This is a read-only archive. Find the latest Linux articles, documentation, and answers at the new!

Feature: Linux

First look: Sun Java Desktop System Release 2

By Jem Matzan on May 21, 2004 (8:00:00 AM)

Share    Print    Comments   

Imagine for a moment that Windows XP came with Office XP Professional and Visual Studio .NET preinstalled with it. Imagine it was significantly more secure and easier to use. Imagine that it cost only $50 for all of that software. Sun's new Java Desktop System Release 2 is like the bizarro world equivalent of that kind of Microsoft software package. It's in the same league, except it doesn't use Microsoft technologies. If only it actually worked.

JDS is based on GNU/Linux, with proprietary add-ons for system management; you have StarOffice 7 and Evolution 1.45 instead of Office XP; and you have Java Studio Standard (formerly known as Sun ONE Studio) instead of Visual Studio .NET.

The operating system comes on three discs, and it's basically a modified version of SUSE Linux 8.1 with most of the packages removed. There are also three source code CDs, three CDs full of development tools, a documentation CD and a disc for the system management utilities. Only the operating system and some of its associated software packages are installed by default. If you want the system management utilities and development tools they must be installed afterward.


Four out of four computers agree: Sun Java Desktop System 2 doesn't work on anything remotely resembling a modern machine. I started out with my standard test system, an Athlon 64 3200+, Asus K8V Deluxe, Western Digital IDE and SATA hard drives (one of each), ATI Radeon 9800 Pro AIW 128MB, 1024MB Corsair RAM (TwinX LL kit), Sony DVD-ROM, and a Samsung Syncmaster 753DF 17-inch monitor. The software would boot and bring me to the LILO screen, but none of the graphical installation options (standard installation, manual installation, ACPI disabled, safe mode) would work. The display would go dark even though the hard drive and DVD drive were still running -- apparently the video mode was improperly configured. I tried all three screen resolution settings, eventually resorting to using the text mode installer. When I finally got to the YaST utility in text mode I got an error message which read, "Not enough disk space even for a minimal installation!" Although the brand new, never used 80GB IDE hard drive was properly recognized and YaST created partitions for it, somehow it didn't think that there was any free space to install the software to.

I got the same results with a Maxtor 80GB hard drive, so I knew it wasn't the drive at fault. The SATA drive was not recognized at all. I tried switching to my P4 Prescott setup, which used all of the same parts except for the CPU (Intel P4 3.2E) and motherboard (Intel D875PBZLK), but again there was no change.

I began to suspect bad installation media, but I wasn't out of computers yet. I hooked up a new system I recently built for a budget-minded friend -- Asus Terminator barebones with an Athlon XP 1900+, 256MB PC2700, and an old 6GB WD hard drive. Same results as with the other systems -- JDS2 wouldn't install because of some problem recognizing hard drive space.

The last resort was my Dell Inspiron 3800 laptop system, built in early 2001. Amazingly the graphical installer worked well and YaST didn't have the problems that it did before. The software installed without a hitch. The problem? It wouldn't start after that. It would begin the startup process and when it was about halfway done it would begin the shutdown process and then the system would power off. I could start in Safe Mode but none of the programs would run when I got to the desktop.

Restricted license

Sun JDS Release 2 is the most heavily restrictive software package I have ever seen. Sun takes the heavyweight championship belt for the worst software license ever to have crossed my desk. There are so many special case restriction provisions in the license that it needed an extra booklet of amendments to tack on more rights revocation clauses -- a total of seven pages full of unusually complex and convoluted legalese. The licensing is worse than anything I've seen come out of Redmond -- or anywhere else -- thus far. If Microsoft's EULA says, "you can't do anything with this software," Sun's JDS license says, "I'll tell you every single thing you can't do, and that means everything, including unlikely possibilities, and while we're at it here is a list of unreasonable demands and obligations for you. And get me another beer while you're up."

To begin with, the license is deceptive. It is worded initially in such a way as to make you believe that it governs the entire operating environment -- everything on the CDs. Further in there is a quick phrase that states that Sun's binary code license only governs the included software that is not already under another license. That leaves a staggeringly small portion of the operating environment under the governance of Sun's license: the Java Desktop System Configuration Manager and the Sun Control Station. Everything else falls only under the control and jurisdiction of its governing license (mostly the GNU GPL). But if you didn't know beforehand that GNU/Linux was under the GPL, you would have no way of knowing that by looking at Sun's license. All of the "other" licenses that the software falls under are buried two directories deep on the first disc in a file called THIRDPARTYLICENSEREADME. Short of breaking the law, there is nothing more that Sun could have done to obscure the fact that JDS2 is mostly Free Software.

I'm not going to list all of the restrictions -- it would take up way too much space -- but I will say that the wording of the license is unusually complex. You'll definitely want your legal department to pore over this material before you consider making a buying recommendation on it.

If you're considering buying this for your personal use and your rights are important to you, Java Desktop System 2 is not for you. If you don't care about software licensing and want a good operating system and other tools for developing Java software, JDS2 is a possibility for you, hardware permitting.

No paper documentation is included with the software, but there is a documentation CD which contains the same basic things you can find on


Sun gladly grants licensees 60 days of the world's worst installation support over the phone or online through email and a support database. Your license fee actually covers software maintenance for a term of one year, so you're entitled to updates, patches, and bug fixes for as long as you maintain your contract with Sun.

Sun also offers indemnification contracts against patent, trade secret, and copyright infringement claims. This means that if SCO sues you for imaginary IP violations in the Linux kernel, Sun will cover you for up to $2 million if you purchase this contract.

I called the installation support number because I had an unusually difficult time installing the software. Based on the heavy Scottish accent, the voice menu that answered the 800 number seemed like it was made for the U.K. instead of the U.S., but in double-checking the number I definitely had the right one. Even the ring tone between the menu messages was the double beep found primarily in the United Kingdom. Instead of transferring me to a support agent, I was required to leave my name, number, a description of the nature of my call, and a good time to call me back.

While waiting for my return call I visited the support Web site listed on the Support Entitlement Certificate. It's little more than the usual array of information that is totally useless to someone who actually needs help with malfunctioning software. I had to register with the site if I wanted email support, giving my name and all kinds of personal information about myself, then type in my system stats and a description of the problem. I was told that it would take one business day to reply to my request.

The support people did call back roughly 30 minutes after I left the voice message, but I was on an important call and had to let it go to voicemail. No message was left for me, but I did get called back again about an hour later. I was relieved to discover that installation support was so important to Sun that they went halfway around the world to find the finest support technicians to assist me. The even more heavily accented Indian fellow I spoke with told me that he couldn't help me until I filed my support request online, which I'd already done but hadn't heard back from yet. Thank you for calling, have a nice day, goodbye.

If I hadn't have had my first 60 days free, this "support" would have cost $40 per incident.

That's when I gave up -- I'd tried everything. To paraphrase Groucho Marx, I had a wonderful afternoon but this wasn't it.

Next page: JDS features and programs

Share    Print    Comments   


on First look: Sun Java Desktop System Release 2

Note: Comments are owned by the poster. We are not responsible for their content.

not this time!

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on May 22, 2004 03:47 AM
excerpt: JDS is based on GNU/Linux

Usually, I am a strong partisan of using the expression 'GNU/Linux' instead of just 'Linux'. But in this case, I think that an exception might be in order.

Does JDS have *anything* in common with GNU at all? Of course not! This is the triumph of 'corporate linux', the only kind which Sun understands. It has nothing free about it, neither in the 'beer' not in the 'speech' sense. To be GNU-based, a application needs to promote GNU values (

As the Led Zeppling song Stairway to Heaven reminds of not all that glitters is gold...

JDS is 'open source' based yes, and most certainly 'non-GNU/Linux' based. In fact, JDS is *typical* of what you get when you drop GNU from GNU/Linux.

I will conclude with another verse from Stairway to Heaven:

Yes there are two paths you can go by
but in the long run
There's still time to change the road you're on


Re:not this time!

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on May 25, 2004 05:09 AM
Does JDS have *anything* in common with GNU at all? Of course not! This is the triumph of 'corporate linux', the only kind which Sun understands. It has nothing free about it, neither in the 'beer' not in the 'speech' sense. To be GNU-based, a application needs to promote GNU values (

Yes. Too bad some of us have bills to pay and can't go around parading as a bunch of software hippies hoping that "corporations lost millions of dollars due to our software" like your idol.


Re:not this time!

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on May 25, 2004 07:29 AM
my friend, corporations not only help you pay your bills, they also make sure that your paying ability is streched to the maximum, they make sure that you are as 'productive" (for them, that is!) as possible meaning that they pay you as little as possible for as much as they can squeeze out of you. Yes, working for them will 'help you pay our bills' but did you ever wonder *why* it is precisely working for them that gives you the help you need to pay your bills?

Think, THINK! and realize that what you call "software hippies" are the ONLY ONES out there who are not after your money. In fact, they wish you had more money to pay your bills and they feel very sorry that corporations can suck out all your ressources out of you.

Software hippies? No. Your only true friends, even if you are too brainwashed to understand that.


JDS is crap

Posted by: Anirban Biswas. on May 22, 2004 05:17 AM
My first real interaction with JDS was in LinuxAsia 2004. There I went to SUN's stall & ask one of the beautifull girsl about it she pass over me to the tech person & also ask me to sit infront of a JDS machine.

In my home then I was running SuSE 9.0 with KDE 3.1 & Baghira theme so the desktop look pretty dull windoze like then I asked what goodies in t & I came to know that most of the stuff they give are also given SuSE 9.0 more over being a SUN product there is no J2EE installed in it , I mean I issued javac on konsole & got command not found though JRE was there.

Now SuSE 9.0 give me both JRE & Javac show why should I use JDS.<nobr> <wbr></nobr>;-)


Re:JDS is crap

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on May 23, 2004 12:39 AM
Please think/learn before talk/write . This writer do not know what J2EE and JRE are. None of those package have anything to do with javac . You must have the SDK of java if you are a java developer and want to use javac.

All those comments about java on this place is amusing. Is somebody holding a gun in their neck and force them to clach on the keyboard?


Pure FUD (from

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on May 22, 2004 05:36 AM
So the author couldn't get his install to work, and decides to trash JDS in an article, without even bothering to try a new set of media first.

That's irresponsible journalism, or worse, FUD.

What makes me think it's FUD?

Well, how about the fact that the part he couldn't get working -- the initial installation -- comes from SuSE! The author hadn't even gotten to the parts done by Sun.

So are we to believe that this author is right, and the SuSE installation procedures are crap?

Or should we believe every other review of SuSE instead?

Now it doesn't surprise me to see attacks on Sun's JDS. After all, JDS comes from Sun, so the Microsoft astroturfers are going to attack it, and JDS uses Gnome, so the Trolltech astroturfers are going to attack it.

But I do have to wonder . . . when did become an anti-Linux FUD site?


Re:Pure FUD (from

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on May 22, 2004 05:59 AM
Wow - convenient world you live in. Everyone who disagrees with your perspective is an 'astroturfer'. Hope it all works out for you.


Re:Pure FUD (from

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on May 22, 2004 06:42 AM
Yep. I also used to suspect that some of the posts supporting JBoss (and fudding Sun) were astroturf.

And it appears <A HREF="" title="">I was right</a>.

Of course we all know that Microsoft does it. The proof of that has come out many times (e.g. the Barkto affair, the Microsoft documents leaked to the L.A. times, the evidence in the DR-DOS case, and so on).

So it would appear that your only problem is with the fact that I believe that Trolltech also uses astroturf.

Oh well.

BTW, you should note that I didn't say that this article is astroturf. I just said it wouldn't surprise me.


Re:Pure FUD (from

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on May 25, 2004 05:23 AM
I would say that I have to agree with the original poster. The author does seem somewhat biased against this distro. Think about it. When was the last time you couldn't get a distro to install on four different systems? Frankly, I have to wonder how much Linux experience the author has.

Here is a link to someone who benchmarked to different SATA drives in Suse 8.2.<nobr>t<wbr></nobr> .html

The tech support situation was interesting and a bit disconcerting. Hopefully, businesses will start to realize that cheaper does not mean better.

And what was the diatribe about the license agreement about? Is he an attorney? You shouldn't read that crap... it will give you brain damage faster than programming in BASIC! Seriously, who has even bothered reading the entire GPL?


Re:Pure FUD (from

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on May 28, 2004 05:57 AM
I have read the entire GPL. Its about 10 pages of text on a vt100 console - not including the preamble and appendices. Its not exactly a strenuous read.


JDS fan

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on May 22, 2004 06:27 AM
I've been using JDS since December and reckon (with a few tweaks) it's the best Linux distribution out there for desktop use.

It looks good, StarOffice 7 is excellent, all the media bits work with Mozilla and generally feels wel integrated. Well done Sun - looking forward to JDS2!


Re:Just Damn Stupid (JDS) fan

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on May 22, 2004 01:23 PM
So you get to pay for non-free software to word-process and browse. And 'Mozilla feels integrated'. Thanks to Sun. right?

BRAVO! Brilliant post!

You are the 100% moron who cannot say anything even remotely pertinent or substantiated.

go back to your Mac OS9!


My brother agrees with you

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on May 22, 2004 11:21 PM
My brother runs a small business, with a dozen or so PCs.

For years, I've been telling my brother about Linux, but he was a die-hard Windows users.

Nevertheless, he used to complain about Windows all the time. And those complaints grew to a fever pitch when he started to use Windows XP in his business. Some sort of incompatibility between Windows XP and Windows 98 kept wiping out his Access database. So he was looking at a big expense to upgrade his entire business to Windows XP, and he wasn't happy,

So, instead, he upgraded his entire business to Linux. And the distribution he chose was Sun's JDS.

Since then, he has had nothing but good things to say about Linux, and JDS in specific. Like I did some years back, my brother has rediscovered the fun of computing. He doesn't have to fight with his PCs all the time, Linux just works and does what he asks it, and his business runs much more smoothly.


question about Access

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on May 23, 2004 12:50 AM
what did your brother replace Access with? I realize that MySQL and Postgresql are far superior to Access, but they lack a neat GUI front end. I am not MS fan, but for a small business with no real prospects for growth Access is a very easy, flexible database. To my knowledge there is no GNU/Linux equivalent (though I have not seen Abacus, but either way I only want to run free software on my computers).

Was it hard for him to migrate Access to whatever database he chose?

Hope to hear from you!


Re:question about Access

Posted by: Jem Matzan on May 23, 2004 09:29 AM
Try Rekall. It's made by The Kompany and it's got a GPL edition and a non-Free edition.

It comes with SuSE 9.1 Pro as well.



Re:question about Access

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on May 24, 2004 12:20 AM
> what did your brother replace Access with?

His database is not overly complex, and he originally programmed it himself. He migrated the data to MySQL (though I was pushing for PostgreSQL<nobr> <wbr></nobr>:-).

Migrating the data was fairly simple -- define the new tables, and then just export and import. The front-end queries, however, are more complicated.

Initially, for the front end, I helped him set up some rudimentary web-based queries using PHP.

We also used <A HREF="" title="">phpMyAdmin</a> (or <A HREF="" title="">here</a>) to create and manage his MySQL tables.

He hasn't set up his local front-end yet, though he will probably be using the database software that comes with StarOffice.

I haven't used it myself, but I see from the <A HREF="" title="">StarOffice FAQ</a> that it now comes with the <A HREF="" title="">Adabas Database</a>.

I had also suggested a few other alternatives, such as:

- A custom-written front-end using the Mozilla toolkit.
- A custom-written front-end using Gnome (since JDS is Gnome-based).
- GnomeDB (though I don't know how far along that project is).
- The database access capabilities of OpenOffice (though they're quite rudimentary).


I have used JDS ...

Posted by: opteron_user on May 23, 2004 07:20 PM
I have used Sun's Java Desktop System, and it is simply the best desktop for businesses, where the people do WORK, and probably for home users. I'm not a fan of Gnome for various reasons, but Sun have done a magnificent job with it.

It seems that the Java Desktop System will become part of Solaris, and will use Looking Glass technology. So when I upgrade my machines to Solaris 10, it will have a great 3D desktop environment on top of the best operating system.


Re:I have used JDS ...

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on May 25, 2004 05:40 AM
So when I upgrade my machines to Solaris 10, it will have a great 3D desktop environment on top of the best operating system.

Oh, no. You've gone and done it. What are you suggesting? Don't you know that nothing is ever going to be better then Linux! They'll hang you from your includes and scanf your internal organs!


Re:I have used JDS ...

Posted by: opteron_user on May 26, 2004 12:54 AM
> Don't you know that nothing is ever going to be better then Linux!

Lets get this straight. Solaris IS better than Linux. Solaris 10 WILL be even better, with features such as DTrace and others like pedictive self-healing, N1 Grid Containers, and Access Rights Management. The full list is here:


WOW does this guy know his stuff...

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on May 26, 2004 07:45 PM
JDS isn't based on a particular version of SuSE. Have you ever tried installing gnome on any version of SuSE? Hardly much support for gnome in SUSE. I have used JDS for months, it works better than most.

Look at the rpm's and you'll see they're snapshots of "no particular version".

The plumbing of JDS is primarily based on Yast2 but it's built with an earlier glibc (2.25). SuSE uses glibc 2.3. Not 'old' by any measure.

It's a very customized Linux distro.

You would think the 'reviewer' would have at least looked into what he was reviewing.


Install failure!

Posted by: Administrator on May 23, 2004 06:13 AM
and i thot i screwed up, or did something wrong with my discs. it won't install in a presario s5000 either, P3, 50GB hd, and 1GB of ram, with an emachines 15 in. monitor. what junk.


Interesting experience

Posted by: Administrator on May 23, 2004 01:23 AM
I had no problems on several modern computers, so I suspect bad media. It is based on United Linux, not SuSE 8.1 AFAIK, and I didn't experience the same issues you see.

It is far from perfect, but I didn't see it as useless, either. Just my experience though. YMMV


Re:Interesting experience

Posted by: Jem Matzan on May 23, 2004 06:00 AM
Bad media was ruled out when it installed properly on the notebook system. I also tried JDS 2003 and that had the same problems with the AMD64 system (didn't try it on the others).



Pretty Damning review

Posted by: Administrator on May 22, 2004 12:26 AM
This review is pretty damning of JDS2. I don't think it'll do well if all this is true.

However, if Sun's intention is to take Linux out and put Solaris in, maybe they don't care about this.


Re:Pretty Damning review

Posted by: Jem Matzan on May 22, 2004 04:29 AM
Perhaps it is damning, but it is only so because the product was not up to speed. I was absolutely stunned that Sun had not upgraded the core OS at all since the initial release.

I look forward to testing the Solaris-based JDS in a few months, but only if it isn't based on Solaris 7. I have the feeling that the Solaris JDS will be superior in many ways to the SuSE-based JDS, and I don't think that would be a coincidence if it happens.



No problem here.

Posted by: Administrator on May 23, 2004 05:08 AM
I've been using JDS for quite some time and while JDS 1 had a few problems I have had a nearly flawless experience with JDS 2 on a couple dozen machines. While my personal preference is Debian, followed by Gentoo and Slackware, I am quite happy with JDS in the professional realm.


Couldn't get it install on FOUR machines!!!

Posted by: Administrator on May 25, 2004 12:55 AM
From experience, that would make the author one of the more inept people in the industry. But I will give him an out. He probably has all of his hardware tweeked to get it to work with XP.


Re:Couldn't get it install on FOUR machines!!!

Posted by: Administrator on May 25, 2004 03:25 AM
Yeah right. He can't get past the initial install screen and it gives him no usefull error message. Tech support can give him no help so, yeah, it must be his bias towards XP.

Perhaps you can post your own review?


Screen Damaged

Posted by: Administrator on June 16, 2004 03:04 AM
I inserted the disk and turned to talk to a friend. I didn't see anything happen so I rebooted my machine and we walked to the door. As we said goodbye I forgot to return and look. Hours later when I finally did, my monitor smelled like smoke and it was making static-like refresh noises. Apparently the demo CD doesn't autoprobe the refresh rate and causes damage to monitors.


This story has been archived. Comments can no longer be posted.

Tableless layout Validate XHTML 1.0 Strict Validate CSS Powered by Xaraya