A week ago I attended FOSDEM for the first time. It's a fun conference. Held a university in Brussels "You want it to be Paris, but it isn't" Belgium, it attracts lots of people from all over. A large number appeared to be students, and I always love to experience that energy, drive and hope for the future that I find in students. Hopefully some rubbed off on me, to counter my "old guy" jadedness. Also, I got to spend time with good friends in the FLOSS community, including some of my favorite people from Sun. I felt like an adopted Sun employee sometimes, they were so gracious in letting me hang out with them.
There's lots of coverage about what was said in lots of blogs, but I think what was most interesting was what wasn't said, which boil down to two words - "Harmony" and "OSGi". I was there focused on open source java, so attended mainly the OpenJDK/GNUClasspath track. I had asked to participate months ago to give an update on Apache Harmony, but wasn't allowed a timeslot by the organizers. That's cool - it's their track, and I guess there wasn't time. But, it would have been nice to give an update on our progress - I think we have the most complete open source Java class library, and our VM is nothing to sneeze at - solid JIT, good GC, and performance that seems to be getting darn close to Sun's Java SE 5. We still have lots of work to do, but we're not yet 2 years old, and we've come so far, so fast. We do have a minor license incompatibility problem with the GPL-ed Java projects, but the FSF has realized the error of their ways, and is fixing it ;) As for what was presented, I thought it a nice overview of a variety of projects, and nice to put faces on names that I only know from IRC, email and blogs.
What was really odd was in the 2 hour discussion on packaging and deployment, not one person uttered "OSGi". I can't figure out why other than some NIH problem - it's a proven, mature spec currently in v4, with tons of deployments out there, from everything from cars to enterprise app servers with multiple open source implementations. Even Eclipse is built on it. I heard a bit about JSR-277, a still-in-progess JSR with no implementations.
The packaging story for the linux distros will be interesting. The core problem is that OpenJDK won't be releasing binaries, so if the distros want to include "Java" rather than "software we built from the source that goes into Java" (SWBFTSTGIJ), they'll need to get a TCK from Sun and certify that their build passes. (That's a interesting little minefield for everyone involved - more on this later). Even if Sun was releasing binaries in OpenJDK, the distros still have their own needs, such as layout, libraries, etc, so again, to do Java vs SWBFTSTGIJ, they need the TCK. I imagine that RedHat's customers want Java - they are now selling a full stack solution ("100% Open Source!") - and won't be happy with SWBFTSTGIJ.
Anyway, despite my minor disappointment re Harmony, it was a good conference for me. It was nice to get the general "free software" perspective on the world in general, and I'm eager to see how the drama of OpenJDK plays out in my little corner of the world. My real learning experience is getting a better understanding of the perspective of the linux packagers in the case of redistributing Java. They aren't concerned with the same things that us java implementors worry about - they really just want a clean way of distributing the software. They don't really care about our religious beliefs regarding compatibility, and I understand better how the JCP hoops we ask people to jump through may be a big problem. I look forward to see how this plays out, because I think that it's important we do everything we can to ensure that distros ship Java, and not SWBFTSTGIJ.