- About Us
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.
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 docs.sun.com.Support
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