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Java Virtual Roundup

Written by Gordon Fecyk, 6/25/2006

Sun's Java Virtual Machine for Windows does not require administrator access just to run, so Java applications should not, either.

Why, then, do some of the most popular Java applications require you to compute recklessly in Windows just to make them work?

AFTER TEN YEARS OF JAVA TECHNOLOGY there hasn't been a single Java virus, worm, trojan-horse, spyware app or any other Java-based threat. The only thing that comes close is a concept Java virus that replaces components of the Java system... if you let it.

It's quite difficult for a Java application to trash your computer. Java's security system prevents "unsigned" applications from modifying the system, so in theory, if something bad happened you could at least finger the developer. In addition, Java's virtual machine concept -- basically a computer system within a computer system -- generally prevents a bug in a Java application from accidentally trashing the host operating system.

It took ten years, but we're finally seeing mainstream Java applications. Some of the most popular games are Java games, and if you dare to venture into peer-to-peer file sharing, Java P2P apps can protect your host computer from abuse... again, if you let them.

Why, then, do some of the most popular Java applications require you to compute recklessly in Windows just to make them work?


THE SUPPORT APPLICATIONS ARE THE THREAT, not so much the Java apps themselves. Three of these applications require support from a web browser, and the default browser on Windows is Internet Explorer. Say what you will about IE's insecurity; you can mitigate its insecurity by running with a limited account, and you're not safe just because you use some other browser. Sun's Java Virtual Machine for Windows does not require administrator access just to run, so Java applications should not, either.

This product roundup will build slowly over time as I find badly written applications. It also doesn't cover any one category. Java applications exist for many different categories.

  • GotoMeeting 2.0 by Citrix: Fail.
  • Limewire Basic by Lime Wire LLC: Marginal Fail.
  • MySabre Booking Portal by Sabre Holdings Corporation: Fail.
  • Phex 2.4.2 by Gregor Koukkoullis: Marginal Fail.
  • RuneScape by Jagex: Fail.
  • Yohoho! Puzzle Pirates by Three Rings Design: Fail.

The marginal failures are the result of the application's installer putting shortcuts in the wrong place. The apps themselves otherwise run fine. Furthermore, Java applets -- or mini-applications that run in a web browser -- generally do not require administrator intervention to run.

Considering the developers of these apps haven't tested them enough, they have a lot of nerve criticizing Microsoft for bad design. Pot, Kettle, Black, anyone?

And I don't even drink coffee. But I'll take my Java black, thank-you.

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