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My Toolbox — Software

What software do I like on my service laptop?

  • All my development software.  I never know when I might need a particular software package.
    • However, licensing can be an issue; nobody wants to pay extra money for a license that sits mostly unused on a laptop.  Some software allows for multiple installations.
    • If the software only allows for one installation, I prefer using a dongle to a software key, because it’s easy to move the dongle around — and way too easy to “lose” the software key (I’ve seen it happen every time with software keys, which why I hate software keys).
    • Software licensing based on the MAC address or such, that can be moved around easily (e.g. return key via internet, then check it out on another computer) is better, but is still a hassle.
    • Of course, the best vendors say: “You can copy the software; just don’t tell us” (said to me by a saleswomen for a large German automation vendor).
  • Electrical Schematic viewer
    • I don’t always have a paper schematics with me, so it’s important to be able to view schematics on my laptop.
    • Since our schematics are in DWG files, I use eDrawings as a convenient DWG file viewer.  You can also use a full AutoCAD clone; DoubleCAD XT (Windows only) and DraftSight (Windows, Mac, Linux) are both high quality, free AutoCAD clones.
  • Merge software with directory comparisons
    • I’ve found file comparison software to be a life-saver.  Version control is great, but a machine in the field might be in a different state.  I can use the directory comparison to quickly see what files have changed, and then zero in on the changes using file comparison, and then merge between the two versions if needed.  Some software handles three-way merges.
      • I just did this kind of directory comparison recently when upgrading two almost-but-not-quite-identical machines.
    • I’ve been using Araxis Merge for a long time, and have no regrets about spending my money on it.  I’ve used some free options (such as TortoiseMerge with TortoiseSvn), but I feel Araxis works better for some file comparisons.   TortoiseMerge doesn’t do directory comparisons.
  • If you use a personal laptop for work, consider using a Virtual Machine (VM) to keep your private and professional lives separate.  With USB pass through features, you should be able to access USB, serial (via USB to serial converters), and networked equipment from within the VM.
  • In the future, I might look at taking my version control system with me; since I’m currently running Subversion and Trac in a Virtual Machine, I could do it easily by copying the VM to my laptop.

2 comments

1 riscy { 04.19.11 at 7:45 pm }

“personal laptop for work, consider using a Virtual Machine (VM)” What you use to create VM and pro & con of VM. Does it requires other license to run Window-7.

I keep project drive on seperate partitioning away from other (private) partition by TrueCrypt.

It far better to keep all document/work out from Window 7 partition in case it crash and lose data by reinstall.

To keep file sync, I use simple version of sync software with my local desktop PC but it not the same as subversion. It just the backup.

2 Tony { 04.20.11 at 9:42 am }

I’m currently using VirtualBox; I’ve used VMWare server in the past, but newer versions are a little awkward for workstation use. Supposedly now VMWare Player can be used, but I haven’t tried it yet. The Windows XP virtual PC in Win7 Pro should work (and comes fully licensed; it might be the best choice if you have Win7 Pro); based on a quick search, it looks like it can be easily copied.

I also like a two partition setup, with the OS on C and data on D.

The TrueCrypt idea is good, but you have to install all your work software on your PC, but with a VM it’s installed there and doesn’t affect the host OS. In my case, I have some complicated setups with a lot of COM components that aren’t always compatible with each other, so I use several VMs even on my work desktop PC.

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