Tuesday, 28 April 2009

As the Sun sets…

Why does Oracle’s purchase of Sun make me feel slightly sad?  Silly, sentimental reaction, isn’t it?  I should know better. After all, today’s Sun isn’t the super-confident (some would say arrogant) innovator and market leader I grew up with: arguably, today’s Sun needs rescuing from itself, needs a sharper focus on what it does best, and to sell more of fewer things.

But I have a soft spot for Sun. My first proper programming job involved writing C/C++ (and using Cfront – remember that?) on a Sun-3 workstation, and various versions were part of my working life for some time. I loved the solid feel of these machines. Remember the optical mouse that only worked on those special, shiny metal mats?

Between then and now, my only links to Sun have been through OpenOffice and Java. I played with Java quite early on, abandoned it in favour of Microsoft .NET, but have recently (and happily) returned to it. For the last couple of years I’ve been an enthusiastic user of NetBeans – I do hope Oracle recognizes just how good NetBeans is.  I have also tried OpenSolaris: ZFS is simply awe-inspiring, and very nearly enough on its own to make me run OpenSolaris, though truthfully I don’t think I need ZFS, and Windows remains simply more convenient and usable for everyday.

I’ve used OpenOffice for a long, long time.  I know Writer pretty well, warts and all. You need to ignore some of the cosmetic shortcomings, persevere with it and appreciate its fundamental strengths; things which I think make Writer better than Word. Occasionally I use OOo Writer to help colleagues debug and rescue Word documents which have evolved uncontrollable formatting: it amuses me to be using a free tool to clean-up after a rather expensive one.  I really hope Oracle will resource and manage the OpenOffice program properly. With the right additional effort, they have a potential Office-beater.

But the crown-jewels are Java itself, and the NetBeans IDE.  Everyone is trying to second-guess what Oracle will do with Java: I don’t have anything to add.  But I really want to add my voice to those hoping Oracle will recognize just how good NetBeans has become, not just as the best Java IDE out there, but also a first-class platform for building rich-clients.

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