My primary development machine for the past 3 years was a 32 bit Toshiba Satellite notebook running XP named PROBE-DROID. I was very happy with the machine. It went through several upgrades, more memory and a new 7200 RPM Hitachi hard drive. The purpose of PROBE-DROID was a portable virtual development and testing computer lab. I used VMWare Server 1.x for clean build and test machines. I was very happy with VMWare Server 1.x. The user interface integrated well with Windows. The only major problem I had was with one of the point upgrades breaking the network in some way so that the host OS could no longer access the internet. After a few hours of troubleshooting and research, I decided it would be better to go back to the previous version and get on with the development of DTS Package Search. A few months later VMWare Server 2.0 was released and I upgraded. I was not very happy to see Java and Tomcat with a web based interface. Of course the inevitable Java security update caused Tomcat stop the VMWare web interface from working. Uninstalling the security update had no effect. Instead of wasting precious development time trying to fix this, I reinstalled VMWare Server 2.0 and all was good again. I refrained from installing any Java updates after that.
I had no need or interest in moving to Vista, so I carried on. As PROBE-DROID aged the battery life degraded to the point where it couldn’t make it an hour with out a recharge. I needed to replace the battery or move on to something new. With the release of Windows Server 2008 and Sql Server 2008, it became clear that I needed to support the newer platforms and features. I stumbled across several web sites that discussed running Windows Server 2008 as workstation. They claimed that it performed much better than Vista yet with all the bells and whistles. I upgraded the 64 bit PC at home to from XP to Windows 2008 “Workstation” to test this configuration. http://www.win2008workstation.com/ was particularly helpful with its automated tool to turn on all the Vista goodness. I also wanted to take a look at the Hyper-V role, but the PC lacked the Virtualiztion Technology feature that Hyper-V required.
At that point rather than buy a new battery for PROBE-DROID, I decided to get a new 64 bit notebook. Initially I research Intel’s web site to find the CPUs that supported Virtualization Technology. I purchased an HP notebook with a CPU the met the requirements. After installing Windows Server 2008, I had no luck with the Hyper-V role. Virtualization Technology needs to be handled by the BIOS as well. After bouncing around HP support and sales, I found someone that knew the answer. I needed a notebook that was branded vPro.
The first HP was returned. In order to get a vPro branded notebook, I needed to move to a business class machine. The HPs and Dells were all around $3000 for an Intel T9400/4GB/200GB 7200 RPM configuration which was much more than I wanted to spend. I decided to take a look at Toshiba model and found a Tecra A10 with the right parts for less than half. Since the new notebook was the much more potent 64 bit son of PROBE-DROID, I christened it PROBE-DROID64.
PROBE-DROID64 came with Vista. The plan was to wipe and install Windows Server 2008, but with the beta release of Windows Server 2008 R2 I decided to go that direction. That decision turned out to be a rough road as the dreaded BSOD would appear randomly will running a Hyper-V VM. The performance of the terminal service sessions was also poor with lots of screen flashing while navigating through Visual Studio 2008. I was almost ready to move off R2 beta when the RC was announced. I went the upgrade path to move from beta to RC. The RC release fixed everything and now I have a stable and well performing portable virtual development and test computer lab. I look forward to the RTM of Windows Server 2008 R2. I will discuss my experiences using Hyper-V in another post.