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Setting Up a Dev Machine

Well, I'm still astonished that I risk trashing my entire system if I try out some evaluation software, as I was told by readers a while back after a nightmarish experience trying to remove the SQL Server 2008 R2 beta and install the free Express version.

Some of the reader comments roasted me for being such a fool, along the lines of this from "Paul":

"By its very nature eval software is not to be installed on any machine you don't care about needing to be rebuilt from the ground up. Hasn't anybody ever read the warnings included with installation of eval software? If you are 'experimenting' with new software on a machine that cannot be wiped and rebuilt then the onus is on YOU not Microsoft."

That just doesn't seem right to me (and a lot of other people on the Net -- so there, "Paul").

Anyway, since losing a good chunk of my life recovering from that fiasco, I've been reluctant to try out some of the exciting new stuff that's come out in the database development world, as I only have one PC to work on and I need it to keep working.

But I enjoy checking out these new products and sharing my and others' experiences so we can all learn new things. And with the new SQL Server beta and other new evaluation software out, I'm dying to try them out. So I'm dusting off an old desktop to make it my dev machine.

It's almost 10 years old, but it has a fast processor, 4GB of RAM and a couple of decent hard disks (I used to use it a lot for video editing and related graphics stuff). Single core, but with the old "HyperThreading" technology to kind of emulate multiple cores. So far, so good. I've installed Windows 7, Visual Studio 2010, the Visual Studio 11 beta and Express beta, SQL Server 2012 beta and some related packages. The only problem I've had in these early stages is that my old graphics card doesn't support DirectX10 so I can't run the Windows Phone SDK 7.1 phone emulator, but I'm looking to soon buy a cheap card that fits the minimum bill (gotta love Craigslist).

As this is my first dev machine, I've looked around the Web for advice. I found Scott Hanselman's "2011 Ultimate Developer and Power Users Tool List for Windows" useful, but he must have 500 items listed there. I don't have time to even read through the whole list, much less download and install the recommended products. What, does he have a 5TB RAID or something to store this stuff on?

Also, I've spent more than a good long day downloading and installing this software, so I feel kind of leery spending a bunch more time to flesh out a system that I might have to rebuild from the ground up just because I try out some evaluation software. I only want to install the best, nearly essential stuff.

So I'm looking to you, dear database developer reader, for advice from the learned -- those who have traveled here before me. What (free) tools, packages, products are most essential to help me explore new database development products? What do you personally absolutely NEED to have on hand as you try out Visual Studio, SQL Server and other evaluation software? Also, what tips do you have on configuration or system optimization?

Please comment here or drop me a line. And, oh, "Paul," I really don't need to hear from you again, thanks.

Posted by David Ramel on 05/01/2012

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