Web Informant #310, 28 December 2002:

The trouble with Java




This holiday season, my muscles are aching. No, not from shoveling snow: from shoveling out from under dueling Java versions. And while the courts continue to debate Who's on First between Sun and Microsoft, the rest of us continue to dig deeper into our computer's operating systems to make our applications work.


Both companies share equally the blame for this predicament. Ironically, Java is now a victim of its own success in the marketplace. As it is being used in more places, the potential for conflict increases. The problem is that Java is a slippery character: entering your computer as an application or as a server-based or browser-based add-on.


I had to install a new copy of Java in order to run some application or another at home a few weeks ago. I think it was for Limewire, but I can't remember. Once I did that, my copy of iNotes Web Access refused to work inside my browser. Sometimes you need a full client copy of Java, sometimes it comes to you care of your Web browser, and sometimes it comes as part and parcel of the operating system. And sometimes you don't just know, and have to play Java Detective. Is this any way to run a railroad?


Speaking of historic legal monopolies, Microsoft was legally prevented from shipping Java as part of Windows. So they removed Java from Windows XP, and now we all suffer. To make matters worse, they put it back in with XP's Service Pack 1, but the stuff that was included wasn't really the full monty, and not the most recent code according to Sun. (And not everyone wants to update their Windows operating system, especially if their computers are working fine.) On some friends' computers that have the original XP Java-less version, I couldn't gain access to their Netgear hub/firewalls, because the management software is Web-based and requires Java to run. What started out as something simple turned into a Java nightmare.


So what's the solution? Now that Java is tied up in our legal system, I am afraid we all will have to suffer through this a bit more. It would help if Sun could label their versions between Web, client, and server somewhat consistently and clearly. It would help if Microsoft could stop pretending that their versions of Java were equivalent to Sun's. It would help if both companies could work together for a change, without their incredible hubris getting the better of them. It would help all of us, the end users, immeasurably. Even Scrooge got with the holiday spirit. But that was fiction. Sun and Microsoft both deserve a lump of coal in their holiday stockings for getting us into this mess.


NB: Michael Horowitz's Javatester site is a real gem at illustrating these issues, and a quick and easy way to determine which Java version is running on your machine. Check it out!.

Colophon and holiday wishes


Many of you missed my last essay #309, "Teens are the next tech influencers" mainly because of the "t" word in the subject line of the email. Some corporate email filters (including our own here at CMP) blocked the message (and in my case, your replies), so you may want to click on the link below and read the thing on my web site.



This essay is the last one that will be sent out on a mail server that the kind folks at O'Reilly and Associates have let me use the past several years. Accordingly, I wanted to send a special thank you to them for their help in hosting my musings and almost-weekly commentaries. My new home will be on a mail server that my colleague Fred Avolio hosts: thanks Fred. For those of you that don't know him, Fred has been around the Internet longer than I and has had his hand in many security ventures of one sort or another, and currently runs his own consulting firm where he also does a fair amount of research, writing, and speaking.


If you want to continue getting these emails, do nothing: I hopefully have set up everything that things should just continue along. If your email client or corporate email system is tuned to process emails from the O'Reilly server, you might have to make some adjustments to your system to handle emails from our new home at informant@avolio.com.


If you wish to be removed from my mailing list, please send me a note to dstrom@cmp.com and I will take care of it immediately.


The year 2002 has been a tough one for me personally, and I wanted to wish all of my readers the best for the holidays and the new year. Your support, friendship, help and guidance made all the difference for me, and I hope we all have a better 2003.