February 12, 2010 7 Comments
Years ago, I decided to move my SQL Server and Visual Studio work into Virtual Machines. The impetus was to make it easier for me to quickly create and maintain specific environment for specific projects and clients.
You see before I went virtual, I would load the latest and greatest version of a tool or application on my laptop. Sometimes I would keep a couple of revisions back, too. And as storage space became an issue, I would uninstall the oldest version to make room. However this technique effectively made it very difficult for me to support clients that still used older versions.
Enter Virtual Machines
So, I decided to move my entire development, administration, and presentation environment to virtual machines. This would allow me to have self-contained and dedicated environments that I could copy off to cheap external storage as drive space dictated.
I started with VirtualPC, but that proved to be lacking in many ways so I quickly moved to VMWare Workstation. It was good. I liked it. It met my needs.
With all of my SQL and development stuff in virtual machines, I soon realized that the only activities that I used my host operating system for was email, browsing the web, and blogging. And I could do that in most any operating system I wanted. I was no longer tied to Windows as my only choice.
I had had some previous experience with Linux and found it to be pretty user friendly, as stable as Windows, and faster than Windows on a given set of hardware. So I made the switch. Linux became my operating system of choice. That was four years ago; I’ve since blogged about the virtualization setup here.
Using Linux has been a good experience. It’s fast, free, and I haven’t had to worry about viruses, trojans, and the like. Those who have the knowledge to write those kinds of destructive programs typically use their skills to make Linux better not tear it down.
But Linux is no nirvana; there have been some bumps along the way. Sometimes a kernel upgrade will cause the sound to stop working or the window manager to freak out and not display anything. The Linux community is great and usually these issues take only a couple of hours to resolve.
Apart from upgrades there are some other relatively minor inconveniences when using Linux. One is that many applications won’t run on Linux. iTunes is a good example of this; there are Mac and Windows versions of the application but Linux users are left out in the cold. (Some have successfully gotten some Windows versions of applications to run in Linux using Wine but that’s a non-trivial ordeal.) Fortunately, there are frequently very good Linux equivalents to these applications. Another annoyance is that there maybe some incompatibility with other software applications. For example OpenOffice does a very poor job with Office 2007 file formats.
These annoyances have relatively minor over the years. And I believe better than running the traditional Windows operating system. However this time when it came time to replace my laptop, I decided to “Think Different”. I bought a MacBook Pro.
I’ve had it a week now and even though I’m a complete newbie, it’s been a very pleasant experience. The learning curve hasn’t been steep. The hardware is solid, the software is intuitive, and the graphics are great.
I’m still getting use to some of the ways that Macs do things. For example, clicking on the X doesn’t actually close the application, only the window. I’m an avid user of keyboard shortcuts and there are some different mappings on the Mac. I’m still getting use to those. My MacBook Pro doesn’t have the Home, End, PageUp and PageDown keys and that is taking quite a bit of getting use to.