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Red Hat: Java Linux license does not go far enough

Minimalism does not suit all

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Sun Microsystems' new GNU/Linux-friendly Java license does not go far enough for Red Hat. It says Sun should have open-sourced Java instead.

Brian Stevens, Red Hat CTO, told The Register Sun should open-source its Java Virtual Machine (JVM) (which is licensed by Red Hat) so developers can improve the software's real-time capabilities.

He says the failure to open-source Java means that it can't be used on millions of $100, Linux-powered PCs envisioned under Nicholas Negroponte's One Laptop Per Child project, to bring affordable computing to children in developing nations. Negroponte wants only open source software on the machines, according to Red Hat, which is a member of the project.

According to Stevens, Sun's Distro License for Java (DLJ) - launched at this week's JavaOne conference - will reduce companies' legal costs. But does not satisfy the desire for open source Java. He criticized Sun for being reactive, rather than leading, on the issue of open source Java. "They try to do the minimal amount they can get away with," he said.

"We have reached out to Sun... we'd like to get in there to enhance and innovate. To get in there and give it real-time capabilities. We are not worried about J2EE any longer. That's liberated. It's more the VM," he said.

DLJ updates the Java Standard Edition (Java SE) license, which prevented the Java Runtime and Java Development Kit (JDK) from shipping with GNU/Linux distros as installation packages. The license required an application of greater value to ship with the product, offered liability protection, and said distributors could not ship a piece of software with Sun's software that was intended to provide the same functionality.

The license was created to prevent illegal copying or modification, but Simon Phipps, Sun chief open source officer, said the license had become "too exclusive".

While large numbers of developers have been writing Java applications for Linux, the license meant systems administrators had to find, download and install the necessary Java Runtime for the machine themselves, creating additional complexity and throwing up an artificial barrier to using Java on Linux. DLJ will accelerate development of Java on Linux, according to Mark Shuttleworth, chief executive of Canonical, the main sponsor of Ubuntu Linux.

"We can expect to see a lot more work happening now with Java that's innovative, lightweight, fast and more interesting," Shuttleworth said this week in support of the move. DLJ also has support from Gentoo and Debian.®

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