James Selvakumar’s Blog

December 13, 2008

Ubuntu 8.10 – A Productive Java Development Environment

I recently started using Ubuntu 8.10 at my workplace as well. Till then, I have been using Ubuntu only at home. For me, Ubuntu@Work was very different from Ubuntu@Home. I mostly surf, blog, listen to music and play some games at home. But Ubuntu@Work was a completely different scenario.

Since I’m new to this linux stuff, it took me some time to configure things like static ip address, host names etc. But once everything was setup, things started moving quickly. I initially had doubt in my minds about the font rendering of NetBeans (or any swing app for that matter) under linux. I even wrote an post showing my frustration with NetBeans font rendering when compared to Eclipse. But with jdk.1.6.10, font rendering is smooth and NetBeans works like a champ! You can see some samples here:

But not everything is perfect at this point of time. For example, the combo boxes are not rendered properly. But apart from these minor glitches, NetBeans runs very well on Ubuntu.

I initially thought of using my already existing netbeans projects in a ntfs partition. But later, I decided not to go for it. I thought working on a native “ext3” partition would give better performance and I can say that I’m not disappointed.

With my projects in a “ext3” filesystem, opening projects and editing files are faster now. And with excellent subversion integration, working as a diverse team is not at all an issue. (I’m the only one using Ubuntu in my team so far. 🙂 )

So far, I have been doing Java development on a Windows XP machine and I can say with absolute confidence that Ubuntu offers a much more better development environment. I can connect to other Windows machines in my network using “Terminal Server Client” which comes with the default Ubuntu installation. Yes you can argue that Windows has “Remote Desktop” by default as well. But Ubuntu supports not just “remote desktop” but also “VNC” by default. With VNC, I can connect to linux servers and other old windows machines (2000, NT).

Just in case if you want to connect to that old operating system, it’s very easy with Ubuntu on your side 🙂

And I use to depend heavily on WinSCP to share files between computers but I was stunned to see Ubuntu providing native support to ssh which is integrated into the nautilus file explorer as well. This feature alone saves me a lot of time!

What more, you get a powerful “Network Tools” which can do some simple operations like “ping” to scanning for opened ports in a remote computer.

There is an excellent partition editor as well in the form of “GParted” with which you can easily resize/create/delete/format partitions. I use this to manage partitions even in windows machines.

Remember that crappy “Disk Management” tool in Windows?. Yes there are tools like Partition Magic for Windows, but in Ubuntu, all these things are available by default and costs absolutely nothing.

Moreover, boot up and shutdown are very fast with Ubuntu 8.10 than with Windows XP. The OS itself consumes much less memory, so other applications get more resources. Especially when you have a system with minimal configuration, then Ubuntu Linux is definitely a better option than Windows.

Setting up a fresh system with Windows XP + drivers + other softwares normally take more than 2 hours but setting up a similar system with Ubuntu will take less than half an hour. And do I need to say that a default Ubuntu installation comes with softwares like Firefox, Pidgin, OpenOffice, GIMP etc. And you can find most of your favourite software in the Synaptic Package Manager. You will enjoy installing softwares like Picasa, Google Earth, Skype etc from within your operating system. No need to go to 101 sites to download 101 stuff!

And kindly note that Ubuntu Linux is not the only option you have. There are many other great Linux distros like Fedora, Linux Mint, OpenSuse etc. Since I use Ubuntu at work/home, I shared my views based on Ubuntu. I just installed Linux Mint for my wife which looks like a drop-in replacement for Windows. (Actually she couldn’t believe that it’s linux for quite some time)

With it’s excellent performance even on old hardware and with lots of bundled software tools which boosts productivity, Ubuntu certainly provides excellent environment for development. Add NetBeans/Eclipse/Intellij IDEA to this and you get a powerful java development environment that will cost you less and provide more value for your money/hardware.


  1. I used red hat some time ago(4 years or so) at work…i was (and still am) a newbie with Linux, it turned out not to be a pleasurable experience, by now i have almost forgotten everything i learned back then on how to set up my dev environment since i’ve been using windows for the most part. It would be nice if there was a step by step tutorial on how to set up a java dev environment in linux. Anyways, great post as always, cheers.

    Comment by Roger — December 13, 2008 @ 7:10 pm | Reply

  2. Ubuntu is a giant leap for linux, have your tried Eclipse instead of netbeans, it’s a great, free IDE and works fine in linux.

    Comment by Alb — December 14, 2008 @ 12:00 am | Reply

  3. Thank you James for this post.

    @Roger: it’s really not very difficult to set up a complete Java development environment using Ubuntu:
    – open a terminal
    – identify yourself as root (sudo -s)
    – update your repository data (aptitude update)
    – install necessary packages for Java (aptitude install sun-java5-jdk or sun-java6-jdk, depending on what JDK you’d like to use. Of course, you can install both versions.
    – install your favorite IDE: (aptitude install NetBeans or aptitude install Eclipse)
    – install an application server like Tomcat (aptitude install tomcat-5.5 or aptitude install tomcat-6

    That’s it, you’re done. All these steps are available after a standard installation using the live CD from ubuntu.com. Alternatively you can also download Eclipse from eclipse.org, extract the .tar.gz archive and run Eclipse double-clicking the symbol in the new folder. Yes, it’s that easy 😉

    BTW: installing VirtualBox will help you starting Windows XP (or whatever version) if you need it during your work. Very handy… and works absolutely flawless.

    Comment by Ulf — December 14, 2008 @ 12:09 am | Reply

  4. Ooops, the package names for the IDE installation have to be written completely in lowercase letters:

    aptitude install netbeans
    aptitude install eclipse

    Comment by Ulf — December 14, 2008 @ 12:12 am | Reply

  5. I still found eclipse is smoother than netbeans6.5 with java 6 installed. NB is doing great job on Windows platform, but it’s not very responsive on Ubuntu or Mac/Leopard, which is a shame really. BTW, great article. Thanks.

    Comment by Jay — December 14, 2008 @ 11:21 am | Reply

  6. Hi Ulf,
    Thanks for sharing a simple “step-by-step” procedure. And I agree with you that it’s really that simple to setup a java development environment in Ubuntu. Great!

    Comment by James — December 14, 2008 @ 12:19 pm | Reply

  7. Hi Jay,
    I would be wrong, if I say NetBeans is smoother than Eclipse on Ubuntu. And we must understand that it’s not the issue with NetBeans but with Swing. That’s the advantage SWT has over Swing still in linux. This was the case in windows as well but not anymore. Nowadays, you can hardly find any difference between a swing app and a native app running on windows. We hope that will be the same on linux as well. I believe there are some JSRs submitted for this and we can hope they will be implemented in JDK 7. But nevertheless, I still believe NetBeans is a great option on linux as well.

    Comment by James — December 14, 2008 @ 12:32 pm | Reply

  8. Response to Ulf:
    I recommend installing the jdk by downloading it from SUN. When I first started with Ubuntu I let apt install my jdk for me and along with it came a bunch of apache software crap that changed the classes on my classpath. Later on I was working on a web service client project and was having classpath collisions with the extra apache classes. It took me a half a day to track down the problem. When I found out what had happened it took me another half a day to rip out the crap that had tagged along and, in the end, ended up uninstalling the jdk from apt and downloading the jdk from SUN and installing it manually.

    Comment by jkilgrow — December 15, 2008 @ 2:09 pm | Reply

  9. one of my linux-user friend told me that the Netbeans slowness may caused by linux default set it to gcj.
    So change it to Sun Java 6 may solve the issue. But I haven’t tried it since.

    Comment by Jay — December 15, 2008 @ 6:12 pm | Reply

  10. This is a great blog. I’m running Ubuntu 8.1 using Wubi. Nice experience so far. Cheers!! 🙂

    Comment by Bharani — December 16, 2008 @ 10:20 am | Reply

  11. Hi James, I thank you for your good work. I am using ubuntu in NTFS using wubi. It is a very nice experience working in it, almost all features works out of the box and for any tweaking or extra work there is always great support from the community and blogs like this.

    Comment by saravana — December 16, 2008 @ 12:04 pm | Reply

  12. Hi Bharani, Saravana,
    I hope you enjoy Ubuntu installed using Wubi. But once you get a grip on it, I suggest you to go for a full installation. It’s as easy as installing via Wubi. I went for it and I’m enjoying Ubuntu’s performance and speed which is defintely superior to Windows. Cheers!

    Comment by James — December 17, 2008 @ 1:23 am | Reply

  13. This post is very informative. I was enthusiastic to learn linux and have just installed ubuntu few weeks back ,but didn’t get time to try further. Your post is an inspiration to explore further.

    Comment by Byju — December 26, 2008 @ 10:15 am | Reply

  14. Hai James, I have just moved my Java devolepment activity from Windows to Ubuntu 8.10. I have installed sun JDK 6 update 11, Netbeans 6.5, and Eclipse 3.4. Installation process works smooth. The problem are when I start to work with Eclipse or Netbeans, it run really slow and heavy. Eclipse still usable although it is slow, and Netbeans, almost unusable. I wonder why those thing happen. In Windows, in same machine (intel dual core 1.8 GHz processor and RAM 2.5 GB) Eclipse and Windows run very fast.

    I really need some suggestion for those thing. Hopefully there will be solution. Thanx.

    Comment by lamida — January 11, 2009 @ 3:12 pm | Reply

    • Hi Lamida,
      I run Ubuntu on a much slower machine (1.6 Ghz, 1GB RAM) and I’m very happy with the performance of NetBeans on Ubuntu. I don’t know what configuration is missing in your case. How did you install it? Via Wubi or went through a full installation?

      Comment by James — January 12, 2009 @ 2:24 am | Reply

  15. Don’t install Eclipse in ubuntu from repo – it’s very old (3.2, current is 3.4), and uses gcj, not sun’s java virtual machine. Just download archive from http://www.eclipse.org, than extract it somewhere, install sun java through sudo aptitude install sun-java6-jdk, setup preferred java virtual machine with sudo update-alternatives –config java, then launch binary in /your/path/to/extracted/eclipse/files/bin/eclipse

    Comment by Denis — January 14, 2009 @ 9:40 pm | Reply

  16. Thanks Denis, but I wonder why doesn’t Canonical include the latest version of Eclipe?

    Comment by Tommy — January 23, 2009 @ 12:56 pm | Reply

  17. Hi guys, I have a tutorial how to install Sun JDK (direct from java.sun.com) not using apt-get..

    You may want to read it. The link is : http://rioastamal.net/2008/10/tutorial-how-to-install-java-on-ubuntu-linux/


    Comment by rio — April 5, 2009 @ 6:22 am | Reply

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