Proprietary database giant Oracle no longer features the once popular Sun Download Manager on its servers, and has told visitors to use something else, incidentally killing one of the best Java promotional tools and one of Sun´s most popular downloads.
This scribbler has some respect for Larry Ellison for standing up against Microsoft for years – I remember Ellison´s $200 computer a decade ago – the ThinkNIC effort – fondly, yet there are some issues about the acquisition of Sun Microsystems which might have fared better. So far, when it comes to the handing of the Sun brand, some Oracle shenanigans seem to be acting like a bull in a china shop. Oracle could have used the acquisition opportunity to push SDM, instead of trying to bury it. But regardless of Sun’s previous attitudes with regards to the software, there’s more about this than meets the TechEye. See below.
Big corporations and their several layers of bureaucracy are prone to symptoms of serial stupidity, and among them, the “not invented here syndrome” is the worst. So if you are a company that uses Java, pushes Java, sells Java, one that says that they love Java, and you happen to acquire the company that invented, open sourced, and continues developing Java, what do you do to perfectly shoot yourself in the foot?. Well, you could take the number #4 most popular download – in your German site at least, one that happens to be written in 100% Pure Java and was a perfect showcase of what Java is capable of – including Java Web Start – and remove all references about it, telling users looking for it to just use something else.
The software in question is -or was- Sun Download Manager, a tiny Java program that Sun offered as a choice when downloading big files -including the Java development kit etc- from its site. Visitors could choose a regular (http) download using the browser, or click and launch the Sun Download Manager, which was deployed using Java Web Start. It is -or was- not an applet but a full Java application which ran outside of the browser. It could also be downloaded and installed stand-alone. Well, it´s gone with the wind.
The exact date of its death is unknown to this scribbler but we found references about SDM still being offered as an option for big downloads as recently as March this year, see here.
While a bit neglected as of late during the Sun days, perhaps – it could have been much more– SDM was still offered as an option for Sun downloads not too long ago, before the Oracle takeover and it worked quite well for queueing several downloads, pausing, and resuming them, regardless of what OS you were running. Which is the whole point -and the biggest selling point – of doing Java apps in the first place. Download site Shareme.com describes it as “easy to use and with the guarantee of the Sun company”. That seems like not a good enough reason for Oracle to kill it. In fact, one of Oracle´s download pages currently reads “For large downloads, or for functionality such as download resuming, the use of a download manager is highly recommended”. Gee!
What once was the Sun Download Manager page was updated by Oracle with a FAQ page that as of last week read “Oracle has stopped distributing the Sun Download Manager and is unable to provide additional support. While Oracle does not provide or certify the use of any specific download manager, there are many other free download managers available to assist you with your downloads”. Not good for a piece of software that was given a score of 4.5 out of 5 stars by its users at software-informer.
Missed Java marketing Opportunity
Why neglect its potential as an end-user Java promotional tool or to get the Java VM installed in more systems? We being evil can only guess that one plausible explanation is “because it didn´t bear The Corporation´s name, but the older firm´s one”. Or because the Sun SDM product didn´t support https:// URLs and some paranoid directive requested to move all binary downloads from using plain http:// to encrypted https//: sessions?. That´s a second possibility. But those are just wild guesses on this scribbler´s part. But hey, this is the same firm that from last week to this one, even erased the transition FAQ page linked above, now there´s no trace or reference that there ever was a “Sun download centre” and a FAQ explaining what happened to SDM.
Given the ominous message quoted above, we can only hope that Oracle has a better one in the works. One that could make full use of JavaFX, and be able to dock into the Windows Systray or Linux Gnome panel using modern Java tools like JDIC would surely get my vote. The problem is that when you tell users to just use any of the several download managers available” -as the Oracle page read- those other download managers more often than not will _not_ be written in Java. Sun JDM was unique in the sense that it was lightweight, could be launched directly with a single click using the Java Web Start feature, and that it worked equally well across any Java-enabled OS from Linux to Mac OS-X to Solaris, and, of course, even Windows.
So, basically Oracle is showing people that they could download big files and resume them and _not_ use Java. That´s a great approach to sell Java. Promote Java Ignorance. And if someone dares to distribute that Not Invented Here piece of freeware to promote Java, what could you do?. Maybe you could threat to fire any employees that dare to distribute software from the Download Centre to its customers. Brilliant.
Just for the record, on the same FAQ that announced that Sun Download Manager had gone the way of the dodo, Question #30 of the FAQ file read : “Oracle Employees. Q: Can I distribute the Sun Download Centre software to customers?” with an ominous answer “Under no circumstances are Oracle Employees authorized to download software for the purpose of distributing it to customers. Oracle products are available to employees for internal use or demonstration purposes only. In keeping with Oracle’s trade compliance obligations under U.S. and applicable multilateral law, failure to comply with this policy could result in disciplinary action up to and including termination.” No, that doesn´t sound like friendly Sun Microsystems to us.
Luckily, if you want to be a major contrarian and grab Sun Download Manager and use it -it does still function perfectly- you can still get SDM 2.0 in the windows installer flavour here , and the Linux packaged version over there. The Java Web Start version is, surprisingly, on-line if you know the right hidden launch URL , at Sun Oracle´s servers, because someone presumably forgot to erase it, deespite notices indicating the contrary.
The French Sun site still lists the help page for the software, here although if you attempt to download it you´re taken to an Oracle page where you are told “it´s dead, Jim”.
Hey, Larry Ellison, yeah you, Are you aware of the damage your fellow subordinates are doing to those loyal Sun customers and the former Sun web site, not to mention the brand name image built by Sun Micro over the years?. Since corporate cultures are different, why not leave working things, well, working, and concentrate on synergy and profits instead?. There is no need to destroy the Sun brand image and corporate culture by having people go around with virtual scissors and one giant red Oracle logo ruber stamp, stamping Oracle´s logo over every single Sun product. That kind of destruction is not necessary, despite what your marketing geniuses might think.
Any turf wars like “my brand name is bigger than yours” or·outbreaks of the ”not invented here” syndrome, are just stupid, if you ask this scribbler. Or in other words, Larry, “If it ain´t broke don´t fix it”, I´m sure you may have heard of that.☼