My Campaign Monitor Adventure – Update

My new year started with some updates on the job front.

On Sunday I received a very friendly email from the CM OPS team. It’s time for me to pick the hardware I will need for my job.

Well… need … I should say want.

One of the coolest benefits of working here is you get to choose your own computer setup! You are free to choose anything [ed: my highlight] from Dell, Lenovo or Apple.

To give you an idea, the other members of the Development Team are using Dell and Apple laptops, mainly running Windows with some using OS X.

Also, let me know if you have any favorite keyboard or mouse brand so we can order that, too!

I’m too sensible about my needs to see how far “anything” stretches… but based on my experiences so far, I have no doubt that if I make a cogent argument for a Dell Precision M6800 with i7-4940MX, 32GB memory, Nvidia Quadro K5100M, 17″ Multi-Touch screen, 1TB RAID-0 SSD, and dual 24″ monitors, at $6,747.87 it would be there waiting for me on day 1.

Not that I’d want RAID-0 anywhere near a Dev machine, or that I’d feel comfortable with that much power overkill in a laptop. I bet the battery would be flat in the blink of an eye.

And then this afternoon, Niclas (the recruiter) gave me a quick update on the move as well. It sounds like the CBD office will be ready somewhere between mid-to-end February.

I guess that means another 2-4 weeks off if I want… oh… the horror!
I checked to see if they have room for me to commute to Sutherland for a few weeks if I go stir-crazy from my time off, and that was fine too. So I guess I’ll weigh up pros and cons to make a call by February.

All in all, they have been very flexible and accommodating with my nebulous starting date of “When You Are in the CBD“, which I appreciate greatly.

Now, back to Dell to pick a more sane set-up.

Day 234 – Siren Song

Last day of the week arrived just in time.
Although a day that consists of meetings from 10am – 4pm is not exactly the ideal way to end the week. I choose to focus on the ending rather than the means-by-which.

I had hoped to spend some time at Wet’n’Wild to disconnect the working week from the non-working weekend, but the weather had other plans. As I was driving to the park I got stuck in traffic, spotted lightning on the horizon, and had a downpour start on me.

When I got to the park, the gates were closed and people were leaving in droves. I waited a while with my friends to see if the situation would improve, but the lightning kept the park shut for 45 minutes after I arrived at which point I gave up. By that stage there were already only 23 cars left in the parking lot. I’d never seen it that deserted before.

Had the park re-opened, it’d have been an awesome way to end the week, even having to brave the rain. Having the park all to ourselves would have meant unlimited rides without queues. I would heartily recommend that experience, even at the price of a bit of rain or wind.

Instead I headed home.

And I moved the last vestiges of my Ativ 700 onto the XPS 15. One machine down, one more to consolidate. 15″ already doesn’t look as large as it did when I first got it. Maybe I’ll have a chance over the weekend to bring the contents of my PC across as well. Then it’ll be eBay time for both.

I need to make sure I don’t let myself be tempted by this PCs siren-song though. I really need to get a good night’s sleep so that I’m fresh for the gym. Too often before have I experienced “lost time” at the hand of my latest gadgets.

Day 232 – Inbetween Machines

Dell outdid themselves. Under-promise, over-deliver, indeed!
They quoted me 5-6 business days from the Outlet Store when I placed my order on Monday. This Wednesday evening I’m in possession of a shiny new XPS 15 (slightly refurbished (allegedly, because I cannot tell that it’s ever been out of its box before)).

Between the arrival of a new laptop and the usual Wednesday festivities it’s already very late as I write this, so I’m going to keep it brief. The only things I will say is: 15″ laptop looks huge after using 11″ for such a long time, and Cards Against Humanity remains the most inappropriate party game ever invented.

Hopefully I can manage to consolidate all my personal computing into this one new machine over the weekend.
And try a game or two, to see how it performs, since that’s been the biggest wild-card in the whole decision.

Day 207 – Crumpling

Today I got a new bag.
A very multi-functional bag.

It’s a Crumpler!

If it’s not a Crumpler, it’s simply not worth having.

I had a great time looking around the store, and being wowed by the knowledgeable staff. Some of the bags Crumpler produces contain so many secret hide-aways and neat tricks that you might own one for a decade and never realise its full potential.

One of the bags demonstrated had a cleverly reversible diagonal shoulder strap, which also allows the bag to be swung around onto your stomach where the side pocket suddenly is a top pocket, and immediate access to camera equipment is possible.

So many tempting goodies, but I needed something more specific.

I want a bag that’ll fit camera gear. I want a bag that’ll fit up to a 15″ laptop. I want a bag that’ll hold some clothes for travel when needed. I want it all!

Weighted Toy Equipment to Try Pockets
Weighted Toy Equipment to Try Pockets

I know all about laptop sizes, but I forgot to think ahead on camera sizes. Luckily the store manager was very knowledgeable herself. But she also had a handy box of fake camera shapes ready. Quickly screwing a large “lens” onto a D6-ish “body” quickly proved which bags were roomy enough for the job.

My Choice
My Choice

I ended up with a back-pack with two main compartments in the body and a padded laptop pocket to the back. The bottom compartment was sized to exactly fit a Crumpler insert designed to deal with DSLR equipment. So now I can have the camera pre-packed in an insert that I can either throw into the bag or leave out.

If I leave it out, the two portions of the backpack can either be used separately or joined. But I think separate makes more sense… one compartment for gym gear and another for swimming gear. One compartment for camera gear and one compartment for some snacks or clothes.

Ceci n'est pas un Crumpler
Ceci n’est pas un Crumpler

And everything about their store and their brand is slightly playful. Including the not-a-Crumpler that the Crumpler was put inside.

Oh, also: lifetime warranty on all parts. I mentioned I had a messenger bag that was still in good condition after many years, except for maybe the velcro. The store manager suggested I should bring it in for velcro-replacement under the original warranty.

Note that these bags do cost a bit. But they are for all intents and purposes indestructible. If you pick the right bag for your needs you should never need another. Unless your needs change 😉

Day 128 – The Perfect Machine

I have been down this road before.
It’s never quite right.

When I have a stand-alone PC, I really want a laptop.
And when I have a laptop, I cannot wait to have a PC.

I want to easily carry my machine around. I want to upgrade the pieces when I want to. I want a high-res screen, lots of memory, a fast graphics card.

And when I got my most recent tablaptop for work (Samsung Ativ; best tool ever), I got to add touch screens to my must-have list as well. It doesn’t seem crucial until you’ve had one for a while and then it becomes hard not to touch every screen followed by a brief pang of disappointment when it turns out that’s my other machine.

I want touch. And a keyboard. And a mouse. And a pen. All at the same time. Because they each are good at something different. And oddly, the tool that has most driven that home for me has been Microsoft OneNote… I didn’t think I would ever be able to like it because it seemed clunky, but for some reason the combo of every-input-method-at-the-same-time seems to make it bearable.

I couldn’t have a main machine without a keyboard. I can type pretty well on a touch tablet, but it’s just not the same as having actual physical keys for best typing speed.

I’m more and more convinced that touch could completely replace mouse input once we get around all the legacy UI out there that isn’t designed for touch. I really use the mouse only very minimally when I need to manipulate things that are too small for my fingers. Which happens more often with the arrival of retina displays everywhere.

And a pen… I’m no artist… but there is something magical about doodling little diagrams and notes in the margin of a typed document. The S-Pen with the Samsung devices is absolutely amazing. I have no idea what hardware supports it, but the machine knows where the pen is before I even touch the screen; the cross-hairs will pop up as you approach the screen so you can aim where you want the next line to start.

The Ativ is great. It was worth every cent. The problem I have with it isn’t that it doesn’t do what I need. The problem is that I want it to do more. I want it to do EVERYTHING.

My dream machine would be a laptop that can convert to a tablet. Ideally not by undocking because that just leaves an awkward left-over keyboard to the side. The Dell XPS 12 appeals conceptually with its flip screen, but the other specs just do not go far enough. And it’s only 12″.

I like the idea of the new Dell XPS 15 for its high-res Retina screen. I want 15″ at 3200×1800 … I want my screen to look like there is no such thing as a pixel. I want that to be an implementation detail I no longer can notice.

But I also want a fast graphics card. I play games at times, and 3200×1800 really needs more than a medium-range card. I have a last-gen card in my PC, and a 27″ 2560×1440 monitor, and I haven’t found anything that I play that I cannot max out at that resolution.

I want an SSD only… no spinning metal for me, and at least 256GB please. I want 16GB main memory for development. I want a 4th gen i7 processor. I want a battery that lasts me through at least half a day without a power point. I want to be able to dock to my 27″ at home for extra screen real estate. Maybe even 2 external screens.

It doesn’t feel like reality is very far off this mark, but the closer it gets to meeting my requirements the more annoying it feels that we’re not there yet. I’m sure we have the technology to build my ideal machine today. I’m ready to pay handsomely for the privilege. But it. Just. Doesn’t. Exist. Yet.

At least today’s post has a nice round number.
That makes up for it a bit.
A little bit.