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InfoQ Homepage News Oracle Reinstates Free Time Zone Updates for Java 7

Oracle Reinstates Free Time Zone Updates for Java 7

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The internet has been buzzing this week with the news that Oracle has ceased to provide free time zone updates outside of the standard JDK release cycle. However, at the end of yesterday the firm appeared to have a change of heart.

Until March of this year Oracle, and before them Sun, provided a free tool, TZUpdater, which allowed developers to update the time zone information for a given version of the JDK without needing to update the JDK itself. When Java 6 reached End Of Life status at the end of March, however, Oracle restricted access to the tool to users with a support contract, a move which affected not only Java 6 users, but also those of Java 7.

This was clearly a retrograde step. Time zone updates are included in the six planned JDK updates that occur each year, but this is far less frequent than changes to time zone data, as can be seen from the list of TZUpdater versions. "Political entities that make the time zone changes can do so on a whim, at any time, and often with virtually no notice", JSR-310 and Joda-Time lead Stephen Colebourne told us. "This is particularly an issue in certain parts of the world, with the US and EU being little affected for example."

Moreover the removal of TZUpdater meant developers were unable to patch time zone data without updating the entire JDK - a major undertaking in many enterprises. "I suspect many developers would want the choice to be able to update the data only, rather than being forced to update the whole JDK (which carries a greater risk)" Colebourne said, adding

Joda-Time is unaffected, as it has its own time zone data, parsed independently from the JDK, and updatable by users. However JSR-310 is integrated in JDK 8, and is therefore affected by this change. The ideal situation is for the data to be properly replaceable in the JDK at any time, but I haven't succeeded in achieving that despite arguing for it in JSR-310.

The story was picked up by The Server Side at the end of last week, and comments on the thread from Oracle employees Cameron Purdy and Donald Smith, amongst others, very much implied that the move was intentional. Purdy, quoting an internal response he'd had within Oracle, wrote

We update the timezone data regularly every time we ship a new Java update (6 times per year), and the most recent version of Java is always royalty-free.

We consider the TZupdater to be a support tool for our long-term support customers and we do charge for support as a way to fund the development of Java. We don't charge for it specifically, it's just part of our overall support offering.

However when InfoQ contacted Oracle to confirm the story they appeared to have had a change of heart, telling us

We never intended for a support contract to be required to keep JDK 7 up to date. TZUpdater was made unavailable on March 8 as part of the End of Public Updates for JDK 6, and as soon as we learned that this affected JDK 7 users we initiated the process of making it available for JDK 7 again.

In a blog post, Oracle added

To all of those in the Java community who were affected by this, we apologize for any confusion or inconvenience we caused, and we are grateful to those of you who reached out to us directly to bring this to our attention. As always, several Java User Group leaders and Java Champions were diligent and helpful - Stephen Colebourne, in particular, provided detailed, helpful technical analysis from a community perspective.

Colebourne told us

I think once Oracle understood the problem they reacted quickly. With the reversal of the change of policy we're back to a functioning system.

Whether this was an error or a conspiracy, it is excellent news that Oracle has re-instated the TZUpdater, and the firm deserves credit for responding so fast to the gathering storm.

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Community comments

  • Oracle Reinstates Free Time Zone Updates for Java 7

    by Donald Smith,

    Your message is awaiting moderation. Thank you for participating in the discussion.

    The intent to remove TZUpdater support for old/legacy Oracle Java SE versions was intentional and that's where the comments from Cameron on TSS were born. That this impacted current releases was not intentional, and why the TZUpdater was reinstated as soon as it was realized.

    *Disclaimer - I work for Oracle and am on the Java SE PM team.

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