Could You Work With a Completely Icon-less Desktop?

You’ve probably had (or have) a computer desktop littered with icons. While some people like to organize this into a semblance of order, others tend to let all of these icons just crop up on their desktops and get rid of them only when there’s no more any space left for new ones. We’ve been drifting closer and closer towards a digital workspace without icons, and here’s how we’ve done it in both OS X and Windows 7.

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Safari on OS X & Firefox 4 on OS X and Windows 7

Like a few users, I got Firefox 4 a day early and started using it immediately on my computers. It’s my main browser on Windows and I use it also on my mac. I tend to use Safari a lot for short queries.

Firefox 4

Good:

  • Speed. It’s darn fast. They say between 3× to 6× faster than the previous version. I have to agree.
  • Streamlined minimal interface: really nice to have something with a low footprint, that doesn’t get in the way of browsing.
  • Back button history list: you can access this by right-clicking the back button. I use it often enough and I had to Google how to find it again.

Bad:

  • Not compatible with some of my add ons and extensions, including Skype (which they’ll probably fix), Delicious (which they won’t, ie sunsetting!), DevonThinkPro, and Kaspersky URL Advisor (which I don’t really use).

Safari

Good:

  • When I type in an address and it recognizes it from the history, I only have to hit enter to go to it. In Firefox, I have to select it with the arrow key first.
  • The most visited gallery reminds me of Chrome, but it’s pretty good to have it open by default.

Bad:

  • Safari doesn’t remember the zoom level for webpages, as Firefox does. It’s a pain to have to do this manually every single time.

Avoid File Chaos: Easy Ways of Organizing Your Files

If you’ve got many files on your computer, you’ll need to organize them in some fashion, otherwise it will be complete chaos, especially when it comes time to find something. I mainly use a Windows 7 desktop and it’s really important to find files quickly, without resorting to a Windows Search. Here are some tips.

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Uninstalling Software to Free Up HD Space in Windows 7

While a lot of people are using Macs, there are also quite a few of our readers that use Windows, including their most recent release Windows 7. After the fiasco of Windows Vista, it feels nice to have a really nice functioning OS on our PCs. How would you improve performance and free up hard disk space if you have limited resources? Read on to find out more.

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Windows 7 Tricks @ Gizmodo

Gizmodo has a few interesting Win 7 tricks. Most of them are keyboard shortcuts that, if you’re a power user, you’ll already be aware of, but even then, there are a few combinations that I didn’t know of.

Windows Media Player & Libraries

Erica Ho talks about WMP 12 on Lifehacker. I have to agree that one of the biggest improvements of Win 7 is the fact that it allows you to manage your files and documents as libraries. It works really well. While she says that WMP isn’t that good of a way of synching songs with an Apple device, I have to agree. I usually use iTunes, even though I don’t like iTunes that much.

Although I use my iPod regularly, I haven’t updated it in a while with new songs. The main reason is that my iPod has 130GB worth of music that I lost when a hard drive failed and crashed. I haven’t yet taken the time to try and salvage the files. It would be a hassle.

WMP does play a whole lot of files. I installed the FLAC codec, so it even plays those. All in all, I’m impressed, but I’ve kind of gotten used to the KMP player for playing movies and TV shows. Why? Keyboard control shortcuts. They work well and honestly, I don’t like using my mouse all that much for navigating through a movie. I’d rather just use the arrow keys to FF if I need to. Bookmarks work also very well in KMP.

My Initial Impressions of Windows 7

Like many others, I’ve shunned Vista when it was released. Although I have a laptop that runs Vista, I rarely use it when I have access to my main machine. My desktop was still running XP until this week. The initial install was done years ago and since I spent about a year away from it, I didn’t update it until now.

The age-old adage of not fixing something until it’s broken, coupled with waiting until the last minute. Having dealt with multiple computers in my life, mostly PCs, I dread formatting a disk and reinstalling.

Why?

Well, data needs to be backed up and since I don’t do this regularly enough, I had hundreds of GB to back up. Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing like a fresh install on a computer. It runs lightning fast.

Vista was crap. It was heavy and bloated. There were some interesting bits, but overall, I was unimpressed. The initial reports on Win 7 were good, though I like to wait before adopting a new OS.

Things came to a grinding halt this week when I had to reinstall an OS. Faced with the problem of reinstalling XP, I decided to forgo it and to install Win 7. I have to say that I’m pleasantly surprised.

There are a bunch of features that are really interesting. To start things off, I like the new taskbar and start menu. They are configurable and easy to use. I like how the most common programs get automatically nested in the start menu and save the most recent documents this way as well, which are associated to the right program icons.

The integrated search is good as well. Another thing that I like is coupling multiple folders into My Documents, Pictures, Music, and Videos. I usually keep my data off my main drive on another HD so this makes a lot of sense.

Even though Chrome is interesting, I’d rather use FF because of the add-ons. Apparently Chrome can be a lot faster. I can’t remember the last time I used IE.

With Win 7, I installed Office 2010, which is a breeze to use. I like it a lot, much nicer than the previous editions. The other main program that I use is Adobe Photoshop and I installed CS4. It’s also pretty slick in Win 7. I’ll probably install Lightroom as well.

Resolving My Computer Problems

My new ultra-clean destkop, with a bokeh SRAM Red RD photo that I took

Office 2010 has now been installed, along with Photoshop CS4, Firefox, WinRaR.

I’ve got KMP Player and VLC ready to go as soon as Media Player snags on a codec. For now, it’s working nicely with a bunch of different files. I’m actually surprised.

This new MS Word is nice to use, so much nicer than Word 2003. I had forgotten how nice and clean it was compared to ’03. I have Office 2007 installed on my laptop, but I use it rarely now.

The day got really interesting when I started formatting my C:\ drive. It didn’t take long. I immediately installed Windows 7. It was a bit of a problem though, since the copies of Win7 that I had were only in Chinese. I went around to find some copies, but in the end had to resort to my own means.

I’m really impressed at how nice and clean Win7 looks. My wife liked it too. She said that it reminded her a lot of OS X.

Initially, installing CS4 was a problem, but it quickly resolved itself. The same goes for Win7. The install was quick and painless. I’m running into some Flash problems right now, but that might be because I haven’t restarted my computer yet. They took a while to sort out, but today, I managed to upload all of my photos using the flash scripts of Zooomr without any snags. I realize that Kaspersky is blocking the script, creating the problem.

I scanned the computer and didn’t find any viruses. I’m still using Kaspersky and find it superior to Avast and AVG.

After a few years, you accumulate so many different programs that aren’t actually needed. I find it liberating to finally have a computer that works and allows me to do my work, and actually helps me do so without any problems.

This rig was a pretty good computer back in 2006 when we bought it. The best addition was definitely the 22” Viewsonic display, which made most displays that we had redundant. I spent time away from this desktop and it slowly imploded, culminating in an HD failure last year. I lost a lot of data, about 200 GB worth. Kind of annoying, but then it was partially backed up, so it wasn’t that much of a loss. Thankfully, I methodically upload all of my photos onto my Zooomr Pro account, which will actually last a ‘lifetime’, their words, not mine. All of my photos are backed up there, but I lost a whole bunch of RAW files.

There are a few things that I forgot, such as synching my ReadItLater bookmarks before formatting. That was stupid of me, but you can’t predict everything. I use a variety of bookmark systems in order to stay on top of things. First step is starring an item in my Feed Reader. If it’s valid or if I really want to read it in more detail, saving it away from my work-related bookmarks, I usually save it to ReadItLater. I keep delicious for websites that I want to bookmark. ReadItLater was mostly used for articles and the like.

Ah well, you can’t be perfect. Still, all of these issues pale in comparison at how much of an improvement this version of my rig is. All that’s left is backing up my removable HD, continuing to back up all of my files from D:\, as well as getting ready to setup a Drobo, though I think that instead of doing that, I’ll simply purchase a MacBook Pro 17. The Drobo will get expensive, $300 for the enclosure, $200-600 for the HDs. That’s almost 1/3 of the price of a MacBook. I’m guessing that I’ll be spending $2,500USD on my MacBook.

Re Computer Problems

You may wonder why I have computer problems. At a certain point in my life, I sold a few computers and assembled my own rigs. The initial problem was that I wasn’t in Taiwan to take care of my desktop for a few semesters.

This meant that the virus definitions weren’t being updated, which left it open to attack. When I arrived in June, I knew that I had to do something, but I was just lazy. Formatting a C:\ drive takes time and HD space, two things that I didn’t have much of.

I’ve counted that I need to backup at least another 75GB from my C:\ before I can format. Then, I’m pretty sure that my virus problems will be solved. Actually, it’s looking pretty good. Kaspersky is on its fourth sweep today and only found 1 threat.

I have to say that I like Kaspersky better than AVG and Avast. I like how it deals with viruses and trojans right away, instead of waiting to finish a scan. It’s a lot better.

I don’t use Norton, after Norton almost ruined an HD a few years back. This is kind of like why I don’t trust any HD manufacturers except Western Digital. The warranty and the service I got on a Western Digital HD was miles above anything else I got from Maxtor. In fact, after 3 years, I got a replacement HD free of charge from WD.

This is why I only run WD HDs.

Other than that, my main rig is still running XP. I wanted to upgrade, but couldn’t bear the though of Vista. Vista was crappy-ish. Not so bad, but it’s good that I waited until Win 7 was out before I decided that I might upgrade.

My rig went haywire when I tried to connect to the internet. My guess is that the viruses were trying to link up or talk with other programs or botnets. I got the blue screen of death a few times. Services.exe caused that.

The last thing that I want to do right now is spend money on a laptop, but it looks like I might have to, depending on how things go. The other thing that I haven’t done is purchase a Drobo. I’ve been thinking about this for months, but haven’t done so. I should just get it over with.

We bought our computer in October 2006, a month or so after we arrived. This was somewhat after my other laptop crashed. We got it fixed, and we got a desktop. At the time, I wasn’t really thinking about it, but the desktop served us well. With the 22″ Viewsonic LCD, we spent $1,300 on it.

The laptop has still been used on and off. My wife bought a MacBook Pro last year and she’s been using it happily. The old Compaq laptop served as my downloading machine while I was in Canada. The HD fried when I came back last year. I haven’t replaced it yet.

Anyway, we’ll see how things go this week. If it doesn’t improve, I don’t really know what will happen. I might have a new MacBook. I might not. I might just have a new HD.

MS Windows 7 Barebones

MS has announced that the next version of Windows will be based on a minimal version of Vista, by at least an order of magnitude. They have conceded that Vista is bloated.