Pacta sunt servanda

Pacta sunt servanda (“pacts must be respected”) is probably the first or second thing you learn when you enter law school in Italy. Looks like someone in Sun could use some good old latin to understand why what they’re doing to Java is wrong in so many ways.

I hope the community as a whole understands what the real issue is: the problem is not Sun trying to restrict Java use through questionable strings attached to the Java Compatibility Kit. The problem is not Harmony being at risk of losing the “Java” branding. The problem is not even OpenJDK itself being potentially impaired by the Field of Use restrictions Sun is trying to make the community swallow, which are most probably incompatible with the GPL itself.

All these are serious issues which should be addressed, yet there is a much more prominent conundrum which needs attention from all of us. The whole JCP is at serious risk, as the very basic contract among the different parties (the JSPA) has been breached by the most prominent kid in the block, the one who started it all: if this issue is not resolved, it won’t be just a problem for Harmony, as everyone would feel entitled to provide Open Source incompatible ties to the TCK or the RI for a given Java spec.

Just look around and consider how much Open Source software relies on JCP-provided specs: from XML processing to JDBC, from servlet containers to portals, the virtuous cycle of interoperable implementations by means of good specs, solid TCKs and usable RIs will be broken into pieces, as spec leads would be able to restrict usage of TCKs, effectively hampering or even prohibiting Open Source implementations.

Let me delve into more latin: Harmony here is just a casus belli. The stakes are much, much higher.

Lies, damn lies and Sourceforge statistics

Matt is at it again: in his recent comment on why IBM doesn’t like the GPL (which is wrong in many ways, but that’s food for another long post and it’s late now), he restates his comment about 72% of projects using GPL. This tickled me to do some statistics myself, which proved once again why numbers are fundamentally worthless.

Even though download statistics are almost junk, that’s still the most prominent number you can get by crawling Sourceforge, so I’ve been using as a starting point, doing some URL hacking and a small script to turn the 66,771 projects currently listed into a CSV file. Even though my spreadsheet has been cutting results to the top 65,535 results (leaving the bottom 1200 projects out), initial findings are somewhat surprising. Consider this:

  1. Despite having 144.990 projects registered, only 66,771 or so (46%, roughly) have actual download statistics. Even though not every project is using the distribution platform, this roughly means that 50% of the actual projects are irrelevant;
  2. Download statistics are impressive to say the least. Suffice to say that nearly 2/3 of the projects (that is 62%, to be more precise) account for a mere 0.5% of the total downloads (how’s that as a long tail?). Add to that 62% the 50% we discarded before and you come up with a whopping 81% of the total number of projects hosted on being nearly pointless. For the record, 20.06% of the accounted projects have less than 100 downloads;
  3. the top five projects alone (eMule, Azureus, Ares Galaxy, Bittorrent and DC++) account for roughly 30% of the overall downloads. 36% of downloads, considering the top 100 projects, are P2P related, and the percentage bumps up to 41% if you take into account MP3 tools, encoders, and other music stealing management tools.

The above scenario depicts as a huge code dump mostly relevant for P2P youngsters, which is good to prove my point about any Sourceforge-based statistics on real business stuff such as license adoption being flawed and nearly worthless. I must confess, though, that I’ve been surprised by the numbers and I’m sure there is so much more stuff to mine in this impressive amount of data, so much that I’m seriously considering abusing the servers, write a DOAPizer and start some serious number crunching considering project categories and community dynamics. Fun stuff indeed, if only days were 36 hours long…

Traveling, the smart way

Salade de crevettes sautées à la vinaigrette de pistache
Poulet grillé à la vinaigrette de câpres
Brie ou Conté
Plateau gourmand

I’ve been eating all that, with some nice French wine, while sitting on a comfy and posh seat, with a decent 140° recline, on an all-business airline, flying from Paris to New York, enjoying a nice in-flight entertainment system as well as some overdue sleep. Flying on an all-business plane, with just 90 seats overall, makes a great difference indeed, from boarding time to on board service. If it wasn’t for security at Orly being even more stupid than Heathrow (modulo the long lines, at least), this could have been the perfect trip.

The nice touch: the flight was 30% cheaper than the corresponding sardine-class seat on a regular airline. While I can probably list a few better options from a comfort point of view (we’re talking about regular business-class seats with standard service, this is by no means lie-flat BA style, or Cathay’s most excellent cuddles), this type of traveling perfectly fits my bill: nice seat, excellent legroom, regular power supply (no stupid Empower) and a honest price is all I need.

I’m always reluctant in spending hefty sums in business class tickets where the price difference with coach could easily buy me a week to recover at the Imperial Suite of the nearest Ritz Carlton (with massage and spa included, of course): at the end of the day, traveling is miserable no matter what, and flying business is like camping on a tiny van instead than lying in a tent, no big deal and not worth the price unless there is some serious money to burn. Yet, if I can spend less and fly comfortably, why bother with a cramped seat?

I can only recommend those guys who managed to find a niche in the market, and I’m looking forward to their success, as this will hopefully mean more routes and I badly need new destination such as West Coast. Meanwhile, with my Open Source hammer handy, I’m wondering if I’m the only one seeing nails all around me and finding parallels between traveling smart, spending the right amount of money while getting a better service for less, and making smart IT choices with Open Source…