With the smaller screen resolution of Netbooks it’s often the case that program windows aren’t always visible on screen, in particular with the top bar hidden off screen so you can’t move it back in view, or it may be a window without a “dragable area”.
Linux has a great function that allows you to move windows with the mouse when pressing the ALT key. Well, now, you can have this on Windows too thanks to AltDrag, a small, free application.
Not much else to say – it works a treat and gets the thumbs up from me.
Yesterday I downloaded two software releases. And was left underwhelmed.
First up was the official launch of Internet Explorer 8. Nothing much appears to have changed since the Beta versions and I continue to be left disappointed.
People are turning towards Firefox, not because it shows web pages better, but because it’s more customisable – plugins, themes, etc. Microsoft has never really got this. Yes, Windows has themes and IE has addons, but there are few available and they’re hard to develop and implement. Instead we have Web Slices and Accelerators, requiring web developers to change their code and are deeply, deeply dull.
Next up, the people behind Xandros Linux launched Presto, which is intended to be used as a fast startup alternative to Windows. I’ve tried it on both my home PC and my Netbook and, yes, it works. It installs easily and configures Windows automatically to dual boot. Unfortunately, on both PCs I had different BIOS errors during the Presto boot and, yes, it’s still in Beta but it’s only a few weeks before the final version is released. Yet it lacks the basic ability to change languages and keyboards. So I’m stuck with a US keyboard layout.
By default it books with Firefox, Pidgin and Skype and you can add (some free, some you must pay for) extra applications via their website.
The final version is going to cost about $20, but that’s as much as they’re giving away right now. Personally, I’m going to wait for the final version as, at the moment, it’s seriously lacking that “oomph” that would get me excited.
Having said that I would recommend a rebuild of your PC every year, it’s a bit galling that it’s nearly 2 years since I’ve done it myself. In fact that’s as long as I’ve had my Mesh PC, and I’ve never got around to it.
The reasons, though, are simple – I was afraid to. When I’ve self-built machines the past I knew exactly how they worked, where the software and drivers were, etc. But with someone else’s build, it’s not quite the same.
Anyway, I went for it yesterday. Mesh provide a recovery partition – but that turns out not work (it was looking for a non-existent drive). They also provide a CD1, but looking at this showed none of the installed software that the Mesh came with (Microsoft Works and a suite of media software). Obviously if I rebuilt with this I’d lose them all. Heading to the Mesh website gave me my answer – they expect you to reinstall Windows, but replacing the original build, which leaves software installations and document intact. This wasn’t my preferred choice so I “bit the bullet” and reformatted my drive and reinstalled Windows. So far, all is working well. The base drivers and software are now in place and I’ve configured it how I like it (to a certain level) – then I’ll make an image of the drive, followed by installing all the other software and drivers and making final changes.
I took the opportunity to try out the Beta version of TeraCopy – a fast file copier which works alongside the standard Windows copying facility. It really is excellent and really improved copying speeds. This is a good opportunity to check whether my day-to-day backup system is working. But, just in case it isn’t, I used Teracopy to copy all the essential files to an external HD.
On my main PC and at work I use the excellent John’s Background Switcher to randomise my wallpaper and, in the case, of work display different ones across my multi-monitor setup. It works well and, due to the amount of time I’m usually on them, changes regularly throughout the day.
For my Netbook, however, it’s different. Due to its short bursts of use, changing regularly isn’t so important and, at the same time, I need a program that’s compact and uses as few resources as possible.
Step forward Craig’s Random Wallpaper Changer. This has no options, no GUI interface. Nothing. You simply drop it into the folder that your wallpapers are stored in and then create a shortcut to it in your Startup folder. It will then randomise your desktop background on startup. And that’s it. It then finishes and uses no more resources.
With short battery lives and small resolution screens Netbooks, unlike many other computers on the market, could so with some specific software for their use.
Now, not all of those I’ve found are specifically designed for Netbooks, but all are relevant. And they’re designed for Windows XP.
If your Netbook didn’t come with model-specific battery display then you’ll be left with the rather weak XP default. My favourite options is BatteryBar, although there is also Power Meter Plus.
Mz Cpu Accelerator does a simple thing, but it does it well. It increases the priority of the current application that is in use. If, like me, you normally just view one application at a time, such as Firefox, then this work brilliantly.
F.lux is a rather curious utility that makes the colour of your computer’s display adapt to the time of day – warm at night and like sunlight during the day. Obviously this is neither specific to Netbooks nor Laptops in general, but due to the nature of Netbook being used anywhere and everywhere, often on a lap and up-close.
I run it on my Acer and don’t notice it. But that’s a good thing – tell it to return to normal and you will notice the difference. But otherwise it remains discreet and just does what it says it will.
If your hard drive is made by Maxtor or Seagate, then you can download the free DiscWizard software from their site. This is a re-badged version of the, usually chargeable, Acronis True Image software.
With a lack of CD drives in Netbooks, the ability to boot from USB keys is essential in the case of any problems. UNetbootin will download one of a number of OS’ and install them onto a USB key ready to be booted from. Not only can you choice from their rather long list, but you can also add your own options.
Ahh, if only XP could have the ReadyBoost technology that they use in Vista and Windows 7, where a USB key can be used to increase performance. But you can! eBoostr is an XP equivalent of ReadyBoost. I’ve not tried it myself, but there is a trial to download and it then costs from £13 depending on your requirements.
Including a battery meter, Notebook Hardware Control allows you to control and modify CPU and battery information on your system. What functionality is available is pretty dependant on your system, but it’s worth giving it a try. But watch out for that huge EULA during installation…
HotKeyz (added 15/07/2009)
A wonderfully discrete and compact piece of software, HotKeyz allows you to create shortcut keys for running applications.