back to article Post-Microsoft, post-PC programming: The portable REVOLUTION

Some years back, when Microsoft was mired in Windows Vista and open source issues, and web developers were on an accelerating trajectory, a quiet revolution took place. In the corridors and anterooms of tech conferences, scrunched deep into beanbags and huddled next to power outlets developers were at work, nose down, in …

  1. Ralph the Wonder Llama



    1. frank ly Silver badge

      Re: Que?

      It looks like they need a syntax highlighting editor. ('mount', it's what jockeys do.)

      1. Ralph the Wonder Llama

        Re: Que?

        According to El Reg, they "count" ;)

  2. getHandle

    " far there hasn't been an Android tablet with hardware to match the iPad..."

    Cue sh*tstorm in 3..2..1..

    1. DropBear Silver badge

      Re: " far there hasn't been an Android tablet with hardware to match the iPad..."

      Naaaah, everybody is too busy ROFLing...

      1. HollyHopDrive

        Re: " far there hasn't been an Android tablet with hardware to match the iPad..."

        I wasn't going to rise to the bait but....then there are facts...

        I've been using connectbot for SSH since my HTC desire. Thats got me out many a sticky situation before the 'great ipad' turned up.

        I programmed a prototype app on my Motorola Xoom tablet using a custom keyboard typing on the screen using AIDE. (great bit of software for writing android *on* android]. I've also used a bluetooth keyboard and a USB keyboard using an OTG cable. Thats a fucking 3 year old tablet you moron. It was the first tablet that came close to an ipad. (granted the screen was better on the ipad, but it was still a pretty decent tablet of its time albeit app support wasn't so good in the early days)

        That only got retired the other day when I bought the nexus 9. Which is a pretty decent tablet even if every reviewer gushes over the ipads aluminium shell rather than just how much better the Android OS has got and (while I'm sure the ipad lovers will disagree) now pisses all over IOS big style. The number of iphone people at work that have drooled over Android Lollipop and have vowed to now switch is shocking even for me as a fully paid up member of the android club.

        Finally, android has had intents since ...oh yes day 1. Once more apple invented something last week that has been around for years on other platforms. If the situation was reveresed and iOS had had it for years and android was just getting them the reviewer would have called Android a promising but immature platorm rather than being excited because 3 applications now support it.

        Don't get me wrong, the ipad is a great tablet. Build quality and usability is excellent. Great user experience (leaving the walled garden thing aside) and a great brand. I'm a massive Macbook fan and as called out my tool of choice for more traditional PC use or big programming projects.

        But don't make out the ipad is changing the development model and is the only tool of choice.

        Awful article awash with ipad love, android hatred and just full of too much FUD and misinformation.

        On a side note, my previous employer forced a Windows RT tablet on me. I got an SSH client. But the stupid security model wouldn't let me port forward to a differnt application. Now there is a tablet you can't use for development. And that comes with a jeffin' keyboard. Go figure!

  3. Saint Gerbil

    What tosh

    "Apple laptops had replaced Windows laptops"

    Currently about 80% of Platforms are Windows only 10.3 % Mac based on a few os platform stat web sites.

    And the follow up that development is going to be on phones and tablet is complete crap for one basic reason, poor keyboard input. Just about every developer uses a keyboard, regardless of their OS.

    Also while you can get some applications to build on an adriod phone Apple still requires you to have a Mac in order to build an iPhone App.

    1. tirk

      Re: What tosh

      "Apple laptops had replaced Windows laptops"

      Nicely edited to change the meaning of the sentence. However as a platform for code development (which was what the author was saying) the ratio is different. I certainly see many Macbooks being used by coders at my clients, even those that are exclusively Microsoft based.

      FWIW, I still use Windows as my OS on desktop and laptop to develop and manage my Windows code, but I have got phone & tablet set up with RDP as a fallback.

      1. robin thakur 1

        Re: What tosh

        I've been using a Macbook Pro for dev and design work, first in Windows and now on iOS and the Web, since I don't know when, as the hardware is infinitely better designed than some race-to-the-bottom, compromised, plastic, future-landfill PC rubbish. I say that as a Microsoft developer that runs Windows as a VM on the MBP. Windows Laptops are garbage whatever you pay, they are always compromised on aspects which I place high value on. Apple's release cadence means that your chosen laptop will be sold for at least a year or more with few alterations and meaningful support. If you pay less you get exactly what you pay for. Less. I paid £1300 in 2011 and my Machine is still going as strong as ever. Additionally if you are a designer, why would you choose to design something beautiful on something ugly and poorly thought out?

        Even stuff that I consider acceptable on the PC side like the Surface Pro 3 for example which isn't just outright trying to copy the Macbook Air like most, is unfortunately compromised on both battery life and thermal design. People bleat on about touch screens being 'essential' without realising that the Macbook series has has fantastically perfect touch and gestures through the glass trackpad for donkeys years before Windows 8.

        1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

          Re: What tosh

          Windows Laptops are garbage whatever you pay

          You've checked them all, have you?

          I've had to fix or replace Apple laptops for my wife, stepdaughter, and emergency backup not-really-related daughter - multiple times. They generally start having problems with them after three or four years at best.

          I've had to replace a keyboard once on a Dell laptop - one of the three that my employer buys for me. They only get replaced because IT now insists on replacing them when the extended warranty runs out. In the twenty years I've been using Windows laptops, I've also had two hard drive failures - but since those are generic drives (typically Hitatchi Death Stars or the like), that's hardly a reason to prefer Apple.

          Never had a hardware failure with any of my IBM or Lenovo laptops. And they've been routinely abused. I lug them around, drop them, travel with them, use them outdoors, and so on.

          In short, you're talking out your ass.

    2. juice Bronze badge

      Re: What tosh

      Round our way, the vast majority of developers use Macs... because our estate is basically LAMP/LAMJava, so it's possible to do most things "natively" in MacOS without having to install some variant of Linux that the IT team won't support and that doesn't quite work with the systems forc^H given to us by the corporate mothership. And as with most Apple stuff, the hardware is pretty nice; certainly more so than the Thinkpads that non-tekkies get.

      Though it is quite fun watching them run around trying to find a VGA adapter dongle whenever they need to do a presentation - those things have become like hen's teeth around here...

  4. xyz


    ....must rush out and get an iPud and a copy of Canking Wopy to ount my opps on.

    I'm working on an app that saves humanity from Ebola and has built in one click app development baked in, can I have some sales' space puleese dear Reg?

  5. Extra spicey vindaloo

    Without a good keyboard and a proper desk

    You will have wrist problems within a couple of years.Posture while working is much more importortant than people think.

  6. Frankee Llonnygog

    No, no, this will never happen

    Until it does. And then it will be late

  7. RockBurner

    Asus Transformer (mine's a TF300T), VXConnectBot and DroidEdit make for a reasonable thin client (if I understand the term correctly), I just wish it had more RAM and that upload speeds on domestic broadband (I'm looking at you here Virgin) were better.

  8. Malcolm 1

    Multitasking on a tablet is still a pain

    In my experience development tends to involve quite a bit of flipping about between IDE, browser, other applications. I've not tried anything more than simple text editing on a tablet, but I suspect the small screen size and the whole single-app-at-a-time thing would drive me barmy. Picked up Microsoft Surface Pro in John Lewis for the first time the other day though - that does have some appeal, although I'd need a dock and a big monitor or two at home and work though.

    1. Gene Cash Silver badge

      Re: Multitasking on a tablet is still a pain

      The Android "recent apps" button works really well now. This is the rightmost button that brings up a list of the latest screens and you can tap the one you want. For example, it's great for copy/paste between editor/browser and password app or whatever.

  9. Buzzword

    The first rule of software development...

    ... is to always have a more powerful computer than your end users. You need more RAM (to hold your IDE, your debugger, and your app itself); you need more power (to compile quickly); and you need more screen real estate (to see the app you're working on and your IDE around it / on a second screen).

    Using a tablet as a thin client to a remote desktop or command-line terminal is only acceptable in emergencies, such as if you're on holiday and it's the only computer you have with you.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: The first rule of software development...

      If you extrapolate that theory:

      The first rule of war is to have a more power than your enemy.

      The first rule of football is to have moer power than your opponents.

      The first rule of racing is to have a more powerful car than your competitors.

      Yeah, seems to work. :)

    2. Steve Knox

      Re: The first rule of software development...

      The second (and almost never followed) rule is to also have a less powerful computer than your end users.

      That way, you can see what happens when you write and test code on a Core i7 with 32GB of RAM, and a user tries to run it on an AMD A4 with 1GB of RAM.

      You can then choose a course of action somewhere on the spectrum between spending weeks of development time optimizing for old hardware, or the Microsoft approach.

    3. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

      Re: The first rule of software development...

      always have a more powerful computer than your end users

      Oh, you PC developers - what a riot!

      Back when programmers were made of sterner stuff, our end users ran whopping great hugely expensive systems, and we developed on whatever we could afford. And you know what? It was fine.

      Come to think of it, that's still what we do, because it would be silly to spend six or seven figures on each developer system.

      Lawn, off, etc.

  10. Jason Bloomberg Silver badge

    Real programmers don't...

    Given the desires of developers to migrate to the fastest hardware and largest sized monitors they can get their hands on to enhance the development process I imagine there will be some resistance to developing on a 10 inch or smaller screen backed by rather sluggish hardware.

    Developers I know wouldn't be happy developing on a laptop let alone a tablet tricked-out to be a laptop. In a push, where's there's no access to the desktop or for target platform debugging, then sure, people will struggle through but I doubt it's likely to be the first and preferred choice for most.

    Just because you can doesn't mean you should, that one would want to, or it's the most appropriate way to do things.

    The decline in PC sales, and rise of tablet sales, seems to be taken in some quarters as a decline in PC usage, a move away from those - I don't believe that's as true as some imagine it is.

    1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

      Re: Real programmers don't...

      Given the desires of developers to migrate to the fastest hardware and largest sized monitors they can get their hands on to enhance the development process

      I've never understood this, myself. The time wasted migrating to a new machine largely negates any time I'd save on ... what? builds? I work on a dozen components across three teams - I can find something else to do if a build is running. And I find a monitor larger than about 20" unhelpful; the additional screen real estate doesn't "enhance" any "process" that I can see.

      When I was a callow youngster, at IBM in the late '80s / early '90s, I had a machine with three monitors running X. It was cute for a while but I never saw any real advantage to it. I've watched coworkers arrange things across multiple large monitors, and as far as I can tell it's just shuffling windows. Maybe for certain applications, like video editing, it's useful; but I don't see it for software development in general.

      Of course if you like to work that way more power to you, but I don't believe there's any significant objective "enhance[ment to] the development process". I'd be interested to hear of any studies showing otherwise.

  11. Silviu C.

    More like the "portable involution" :/

  12. no-one in particular

    >The secret sauce behind that workflow is the new iOS 8 feature Apple calls Extensions


    > For example, while in Working Copy you could click the share button and any text editors you have installed would offer to open the file

    Why does this make me think of the PenPoint OS from back in 1991? Where you were supposed to be able to (lots of hedging here as I never got ahold of a tablet back then) do things like install a better text editor and all the other apps knew it was there...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Hell, they're reinventing the Unix small is beautiful paradigm some thirty years later. Sheesh!

  13. faibistes


    ¿Just how is an ipad with a keyboard different from a regular laptop?

    1. Infernoz Bronze badge

      Re: Meh

      An Apple iPad is much more limited and slower compared to a laptop, as is any laptop compared to a desktop.

      Any developer who values their time and doesn't need to be mobile, uses a powerful desktop with a least two large monitors, preferable 1080p and 24" or better.

      1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

        Re: Meh

        Any developer who values their time and doesn't need to be mobile, uses a powerful desktop with a least two large monitors, preferable 1080p and 24" or better.

        "Hi, Internet! I'm Infernoz and everyone is the same as me!"

  14. Salts

    iPad for productivity

    For the last few weeks I have been on holiday and was missing my second monitor, found an app called displaypad(there are a few others, this one was cheap) which turns the iPad into a second monitor, ok a bit laggy as it works over wifi and while I admit the MBP with an iPad as a second monitor, may not be ideal, it did what I wanted and really helped. But a tablet(any one) on it's own for productive work, not in my opinion, but it can certainly be a great asset to have.

  15. JP19


    When I am writing code the editor occupies most of my first 30" screen and the other is usually full of help files, reference documents and a couple of browser windows.

    I find a laptop with a single 1920x1080 screen relatively painful to work on.

  16. Decade


    I wouldn't depend on Ubuntu for a powerful tablet. The Vivaldi tablet was a neat idea, but couldn't get funding. Now, the most promising tablet appears to be the Jolla Tablet, reported in a certain disreputable publication here.

  17. stim


    You could bin all that ijunk and go get yourself a proper machine, like a Surface Pro 3...


  18. juice Bronze badge


    "I should note that to really get any development done on an iPad you'll need a real keyboard"

    We do have these things called laptops... maybe you should try one of them?

  19. AndyDent

    Air is lighter

    I was having a similar conversation with my co-founder as I needed to replace my beloved but heavy and outdated MBP 17" (too old to run latest XCode). He invited me to pick up his Macbook Air 11" in one hand and my iPad in the other...

    An iPad with a keyboard is noticeably heavier than an 11" Air which is a full computer, running both OSX and Windows and a range of dev tools, with a great keyboard.

    I have enjoyed using Codea to play with graphics algorithms but can't bring myself to believe in the iPad or its Android rivals as a dev machine.

    FWIW I went for a 13" Macbook Retina because I need Retina occasionally for design, having it lets me use a 1680x1050 screen on the 13" (with my reading glasses) and it had enough extra grunt that it will become my new Windows dev machine to replace the Dell D830 which still gives good service but weighs a ton.

  20. Leeroy Bronze badge

    Editing code

    Any device you can get your hands on to do a quick emergency edit is fine with me, no idea how I would do it on an iPad but if that's the way you roll....

    As previous posters have pointed out, some of us prefer desktops with multiple large monitors. I can do my simple edits from any laptop, pc or Android phone but for serious work my £300 pc will wipe the floor with laptops that cost thousands of pounds (not tried Crysis on it though :)

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