Oracle releases 'buggy' Java SE7

Java Standard Edition 7 is the first full release since Oracle completed its purchase of Sun in 2010, but developers have reported bugs that can crash virtual machines, corrupt data and cause errors in applications
Written by Ben Woods, Contributor

Oracle released its first full version of Java on Thursday, but developers have reported bugs that can crash virtual machines, corrupt data and cause errors in applications.

Java Standard Edition 7 (SE7) is the first milestone since Oracle bought Java's creator Sun, which at the time prompted fears from some community members about the future of Java.

The release includes improved support for dynamic languages, multicore-compatible APIs, and additional networking and security features. Oracle said in a statement it is the culmination of "industry-wide development involving open review, weekly builds and extensive collaboration between Oracle engineers and members of the worldwide Java ecosystem".

However, the Apache Lucene search engine project management committee (PMC) warned on Thursday that Java SE7 contained bugs that could cause a Java Virtual Machines (JVM) to crash or affect applications.

We all know for various business and political reasons that this release has taken some time.
– Mark Reinhold, Oracle

"Oracle released Java 7 today. Unfortunately it contains hotspot compiler optimisations, which miscompile some loops. This can affect code of several Apache projects," the group warned on its blog. "Apache Lucene Core and Apache Solr are two Apache projects, which are affected by these bugs, namely all versions released until today. Solr users with the default configuration will have Java crashing with 'SIGSEGV' as soon as they start to index documents... Other loops in Lucene may be miscompiled, too, leading to index corruption."

The release is the first in five years, a point that did not escape the attention of Oracle's chief Java architect Mark Reinhold when a release candidate was made available earlier in July.

"We all know for various business and political reasons that this release has taken some time," Rheinhold said in a webcast, referring to Oracle's purchase of Sun in January 2010. He also noted that Java SE7 had some "significant improvements, but nothing really earth shattering".


Following the acquisition, some members of the Java Community Process (JCP) Executive Committee (EC), threatened to abandon the steering group if Oracle did not maintain Java's open standards.

In December, 2010, the Apache Software Foundation followed through on the threat, saying that the software had become a proprietary platform under Oracle's direction.

"By approving Java SE7, the EC has failed on both counts: the members of the EC refused to stand up for the rights of implementers, and by accepting Oracle's TCK [technology compatibility kit] licence terms for Java SE7, they let the integrity of the JCP's licensing structure be broken," the ASF said in a blog post at the time.

Shortly before the ASF announcement, IBM was forced to abandon the Apache Harmony project in favour of Oracle's rival OpenJDK project as Oracle made it clear it would not open source the TCK for Java, meaning Harmony would never be officially certified.

Patent dispute

Oracle is in a patent dispute with Google over Google's implementation of the Java-based Dalvik virtual machine used in Android. Oracle maintains that Google has infringed on a number of Java-related patents in making and distributing the mobile OS.

However, over the course of the lawsuit, Oracle has been told to slim down its patent claims against Google and the amount of damages it is claiming for the alleged infringement.

Oracle estimates that around 97 percent of enterprises use Java, and that there are around nine million developers using the platform and one billion Java downloads each year. However, Gartner research analyst Ken Dulaney said that developers are beginning to favour newer technologies, particularly in the mobile arena.

"Java has had a long runway to dominate the mobile space and while it was prevalent for a time, most developers have shied away from it. Even strong backers like RIM and Nokia have begun to move to HTML and JavaScript as the preferred development language," Dulaney told ZDNet UK. "Oracle has far too much to worry about, and Java, while it continues to be a force in many other types of platforms, is gradually losing the mindshare of the developer in mobile."

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