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Portable Server for On-the-Road Development? 82

DurnikBob asks: "I do a tremendous amount of development work sitting in hotel rooms while I'm on the road. While I've used Xen and VMware on my laptop, they come with limitations (memory usage, not 'real-life', interfere with my day job, and so on) that I'd like to move away from. I've looked at short depth 1U servers (the 19" wide makes it almost impossible to carry in the laptop bag), carrying a separate laptop (hate the weight penalty and cost of the not used keyboard and screen), the Mini-ITX field (each one I've looked at has the 1 DIMM, 1GB max limitation) and even the Mac-Mini (2" tall is a killer). Does anyone know if someone makes something along the lines of the following: small footprint (laptop size case 1" tall); Intel/AMD dual core capable; 2GB memory; space for 2.5" drives; on-board video (no need to fake it for headless operation); and on-board wireless?"
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Portable Server for On-the-Road Development?

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  • Remotely? (Score:3, Informative)

    by foundme ( 897346 ) on Tuesday May 16, 2006 @07:48PM (#15346762) Homepage
    If you're working in a hotel room, I assumed it will be paid for by the company and most likely comes with internet connection.

    So is it not possible to use VNC/RDP to access your servers? Apparently it won't work if you need physical access to the server.

    I too, am having a similar problem. I'll be working in up to 4 locations soon, and I'm leaning towards setting up a server in one location, and remotely log on and do all my works via the internet. This is aided by the fact that all locations have reasonable broadband connection.

    This way I can just bring a lightweight PIII laptop with me, and use whatever keyboard, mouse and monitor that are available in each location.

    Obviously this arrangement will be rendered useless in case of a WAN outage, but if I ever lost/dropped/forgot-to-bring my laptop, my data will be intact and I still have other means to access them.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      "I do a tremendous amount of development work sitting in hotel rooms while I'm on the road."
      I didn't know there were any hotel rooms that had roads passing through them.
    • If you're working in a hotel room, I assumed it will be paid for by the company and most likely comes with internet connection.
      So is it not possible to use VNC/RDP to access your servers?

      In my experience, a lot of hotels have very flaky wireless connections.

      Also, if something goes wrong, it can be a while until the connection is restored. The $6/hr clerk at the front desk doesn't always know how to reset the DSL modem much less diagnose and fix a more serious problem.

      Those connections sure are useful for w

      • Re:Remotely? (Score:3, Informative)

        I stay in a lot of business-class hotels (4* and above).

        I very rarely encounter flaky/unreliable internet connections in the hotels.

        More commonly, there just isn't a connection in the room, so one has to use dialup or the business lounge. There are very few business hotels now in Western countries without internet of some kind now.

        In these circumstances, I generally use the internet over my mobile telephone.

        I very rarely use VNC/X remotely; most of my work is done at the command line on the remote servers,
        • Him:
          I sure wouldn't want to have to tell a client that their work is delayed because the WLAN at my Howard Johnson shit the bed.

          You:
          I stay in a lot of business-class hotels (4* and above).

          Note subtle difference. (HoJo's != 4-star Business Hotel.) That might be part of your difference in experience.
  • by LeninZhiv ( 464864 ) * on Tuesday May 16, 2006 @07:52PM (#15346802)
    You need to know *exactly* what your server needs to serve.

    A Mac Mini sure seems like the coolest possible "suitcase server" imaginable, but if you want or might want commercial "enterprise" products like DB2, Oracle, Sybase, WebLogic or WebSphere, your list of options gets quickly shortened for you. Neither OS X or Linux PPC are going to do the job, because you rely on closed-source software whose 'Linux support' is implicitly x86 only (plus *maybe* x86-64). Wait for the Intel-based mini I suppose, and make sure first that the packages you need will run on it.

    But as I imagine others will point out, a 1U server for development work would be huge overkill; a remote server or simply running everything on your development machine (through VMWare if necessary) makes way, WAY more sense here, for a myriad of reasons. On the other hand, if your "server" world is 100% open source, you may well be able to craft the ultimate travel server exactly to your specifications with a geek-cool factor that is off the scale. But you don't *need* to; I've written AS/400 WebSphere apps with only Tomcat on Windows (sadly)... but hey, if that's the kind of work you're doing, good luck fitting an AS/400 into your briefcase...
  • it already exists (Score:5, Informative)

    by Geekboy(Wizard) ( 87906 ) <spambox@@@theapt...org> on Tuesday May 16, 2006 @08:06PM (#15346896) Homepage Journal
    you are describing the macbook pro. dual core 2GHz Intel Core Duo; 2G ram; 120G hd. quit your bitchin, and get a good machine.

    also, they have made this great utility that allows you to connect to another (possibly more powerful) machine. its called 'ssh'.
    • I second this - I use a MBP for all my development whether on site or at home. It's plenty of machine and Parallels fits the bill perfectly when I need to test on other OSes.
    • Heck, it sounds like he just saw the new 1"-thick 2GHz Core Duo 13" MacBook with built-in 802.11g and up to 2GB RAM, and devised a question which asked for a machine of those exact specs.

      Dude: Stroll over to Apple.com, plunk down your $1799+tax, install the OS of your choice, and be content. At least until you realize that you didn't really need a machine this powerful for hotel-room development work. But at least you got a nice new laptop out of it. :)

  • by Cryptnotic ( 154382 ) * on Tuesday May 16, 2006 @08:06PM (#15346899) Homepage
    You are aware that 1U is 1.75 inches, right?

    If the Mac mini w/ Core Duo and 2GB is not good enough, maybe you should look for a 1U half-width server. However, it will almost certainly cost you a lot more money.

  • I have FC5 running on my laptop and use it as my development server for almost all of my work. All developers at my $job do something similar. We use SVN to manage the code and QA servers to test it on "real" hardware.

    If you can't run you're server's OS as your primary OS, what's wrong with dual booting?
    • Right now I am doing LDAP programming on a local directory server running on my Solaris x86 laptop. The server works just as well for development as the real one back at the office does. Sure I wouldn't want to handle all the authentication, naming services and directory look-ups for the whole company like the big iron does, but that's not what hacking on dev-code is about. This suits just fine for everything but performance tuning, and that's what our DR/pre-prod boxes are for!
  • Look at the T60p (Score:5, Informative)

    by (H)elix1 ( 231155 ) <slashdot.helix@nOSPaM.gmail.com> on Tuesday May 16, 2006 @08:21PM (#15347019) Homepage Journal
    Take a look at the Thinkpad t60p series. Dual core, 4G of RAM, SATA drives... The bloody machine was a substantial jump forward from just about any workstation (or gaming rig) I've ever had. Doing development on my main box while running the application server stack on a VMWare image. Make sure you run Linux or Win64, or you might as well config it with 3G of RAM however.
    • Take a look at the Thinkpad t60p series...Make sure you run Linux or Win64, or you might as well config it with 3G of RAM however.

      t60p appears to be a Core Duo, it is not 64 bit.

      For a short while, I did have a computer with 4GB in a Windows computer before, it did have access to about 3640MB of the memory.
    • I may be wrong, but last time I checked, the Core Duo was not a 64bit chip.
    • There is this fun thing called PAE [wikipedia.org] (Physical Addressing Extensions), which lets any P6-and-later x86 CPU use up to 64 GB of RAM. I'm reasonably sure both Windows and Linux do support it.
  • 4 GB dual core laptops are starting to appear. I would think that a pair of HP nc1440's could be set up to give all the power you need and still be about 10 lbs.

    • 4 GB? Man, the laptop I had before this one had more than 4 GB!

      Oh, you mean GHz. Obviously you're very well equipped to make comments about "All the power you need".

      *sigh*
    • Those 2GB chips are still a little pricey.

      Outfitting a laptop with a pair of 1GB chips, OTOH, is quite reasonable. Which is good, because at 1GB, I'm feeling RAM-constrained on my current 3yr old laptop. (My 2 other desktop machines have 2GB or 3GB installed RAM.)

  • Cappuccino... (Score:3, Informative)

    by p7 ( 245321 ) on Tuesday May 16, 2006 @08:28PM (#15347070)
    This is about the best I could find.

    http://www.cappuccinopc.com/slimpro-sp350.asp [cappuccinopc.com]

    With options it should cover most of your requirements. CPU might be a bit weak.
  • by jcam2 ( 248062 )
    I used to carry a laptop with a copy of all my development tools and code base around so that I could work wherever I was, but these days pretty much every hotel or relative's house that I stay at when away from home has high-speed internet access of some kind. So I can do all my development by SSHing into my home server, editing my files with vi, and testing my code via the web. That is exactly what I'd do if I was at home anyway ..
  • Eh? (Score:4, Informative)

    by adelayde ( 185757 ) on Tuesday May 16, 2006 @08:43PM (#15347166) Homepage
    What are you on about?? Get a laptop and use that. If you need to run VMWare (why??), then get some more RAM in order to be able to run it. I do development on a low-end Dell Inspiron 510M with 1/2 GB RAM and develop in a Apache+mod_perl+Mysql+Emacs+Firefox environment and it runs fine, running Xorg, KDE, Thunderbird to boot. Any model laptop better than the one I have should do you proud. If weight's a problem, then Dells aren't maybe for you, get an iBook or a PowerBook or a Sony Vaio or something like that. Mac MINI's are pretty cool, but you'd need to buy a very small flat screen and mini keyboard and mouse. In short, I can't really see much point in your posting I'm afraid, the short answer is get a/another laptop my friend.
  • Maybe not what you're looking for, but something to keep in mind:

    http://www.projectblackdog.com/ [projectblackdog.com]

    The BlackDog, by Realm systems isn't that bad of an option. It's a portable embedded Linux server with an integrated PPC processor, 64MB RAM, and thumbprint scanner. They should have some new units in a couple of months.

    I use it to VPN from any box. There's no install necessary from XP. Plug it in, and your server's running. X11 starts automatically. It's not powerful enough to compile on the device (and flash-ba
    • Beautiful concept, that BlackDog. I've been looking for such a thing myself, but it would be *perfect* if it had some way of displaying/entering data independently of an external computer, and that is able to run LAMP for development purposes. Do you happen to know such a beast?
      • Well, unless you use a PDA with a keyboard (like a discontinued Zaurus w/IR keyboard), your "beastie" is going to require peripherals... monitor, power supply, keyboard, mouse (if you *really* need one). Hence, a laptop, hence an external computer. I guess you can run linux on an iPaq, but my guess is that it is underpowered compared to the BlackDog's (I believe, dual-core) 400mHz PowerPC (the best iPaq has a ~650mHz intel chip).

        My guess is that you'll probably want a laptop or PDA. Otherwise, if you alrea
    • That is a very clever device!

      From the FAQ:
      How does BlackDog work and how does it interact with the host computer?

      When plugged into a USB port, BlackDog establishes an Ethernet-over-USB network with the host computer, serves up applications, and accesses the host computer. When plugged into a Windows XP host computer, an X server is automatically launched. This X server is configured to allow clients running on BlackDog to connect, thus allowing for access to the keyboard, video, and mouse functions. A simil
  • Take a look a the XPC line from Shuttle. They support the current tech found in any desktop pc. You can have an Athlon64 X2 in there with a loads of RAM. They are as big as a lunchbox! Here's the URL: http://global.shuttle.com/Product/Barebone/brb_def ault.asp [shuttle.com]
    • I have two of these little boxen - an SK41G (Athlon XP 2100+), and a new SN21G5 (Athlon 64 X2 3800+) - they rock! They pack a lot of power into a breadbox... and the G5 case, especially, has lots of style.

      If you prefer Intel chips, Shuttle makes Intel-based XPCs as well.

      About the only downside of the SN21G5 is that it has 10/100 Ethernet, not Gigabit. Since my home network is 10/100+802.11g, the lack of Gigabit isn't really a problem, though.
  • Iwills Zmaxdp Small Form Factor SMB servers would probably suit you if you require mobility plus a lot of grunt

    Inside a miniPC they have packed a board which can take dual opteron's and has space for 2 hard drives, runs on low power and is fairly silent.

    If you are willing to pay for it, its a portable solution with a lot of grunt.
    http://www.hardwareanalysis.com/content/article/17 88/ [hardwareanalysis.com]

  • Why not VMWare ? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by drsmithy ( 35869 ) <drsmithy@g[ ]l.com ['mai' in gap]> on Tuesday May 16, 2006 @08:51PM (#15347219)
    You say VMWare is not an option - why not ?

    Xen I can understand being problematic, as it requires a "special" kernel that might not be compatible with your production environment, but I don't really see why you can't use VMWare. A laptop with a dual-core CPU and 4G of RAM should be more than sufficient to run a development environment (if not several) in VMs.

  • its easy, get a second laptop.
    • by Ratbert42 ( 452340 ) on Tuesday May 16, 2006 @11:02PM (#15347904)
      Reading between the lines, I think he doesn't want to do his side development on his employer's machine. Do what I do: get a second hard drive for your laptop. I swap hard drives and I'm in my own private environment. Then I can work on whatever I want. Or boot Knoppix and use a flash disk or external USB/Firewire drive for storage.
  • Well I'm currently working in a hotel room with a crappy P4 Compaq laptop that overheats all the time and a nice custom built desktop PC and a 20" widescreen LCD monitor. It all depends just _how_ portable you have to be. Like other people have posted, in most hotel rooms you can get VPN access back to your main development servers. Personally I run VS 2005, Pocket PC emulators and SQL Server 2005 off my 1Gb laptop and I don't have too many problems. OK, performance ain't what it could be, but it gets me by
  • You're developing. You're not doing graphics work, or anything that necessarily requires a local workhorse. The most intense part of the work that you might be required to run locally would be the IDE. In all the dev work I've done, none of it needed to be done locally on the system I was actually typing on, and in most cases, I avoided such situations because my remote system was more ingrained in the environment, and was bigger anyway.

    Spend the money on a monster remote server with a massive disk. Go

  • Really, it seems like there must be something special about your dev environment to need all that. Why not just use an internet connection and connect back into your dev box at work? Check in and out code remotely using CVS, SVN, VSS, or a number of other products. Use your local solid laptop to compile, or use a virtual session back at the office.

    There are a number of high speed options available to you almost everywhere now. Simply telling your travel person (secretary or other dedicated staff) that you
  • Code Duo laptops are becoming more common, and you can get one with 100 GB+ Hard Disk and 2+ GB ram. I would definetly say a High End laptop would fit in a laptop bag, wireless, pretty much everything you demand. I don't really think carrying around a server as opposed to a laptop really matters for devlopment work, unless for some reason you need the real thing all the time. I don't think I'd go the mac mini route, as if something breaks in the networking you'll need to hunt down a monitor or always carry
  • Almost? (Score:4, Funny)

    by christopherfinke ( 608750 ) <chris@efinke.com> on Tuesday May 16, 2006 @09:55PM (#15347567) Homepage Journal
    the 19" wide makes it almost impossible to carry in the laptop bag
    *Almost* impossible? What kind of laptop bag do you have that can just barely carry a 19" wide server?
    • You haven't seen the new laptop/garment bags? Very handy! Hangs on a hook, keeps your suit warm.
    • "What kind of laptop bag do you have that can just barely carry a 19" wide server?"

      Have you seen some of the laptops [dell.com] they are making these days? The size of these things, you might as well be carrying a 19" wide server.
  • How to gamers carry PCs, wires, cables, keyboards, etc to lanparties?

    Certainly companies like Targus, Kensington, Pacific Design, etc, have a knapsack that can carry a minitower, to sell to such people?

    However, desktop PC engineering presumes a relatively stable environment, whereas laptops designers presume that you'll be moving it around a lot, occasionally dropping an edge a few inches, etc.

    So, I'd look for a beefy laptop and a "notebook backpack".

  • I think the poster is just looking for a reason to buy a new toy.

    There are plenty of no brainer solutions out there: 1) SSH whatever to a grown up machine (this is what I do), 2) Get a Mac86 Mini, 3) Get another laptop, 4) Carve out some space on your primary laptop.

    I've used remote SSH + Xnest + scheduled synchronizations from my laptop to my server for quite a while. If the link dies - I can still keep working locally as well as on planes & trains.

    Or, how about http.gumstix.com/ [slashdot.org]
  • how about using a developer tool that runs in the same environment your server runs then simply develop from there.

    If not possible how about dual booting with a common partition for your finished files to live on?
  • ... saying "I need a miniature Semi with the full power of a regular-sized Semi to take on an air plane with me so I can work on it."

    I think you're just lost as to what you need. For development work, you only need little hardware. Unless you need something that will compile in an instant. What you seem to be looking for is total over-kill.

    • If he's a Java developer stuck using Eclipse and running one or more servers locally for test development his system requirements can easily add up to what one might amount to a "miniature semi."

      Eclipse without any projects open can consume almost 100 MB of memory, open up a project or two, run a web server, toss in a database server since all web apps seem to need them these days, bring up IE, Firefox, etc. for testing and suddenly 1 GB almost isn't enough...

      This is a very specific example but if you work
    • I agree with the other responder, I develop java with an IDE (eclipse and NB 5) and my desktop (p4 3ghz) is slow slow slow. When I have to run a local database, it's even slower.

      At my last assignment we used the best laptop we could get, with the most memory we could cram, and ran MS SQL2k, IIS5, blah blah almost as quickly as production (with only a one user load) for all development. You could develop from home, vpn your code to test, or fix production emergencies from your hotel.

      I think a stout lap

  • 1. Buy suitable laptop
    2. Disconnect and remove display
    3. Disconnect keyboard and mouse pad

    You can get very powerful laptops now, put lots of memory in them, and be set. There are laptops that have the option of a second hard drive (raid or normal), and there are those that allow a second hard drive in one of the drive bays.

    Removing the screen will make the laptop thinner. Disconnecting the keyboard will prevent accidental keypresses. The external monitor port and USB ports can be used when you n
    • 1. Buy suitable laptop
      2. Disconnect and remove display
      3. Disconnect keyboard and mouse pad

      4. Get arrested at the airport for carrying a device that looks like a bomb.
      • Good point. Not to mention, why destroy a laptop's intended use and make it fragile to save a mere 1/2" and a pound at most? You're not rock climbing here, it's not as if every ounce and cubic centimeter is precious.
  • Cappuccinopc (Score:3, Informative)

    by rtechie ( 244489 ) on Wednesday May 17, 2006 @12:00AM (#15348167)
    You're unlikely to find anything much smaller than thishttp://www.cappuccinopc.com/mochae7042b.asp [cappuccinopc.com]. It doesn't support the new dual-core chips though. Cooling would likely be a problem.
  • Most of the responses seem to assume that you either need the power or the privacy. Or is there some other reason you need a separate system from your regular laptop?

    Is the development you're doing for your work or for yourself?

    Why is a laptop a bad option if it's powerful enough and small enough? (You said you hate the waste of space, but it's still smaller than a 1U system. And you weren't complaining that a MacMini was slow-- you said it was the wrong size.)

    If you're doing a web app, why not run the s
  • If you don't care how warm it gets, you can build a server-class laptop pretty easily. Go to alienware.com and configure an:

        * Athlon 64 X2 4800
        * 2G of ram
        * 2x 100G SATA 7200 drives

    Sounds like a server to me.
  • by msuzio ( 3104 ) on Wednesday May 17, 2006 @01:39AM (#15348514) Homepage
    It's funny, as I'm reading this I'm packing my two Kurobox-en (http://www.kurobox.com/) into my suitcase to take with me on the road for some development. Two systems, each about the size of a Mac Mini, one has my web server and Subversion, one has the MySQL database.

    Works fine for me. Granted, I'm not doing J2EE development on the boxes (these are my Rails development boxes), but honestly, they both seem to pack a ton of horsepower for the teeny CPU and power requirements (17 Watts each). Total cost for both units plus a 300 GB disk for each -- about $550.

    I use these boxes because I happen to have them (when they're not development boxes, they are my home disk servers -- bringing them along has the side benefit of me having access to my MP3 collection on the road too). If I were buying something just for this purpose, I'd get a Mac Mini (~$1000 tricked out) or a second laptop (a Dell laptop with decent horsepower but low on the bells and whistels would be under $1000, I just speced one out today).

    Most of the time, I do development *entirely* on my laptop. With 1GB RAM and a mid-range Pentium M, it keeps up just fine with an IDE up, a web server, and a J2EE servlet container (it's when I add a database on top of all that that it starts to slow down too much). Two laptops would handle my needs just fine. Most demos I see when vendors come in these days are run off the Sales Engineers laptop, so I'd say it's becoming a ubiquitous solution.

    I guess since I'm one of many asking the "why" questions, maybe we need a better statement of the reasons you think you need so much horsepower. Certainly, for $2000 or so (still less than a 1U server, I'm sure) you could have *two* small boxes which would fit in any decent sized laptop bag (my laptop bag fits both my Kuros side by side, and they are comparable in size to a Mac Mini).
  • I know it doesn't meet your RAM requirements, but have you looked at the OQO [oqo.com]?

    I'd use a Mac mini myself.
  • A 2" height restriction is going to be almost impossible in a non-laptop form factor, and almost all laptops [dell.com] are bigger than the 1" you're talking about.

    What Mini-ITX boxes have you looked at?

    Check out Mini-ITX.com [mini-itx.com]. You'll find stuff like Hoojum [hoojum.com] for lunchbox-sized computers, or you can find something like the Albatrons Viiv Nano-PC [mini-itx.com] that will accomodate almost all the specs you're talking about (when it goes into production).

    If nothing else, buy a laptop, then take off the keyboard and screen. I've worked

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