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My design & development hardware setup

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Date: 01/10/2020

I realized today that I haven’t actually shared my hardware setup for design & development, so I thought I’d do a little writeup this morning before a couple calls and errand-running today. Without further ado, here’s the configuration.

Windows Design & Development Hardware

My Windows setup is probably the “biggest”. I’m running an Asus VivoBook Pro N705FD with 32gb RAM, Intel Core i7-8565U, a 512gb SSD and a 1tb traditional platter HD. While it has nVidia discrete graphics, I rarely game on this machine (except when the office decides to have a game day), mostly relying on it for the Photoshop performance boost. I’ve got 2 Dell U2451 Ultrasharp 24″ monitors tied to a Targus USB3 dock, a Coolermaster SK630 keyboard, and a Logitech MX Vertical mouse.

Let’s talk about the specifics here.

You’ve got HOW MUCH ram on your design & development computer?

Yeah, 32gb of RAM may seem excessive, but hear me out.

I do a lot of multi-tasking, and frequently hop between Photoshop, Lightroom, Illustrator, and even occasionally video work (although that’s usually done on my gaming rig where I record the videos). Throw on at least 3 Chrome windows with multiple tabs, VS Code, and all the other apps I use and that 32gb of RAM makes it to where I almost never have to use my swap file, which increases my overall efficiency for not much extra investment.

Monitor envy much? Yeah, I love Dell monitors.

I pretty much swear by the Dell Ultrasharp line of monitors. Well tuned from the factory, rarely any dead pixels, and as you can see, I always have my code window rotated 90 degrees to best utilize my desk and screen space. These monitors are the best bang-for-your buck, in my opinion, if you do anything where you want solid color consistency. Considering I occasionally do print design work, as well as a fair amount of photography, having color-calibrated monitors is a must-have.

My favorite design & dev input devices

I didn’t buy into the hype originally with the mechanical keyboard craze; while I grew up with old-school IBM mechanical keyboards and their loud clacking sound, I grew to love slim laptop keyboards more than anything else due to the reduced travel distance.. Especially with my arthritis.

Well, when I decided to give the low-profile cherry MX switches a try, I feel in love all over again. While accuracy suffers just a bit in some situations, they provide just the right amount of resistance for me as I type. Plus, the keyboard is damned pretty to look at.

The Logitech MX Vertical mouse is a purchase out of necessity; I actually have a regularly recurring ganglion cyst that is the bane of my right wrist; it causes pain, and the more I use it, the more it hurts. Combine that with my arthritis, and I had to switch up my mouse preferences.

The vertical mouse helps reduce the strain, meaning I can work longer and with less distraction.

I also use it on my Linux machine; I can just hit a button on the bottom and switch back and forth between the 2 computers.

With that said, lets talk about the Linux side of things!

Linux Development Hardware

After looking at the picture, you may be thinking.. “Will, you don’t have much left to describe here, do you?”

You’re right, I don’t. That’s because my Linux laptop (an Acer N17 Nitro Black edition) is just for one thing: Writing code. Let’s just list out the specs here..

 

  • NVIDIA Geforce GTX 860M 2 GB GDDR5
  • Intel Core i7 4th Gen 4710HQ (2.50 GHz)
  • 16 GB Memory 1 TB HDD
  • 17.3″ 1920 x 1080 LED-backlit IPS display
  • 16.65″ x 11.54″ x 1.00″ 6.61 lbs.
  • DVD Super Multi
  • 1 x HDMI
  • 2 x USB 3.0 2 x USB 2.0

Originally, this laptop was my gaming & design machine, and was purchased 5 years ago (minus one month). After a while, it saw less use once I built a new desktop machine. I’d use it when out and about, or if I wanted to chill out on the couch and work on something, but it basically became relegated to a backup machine and my portable DAW, but once I picked up the Asus, it basically collected dust.

That is, until I decided to throw Ubuntu on it and start using it for LAMP stack dev work.

While I’ve used WSL for a while, you just can’t beat a real Linux box when doing LAMP stack development.

I’m a bit of an old-hand at Linux; I got my start on Red Hat (back before Fedora was a thing), and then used Slackware, Debian, and a few others. I even experimented with FreeBSD & NetBSD, as well as QNX. Still, I always come back to Linux, and a Debian core is my jam (I also have a local Debian machine that I use as a local testing server that mirrors the software config of my web hosting).

Why no multiple monitors on the Linux development setup?

There are 2 reasons: One, I’m obviously running out of desk space. Two, I don’t really need another monitor.

At some point I will probably get another Dell monitor to attach to it, but really, I can fly through multiple desktops easily on Ubuntu and rarely need to have another screen pulled up while I code on it; if I need a reference (such as a mockup to look at), I’ll pull it up on the Windows machine.

As far as my multiple desktops go, the first always has a web browser, the second has Terminator (my favorite terminal emulator) split into 4 terminals, the third has VSCode, and the fourth has Filezilla. I’ll occasionally pull up another browser window on the 5th for incognito testing, but otherwise, the setup works perfect for me.

Is that all?

Pretty much. I also have a Steinberg U242 audio interface for recording (plus countless mics, some decent reference headphones, etc), some cheap Bose speakers, and an amazing Steelseries Arctic Pro Wireless headphone setup (thanks boss!) for video conferencing.

Is it a bit excessive? Perhaps, but I enjoy my setup, and it works well for my needs. Most of the hardware I was able to get on sale, or purchased piecemeal as I was able. The Asus laptop (for Windows) should last me a good long while, and should I decide to upgrade, I’ll just put Ubuntu on it and make it my new Linux dev machine. The monitors should last a good long while; I’ve actually got a nice Dell monitor on my desktop that I don’t even KNOW how old it is. That’s why you buy good quality stuff when you can; it’ll last you a long time.