14 Sep 2005 robilad   » (Master)

Free Runtimes In Venezuela

I came across this article on Barrapunto, which seems to say that Venezuela is encouraging the use of Free Software in the government over non-free alternatives. That's great news.

The odd bit in the submission is that apparently Sun Microsystems will talk to the Venezuelan government tomorrow to explain how Sun's non-free runtime can be used to write Free Software. I feel kind of sorry for Sun that they have to jump through all that because a lot of people are still unaware of the quality of, say, GNU gcj, and similar projects around GNU Classpath.

One of the points I regularly make to scared 'Java-for-life' developers, is that Free Runtimes like Kaffe OpenVM open new opportunities for them to leverage their skill set, by making it possible for them to reuse their knowledge of the language and platform in contexts in which otherwise that skill set would be useless.

For example, when a government contract mandates Free Software to be used in a solution, then either you go with a Free Runtime, or you don't get to do it at all in the Java programming language. If your code has never been tested on a free runtime, then you may have ran into the convenience trap of using non-free software in ways that make it hard to migrate your code to a free runtime, by using non-specified classes and methods, for example. Cleaning up OpenOffice.org's portability issues was not trivial and took some time to get done.

As RMS said:

"To keep your Java code safe from the Java Trap, install a free Java development environment and use it."

On a side note, the Barrapunto article probably explains the surge of Venezuelan developers on #debian-java in the last few days.

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