I've got this problem in a similar manner.
I'm running a Debian system with KDE 3.1
I tried both ways, first to install the self extracting binary and second to install the converted rpm package (converted to deb via alien).
Both installations succeeded and I then had a full java JRE installation under /usr/java/.
Furthermore I was able to symlink the plugin for Mozilla and well, Mozilla:About also seems to recognize the plugin.
The problem is: Any webpage with Java lets Mozilla end without any comment.
I then installed Opera to see if this would work. As can be read in the manual for opera7 no plugin installation is needed.
Opera should just use the installed Java Runtime Environment.
But Opera::about says "No JRE installation found".
That's the key problem: My system does not seem to know that there _is_ any JRE version installed. There is no java set in the PATH nor is there any JRE variable or something similar registered.
I am not able to run any jar file with java. The error message "could not load VM" (or similar) appears.
I can't believe that this is it!?
I followed the installation instructions listed on java.com in detail!
Well, these instructions are at least very very simple. But for me it seems that some steps are just missing...
And as I see through the google search results, I am not the only one with this or a similar problem.
Perhaps someone can help with these details given?
I am some kind of desperate not getting a running java installation.