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Server Software For The Desktop

Saturday, May 8, 2004

For the past four years I’ve always run a server version of Windows on my development machine. I do this for a few reasons. On those rare occasions when I find myself in a server room around a production machine, I feel comfortable knowing where all the buttons and settings are. It’s hard to feel comfortable when you have only a vague memory of where you saw a particular configuration dialog, and pointy haired people stand behind you spouting “Is it online yet?”.

The other reason is that I want to feel like I am getting my moneys worth from my MSDN subscription. Some people keep their subscription discs in numerical order. I like to keep mine ordered by license fees. That way if there is something expensive I have not installed as yet, I can throw it on a virtual PC and tinker around.

Since switching to a DVD subscription two years ago, it’s been much harder to compute the license fee value per disc. It requires a calculator. Then again, the CD subscription was driving me insane years ago. I’m convinced Microsoft implemented the CD numbering and coloring scheme using a stochastic process. First, you received about 2400 CDs each year. If you organized the CDs numerically, it was impossible to find any specific product inside without an up to date annotated index, and you never knew when any particular CD was obsolete. The numbering sequence often left large gaps, but invariably a CD would show up with a number in between two other CDs and all the discs had to be manually bubble-sorted throughout the CD binder. I’m certain the process has driven some percentage of developers to drink. One company I worked at budgeted 40 intern hours a month to organizing MSDN subscription binders for developers.

But getting back to my previous topic, which is running server software on what is essentially a desktop machine. Windows 2003 is different beast and requires some tweaking to offer a pleasant desktop experience. Kevin Moore offers a tip on getting rid of the Shutdown Event Tracking. MSFN has some other tips to enable themes, video acceleration, audio acceleration, and more. By the time you get to the end of the guide, you’ll be able to watch those MSDN webcasts in a nicely themed Windows Media Player at full frame rate.

The only drawback to running 2003 as a desktop OS is you’ll find some software refuses to install, saying it requires Windows XP. Also, some utility software, like good anti-virus software, has tiered pricing for server class machines. On the other hand, it is the only OS where you can install some of the new, expensive stuff.

Oh, and at least some of those obsolete MSDN CDs have found a good home.