How much compute power do you actually need?

Have you ever heard the quote, “640K[RAM] ought to be enough for anybody”? It’s wrongly attributed to Bill Gates. However as a PC hardware enthusiast I often have to ask myself, how much is enough?

Why this post?

I picked up myself an Asus chromebook today for $389 from jbhifi. It comes with 6GB of RAM. This is almost 10,000 times more than 640K. Computers have come a long way since 1981.

I was attending Agile Australia and browsing LinkedIn. I saw a job ad that I wanted to apply for but the iOS system on my iPhone makes it hard to upload PDF documents via web. There’s probably a work around but it seemed easier to get laptop with a keyboard.

I had left my main laptop at home, it’s a macbook pro and it’s a beast of a machine. Heavy too. As a mobile test engineer I use it for building android, iOS and API test framework applications.

I looked at apple macbook’s air, I could afford it as a business expense but spending $1499 on a laptop to make it easier to upload a PDF seemed like overkill. So I asked myself, “is there a cheaper option?”.

New to Chromebook

I had never used a chromebook before, so I thought it was worth exploring. It’s basically a desktop version of android. Android is a more flexible ecosystem than iOS atleast.

Did it achieve what I wanted? Yes, I was able to upload a PDF. However there are some quirks with how android apps run. TikTok runs in desktop mode which is not very usable. So no using this laptop for tiktoks in the bath (dam).

The main reason why my partner got a microsoft surface was to watch youtube videos in the bath.

Some apps run in full screen android tablet mode when the keyboard is detached and it’s placed in portrait mode. Which could be useful for some android layout testing.

How much dev work could I do on it?

This is an interesting question, it seems possible to put an ubuntu-esk system on it, there are terminal apps and github integration. I do plan on exploring this area more. I definitly cannot do iOS development with xcode but I did not need this machine to do this.

However for blogging, email and general web based tasks it seems like an ok device. Initially I didn’t like the flimsyness of the keyboard. I’m sitting in a pub writting this blog post on it and it’s more usable than my iphone which is all I needed.

Guilty of buying more

I am guilty of doing this, it’s hard to know how much is actually needed and how much is overkill. For example my home pc that I use for gaming, streaming and video editing which has 64GB of RAM and a 3.8Ghz processor.

My main work machine is a macbook pro with an m1 max chip, generally it’s overkill but it’s nice to work on a fast machine.

It’s so easy to buy into the more is always better, but it feels nice to step back and question that assumption.

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