Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas to both of my loyal readers.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition!

Oracle Corporation (a purveyor of wickedly expensive databases) purchased Sun Microsystems last year. Sun was the creator of the Java (a highly trademarked) programming language and environment. There were concerns voiced at the thought of Oracle Corporation (also known as the keep buying Larry more ocean-going racing yachts club) owning Java (oodles of trademarks) as they are known for being more interested in making money than running open-source projects or loving up on programmers. These thoughts were usually swiftly hushed and everyone was told that it would all be fine and that as the crown jewels of Oracle's (aforementioned large and heavily lawyered corporation) offerings were all deeply tied to Java (did I mention the trademarks?), there was no way that they would do anything stupid. After all, they said, you don't get to afford trans-Atlantic racing yachts and Gulfstream jets without number unless you know something good about business. So the geeks switched to silent waiting mode.

Lately, there have been quite a few cracks in the facade of Oracle (so big, they make Big Brother look like little sister) as benevolent curator of the Java (way more trademarks than you'll ever have) language and brand. I'll try to keep myself to the two latest examples and then deliver the pithy conclusion.

The Apache Software Foundation (these are the good guys) is a member of the Java (trademarks, trademarks, trademarks) Community Process, the overseeing body charged with guiding the ongoing development of Java (err ... trademarks). Well, they happen to have a project to re-write the Java (trademarks and then some) standard libraries in a cleanroom manner, so they can be used freely and under the business friendly Apache license. All good stuff and Sun (may it rest in peace) had an agreement with them to release the Technology Compatibility Kit (TCK) under a suitable license for the Apache project to use so they could validate their implementation the for Java (trademarks, come and get 'em) standard libraries.

Unfortunately Sun (formerly great networking company) never got around to honoring this arrangement before they mis-managed themselves into the ground. Oracle (dark ominous music plays here) were previously in favor of this arrangement, but now that they own Java (and all the assorted trademarks) they have suddenly gone bi-polar on us and no longer think this is the swell idea it used to be.

This is a big deal, because while Java (marks of tradiness) is now GPL (all hail Richard Stallman) and the replacement libraries are open-source (a shout-out to ESR), there is the slight problem that nothing is allowed to be legally called Java (with or without trademarks) until it has passed the TCK. And Apache can't use the TCK because of one crazy legal clause in the whole arrangement.

Hudson is continuous integration server software. It is hosted on the facility which is now owned by Oracle (not actually evil, but they make Microsoft look cuddly) and even worse, it would seem that Oracle (who should borrow Google's don't be evil mantra) own the trademark or copyright or copymark on the name Hudson. And one of their VP's wrote a snotty email explaining that folks were welcome to fork the project, but they couldn't have the project name.

There is great principle that I normally apply in such situations: "Never ascribe to malice what can adequately be explained by incompetence!" And I think it might be useful here. At this point, I am not ready to accuse Oracle (you get the picture) of trying to kill Java (mark that trade), but I am quite certain that there are no signs that they aren't!

The title of this post come of course from that classic Monty Python sketch about the incompetent inquisitors of the Spanish Inquisition.