From my experience it's best not to use the context class loader at all.
...Ok, so now the poor chap has 2 conflicting views , do you use webstart?...Endolf
Yes - I use Webstart and both signed and unsigned applets (with LWJGL Appletloader). And my approach above has always worked perfectly in all environments.
And I nearly always use getResource() over getResourceAsStream() because this allows me to reference other resources using relative paths.
OK. i placed everything in one jar file and i used Thread.currentThread().getContextClassLoader(). The result is my java web start application runs fine on some pc's but on others it stops finding resources as soon as it creates more than one thread.