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Apple's Leopard rejects latest version of Java

Forum overlords delete developer gripes

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Apple faces yet more flack from the Mac faithful over the discovery that the operating system won't run the latest version of Java. It's one of several beefs relating to the OS X upgrade that is sparking vitriol among the normally docile crowd.

Leopard may have 300 new features, but it is unable to run Java 1.6, even though that same version is available for both Windows and Linux. That has taken some Mac users by surprise, including some on this user forum on Apple's website. Several users there say 1.6 is so central to the development work they do on a daily basis that they will be forced to use an OS other than Leopard if it remains incompatible.

"This is a show stopper for me, and I will have to revert to 10.4, since my job as a software engineer for Sun requires Java 6--this will likely prevent a lot of people from upgrading, and there's a well represented Mac userbase at Sun," a user going by the name buckmelter wrote. 10.4 is a reference to Tiger, the OS X predecessor to Leopard.

In the same forum, there are claims Apple has pulled a beta version of Java 1.6 that had been available for Tiger. If true, that would mean the latest version of Java, which has been available for about a year, may not be available at all for Mac users. That's a big deal for some people. For one, version 1.6 included bug fixes and new functionality. And secondly, Java apps and applets developed using 1.6 won't run on Leopard, and possibly may not work even if a user reverts to Tiger. That would be a real slap in the face for developers who rely on their Mac to get work done.

Apple PR representatives have yet to respond to emails we sent them almost 24 hours ago requesting comment for this story. Over the past few days, people moderating the company's support forum have deleted several threads related to users' inability to run Java 1.6 on Leopard.

Apple marketing monkeys, trying to woo developers to OS X, like to refer to the OS as "the only major consumer operating system that comes complete with a fully configured and ready-to-use Java runtime and development environment." Alas, good rapport with developers requires more than good slogans. Developers don't like surprises and they don't like to be kept in the dark. So far, there are no official communications regarding Apple's commitment to the latest Java virtual machine.

In addition to a predilection for secrecy, Apple is famous for exercising near absolute control over the Mac ecosystem. That extends to development of Java-related technologies, according to this post written two weeks ago by Java creator James Gosling.

"Lots of folks ask 'why doesn't sun just do the JDK for Mac?'" he writes. "The real answer is 'because Apple wanted to do it'. They've wanted to do all sorts of customization and integration that only they could do - because they own the OS."

In the same posing he writes: "Apple's JDK support is a part of my problem, and yes, I have their JDK6 from the ADC. It's hard to tell what the fundamental issue is, but it keeps feeling like the big problem is that developers aren't the 'Target Demographic' :-) iPods are nice, but they're not the defining center of my life...."

The revolt comes as other fanboys complain they get a blue screen of death when they try to install Leopard. Apple says here that many of the installation problems are the result of "third-party 'enhancement' software" installed on the machines that's not compatible with Leopard. The software in many cases turns out to be Application Enhancer, made by a company called Unsanity.

But other Mac users posting on private blogs and Apple's support forum say they're getting the BSOD even though they don't have Unsanity programs installed. Incompatibilities with DIVX Application Support and Tiger's RAID system may also be at play. ®

SANS - Survey on application security programs

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