Sun Opens Up Desktop Code

SAN FRANCISCO — Sun Microsystems decided to succumb to peer pressure and open source Java…sort of.

In conjunction with its annual JavaOne Conference, Sun said it is
contributing its next generation desktop software, Project Looking Glass
and corresponding Java 3D application program interface , to the open source community. NASA recently used the Java 3D API for its command and
control system for the Mars Rover mission.

The network computer maker has been inundated with requests to publicly post the source code of the popular programming
language under the same or similar General Public License model as Linux.
While the Java code is readily available, noted Java guru and Sun CTO James Gosling told last week that Sun will not open up the full Java code at this time. The company debates the issue every
few years but has not come up with a plan that Gosling said would
“balance everybody’s concerns.”

Details of the end licensing for Project Looking Glass and Java 3D are
being withheld for now as the company mulls which flavor of Public License
to go with.

“We will still be open sourcing the technology but terms of the license
will be announced at a later date. This means the details on the General
Public License have been held,” a spokesperson for Sun told

Looking Glass is Sun’s answer to the Windows and Macintosh desktops and
tries to hook users in with a drag-and-drop tool that uses Java and OpenGL
to help users arrange application windows in a 3D space. The platform
runs on Solaris and Linux and features window transparency, rotation, zoom and miniaturization.

Sun said the developer’s release will include a Window Manager to help
design documents; get up to speed with initial specification, and outlines
of prototype implementation. The platform also includes a graphics component
that lets developers run conventional X11 applications in a 3D windows
system; sample demos for testing purposes; and a “Lite” version that lets
developers run the 3D window manager as an application on Linux or Solaris
without loading the 3D desktop environment.

“We know from a developer’s perspective — moving away from pure HTML and
the Java environment — that many are working on higher-level developments
above Swing. XML has also been helpful in its way to connect back to a
database and to write that in Java,” Curtis Sasaki, Sun vice president of
desktop solutions, told

Sun is so confident that Looking Glass will outshine its rivals that the
company has set up two so-called “Living Billboards” in downtown San
Francisco for the week. Looking Glass creator Hideya Kawahara is expected to
control the huge displays through a series of tasks and take questions from

In coordination with the desktop news, Sun is also debuting two new open
source community contribution sites: JDNC (Java Desktop Networked
Components) and JDIC (Java Desktop
Integration Components). The goal is to help non-full-time Java developers
with their projects.

JDNC is a set of extended versions of the more sophisticated Swing
components that can regulate size and shape such as Table and TextArea, along
with an XML based markup language to let administrators conduct their own
Web start.

Similarly, JDIC looks to establish more integration into the host desktop
environment: mixing together the native Web browser, e-mail, registered
document viewing applications and installation.

The information was previously available but you have to do a lot of
custom hand coding, Sun’s Sasaki said. “This helps lower the bar to develop
these solutions such as getting information from the server and rendering it
on the desktop.”

In related developer news, Sun debuted its beta release of NetBeans 4.0
; launched Java 2 Standard Edition 5, (known as Project
Tiger or J2SE 1.5), unveiled its Sun Java Developer Network; and announced
the upcoming release of Sun Java Studio Creator (formerly Project Rave) for
a $99 per year subscription.

Sun said TV and cable industry leaders including Comcast, Time
Warner/Cable, Cox Communications and Advanced/Newhouse Communications will
sponsor an application development contest for the interactive television
(iTV) market. The contest hopes to raise awareness of OCAP (OpenCable
Applications Platform) and to, “encourage the active participation of the
Java development community in the interactive television market.”

The company also said that it has inked a collaborative agreement with
semiconductor design firm ARM to incorporate more Java at
the semiconductor level for mobile devices.

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