Upgrading our Developer Training Machines

Unless you have already taken a course from ObjectSharp in the past on "our machines", you may not be aware that "our machines" means modern Dell notebooks. Our classroom at 1 Yonge Street is well equipped, but sometimes, companies want the coruse on their site. Our entire class hardware is portable in 2 rolling travel trunks. For students, if they want to take their machine home with them in the evenings, then this is a great option to catch up on labs, play around with stuff, etc.

We pride ourselves on having good hardware. We typically train on the latest & greatest software, so the same standard applies to our hardware. Our current machines are less than 2 years old on average and were top specifications when they were acquired. As we've started to use more and more VPC's for our classes, 1Gb has started to be a bit of a strain, particularly on BizTalk 2006 and VSTS courses that use Team Foundation Server.

By comparison, Microsoft sets the standards that Certified Partner, Learning Solutions (CPLS, formerly CTECs) are required to provide. Microsoft provides standards for levels 1-4. Levels 3 & 4 are the minimum for a course that uses Virtual PC. The top level 4 spec, typically used for server training is as follows:

-Pentium II, 700 Mhz
-16Gb Disk
-1Gb Ram
-4mb Video Card
-Super VGA resolution (800x600)

Today I signed the death sentence for our current machines which are the following specification:

-Pentium 4 Centrino 3Ghz,
-40-60Gb Disk
-1Gb Ram
-32mb Video Card
-1280x1024 resolution

By comparison, the machines we are getting rid of actually dwarf the CPLS highest standard. I'm not sure who thinks you can run a Biztalk or VSTS course on that specification....regardless of what the courseware is. I really pity the student who has to sit through a biztalk course with 800x600 resolution - on a P2, 700Mhz :(

Our next set of classroom machines will be here in 2 weeks and all new "Vista Capable" hardware.

Dell Inspiron 6400
-Centrino Core Duo 1.83ghz
-15.4" WSXGA+ 1680x1050 Ultrabright Displays
-2Gb Ram
-80gb SATA hard Drives
-128mb Intel 950 Integated Graphics, Aero Glass Capable

I've been using a dual core notebook for a few weeks now and they put a noticeable snappiness in everything. These new classroom machines are going to really rock. Not only will the performance rock, but drawing Biztalk Orchestrations or Visual Studio Class Diagrams on 1680x1050 will be so comfortable. I'm also going to be pushing for secondary external monitors so students can have the full dual-monitor experience.

I'm curious to see how the new wide-screen form-factor machines fit our trunks. I'm also going to be doing some perf testing using parallels, VMWare, and Virtual PC/Virtual Server to see how well they fair with the new dual core cpu.

The bottom line though is that I'm quite happy that we are able to make sure we have the latest and greatest hardware in our classroom on a 2yr refresh cycle. This is just one thing that goes into making a great learning environment for students.