Workstation
What I use to write this blog.

It's been over three years since I purchased my Dell M6800 and it's still my trusty workhorse. My habits have evolved a lot since I wrote the original "My Desktop" post back in 2008 and since it's almost the ten year anniversary, why not take a another look?

The only OS installed is Windows 10 Pro for Workstations. It's absolutely rock solid and I haven't had any crashes to date. While I used to dual boot for performance reasons, I now virtualise the operating systems I want to run instead. Since 2008, performance of hypervisors and CPUs have improved tremendously and, with the exception of 3D graphics performance (abetted somewhat with Intel's VT-d extension), there's no reason to dual boot anymore.

For system administration, both remote and local, I run Gentoo in a VM and regularly export the VM to both external and encrypted online storage. Additionally, I occasionally tinker with Enlightenment WM development and use VM as a testbed for feature changes.

For iTunes, Adobe software such as Photoshop or Lightroom, and web browsing, I use a Windows 10 Pro N VM. It's also very solid although I have noticed some performance issues due to Windows Defender anti-malware scans. I'm not convinced this is good for my hard disc long term and would be something I would disable if I could. Modifying the Windows Task Scheduler to not run as frequently doesn't seem as reliable as I expected.

The use of VMs also provides some security providing that you trust the host OS. I recently booted up my old 2011 Macbook Air and noticed that web performance was very poor using Safari on macOS Sierra compared to macOS High Sierra. This indicates to me that the use of JavaScript is increasing and further optimisations are required to open the same websites from last year. This is a worrying trend -- browsers requiring more access to the system in the name of PWA (Progressive Web Apps); WebGL; and a whole bunch of other acronyms that seem to strengthen my vision that we should stop moving everything to the web. To alleviate some concerns, I started running my web browsing in a Chrome OS instance provided by Neverware. They have a VM appliance that can be imported into VMWare Workstation and used with little overhead.

On the host OS, I only use a few essential (as deemed by me) programs:

  • Microsoft Edge: default browser
  • Storage Spaces with ReFS: used for backing up my data
  • SysInternals Suite: monitoring processes and system performance
  • OpenVPN: eschewing monitoring when using public Wi-Fi
  • 7-Zip: the trusty compressed file handler
  • Bitcoin Core: blockchain storage
  • G-Force: my favourite music visualiser
  • VMWare Workstation: the hypervisor for my VMs
  • Android Emulator: for running any essential apps without having to open my phone

It's a light setup and seems very comfortable.

On the virtualised Windows, I run the following:

  • iTunes: for syncing with phone and sampling songs
  • Adobe Photoshop/Lightroom: for management of my many many gigabytes of photos and videos

When I'm not at the computer, I typically switch between two phones depending on the activity at hand. I've found that few extra apps are needed beyond the ones that come with the device. Here are the essentials I use on a daily basis:

  • 42 Calc: for currency conversions and quick formulas
  • Omnifocus: for tracking tasks and GTD
  • Day One: for logging various important points in my life
  • Telegram: for messages and super groups
  • Redpipe: for YouTube


April 2018