The departure of Sun Microsystems Inc CTO Eric Schmidt to Novell Inc has left a vacuum in some of Sun’s small business units, says our sister publication Unigram.X. One example is that just 10 weeks after publicizing a plan to fold its Tcl (ToolCommand Language) into the SunScript business, Sun now says it’ll give its Tcl scripting products away for free. Insiders say some small units, including Tcl, don’t have the kind of high level executive backing which Schmidt provided. Back in May, Sun was pontificating on how it was going to push its SunScript implementation of the University of California at Berkeley’s Tcl Tool Command Language as the universal glue for tying Java, ActiveX, graphical user interface, legacy and other applications together. It was planning to charge licenses of several hundred dollars for products such as its SpecTcl development tool and Tcl Plug-in. Instead it’ll now concentrate on integrating Tcl with Java rather than more commercial products, said Sun Labs distinguished engineer and Tcl inventor John Ousterhout. That means building bridges to Java including a Tcl package which will include a Java JVM which will enable TCL to execute Java within Tcl script and a Tcl interpreter written in Java (it’s currently written in C) so Tcl scripts can run in Java-only environments like JavaStation. It will take between six-to nine months according to Ousterhout. It still plans a SpecTcl GUI builder, browser plug-in, an embeddable web server for executing control and Tclets on real-time devices – including network computers. Examples of existing Tcl implementations include Cisco Systems Inc’s router management software and Oracle’s network management software. NBC’s building an integrated satellite and video broadcast control system using Tcl. Meantime the Sun Labs group have released beta code of the next version of the Tcl scripting language and the Tk GUI toolkit. Tcl 8.0 includes a new byte-code compiler that will give about a factor of two to a factor of 10 increase in performance, according to Ousterhout. Other feature include a namespace mechanism, a binary command for manipulating binary strings, and a random number generator. The Tk 8.0 toolkit’s native look and feel on Windows and Macintosh platforms has been improved. Version 8.1 will include Unicode support, re-write of common widgets and broader integration with Java.