web zen. Just so.
Less is More
or, Geek Essentials for a Lightweight Windows Laptop
OK. I finally caved in and removed RedHat from my Toshiba. I just got fed up with the rdesktop bugs, X server lockups, power management issues and odd wireless card problems (plus the fact that none of the Office alternatives for Linux is good enough for my needs). So I trashed the disk (sadly including my own customized build of Straw) and went with XP.
- It's not the operating system, it's what you do with it. "Less is More" can apply to any OS, provided you know what you're doing.
- I work in a real company, in the real world (currently on a big, complex and utterly time-consuming project) and I need Office and Outlook to get my big bad corporate e-mail (with all the VPN and compatibility hassles that entails)
- I'm going on holiday sometime soon to uncertain places, and I need to take a "disposable" laptop with me that will talk to my digital cameras without the least hassle. No editing fstab for USB disks. No fiddling with /etc/modules.conf to connect via Bluetooth. No PPP wierdness. No finicky thumbnail viewers. XP just works for that, period.
- Mozilla Firebird for most of my browsing. It feels a lot like Applications/Safari, is blindingly fast, and it has tabs. I just can't live without tabs anymore, even though IE 6.0 SP1 is more than good enough and includes more plugins.
- The RSS Reader Extension: Simple. Fast. Minimalistic
- AdShield to block popups and other junk when I do use IE. It's still free and it's the best anti-popup software by far.
- The latest Mozilla Thunderbird alpha for most of my e-mail (it supports IMAP over SSL properly, has built-in anti-spam and a very neat Outlook 2003-like vertical preview pane. I'm sold.)
- Trillian for instant messaging.
- And, of course, Office XP with a minimal feature set.
Next, development tools:
- Cygwin for all my command-line needs (bash, rxvt - plus pixel-perfect fonts, SSH) and development (CVS, vi, Python, Perl, basic PHP testing)
- The Live HTTP Headers Firebird extension for debugging.
- The User Agent Switcher to pretend I'm using IE when talking to brain-dead sites (also check out the excellent Web Developer Extension)
And finally, minimal eyecandy:
- Flat gray wallpaper
- The UxTheme Patcher to remove the hideous XP Luna theme and install the much leaner, neater Watercolor theme instead:
- Samurize for a minimalistic, taskbar-embedded system monitor.
- PowerMenu for changing window transparency and task priority.
- Y'z Shadow for Mac OS X-like window drop shadows.
It's usable. It works. It's fast (much faster than Linux on the same hardware, and the battery lasts longer).