Friday, August 1, 2014

Development Environment Revolution 2.0

Looking back, my home development setup has gone through a couple of revolutions over the years. These revolutions have resulted in some drastic changes in my home development activities.

It all started with the desktop PC - Big, bulky and fixed to one location. Developing at home often felt like a chore as you were glued to a desk usually placed in a room out of the way.

Revolution 1 - The laptop.
It was brilliant not having to be sat at a desk when developing / studying in my free time. Being able to be sat in the front room instead of stuck at a desk was a game changer for me. It made it feel a lot less like work. However, originally laptops which are desktop replacements were bricks and difficult to pick up and walk around with. You also needed some sort of tray to help keep them well ventilated underneath plus forget taking it anywhere with you unless you are prepared for a mini workout. Things are much better these days with the advent of the ultra book. I would argue that the form factor of a laptop (screen physically attached to a keyboard) is not ideal for all use cases as there are times where you do not really need a keyboard - reading an ebook or browsing the web for instance. A good move forwards but still not quite perfect.

Revolution 2 - The Tablet.
You can truly develop anywhere. In bed, in the back garden, in the car, on the train or bus. I choose to go with an 11 inch Atom powered tab. A lot of people who I have told about this have said, "Hey, you must have the i5!?" Nope - Just the Atom processor option and it's more than capable. "Can you work on such a small screen?" Yep! I can have Visual Studio open on half the screen (drop the text size 8pt and you are rocking) and a Pluralsight video / internet browser running on the other half with a workable amount of development real-estate on offer. 
I find it helps encourage me to dive in and do some coding / studying whenever I have a few moments spare as it starts up so fast compared to my previous laptops (5 second to loading up Windows - 10 seconds if you want to be coding in Visual Studio).
I would recommend getting a detachable keyboard for your tab as it will make a huge difference to your development experience - If it has an additional battery built in, all the better! It is also nice having the option of disconnecting the keyboard if you only want to use the tab for reading / browsing.
I will admit, for heavy lifting development work you may need something a bit more beefier but with cloud storage, compute and persistence options becoming much more cheaper to access, there are plenty of other options available. (Free on Azure with an MSDN license)
I dare you, take the plunge and get yourself a latest generation Windows tab as your home development environment and tell me it has not helped revolutionized the way you code / study at home.