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Monday, May 21, 2007

Making Windows usable - Part III

In two previous posts I wrote about applications, tools and utilities I use to make my Windows XP system usable. This time I will finish the list.

Applications

  1. Skype/Gizmo Project/Miranda
    While I'm working in Windows, this in no way means I'm disconnected from the rest of the world. I use Skype to talk for free with my parents that live in Ukraine (landline call would cost me ~20 cents). I use Gizmo Project to test my friend's Asterisk installation. I use ICQ to chat with parents and friends. I use MSN messenger to connect with colleagues. So Miranda is my solution for multipurpose chatter application. Plus, Miranda is an open source application.
    I've used Pidgin (ex-GAIM) before (also open source), but I didn't like its memory management - it was heavy on my system. I suspect it is a Windows build problem.

  2. Yahoo Widgets
    Yahoo widgets is a child's play. It used to be a Konfabulator once, who created widgets for Mac OS X, but since Apple introduced widgets on their own, Konfabulator created an engine for Windows. After awhile, Yahoo has bought Konfabulator, and now we have widgets on Windows XP. Cool! I use a day planner widget, which shows me my day's meetings from MS Outlook and SMS widget for sending SMS messages.

  3. Foxit Reader
    After using Acrobat Reader on a low-on-memory system such as mine, I got to the point when I couldn't normally read PDF files anymore - my system would start to crawl and would become unusable. So I've searched to a lighter application. And Foxit Reader supplies me with all the features I need - it is fast and lightweight. It is not an open source project, but a free version of it is very nice.

  4. Picasa 2
    Picasa is my favorite photo organizer. I like its intuitive interface, its categorization, its ability to index photos and tagging, and also blog- and web-albums integration. It is easy to use. It also has few photo editing features (not a professional photo editing, but still), and correction functions. Thumbs up!

  5. IrfanView
    Another image manipulating software. I use IrfanView as fast image viewer and for fixing things in a bunch - such as renaming photo files or changing photo sizes. It is very known application, very good, stable and convenient.

  6. RealVnc
    When I need to use a Linux GUI workstation (one of our compile servers, or GUI testing machines), I use VNC. It is very known and tried out way to communicate with remote GUI, and I like RealVNC because its lite and easy to use.

  7. Launchy/Keybreeze
    These two application I test right now. These applications are application launchers and more. Think of them as Spotlight for Windows. I really like Spotlight, so I miss this feature badly, even in Linux. Yes, there is a Desktop Search, but it is still not the same.
    Launchy is Java-based application, and somewhat heavy on my system. Keybreeze is a newer one I've installed couple of days ago, and I'm still comparing the two. At the moment I'm more used to Launchy (it has been installed for couple of month), but I'm getting grip around Keybreeze as well. Both are quite good and, when I use them as fast app launchers, they do their job very well. Highly recommended.

  8. Zoundry Blog Writer
    Ok, now the last one :-).
    I've been blogging more or less seriously in last few months, and I came to conclusion that I have to upgrade my blogging tools. That's why I requested help with Blogger switching, and this is also the reason I'm in a search for blog editor. So while I like Zoundry more that other editors (such as Qumana), and I do find it to be very good application, there are nuances I don't like - for example, I have to post as draft first and then edit the post online because formatting that gets to a Blogger is not very good. Before that I've used Flock's blogging editor, but since I've upgraded to full Blogger from Blogger Beta, they didn't have support for it yet, so I switches.
    In any case - Zoudry is a good application, I just wish I could configure its behavior as I like.

As I said earlier, there are some applications (and a good ones) that I don't use. But if I had to, here's the list of some:

  1. Antivirus
    I'm in corporate environment, so I have Norton Antivirus installed. But if I had to choose, I'd go for AVG antivirus - its free and very good. That's what I've installed on my family computers.

  2. Scripting
    I don't script on my Windows machine - I just don't need to. But if I'd need it - Python, Perl and Cygnus would be installed on my system. Free tools rule!

  3. Torrenting/Emule
    Once again, as it is a corporate laptop, I "don't use" P2P tools - unless I have to download some Linux distro for testing. Then I use uTorrent, as it is the lightest torrent app ever. I don't use Emule for ages now.

  4. SSL
    I have an openSSL installed, because I wanted to use it once. But since then, I've never used it, so it is listed in this list.

  5. IRC/Chat
    I use PuTTY to ssh to a server and I run irssi console client on my Linux machine. But if I'd use an IRC application on Windows, it would be an XChat-2. Open source. The best one :-)

  6. Games
    I don't play games (I hear now "yea, right...", but trust me - I don't), so no games are installed on my laptop. Period.
    When I play (Tycoon Transports Deluxe, made circa 1997-8 or Cashflow 101), its not on this laptop, but on my AMD Athlon desktop at home. And even that haven't happened for over a year, so as I said before - I don't play.

So, here you have it. The list of applications, tools and utilities that make my life if not perfect, at least better.

Any feedback would be greatly appreciated.

-A.



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