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Oracle Drops Sun's Commitment To Accessibility 220

An anonymous reader writes "What I feared has come true: after buying Sun, Oracle had a look at its accessibility group and made big cuts in it by firing the most important contributors to the Linux accessibility tools. This is a very sad day for disabled people, as it means we do not really have full-time developers any more." The coverage in OSTATIC has a few more details, including the caution: "This just shows that all too few companies are sponsoring a11y work. If one company laying off a couple of developers spells trouble for the project, then there were problems before that happened" (thanks to reader dave c-b for pointing this out).
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Oracle Drops Sun's Commitment To Accessibility

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  • by RMS Eats Toejam ( 1693864 ) on Monday February 08, 2010 @11:16PM (#31068372)
    Yes, actually it does. Though to be more specific, you want the work done faster for nothing. Not going to happen.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 08, 2010 @11:17PM (#31068376)

    The main guideline for accessibility is Section 508 Amendment to the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. From the Wikipedia entry: "The law applies to all Federal agencies when they develop, procure, maintain, or use electronic and information technology."

    So if you want to sell to the federal government, you have to be 508 compliant. The EU has a comparable set of regulations. Oracle knows this and won't jeopardize their government sales by ignoring it, the opinions of the quoted blogger notwithstanding.

  • by WaywardGeek ( 1480513 ) on Tuesday February 09, 2010 @12:00AM (#31068596) Journal

    A lot of the fear in blind-linux land isn't because Oracle fired two people, but because they fired Willie Walker. So far as I can tell from all the accessibility code I've read, Willie roughly plays the same role for open-source accessibility that Linus Torvalds plays for Linux. It's as if someone bought the company Linus works for, and said, "This guy is overpaid. Let's save some money."

    I'm slowly losing my own vision, but while I can still use inaccessible software, I'm hacking like crazy in my free time to improve the things in Linux land. So, I've read a lot of code, and Willie's name is all over the place. The most important centerpiece of Linux accessibility is the Orca screen reader for the Gnome desktop. Who do you think was in charge of both Orca and Gnome accessibility? Willie, and for damned good reasons.

    For guys like me who write code on Linux boxes for a living, Willie's departure from Sun is scary as hell.

  • Insightful!? (Score:3, Informative)

    by aztracker1 ( 702135 ) on Tuesday February 09, 2010 @12:12AM (#31068664) Homepage
    It's not like anybody would ever [] think of such a thing [].
  • Re:Bad title (Score:5, Informative)

    by fm6 ( 162816 ) on Tuesday February 09, 2010 @12:21AM (#31068720) Homepage Journal

    I agree, the headline's wrong. But not about what got broken. When did Sun ever make a "commitment to accessibility"?

    Here's what they did have: their perpetual fantasy that they could come up with a desktop that would challenge Windows. Their latest form of this fantasy was Java Desktop System, which actually has nothing to do with Java. It's just a rebranded GNOME, ported to Solaris. When I was at Sun, Sun Rays running JDS were all over the place, and JDS was heavily pushed at our customers. Though even within Sun, use of Windows or Mac PCs (usually laptops) got more and more pervasive.

    JDS has to comply with federal accessibility rules, or nobody will buy it. (Nobody bought it anyway, but that's another issue.) So Sun needs GNOME to have good accessibility support. Presumably that's why Sun started contributing accessibility development. That's how all corporate contributions to OS projects happen — it isn't generosity, it's the contributor needing the product to do something it doesn't already do.

    I haven't seen any announcement, but it's to be expected that Oracle will finally put an end to this expensive and futile quest for a Windows-killer. Which is why you can't find JDS anywhere on (The old JDS page on redirects to Oracle's Solaris page.) If Oracle doesn't need JDS, then they don't need accessibility software.

    One of many Sun windmill-tilting projects that are getting the axe.

  • Re:Oracle DB (Score:5, Informative)

    by afabbro ( 33948 ) on Tuesday February 09, 2010 @01:01AM (#31068936) Homepage
    • Standy databases. Yes, I know MySQL and PostgreSQL have some replication, but it's nothing like DataGuard. Do you want physical or logical? Log shipping or transactional? How about maybe you'd like to activate and test your standby database and then press a button and it's back to where it was?
    • Oracle streams - a form of SQL-level replication. Master-slave, multimaster, transformational, complex business rules, etc. Nothing like it in open source.
    • The whole family of Flashback: e.g., "I'd like to do a query and have the results as of the state of the database four hours ago". Or "I'd like to immediately change the database back to its state at 01:20:03am". Or "oops, I dropped a table, please bring it back instantly." Etc.
    • High-performance compression that in many cases is faster than non-compression. You can encrypt it, too.
    • For nearly every DB feature, Oracle has "more". It's great you have B-tree indexes - Oracle also offers bitmap and there are cases where they are really useful. It's nice that you offer hash partitioning (if you do), but Oracle can partition on a half-dozen different things. Etc.
    • RAC (Real Application Clusters) - active/active (or as many "Actives" as you'd like) clusters, all instances talking to the same DB.
    • Online redefinition (change your tables, views, etc. and have Oracle store everything up until you snap everything over at once - great for reducing downtimes).
    • Very sophisticated introspection. By this I mean the amount of stats the DB collects on itself. There is an insane level of instrumentation and it's very easy to see where waits and delays are.
    • Ability to generate and playback workloads.
    • A lot of migration assistance - e.g., "here is how your database would run if you upgraded it", "here is the SQL that will not run as well if you upgrade", "here is the recommendation for fixing your PL/SQL to run better in the next version," etc.
    • Query analysis is enormously better than open software (explain plans, etc.)
    • Auditing is several orders of magnitude more advanced
    • Star queries, OLAP, cubes, spatial, all of that.
    • XML and text support are much better.
    • Virtual Private Databases
    • PL/SQL, Java, etc. native to the DB, as well as an entire GUI-front-end building system (Application Express)
    • A fully-integrated volume/filesystem manager (ASM), cluster software, and VM, all manageable by the DB ;-) ASM is really very nice.

    I'm sure I'm missing some things - those were off the top of this Oracle DBA's head. Here [] is a quick list of features.

    I love PostgreSQL as well, and MySQL to some extent, and even SQL Server. But they're not Oracle. DB/2 is the only thing approaching its class (along with more specialized niche players like Teradata). Most of the features I mentioned above don't come into play until you're in a 24x7 high availability environment, are trying to minimize downtime, or are working at big scale.

  • Re:Oracle DB (Score:4, Informative)

    by fusiongyro ( 55524 ) < minus cat> on Tuesday February 09, 2010 @01:08AM (#31068966) Homepage

    That's actually something they just added in 8.4. [] I wrote a little bit about using this functionality on my blog []. The syntax is different than Oracle's though.

  • Re:Oracle DB (Score:3, Informative)

    by Datasage ( 214357 ) <{moc.yergsidlroweht} {ta} {egasataD}> on Tuesday February 09, 2010 @04:04AM (#31069610) Homepage Journal

    It can be done in mysql without using loops, but its not as elegant and requires an extra table. Simply create an association table that links each child node back to each of its parents. You will have to keep it up to date, but it can be easily rebuilt if it gets out of sync. But the query then is as simple as joining that table when you need to select all the child nodes under a given parent.

  • Re:Oracle DB (Score:3, Informative)

    by Antique Geekmeister ( 740220 ) on Tuesday February 09, 2010 @07:46AM (#31070444)

    That's not because it's insanely flexible. That's because Oracle installers stink. I've had to rewrite the Linux installer every single time I've used it over more than a decade. It's nearly as stupid as the Java installers on Linux: it does _not_ take a running Java instance to simply drop a lot of files into a directory and make a few symlinks. I'm afraid that now we could have the worst of both worlds.

  • Re:Oracle DB (Score:4, Informative)

    by GooberToo ( 74388 ) on Tuesday February 09, 2010 @10:36AM (#31071804)

    Oracle streams - a form of SQL-level replication.

    Sounds like a subset of functionality is coming in PostgreSQL 9.0, which supports streaming replication in addition to transactional and log shipping.

    High-performance compression that in many cases is faster than non-compression. You can encrypt it, too.

    Here you can see Greenplum's commercial PostgreSQL offering which is 10x-20x faster than stock PostgreSQL. [] A large portion of its performance boost comes from its support of high performance and effective compression as well as parallelism. I strongly suspect its faster than Oracle in many use cases.

    It's great you have B-tree indexes - Oracle also offers bitmap and there are cases where they are really useful. It's nice that you offer hash partitioning (if you do), but Oracle can partition on a half-dozen different things. Etc.

    PostgreSQL has had bitmap indexes for a while now. Not to mention you can actually create your own index types too. PostgreSQL is very extensible. That's one of the reasons why PostGIS [] is so capable. And please note they just announced a major new release. []

    Let's also not forget PostgreSQL, like Oracle, supports function indexes, which are in of themselves extremely powerful.

    Online redefinition (change your tables, views, etc. and have Oracle store everything up until you snap everything over at once - great for reducing downtimes).

    PostgreSQL can do this too for most everything. There are some exceptions but by in large, PostgreSQL has this covered.

    PostgreSQL is one of the few databases which supports transactional DDL and has done so for a very long time. So for example, you can create types populate and even create indexes within a single transactional boundary. Which means you can actually do all this within the confines of a TPC transaction, which can wait a long time (logging implications and caveats here). Then when ready you can commit the TPC transaction and *BLAM*, you new table, fully populated, with deferred index creation, is now online. That's just one example of what can be done with PostgreSQL.

    Query analysis is enormously better than open software (explain plans, etc.)

    PostgreSQL has very good query analysis features. Its query plans are also excellent and typically does so without the many hints Oracle often requires. Having said that, IMO, PostgreSQL query plans are only exceeded by that of Oracle's and even then PostgeSQL genetic planner offers capabilities to niche projects unavailable in even Oracle.

    Virtual Private Databases

    Hotly debated on PostgreSQL mailing lists. PostgreSQL offers this capability today via its schema and security models. They just don't call it VPDs.

    PL/SQL, Java, etc. native to the DB

    PostgreSQL blows Oracle and every other database out of the water when it comes to native PL language support. What's you're flavor? PL/pgSQL? Perl? Python? Tcl? Java? C? Lua? And I think I many be forgetting a couple.

    No bones about it, Oracle is more feature rich. It is true Oracle still addresses many high end solutions where stock PostgreSQL does not yet compete. Just the same, many commercial PostgreSQL offerings are starting to compete in arenas which were previously Oracle only domains. Furthermore, stock PostgreSQL continues to egress further and further into extremely large databases and warehousing solutions. Additionally, once you step outside of high end databases, for the vast majority of people, PostgreSQL is a very competitive solution to Oracle and in many cases, unofficially faster.

    It sounds like you need to take a hard second look at PostgreSQL because based on my of your comments, it sounds like you're somewhat out of touch with the current capabilities and features provided by PostgreSQL.

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