My Dev Kit: Circa 2014

March 27, 2014
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c64Back in 2008, I posted an entry that showed what I used for my dev kit. It is about to to update it with what I am using now. A lot has changed from back them, but a lot hasn’t. While I do a lot more web development than I did back then, some of the tools haven’t changed but the hardware has.

I am going to be on the road this year, but that’s not the only reason my gear is mobile. I spend most of my time at a coffee shop or onsite with clients so I need gear that all fits into my backpack. The difference with my upcoming year on the road is that my recording gear for my Pluralsight videos and Hello World Podcast have to fit in my luggage too.


1122.m3800For my main machine I use a Dell M3800 (which is just a Dell XPS-15 in business clothing). I max this 4.15lbs machine out with as much power as I could afford:

**Dell M3800 **

15” Touch Screen (I opted for 1920x1080 but you can get super-hires too)

Intel i7 (4th Gen) Quad Core (8 virtual cores)

16 GB Fast RAM

2GB  NVIDIA® Quadro® Video Card


I also carry a USB External screen for those occasions when I need to watch House of Cards when I am working…I mean watch Pluralsight courses when I am working:

Lenovo LT1421 Travel Monitor

While this post is about dev tools, I think it’s important to know that in my bag I usually have a small mix of other devices too including:

Nokia 2520 Tablet (My Plane device – mostly for gaming and video)

Nokia 1020 Phone (My Phone and my main camera for travelling)

iPad Mini (My reader. I prefer the Kindle experience to the Win8 Kindle app)

Operating System

For my main operating system it should come to no shock that I am using Windows 8.1. While many of you know I still do development and teaching on Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8 so that platform is a must. But in addition, I am happy with the operating system. I don’t use Metro apps on my dev machine all the often. I like the idea of Metro on other screens, but I rarely use a second monitor and I want my full desktop experience in most cases. I do prefer Windows 8.1 to Windows 7 for a desktop experience. I find the OS snappier, the explorer window better and search is more integrated for my needs. It’s not perfect, but works great. I have a touch screen, but I use it mostly for web browsing and development and that’s about it. I don’t use my laptop like a tablet at all.

Productivity Tools

Like back in 2008, I still use Outlook for my email/calendar experience. I’ve tried the web for this but I have never been able to get used to the disjointed GMail or experiences. Fast, offline search and integration with my calendar makes this still a main tool in my toolbox.

Chrome is my browser of choice for browsing but I use Firefox for my development. The main reason is that it is a clean sandbox to work in. I have a handful of addins in Chrome that might get in the way of day-to-day development so I prefer Firefox since I don’t use it for anything else. I barely use IE for anything these days.

For building courseware, I still use many of the same productivity tools as in 2008:

Microsoft Word

Microsoft Powerpoint

SnagIt for Image Capture

Camtasia to record my videos

Paint.NET for simple image editing (90% of the time this is enough – 10% I go to Photoshop)

I have an Adobe Cloud subscription so I use Illustrator for most of my drawing needs. I rarely fire-up Photoshop but it happens when Paint.NET isn’t powerful enough to touch up an image. What’s new is my use of Audition for audio processing. I’ll talk about that further down in the Recording Gear section.

I used to use a number of other tools to help me be productive, but now I am using several Windows shortcuts that are more than enough:

Windows-R: Launches the Run dialog and I just type in the directory I want to open

Windows-W: Search system settings (e.g. Instead of opening Control Panel ever again)

Ctrl-Esc + start typing: Search for and launch most app on my system

Developer Tools

I am still a .NET Developer at heart so Visual Studio still holds a firm grasp on my development experience. I typically have the newest version and one version back for some older projects (e.g. Windows Phone 7 apps). I am using a handful of VS plugins too but I want to keep Visual Studio as light as possible. You won’t see Resharper or similar plugins on my machine. I don’t think they provide enough value to justify the loss of performance in Visual Studio, but I seem alone in this opinion.

Visual Studio 2013 and 2010

Web Essentials Add-in for Visual Studio  (The most important add-in hands-down)

Xamarin Add-in to build iOS and Android apps

Node.js Tools for Visual Studio

Sublime Text 3.0 (with the Package Manager) – My go to text editor for almost everything

WebStorm (for larger JavaScript or Node.js projects)

Fiddler – Super duper web debugger

As I said earlier, I am using Firefox for my development browser. I use the following add-ins to make that experience better:


Web Developer


There are a number of online tools that I couldn’t live without too:

GitHub (I’ve moved almost all my online source code here)

Trello (for project management)

JSFiddle – For sharing working code examples

CodePen – Like JSFiddle but sure is pretty

StackOverflow – Need I explain this one?

The Cloud

The cloud is a lot bigger than it was back in 2008 and I am embracing it mostly. For the development side, I am leaning on Windows Microsoft Azure for many of my examples and websites. I am mostly building code for Azure Web Sites and not running my own VMs. I don’t want to mess with the OS in most instances and using Azure Web Sites, Azure Mobile Services, Azure SQL Server and other services let’s me create compelling, scalable solutions. I still have an OrcsWeb presence for my blog and other smaller sites. (They’ve graciously given me my presence there for the little ad next to my blog. Please visit them for your hosting needs.)

Recording Gear

WP_20140327_00_00_59_ProAs many of you know I host the Hello World Podcast as well as author Pluralsight videos from time to time. This means I’ve had to become good at recording. I record late at night for the quiet (and yes – on my couch if you’re trying to picture it). My main recording mic is:

Rode Podcaster

Rode PSM Shockmount

Rode PSM1 Boom Arm

I also use a travel mike setup for podcasting:

Zoom H4N Portable Digital Recorder

For editing and processing audio for my Pluralsight courses I use Adobe Audition. I find it’s defaults and plug-ins make it worth the cost (I already use Adobe Cloud for Illustrator so it isn’t really any extra $). You can get away with Audacity (open source) but I find Audition a ton easier to work with.

Other Online Tools I Love

I need a place to put these because they rock…this’ll have to do:

World Time Buddy – Want to see when you an other timezone overlap?

QuietTube – Launch a YouTube video without all the noise (get the bookmarklet!)

Duolingo – Learn a new foreign language for free (5 langs supported)

GetBuffer – To queue up stories for social networks

For completeness, you can find me on the social networks here:





Your Turn

Share what you’re using and let’s get everyone to blog their own rig!