At work, we have quite a variety of kit that we use for development:
- Cheap and cheerful desktop machines w/ multiple monitors and plenty of RAM, normally with AMD CPUs. These machines mostly run some form of Linux … Ubuntu and Debian are both popular.
- Various laptops, a fair mix of MacBook Pros and other kit running Linux.
- Virtual machines running on the desktops and laptops, used for cross-browser testing.
- Virtual machines running on HP servers and blades, used for system testing, release testing and production.
It gives us a lot of flexibility, allows us to develop and test on standards-compliant environments (but still use Windows for testing IE), and most of the time the developer is the bottleneck not the equipment 🙂 Recently, I’ve added both a netbook and an Atom-based mini-itx machine into the mix, and this blog post is my attempt to recommend that you consider doing the same.
Netbooks are incredibly popular in the wider computer-owning population. Over here in the UK, they come free with many mobile broadband packages, making them cheaper than many low-end laptops. They’re sold in the supermarket and the high street. Their small form factor and relative lightweight makes them appealing to people who would never willingly cart a traditional laptop around. And they run Windows, which most people are familiar with.
After an initial explosion of innovation, the specs have settled around a 1.6GHz Atom processor, 1 GB of RAM and a 10″ 1024×600 resolution screen. That’s not a lot of power, and it isn’t a lot of screen estate. How do your websites look on a netbook? Does your home page or your landing pages make an impact at that size, or is your site’s message partially or completely below the fold? How do the rest of the pages look? If you’re creating an app, does the user have enough of a working area to comfortably do their tasks? Try using Google Reader or Zimbra on a netbook to see examples of what to avoid.
Testing on a netbook is one way you can spot and deal with these problems before your customers do.
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