java-package 0.24 uploaded

Version 0.24 of java-package has uploaded today. This version has the following changes:

  • correction of errors introduced in 0.23 for i386 Sun and Blackdown JDKs plugin support
  • addition of plugin support for IBM JREs and JDKs on i386 architecture

Apologies to those who experienced issues with 0.23; the errors introduced for i386 users were entirely my own. In enabling architecture-specific pathing for the Java(TM) plugin, I inadvertenly messed up the pathing for the plugin in JDKs. Those of you who noticed can think of it as involuntary sensitivity training to help you sympathize with those of us on non-i386 architectures. 8^)

For those unfamiliar with java-package, it provides a way for you to package Java(TM) Runtime Environments and Java(TM) Development Kits as Debian packages rather than installing them manually. This allows you to leverage Debian’s rich dependency management for Java-based packages. It provides the non-free Java(TM) functionality that the free runtimes for Java(TM) community is working hard to replace with free, open replacements. Think of it as “bridge technology” while things continue to progress in the free efforts.

Entering the Debiosphere

My colleagues in the Debian Java(TM) Packaging project have encouraged me to syndicate my weblog to Planet Debian, so here goes.

Hello, my name is Barry Hawkins, and I am a New Maintainer primarily active in the packaging of Java(TM) applications and libraries for Debian. I currently contribute to maintaining java-package, lucene, and tomcat4. Java(TM) is a big area with much to be done, so it looks as if that will be my main area of contribution for some time. Our work on moving packages to main via free runtimes for Java(TM) is slow but steady, and hopefully we will have big news for Debian users who develop in Java(TM) and wish to maximize their use of free runtimes in the coming months.

The Debian community is an exciting, vibrant, and collegial one; I have greatly enjoyed my involvement thus far, and I owe sincere thanks to Jeroen van Wolffelaar and Jeff Breidenbach for their patient, wise mentoring and encouragement.

Now, time to make a hackergotchi

Firefox now has “add-ins” – Huh?

When Preston Gralla’s alarmist blog entry about Firefox security being in dire straits popped up on the O’Reilly Network, I just let it slide. But this latest entry from Preston titled Good News for the Firefox Ecosystem is so out of touch I couldn’t keep from commenting. Consider the opening line:

One major advantage that Internet Explorer has had over Firefox is the ecosystem of add-ins and developers that have sprung up around it.

OK, I came into the Firefox camp fairly late in the game, like a year and a half ago. Even I know that Firefox has had a rich API for developing extensions, themes, and plugins from the start. As soon as you stroll around the menu bar, you quickly find that Firefox extensions are ready and waiting for you to utilize. When you consider the age of Internet Explorer versus the age of Firefox, IE’s extended functionality offerings pale in comparison, even with a decade-long head start. Also, how many non-ad-generating toolbar add-ins for IE come free-of-charge with open source code? Throwing those parameters in really widens the gap between the two.

The thrust of the entry seems to be that the Firefox can now “stand a better chance of thriving”, because a company, Round Two, is going to develop and support Firefox extensions.


I disagree. The reason that Firefox is thriving, and will continue to grow, is not because a company has decided to get behind Firefox extensions. It is because the Mozilla project has already proven the value of open source and low barriers to entry for new developers, and they have ensured that Firefox has been imbued with that set of values. Even a quick search on O’Reilly Network itself shows that extension development has been flourishing for a while and isn’t fraught with barriers to entry. While companies can greatly affect the market for open source software and fuel its adoption in the workplace, they would have nothing without the foundation provided by open development and collaboration.

Preston seems to be eager to adopt Firefox, but as I survey his entries since July 2004, he seems to vacillate between enthusiastic support and dire concern for Firefox’s viability. I acknowledge that it is quite a mind shift to embrace open source products at first; the typical questions pop up in our heads – how will it handle security issues, how will it ensure continuity, etc. As one who defected from the Microsoft VB and SQL Server world, I have gone through more than a few of those gyrations, at times vacillating myself. But, there are plenty of examples that prove out the viability of this approach, both positive and negative. There are successful open projects that enforce what to do and brilliant open project failures that illustrate what to avoid.

It’ll be alright, Preston and others. It has been alright for some time; the real pioneers cleared the way for us quite a few years ago.

If Open Source were a girl, would she dump you?

So I have finally finished my taxes and pushed several back-logged entries out the door and am feeling pretty good. I also just finished watching Shaun of The Dead. If you have seen the movie (and if you have not, this is not really a spoiler), you know that Shaun’s girlfriend Liz dumps him early in the story. She basically decides that he is going to continue to be the passive, lazy non-leader that he has been, and is sure that she does not want that. Good for her.

So, what if Open Source and Free Software were a girl, and you were in a relationship with her. Would she dump you?

I ask this because of the take-take-take relationship many developers have with open source software. They have no problem using things like Log4J, Tomcat, Spring, Hibernate, or the Jakarta Commons libraries. They will not hesitate to criticize these offerings or demand more functionality. However, mention so much as filing a bug report and they are backing away.

What’s up with that? Do you throw your trash out of your car window, too? Do you never hold the door for people, but get angry when someone does not hold the door for you? Do you actually relate to your significant other that way? If you do, don’t be surprised if you find yourself in Shaun’s boat, only you won’t have a zombie horde to save your ex-girlfriend from so that she gets back together with you. G’night.

My first keysigning

So I attended my first keysigning party. Basically it was a group of us free software geeks in a fantastic Belgian beer bar on W 4th Street near NYU named Vol de Nuit. Excellent place, excellent selection of Belgian beers. My new favorite is Corsendonk Brown Ale.

I ended up meeting an interesting array of folks, and got key signatures for Debian guys as well some other folks outside of Debian. Talking with Benjamin Hill (Mako) was interesting; he currently works for Ubuntu. Mako has been a Debian Developer since he was 12; quite a concept to wrap your mind around if you know what that means. Fun talk about free runtimes for Java(TM), and free software in general. It was truly a great time of hanging out with kindred spirits. Mako, another guy named Greg who actually serves as a lawyer for Debian, and myself kept hanging out after folks left, but I eventually had to bail and head back to the hotel and meet up with my wife. She was very understanding of how important this was to me, but I felt like more than 6 hours was a bit much.

If you don’t know about GPG keys, encryption, etc., I urge you to check it out. If you send sensitive data via email, GPG encryption can give you peace of mind. GnuPG is a free, open source implementation of the security offered commercially by PGP. You can establish quite secure trusts between individuals and send encrypted emails that can greatly improve the privacy of your electronic transmissions.

In New York for the week

In Manhattan for another week of work. Glad to be here in one sense; the weather is great, this is one of my favorite places, but I have a ton of work to do at home. That includes, but is in no way limited to, my income taxes. The big plus is that I will be able to attend a keysigning on Friday that will have a few Debian Developers. Getting my key signed by at least one will help me check off another to-do on my list for the Debian New Maintainer process.