Webclipse JSjet, Eclipse Neon 2 and the Outline View – what I like and what not – part III

JSjet is an Eclipse plugin intended for Javascript developers, who are dissatisfied with the sparse information the present JSDT version provides you with in the Outline View and the code completion boxes. See:
Webclipse JSjet, Eclipse Neon 2 and the Outline View – what I like and what not – part I.

But a professional user would check the quality of the information provided by JSjet, too. In my last post of this mini series about JSjet
Webclipse JSjet, Eclipse Neon 2 and the Outline View – what I like and what not – part II
I discussed some strong indications that - given certain circumstances - one unfortunately cannot always trust the information JSjet provides in the Outline View. Equally important: Uncritically picking information from JSjet's code completion dialog in Eclipse Neon 2/3 may - again under certain circumstances - lead to unintended errors in your Javascript code. It depends very much on your programming style and the philosophy behind it. Adding new properties and methods to specific objects may have severe consequences. And JSjet (Vers. 1.72.201703081933 / 2017 CI 3b) is not handling a prototypal inheritance pattern well. You should test this out in case you want to use JSjet for professional work!

Still, one may hope that Genuitec overcomes these problems in future versions. I base this hope on the fact that a conservative simple inheritance pattern is analyzed correctly with respect to variables and functions the code completion dialog can offer as valid choices. So, the required code analysis capabilities are there in the background of the duo JSjet/Tern - but they are not used properly in all cases, yet.

Are there more aspects you should think about when planning to use JSjet? Yes, in my opinion, there are. They have to do with licensing and license conditions - and what you or your company tolerates regarding data gathering about a developer's interaction with Eclipse.

License fees - a really fair prize for one seat installations

You should be aware of the fact that Webclipse JSjet is not for free if you plan to do serious development work with it. By serious I mean work that requires more than just 8 days per month. JSjet follows your interaction with JSjet - after having used it on more of 8 days you will be asked to get a license. If I remember correctly it was not important how much you used it on these 8 days. There are company licenses and personal licenses available. Note that you would license the Webclipse product which contains much more than just JSjet; e.g., you would also get an Angular IDE.

For me as a freelancer the personal license was the interesting one. I think a price around 30 $ per year for one workstation and 2 different Eclipse installations on this machine is a fair offer. After the comments on the quality in my last post you may think differently - but, hey, what has the present JSDT to offer you instead? And their are more things included in Webclipse than just JSjet and the Outline view ...

License terms - and the question of surveillance ...

Now, we come to a much more critical and frustrating point - at least for Europeans with an increasing awareness of and about data gathering by IT providers. And I make a clear distinction between services which I do not have to pay money for and licensed services, which I pay in Euros or Dollars. Personally, I do not want to pay for a license and have no option to stop information gathering about my interactions with the computer and/or used programs. I do not want to pay extra with data that potentially allow for a personal work or interest profile that an IT provider can and wants to distribute/sell to third parties without my consent. So, I get pretty annoyed when a reference to personal data is directly included in frequent information transfers about my work, interest or habits.

Actually, the license statement shown during installation of Webclipse makes it very clear that you accept data gathering when licensing. We read:

8.0 Consent to Collect, Store, and Use Information. Licensor respects your privacy rights and recognizes the importance of protecting any information collected about you. Solely for the purpose of improving Licensor Services to you, you hereby authorize and consent to the collection, storage and use of aggregate information and data related to or derived from your use of the Software and any information or data (including personally identifiable information) that you elect to provide to Licensor in connection with your use of the Software. By installing, accessing or using the Software, you consent to these information collection and usage terms, including (where applicable) the transfer of data into a country outside of the European Union and/or the European Economic Area or the United States of America. Licensor assumes no obligation to protect confidential or proprietary information that you elect to provide to Licensor (other than personally identifiable information) from disclosure, and Licensor will be free to reproduce, use, and distribute the Information (other than personally identifiable information) to others without restriction.

(Marking parts of the text with strong or cursive letters was done by me.) Ja, ja - we should trust you ... It is all in our own interest .... Really? Why does it all remind me of MS Win 10? And how bad that I do not trust in any data provision via the Internet to providers where I have no control about what they do with my personalized or possibly personalizable data. So, what does Genuitec gather - and when is this information sent from Eclipse to Genuitec? Let us start with the second question first:

Information is at least sent to Genuitec via https each and every time you start Eclipse with installed Webclipse components. This will probably happen at least daily. How can you test it? I recommend Linux users to find the IP address of Genuitec (same as the website), set up corresponding firewall and log statements on your machine or network segment for outgoing traffic and analyze the packets sent. Check also for additional (!) traffic and come to your own conclusions about the frequency of information transfer !

Equally interesting is the question what kind of data is "accumulated" and where is it stored in between 2 sending processes. Regarding this question I recommend to look thoroughly through the ".metadata/.plugins" folder inside your Eclipse workspace folders. One interesting folder you find there should be "com.genuitec.eclipse.monitor". Have a look at the contents of the file located there. Or even better: Follow its changes via a "tail -f -nxxx" command during your working processes and your interaction with Eclipse. Then think a bit about the fact that the monitoring file includes hashes for your machine/workspace. And that your license information is directly included in this file. And remember that your original license order required the provision of quite a lot of personal data. Now think once again about the frequency of data transmission. Come to your own conclusions ....

If you did what I suggested above, you may get the idea that one gets a relatively fine granular image in time of what you as a developer personally do with Eclipse - at least over each day at your workstation. And then you may start questioning what Genuitec means by "data (including personally identifiable information) that you elect to provide to Licensor".

"Elect"??? Where, actually, is the possibility within Eclipse or Webclipse settings to choose? If you find any possibility to "elect", please inform me, via e-mail .... I would like to see the options for restricting the data gathered, setting the accumulation period and controlling the relation to my personal license. I did not find such options ..... Or do we need more rigorous measures to "elect"?

Needless to point out for my German readers that alone the gathering of the various of time based information on a person's interaction with Eclipse/Webclipse is not compliant with German labor legislation. Which forbids even the possibility of following personal work activities closely without anonymization. But the data gathered in the file ".../.plugins/com.genuitec.eclipse.monitor/myeclipse-usage.properties" provides no anonymization at all and neither you nor your boss have any control about how these data are treated by Genuitec.

And in addition: By following the changes of this file closely even some of your colleagues with sufficient access rights to your workspace folder could build up a profile of your daily work and your efforts - down to a millisecond. Nice, eh ...? All of course in your interest ... And in the interest of all your other colleagues having separate installations on their workplaces ... The collected data of a company wide Webclipse installation would allow for a work load profile of the developer department, which could be broken down to individuals. By people with sufficient rights inside your company but, of course, by Genuitec in the US, too.

Now, it may be the right time to inform the officer for personal data protection in your company. And your IT network administrator, who probably is as a friend of Linux, may start with some deeper meditation on file access rights and firewall policies for the development department of your company. And both may agree upon taking their chances to "elect" and enforce company wide data protection policies.

But be aware - simply blocking the https data transfer to Genuitec servers would have an impact on any updates based on Eclipse repositories (due to automatic dependency checks). Such updates would hang ... However, if you and your admins have come to this point - you/they would know what to do to solve this problem - if it is one for you or your company, at all.

My dear friends at Genuitec - I like the direction of your work, BUT you should profoundly rethink your data gathering policies - independent of the fact that your new government recently allowed for data gathering on US users without asking for the users' consent. Checking a license can be done totally independent of data gathering. And it would be easy to offer (European) users options on the type of data to be collected and the frequency of collection. Be sure - European Linux users will take their chances to "elect" - or leave your product.

Final conclusion

JSjet as a part of Webclipse looked and looks very promising with respect to providing a better Eclipse Outline structure for Javascript coders. You definitely get more information about the code structure than provided by JSDT.

However, in its present status the combination of JSjet/Tern also showed some profound weaknesses - and provided (in my opinion) even misleading information on classes and prototypes. As a developer you would have to adapt your coding style to these deficits to avoid unintended code errors when picking up functions from JSjet's code completion window. And beware of using prototypal inheritance patterns! However, there is a good chance that the present problems may disappear in future versions of JSjet.

Regarding license policies: JSjet is not for free, if you have a serious workload. The license conditions include your consent to a substantial information gathering - and you cannot separate this from the transfer of information about your personal license and workplace. The gathering of information on my interaction with Eclipse is clearly far beyond what I personally accept as tolerable. German companies should evaluate the consequences closely and in relation to the German "Arbeitsrecht" as well as local company policies. There are options to enforce such policies on the network administration side.

From Genuitec I expect options to control the data gathering on various levels, the data transfer period and a clear separation between license checks and gathering of data on user interactions with parts of Eclipse/Webclipse for the future. And of course corrections to the information presented in the Outliner - but here they may depend on the Tern project.