Friday, March 4, 2011

Surviving with Windows

Even the most fervent Linux penguin may be required to use Windows for some purpose or another. For example, I have been doing a lot of work with VMware VSphere lately. And VSphere Client runs on... err... *WINDOWS*. Then there's games. Linux gaming is a non-starter due to the fact that the "X" Window System simply doesn't have the performance to do games. Mac gaming is better now that Steam has arrived, but Windows is still "the" PC gaming platform for most games.

So if you have to use Windows, what makes it less stressful for someone who prefers more elegant operating systems than the 16 years of hacks and kludges that is Windows today? I'll make a brief list here...

  1. Microsoft Security Essentials. Don't even think of running Windows without an antivirus. This program is free, works as well as the others, and does *not* spam you or install spyware on your system like many of the other antivirus programs do.
  2. Google Chrome. Internet Explorer on Windows 7 is a lot more secure than in days of yore, but Google Chrome is the most secure web browser for Windows, period.
  3. Microsoft Office 2010, Standard version. It drives me batty with its incoherent user interface but Outlook still is the best here. However, if you do *not* need compatibility with Exchange Server and its calendar, install OpenOffice and Thunderbird instead -- their user interface is much better than Office 2010's.
  4. Apple Quicktime. For playing Quicktime videos. Duh.
  5. Foxit Reader for Windows. For reading PDF files, which is what everybody's documentation is sent out as nowadays. Do *NOT* install Adobe's own PDF reader, it is evil, it has a security breach every other day.
  6. On the other hand, there's no alternative to Adobe's own Flash Player. Though thankfully Chrome doesn't need it, but IE will, so go ahead and install it -- using IE, because the installer will complain that Chrome already has Flash (duh).
  7. GNU Emacs for Windows. Because sometimes you need to edit text files, and Emacs is the best way to do that.
  8. Xmarks. The best way to keep all your bookmarks in sync between Chrome, IE, and any other computers you have.
  9. Evernote, to write things like shopping lists and todo lists and keep your notes in sync with your smartphone, your tablet, and the cloud.
  10. Steam client. Of course :).
To be continued...

Note one of the things I did *not* mention: Cygwin. The reality is that it will constantly annoy you due to the fact that the Unix API doesn't map well onto the Windows API. You're using Windows, not Unix. You're much better off learning how to use the native Windows tools like Powershell. They will annoy you too, but not as much as trying to shove a square peg into a round hole.


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