While I’m working on this week’s post, I thought I’d pass on a useful tip that I’ve not noticed used by other programmers I know. On my development machines I have two hard drives in the removable drive sleds – costs about $26 at Fry’s for the first one, and $13 or so for each drive-only sled. (Added note: I now use the Kingwin KF-2000-BK drive bays which take a SATA drive directly without the need for individual drive sleds. Don’t forget to connect the small fan to power with the provided cable).
Since smaller drives have gotten so cheap, I use one for each OS variant I have to test (about a dozen Windows and 6 or so Linux installs, as well as a DOS system (I still have customers using the DOS versions of our products). Much cheaper than having a lab full of machines. And the lab doesn’t get so hot. I’m able to use multiple machines for network development rather than tie them up on specific systems. The only exception is MAC OS-X development, but they’re such nice machines I don’t really mind – although I wish I could do the same for Leopard testing.
By using Acronis True Image, I can easily clone a drive in a few minutes – the fastest and easiest backup scheme I’ve tried. Gets around Outlook PST issues, and I can easily change states or try “forked” changes, without the Subversion overhead issues.
I have many programs that use various locking schemes, and I just put these and nothing else on a “quarantine” drive, so I’m not always having to plead with a vendor to refresh my license (think AutoCAD, SoftImage, etc.). Then my development machine images can change often, and when gunk piles up, its a simple matter to restore from a clean image, and just download the project code from Subversion, and I have a clean system much more quickly than doing things the hard way.
This scheme works best with SATA drives, which do not have master/slave jumpers to configure, so you can switch and duplicate to your heart’s content – just be sure to physically label the drives to assist in their proper selection for use.
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