Monday, February 28, 2011

My PowerMac is now a $4000 brick

I just tried to install Java 1.6 (i.e. Java 6) on my 4 processor PowerMac, after having followed the instructions and paid $150 for a new MacOS Leopard 1.5.6 Operating System, and applied all the updates up to 1.5.8 in order, including all the Java updates from Apple. "Oooooooooh Sooorry, you can't run Java 6 because *you don't have an Intel processor!*" What!?

Without Java, my Mac is good for running ProTools, which I do. But without Java, I can not do the work that I get paid to do, which is to be a Java programmer. So this machine is useless if I want to use it for work. But also, any Java app written since 2008 has the right to rely on Java 6. So a whole raft of applications can't be deployed on a PowerPC-based Mac.

Now hold on, you say. Your PowerMac G5 is 6 years old! (Never mind that Java 6 was released the same year my G5 was.) But, I say, you haven't looked inside this machine. It easily cost twice what commodity hardware would have cost me at the time I bought it. It is made from machined aluminum. It has a liquid cooled core with a radiator. It has machined, well-designed, beautiful, expensive parts. This machine was built to last twenty years if you keep the dust out of it. And Apple built a reputation on backwards compatibility and support. Well that's all gone now, it seems. They are playing the same game Microsoft is: every two to three years you should buy a new Mac, preferably in the $3,000 - $4,000 range. Because it's better hardware. It will outlast your crappy Dell which dies after two years because of crappy, proprietary power sub-sytems. But what does it matter if the hardware lasts, if the OS doesn't get upgraded?

Also, as I see it, I can not now use my PowerMac if I want to use the best programming language in the world, that is widely accepted, and may be one of the languages that we could have standardized on. Except everyone wants to kill Java. Microsoft wanted to kill it so much that they intentionally broke their own implementation, and wrote a competing look-alike language, with the help of a hired gun: Anders Hejlsberg, the designer of Delphi from Borland, who contributed in a big way to the Java component model. Oracle wants to kill Java, too. They wanted to kill it so badly, they bought it along with Sun Microsystem, and made it even more proprietary than Sun had. Oracle allows us a quasi-open-source solution called OpenJDK which will build on Linux, but is a time-lag from the main development line. This appeases folks, and is mosly available and free, but it means they retain control. What the world needs is an open source language as robust, secure, mature, fast, and good as Java, that is not owned by any for-profit-corporate entity.

Mac wanted to kill Java so badly, they insisted that no one else could build Java for the Mac. Then they don't release security updates when the fixes are available. Then they decide to not support Java 6 on non-Intel macs. The tech support lady, when I asked her if I now had a $4000 brick, said that if I wanted to run Java 6 that I'd need to upgrade my entire system to Intel. Since when is buying a new machine called "upgrading?"

Then there's Apple's refusal to distribute Java on the iPhone. Tiny devices that are intermittently connected to network are what Java was designed for. Most phones have Java. The Android phones are making a smashing success using Java. So why doesn't Apple want to support Java on their phone?

So why do I claim that everyone wants to kill Java? I don't have a smoking gun, just this: if you have Java, it's one step closer to not needing a branded operating system. Java is a system you can run on a computer that will run many kinds of applications, and replaces many core operating system features. And does it in a particularly device-independent, OS-independent, network-aware way.

But you can't make money selling operating systems that don't have some sex appeal, and you can't have sex appeal without branding. So coming up with 5 new apps that flip pages in 3D is more important than providing security updates and version updates to core frameworks. Especially if those frameworks don't have happy little nibbled apple cores floating in a rotating 3D purple-starred galaxy.

So the Hell with Apple, and Microsoft and Larry Ellison. Software moves too fast for maturity. That's not Larry's fault. It's just that Larry, Bill, and Steve know this and have figured out how to make money on this mayhem.