Your Development Environment

When I first started working in “the real world”, I had a development environment which I’d describe as typical: average Dell computer and peripherals, one monitor, Windows XP with all my applications installed, including VS2003 and VS2005. I’m sure

Last year, when I struck out on my own to start Plastiscenic, I knew I needed an upgrade. For starters, my XP install was grinding to a halt. But I was also concerned about the way all of my interests were intermingling – games, hobby stuff and professional stuff all on the same installation. That felt pretty bad to me, not least because Windows XP gets very sluggish after a few months with lots of programs installed.

I purchased an Intel Q6600 with 4Gb of RAM, and a 10k RPM boot drive. That was stage one. I set up two monitors on a bigger desk with a lamp on it to reduce any strain on my eyes. I installed Vista 64 Business Edition, which I felt was a better match for the hardware than XP. The core setup was there, but there was still a key component missing.

VMWare provided the answer. By creating a stripped down Windows XP installation I had a fast virtual machine to install development software on. I had another VM for SQL Server. These trim virtual machines could be backed up with ease, and moved offsite if need be. If my main machine died, I only had to reinstall a basic environment and VMWare Player to become productive again.

In a larger team of developers, such virtualisation software provides even more options. An administrator could provide base images which can be served across a network, giving developers tailored environments within a few clicks. This is good for testing too – prepare images for a multitude of operating systems for pre-production testing of a desktop application.

I believe virtualisation will become even more popular over the next few years, giving us more opportunities to create sandboxed environments which can be run at the click of the mouse. 

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4 Responses to Your Development Environment

  1. +1 for VMware, without it many teams (ours included) would be suffering.

    We have over 40 development virtual machines, many of which are clones of a baseline Windows Server 2003 environment. The way we’ve built our base images (which we just sysprep the drive and make copies of it when we deploy a new VM) allows us to deploy a new test or staging environment within an hour (instead of days). We also feel no pain when we destroy the environment on a whim when it is no longer needed.

    Virtualization on the desktop is another win. A lot of times, particularly in a larger organization, you get strapped by the corporate IT with bizarre policies that make it impossible to get work done. By having a subdomain for all the development machines, a development group can have greater control over their build, deployment and testing strategies — all without the pain of domain group policy and login scripts ending up on test servers. The desktop virtualization story just makes it easier to develop on your local machine (Visual Studio 2005 isn’t even on my host OS, but that’s probably because there isn’t an OSX version of it yet!).


  2. Sara says:

    VMWare is good if used correctly. it does NOT replace source control. Don’t scoff, I’ve seen it.

  3. Wow, I thought I was reading a post about myself. I got the Sager NP9261 with the same specs. Vista has however been a disappointment. Once my current gig is over I plan on wiping it for Win Server 2003 or 2008 perhaps.

    Virtualization, can say enough good about it.

  4. Mark Nijhof says:

    You should really try out Microsoft Server 2008 Hyper-V for your development servers. Not sure about using it for desktop environment’s, just haven’t tried it.