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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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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Hyper-V video issues fixed by Windows Server 2008 R2 SP1 Beta?

Recently we’ve been considering a hardware refresh for our developer/consultant/architect laptop build (on Windows Server 2008 R2 Standard with Hyper-V). After a fair amount of deliberation we decided to pilot a new model but stumbled massively at the first hurdle: when we enabled the Hyper-V role on a new Dell Latitude E6410 we got a blue screen. Further testing revealed that the graphics driver was at fault and the SVGA driver worked fine. However, the SVGA driver only has single monitor support. Back to the drawing board.

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Hyper-V graphics performance is on the way… if you need a new laptop

Dell announced today that they are releasing Alienware and Studio laptops with Intel Core i7 processors. Why is this worth regurgitating? The Core i7 processors feature the Nehalem processor microarchitecture, which means that Hyper-V V2 (in Windows Server 2008 R2) can take advantage of SLAT (Second Level Address Translation). SLAT is implemented as EPT (Extended Paging Tables) in Intel technology and NPT (Nested Paging Tables) for AMD. Here’s Microsoft’s summary of the new Hyper-V support for SLAT: Continue reading “Hyper-V graphics performance is on the way… if you need a new laptop”