When I was in college, there was an anthropology meme about how childbirth became riskier when the human pelvis adjusted for walking upright. So the ability to walk and run -- or the brain developments that caused humans to deal with problems by walking and running instead of some other way -- must have offered some massive evolutionary advantage that outweighed increased risk to mother and offspring in childbirth.
I'm not sure where this belief stands now -- whether it's established dogma or the anthro equivalent of an urban legend -- but there seems to be a funky analogy among developers and their dev machines.
I'm amazed by how many devs want to be mobile so bad that they use a laptop as a principal (or only!) development machine. I'm more amazed when these same people then get into a silly debate about "the best tools for the job," whether that's an OS debate, or IDEs, or something else.
Because, like walking upright in the story, a laptop offers mobility at a very heavy price.
I work machines pretty hard -- running server software, virtual machines, development environments / debuggers, lots of browsers, random other tools, some of which even use CPU cycles and not just memory. I appreciate the productivity and uninterrupted "flow" that a really fast machine offers.
Laptop performance is awful compared to desktop machines, and with every passing month a laptop (due to its limited ability for upgrade) falls farther and farther behind its well-maintained desktop counterpart. And a plain ol' $100 motherboard and $250 processor in a desktop will do things that make most laptops implode into a singularity, whether it's the 1333 MHz FSB, the 3+ GHz quad-core CPU, or a graphics card whose cooling pipe alone can't fit inside a laptop.
Even the top end, like the fastest Alienware gear, has some fundamental limitations that sound like desktops from a few years back: 2.8 GHz CPU / 800 FSB / 667 Memory ... and a price tag (with the best options) near $5,000!
It's not an OS thing either: the hyper-popular MacBook Pro, while one of the fastest "conventional/mass-availability/non-gaming" laptops, is a complete lightweight compared to the base 8-core Mac Pro tower (that runs the same $2,800 as a the top-end MacBook Pro).
Don't even get me started on the garbage laptops that most companies give their employees, machines which are optimized for durability, enterprise management, and running Office. Sporting things like 4200 rpm hard drives.
And for the occasional but real necessity of mobility, a $250 cheeseball laptop does a fine job for giving presentations, working with Office, and even a quick hack here or there, so it's not as though there's a huge sunk cost just in being able to bring a slide deck to a client.
Yet ... the ability to move around instead of sitting in one place offers -- or at least appears to offer -- some kind of power that compensates for all of these issues.
Can anyone clue me in on exactly what it is?