Gadget du Jour: Hot Swappable USB 2/SATA Drive Dock, Discussion of Virtualization

In October of last year, one of the big gadget sites (Engadget, link here) mentioned a SATA hard drive connector which permitted users to “dock” their 2.5″ or 3.5″ hard drive in a stand similar to the docking stands you can get for your iPod.  It was a nice concept, and since it was teaching season, I looked into ordering one.  At that time, the stand was $50, and the shipping was like $56 – clearly outrageous-  so I passed.  Fortunately, I wasn’t the only tightwad geek who was desiring this nifty little toy, and Circuit City has picked up a version of it for their online store:

This device is a paltry $40 (before a $10 rebate which expires on 4.30), so it’s on my short list for when I buy the next gadget for the office.  Unfortunately, I think I’m going to be slammed with the other new gear I’m expecting, as well as the configuration of my 1U Sharepoint server in the office so I can learn more about that technology.

I’ve also been working on Virtualization quite a bit lately.  I’m carrying couple of Western Digital 250GB 2.5″ HDD’s with me so I can have Virtual Machines to use when demonstrating various applications.  So far, I have the following apps in VM’s:

  • Full CCH ProSystem fx Suite of Apps
  • QuickBooks 2008 and QBES 8.0
  • Peachtree 2008 Quantum
  • Office 2007
  • Office 2003

I’m also collecting some nice VM’s from vendors, including the Interwoven Worksite demo I got from them during a face to face in Chicago last week, and a Dynamics GP VPC which I have downloaded from the Microsoft Dynamics  partner site, aka PartnerSource (sorry, guys – it’s Dynamics partners only).  Very, very cool.

The nice thing about working in a virtualized environment is that you can run it on a PC that doesn’t have all of your programs installed.  Once I’ve made the full transition to VM’s, if my laptop broken down, I could borrow or buy a new PC with lots of RAM and run all of my apps for teaching off of the virtual machines.

VM’s aren’t just for demos, though.  I ended up also using a VM for my production tax environment this year.  While I didn’t do many returns, I wanted to go ahead and keep the app installation and configuration I had on my old laptop in XP Pro when I made the switch to a virtualized environment.  All I had to do was download a tool from the VMWare website which converts a physical installation of software on a physical hard drive to a virtual hard drive (VHD) file which can be used with the virtual hardware created by VMWare and MS Virtual PC.  While my tax software vendor said that my current year tax software was compatible with Windows Vista (which I’m using as the base OS on my two production machines), they were making no guarantees on the back year stuff.  I did read that some people were using back year versions of my tax software on Vista, but I decided to go ahead and stick with the XP installation, with the thought being that I would be better off not having to wrestle with the expected configuration issues when I tried to run these infrequently used yet eseential program on a Vista machine.

Until next time, happy trails from the road.