Friday, October 05, 2007

Making Windows XP less Painful

That is, making Windows XP more like Linux. Occasionally, I need to boot into Windows XP to use some application that won't run with WINE on Linux. Examples include QTFairUse and the drivers and software included with my Nokia E70 phone. Whenever I need to do this, however, I feel like I'm being suffocated by the constricting, feeble Windows environment and feel like doing the same to an unlucky bystander who just happens to bear the brunt of my Windows agitation. Fortunately, I finally sat down and figured out a few things to makeXP a bit more usable... a bit.

A (Somewhat) Usable Shell
The first thing I needed was a command line that wasn't dropped as a baby. Cygwin, which provides a UNIX-like environment on top of Windows, is perfect for this (another alternative is MinGW). The key to setting up Cygwin is configuring what applications you want installed in one of the setup menus. Of course, if you miss something on the initial setup, you can runCygwin's setup.exe again and reconfigure the included applications. Cygwin mounts the Windows C drive at /cygdrive/c. I would recommend browsing the Cygwin Properties menu and tweaking it (especially the fonts) to your preferences. Do this by clicking on the Cygwin icon in the upper left hand corner of the window and selecting Properties.

Cutting and pasting from Cygwin is a pain in the ass. To copy text, click the Cygwin icon and go to Edit->Mark. You now have a "Visual Block" - type selection box. I'm not sure if it's possible to select in a line-wrapping mode, the lack of which is also annoying. Hit Enter to copy the selected text. To paste text into theCygwin shell, click on the icon and hit Edit->Paste.

Install Software
Block Ads on the Web
Ads suck. Block them. Download a sample hosts file here and save it (in Notepad or something: Start->All Programs->Accessories->Notepad) to your file system. Now copy that file to c:\WINDOWS\system32\drivers\etc and name it HOSTS.MVP. If that's too much work for you, this page provides an automated tool to do it.

Add a Button to Show the Desktop
It's really aggravating if, in order to use the point-and-click Windows interface, you need to close all of the currently open windows to access the Desktop where a lot of clicking occurs. To do this, open Notepad and paste the following lines into it:
Save the file as Show Desktop.scf. Right click on the task bar (that blue bar at the bottom of the screen) and select Toolbars->Quick Launch. Now drag the icon of the file you just created into the Quick Launch area. If all goes well, hitting that icon in the Quick Launch area should hide all the windows you have open and focus the desktop (or show them if you have them hidden).

Remove Unwanted Icons from the System Tray
msconfig is your friend. Good resources are here and here.

Remap keys
There is a pretty easy tool that allows you to remap your keys called SharpKeys. I'm a fan of Caps Lock to Escape remapping, myself.

I recommend some BSOD wallpaper just to remind you from time to time that you're using an inferior operating system.

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