Gosling: Java’s All About The Community

TORONTO — Ten years after, he’d (still) love to change the world.

The father of the decade-old Java programming language is urging the developers who made Java what it is today to make sure they’re building Java for tomorrow’s tech needs.

James Gosling, CTO, Java Enterprise and Development Group, Sun Microsystems, kicked off the Sun Tech Days Worldwide Developer Conference here today by urging developers to get involved with the Java community process and to use Sun’s tools.

The Canadian-born Dr. Gosling told the capacity crowd of Java faithful that at some level Java is more than just a programming language.

Think of it as a conceptual framework that spans multiple implementations, including the enterprise, standard computing and embedded markets, he said. After all, the end to end nature of Java’s conceptual framework allows developers to better understand how everything fits together, he added.

“Originally the marketing slogan for Java was write once, run anywhere,” Gosling said. “The flip side, and that is often the one that is most important, is learn once, work anywhere.”

Gosling also took polite aim at other programming languages. For example, Java security is not an add-on feature (like other languages). He argued that Java’s memory model with tight integrity and subscript checking inhibits the ability of buffer overflows to occur. Buffer overflows are commonly cited as a leading cause of vulnerability in a wide number of applications.

Gosling also discussed the JDK 5.0 feature set, code-named Tiger. He urged audience members to upgrade from their legacy Java installations to the latest version, which is the core of the Java technology platform and used for developing applications. Gosling said legacy users were waiting for a dot one (.1) release of Tiger before upgrading.

“Don’t wait for a .1 release,” Gosling said. “We’re not going to do it because 5.0 is very stable. Don’t wait just get the .0 release.”

Gosling also brought up his other major contribution to the IT community: the Emacs source code editor. Gosling was the original author of Emacs for UNIX in 1981. GNU Emacs, a version still widely used in the open source community, is considered a “descendant” of Gosling’s Emacs. (GNU Emacs was written by Free Software movement founder Richard Stallman.)

Gosling said he is “embarrassed” that Emacs is still around and widely used. He advised developers to adopt more modern tools like Sun’s Java Studio Creator, Sun Java Studio Enterprise and Netbeans, all of which are now available for free. The modern Sun editors provide power through specialization and provide a more user friendly intuitive way to develop current applications.

Though not technically speaking “open source,” Gosling described the Java development process as close enough to the real thing.

The Java Community Process (JCP), which establishes Java standards, is an open community that doesn’t just publish specifications either. “There are three parts to a Java standard. It’s not just a specification; it also includes a reference implementation and a compatibility test suite,” he said.

Gosling described the JCP as a process that everyone can get involved with, and urged the assembled throng of Java faithful to do just that. After all, he added, the future of Java rests squarely in the JCP.

“What’s next? I have no clue. It’s really driven by the community.”

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