On installing and configuring Sun’s Open-Source Java implementation on Ubuntu Linux

I’ve written a series of posts recently on uploading photos to Flickr. When I tried to use a tool to help do that on Ubuntu Linux I wound up having to install a Sun implementation of Java; see my post How to install a specific version of Java on Ubuntu.

I said how during the install an editor window is opened and you have to navigate that window to click on “OK,” and so accept Sun’s license before the install will continue.

Why is that? Didn’t Sun announce that they are now the providers of Free and Open Source Java?

Indeed they did, in a massive press barrage that was fired off almost a year ago. Today their web site proclaims, “Always open. Now free.”

Open. Free. Sounds good to me. Let’s go get it, so we won’t have to click on any license agreements and can use of the same code that Sun’s open-source community is improving each and every day. Let’s help them out. Maybe we’ll find a bug, in which case we can send in a detailed report to the team, knowing they will fix it — making our own small contribution to open-source Java.

There is a link on Sun’s page, Get the Source. When you visit that you find a a link Subversion: Accessing the source code repository.

Got it. Off to that page. Here is what it says:

Accessing the source code repository:

Access the source code repository for this project in one of following ways:

  • Browse source code online to view this project’s directory structure and files.
  • Check out source code with a Subversion client using the following command. Note: replace the last username with your own username.
          svn checkout https://openjdk.dev.java.net/svn/openjdk/trunk openjdk --username username

Isn’t that great? All we have to do is download the code, compile that sucker, and away we go?

But hold on. Don’t open-source projects usually provide recent releases in binary form, so we won’t have to go through the whole process of starting from scratch? Are they assuming we’re all experts who know how to do it?

No problem: there is a section called “Binaries.” Ah, the promised land.

Oops. The phrase “Binaries” is followed by the cautionary note “coming soon, see the Free and Open Source Java: FAQ.

Soon? How about now! You’ve had almost a year, folks. How soon is “soon?”

But what’s the problem? Why not just download the source, compile it, and run it?

It’s not that easy. Java is big, very big.

And even if you do manage to build it, how do you know that you got it right. Shouldn’t you have some tests on hand to verify that you built it straight and true?

This brings to mind the posts I wrote just after Sun’s announcement, anticipating just this sort of problem:

I hope I’m wrong, but I suspect you can’t just do “sudo apt-get install sun-open-source-java-jre” quite yet. You’ll have to wait a while. After all, after waiting a year, what’s the rush?

This really shouldn’t surprise me. Sun started making noises about making Java open-source almost a decade ago, about the same time that some folks started up the “Linux versus GNU/Linux” fiasco.

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Dealing with Sun, Java and the release of Sun’s Java in open-source form for close to a decade has been so frustrating that if a magic genie were to appear, offering to help me wreak my vengeance, I would reply:

Please, please. Have Sun change their stock symbol from SUNW to JAVA. That’s all I ask. Let it be a symbol unto the generations.

As for configuring and installing Sun’s Open-Source Java implementation on Ubuntu Linux, good luck.

You’ll need it.


  1. Posted September 17, 2007 at 04:48 | Permalink | Reply

    Uh, binaries in open source projects? What would that be good for? I’ve yet to see official binaries of Eclipse from Eclipse that ‘just work’ on my Debian box, for example, never mind integrating themselves into the package management of the platform. So for all practical purposes, Eclipse binaries are useless for me. Source, otoh, is useful for me, as it lets the Debian Eclipse packagers turn out binaries I can actually use, and that integrate into my operating system as they should.

    Binaries are something you release for Windows / OS X / platform stuck without a native packaging solution. For the rest, you let the distributions take care of them, unless you feel desperate to support random people hosing their operating system installations by following bad advice on some random, out of date web page. For the largest part, installing Java on Linux was so awful because Sun insisted on providing the one binary that fits all, and people had to resort to all sorts of hacks to make them fit into their actual package management solutions.

  2. Posted September 17, 2007 at 11:49 | Permalink | Reply

    Check out http://icedtea.classpath.org/

    On Fedora 8 test 2 just yum install it:
    yum install java-1.7.0-icedtea

    For Debian and derivatives try:
    IcedTea – a first step towards OpenJDK

    Sun doesn’t have to do it alone, the community helps.

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