Detecting configuration problems?

This is probably a newbie question, but I wasn't able to find any relevant documentation on the subject.  Feel free to tell me to RTFM if this is already covered somewhere…

I'm using the createCanvas method in DisplaySystem, combined with a SimplePassCanvasImpl subclass, to display a 3D scene from within a Swing UI.  If, e.g., I launch the application from within a remote desktop session on Windows (I'm guessing a vnc session on *nix would behave similarly, depending on the [lack of] OpenGL support), no exceptions are raised, but the canvas doesn't display anything.  Is there a way to detect whether or not the display system initialization will work?  If that's not possible before/during canvas creation, is there a way to figure out that it failed after the fact? 

Any nudges in the right direction would be greatly appreciated.