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by Mark Trescowthick - AVDF Editor
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Late Update 30 November 1998

Java Silliness, or
Why Developers are stupid - the official US version.

On November 18th, the great US Legal System gave its interim verdict on developers... they're all as thick as too short planks, and need their hands held at all times, lest they stray into unintended stupidity, which will only hurt them. At least, I assume that that's what the interim injunction, which endorses Sun's compliants about MS' use/abuse of Java in (amongst other things) VJ++ means.

The Sun view - presumably now endorsed (at least in the interim) by the Court, is that all the nice extra stuff in VJ++ is dangerous in the extreme. You see, we developers are, according to Sun, dumb. Especially, I guess, those who develop for Windows for a living. We won't realise that using Windows-specific extensions means our Java isn't portable. Or we won't remember until 'too late'. Or we just won't be able to resist.

Two words, Sun. Get stuffed.

I'll build what I want, when I want to and you and/or a US Court will not tell me what I can or cannot do. Feel free to persuade me, but trying to hit me over the head using a poor judge who's idea of a programming language is FORTRAN (go read the transcripts...) just doesn't cut the mustard. I am not a fool and I make informed decisions about what I develop in and why. I'm a professional - well at least, that's what I'd like to think!

I mean, for Heaven's sake... a dialog box with "court-approved wording" to appear when you turn Windows-specific extensions on? I mean, how bizarre and insulting is that?

VM Silliness, too.

The suit also mandates that MS do some modifying of their Java VM. Not, I point out, removing any of their Windows-specific support, just adding support for some interfaces that (and this is what I find amusing) weren't around when they licensed it from Sun... weren't even considered! Still, it can't be so bad - after all, it did produce this lovely study in vituperation, from Sun's web page :-

"While this case proceeds through the court, we'll continue to use our enormous energy in the marketplace -- as will the other companies that are the cornerstones of the Java technology industry -- to deliver high performing Java technology that outperforms Microsoft's incompatible technology," said Alan Baratz, president of Java Software at Sun Microsystems, Inc. "We'll continue to deliver technologies such as Java Plug-In that give developers and users the choice to replace Microsoft's polluted technology with Sun's compatible Java technology."

That is, I would submit, the equivalent of sticking your tongue out in the playground when you won at chasey.

"incompatible, polluted"? Can Sun just get even half a grip for a moment? They are talking about a Java VM about which PC Magazine this year said :-

"For the second year in a row, Microsoft has produced the fastest and most reliable Java implementation available . . . The Microsoft Java environment came close to a perfect score on our compatibility tests . . . [T]he compatibility rate for VMs running on Windows . . . is almost 20 percentage points better than VMs running under [Sun's] Solaris."

Gosh, I can see where the problem lies! Not!

But wait - there's more!

Just how much egg does the US DoJ have on their face with the anti-trust suit? Let's see... they were making the suit largely because MS had too much market power, and poor little Netscape couldn't ever hope to compete.

Hmmm... that would be the "poor little Netscape" that's just been bought by Bertelsmann AG, the World's largest online player and one of the four largest multi-media conglomerates around, would it? Gee, can't see how they would compete! And, shock of shocks, they've done a licensing deal with - wait for it - Sun to continue development of the browser and such. Now, I wouldn't want to talk collusion here, but surely what's good for the MS goose should also hold for the Netscape gander? Isn't this just a wee bit suggestive of some sort of agreement to gang up on "poor little MS"?

Not, I hasten to add, that I necessarily believe that MS shouldn't be broken up... in fact, I can see a perfectly good argument for splitting it into three companies - Op Systems, Tools and Applications. I can't see that the DoJ's looney tunes idea of creating two Microsofts, each doing the lot (but with BillG only being allowed to have shares in one!) makes any sense at all.

But back to the Netscape/AOL/Sun deal for a minute. This combines

"the world’s most popular online service, its most popular browser, one of its most popular web sites and hugely popular software for serving data to web sites under one roof. The combined AOL/Netscape entity will reach more than 70 percent of all online customers, according to NetRatings."

according to the Association for Competitive Technology (run by long-time AVDF friend Jonathan Zuck. If the name Netscape weren't in that deal, just have three guesses about who'd be screaming like a stuck pig about now...

I'll hasten to add, this time, that I reckon that this deal is a very good one - it certainly gives MS a run for their money, and that's the way it ought to be. But it surely makes the DoJ's contention that MS posed the threat of dominating the Internet look more than a little silly. And THAT truly is the way it ought to be!

And now, we return you to normal transmission...

In this Issue

Welcome to the October Issue of AVDF - our last for 1998 as we don't any longer even try to publish in December (also know as "can I have that by December 25th please?" month!).

This issue focuses a good deal on exposing some of the newer technologies and techniques, such as ADO 2 and the VB6 Web Classes, but in response to some reader feedback, we've also deliberately included some more basic (no pun intended) coding tips as well. I guess it's easy for us to forget that there are still many people coming to the world of VB, Delphi, SQL Server, ASP and such for the first time and so a gentle prod from a couple of our readers was much appreciated...

Reflecting the ongoing move to Internet/Intranet development, we also present this issue two "off the shelf" components for providing some basic server-side applications - including our first-ever shareware offering Rupert Walsh's Dir2HTML, a very snappy server-side indexing component.

New Stuff

Leaving to one side Visual Studio 6, new products have been a little thin on the ground of late. However, Wise Solutions have just released a revamped Installer lineup, and we had to allow both Brett Sheppard and Ross Mack to review it - otherwise there might, I suspect, have been blood on the floor!

We've also just seen the release of the next generation of True dbGrid, and you can expect a look at that in our first issue for 1999.

Y2K - Again!

Yes, I just keep harping on this. We've dedicated much of January to a final shakedown of our systems to ensure that they are all compliant, and to a shakedown of every client's system we can get our hands on as well. For Aussie developers, January is usually a quiet month, and probably represents the last best hope of catching Y2K issues in time.

Might I suggest that, if you haven't already…

A Java by any other name?

Java was (and still is by some) touted as the ultimate Windows-killer. It was going to create a whole heap of trouble for Microsoft by de-coupling applications development from the Operating System and therefore rendering Microsoft at least partially redundant.

I always thought that that was a strange suggestion in many ways… it would be the first time a language had managed to render irrelevant an Op System and I don't go in much for backing "firsts".

But maybe there is a real challenger on the block now, and I wonder if the boys from up Seattle way have paid it quite as much attention as it deserves - Linux. The server you're reading this from runs Linux, and fits seamlessly into our largely NT-based network. It looks, tastes and smells like NT from my workstation, and yet is 100% free. And with the move of many of what might politely be termed "non-Microsoft" vendors to provide a Linux option, there seems to be a decent head of steam getting up.

Of course, we also run an NT web server or two, but Linux is a very strong contender in that market - always has been - and is now definitely moving into the more mainstream, department-level server, market.

I can only hope that it garners more support and gives NT a run for its money - competition is a wonderful motivator!

Trials and Tribulations

Meanwhile, the US v MS trial has just entered its third exciting week. And the Judge is still out on the Sun v MS decision. Certainly the US v MS suit is attracting worldwide attention, although if the standard of some of the mainstream press articles is anything to go by, I just hope that the Judge is better informed than the media!

We Wish You...

As I noted above, this is our last issue for 1998. I'd like to take this opportunity to thank our contributors, including the staff here at GUI Central, for their efforts over the year - it isn't always easy finding time to research and write articles to a bi-monthly timeframe when you actually have a job of software development to do as well, and without their contribution AVDF wouldn't exist.

And, of course, without readers the whole thing would be a waste of time anyway - we have had well over 100,000 visitors from about 70 countries drop by over the past 12 months and your feedback and comment is what keeps us going… make sure you drop by again next year too!

In the meanwhile, I hope you enjoy this issue and that the festive season finds you in full celebration mode. Until then…

See you in the ether.

Written by: Mark Trescowthick
October '98

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