This past Thanksgiving has been ... unique. I've spent a lot less time doing what I planned because of its uniqueness. Regardless, I managed to tinker a bit with some of the latest offerings.
NetBeans 6 RC2
RC2 was released right before Thanksgiving. I've got it installed on Windows XP 2 (algol) and Ubuntu 7.10 (europa, shown below). On algol, with its 2GHz Core Duo processor, RC2 runs smooth as silk. It should considering the processing horsepower. On europa, with its single-core 2GHz Athlon XP, it runs a little rougher, especially at startup. To make the NetBeaners feel a little better, Eclipse 188.8.131.52 has the same problem on europa (see below). It takes about 20 seconds after the main window has appeared for responsiveness to be useful. And this only occurs the first time you start it up. Of course, for many people such as myself, you start it and leave it running for long periods lasting days at a time.
Regardless of the initial startup lethargy, RC2 shows considerable polish and is a reasonable overall advance from NetBeans 5.5.1. If nothing else recommends its use, then the fact that all the key plugins are available from the primary installation package should make NetBeans 6 a much better choice than earlier versions. I know that there are going to be users out there who will discover that NetBeans 6 is broken in some key way for them. It never ceases to happen when a new version of anything is released. For those folk I suggest they file a bug report and continue to use 5.5.1 until their bug is fixed in some future release of 6. But for everybody else, step up and enjoy.
The NetBeans 6 Options screenshot above illustrates a problem not just with NetBeans but with any Swing-based application running on Ubuntu 7.10 and using Java 6. The buttons on combo-boxes are not drawn. I checked the demo application SwingSet2 to see if it was a Java problem, and it is, but only if you're using the Gnome look-and-feel engine. I've seen this problem with both the version of Java 6 provided by Synaptic (Java 6 Update 3) as well as with the latest snapshot version of Java 6 (1.6.0_10-ea-b07). In the great scheme of things it's worth noting but otherwise it's No Big Deal.
Eclipse 184.108.40.206 and Google Android
That other free Java IDE, Eclipse, has been blessed with a plugin for developing applications on with Google's Android Open Handset Alliance. The documentation, from what I've read and tried, is complete, and the tools are dead-simple to use.
Following the Android instructions I was able to download and install the Android SDK, then install the Eclipse Android plugin, then write a real simple hello-world style application and run it in the plugin's emulator. NetBeans has equivalent (many would say superior) capabilities, but there is no NetBeans support currently for Android. That's a bit odd considering that Eric Schmidt, current Google CEO, was a Sun employee and executive from 1983 to 1997. I would have thought, based on that significant tie, that equivalent support would have been released simultaneously for NetBeans along with Eclipse. I have yet to really try to write anything non-trivial using the Android tools on Ubuntu. Perhaps after the first of December.
KDE 4 Live 0.7 is a bust
Distrowatch carried the announcement of the KDE 4 release candidate along with the availability of a Live ISO to try out the bits. I dutifully downloaded the ISO, burned it, and ... discovered it wouldn't boot. Not any machine I could reach (two desktops and two notebooks). So I loaded the ISO again, double-checked the checksum (it was correct) then used an alternative burner. And created a second coaster. Oh well. The live ISO was built on top of openSUSE 10.3. I guess the universe was making sure I wouldn't be tempted into using openSUSE again.
Firefox 3 Beta 2 pre-1686
I grabbed a development copy of Firefox 3 to see if the Blogger editor problem I discovered while using Beta 1 was fixed. It wasn't. Nothing else unusual happened and it was as well-behaved as you would expect. With regards to memory leaks I have Firefox 2 running with 17 open tabs, one of them obviously while I'm writing this. And top shows Firefox running with 138 MB resident and 593 MB virtual memory. I'm curious to get a working copy of Firefox 3 so I can run it for days on end with dozens of open tabs and see if memory consumption really is down.
Lord knows Ubuntu isn't perfect, but it's Good Enough for me. You can get a lot of useful work done with Ubuntu running on fully-amortized hardware. As long as the job gets done well enough that I get paid regularly every two weeks, I don't mind the occasional bump in the road. Yes, I know there are jobs out there that demand Office and .Net as the platform and tools for development, so it won't work everywhere. But then that's the choice I make and live with. There are far more important issues besides what distribution you run. Except, perhaps, keeping my distance from all things Novell. Novell, which seems to be growing ever closer to Microsoft.