Building a new development machine

Update — Brad Wilson has given me some advice about RAM and video cards, and Sean Malloy advised me away from 25ms response time LCDs, so its back to the drawing board for those. I may also change out the Zalman cooler for one from Silenx as well as a couple new case fans. The Zalman cooler is actually about the same in terms of cost and noise, but the Silenx one doesn’t have the freaky blue LEDs in it šŸ™‚ The Silenx case fans are supposed to be really quiet, so I may upgrade to those after the fact. 

I have a little clarity now into my short to medium term future, which seems to be centered on windows development for a while. And I’m getting tired of doing all my work on my little laptop keyboard and monitor. So I want to build a desktop machine that I can use while I’m home. The only complication to it is that I want to be able to take my work with me when I go on the road. So here’s what I decided to do:

First of all, I’m going to jump on the Virtual Server bandwagon. I intend to build a PC that will allow me to do my development work in VPCs. These VPCs will live on an external 7200 RPM disk most of the time, but can be copied to my desktop machine for work when I’m home. I’ve become very pleased with the VPC style of development, especially in light of what happened to me last week. I was happily working away in VS.Net 2005 on a VPC and all of a sudden, everything locked up. I tried all kinds of things to get the VPC working again, until I finally tried to just copy the image some place else on the external drive. When this failed, I realized that my drive had failed.

No big deal at all. Peter Provost keeps a bunch of VPC images sysprepped based on our common dev environment, so I replace the hard drive, copied over a new VPC, set up the extra “stuff” that was needed, reinstalled VS.Net 2005, reloaded our dev software, and got our tests running. Start to finish of this process — 3 hours. Not bad šŸ™‚

I figure I want to build the biggest, baddest PC I can, so it will support all this VPC stuff, and will also be upgradable over time. These are the parts I chose:

I’d really love any comments about these choices. I intend this to the be the best dev PC I can build for the money, and game playing, etc is completely ancillary. If anyone has any suggestions about different components I should use, or has advice about these components, I’d love to hear it.

I’m also looking for a decent, but inexpensive, 2–port DVI/USB KVM. The Belkin one is supposed to be “less than good”, and the others are >$400 šŸ™

— bab

6 thoughts to “Building a new development machine”

  1. I would highly recommend an alternative monitor.

    Something, anything, that has a pixel response time of better than 25ms.

    I have an LCD monitor at home, 25ms 19" benq. It’s beautiful. Even now after having owned it for 9 months, I still sometimes admire the quality of the picture….

    Until I load up a game. Games just ghost too badly on it. It’s a serious distraction.

    You can get lcd’s with 8-11ms response times now, which is great for games. I don’t really play enough games for it to be that much of an issue, but the cost of models with lower response times is dropping all the time, so you might as well get one.

  2. I just built myself a new development PC. I went with the Western Digital 10,000 RPM Raptor drive. This drive is AMAZING – everything feels "snappy" on this system. Software development is all about compiling lots of generally small files, so disk I/O is the bottleneck. Go with the Raptor and you won’t regret it.

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