sab39

... indistinguishable from magic
effing the ineffable since 1977

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The reinvigoration of Classpath?

9/21/2007
(Disclaimer: I'm just observing all this from the sidelines; my opinion is almost entirely derived from Planet Classpath and the Classpath mailing lists. If I'm wrong on some salient point, please comment and let me know!)

I'm very pleased to see that the Classpath project seems to be picking up some of the steam it lost on the announcement of OpenJDK. I have mixed feelings about OpenJDK itself: on the one hand, Sun did exactly the right thing by releasing the JDK under the best possible choice of license as we'd all wanted for years; on the other hand, I've seen at least two blog entries on Planet Classpath in the past week that were variations on "hooray, the trivial patch I submitted to OpenJDK the week it was released has been accepted a mere three months later!"

IcedTea appears to have picked up some of this slack and last I heard had built a mostly-working Java implementation by plugging in Classpath code to fill the holes in OpenJDK. Haven't heard much about it lately though - has development stalled or are people just not blogging about it?

However, part of me feels that IcedTea is approaching the problem from the wrong end. The code that the Classpath developers have labored over for ten years deserves a higher place than being used as filler to patch the holes in an inferior, ex-proprietary codebase. I'm not trying to argue that Sun's code is "bad" or that Classpath's code is perfect, but I do know that code developed in the bright light of public view, with no schedule pressures other than "when it's right", is invariably [UPDATED: Jeroen points out in the comments that this isn't so invariable after all] higher quality than code developed inside a large, bureaucratic organization with constant pressure to ship to a deadline. The fact that these things have historically affected Java's development is apparent in the public API: public members whose types are nonpublic, public RCSID fields, serialVersionUID fields defined on interfaces.

The difference is apparent in the sheer size of the codebases - the JDK is several times the size of Classpath, despite Classpath providing the vast majority of the same level of functionality. (I'm actually considering sticking with an older version of IKVM for this reason - file size matters when you're building an installer that's being shipped over the network). It's apparent in the fact that Classpath has a clean API for targeting multiple VMs including VMs for which native code is unnecessary, where the JDK's VM interface is internal and relies heavily on native code.

It seems to me that there would be a lot of value in approaching an OpenJDK / Classpath merge in the same way the libgcj and Kaffe merges were approached: compare the code on a class-by-class basis, bring in whichever implementation is best, and change it if necessary to account for things the other implementation did better. My gut instinct says a lot more Classpath code would survive that process than is surviving today in IcedTea - and the end result would be significantly smaller, cleaner, faster and bug-free-er.

I don't know whether the copyright ownership issues have been resolved yet to make it possible to actually pull OpenJDK code directly into Classpath though.

Regardless of what approach ends up being taken, though, it's good to see work happening on Classpath again, and a new release being contemplated. I guess it means I need to get those darn Japi runs happening again though!

 

Confused but Japi

9/20/2007
The Japi runs for the last couple of days have gotten very confused. Yesterday they started believing that JDK7 had no classes in it; now they seem to believe that Classpath doesn't.

I'm not sure what's going on just yet, and I haven't yet had time to do any actual investigation. In the meantime, I killed today's run as soon as I noticed what was going on; no Harmony results today because I'm almost sure they'd have been bogus anyway.

I'll keep you posted.

 

Let's moon 'em!

9/13/2007

I make no secret of the fact that I'm really excited about the private sector finally getting into the spaceflight business. I consider SpaceShipOne's historic flight to win the X-Prize to be one of the more significant historical events in my lifetime. Watching SpaceX's Falcon rocket almost reach orbit gave me chills. If one day I get the chance to ride Virgin Galactic to a Bigelow space hotel, I'm SO there. And mankind just bloody better have colonized Mars by the time I die or I'll be pissed.

When the rumors started about a new X-Prize I was assuming that it would be for orbit. After all, as critics were quick to point out, SpaceShipOne's achievement, while impressive, was a LONG way short of what orbit would require - and orbit is kind of a prerequisite to getting anywhere else.

But nope. With the help of Google they've gone one better - the new X-Prize will be $30 million for putting a robotic lander on the moon. Impressive! I wonder how long it'll take to be won...


 

Dawn, the Alpha Dog

8/16/2007

One of the men I admire most in this world is my friend, Adam Dean. Despite being born with cerebral palsy, resulting in a speech impediment that limits the number of words he can actually physically say to almost single digits and a right arm he's entirely unable to use at all, Adam never thinks of himself as "disabled" and has achieved more than many "able-bodied" people even aspire to. He lives alone, doing all the day-to-day chores he needs to do for himself (just imagine doing all your chores one-handed). He has a very successful career as a lawyer, using a speech synthesis device (think Stephen Hawking) to communicate. On a personal note he's a loyal and generous friend. And now he's also a published author.

Adam's first book, "Dawn, the Alpha Dog... and Related Stories", is now available. The book is billed as a collection of short stories, but for the most part it reads as one coherent story told as a series of moment-in-time snapshots over the course of a relationship. It's well written and an engaging read, with characters that you can believe in and root for - or sometimes against.

The stories are written in the first person, and Adam gave the protagonist the same disability he has. One of my favorite aspects of the book was the inclusion of little asides that give insight into what it's really like interacting with other people when something as "simple" as speech is a significant effort. But at the same time the story is universal; the real communication issues in the story are the same ones anybody would face in Adam's character's situation.

I found the book to be strongest when it was telling a continuing story, and weaker in the occasional moments it lived up to the "collection of short stories" billing. One of the stories doesn't feature Dawn at all; it was a good story in its own right but felt out of place in the context of the book. Another focuses primarily on the protagonist's struggle against a (perceived) vice, with only a tangential connection to the relationship with Dawn. It's perhaps not fair to fault the book for the times it's exactly what it claims to be, but I can't help feeling that those pages would have been better spent fleshing out the main storyline.

My only other complaint about the book is that it's too short - I'm just greedy :)

One more thing: don't buy the book if you're going to be offended by discussion of sex. It's not by any means explicit or pornographic but it doesn't shy away from the subject, either.

Adam will be doing a signing of the book at Empire Books in Pullman Square, Huntington, WV, at 4pm on Saturday August 25th. I don't think my blog has many readers who happen to be in the Huntington area that don't already know Adam, but just in case...


 

Let us think the unthinkable

8/6/2007
"Come," he said, sweeping through the door to where Miss Janice Pearce sat glaring at a pencil, "let us go. Let us leave this festering hellhole. Let us think the unthinkable, let us do the undoable. Let us prepare to grapple with the ineffable itself, and see if we may not in fact eff it after all."
-- "Dirk Gently", "Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency", by Douglas Adams.

One of my favorite Adams quotes, and the reason for the new tagline on my homepage. According to Google I'm about the 14,101st person to use the phrase, but I don't think Mr. Adams will mind.


 
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