Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Going (shudder) laptop for the first time...

Those who know me well know that I've always looked sideways at laptops as overpriced, underpowered, and just plain finicky pieces of hardware. Compared to a desktop, they're tougher to upgrade, tougher to repair, and tougher to install (with all the wacky custom hardware). I've usually had access to a work laptop when necessary, but I've consciously never had one as my primary machine.

Those who know me well, then, may be surprised that I've finally decided to take the plunge. My boss initially offered me a top-of-the-line Dell mobile workstation- surely the best temptation for someone who usually has a screaming desktop that gets traded out about every year. Intriguing, for sure, but after looking at both the cost (~$4k for what I'd want- yow!) and the downsides, I decided to go a different way. Sure, the mobile workstation has a docking station included, somewhat faster processors available, and a larger screen, but...

I decided to go a completely different direction. Dell's got a sexy new 13.3" laptop out in the XPS m1330. Design-wise, I'd say this thing's right up there with some of the great stuff Apple turns out, and at half the price. LED-backlit screen, super-slim profile, brushed aluminum, ooh... The fastest proc I could get was a Core2 Duo 2.2GHz, but with 4G of RAM and a 160G 7200RPM drive, that'll be plenty. "OK, fine," you say, "but A 13.3 inch screen for a developer!?" It's not ideal, but I actually think I'll be OK on this one. I rarely use the laptop screen, except when I'm traveling (it's got dual video outs, so I'll keep my pair of 19" monitors at the office). Have you ever tried using a 15" or 17" monitor on a plane when the guy in front of you has the seat back? Won't be a problem for me with this one.

I'm also bucking the trend around here and leaving Vista on it. I've been running it at home for quite a while on a few machines without too much trouble, and even did my Optimus development in Vista, so I'm not expecting too many surprises. I'm also looking forward to trying out WAS in IIS7 for some of my dev work instead of hosting my net.tcp WCF services in a separate process.

Anyway, I'm going to pull the trigger in a few days and make it my primary box, as soon as I'm comfortable that it's stable and well burned-in. I'll post my joys and/or frustrations...

Monday, October 15, 2007

Make it easy for me to give you money!

Seems like more Business School 101- the easier you make it for people to give you money, the better off your business will be. Unfortunately, with my recent experiences, it seems like a number of the SSL certificate hawks haven't learned this lesson yet.

I was recently trying to order a wildcard SSL cert for our domain at work. I've been a die-hard Thawte customer for years, so I figured I'd go with what I knew. Apparently, to get a wildcard cert (eg, one cert for * instead of one cert per unique host). Thawte requires you to use their online chat app to order wilcard certs for some reason, instead of just using their normal online ordering. OK, fine. They have a form to fill out to get a chat session (name, email, repeat e-mail)- I filled it out, only to be presented with "Sorry, no agents available- try again later". I have to re-fill the form out every time I want to see if there's an agent available. Oy. After about four tries, I decided to go to a Thawte reseller.

Turns out the resellers are nice and cheap, too (~half price)- the problem is finding one that will take my money! The first two I hit don't have online ordering (for any certs!). The next one has a broken form validator that won't accept any phone number I type in. Does anybody test this stuff?

I ended up going to RapidSSL- they resell Equifax certs. Less well-known, but as long as it's included by default in our supported browsers, I don't much care.

Moral of the story: Make it easy for me to pay you! We've always got more work we could do in this department as well, but we have spent significant effort on streamlining our signup process...