It's a shame. And a wasted weekend.

For some reason I've been trying to save my underpowered iBook by turning into, by hook or crook, a decent Java development platform. Hey, I really like my iBook. Great battery life -- I've used it for three hours taking notes in a class and still had 50% battery life left -- great applications (from Safari to MS Word to the iApps), super size for a true portable, great 802.11b reception; the iBook is very nearly a dream laptop. But Java on OS X is seeeelow, and as evidenced by my attempted move to Jikes last week, I'm trying hard to get around its limitations.

Well, I've gone nearly as far as I can go now. I've tried using Linux to get a Java 2 VM on my Apple hardware that's fast enough for me to code without turning grey.

Don't take this lightly either. I'm a Linux illiterate. Reallly am. Had LinuxPPC installed on an old StarMax for a while, but I don't know nearly enough about Linux to compare my skills to anything resembling the ten stages that come before mastery. But Yellow Dog Linux has finally gotten to the point that even I can install it easily.

Quick note: You do not have to reformat your entire hard drive to install YDL. I hate that the installation instructions have said that for so long. If you had more than one partition on your drive already, you just blast one of the partitions (goodbye, Classic! For the moment, anyhow) and go to it. I haven't had any troubles at all. YDL 2.3 is installed and running, and I'm posting from Mozilla 0.9.9 via YDL right now. Moz is just one of the many apps that are installed by default.

So I've installed IBM's PowerPC version of their Java 1.3.1 and downloaded Netbeans. I was hoping like mad that this Linux JVM wouldn't have the same speed issues OS X has. Mac OS 9 runs quickly; it just never had a Java 2 VM released. And YDL runs pretty quickly. Windows are a little slower moving around than OS 9, but much faster than anything I've seen in OS X. I was optimistic.

No reason to be. Netbeans moves even MORE slowly than it does in OS X. It drives me crazy. I suppose there might be a better windowing system that could speed things up, but looking at top (an app that keeps track of what apps are taxing your processor) while Netbeans was working leads me to believe that the problem is in the Java GUI widget implementation, not the underlying OS. Blackdown's VM might be worth a shot, and perhaps an older Java 2 VM in general (the one from IBM that I'm using is 1.3.1). There's always hope.

On the plus side, YDL looks great. Great suite of apps installed by default, from Mozilla to Abiword to Ximian Evolution. I think Linux is finally ready for the typical poweruser's -- though certainly still not your grandmother's -- desktop. This was by far the easiest Linux installation I've ever seen. Performance outside of Java is really impressive, even on my slow hardware. Mozilla on YDL downright blows Mozilla on OS X away. The Office replacement applications are finally pretty mature. KDE 3.0 is modelled after Windows a good deal, and you're quickly familiar with where everything should be located. It's a great package, and it's always neat to think I got it for the price of downloading an iso via ftp and burning it to CD.

So YDL is a nice OS, which I'm happy to see, but in the end is just another OS to me. It's also the one with the fewest reasons for me to learn. I think the only advantage it has over OS X for me, other than a bit more speed in places where I'm not dying for more, is the ability to customize exactly what's going on. Never want to use the mouse again? That's Linux for sure, not OS X. We'll see.

At any rate, hopefullly I'll keep OS 9 off of the iBook just long enough to play the Linux version of Railroad Tycoon I purchased years ago. I've really been looking forward to playing that game.