Home > Musings, Personal, Software > Joining The Dual Monitor Club: Getting a New Computer: The Ultimate Developer Rig

Joining The Dual Monitor Club: Getting a New Computer: The Ultimate Developer Rig

June 23rd, 2008

In this picture: My Charles Babbage mug, books: Domain Driven Design, the Ruby Programming Language, the Definitive Guide to JavaScript, my Evoluent VerticalMouse, and lots of Red Rain empties.

One of my biggest pet peeves is trying to efficiently complete development work on a slow machine. In my mind, trying to work quickly on a slow computer is like asking a marathon runner to wear snowshoes then demanding they WIN the marathon. What ensues, is painful for the runner, painful for all who watch, and reaching the end goal feels impossible – bottom line good equipment matters. However, many client’s overlook the relationship between getting stuff done and a slow machine, or they don’t care, or they can’t do anything about it.

Maybe they find it thrilling (in some sick way) to watch your soul fizzle away as you spend 300 minutes a day compiling your application (or running your tests). :)

In great organizations slow machines aren’t an issue. According to the The Programmer’s Bill of Rights: “Every programmer shall have a fast PC”, and from the Joel Test: “[Organizations should] use the best tools money can buy?” But reality is often a different beast, and in my experience you have to make the changes you want (or “be the change you want to see…” – Gandhi).

I’m sure in Silicon Valley, good computers would be mandatory for most organization, but I live in Canada – we suffer through black flies, mosquitoes, 8 months of winter, and organizations with poor resources. :) Did you know that Canada’s population is roughly equivalent to the population of the state of California alone!?

Anyhow, I started working from home full-time this year – up to this point most of my work has been done onsite using whatever machine the client provided (some with outdated hardware). My home desktop was a six year old PC that would make Frankenstein look sexy – it was a collection of old and new parts. I needed a new computer.

I based my specs on Jeff Atwood’s and Scott Hanselman’s specs for the Ultimate Developer Rig. The machine turned out to be economical, the prices have come down significantly since the initial post was published, and to top it all off, I was able to chop shop my old machine and sell every single part through eBay and Kijiji – for a surprisingly decent price too (who would have thought a 6 year old Sound blaster Audigy would sell for $50?).

Contrasting my setups:

Then Now
Processors Two 32bit AMD MP 1.2GHz Quad Core 64bit 2.4GHz
RAM 3.5 GB 8 GB
Monitor(s) A single 17″ Two 22″ Samsung SyncMaster 226BWs
Personal Pain Points Excruciatingly painful Occasionally painful (only Vista induced)

Working on my new machine is enjoyable. I find myself more productive without being distracted by the frustration of a slow machine, and having dual monitors also contributes to my productivity (Does More Than One Monitor Improve Productivity?). My favourite parts of the new setup are the monitors, the Ergotron stand, the speed, and the case. You really get what you pay for with LCD monitors, the SyncMasters are easy on the eyes when compared to my old economic Acer, and the case is dead silent.

In the future, if I’m provided with a substandard PC, you can expect to see me hauling my new machine into the office. :)

Take a look at my old desktop setup in my older post: Something About the Cobbler’s Children Having No Shoes

Have you ever had to use an outdated machine as a developer? How does working on a slow machine effect your work? What are your thoughts on taking matters into your own hand (like purchasing your own computer to replace the slow one at work)? Have you ever installed additional resources in the computer you use at work?

Author: Adam Kahtava Categories: Musings, Personal, Software Tags:
  1. Andrew Hinde
    June 23rd, 2008 at 05:54 | #1

    Hey Adam, that’s an awesome setup you have. I love the monitor setup with one horizontal and one vertical. Do you find that’s better than having both horizontal?

  2. Devin Parrish
    June 23rd, 2008 at 05:54 | #2

    Wow, what a drastic difference from your last setup! Dual monitors are definitely a nice feature, I don’t think I could ever go back to just one.
    Sometimes I would have to resort to coding on my laptop, which is an IBM T23 (1.13ghz, 256mb RAM), and it got pretty painful with some of my larger projects, so I know what you mean when you’re talking about how frustrating it can be to develop on a slooooowwwww machine.
    Enjoy the new system!

  3. Adam Kahtava
    June 24th, 2008 at 05:55 | #3

    @Andrew,
    Having one monitor horizontal and the other vertical seems to be the best configuration. I typically do my development work in the horizontal and leave browsers and documents open in the vertical monitor.

    I also like having both monitors vertical, but MSFT’s Virtual PC doesn’t support all screen sizes. I’m looking into VMWare and if I can get any screen resolution and a 64bit application then I’m making the change.

    @Devin,
    Slow machines are the bane of my existence. :) These days I find myself choosing what work I’ll take, based on the resources the client will provide. Companies that skimp out on resources for developers usually skimp out in other areas too.

  4. December 15th, 2010 at 21:20 | #4

    For me possessing a computer monitor which delivers an IPS panel is necassary. I do tons of image editing and graphic design, consequently having precise colours is very important. It goes without mention the viewing angles of IPS panels are far better. My cousin owns a TN panel display and you are unable to even tilt your head without the colors changing. Hopefully OLED displays will come soon. They can even make IPS monitors seem inadequate.

  5. Ryan
    May 31st, 2012 at 14:01 | #5

    Hi, I’m looking at doing the same thing, I’m a GIS student so having two monitors is must. What monitors and what stand did you use? I don’t want to buy two monitors and have them not fit the stand – heard there have been some problems with some companies.

  6. Adam Kahtava
    June 1st, 2012 at 07:24 | #6

    I’m using an Ergotron (http://www.ergotron.com/) stand and two Samsung SyncMaster 226BW monitors. I purchased these monitors in 2008. If I was buying monitors today I’d buy something larger, but my 22″ monitors are still working fine.

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