Blowing The Budget

No sooner has the 5th of April passed than I've gone and blown my IT budget for the coming year. Not that I have an actual budget, but, if I did, it's all gone. It's more a case of I've spent enough money and really shouldn't need anything else to get me through the next twelve months.

The first thing I bought was another Mac mini. Exactly the same as the first — Intel Core Due with 2GB of RAM — but with a much bigger hard drive — 160GB over 40GB.

The first mini was always intended merely to test websites in the myriad clients available, using a combination of native browsers like Safari and others running in Parallels. This has always worked well but I found myself installing Windows/Domino servers on there as well. This is when I realised that 40GB of space isn't that much really and soon ran out of space.

With the new mini I can now dedicate the first to running client/browsers and the other can just sit there and run servers. In the past I've found that developing for some customers has involved custom server configurations and this requires a whole box be given over to the project. The two IBM servers (which you can see in this photo) have served me well over the past 7 years but there are only two of them. Now I have Parallels installed on this second mini I can have about 10 or more servers and always be running two or three at once. It's also a lot less noisy, takes up less space and reduces my carbon footprint to boot!

Year to year I find that my IT setup continually evolves. It's slowly becoming a pretty slick setup with one KVM switch allowing one monitor access to a dozen or so machines, be they real or virtual.

My window in to this world for the past 8 years has been my trust 21" Sony CRT monitor. Although it's done well to survive it is showing signs of being "on its way out". It pings on and off sometimes and there are wiggly lines coming down the screen if you look hard enough. That's why another part of my IT budget has been put on reserved for when the Samsung SM226BW 22" TFT comes on the market. It's had good reviews and should save some desk space.

The final bit of the budget went on renewing my MAPS licence. The only notable upgrade being the Vista DVD, but that's such a disappointment I'm not even going to talk about it...


  1. Well I'm happy to report that your old Mac Mini is still going strong as my media box. It is under the slave control of Synergy {Link} which means it sits totally out of the way with neither mouse nor keyboard just a display, yet I can control it from my main workstation.

    I'm still not happy about Macs as main workstations, mainly because they don't have a native Domino Client, unless you're into alternative booting or other such tweakings. But then I didn't get it to be my main work horse.

    It plays vids, DVDs and loads of anime. Plus it also runs AEGIS so I am very happy with it.

  2. Only a single monitor? granted 21/22" is a pretty sizable one but I've found 2-3 monitors so much more useful for serious development. Works well for me with a kvm as well, having one monitor switch to another box and still see two screens from the main box...

    Anyhow, I doubt I could go back to less than two monitors at this point.

  3. I can recommend the 226bw , got one for a client last week and it was a great display.

    Eaven thought of getting one myself.

    • avatar
    • Jake Howlett
    • Tue 8 May 2007 10:09 AM

    I've thought about having two monitors (which I used to do and always enjoyed) or at least having the new and old co-exist for a while, but don't think I can. My main PC is my laptop (in a port replicator, which is connected to the KVM) which won't allow dual monitors. Shame really as extended desktops are great for developing with.

    • avatar
    • Michael
    • Tue 8 May 2007 10:28 AM

    Never fear... Matrox is here. {Link}

    This little gizmo will work just fine on your video out for the port replicator. They make it for dual and three monitor setups.

    • avatar
    • Jake Howlett
    • Tue 8 May 2007 10:33 AM

    Doesn't the Matrox have to have two identical monitors attached to it?

    • avatar
    • Michael
    • Tue 8 May 2007 10:56 AM

    Apparently not Jake. It is recommended that you use identical monitors. Here's the FAQ link --> {Link}

  4. I use the Matrox DualHead 2go at work so that my laptop screen is extended to another two monitors. It doesn't necessarily require identical monitors but they will need to be able to run the same resolution, having the same size monitors is a bonus.

    It is a massive help to have three screens when doing development work. My setup usually has the IDE on one screen, Lotus Notes for email on another and browsers on the third.

    Highly recommended!

  5. what KVM do you use? I'm in need of a USB one that can handle 3+ machines.

    • avatar
    • Jake Howlett
    • Tue 8 May 2007 06:50 PM

    I use the Aten CS1734A which is 4 port and USB, although on USB 1.0, which ain't perfect, but it's great. It doesn't need a power plug which is nice too.

    • avatar
    • Cesar
    • Tue 8 May 2007 10:09 PM

    Hey Jake, don't have the details on hand but needed to share this with you: I had some stress issues and my eyes (already under laser surgery 9 years ago) were tired. So after buying a new LCD TV I liked the way my laptop showed on it, on a big screen. So I ended up buying a Sony 32" LCD that hangs un the wall, and I moved my desktop so I'm viewing it 2.5 m away. It's great, not only on my eyes but on my posture. My eye doctor gave the OK (I still use filter glasses) and I'm really enjoying work now. I have a small 17" around, but really I can't move back to normal monitors now. I'm not rich but I thought I would do it for health and to enjoy work more :)

    • avatar
    • Cesar
    • Wed 9 May 2007 09:29 AM

    Just to complete my comment, it's a Sony FWD-32LX1R. I know models vary from country to country, but you can find probably more variety there than me in Mexico.

    I'm VERY happy with that. It has good resolution, I'm not much into that as into comfort to work long hours, but this does a good job. I work in my own office but it's separated from my house, but you could use some LCDs as monitors for home. In my kids room I set up a PC and a satellite box using a BenQ LCD so they also got used very fast to see PC things in a big monitor and they love it.

    • avatar
    • Salva
    • Wed 9 May 2007 09:49 AM

    A Windows Vista certified Monitor? ensuring future proof high performance technology?

    The monitor looks good, and Samsung does build good monitors. But my bullshit detector exploded when reading some of those descriptions on Samsung's webpage (!).

    And just for the record, remember to check that colors do look right on that monitor. Many times, even bad CRTs are better than normal TFTs at color reproduction. I have an IBM TFT (ugh) and grays dissapear, reds become orange, different colors look the same...

    Of course, if I just used the computer for Office and browsing the Internet, I wouldn't notice it much. But developing webpages, you must be sure how the design looks before you implement it!!

    • avatar
    • Jake Howlett
    • Wed 9 May 2007 09:54 AM

    Good point Salva. Colour reproduction is another reason I am tempted to run a CRT and a TFT at the same time.


  6. I have to agree with Rich. I could never go back to single monitor layouts for development. I run two DELL 17" flat panels at work off of my docking station (one DVI, one SVGA) and at home I have two Dell 2005 FPW's for displaying any of four machines through a KVM and Synergy for serious fun.

    I'll definitely be looking at that matrox gizmo as I'd love to extend the laptop monitor to the two 2005 FPWs - that would be a huge amount of desktop realestate for coding at home.

  7. Jake

    Dont know if you got the 226BW, but I have just seen an advert for PC world (spit) and they are 229.99 delivered or 224.99 collect from store and they seem to have them in a number of stores.

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