Today I read through mjw's diary entries. I also have a difficult relationship with free Java efforts.
On the one hand, I'm proud of gcj. I think we've done some great work. On the other hand, we're still missing pieces that people seem to consider fundamental (AWT...). We still haven't found our killer app, that gets gcj widely used.
Also there's the issue that people still consider kaffe the premiere free Java. Being first really does have its benefits. Lately this hasn't bothered me much. I just work on gcj (less frequently right now), trying to make it as good as I can.
Mark has a very good point when he says that people in the community seem willing to build their projects on non-free infrastructure. From one point of view, the one I most commonly take, this is a mistake -- that work helps to enhance the hegemony of Sun, against the free community. On the other hand, I suppose one might consider it as a pragmatic approach similar to that taken by the GNU tools in 1990: we're doing this now, but when a free solution comes along, we'll migrate. Though so far the migration hasn't happened. And with the rate of change in the Java specification, it may never happen.
So, this is a concern. My own preference has been to use only free tools, to the extent possible, as soon as possible. I usually prefer to suffer a bit with less-than-perfect free tools than to support the non-free ones that may work better. I don't mind finding and reporting some number of bugs. The counter argument is "I have to get work done". Ok, fine, but let's keep an eye on the long term, the important thing: the free software.
gcj still has some legs. If you look at the web page you'll see a steady stream of news items as people add things to it. And more things are coming: Andrew has written a new inliner; we'll probably (eventually) get some nice optimizations out of the tree-ssa work; Bryce is working on the AWT merge with Classpath (when this is done I'll probably dig up some cycles to work on the peers again).
There are plenty of cool projects for interested hackers, too...
Lately I've been thinking quite a bit about the next generation build tool. I've been writing a design for the back end. Don't know if or when it will be available.