State of the world

Well, in case you missed it, Zero passed the TCK! Specifically, the latest OpenJDK packages in Fedora 10 for 32- and 64-bit PowerPC passed the Java SE 6 TCK and are compatible with the Java SE 6 platform. I’ve been working toward this since sometime in November — the sharp-eyed amongst you may have noticed the steady stream of obscure fixes I’ve been committing — and the final 200 hour marathon finished at 5pm on FOSDEM Saturday, less than 24 hours before my talk. It was pretty stressful, and I took the week off to recover!

Needless to say, none of this could have happened without the rest of the OpenJDK team here at Red Hat getting it to pass on the other platforms. Special thanks must go to Lillian for managing the release. She got the blame for a lot of what went wrong, and it’s only fair she should get the credit for what went right.

Of course, all of this wasn’t just so I’d have something exciting to announce at FOSDEM. In a way it validates the decision we took at Red Hat to focus on Zero rather than using Cacao or another VM. By using as much OpenJDK code as possible — Zero builds are 99% HotSpot — we get as much OpenJDK goodness as possible, including the “correctness” of the code. Zero’s speed can make it a standing joke, but I’d like to use these passes to emphasize that Zero isn’t just a neat hack — it’s production quality code that hasn’t been optimized yet. I’ve written fast code and I’ve written correct code, and in my experience it’s easier in the long run to make correct code fast than it is to make fast code correct. The TCK isn’t everything, naturally, but the fact that it’s possible to pass it using Zero builds gives us a firm foundation for future work.

So, what now for me? Well, in the medium term I want to restart work on Shark, but there’s a couple of things for Zero I want to look at while they’re fresh in my mind. The first is speed. As an interpreter Zero will never be “fast”, but in my FOSDEM slides I used some of Andrew Haley‘s benchmarks that show Zero as significantly slower than the template interpreter on x86_64. Furthermore, Robert Schuster mentioned in his talk that the Zero in IcedTea 1.4 was significantly slower than the Zero in IcedTea 1.3. I’m not going to spend a great deal of time on it, but I’d like to do a bit of benchmarking and profiling to check that nothing stupid is happening.

The other thing I want to do for Zero is to get it into upstream HotSpot. This is going to require a lot of non-fun stuff — tidying, a bit of rethinking, and an SCA audit.

Finally, Inside Zero and Shark, the articles I’ve been writing. I didn’t mention it at the time, but I was writing them while my TCK runs were in progress, to keep me sane! I do plan to continue them, but they’ll likely be a little more sporadic now I’m starting the fun stuff again!