Early access builds

Mark Wielaard mark at klomp.org
Sun May 31 19:52:21 UTC 2009

Hi Kelly,

> I'll stick my neck out a little here...
> If I could somehow make some purely OpenJDK7 built zip bundles available,
> with no promises on any test results and with no support.
> Could we start with that? Does that help or make things worse.
> I want to fix this but am only one person, or half a person sometimes,
> so help me out here...
> Can you provide specifics on what you would expect of any openjdk7 builds?
> Can we start a separate email thread on this?

Thanks and good idea.
So, lets back up a little more, so we really start this thread from
scratch and make sure we are on the same page. You said earlier...

> And I don't understand the problem, we have never have published
> 'open' builds. We could I suppose, and probably should, but we don't.
> To a large degree we didn't think it made any sense because the Distros
> built their own. So we let people know when the proprietary builds were
> available because some people wanted them.
> Then other people gets all bent out of shape about it. :^(

And to be clear I am the "other people" getting all bent out of shape
here :) So, why is that? And what is wrong with these "closed" builds
that do get published?

The OpenJDK project has rules, under http://openjdk.java.net/legal/ on
how to produce fully open and partially closed derivatives. If you want
a fully open build, you get the sources under the GPL, some additional
permissions under the Classpath Exception to combine with other free
software stuff and off you go. This is basically what IcedTea and the
various GNU/Linux distributions do now. Follow the letter and spirit of
the GPL and everybody is happy.

If you want to produce a (partially) closed build you are also allowed
to do that. For historical reasons there are sadly some proprietary
binary blobs that cannot be distributed under free terms, but you do get
permission to distribute these together with the rest (provided you
follow the terms of the GPL for that of course) and get an additional
special Assembly Exception to combine with these Designated Exception
Modules to form a larger work for which the GPL only applies to the free
and open parts.

Now, various OpenJDK projects want to do "early access" releases.
Sometimes even for stuff that isn't in the main repo yet. Because they
like working with the larger community and provide them with easily
runnable bits (these are so early they wouldn't normally be packaged by
any distribution). So they publish these build downloads on their
OpenJDK project pages and/or post to the mailinglist inviting people to
work together and test the bits in progress.

Now here is were it becomes awkward. These early access builds aren't
published as open builds, but they are also not published as (partially)
closed builds according to the OpenJDK legal rules. No, they are
published under a completely different very draconian proprietary
license that says you may not you even try to study how this works, try
to figure out what the underlying source code is, use it for any purpose
except for telling Sun, and only Sun! what might be wrong with these
builds, and if you don't treat anything you might learn from these
builds as proprietary confidential information not to be shared with
anybody you will cause Sun irreparable damage for which recovery of
money damages would be inadequate...

Hohum. That isn't very nice.

Sidenote (and the reason I send the original email): It certainly made
me pause and decide not to use the nio2 early access builds to try and
figure out what was wrong with the nio2 tests included in IcedTea or
give any feedback. Damn, I thought, if this is how it has to be, then no
cooperation! Luckily, Alan Bateman stands way above all this little
bickering, so he contacted me, we went over all the failures I saw in my
build, and he personally explained each and every one away. Go Alan!

I am under the impression this is an old relic from before the OpenJDK
project, the adoption of the GPL and before the goal was to come
together with the community at large to create a completely free and
open java implementation. I wouldn't have balked (so much) if I had
found the binaries produced as partial closed binaries. I do understand
not everybody is convinced yet the free replacements are better, or at
least as good as the old proprietary plugs. So if an graphics oriented
OpenJDK project published partially closed builds as early access, well,
I don't like it, but I can see why. But non-graphics related OpenJDK
projects not publishing their early access builds under the fully free
terms is rather quaint. And having them publish such builds under terms
that basically forbid any cooperation between community members because
they are totally Sun proprietary and confidential is completely nuts.
IMHO of course.

So, I think that what we really need is rules for OpenJDK projects that
want to publish Early Access build artifacts. IMHO if they do, they
should do that in accordance to the rules that everybody needs to
follow, which are spelled out at http://openjdk.java.net/legal/
That is the only fair thing to do.



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