Eclipse is a nice free software tool for developing (java) software started by IBM. There was only one catch, it was build on top of the proprietary java platform. This made it useless for the Free Software community. Luckily the GNU project has two software projects that come to the rescue. GNU Classpath, core libraries for java, and gcj, the GNU Compiler for Java. We are now able to run Eclipse on a completely free platform! It is not yet complete, but you can already edit, compile and browse CVS with it. And since Eclipse uses GTK+ it also looks very nice.
It is possible to run Eclipse with gcj since it comes with gij (GNU Interpreter for Java). It does take a little bit of work to get it running since you have to apply some patches to the latest gcj CVS verson. Hopefully the needed patches will make it into CVS soon. It is currently a bit slow (you will need a fast processor, 1Ghz+ recommended) and needs much memory (256MB recommended). And not everything will work yet (it sometimes hangs). But is already useful for gcj bug hunting and making pretty screenshots.
If you just want to know why gcj is so cool, please read: Compiling Java with GCJ by Per Bothner (Learn how gcj can not only be used to compile java programs, but also Scheme and XQuery to native code.) If you are interested in other Free Software running on top of gcj, please checkout RHUG setup by Anthony Green. (It contains precompiled binaries of things like Jakarta Tomcat, Ant, Rhino, Postgresql JDBC drivers, Jython, Xalan, Xerces, and much more.)
It took much effort to get this far with our free java platform. And I want to thank all GNU Classpath and gcj hackers for their years of hacking to make this possible. In particular I want to thank Tom Tromey the main libgcj maintainer for his guidance. And for being the first person to get to the Eclipse Welcome Screen, after all his hacking the rest was easy.
I should also mention Vincent Partington and Erwin Bolwidt for explaining why I should care about Eclipse and for their bughunting help last weekend. Please checkout their free software projects, Jaxup, formatjava and Sftp File Synchronization.
How you can help: If you write free java software make sure it works well on the GNU platform and if you like hacking on low level stuff help us make Classpath and gcj even better. And please consider to "Join us now and share the software".
The following pages explain how to patch gcj and setup Eclipse. And show some pretty screenshots of Eclipse in action.