The Setup

I recently discovered The Setup which essentially asks 4 questions. There is a community section for links to us mere mortals so I decided to add mine for anyone interested, I always loved reading about people’s setup’s when I was at college only hoping one day I could have a cool collection of kit.

Who are you, and what do you do?

I  work for the Department of Health, UK as part of the small but effective NHS 111 programme team as the technical subject matter expert focusing on national scalable architecture, interoperability, technical readiness of providers and as a technical evangelist for the programme seeking ways to solve complex problems and risks through the use of computing. A nerd in essence, you can read more about me in the about section.

What hardware are you using?

Speed is important to me, I hate technology to get in the way of what I am trying to achieve, it’s in my DNA to use IT to solve problems not create them.

My main machine is a modified 13″ MacBook Pro, fitted with 8GB of memory, 120GB SATA III SSD drive and an optibay with the original 320GB spindle HDD. This little machine flies and handles everything I throw at it, including a few VM’s running most of the time. I have a Samsung 24″ monitor in the office and an Apple Keyboard and Mouse. I also use a Wacom Bamboo Pen and Touch for whiteboarding without the need for a whiteboard. I use it for www.khanacademy.org style video.

I also have  a self build ESXi server which has a quad core CPU, although it is a little limited on RAM at 4GB it does run a number of VM’s and ticks over quiet nicely and gives me a base infrastructure to VPN into while on the move, this machine has 1.5TB of storage.

Everything is backed up to my QNAP Storage solution. This is the one of the best purchases to date. I am really impressed with it. It currently has 4TB of storage which is more than ample and provides the level of resilience I need.

My phone is the Samsung Galaxy S III, I recently switched from HTC Sensation which was great too. The Galaxy is so fast though I can’t imagine using anything else. I have tried the iPhone but need a device that lets me switch the batteries. I bought half a dozen from ebay and have a stack of independent chargers so when I am on the go I can have all the bells and whistles turned on and not be worried about conserving battery life.

And what software?

I have a fairly comprehensive list of tools that I try to maintain. This gives me a reference in the event my machine dies and I have to rebuild and also gives others visibility of what I use. At the minute though, I spend a lot of time in Visual Studio, I use git daily for keeping everything I can under version control. I also depend on Dropbox which is basically my swiss army knife on the move.

Thunderbird is my email application of choice at the minute. I can’t seem to get on with Outlook for Mac or Apple Mail. Gmail is essential to my daily life as is Skype. Mail clients really bug me if I am honest, it wouldn’t be so bad if the corporate world wasn’t locked into the Outlook/Exchange combination.

Virtual Box is awesome too. I spin up a lot of machines using vagrant (based on virtual box) as a test bed for development, release testing, and also as a general lab to work things out on the move if I need to.

ninite.com should be mentioned in any windows users list, it takes nearly all the pain out of a complete system rebuild to be able to install all my favourite apps to the latest versions with only a few simple clicks is fantastic. It amazes me people don’t talk about it more.

What would be your dream setup?

I am not that far from it. I am tempted by the recent Retina based Mac Book Pro and a larger SSD. The machine I use though handles everything I throw at it. VM’s only need a few hundred MB of RAM to idle so I really do have a little lab on the move.

I am getting increasingly interested in the Windows 8 devices coming out, a very good open tablet that can be a real laptop when I need it to be sounds too good to be true. If it delivers it could be the device to make me switch away from a Mac back to a PC. I wouldn’t say I need OSX for anything mentioned on this write up and am more than happy to use VM’s for *nix goodness.

I always seem to have setup envy when I look at the tools and equipment Scott Hanselman uses so I may see which way he goes in terms of next hardware purchases.