.

Why can't IBM and Sun kiss and make up? If Sun and Microsoft can, you'd think IBM could. Oh, yeah the sparring IDEs... c'mon guys. Eclipse is a great product, one I think Sun should support instead of continuing to push NetBeans. There are more productive things Sun could do rather than paddling upstream in the IDE war.

So, open-source ME - what does this mean for embedded systems and robotics? Possibly wider acceptance and streamlined porting to other hardware platforms. If the commercial licensing of Java has also been simplified, and cost reduced, we could hope for much more standardized and widely available Java VMs or native implementations across ARM, MIPs, PowerPC, AVR, etc.

Then, maybe, we embedded folks could start to really claw our way out of the stone age into the new millenium. As it is, here at Systronix, we support four different embedded Java systems (aJile JStamp/JStik, Dallas TINI/TStik, Imsys SNAP, and SunSPOT Squawk). Plus, ARM7 C and assy code, Philips 900 series (8051), Dallas 8051/C400 family, Silicon Labs 8051, and Atmel AVR.

This is insane. At least the Java systems can all share a single IDE and build environment. Runtime libraries are just different enough to drive us a bit crazy. The other micros are all night and day different, especially regarding peripheral support. They way they each do CAN, I2C and SPI is all completely different and non-portable. So we spend way too much time struggling with mundane details instead of applications.

Which brings me back to Stallman's remarks about the Java Trap. What about the C and assembly code trap? It's all a big trap, or more accurately, a Tar Pit. The sooner we can unstick ourselves, the sooner we can get Real Work done. And Java still gives us the best hope of doing that. Open-sourcing Java, while a step in the right direction, is just a step. There's a lot more that needs to be done to make developers more productive.