Ok, again, I’ve sat down to get some shit done and I immediately stumble into this one strange scenario where I need a Windows machine. I don’t want to buy Windows. I rarely use it. I just need to do this one thing. I don’t want to use Windows on a regular basis. I’m happy with Linux, and a little MacOS usage here and there. But here is this brick wall roadblock for this one task I need to do on Windows.
What a bummer! But there’s an easy way Microsoft has setup to help us out with these scenarios!
If you want to test out a development environment, there’s a location here where you can go download a time limited VM of your choice. This machine image is great because they’ve already got things setup with;
Visual Studio 2019
Visual Studio Code
Windows 10 SDK
Azure workflows enabled
Windows Subsystem for Linux w/ Ubuntu. Not that I’d need this, but ya know, it’s hugely useful on Windows.
Dev mode & bash enabled.
That image is all groovy. No Java pun intended. But if you want a slightly slimmer image for just testing out Microsoft browser stuff, like MS Edge or older Internet Explorer versions, check out these images.
With both of these options the versions are time limited, to something like 90 days. The cool thing is though, that’ll give you enough time to test out most things or troubleshoot any .NET Windows proprietary code bits!
The other great thing is they offer the images in multiple different formats too; Virtual Box, VMware, and others.
The Iron Foundry Team are big advocates of open source software. We write code across all sorts of languages, just like many of the development shops out there do. Sometimes we’re heavy on the .NET, other times we’re all up in some Java, Ruby on Rails, spooling up a Node.js Application or something else. So keeping with our love of open source and our polyglot nature we’ve created the Thor Project with three distinct apps.
Before jumping into the applications though, a little context for what and where Thor is in the grand scheme of things. We need to roll back to the Cloud Foundry Project to get into that. The Cloud Foundry Project is an open source project built around software for PaaS (Platform as a Service) which can be used to build your own PaaS internally or externally, in a cloud provider or directly on hardware. It’s your choice how, when and where you want to use it. For more context on PaaS check out my previous entry “The Confusions of IaaS, PaaS and SaaS“.
Cocoa for OS-X
You know who Thor is right? He’s this mythic Norse God, also known as the God of Thunder. Since we’re all about bringing the hamma we welcomed Thor into our team’s stable of applications. So starting immediately we’ve released Thor into the realms for contributions and fighting the good open source software battle! If you’d like to join the effort, check out the github project and feel free to join us!
Technically, what is the Thor Application? This is a Cocoa Application built for OS-X that is used for managing, deploying and publishing applications to Cloud Foundry enabled and or Iron Foundry extended PaaS Environments.
.NET for Windows 7
The .NET Metro version of the Thor Application is also released via github with a provided installer. We’ve almost taken the same path, except of course for the very different UX and UI queues with Windows 7 and the Metro UX design guidelines.
WinRT for Windows 8
I wasn’t really sure what to call this version. Is it Metro or WinRT or Windows 8 or something else? Anyway, there is a project, it is albeit empty at this point, but it is the project where the Windows 8 version of Thor will go! For now get the Windows 7 version and install it on Windows 8, it won’t have touch interface support and things, but should work just like a regular application on Windows 8.
To get started with these, generally you’d just clone the repo and do a build, then get started checking out the code. There is one catch, for the OS-X version you’ll want to pull down the sub-modules with the following command.
Ok, it’s that time of the year and I’m at the phase of the cycle when it is computer purchasing time. What do I want, what do I need, who has the best options available? In order of priority here’s my wish list for the ideal machine.
It must be able to run Windows & Linux. Even better would be the ability to run OS-X, Windows, and Linux. Preferably with Linux or OS-X as the core operating system and Windows either virtualized or dual booted.
Another high priority is I want elegant, sexy, and strong design. But not just in appearance but in functionality too. I want the device to be strong. I want the material to be fabricated well, I want the quality and durability to be built into the device. This comes down to the device being a single mold, probably of a high quality material like aluminum.
I want as much oomph as I can get out of the hardware. Demanding elegant and sexy usually dictates it won’t be powerful. Demanding tough is usually another strike against that.
Another thing which is super important, but I may be flexible on, is the resolution. I simply want as much resolution as possible.
The last thing, which isn’t as important, is I don’t really want to pay more than about $1500. I’d be all the happier if I can find something for even less.
Narrowing Down the Machines
The first thing I did was check out what information was available on what I would choose as my ideal computing device. I had found, through research and talking to others, that my options where either one of the new Ultrabooks coming out from different manufacturers or an Apple Macbook Air.
With the narrowing of the playing field and knowing a few things about the Macbook Air already, I decided to look into the Ultrabooks more thoroughly. Several, such as the Lenovo option got dropped immediately. The were huge by comparison to the Air and other Ultrabooks. If several options existed around the half an inch thick size, that was what I was going to aim for. After looking through many of the options it looked like the Acer & Asus were the real viable Ultrabook options.
Touch, Feel, and Fabrication Quality
The next step, was I needed to feel and touch these machines. I wanted to be sure that their marketing hype wasn’t going to land me with a laptop that was flimsy or the fabrication was poorly completed. No machine would be in the running unless the fabrication and manufacturer was of equal or greater quality than the Apple Product.
My first trip took me to Fry’s out in Renton, Washington. Fry’s was an embarrassment, they barely had any products whatsoever. So I plotted my next trip, which a few days later took me to the airport Best Buy in Portland, Oregon. They had everything! I was euphoric. I tried out more than what I was just looking at, and must say some of the tablet options are creeping into replacing laptop options real soon! But I then refocused and aimed back at my main goal, finding out the build quality of the Acer and Asus. This ended up being instant. I touched the Acer and it was, as Steve Jobs would say, “shit”.
Honestly I was shocked by Acer. Maybe they’re just aiming for a low price point, but after touching the device and feeling the horrid quality I immediately dropped it from the running, regardless of how much lower the price might be. As with my priorities above, price is the last concern at #5, I’m not going to settle for a crappy build quality because I’d pay dearly for it later. Why?
The reason why I want something strong & sturdy is because of several things.
I ride a bike on a regular basis and whatever laptop I have needs to survive the bump and grind of the bike commute, the bike runs & errands, and other outings around urban areas. The laptop will be bumped and flung around in my messenger bag, I don’t want to pull out a dead laptop.
I walk, take transit, and generally will up and climb to a lofty rock overlooking a shoreline to have a better area to work and think. Sometimes, I might stumble, trip, or otherwise impact the device. Thus, see above reason on not removing a dead device from my pack.
While working in coffee shops, bars, conferences, or other activities the laptop will be pulled from my pack on a regular basis. While in my pack it’ll probably end up getting kicked, nudged, dropped, or otherwise inadvertently abused. Again, I don’t want a dead device in my pack.
Narrowed to Two
Alright now the battle truly begins. The Asus on one hand and the Macbook Air on the other.
The second thing I decided on was that I’d go with only the 13.3″ devices. They have greater options around storage and processor speed, so it seemed like a good path.
I pulled up the spec sheets on both of these machines. After a thorough review the two biggest glaring differences amounted to these features:
Macbook Air: 1440×900 versus Zenbook UX31: 1600×900
Macbook Air: USB 2.0 versus Zenbook UX31: USB 3.0
This is a bit of a weird one. All I can say, is that those that have tested the thing have said the Zenbook doesn’t measure up battery wise.
Macbook Air: 7+ hours versus Zenbook UX31: probably not 7+ hours
This is actually a big problem for me, as the Zenbook actually runs Win7 and Linux support for all devices is a little questionable. I know for a fact that OS-X runs flawlessly on the Air and outperforms Windows 7 in about every aspect of performance. So I really want to be confident that I can run OS-X or Linux as the core operating system and then either virtualize or dual boot into Win7.
These devices are really close, but in almost every measurement the Air comes out slightly ahead in some way or manner. In addition I have the odd requirement of not wanting Windows 7 as my primary operating system. After researching “Zenbook+Linux” and “Zenbook+Ubuntu” it sounds like getting Windows 7 off of the Zenbook and getting Linux running on it is problematic at this point. I’m sure that in 3-6 months Linux will probably outperform and outlast Windows 7 on the device, however now that isn’t the situation.
In other little ways the Macbook Air still has a slightly higher quality also. The power adapter and magnetic connector are less troublesome than most other laptop style power adapter connections. Basically every single thing, once you use it for a while, seems to have a purpose or intent behind the design.
However I will add, that the Asus is of extremely high quality, the absolute highest for a dedicated Windows 7 Laptop. If all somebody wants is a Windows 7 machine with no concern for OS-X or Linux than the Asus is your only real option. The higher resolution almost sent me to get a Asus and is absolutely a big advantage for Win7 on the device. But if you’re still wanting the absolute top tier quality, features, and capabilities for a device that is this elegant and sexy, the Macbook Air is still the prize.
With that, I’m off to determine my purchase options.
I’ve been using a Mac for a couple of months now. My employer purchased a few for us coders to try out, and I’ve become spoiled. I rarely want to use my other machines now, as they seem cumbersome and inefficient. Mainly from a hardware perspective, as the OS itself seems to have plusses and minuses versus Windows 7. But slowly I’m becoming easily as productive, and more, on OS-X as I was on Windows 7. The biggest thing is, OS-X seems to just work the vast majority of the time. In addition, I can dig into parts of it that seem impossible on Windows. In addition, I have almost the entire Unix Ecosystem to play with, which dwarfs the Microsoft Windows Ecosystem by greater proportions than I ever realized. The biggest thing I like about the Mac however boils down to two things:
The Hardware – Simply, the hardware is superb. There is nothing else like it on the market. The single molded body, the touchpad, the keys, everything works better than any laptop I’ve ever used. I’m not saying that as someone that’s used one or two laptops either, I’ve literally used dozens upon dozens of laptops over the years. I regularly try out new ones, and nothing comes close.
The platform OS-X/Linux – Sometimes it may seem like they’re underpowered, this is often a complaint I’ve heard. But considering the efficiencies that OS-X/Unix/FreeBSD/Linux provides, a 4 GB Machine with a simple spindle drive compared to an 8 GB Machine with an SSD running Windows 7 will often perform much better. I have as well as others have benchmarked the Mac Book Pro against multiple Dell Machines, and I’ve seen it done with others, and simply – the operating system gives the Mac an advantage. My suggestion to Microsoft – drop windows and just start building a nice UI on top of a Unix variant like FreeBSD or Linux. It’ll serve Microsoft AND the community better.
I know after using this machine, that by the end of the year I will be primarily using Ubuntu and OS-X for almost everything I’m doing – including most likely .NET Development. I however still get the strong feeling that I’ll have a Win7 Machine Floating about and readily available.
As for my morale, it is super high these days building software! A passion indeed. In the future, I’m suspecting about 6-8 months, I’ll have a few announcements regarding improving morale. Until then, cheers! 🙂
I recently did a clean install of Windows 7 64-bit. It had been a really long time since I listed the current tools, SDKs, and frameworks that I’ve been using. Thus here’s my entourage of software that I use on a regular basis that is installed on my primary development machines.
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