Thinkpad DS

Volume 9, Issue 44; 20 Apr 2006; last modified 08 Oct 2010

Thoughts on NetBeans, the virtues of a dual-screen setup, and waking up early.

I've been using NetBeans pretty regularly for a couple of weeks now, hacking away on an implementation of XProc. I feel a little guilty about using NetBeans instead of Emacs for Java development, but I console myself with the thought that Java development is a pretty specialized task and I routinely use tools other than Emacs when the job is specialized enough (IM or IRC, for example). On the other hand, it's software development and that's what Emacs is for, so I'm conflicted. Hey, maybe NetBeans is just that good, ok?

Anyway, one of the things that becomes immediately obvious when you start using an IDE like NetBeans is that you don't have enough screen real estate. I can fit an Emacs and three shell windows side-by-side, but NetBeans takes the whole screen. Switching between desktops or raising and lowering NetBeans or the browser to read documentation (or Emacs to edit stuff) was just too painful. To combat this, I went back to what I learned recently and now I have two displays. NetBeans goes in the top and my “normal” desktop, an Emacs, three shell windows, and a browser goes in the bottom.

Very nice. Well worth the effort of figuring out how to do it. On most of my other desktops, I just use the “top half”, though I'm starting to find things drift into the “extra space” in other places.

Waking up early

As long as we're talking about fiddling with the machine and increased productivity, let me pass along another trick. I recently learned that I can use /proc/acpi/alarm to control my laptop's sleep state. That is, instead of sleeping (suspend to RAM) until I wake it up, I can program it to wake up automatically.

If you're like me, when your machine starts in the morning, it spends a good ten minutes or so groveling through the several hundred spam and virus emails that were sent overnight. And sometimes it does other stuff like rebuilding local databases. The practical result is that for the first ten or fifteen minutes of my day, when I'm fresh and raring to go, the machine c r a w l s through every task, CPU pinned by all the background tasks.

Well, with a quick shell script, I now put my machine to bed at night such that it wakes up an hour before I do and gets through all those tasks before I even get out of bed.

Very nice. Well worth the effort of figuring out how to do it.


I note the vertical alignment of your screens, thus ensuring maximal desk space. A Tatters tip, by any chance..?

—Posted by Danny on 21 Apr 2006 @ 12:18 UTC #

If you're using NetBeans, why are you still using emacs to edit this?

Are you only using Netbeans to run builds and to use its debugger (does it have one?)

—Posted by Duncan on 21 Apr 2006 @ 01:25 UTC #

How does NetBeans compare to Eclipse?

I use Emacs but I haven't done Java in a number of years.

—Posted by marc on 21 Apr 2006 @ 03:07 UTC #

Now why would you want to ever turn it off?

—Posted by Adrian on 21 Apr 2006 @ 03:46 UTC #

Isn't it hard on your eyes working with a window behind your monitor?

And, yes, the 17" MacBook Pros are great for screen real estate (I have two on my desk right now, with a 30" display attached to the Leopard machine).

—Posted by Chris Ryland on 24 Mar 2007 @ 03:58 UTC #