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Java fallout: OpenOffice.org 2.0 and the FOSS community

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memenode's picture
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An excellent article appeared on newsforge about the increased dependancy of OpenOffice.org on Java and the repercussions of it on the FOSS community because Java *is not* Free Software.

There were alot of interesting comments on the article that i pretty much don't have too much to add besides repeating what's being said already.

It is however interesting how much Free Software advocates posted comments on there.

I must quote some very good ones:

Here is what one anonymous reader says about the difference between open source people and Free Software supporters:

Quote:

The core difference is in fact not quite that open source supporters focus on better technologies whereas free software supporters focus on philosophy: free software supporters simply *know* (they have a better memory it seems) that insistance on philosophy always eventually yields technological superiority whereas the open source supporters short-term "immediate gratification" (a la "gimme now") really does little, if anything, for the long term survival and development of the FOSS community and technologies.

God bless free software advocates for their efforts!

I could only say "Amen" to this, but some could call me a "Free Software priest" or something..(since, even among those newsforge comments, there are some who call us Free Software advocates "idiots" who "defent our faith"). Rolling Eyes

Here is another very good one:

Quote:

Something of interest is happening there.

Until now the two community lived in parralel without the real need to cross each other.

Linux users where used to a free desktop with virtually no java software. Even if they did java for daily job (java has, imho, a place for corporate use, while it is still to determine if it fits on FOSS distros, desktop and crucial softwares), they wasn't forced to make the connexion.

Java community was more often open to Linux/Free software precepts, and produced many free products (among them: jakarta, tomcat, eclipse, ...). But those products were easy to avoid for Linux users and distributions that didn't like them (all have good free alternatives or are pointless outside an already heavyly javatized application server).

Now we see the for the first time a real crossing. Linus/free software community is -for real- confronted to the need of java for a crucial part of theyre world (like is the office suite).

The F/OSS community feels now urged to have a position uppon java, and to claim it, because of this sudden forced confrontation.

The reactions on OpenOffice.org are the first symptoms of F/OSS community disliking java, and forced to deffend his position.

We now see what is the FOSS community opinion upon java. Sun won't anymore be able to claim that FOSS loves and supports java.

Indeed.

OpenOffice.org is very important (being mostly favored and popular in FOSS community) part of "Free Software", but compromising it's freeness has just crossed the line with Java and brought us to probably one of the turning points in the FOSS history. I might sound like i'm blowing it out of proportion here, but maybe this quote might convince you that this indeed is a very important situation:

Quote:

this article and your comments really helped me SEE the difference between free and open more than i had before. thank you for that.i kept getting glimpses of the differences but i have never fully understood.now it comes a little clearer.

Do you see the point? This issue is a practical out on the open example of the major difference between "open source" and "Free Software" movements. OpenOffice.org is obviously being developed by open source people who don't see any problem with introducing proprietary products in and compromising OOo as a Free Software (and for that same matter, open source software as it can't be called either).
This issue may help many people SEE that difference now through exactly this issue and thus be able to choose their side. I believe that it will actually help Free Software movement on the expense of the open source views. Why?
There's ALOT of disprovements about the OOo depending on proprietary Java, and majority of those disprovements come from the Free Software movement supporters who can now more easily then ever point at the important spotlight example of what makes their views different from the views of open source movement and what the consequences of the open source views are - actually working *against* open source by "assimilating" it into "half open source".

I expect alot to come from this as well as i expect the popularity of OOo to shrink and a truly Free Software fork to come out.

BTW; I would really like to see what Charles has to say on this, as he is part of the OOo project (OOo LANG confederation).

Thank you
Daniel

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Re: Java fallout: OpenOffice.org 2.0 and the FOSS community

Although I understand that OO's dependance on a proprieatary Java Virtual Machine is a bad thing and would like to see those parts of OpenOffice written in a language that has a complete free implementation (such as C or C++), I think that under the circumstances it isn't such a bad thing. Let me explain.

There is GCJ, a free java implementation, which is being developed and will probably soon (in a few years let's say) become complete alternative to proprietary Sun's Java implementation. Then OpenOffice distributors will be able to bundle it with free GCJ, and OpenOffice will not be dependant any more on any proprietary software.

There is other great free software written in Java, such as Azureus, probably the best BitTorrent client out there. Do we simply say: "Oh, well, it is great, but you should have written it in something with a free implementation. I will not use it as it is." or do we say "Well done, but we don't like it being dependant on a proprietary stuff and we will create a free alternative for that proprietary stuff."? Although I stand on the Free Software side of the community, I would choose the latter. This is simply the compromise I am ready to take under these circumstances.

Java is very broadly used programming language with many great features and not using it for developing free software because it still doesn't have a free implementation is not a good choice. Even more, if there were more crucial free programs written in Java, it would only speed up development of GCJ, bringing us faster to completely freeing one of the most used programming languages.

And (more) freedom is what we're all after.

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Re: Java fallout: OpenOffice.org 2.0 and the FOSS community

Hmm.. well, i for one don't see Java as so popular and liked by everybody, not only FOSS community. Sure it's being used alot, programmers mainly like it, but users don't. Java is slow, that's one simple reason for it. It's simply slow compared to other languages.

Now, i believe that, as some people commented on newsforge, OpenOffice.org already could have used an alternative to Java, they could have used Python for example.. I'm not a programmer, but some people that obviously are, are proposing the same thing.

But the bad thing is that wether there was or wasn't a free alternative wasn't actually an issue for OOo developers because they are close to Sun which sponsors the project. Java is, as it is being said, a logical choice for them. However, this logical choice goes against Free Software philosophy while open sourcers don't care about it anyway (and there's the difference).

I somehow don't hope that much that OOo will switch to GCJ some day, and that's just because of their dependancy on Sun. Sun *has* obvious interests in FOSS. It's showing it all around, but that interest is not in embracing Free Software as it is, but rather disturbing it with their own versions which are usually just hybrids meant to serve their interests primarily and not the interests of the community.

Sun wont let OOo adopt free Java alternative so easily. OpenOffice.org just showed that it is really just a Sun/OpenOffice.org, not Free Software/OpenOffice.org.

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Re: Java fallout: OpenOffice.org 2.0 and the FOSS community

I completely agree with you that writing parts of OpenOffice in Java was a bad choice but, after all, OpenOffice is free software and if OpenOffice development team makes more bad choices in the future then OpenOffice could simply fork. This would be a waste of resources and time (to develop OpenOffice with Java and the one without), but it is just one of the bad things of forking.

There is also one another question arising from here.

A program written in Java and released under GPL isn't in a complete sync with Free Software philosophy - I agree here. But it is free, of course (it is GPL'd after all). So you can write GPL'd software that is out of sync with Free Software philosophy. Is this a shortcoming of GPL? Should it be more restrictive?

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Re: Java fallout: OpenOffice.org 2.0 and the FOSS community

Actually, such software could actually be seen as in violation with GPL because one is not Free to *use* that software without *proprietary* component.

When a Free Software program requires a proprietary software to function it can clearly be seen as a restriction to it's free use. What about that?

Hmm.. all of this just speaks that RMS is and was right! Open source movement, by it's pragmatic approach, welcomed situations like this - situations in which clearly, pragmacy works against freedom, and in the end, against pragmacy itself. (a loophole identified in every missed philosophy - ultimately acting against itself)

Thank you

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Re: Java fallout: OpenOffice.org 2.0 and the FOSS community
Quote:

Libervisco wrote:

When a Free Software program requires a proprietary software to function it can clearly be seen as a restriction to it's free use. What about that?

Yes, if you want to use that software then it looks like you have to use some proprietary software, which is bad. But the software itself is free (it is GPL'd and free by definition) and because of the software being free, you can port it (or modify it) to a free platform if you want to use it there. I think that the software itself should not be considered as non free or even less free than other GPL'd software.

I would say that the software itself is completely free, but that its developers made a bad (or better: shortsighted) choice by developing it in a way that it requires something proprietary to function.

So, OpenOffice.org IS free, but its dependance on proprietary JavaVM is an inconvenience (it would be much more convenient not to have to port it to free platform to use it there) that is out of sync with free software philosophy and should be avoided whenever possible.

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Re: Java fallout: OpenOffice.org 2.0 and the FOSS community

Hello ,

better late than never. Okay, first of all I'd like to remind you that OpenOffice.org is free software and will remain so. What one fails to see is that most of the development task force is still paid by Sun, which means, Sun has a big influence over these decisions. Things are never white or black here. Most of the Sun developpers tend to get into a real relationship with OOo, the product and the community, so much that we think of them as being part of the community. True, sometimes there are politics in all this, and I agree that Sun really wanted to push Java.
(One note here: Java is not open, but it's not closed either. And I will always prefer Java than .net or C#)
One thing we should not lose out of sight is the possibility to actually make a free implementation of Java work with OOo hassle-free. There is still work, but we're going towards it. See: http://www.spindazzle.org/green/index.php?p=43

What you guys also fail to see is that OOo is still young for such a project. Even the project is still in development stage if you consider its lack of moral personality, the development influence of Sun, etc. But things are changing, and they're changing because of the community. So, see this as a work in progress, hell, we're not the Mozilla Foundation and sometimes even Mozilla makes mistakes (don't get me started on their licensing scheme, it's at least as bad as this Java story)

About forking: OOo is around 8 millions lines of code, purely written in C++. Just go ahead and fork this thing, you there with your 100 expert C++ coders Wink
Honestly, as I said in my latest blog, OOo is the base, it's up to you to modify it, and bring back these changes to the central trunk. But please don't fork it? It's not just feasible, and it will bring a lot of FUD and struggle that will benefit only MS.

Oh, and did you know this: After criticizing Sun, you may like to know that IBM's latest offer, Lotus Workplace, is based on OOo but that they will never contribute their code back because of Sun and BECAUSE THEY WANT TO KEEP IT CLOSED... Life's hard, guys, and if you wish to take part to the fight, let's stay united or else we will lose...

Best,

Charles.

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Re: Java fallout: OpenOffice.org 2.0 and the FOSS community

Well, that screenshot sure looks promising...:-)

The only thing i have problems with is proprietary software that's being used while the alternative exists. I don't have problems with OpenOffice.org (deployed without Java or with Free Java implementation like GCJ).

So, if it'll be easy for users to choose between proprietary Java Runtime and a Free one, without a hassle, than that'll be a good thing. Hopefully, Sun wont go so far not to allow for this compatibility.

OpenOffice.org running with GCJ and with no proprietary components of any kind would be my choice then. And i'd be fine with that.

The same goes for all other java based programs. We need Free Java implementation badly, because only that can really make that java based Free Software, truly Free.

Thank you

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Re: Java fallout: OpenOffice.org 2.0 and the FOSS community

Actually, I think that this is a pretty good news : Java runs on everything, OpenOffice provide the sources, Java classes can be easily used from an application to another, therefore we will be able to implement OpenOffice parts in our application, including web applications! That REALLY is a great improvement. And java ain't too bad, it can run in 64bit with Blackdown Java Run-time environment, and when you run a java application with the server JRE instead of client , it is PRETTY fast!

my 2 cents

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Re: Java fallout: OpenOffice.org 2.0 and the FOSS community

WaterSoul

I wouldn't really agree that Java runs on everything. In this very article it says:

Quote:

One of the few technical arguments against OpenOffice.org's use of Java is that it undermines the project's goal to be a cross-platform office suite. Many operating systems currently supported, including FreeBSD and GNU/Linux for the PowerPC, have no official version of Java.

So, what about PowerPC architecture (Macintosh computers are on this)?

As for it being fast when running it with the server JRE i don't know, but the fact is that most users will still use the usual client which IS slow.

However, objections that can make this quite a bad news are not only technical, but philosophical. JRE still isn't Free Software (being in the middle doesn't mean Free) and making a Free Software suit like OOo dependant on a nonfree program is therefore bad for it.

Of course, if the latest news about Sun releasing JRE under LGPL are true, this major philosophical issue dissappears. Let's hope it will be so.

Now, if you don't hold much regard to freedom in Free Software and praise only it's practical value.. all i can say: your loss.

Thank you

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Re: Java fallout: OpenOffice.org 2.0 and the FOSS community

Not all platforms have official JRE, I do agree, but they all have unofficial JRE, like blackdown or many others. A few are open source, I think. However, please keep in mind that most cellphones can now run java Smiling

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