by Mary Smaragdis
February 14, 2000 -- The Blackdown project is a world-wide community of volunteer developers dedicated to the professional development of the Java platform for Linux. This group was instrumental to the February, 2000 release of the Java 2 Software Development Kit, Standard Edition (J2SETM), v 1.2.2 for Linux. Here we meet some current and former core members of the Blackdown team.
"I began Blackdown.org over three years ago with the sole intention of providing both a repository of information and a distribution point for a port of the Java platform to the Linux platform. Thanks to the initial efforts of Randy Chapman and Steve Byrne, and the continued efforts of the current Blackdown porting team, this goal has been realized. I believe that the availability of a stable and well tuned JVM under Linux will facilitate the transition of valuable commercial products to the Linux community."
Steve Byrne is Director of Engineering at Muse Prime Software. Steve lead the Blackdown team for two years during the porting of JDK 1.1.x and 1.2 to Linux, and was instrumental in creating a single unified source base for all the supported Linux platforms. Steve was also selected by Sun's former JavaSoft division (now part of Sun's Software Products and Platforms group) to be a licensee of the Java Platform sources for JDK, Java Advanced Imaging, Java 3D, and Java Media Framework. Prior to working on the Java ports for Linux, Steve has been involved with and a strong proponent of open source projects, including creating GNU Smalltalk.
"I'm very excited by the entire concept of having a solid Java implementation on the Linux platforms. I am very glad that I was able to help make it a reality and be involved in the process. The Java platform is a wonderful programming language and software development platform, important to commercial businesses as well as the individual enthusiast. Having a high quality Java implementation available on Linux means that Linux is further legitimized as a solid, reliable platform for on which businesses can deploy their applications and services. In addition, standard extensions like the Java Media Framework and Java 3D open some very compelling opportunities for software development on the Linux platform. The work that the Blackdown team has done, in cooperation with Sun Microsystems, speaks volumes about what a small, dedicated team of smart people, working in their spare time, can accomplish. I'm very proud of what we've accomplished."
Kars De Jong
Kars de Jong is a Computer Science student at the University of Twente in the Netherlands. In the Blackdown team he mostly works on the Linux/m68k port. He is also involved in a number of Open Source projects, including the Linux/m68k kernel, the XFree86 project and the PCMCIA tools for Linux. Other activities include being a webmaster for a Dutch volunteer organization and administrating a big online community/game. Kars lives in Hengelo in the Netherlands. He can be reached at email@example.com.
"First of all, I am a big fan of the Open Source idea. When I first heard about the Java platform several years ago I tried out the 1.0.2 release at my University, played around with the applets and thought it was funny. But I wanted to run it on my Linux/m68k computer at home too. That was impossible, there was no source code, and I forgot about the idea. Some time later I learned about the Kaffe project (a free Java implementation) and I ported that to Linux/m68k. It was not very satisfactory because it had no working AWT at the time, and I lost interest in it. After this I signed the source licenses for JDK 1.1.x and joined the Blackdown team in January 1999 for the 1.2 port. Meanwhile it runs pretty well if not a bit slow on my old computer hardware. Work on a JIT compiler is progressing nicely, it already works with JDK 1.1.8. Problem is of course time and lack of support. The Linux/m68k community is not very big compared to the Intel masses, and currently no commercial Linux vendors support it. RedHat has a Rough Cuts distribution and only Debian fully supports it. The lack of a Motif port for instance has slowed things down quite a lot for me. While Blackdown is not an Open Source project, I do feel it is very important that the Linux community has access to a stable and reliable Java implementation. The work on the non-Intel ports has benefited what I consider the main Java/Linux platform (Intel) as well. Especially the early porting work of the PowerPC people. Other than that I am mostly doing this because I like to run the Java platform on my old hardware, and the fact that it is cross-platform means that I can use those great Java applications on my computer as well."
Eddie C. Dost
Eddie C. Dost is a software engineer at ATecoM, a Company in the ATM and ASIC market. Prior to that and now continued in his spare time he was working on the SPARC port of the Linux OS with David S. Miller, Miguel de Icaza, Jakub Jelinek, Peter Zaitvec, and others. Next to the Linux kernel, he is working with the Blackdown JDK porting team on the OS and CPU dependent parts of the Java VM to bring the JDK to Linux on SPARC processors.
"Many developers nowadays use the Java platform, or plan to use it for platform independent software. This idea fits well with running the same OS different hardware, as seen in Linux. Supporting Blackdown with work on low level OS dependent features or SPARC specific assembler code will merge these ideas so developers can use the Java platform on SPARC systems running Linux.
"Furthermore, as seen in my port of the HotSpot VM to SPARC Linux, working on low level SPARC code simply has a huge hack value."
Scott Hutinger works at Western Illinois University in 'The Center for Best Practices in Early Childhood Education' (formerly Macomb Projects) in Macomb, Illinois. Scott has a 5 year old son, and a 4 year old daughter which take time during normal waking hours. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
"I hope that all the efforts with the Linux Java port have helped to promote what I call 'one cool language' in the Linux, and other OS's space. Too bad the porting takes up the time I would like to spend with the language itself."
Juergen Kreileder is a consultant for object oriented software development and the Java platform in his day job. He is also one of the key Blackdown developers. He has a background in computer science and worked on several big Java and UNIX/Linux projects. Juergen lives in Dortmund, Germany. He can be reached at email@example.com.
"The Java platform and Linux are very hot platforms currently -- a lot of development takes place in both areas. The Java platform-Linux combination provides a stable and powerful environment for developing and running Java applications. The Java platform enables people to write both server-side and GUI applications very productively, this makes it a very powerful environment even if you only intend to develop for Linux. Also, the Java platform allows Linux developers to deploy their application on wide range of other operating systems. Vice versa Linux users will be able use lots of Java application written on other platforms. I'm glad to see that Sun finally treats Linux as a first class citizen by providing official support for the Java platform on Linux. However there still is lot of work to do for Blackdown: Future Java releases, optimizations, additional APIs like JMF, Java3D, the list goes on."
Tod Matola is a Sr. Systems Analyst at OCLC (http://www.oclc.org/) a not-for-profit organization that helps libraries. Prior to his work at OCLC, Tod attended Youngstown State University where he received a M.S. in Mathematics. Tod is currently invloved in Java platform and web systems development. He resides with his wife in Columbus, OH in the United States.
"Formerly, a C developer the freedom that the Java platform offers a developer is overwhelming. I like the idea of a free development tools being used on a free OS, this is a powerful combination. I work for a not-for-profit organization that helps libraries (which are usually short on resources), and I noticed this project as soon as I started working on the Java platform in '97. It hit me that this would be a great way to help the Linux community, so I decided to help out. I must admit I have only been a member of the team for a couple of months (4-6), so I rather new to the whole process, but will continue to help when ever I can."
Michael Sinz works with high technology companies as a technologist and systems engineer/programmer. He is currently working with Worldgate but prior lives included being a founder of NextBus and Scala R&D.; Even earlier work included being the Senior Systems Engineer for the Amiga computer at Commodore/Amiga. Michael currently lives on a small horse farm in Pennsylvania with his wife and a menagerie of animals. Michael is originally from Vienna, Austria. His web site is at http://www.sinz.org and he can be reached at Michael.Sinz@sinz.org
"The Java platform is both a 'better' development platform for building network centric programs and provides for hardware (as in CPU) and platform (as in OS) independence which lets one pick the correct solution rather than be stuck with a single solution. As such, the Java platform is an important tool, just like a C compiler is and Linux needs the Java platform in order to be part of the solution set.
"I have used the Java platform (and Linux) to build the infrastructure for NextBus and it has let NextBus deploy servers of various different operating systems such that fail-over systems were not of the same OS thus limiting the chances that an OS bug would bring down not just the main machine but its fail-over partner. It has also let NextBus provide solutions to customers that demand specific environments for their desktop systems, be they MacOS, Windows, Solaris, or Linux.
"I got involved in Blackdown due to Kevin Hendricks asking me to get involved during our bug hunting back in the 1.1.3/1.1.4 days."
Johan Vos is a geophysical engineer, and has spent the last several years in academic research. He will defend his PhD thesis in physics on March, 28. He is a software and Internet consultant, and started focusing on the Java language after its introduction. His current professional activities mainly include the telematics company SmartMove (www.smartmove.be). He is also interested in multi-user interactive applications, which are developed by the organization Sesuad'ra (www.sesuadra.org). Johan lives in Leuven, Belgium, and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
"The Java platform and Linux are two concepts that are becoming more and more accepted and used. As a language the Java platform is a heaven's gift for programmers who want to develop programs and implement concepts rather than spending lots of time writing code for machines. The object-oriented approach is more 'natural' than the approach where the computer is the central point, and where the programmer has to do what the computer wants him to do. The Linux operating system is, in my opinion, the best system we can rely on. It is developed by lots of people with lots of ideas, the kernel is maintained in an open but structured and well-organized way. The growing popularity of Linux can only increase when new potential users can use the tools they used to use on other systems. Since more and more software developers write their programs to the Java platform, a Java Virtual Machine on Linux enables users to use this software. Java-Linux thus can attracts new end-users to Linux.
"Besides, Linux systems running the Java platform can be used in order to control or communicate with embedded devices running the Java platform, a market that is growing rapidly. Linux already is considered as a cheap and scalable solution for companies/organizations with lots of data and communication needs. rapidly. Combining these two worlds, which will definitely happen in the near or midterm future, the Java-Linux system can be seen as the bridge between the world of embedded devices and local or global networks --- by means of a Jini federation.
"Since there was no port of JDK 1.1 to the Linux/SPARC platform, I started the Sparc-port and joined Blackdown in the beginning of 1997. All porters have other activities besides Java-Linux, but I consider them to be colleagues, and my knowledge of Linux and the Sparc architecture has increased a lot."
Additional current and former members of the Blackdown community include: Randy Chapman; Cees de Groot, CTO, Acriter Software; Kevin Hendricks; Paul Michael Reilly; Stephen M. Wynne, among others.
Calvin Austin, staff engineer at Sun Microsystems works closely with Blackdown.org. "The focus of the Blackdown Java-Linux porting team is to make Linux a professional Java platform. This is an astounding achievement," says Austin. "The members of Blackdown.org are not only some of the brightest Java developers I know, but they are also great guys to work with. This year will be exciting one for anyone who has an interest in the Java platform on Linux."
The Blackdown project
Java 2 SDK, Standard
Edition, Version 1.2.2 for Linux