Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Vista!

In attempting to learn more about this computer, and why it was working funny, I found a couple of things:

1- There are a shitload of default services running. Many of them can be disabled. One of these days I'll compile a document detailing which are which...

2- In addition, there are a ton of scheduled tasks in there. Again, most of which are mostly useless. Especially for my purposes. I don't care to use a lot of these fancy new features, especially at the performance cost. (Hint: to view tasks, right click on My Computer and choose Manage. Then navigate in the tree at the left to the task scheduler, click view in the menu, and select "show hidden tasks".)

Since I disabled services and tasks that I clearly didn't need, this computer has run about a million times faster. OK, more like twice as fast. And it's not that it was slow to begin with- right out of the box, it was quite capable. But there was a certain "snappiness" to the usage that I wasn't getting. This improved it mostly.

There is still a little "squishyness", but I blame that on the fancy Aero Glass interface. It's too cool to turn off.

(By the way, it wasn't even on "out of the box". To turn it on, right click "my computer", choose properties, choose "advanced system options", choose the "advanced" tab, click "settings", click "visual effects", and select "enable desktop composition" and "enable transparent glass". Who says Windows is complicated?)

The neat thing I like about it is two-fold. And useless, but cool. First, when you hover the mouse over a running program in the taskbar, it shows a tiny screen shot of the running program. And it's "live"- meaning that if there is something moving around in that window, the screenshot shows it. The alt-tab keyboard shortcut works the same as it has, including the live shot. But for the real coolness, click windowkey-tab. Neat.

And here's a little something I tried, and liked. The computer has the 16:10 aspect ratio (widescreen) screen. Way cool for watching video, and if your workflow happens to be of the "a bunch of smaller windows all over the desktop, not overlapping each other". You can fit more stuff. But I don't generally work that way. And when I do, it's usually two windows, arranged top to bottom. Just the way my mind works. Anyway, this led to a bit of a waste of horizontal space. The Sidebar uses up some of that. And those who know me well also know that I like the taskbar on top. Well, I adjusted that: I put the taskbar on the left side of the screen. It's a little clunky looking, but I got used to it quickly. I can fit more stuff in there now, and it's more usable. If I have a ton of windows open, the normal taskbar tended to squish the tabs down to a uselessly small size. With the taskbar on the side, they are whatever size you make it, and are in a vertical list.

Hey Microsoft, here's what I'd like to see- a Windows Tuning Wizard. You fire it up, and it goes step by step through the various underbelly options of Windows in plain english, asking you what you want. For example:

1- UPnP. "If you never intend to use devices and services like [insert stuff that uses upnp here], disable this service."

2- Active Directory Rights Management client. "Are you connected to a Microsoft 200x server/domain? No? Disable this."

3- Crawl Start Pages. "Do you want Windows to [do whatever this does] automatically? No? Disable this."

4- Etc.

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