2008-08-03 21:29 BST -- Added section on Acrobat Reader
2008-08-03 19:14 BST -- Added some more tweaks to the Firefox section (disable password storing, search history and form field auto-filling). Minor formatting corrections.
As I'm sure some of you are aware, my 1000H is dual-booting WinXP and Kubuntu. I think I've spent enough time taming Kubuntu, now it's time to move onto taming the big dog.. Windows XP.
Warning: I consider myself a 'power user'. I don't like it when my PC tries to second-guess what I'm trying to do. I absolutely hate things like Microsoft Live Messenger that take ages to start up, and don't actually work properly anyway. You can feel free to swap and change things around in this tutorial if you, say, want to keep Outlook, or don't want all the Firefox add-ons that I'm suggesting. As a bare minimum I'd suggest you keep Firefox and Adblock Plus though :)
So let's start with the easy stuff...
We Can Make Him Faster, Stronger, Better!
Let's start by cleaning up some of the junk on the base XP install. Admittedly it's not as bad as some machines (I once tried to clean up the base install on a Vaio for a friend - operative word: tried), it isn't as fast as it could be...
Right click the taskbar and select Properties.
Switch to the Start Menu tab, and make sure Classic Start Menu is selected. Now click Customise Start Menu.
In the list at the bottom, disable Use Personalised Menus. If you want a bit more screen space, select Show Small Icons in Start Menu. Hit the Sort button, then OK your way out.
Excising the Teletubby Interface
Drop back to the Desktop (Windows-D is the quickest way to do this). Right-click a blank area, and click Properties. On the "Themes" page, select "Windows Classic". Click Apply.
Switch to the Desktop tab, and disable "Run Desktop Cleanup Wizard every 60 days". I usually make sure "My Documents", "My Computer" and "My Network Places" are selected under "Desktop Icons" too. My Network Places is only useful if your Eee is going to be on a network with other Windows machines (or Linux machines running Samba) at some point in its life. Disable it if you don't need it.
Making those Desktop icons smaller
In my opinion, the default icon size on the Eee-customised version of XP is far larger than it should be. Once again, this setting is hiding in the Screen Properties (desktop right-click) window.
Right-click on the desktop, then select Properties. Select the Appearance tab, then the Advanced button. In the "Item" drop-down, select "Icon". Set the value in the "Size" field to 32 (the default is 48). OK your way out. Windows will make you wait a few seconds while it fixes the desktop icons.
Now to get rid of the huge gap between the icons, right-click the desktop, select Arrange Items By, then deselect Align to Grid. Go back into the same menu, and re-enable Align to Grid. The space will disappear. The icon text might stick on one line though -- once you log off and back on again (or reboot), the text will wrap as normal.
Taking out the rubbish
Open Control Panel (Start -> Settings -> Control Panel). Switch to the Classic View (click the link on the top left), and select "Add or Remove Programs." Get rid of all the Windows Live stuff -- this will save you between 75MB and 100MB of space, and a lot of trouble. They're only really useful if you use MS Live on a regular basis. I don't, so they're just a waste of space.
If you need an instant messaging client, Pidgin (http://www.pidgin.im/) is at least as good as Live Messenger, and quite a bit faster in my experience. It also supports the Jabber, MSN, ICQ, AOL and Yahoo instant messaging systems, so saves you having the clients for all five loaded at the same time.
I also remove Microsoft Works (because I prefer OpenOffice.org), but left the PowerPoint viewer installed. SQL Server Compact Edition seems to be largely redundant too.
I'm also tempted to remove StarOffice and replace it with OpenOffice.org (it's effectively the same thing) but haven't done so yet.
Explorer layout tweaks
Open an Explorer file browser window -- double click on My Computer if you don't have one open. Open the Tools menu, then select Folder Options. Switch to the View tab, then make sure the following options are selected:
Display the full path in the address bar: ON
Hide extensions for known file types: OFF (aka "yes, Windows, there is a difference between myfile.txt and myfile.jpg...")
Hidden files and folders: Show hidden files and folders
Begone, Internet Explorer!
Grab the Firefox 3 installer (or 2 if you prefer) from http://www.getfirefox.com/. Install it as normal (basically keep clicking Next).
The items below are all Firefox add-ons. You can skip any or all of these, but make sure you follow the final setup instructions at the end.
Adblock Plus (advert blocker)
Start Firefox, then go to http://adblockplus.org/. Select "Installation", right-click the "Install Adblock Plus" link and click "Copy Link Location". Paste the address into the address bar, and hit Enter. When Firefox asks you to confirm the installation, do so. You'll note that the XPI (plugin package) file is actually on addons.mozilla.org, Mozilla's official Firefox add-on repository.
DownThemAll (download manager)
Another Firefox special - this is a really nifty download manager that can resume downloads if they fail part-way through.
Go to http://www.downthemall.net/ and click "Install It!" (next to the big blue arrow). This will redirect you to addons.mozilla.org again. Click "Add to Firefox". That's it - easy, huh?
This is a nifty little addon that moves all the myriad of Firefox download windows onto the status bar, which saves a lot of taskbar space. This lives at https://addons.mozil...irefox/addon/26 and can be installed exactly how you installed DownThemAll -- just click the "Add to Firefox" button.
Macromedia/Adobe Shockwave and Flash Players
Go to http://www.adobe.com...ckwave/download. Download the installer, and remember where you saved it, you'll need it later.
For Flash, go to http://www.adobe.com...=shockwaveflash. Again, download the installer.
Close any and all Firefox and IE windows you have open. Wait a few seconds for the disc activity to more or less stop, then run the Shockwave installer. Watch out for the "Free Norton Security Scan" window, then uncheck (disable) "Install free Norton Security Scan". The last thing you need on a UMPC is Symantec/Norton bloatware. Click Next, then Finish. Wait for it to finish, then run the Flash Player installer. This one, thankfully, doesn't come with any 'additional baggage'. Again, follow the instructions, wait a bit, and click Close when the installer finishes.
A quick tidy-up
Open Firefox. You'll now be hit by a barrage of questions for the plugins you just installed.
DownThemAll will ask you to read its licence agreement (basically, it's the GNU Public Licence). Read it, then click Accept if you agree. I usually go into DTA's configuration (Tools, Addons, Extensions, DownThemAll!, Options) and then disable Download Chunking -- this is on the Advanced tab under "Max number of chunks per download." Set this to "1 (Disabled)" and OK your way out. On an ADSL or faster connection, all Download Chunking will do is put more load on the server you're downloading from. Server admins hate this...
AdblockPlus will ask you which advertisement filter set you want to subscribe to. This basically means ABP will automatically update the filter list -- don't worry, it doesn't cost anything. I usually use the EasyList filter set. Pick your poison, then click Subscribe.
I'd also suggest going into Firefox's Options panel (Tools -> Options menu), then on the Privacy tab disable the options "Remember what I've downloaded" and "Remember what I enter into forms and the search bar". Go onto the Security tab and disable "Remember passwords for sites" as well.
Making Firefox the default browser
Open the Start menu, then select "Set Program Access and Defaults". Expand the "Custom" box, then select "Mozilla Firefox" under "Choose a Default Web Browser". Find the entry for Internet Explorer, then uncheck "Enable access to this program." I usually disable access to Windows Media Player, Windows Messenger, Outlook Express and Windows Live Mail at the same time. Click OK, and you shouldn't be plagued by MSN Messenger and the rest of the Microsoft Monster Crew any more. For extra bonus points, the Internet Explorer icon will disappear from your desktop.
What's the word? It's Thunderbird!
It has to be said, Outlook Express is not the best email client in the world... in fact it's an RFC-ignorant, buggy, crash-prone pile of junk and I absolutely despise it. This is how you get rid of OE and replace it with Thunderbird...
Download the installer from http://www.mozilla.c...US/thunderbird/ and run it. Follow the instructions, but don't launch Tbird at the end. Click Finish.
Now go back into Set Program Access and Defaults. Expand "Custom", and select "Mozilla Thunderbird" from the "Default e-mail program" section. Make sure the "Enable access to this program" checkboxes for Outlook Express and Live Mail are unchecked. Run Firefox and follow the instructions to set up your email account.
It's Good to Talk
Hmm, we need to find something to replace Live Messenger. Grab Pidgin from http://www.pidgin.im/download/windows/. Run the installer, follow the instructions and set up your IM accounts.
For the record, Pidgin (formerly Gaim) is one of the most popular messaging clients for the Linux platform -- it's since been ported to Windows, and is starting to grow in popularity. Trillian (from Cerulean Studios, shareware) and Miranda IM (open-source) are also worth looking into if you don't like Pidgin.
Tweak, Tweak, Every Trip
If you've never heard of Tweak UI, then you've either been living in a cave for the past fifteen years, or you've never used Windows before. Tweak UI allows you to change a ton of internal Windows settings to make things move faster, work better, or just plain suit your working style better.
Go to http://www.microsoft...ppowertoys.mspx and look for "Tweak UI" on the right hand side of the screen. You want the standard Tweak UI, not "Tweak UI for Itanium." Run the installer. When it finishes, open up the Start Menu, go into "Powertoys for Windows XP" and select "Tweak UI".
These are the standard tweaks I apply to every Windows system I set up:
Allow Help on Start menu: OFF. This is an annoyance!
Manipulate connected files as a unit: OFF. Basically if you delete a saved webpage called "myfile.html", Windows will also delete the associated "myfile_files" folder.
Use Classic Search in Explorer: ON. I prefer the Windows 2000 file search tool to the XP one. The puppy 'search assistant' is an even bigger annoyance than Clippy the paperclip!
Desktop section, First Icon subsection
First Icon on Desktop: My Computer. I'm a Windows 95 refugee that got used to having My Computer first :)
My Computer, AutoPlay, Types
AutoPlay Drive Types: both "CD and DVD drives" and "removable devices" OFF. CD-ROM autoplay is annoying, USB thumbdrive autoplay is a security risk. See http://wiki.hak5.org...USB_Switchblade for more information.
Hit OK to apply the tweaks. You'll probably need to reboot for these to take effect.
On With the Show: Multimedia
Next on the agenda is a decent MP3 player, media player and codec pack (so you can play DivX/XviD/MP4 files). I have my own preferences, feel free to substitute your own:
MP3 player: Winamp. The old dog of the MP3 player kennel. It's been around since the Win95 days, and is pretty lightweight compared to most modern players (I'm still waiting patiently for the Windows port of Amarok though <grin>). Get this from http://www.winamp.com/. Don't let it install the Winamp Agent (system tray bug) or
Codec packs: CCCP (Combined Community Codec Pack). This allows you to play XviD files (among other things) and comes with a very nice video player (Media Player Classic). Get this from http://www.cccp-project.net/
QT Lite (from http://www.codecguide.com/qt_lite.htm) and Real Alternative (from http://www.codecguid.../about_real.htm) are also worth having -- QTL plays Quicktime files, and RA plays RealAudio/RealVideo files.. without the excess baggage of their respective player applications.
Media player: VideoLAN, aka VLC. The original lightweight, does-everything media player. Fast, stable, and doesn't require external codecs. Has some issues with soft-subtitled videos (where the subtitles are text files and can be turned on and off) though. Get this from http://www.videolan.org/.
With these you can play just about any common media file, and a few uncommon ones as well.
Protect the Fortress!
Last but not least, we need some security software, namely an antivirus scanner. I usually use AVG:
Grab the installer from http://free.grisoft.com/ and run it. I normally run an Advanced installation, and opt not to install the email scanner (I have virus scanning active on my email server). I also don't install the AVG Security Toolbar.
Follow the instructions, and you'll be asked to run an update, then restart your PC.
A Newer Acrobat is not Always a Better Acrobat
Truth be told, the new Acrobat Reader 8 user interface really doesn't grab me. It's ugly, slow, and eats up far too much screen real estate. So I downgraded to AR7.0.9 and removed the adverts :)
First you need the AR7 installer. This is on [url]http://www.oldversion.com/[url]. Scroll down to "Utilities", then click "Acrobat Reader". Click the "Acrobat Reader 7.0.9" link on the next page to download it.
Now you need to get rid of AR8. Start -> Settings -> Control Panel, then Add or Remove Programs. Select "Adobe Reader 8.1.1" from the list, then click Remove. Wait a few minutes for it to uninstall... It'll probably ask you to reboot - if it does, allow it to do so.
By now AR8 should have finished obliterating itself. Run the AR7 installer, and follow the instructions as normal.
Once the installation completes, close AR7 (if it's open) and any web browser windows (AR7 has a browser plugin). Start up Notepad, then copy and paste the text below into the window:
Windows Registry Editor Version 5.00 [HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Adobe\Acrobat Reader\7.0\FeatureLockdown] "bUpdater"=dword:00000000 "bShowEbookMenu"=dword:00000000 "bShowAdsAllow"=dword:00000000 "bRegisterProduct"=dword:00000000 "bPurchaseAcro"=dword:00000000 "bCreatePDFOnline"=dword:00000000 "bEFIPrintMe"=dword:00000000Open the File menu and select Save As. Save the file on the Desktop as "AR7 Adblock.reg" - you need to include the quotes or Notepad will save it as "AR7 Adblock.reg.txt", which is not what you want. Close the Notepad window, and go back to the desktop (Windows key + D). Double-click the registry file, and allow Windows to merge it into the registry. Reboot again, and you should find that when you restart Acrobat Reader, all the advertising (PrintMe, "Go Pro", etc.) will be missing... All that screen real-estate freed up for actual, useful text... :)
Right, well I think that just about covers the Taming of the Eee...
Comments or suggestions, as always, are much appreciated.
Edited by philpem, 03 August 2008 - 08:28 PM.