What Do You Develop On?

Posted by Stuart Herbert on September 11th, 2009 in Toolbox.

At work, we have quite a variety of kit that we use for development:

  1. 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.
  2. Various laptops, a fair mix of MacBook Pros and other kit running Linux.
  3. Virtual machines running on the desktops and laptops, used for cross-browser testing.
  4. 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.

And how do your websites run on a netbook? Too much Javascript, and the pages won’t be snappy. The CPU won’t keep up, and the different latencies and throughput of mobile broadband make round-trips back to the server much more noticeable. Javascript that fires at regular intervals (e.g. rotating marketing spotlight images) can force the CPU to switch execution speeds, and so drain the netbook’s battery much quicker.

Testing on a netbook is one way you can spot and deal with these problems before your customers do.

Stuart is running a course in Manchester in October immediately before the PHPNW09 conference on how to setup and organise your PHP developers to ensure things run smoothly for you and your customers. Learn more about the course, or sign-up now.

No Comments

  1. Sudheer says:
    September 11th, 2009 at 2:44 pm

    We use Intel and AMD based desktops and notebooks. We run Linux on all of them. Fedora on desktops and laptops and CentOS on servers. We run Windows on top of hypervisors for testing.

  2. Sudheer says:
    September 11th, 2009 at 2:44 pm

    We use Intel and AMD based desktops and notebooks. We run Linux on all of them. Fedora on desktops and laptops and CentOS on servers. We run Windows on top of hypervisors for testing.

  3. Olly says:
    September 11th, 2009 at 4:49 pm

    I really like your idea with testing on a netbook, especially with battery life in mind (screen real estate is an issue you got on mobile phones as well).
    Bad enough that I’m getting annoyed with some sites that make the fans on my notebook run, but with a netbook, it must be worse.

  4. Olly says:
    September 11th, 2009 at 4:49 pm

    I really like your idea with testing on a netbook, especially with battery life in mind (screen real estate is an issue you got on mobile phones as well).
    Bad enough that I’m getting annoyed with some sites that make the fans on my notebook run, but with a netbook, it must be worse.

  5. Pierre says:
    September 11th, 2009 at 5:54 pm

    MacBook, Zend Server CE, MySQL, Eclipse + PDT (native on MacOS).

  6. Pierre says:
    September 11th, 2009 at 5:54 pm

    MacBook, Zend Server CE, MySQL, Eclipse + PDT (native on MacOS).

  7. Carlos says:
    September 11th, 2009 at 7:21 pm

    I’m one of those people owning such a “1.6GHz Atom processor, 1 GB of RAM and a 10? 1024×600 resolution screen” small boxes and I must say I’m so happy of having it. It gives you lots of freedom.

    These nice machines are surprisingly well-fitted for web development when running on Windows XP. When I return to any “standard laptop”, it just feels “heavy and clumsy”…

    In my netbook I just run my own Apache-MySQL-PHP-Perl-Python-Ruby stack, plus Photoshop-Dreamwever-Flash CS3 and UltraEdit 13 as main text editor, all working in harmony.

  8. Carlos says:
    September 11th, 2009 at 7:21 pm

    I’m one of those people owning such a “1.6GHz Atom processor, 1 GB of RAM and a 10? 1024×600 resolution screen” small boxes and I must say I’m so happy of having it. It gives you lots of freedom.

    These nice machines are surprisingly well-fitted for web development when running on Windows XP. When I return to any “standard laptop”, it just feels “heavy and clumsy”…

    In my netbook I just run my own Apache-MySQL-PHP-Perl-Python-Ruby stack, plus Photoshop-Dreamwever-Flash CS3 and UltraEdit 13 as main text editor, all working in harmony.

  9. Shaun says:
    September 18th, 2009 at 6:13 am

    I’m running Windows 7 on a Lenovo laptop with an Intel Core 2 Duo processor. For development I use CakePHP with WAMP, Dreamweaver, Photoshop, and some Firefox plugins (HTML Validator, Firebug and Live PageRank).

  10. Shaun says:
    September 18th, 2009 at 6:13 am

    I’m running Windows 7 on a Lenovo laptop with an Intel Core 2 Duo processor. For development I use CakePHP with WAMP, Dreamweaver, Photoshop, and some Firefox plugins (HTML Validator, Firebug and Live PageRank).

  11. rikoriko says:
    March 6th, 2010 at 10:30 am

    I Use WAMP as virtual machine, also Photoshop, PHP Designer, NP++, and FF plugins for developers.

  12. rikoriko says:
    March 6th, 2010 at 10:30 am

    I Use WAMP as virtual machine, also Photoshop, PHP Designer, NP++, and FF plugins for developers.

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