Tools of the Trade

I’ve used a laptop as my primary personal development machine since 2000. For the last couple of years, I’ve said that I doubt I’d ever buy another desktop machine. However…

My PowerBook is a year and a half old and is starting to feel a little slow, I’ve run out of disk space and there is no relief in sight for the next year or so. My Dell 700m is a nice supplement1, but not suitable as a primary development machine. A few years ago, I didn’t see that much performance/storage difference between a laptop an a desktop; that has definitely changed recently.

Options I’m considering:

One of my only concerns about going back to a desktop machine is actually the noise factor. I haven’t been paying attention for a few years – are they quiet now?

It may be surprising to some of you that I’d consider buying a PC as my main development machine. I’m not sure if I’d really do that or not, but I’ve used PC’s as primary development machines at BigCo’s in the past. I think I’d miss BBEdit the most, but that might prompt me to finally learn Emacs. My experience on the 700m is that about half the CPU on a windows box is devoted to anti-virus/spyware software, so it’s important to get some serious hardware if you go that route.

The main reasons I’m considering a desktop now are:

  • Speed.
  • Storage.
  • Ability to add bigger/additional monitors.

In addition, my usage of centralized tools like Subversion, Tasks Pro™, FeedLounge and IMAP e-mail allow me to move fairly seemlessly between machines and still have access to my critical data. The native applications and tools I use are mostly cross-platform or have versions on each platform.

I don’t know if the lack of mobility would be an issue or not. I’m also quite comfortable in my office and probably do 85% of my development there. Most of the time, my PowerBook just sits on its iCurve hooked up to the display, keyboard and mouse and I use it like a desktop machine. At the same time, I’m writing this in a coffee shop and it is nice to have everything here with me. Of course, I’d still have the laptop for use when needed.

The comments are open…

  1. And a lot easier to use on an airplane if I can’t get an exit row seat. [back]