In conjunction with its annual JavaOne Conference, Sun said it is contributing its next generation desktop software, Project Looking Glass and corresponding Java 3D application program interface, to the open source community. NASA recently used the Java 3D API for its command and control system for the Mars Rover mission.
The network computer maker has been inundated with requests to publicly post the source code of the popular programming language under the same or similar General Public License model as Linux. While the Java code is readily available, noted Java guru and Sun CTO James Gosling told internetnews.com last week that Sun will not open up the full Java code at this time. The company debates the issue every few years but has not come up with a plan that Gosling said would ''balance everybody's concerns.''
Details of the end licensing for Project Looking Glass and Java 3D are being withheld for now as the company mulls which flavor of Public License to go with.
Looking Glass is Sun's answer to the Windows and Macintosh desktops and tries to hook users in with a drag-and-drop tool that uses Java and OpenGL to help users arrange application windows in a 3D space. The platform runs on Solaris and Linux and features window transparency, rotation, zoom and miniaturization.
Sun said the developer's release will include a Window Manager to help design documents; get up to speed with initial specification, and outlines of prototype implementation. The platform also includes a graphics component that lets developers run conventional X11 applications in a 3D windows system; sample demos for testing purposes; and a ''Lite'' version that lets developers run the 3D window manager as an application on Linux or Solaris without loading the 3D desktop environment.
''We know from a developer's perspective -- moving away from pure HTML and the Java environment -- that many are working on higher-level developments above Swing. XML has also been helpful in its way to connect back to a database and to write that in Java,'' Curtis Sasaki, Sun vice president of desktop solutions, told internetnews.com.
Sun is so confident that Looking Glass will outshine its rivals that the company has set up two so-called ''Living Billboards'' in downtown San Francisco for the week. Looking Glass creator Hideya Kawahara is expected to control the huge displays through a series of tasks and take questions from passersby.
In coordination with the desktop news, Sun is also debuting two new open source community contribution sites: JDNC (Java Desktop Networked Components) and JDIC (Java Desktop Networked Components). The goal is to help non-full-time Java developers with their projects.
JDNC is a set of extended versions of the more sophisticated Swing components that can regulate size and shape such as Table and TextArea, along with an XML based markup language to let administrators conduct their own Web start.
Similarly, JDIC looks to establish more integration into the host desktop environment: mixing together the native Web browser, e-mail, registered document viewing applications and installation.