So, recently I’ve been trying an experiment: I’ve been using Windows 7 as a base OS for my primary development box. Why did I do this, and how has it been? Allow me to explain.
I have been a *-nix man for many years, starting with Mac OS X and it’s largely-FreeBSD/NetBSD-derived platform. I have literally nothing bad to say about the software of Mac OS X. Nothing. I adore it. What I don’t adore is the inflated price of the hardware. Certainly, it is of excellent quality; but I in my frugality have this crazy idea that I shouldn’t have to pay what Neal Stephenson referred to poetically as “<expletive-redacted>-you money” (e.g. $2500+) for a laptop with ultimately mediocre specs. I can get a laptop with just about *twice* the power for virtually half the price from a fully reputable manufacturer if I make what I consider to be the relatively small sacrifice of a sexy, top-of-the-line desktop experience and the social mating plumage that is that familiar, brushed aluminum case.
Up until recently the cost wasn’t really a factor, as my development machines were supplied largely by my employers, including Centresource. My first day on the job, CS set me up with a brand-new, perfectly splendid little 13″ MBP, 4GB RAM, 250GB HD (this was before they were offered with SSDs) and all the other usual trimmings; in addition to a new 27″ external monitor and even one of those mini-display-port-to-VGA adapters. This machine was an absolute pleasure to develop upon for nearly any task I was asked to complete. Unfortunately, as the size and scope of my workload increased (both as commissioned by CS as well as my own, personal, “for-fun” work), I began feeling the pinch of those 4GB. So, of my own volition, I sent out to NewEgg and got myself a couple of 8GB chips for a total of 16GB RAM. Good heavens, did that machine fly now.
However, I was now faced with a few issues:
- CS owned the machine, but I owned the RAM. This isn’t really a tangible problem since I don’t expect to be leaving any time soon, but it was nevertheless an admittedly personal reservation based largely in my perhaps-paranoid concerns for privacy and security.
- Being that I have crap eyesight to begin with and like viewing multiple documents simultaneously, 13″ was becoming a bit of a pinch-point for my own development whilst away from a desktop station with its extra monitor, whether at home or the office. I frequent coffee shops quite often as remote work environments, and the degree to which my productivity faltered as a result of being limited to the resolution possible on this machine was becoming unacceptable to me (note: I have what some might consider to be ridiculously high standards for my own productivity). In short, I wanted more real estate on the go – much more; something like 17″
This being the case, I decided it was high time I bought my own computer, since my last personal purchase of same had been nearly 4 years back and a desktop unit besides (as well as now lying disemboweled and largely forgotten upon a table in my garage). I looked at the prices for an Apple laptop with the specs I desired (even the refurbished models), and almost immediately made the decision to buy a PC and switch to Linux as my main desktop environment – a decision I had toyed with in the past but never really committed to. However, in order to maximize my very recent investment in the aforementioned memory, I had to find a machine that would accept the same chips in the same configuration.
I found several candidates, but for the money I settled upon an HP Envy 17″. I will say here that I will never buy another HP computer again: they had loaded down Windows with a truckload of proprietary crapware, they lock out almost every part of the BIOS worth mentioning, and they had taken up all 4 permitted primary partitions on the weird Intel pseudo-RAID array (one with a restore disk-image because they’re too cheap to print the thing to a DVD, the other with something called HP_TOOLS the purpose of which I cannot readily fathom and have no desire to learn lest it anger me further). Of course, my usage of Windows while in possession of this machine was intended to be minuscule if present at all, and so I quickly set out about installing my preferred Linux desktop distro, Linux Mint (then version 12).