Friday, January 09, 2015

Dude. Got another Dell. So far, Loving it.

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?

In the end I picked up yet another Dell. This one is a Insprion 15 7547 (I think it's this one at BestBuy).

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:

  1. Installed Chrome. Buh-by IE.
  2. Installed cygwin, and rather than messing around with package selection, I used all defaults and added subversion.
  3. Used subversion to check out a cygwin setup script I maintain. This cript installs all the packages I require
  4. Installed emacs. I've found this package to be an ideal one to install on Windows
  5. Installed Firefox
  6. Created my 5 Firefox profiles
  7. 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.
  8. On my Dev and Dev Jr. Firefox profiles I installed Firebug, Colorzilla, Web Developer and DNS Flusher.
  9. Installed Picasa
  10. 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.


  1. Anonymous4:44 PM

    Have you considered running a linux distribution? Based on the list of software you installed it seems like a more natural fit.

    1. Back in the day (say, 10+ years ago), I did run Linux exclusively. And I loved it. But, over time, I got sloppy :-).

      There's a few reasons for this:

      1. I've got a Linux box I can ssh into, so when I do need to do real Linux things I've got the ability.

      2. I need access to IE and occasionally MS Office products for my day job. So, that's typically the main sticking point. Though, these days I do almost nothing with MS Office, and my IE specific coding is getting less, and less. So maybe this is just me being lazy?

      I know what I need to do: convert one of my old laptops to Linux and fall in love with it all over again. Once I've done that, I'll probably insist on going full on Linux.

      In the mean time, my OS of choice is really emacs :-).

    2. Anonymous5:05 PM

      If you haven't run linux in 10 years you are in for a treat. I use Ubuntu for work these days, but I have been using linux as my primary for more than 10 years. Almost any distro you pick is a joy to install, use, and manage compared to a decade ago.

      The fact that I haven't had to do any manual X configuration in at least 5 years should mean a lot if you haven't used linux in a long while. You can even run modern distros from a live DVD to test hardware compatibility before doing a full install to hard disk.

      For IE support, MS provides free virtual machine images at that let you run any version of IE in a free VM on linux. I use VirtualBox and these images all the time to test IE rendering and behavior.

      You could run MS Office in a VM also if it is an occasional thing, but if you use it heavily I could see wanting to stick with Windows for that.


    3. > The fact that I haven't had to do any manual X configuration in at least 5 years should mean a lot if you haven't used linux in a long while.

      Ahhh, yes, manual X config. Back in the day when there were warnings about physically damaging your hardware. Good times.

      > For IE support, MS provides free virtual machine images at

      Good point. I use these for testing out old versions of IE, it didn't occur to me that I could also use these for testing out the latest version of IE.

      > You could run MS Office in a VM also if it is an occasional thing,

      Also an excellent point. Given how often I need to do this, a virtual machien would probably work.

      You know, I think you're right - I should be running Linux on my desktop.

      Do people still partition machines? The new Dell I bought should have enough space for me to install both Windows and Linux. I suppose I could wipe the Windows install (which as I noted above, wasn't terrifically hard to setup). Though, I'm not sure I want to make that much of a commitment. Though, that would also be like the old days :-).

      Definitely inspiring stuff!

  2. In three years, consider cruising microcenter, in Vienna.selection is awesome, and prices are surprising, in a good way.

    1. Hilary -

      It's been years since I've been in Microcenter. I recall walking in their the first time and being blown away by the selection. However, over time I became less and less impressed with them - I'm not sure what it was.

      In the mean time, Best Buy has gotten easier and easier to buy from. No more hard sell on the warranty. The ability to return the machine with no questions asked and no fees within 2 weeks. Hassle free amazon price matching(!). And of course, super convenient locations.

      I know at some level I should want to support Microcenter over Best Buy, but at the end of the day, Best Buy has earned my business.

      Perhaps next laptop I'll check out Microcenter; maybe I'll get that warm fuzzy feeling.