I have always used computers with low hardware specification. I recall my first foray into programming generally and there were a host of limitations to overcome with regard to memory (RAM) and of course secondary storage. Those were the days when every computer you came across had floppy disk drive. What is more interesting is that at some point I always find myself out growing the available amount of RAM or hard disk space for that matter.
Up until last week, I had been using a machine with 1 GB of RAM which was adequate for most normal tasks but does not quite suit my needs. I have a bias towards web applications which means in a typical development scenario, I would have at least a couple of servers running including simple text editors as well as tools like Macromedia Dreamweaver (that is when I am working with PHP). Of course a browser or two (Firefox and IE primarily though increasingly Google Chrome) is usually running. For a PHP development session, there would be MySQL Query Browser which I find rather nice to tweak and test out my queries before I plug them into Macromedia’s wizards or before I put them into my own custom code if the wizards prove to provide too simplistic a solution. It goes without saying that for a Microsoft targeted web development undertaking then a combination of Visual Studio and SQL Server Management Studio would be running in addition to any reference material that may come in handy at the time.
Memory Greedy software
I am sure you have heard by now all the comments you can take about Windows Vista’s downside and I must admit there are some merits to some of those comments. The aforementioned usage scenario happen to be brought to life on a machine running Windows Vista with that 1 GB of RAM. Of course those in the know would promptly point out that 1 GB RAM is not enough but I can’t help but point out the Vista Capable fiasco going on; it is all over the internet and a quick Google search would produce some interesting material and a more entertaining look at the drama that can take place between some of the computer industry heavy weights. Generally, Windows Vista is a solid piece of work, regardless of what anybody would say but at the same time it does suffer from some typical annoyances as should be expected of any piece of software. With 1 GB of RAM, I have had only two occasions of my machine suffering the equivalent of a BSOD (Blue Screen of Death) though getting it to do anything in a hurry is close to expediting the second coming.
Another memory hog is Firefox; that browser just takes up too much memory and leaving it running as I am used to doing for days on end makes matters worst. The good thing is that if it crashes, there is every possibility to restore my opened tabs. Firefox 3.0 seems to handle memory better than FF 2.x but still it would be huge surprise not to find it the top of the list of processes (sorted by memory size) in the task manager.
The aforementioned development platforms of PHP and ASP.NET are generally manageable with the 1 GB RAM though appropriate time has to be allowed for mouse cursor to respond. There are times at which I prefer to code in Java and in my experience with the constraint hardware specs I have been using, it is not possible to code for a whole day using all the nice Java tools without forcefully killing a Java process or two. There was a time I wanted to get some hands on experience with JBoss Seam and the most straight forward way of doing this was to use JBoss Application Server (AS) in conjunction with JBoss Seam. JBoss AS could not start! The interesting bit of it was that I could not reliably run an IDE like Eclipse but Netbeans could be used though not for extended periods of time.
With such memory hungry software running on limited hardware, I would have to admit to the robustness of Windows Vista though of course there are limits to what the OS itself can do as a platform on which other pieces of software run. Hold on before, you start the protest about a good (but truthful remark) about Windows Vista, I am definitely looking forward to some of the short comings of Windows Vista being addressed in the up coming Service Pack 2 as well as Windows 7.
I decided to upgrade my RAM … I have added 2 GB to the mix which will take the total to 3 GB. I am running on 32 bit processors (dual core) which puts my primary memory limit at 4 GB thus at some point in the future, I may decide to add 1 GB though I doubt that would happen because by that time, it would be prudent to purchase new hardware. So far the performance of the machine has been the most pleasant: there is no longer any noticeable moments to allow for the mouse cursor to react. However, these are just the beginning days as I am sure more demand will be placed on the additional RAM :-).