When is free not free ?
By tdw on May 18, 2005
Now, obviously, I'm coming at this from the point of view of being an Engineer at Sun, so by definition (in the FSF's eyes), I am already tainted by the devil. However, it appears to these tainted eyes that Richard Stallman and others are stirring up trouble for the sake of the minority of folks who might regard Sun's Java implementation as being not free. I assume by this that they mean not free to be modified, enhanced, redistributed rather than costing money (which it does not).
I've tried putting myself in the shoes of a potential customer of OpenOffice.org, and to be honest, I can't see a problem with it using Sun's version of Java. After all, that is the real Java and no other [Open Source] implementations can be called that. As a customer, I could easily download both OpenOffice.org and Sun's Java implementation for use on Windows, Linux or Solaris (to name but 3 OS'es), and being an end-user, I can see no issue with this at all.
Whilst I support some of the ideals of Open Source Software, I do wonder if some people get too caught up in the ideology and don't actually stop to consider what might be the best thing for the end-users. In this particular case, I think it would be deplorable if the OpenOffice.org 2.0 release were delayed simply because of the work required to make it operate with GJC or some other "free" Java implementation. On the other hand, a fork in the development tree, as noted as a possibility in the article above, is as undesirable, and is one of the less endearing aspects of Open Source projects.
Don't get me wrong - I'm not against the activity to make OpenOffice.org work with other implementations of Java. It's that extension of functionality which makes Open Source the success that it is. The issue I have is that of the playground bullies (FSF zealots) using intimidation to force development along a particular path which only benefits a minority.