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I found JMF works better as an application running on the local machine; you can deploy the app with java web start, it works like a charm.
I assume there are ways to get the applet to work but just understand how the API works; the "Cross Platform" contains all the libs required but there are native bindings that are required for your OS. The windows performance pack contains all the binary files that allow JMF to access the hardware such as a webcam; as does the linux pack, but for linux you need to extract the cross platform libs in the same location as the install script for it to work. Also another note here is that there is no native libraries (that I am aware of) for OS X, so you cannot install or run JMF on Apple Macintosh.
If you want to install JMF on linux you need to set your LD_PRELOAD var to where your V4L compat library is, check this forum for details I posted it earlier.
There is also another tweak you might need to do with the install script, the tail argument is incorrect; this needs to be changed to fit your distro.
So in short, you have to install the performance pack for your system in order for JMF to work.