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My Mobile Development Environment

Last week I saw a deal that I just couldn’t pass up. Lenovo was selling their IdeaPad Yoga 11 for $300. Sure there were a few detractors against the product on paper, Windows 8.1 RT and low ram being its largest detractors, but the device was marked down over 50%. After using the machine for a few days, I’m glad I made the purchase. The Yoga 11 offers a highly portable and capable convertible that is enjoyable to use.

The start screen is a great way to navigate the Windows 8.1 platform. With either the touchscreen or the traditional keyboard/mouse setup. It took me a while to get used to the new style back when Windows 8 was released last year, but it’s really grown on me. As long as I put in the time to customize the start screen to suit my needs, it is a major boon to my workflow.


Let’s get this out of the way, Yoga 11 will never be an all-in-one workstation since it can’t run native Windows applications. That’s not say it can’t be used as a development machine. By integrating the Azure cloud, the Yoga 11’s abilities become as varied as Microsoft’s cloud service. With the credits provided by Microsoft to people with MSDN accounts ($100 a month at the time of this post), there’s very little I can’t do with my new toy. For learning and testing purposes, I’ve created a very small Ubuntu 13.10 instance that I can access with one of the multiple SSH tools within the Windows App Store. I can run this instance continuously for only $15 a month. For times when I need to develop using Visual Studio, Azure offers Virtual Machines that come with VS: 2013 preinstalled. These instances require more a bigger VM than very small, but can be built and destroyed after I’ve completed the work that needs to be done. The online TFS Service source control is a godsend in simplifying the task of working across different VMs.

Even with several Windows RT apps, Outlook, and Internet Explorer, including resource intensive rdio, all running, the system manages to continue along without slowing down. There has been a few times when I’ve ran out of memory, but that will happen occasionally when there’s only 2GB to use. This has only happened when I’ve opened 10 plus tabs in Internet Explorer. I just have to remember I’m not using Chrome on a desktop and everything should be fine.


Since the Yoga 11 has an ARM processor, it runs Windows RT. This is good and bad. Good because it allows the device to have up to 12 hours of battery life, which is consistent with what I’ve seen. Bad because it’s underpowered compared with a typical laptop and can’t run native apps. For my needs, the downsides have been a non-issue. The all-day battery life can make almost any power deficiency easier to overlook.

As for multitasking, the Lenovo convertible is unrivaled. Compared to an iPad or Android tablet or Chromebook, the Yoga 11 stands out by allowing users to easily run apps side-by-side. Below I’m running Emacs on an SSH terminal while having a PDF open in Reader.


Some tasks lend themselves well to the touchscreen, others are more apt to be completed with the keyboard. Reading, watching videos, and playing games are all pair perfectly with the touchscreen. The desktop features (Windows Office and IE11), remote desktop, and SSH terminals are all better suited for keyboard use. It’s nice to have the flexibility of being able to use a laptop when work needs to be done, then flip it over to watch a movie or two on Netflix.

For the last six months I’ve dreamed of buying a MacBook Pro Retina when the new ones launched. Since Apple released the new models in mid-October I’ve been on the final checkout page at least three times. When I saw the Yoga 11 for $300 I couldn’t pass it up. I haven’t looked back yet, and I’m glad I didn’t burn the $2000+ on the beautiful Apple machine. As for the rMBP, it can wait ‘til another year, maybe it’ll get a touchscreen by then. My Yoga should keep me sated for a while. Why bring in the tank when a BB gun can do the job just as well, albeit with a little more cloud-savvy? Who knows, I might not be able to move away from the versatility of the Yoga.

Published on 11/12/2013 4:21:00 PM

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