Ditching the Tablet: Windows 8 Revives Netbooks

Soon before Windows 8 tablets became available I wrote about my selection process, focusing on some of the key decisions that helped narrow my choices. This was largely a consideration of WindowsRT on ARM vs. Windows on Atom vs. Windows on i-Series processors. My first few weeks with this device have been a mixed bag. I’ve now returned the tablet, replacing it with a Netbook. I can’t say I saw any of this coming, so I thought it might be good to write about the issues I faced between the time that I decided on a Samsung ATIV Smart PC Pro and when I finally returned it after eight weeks. I’ll also revisit my criteria with some hands-on experience under my belt and consider how Ultrabooks/Netbooks with touch compare to ARM/Atom tablets for price/functionality/components, and how Windows 8 itself is disruptive to hardware refresh patterns. Although this post roams a bit, I hope it’s joined up by some common threads of unexpected/disruptive effects of Windows 8.

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Choosing a Windows 8 Tablet

Note: since writing this, I’ve changed my view on a few of these requirements, and returned the machine I selected. I’d suggest reading this second post for more information.

Since the first Windows 8 devices were announced and I had a chance to work with the Developer Preview I’ve been looking forward to the day when I could get my mits on a Windows 8 tablet. During that time, my thoughts about what I really want have crystalised somewhat. There’s been plenty written about the new OS and the devices that will launch at or near General Availability this Friday, but there seems to be a dearth of comparative information other than some useful reference materials. As I see it, these materials are excellent once you know what you want, but they don’t really help you get there. And that’s the point of this post. I reckon someone might find it helpful to step through my thought process, even if they reach a different conclusion. This is quite subjective and somewhat rough and ready, but I often find that more useful than anything else.

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Beware of Multiple Boots with OEM Protection Tools

I aim to keep this post reasonably quick, because I’ve lost enough time to this issue already and I want to get some other posts written up soon, but this is one of those things that I should probably help raise awareness of. I foresee that this could become more of an issue in future if take-up for Native Boot from VHD solutions rises, or as people run demos from bootable removable media, etc.

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SharePoint 2010 Development Environment Performance: SSD, i5 vs. i7, WEI and Sandy Bridge

Late last year my colleagues and I tried to distil the tasks that impede SharePoint developer productivity. Then I ran those tests on EC2, Hyper-V and VMware Workstation, with the latter two virtualisation technologies running on a desktop, an older laptop and a newer laptop. In this post I hope to shed a bit of light on some follow-up testing that I’ve squeezed in to the odd hour here and there over the last six months. Unfortunately hardware availability and my schedule have not aligned to produce a further round of comprehensive tests and since I can’t see that occurring in the immediate future I’m going to fill in some gaps here with a couple of additional concrete findings, particularly regarding i5 vs. i7 testing and the impact of SSD on first page load times after application pool recycles. I’ll also talk less rigorously about a few related issues.

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Adding Drivers to Windows Deployment Services Boot Images

A while back, I posted an article on building a SharePoint development environment in Hyper-V, which included a part on automating deployment of the host machine. Although we’ve now moved to VMware Workstation, we still use this approach for automating deployment of our standard Windows 7 builds, and this commentary is generally relevant to any Windows Deployment Services (WDS) deployment.

When I learned WDS and the Windows Automated Installation Kit (which were both quite new in Windows Server 2008 R2 at the time), I contented myself with getting ~90% of the way to a fully-automated build, as the additional effort to get from 90 to 100% (mostly re: drivers) wouldn’t have paid enough immediate dividends and we needed to start capitalising on some of the other wins of our new environment. As is often the case, we never got back to that remaining 10%, but it’s become more of an issue in recent months, as we’ve added a few Dell Latitude E6410 and Lenovo W520 laptops – both of which had network drivers that the Windows 7/Windows Server 2008 R2 boot images didn’t recognise. Unfortunately the TechNet guidance on adding drivers to boot images is unclear (to me anyway), so I’m contributing this quick post to attempt to clarify the problem that we had and the simple step-by-step solution.

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SharePoint 2010 Development Environment Performance Test Results

Drum roll please! At long last, I bring you the results of a great deal of testing. Here’s the background:

I’ve said my preamble in those posts, so I’ll cut to the chase here.

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SharePoint 2010 Development Environment Performance Tests

As I indicated in my last post, I’ve been plundering the depths of SharePoint development productivity in recent months. Understanding the context established in that post is pretty essential to understanding what follows here. In a nutshell, I’m trying to improve system performance for current users of our SharePoint development environment. This is not as simple as examining the Windows Experience Index on a number of laptop models. I needed to consult with our users to identify which tasks are slow for them and devise tests that would allow me to measure system performance on different physical and virtual systems. In this post I will describe the systems, the tests and the testing process before reviewing the results.

The Tests

The 21 tests that we settled on were the result of discussions with a number of the core developers, consultants and architects at Content and Code, plus a few tests that I threw in to confirm/disconfirm some of my suppositions, such as the impact of the User Profile Service Connection on first page load time. All 21 tests were run three times for each permutation of hardware candidate and virtualisation technology. We also tested on Amazon EC2. I will discuss the testing process in more detail in a moment.

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MAC duplication issues with captured VMs and WDS

I’ve previously reported problems with MAC duplication on Hyper-V host external network connections on Windows Server 2008 R2, which I’ve never fully resolved, although we have been successfully working around the issue as detailed in the first link above.

A couple of weeks ago I was working simultaneously on my Windows Server 2008 R2 laptop with Hyper-V (the same laptop build that’s been previously mentioned) and a Windows 7 x64 build that I was using for testing, when I noticed severe but intermittent network problems on both machines. After a fair amount of head scratching, I noticed that the two laptops had duplicated MAC addresses. Blatantly that shouldn’t happen, as the whole point of a MAC address is to provide uniqueness. The most perplexing issue was that the addresses conflicted across two different operating systems. However, it happened. Both wired adapters on the two machines had the MAC address 00-21-9B-DC-8E-0B. I uninstalled the wired adapter on the Windows 7 machine and scanned for new hardware. When the device reinstalled the problem went away. Continue reading “MAC duplication issues with captured VMs and WDS”

Smart phone/MID evaluation notes

I spent a ludicrous amount of time this Spring trying to find either the perfect MID (Mobile Internet Device) or smart phone. I’m posting my (admittedly quite rough) research/evaluation notes here, as some of this may be valuable to others, even if the technical information is not as current as it could be.

In brief, I was looking for the power and display of a MID in the size of a phone – which doesn’t exist yet. I also wanted a single device for mobile internet access, phone and mp3 player. Camera was less important. Continue reading “Smart phone/MID evaluation notes”