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As Chief Innovation Officer for my company, Onestop Internet, I’m part of a great team of bright people building really amazing and leading edge e-commerce software. And a large part of my role is still being very hands on with our production and development environments, both modifying infrastructure and yes (still, happily) writing code – mostly in C#. When we started the company over 9 years ago, I built our software from the first line of code. Our application stack started then, and still is today built on .NET and SQL Server (and recently, MVC). I’ve always had a Windows machine with 2 displays at my desk. Starting with a machine literally in my garage, then our first warehouse, and as we grew into our 2nd and 3rd warehouses and for the last 4 years, at our multi-building campus in Rancho Dominguez. We recently moved our Marketing and some of our R&D people to our beautiful new suite on the Santa Monica Promenade. After 9+ years of commuting 20+ miles each way on Los Angeles freeways, I’m now riding my bicycle to work along the beach.

I switched from an IBM Thinkpad to my first Apple PowerBook laptop in 2004 and haven’t looked back since.  For email, web, photography, and music, I’ve always upgraded and used the latest and greatest Mac laptops as my preferred “always with me” computer. For development, always the best Windows machine with lots of speed and memory.  My desk has been configured with plugs and connectors waiting for my Mac laptop to be “docked” next to my always-on Windows box and I switched between them throughout the day.  When working remotely while home or traveling, I’ve always VPN’d in and connected to my Windows machine via RDP using Microsoft Remote Desktop Connection for Mac, and in the last few years, in a pinch, connected to the Windows machine from iPad, and once or twice, even from iPhone.  This has been the way I’ve worked now every single day, for years.

That is, until last month, when I powered off my Windows machine for the last time.

I am now fully operational, doing everything I need to do in my job using my new MacBook Pro Retina and VMWare Fusion.  I traded out my 30″ & 27″ Dell monitors for a single 27″ Thunderbolt display, with HDMI going out to my wall mounted LED display, which is great for meetings and collaborating.  Instead of remoting into my PC at my office, I’m now running a local version of Windows using VMWare Fusion.  With our new platform development, we’re using Mercurial and Tortoise HG, enabling completely de-centralized development.

Screen Shot 2012-07-04 at 1.00.30 AM

After using this setup for a few weeks now, I can’t say enough about how impressed I am with the responsiveness of this setup.  The performance I’m getting from this thin powerhouse is amazing.  Check out the Windows Experience Index numbers.  This is considerably better than what I was getting with my 2 year old, 2 physical processor PC with 32GB of RAM and an SSD boot drive.  One word: PHENOMENAL.

Windows Performance Index

My MBP Retina is configured with 16GB of RAM and a 512GB SSD.  I allocated 4 CPU Cores and 8GB RAM to my VMWare Guest.  That’s it.  That’s all that’s needed to get this excellent performance.  During normal use of file copying, compiling, running IIS locally, SQL queries locally – all the things you do during development, it’s very rare I see the MBP CPU spike and hear the fans kick in.

I usually run in windowed mode, but often if I’m doing some heavy PC work, I’ll toggle full screen mode.  And if I need to display something on my wall mounted LED, I’ll enable the ‘Use All Displays in Full Screen’ mode.  The ‘Unity’ mode is also extremely natural, allowing your Windows programs and Mac OS X programs to run along side each other, seamlessly.  Although in my anecdotal experience, Unity seems to cause the CPU usage to increase.  Copy/Paste is very natural, and I haven’t had any issues or weirdness copying & pasting between programs in either OS.  I don’t need the Guest OS for video games, so I disabled the ‘Accelerate 3D Graphics’ option, and that seems to lower the CPU utilization a bit.  USB devices such as the Plantronics Wireless Headset I use for Skyping / Lyncing with our off-site Engineers work well and I can connect and disconnect them to the Guest OS easily.

So that’s it.  I’m down to one machine for all.  It goes with me wherever I go, and I even used it to code a new distributed caching feature last weekend – poolside.

Coding Poolside

It’s extremely liberating to be able to truly work on a PC on Apple hardware without being tied to the speed of your Internet connection.  Remote Desktop Connection served me well over the years, but those days are now officially over.  I’m running locally only – and once again, never looking back.

Note: That PC I powered off found a home and has since been re-flashed and re-provisioned for a new Engineer at Onestop; May it serve him well!

Here I am, a little more hair, a little more blonde, and a bit more girth, giving an on-air demo of one of the first Internet social sharing sites, my company ememories.com. Before Snapfish, Flickr, MySpace, and even Facebook, there was – ememories! Enjoy.

Apr
18
2010

iPad Thoughts

Enjoying photos on the iPad while standing in the kitchen

So it’s been exactly two weeks since I’ve been using my iPad. I am confident when I say that this device is a GAME CHANGER. It will change the way we use computers forever. Although it’s not the first tablet PC, it’s the first relevant one. Apple got it right – building on the shoulders of the mighty iPhone and iPod Touch, the iPad is really like a giant iPod Touch. But the difference is just that – its size.

Where an iPhone and iPod touch are great for getting quick pieces of information, they fall short for true media consumption. You don’t want to watch a movie, read a book, or read the news on a screen that small – but you do because it’s so convenient. With the iPad, you have all the benefits of the iPhone OS, but you want to spend the time on it. You don’t get fatigued by the small screen, the iPad’s size is just right.

Because of the nature of my job, my laptop is bedside every night. I’m on call 24/7 – perpetually linked to the health of web sites that never sleep. Now, in bed, I leave the laptop alone, and reach for the iPad and connect myself to the world. As promised, it really feels like you’re holding the Internet in your hands. And when showing someone next to you the screen, it’s much more engaging, intimate experience. You can hand the screen to someone and point at it – something not natural with a laptop.

The iPad is best described as a “Media Consumption Device”. It’s not meant to replace your laptop or desktop, but it can certainly do a lot of the things you do on them – and do them better. It will never be a substitute for a multi-tasking OS where you have to aggregate and manage simultaneous tasks to be productive. However, because of the low cost and meaningful every day usefulness, the iPad, and devices like it, will soon be ubiquitous, with households having a few of them as part of their every-day lifestyle.

The first moment I realized just how sublime the iPad was, was on the first night, when I watched the Donovan McNabb press conference on the device. I had missed it on TV, quickly found it on-line, kicked back on the couch, and enjoyed it on the iPad – true media consumption on demand – literally at my fingertips.

The iPad is a great eBook reader – and I recently gave away my Kindle. There’s no need for it anymore. The Amazon Kindle for iPad App works flawlessly, allowing you access to Amazon’s entire library of Kindle books. After using the iPad, paper media just feels odd now. I’m looking forward to someday canceling ALL my magazine subscriptions and getting them all digitally. It will happen – it’s just a matter of when.

The Apps work flawlessly, and over the next few months, I’m sure we’ll see some amazing progress as developers take advantage of the larger screen. Among my favorites, The Gilt Groupe App really shows how to do e-commerce simply, elegantly, and efficiently. Also, check out MLB.Com At Bat, Desktop Connect, and Zillow.

Of course there’s always room for improvement. Most notably, a front-facing camera would make the iPad the ultimate device for Skype. As a kid I always was fascinated by the idea of video phones, with Skype for iPad – it’s finally (almost) here. I also think it should have been designed with a wider aspect ratio, more HD like. But that’s a minor complaint – you get used to it.

I realize this is a gush-fest of a consumer device, but I felt compelled to share my experience of how amazing the iPad is. Get one – you’ll understand the value immediately.

Brett Morrison – Official Site

The official web site of Brett Morrison, Self-Made Technology Entrepreneur.

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