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One Computer – A Very Strange Day

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I always felt I was "settling" for a lesser computer when using a notebook. Now the Dell Precision M4400 is literally the only computer I use – and I’m pretty demanding on a computer. The only thing that I think would have people shy away is the price. But in retrospect, I no longer need a desktop.

How demanding am I on computers? I primarily develop .NET software using Visual Studio. I don’t play video games, so the video graphics aren’t paramount for me. But as long as I can remember (at least the last 10 years) I’ve always had three computers – Home Desktop, Work Desktop, Notebook. I gave up on my work desktop less than 2 weeks after purchasing my M4400 in January 2009. Today I’m relinquishing my home desktop to my wife (to use in her work).

Before I go on I need to explain my setup. I have:

  • Quad-core
  • 8 GB RAM
  • 128 GB SSD (Solid State Drive)
  • Wintec FileMate 48GB Ultra ExpressCard (Very Fast)
  • Black Wide Screen WUXGA RGB-LED LCD (very nice 1920 x 1200 screen)
  • 2 Docking Stations (one at home, one at work)
  • Battery Slice
  • running Microsoft Windows 7

The setup of basically two SS Drives, the memory, and the processor make it very fast. I’d almost rather look at my notebook screen than my monitors at work. I had a Dell Latitude D820 before my current M4400. Here were the issues I faced:

I want quick access when I walk in the door at home. The D820 on Vista took forever to boot and didn’t like sleep mode. The M4400 is awake and ready to go in about 10 seconds on Windows 7. Goes to sleep in 4 seconds.

I want lots of disk space. I don’t need access to 1 TB of data at any single point in time, so external drives can help me augment my current ~160 GB (120 GB primary SSD and 40 GB ExpressCard) setup.

At one point I had gone 21 days without rebooting my machine. I would just put the notebook to sleep when moving about.

I run two virtual machines on my notebook (each takes about 14 GB of space) and all is well – except that it does cause the machine to heat up at times and have the fan kick in.

I used to spend lots of time making sure that I had the same files on all three of my computers (various sync programs made this almost reasonable). Of course I don’t need to do that now.

It’s not the smallest notebook I’ve owned, nor is it the largest or heaviest. It is the fastest. It does have the longest battery life (with the slice). It has the nicest screen. It has the nicest Windows OS. It is one of the most expensive I’ve owned. But if I only have 1 instead of 3… (Of course 1 of those doesn’t save me any money.)

I do also have a Windows Home Server (WHS) to backup important files like all my digital photos, but it’s really more of a file server than a "computer" that I’d sit at and do work. In addition to nightly backups I also use OneNote in a shared mode so that the primary copy is on my WHS with a copy locally. Redundant storage – even better than backups. The other main files that I use are the Visual Studio files, and of course those are backed up using Team Foundation Server (TFS).

It still seems like a very strange day. My wife is very happy with her "new" (HP Quad-Core, 8GB RAM, 1TB disk space (2x500GB), and Windows 7 Pro) machine.

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