Follow-up to the Java update post

We had a great response to our recent post on Oracle’s new Java 7 auto-updates, their silent removal of Java 6, and the problems that can cause. We had coverage in The Register, InfoQ, and DZone. The Register article in particular had a great comment thread, and I urge you to check it out.

At the end of that thread, I wrote a response to several points that were brought up, and I thought I’d post a version of that response here.

Why not just support Java 7 and be done with it? Why make people use Java 6?

Our product does handle Java 7 (and 6, and 5, etc — our stuff works with Java back to 1.3.1, although we’ll probably move that up to Java 5 in the next release) just fine. But it’s a tool that customers use to run and deploy their own software — it allows .NET code to communicate with Java code. The Java runs in its own JVM, and the users get to choose whichever JRE they want — it can be any version, it can be 32-bit or 64-bit. It can be from just about any vendor. That’s a good thing, because our users have their own environments, and it’s their own business — we don’t dictate or judge. So, the problem isn’t ours (we’re not making people use Java 6 — but our customers might choose to use Java 6), except that our customers’ problems become our problems, and then we have to scramble. But it bothers me when we have to scramble to solve a problem that really wasn’t caused by us, and which really shouldn’t have been a problem to begin with.

Why not just get version of the latest installed Java from the registry and use that?

The problem is that that only tells us what Java is on the machine — it doesn’t tell us what Java the user wants or needs. Again, we let the user make that decision — checking the registry won’t tell us what we want to know. (Nor will JAVA_HOME, as someone else suggested.)

Why would an enterprise user allow auto-updates, when unexpected things can clearly happen?

The short answer is that they shouldn’t. But clearly it happens — it happened to the customers of our customer. (Our customer is an ISV that uses our product. Their customers are the end users.) And when it happened, our customer heard about it from their customer, and called us, and we had to scramble, and the problem was easily corrected, but it shouldn’t have been a problem in the first place.

Why not just supply the jvm.dll?

First, because it should be up to our users to determine which version they need — we can handle just about any one chosen and don’t dictate. Second, because jvm.dll doesn’t work in isolation and we’d have to supply an entire private JRE — it’s much more than a single file.

Finally, I just want to point out that in our case, the problem is just the validity of a file path — Java 6 and Java 7 reside in different places, and a single path won’t work with both. However, the comment thread on The Register’s article has certainly come up with plenty of examples of Java software that works with Java 6 that simply won’t work with Java 7, so for other users this is a much bigger issue than just an invalid file path.