So, I’ve got this meat-grinder that runs NetBeans just insanely faster than my PowerBook, and I’d like to use it. The trouble is, I’ve already got 3,397,120 pixels’ worth of screen real-estate and if I add more I won’t be able to see out my window; and one keyboard & mouse are enough. Solution: run the Ultra headless and talk to it via the Mac, using X11. It’s not problem-free but it works. Illustrated with pictures of deliciously smooth, streamlined actual working code. [Update: There is hope.]

First of all, the keystrokes are X11 not Mac, but NetBeans is programmable enough that I think I can fix that. The real problem is that code, after all, is text. See below.

Netbeans on OS X, native and via X11

Here are two NetBeans windows; the one to the left/behind is the OS X version, running natively under the Mac Java 1.5/Swing implementation. On the right/above is the one running on the Ultra, displaying on my Mac screen via X11. You will observe (or at least, you will if you enlarge the picture) that the code in the native window is going to compile more cleanly, run faster, and generally be more professional; just look at it. Of course, on the Ultra’s own screen, in the Gnome environment, NetBeans looks much nicer, albeit not quite achieving that creamy Aqua smoothness.

I actually understand X11 and Swing reasonably well, and I don’t think there’s any deep architectural reason why this shouldn’t be better.

Update: Mark Reinhold writes:

You can get the latest Mustang build—complete with sub-pixel anti-aliasing support in Swing—from I don't know offhand if the fonts will be smooth when viewed over an X11 connection on a Mac, but they sure look purdy on my Linux and Solaris boxes.

It's true that Mustang isn't even yet in beta, but quite a few of our engineers here in the SE team regularly run NetBeans on the Mustang weekly builds, in some cases while working on Mustang itself (which is a bit of a trick, but very cool).

Mmm... tempting.

author · Dad
colophon · rights

October 20, 2005
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