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.
Over the last couple of months I’ve been double laptoping it. I’ve had a Lenovo Carbon X1 with Windows 8 and Ubuntu dual boot configuration with 8GB RAM, 256GB SSD and i7 and I had a Mac Book Air (MBA) 8GB, 512GB SSD and i7 Proc. The MBA was my primary work machine with the Lenovo being a secondary machine that I was using to test and build Windows 8 Applications and for building native Linux services and related code work.
Windows 8 Critique
Simply, Windows 8 is one of the most broken operating systems I’ve used since Windows ME. Forget Vista, I consider it officially dethroned. Let me clarify what is and isn’t horrible about Windows 8 though. It isn’t that it technically is a bad operating system, it’s that the idea and approach that Microsoft has taken is inherently flawed at several key points.
First, having a desktop on a tablet, which is almost impossible except for all but the finest of finger pointing tablet users, is blindingly stupid. Just go into any place where there is a Windows 8 tablet user and watch them whacking away when they get into the desktop.
The Windows 8 desktop on a tablet is patently absurd for the vast majority of potential Windows 8 users.
However, the straight Metro Interface of Windows 8 (which Microsoft now calls the Windows 8 interface because of legal reasons) is magnificent for tablet usage. There are a few major things that need fixed: responsiveness related to connection state, update status and the availability of high quality applications. Once those things are fixed Windows 8 will be as competent as iOS or Android in the usability department. Until then, it’s a nice dream, with a small number of usable apps with a huge potential.
Now the desktop is the tried and true classic desktop of Windows. Thus, when you’re on a desktop machine or a laptop with a dedicated pointing device or touch screen the back and forth is fine. Matter of fact it is great! I find myself using the touch screen regularly to do a number of tasks, and hope to see its use increase more and more on a number of platforms (yo Apple, got game on this yet or not, OS-X can definitely use a touch interface).
Overall though, Windows 8 – unless you solely do Windows 8 Development, is not a reason to buy a Lenovo X1 Carbon.
Minus the touch screen, which Ubuntu has no clue what to do with except treat it like a pointer, this is how you see the real power and beauty of the Lenovo X1 Carbon. Ubuntu loads 2x faster and shuts down 2x faster than Windows 8. Comparable builds in IntelliJ, C, C++, Erlang and other compilers are regularly 1.2-3x faster than on Windows. The servers that one would build against, such as GlassFish (see this for my latest on setting up GlassFish & Java 7) are also routinely faster, more responsive and less prone to difficulty than in Windows.
So overall, if you’re going to get a Linux machine, the Lenovo X1 Carbon is a prime choice. If not one of the best. If I understand correctly, there may even be some solid Linux software out there that would make the touch screen more usable too. So if you’re adventurous you may be able to solve that one single issue that I had with Linux running on the X1.
Would I Give Up My Mac for the X1?
This is easy, the answer is absurdly simple. However I did give up the Mac Book Air I had in parallel with the Lenovo for several months, as it belonged to Basho (which I’ve departed from).
Matter of fact, even though I’ve used the laptop extensively with Ubuntu and Windows 8, I’ve just bought a new Mac Book Pro Retina 15″ to do all of my work with Ubuntu, Windows 8 and OS-X. The solidness of the MBP is untouchable compared to the X1. The screen is better, the keyboard is more consistent and easier to type on, the ghost tracking of the track pad is non-existent on the air, versus the X1 Carbon. In this case, I’d even turned off the trackpad entirely on the X1 Carbon. Simply, the X1 Carbon just doesn’t measure up to the Mac Book Pro.
Other observations I’ve made about the two machines. The Mac Book Pro is far more solid, the construction is just not even comparable. The X1 feels solid but compared to the MBP it feels cheap and flimsy. Considering the hardware works flawlessly with the software on the MBP is also no competition. The Carbon regularly needed driver updates, things would flake out and I’d have to restart. This would be prevalent in windows or linux, it didn’t matter. Fortunately a restart would fix it, but none of these issues exist on the MBP, using either OS-X or running a VM with Windows 8 or Ubuntu.
Also, even though the MBP design is over a year old now, the i7, 16 GB RAM and 512 GB SSD makes the X1 Carbon seem like a morbidly out of date, slow and antiquated device even though it is actually a newer device!
Like any good open source project, a good continuous integration server is fundamental to a smooth workflow for everyone. I’ve always been a big advocate of Team City from JetBrains. With the versatility of the their build server it could be used for Junction and prospectively more in the future as projects started up and expanded. The only issue I ran into immediately was, where can I get some resources to run Team City on?
Immediately I pinged my friend Jared Wray @jaredwray over at Tier 3 to see if there might be some options. He immediately was into the idea, being interested in the Junction Project itself and an advocate of Riak himself it was a perfect fit. Jared ok’d and the Tier 3 team got some access setup to get a Team City build server running for the Junction Project.
I dove into setting up the build server at Tier 3 and as of this moment have a solid green light showing a good build! Thanks to Jared and the Tier 3 team for helping out, we’re all looking forward to slinging some code and getting a nice open source project in Junction.
Over the next few days I’ll also be providing a number of blog entries (the final touches are getting wrapped up right now!) on how I went about setting up Team City, server issues I ran into and the troubleshooting I did to get .NET 4.5 to work specifically for the Junction Application. In the end I’ve gotten a Windows 8 Store Application, using C# building successfully on Team City using NuGet and other key features.
The review slipped past me this week. A little food poisoning will do that to a person. But I’m kicking again.
A Quick Summary
The RSS/News Feed section of the app has been built and put into action. So if you pull the latest code and run the application, navigate into the news section you’ll get the Basho Blog feed. This definitely needs cleaned up a bit from the UI perspective but the main elements are there.
Next steps are…
One of the things the team is aiming to knock out next is to get some MVVM (Mode View ViewModel) architecture setup to build against versus what we’ve started with, which is just the basic skeleton of things thrown together. It works, but it’ll be nice to have some clean architecture behind the application to work with.
I’m aiming to put together a blog entry on troubleshooting the build server for Junction and also the how-to on setting up the RSS/News Feed Reader section of the app in the coming week also. Subscribe to keep up with the latest in Junction news and also all the other tidbits on the blog. Cheers!
It’s time for another Tuesday Bi-weekly Review! We’ve been making some progress and so far we’ve tackled a few elements of the project. The first big task was to get more information out there for the community & team working on the project. I’ve spent some time along with the contributors on github and via other means to make more information available to what the intent is and how people can contribute. So if you’re interested in helping with an entire domain space or merely a small element of the application, ping me and I’ll work with you to make it as easy as possible to contribute. With that, let’s jump into what’s what and what’s new. Cheers!
We Have a Build Server, More on This Soon, but for now…
I’ll have a post on how to setup Team City and quick tour of what is setup for the Junction Project. So stay tuned and I’ll have that and other news posted as it happens this coming week along with Team City & other tutorials related to the project itself. For a quick sneak peek feel free to take a look at the build server located at: http://teamcity.cascadiahacks.org/. Just login with “guest” and no password.
More Items Listed and Working on First Feature Commits and Comments For…
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