It was time to retire my ASUS laptop, and as has become my tradition these last few years, I hit the local Best Buy to see what I could replace it with. I'm not much of a hardware guy, so I went in with basic requirements: i7 processor, at least 8 gig of RAM, touch screen and a big 'ol hard drive. I really wanted a touch pad with physical buttons. Oh yeah, I'd like a 15 inch screen or smaller. For all the traveling we do, it's still not enough to warrant an ultralight machine. Better to save a few bucks and not buy super skinny (which would spend nearly 100% of the time sitting on my desk).
All the usual players had laptops that fit my basic specs. I suppose if there was anything new to check out it was the plethora of 2 in 1 machines. Most of which are laptops that allow their screen to fold all the way back to create a crude tablet. While admittedly sexy, I don't lounge with my work laptop, so I can't really justify buying one of these bad boys. It's plain vanilla for me, as that's what I need on a day-to-day basis.
Another option was to buy a laptop with a Solid State Hard drive. But what the heck am I going to do with a 256 Gig drive? How do people function with that little disk space, when 1 Terabyte is basically standard?
I think this is the first time in my life I've bought a new laptop and technology is essentially the same as the last one I bought. It's the same processor, hard drive, RAM and touch screen. Best Buy was offering a few laptops with with 12 Gig of RAM, which was awfully tempting. But in the end, I was won over by what appeared to be Dell's solid build quality.
And after a week of using this bad boy, I can say that Dell has delivered. The keyboard is between adequate and good. And while I'm unhappy that I couldn't get a touch pad with physical buttons (what the heck!), I've found that Dell's touch pad is working well enough. In many respects the laptop is as plain as could be, but for my purposes, that's exactly what I needed.
I continue to be amazed at how quickly I go from a blank system to functioning work device. Here's the process I went through to get up and running:
- Installed Chrome. Buh-by IE.
- Installed cygwin, and rather than messing around with package selection, I used all defaults and added subversion.
- Used subversion to check out a cygwin setup script I maintain. This cript installs all the packages I require
- Installed emacs. I've found this package to be an ideal one to install on Windows
- Installed Firefox
- Created my 5 Firefox profiles
- For each Firefox profile I customized the theme (this makes telling the profile apart much easier) and installed the Lazrus Form Recovery plugin. This makes auto-filling of any and all forms a breeze. It's a must have.
- On my Dev and Dev Jr. Firefox profiles I installed Firebug, Colorzilla, Web Developer and DNS Flusher.
- Installed Picasa
- Installed Gimp
And that was it. I was now able to develop, run my business and blog--my basic laptop activities. At some point I'll need to migrate files over from my ASUS machine, but I'm not in a huge hurry to do this.
This latest setup has really made me appreciate how much of my work is in version control. In fact, the only thing on my machine besides code seems to be photos. I'm thinking maybe I'll setup all my photo to sync via Google Drive and perhaps not bother with Carbonite? Yeah, probably not a good idea.
Anyway, the Dell Inpsiron 15 is a solid machine. It won't impress your hardware friends. But it just works.