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Re: Architecture independent binaries and building from source


I stumbled on this thread through Debian Weekly News from August 10th,

> debsums does not exist on non-Debian systems. md5sum can quickly and
> easily show that my BSD system and my Debian system are running the
> same version of a Java library if both are distributed with upstream's
> architecture independent binary.
> As a rule, we don't regenerate all files from source. We don't
> generally, for example, regenerate configure (using autoconf) from
> configure.ac even though it is possible. No one can sensibly suggest
> that a shell script of twenty thousand lines is in source form. I
> don't find it necessary to compulsively regenerate configure scripts.
> I, likewise, don't find it necessary to regenerate architecture
> independent binary distributions.

Since I work on GNU Classpath, gcj and kaffe from time to time I would
urge debian developers to always compile java source code to bytecode
(or normal native code with gcj) and never to rely on upstream binary
byte-code blobs (.class or .jar files). The work done by Debian
developers to make sure that these binary byte-code blobs can be
(re)generated by free tools has helped us a lot to prioritize what to
work on for the various compilers (gcj, jikes, kjc), runtimes (gij,
kaffe) and class libraries (GNU Classpath). Thanks a lot for that.

Unfortunately a lot of free software written in the java programming
language is still build with proprietary compilers and class libraries.
This means that even though these binary blobs might actually run with
free byte code runtimes it is sometimes impossible to build these things
from source using free tools. This impacts the freedom of users on
various "non-mainstream" platforms that Debian GNU/Linux supports a lot.

Debian contains multiple free java source to byte code compilers
(gcj [-C], jikes-classpath and kjc) and gcj can of course be used to
just compile from java source code to a normal fast native binary for
the target platform. Please at least try to use these tools to compile
upstream java source files to byte code binary blobs at least once. We
really appreciate the feedback on whether or not GNU Classpath, gcj,
kaffe and related projects do provide a complete java-like environment
for free platforms like Debian to use. We are about 80% there, but for
the last 20% we really can use some feedback to see what to concentrate
our efforts on.

If any debian developer ever has problems with compiling and/or running
any free software written in the java programming language please
contact the mailinglist of the GNU Classpath, gcj or kaffe projects so
we can help and know what the remaining issues are.


Mark Wielaard
GNU Classpath Maintainer

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