Tue 1 Jan 2008
Well it’s now 2008 (unless you’re in the US of course) and traditionally a time to reflect upon the year just gone. Well, it’s certainly been one of movement and change in the GNU Classpath community, if also one of very little code hacking. Of course, the biggest event of the year was the release of the OpenJDK source code in May; about 95% of the JDK source code base was made available under the GPLv2, the rest both then and now being filled by binary blobs, which are slowly decreasing in number.
However, back in January 2007, we were still waiting for this to happen. As I recall, we’d just (gone through the generics merge, migrating the contents of the branch on to the main tree and over the Christmas period I added quite a lot of 1.6 code. Sun’s
javac compiler was open-sourced however, as part of the November announcement, and we soon had support in GNU Classpath for building with it.
In February, GNU Classpath was again at FOSDEM and I finally attended after missing out on the last two years. It was good fun and notable for our collaboration both with the DevJam folks and the OpenJDK community (AKA Sun). Everything was very much still ifs and buts however, because I don’t think anyone knew what would really happen when the floodgates opened and the JDK was released. Of course, GNU Classpath will again be at FOSDEM this year, and apparently with even closer collaboration with OpenJDK — try and even spot a mention of GNU Classpath on those pages… Hopefully, I’ll be there again too.
The year only saw two Classpath releases, which is sort of representative of its ongoing decline I guess. 0.95 was released shortly after FOSDEM in April, a delayed and very necessary release which include the generics move and the other stuff I mention above. Getting a GNU Classpath release out the door has become more and more of a struggle over this year and, in a way, has become synonymous with a pregnant mother giving birth, as a team of developers stand round screaming ‘push’ until eventually the release emerges. Our release of 0.96 in October certainly felt like that to me anyway. On that note, congratulations to both Michael Koch and Roman Kennke who both (or should I say, their respective partners) had children this year.
May of course saw the release of the OpenJDK source code and the inevitable hordes jumping on and pulling it about took place with the same speed and haste we saw on the release of javac. This has eventually surfaced in the form of IcedTea from a number of GNU Classpath/RedHat folks, a build framework for the OpenJDK which, most importantly, serves it without the need for proprietary code (given that the current OpenJDK build has no real advantage over a proprietary JDK drop unless you want to tinker). This was produced by splicing in bits of GNU Classpath code. It’s a whole deal more easier to use than plain old OpenJDK but still not a walk in the park. This is especially true since Sun split up the build process and made parts of it depend on Ant…
It’s quite sad to say, but OpenJDK is still not what we all hope it will be. Thankfully, live Mercurial repositories are now available as of December, but there are still too many walls, as I mentioned before. It’s like the JDK was something that popped out of a little black box, but now someone has taken the lid off the box so you can see the little worker ants running around inside and making it all happen. But there’s not yet anyway to get inside the box ourselves. New ants need to be able to join in the fun. We’ve already seen one of the goals I mentioned in August realised (the open repositories), and hopefully more will change in 2008. Sun’s innovation awards are both a realisation of this problem (common to both OpenJDK and many of its other open source projects, which still have a predominantly Sun ethos) and hopefully its saviour.
It smells a little like Google’s Summer of Code and indeed Tom Marble was asking myself and Mario about this on IRC. This year of course saw me tackling JikesRVM for GSoC, trying to implement the VM-level management extensions. A lot of this work was done, and following GSoC, I was made a member of the JikesRVM team. However, the patches still haven’t gone in to the mainline, due to a combination of the release process (some of these are likely to be destablising) and finding time myself to test the stuff on the main branch. This hasn’t been helped by a re-emerging problem with building JikesRVM using Classpath; this same problem plagued my initial month or so on the project when I discovered it seemed to rely on proprietary software to work…
So altogether it’s been an interesting year. Not only have I worked on both the old (continuing with GNU Classpath and also pushing out a release of GJDoc) and the new (launching the IcePick project to build the OpenJDK tools separately) over the last year, but I’ve also sadly seen the community enter something of a demise as people start to move on to other things, especially IcedTea and OpenJDK. What will 2008 hold? Maybe I’ll find myself working on OpenJDK too…