Friday, November 6, 2009

One Thing Linux Doesn't Support (Yet)

Today I got a phone call that helped me realize one thing that Linux can't do, at least not yet:

"Hello Sir, I am calling from [unintelligable speech], to help improve the performance of your computer."


"I will tell you how to do this. The first thing you need to do is turn your computer on."

"It is already on."

"Then I will have you click on Start."

"I don't have a Start button."

"... You have a Macintosh?"

"No, I have Linux."

"Excuse me?"

"I have Linux."

"You have a Linux?"


"I am sorry sir, we only provide technical support for Windows computers. Goodbye."

Friday, March 27, 2009

Calling Microsoft

I had to call Microsoft to activate my copy of Windows XP Pro (too many re-installs), and I was surprised at how HORRIBLE their user interface was. When you call, the first thing you hear is a error loud chime. The same sound you hear when you try to do something that is not allowed. Then, after answering a couple questions, you are asked to read off about 40 digits. After each set of 6, there is another (different) error chime. I won't even mention that there is no way to shorten the call by answering the questions prematurely .. but that's another topic.

So, I figure, either someone designed the call-in program who had never really used Windows to any large extent (and thus did not recognize that the sounds would put fear in the hearts of their callers (maybe a Mac user!)). Or, they did it on purpose to try and scare off the software thieves.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

My Comprehensive List of Free or Open Source Software for XP

I received a brand new hard drive (400GB SATA) for Christmas this year (thanks Mike!), and so I am spending today reinstalling my main computer with Windows XP Pro. Unlike most Linux distributions, Windows is devoid of any useful programs after it has been freshly installed (no, I'm not saying that windows is a linux distro). As I reinstall all of my old programs, I'll be keeping track of them here for future reference, and maybe some passer-by (that's you) will find it useful.

I got tired of adding text and links about halfway through - I will update tomorrow or so.

The Operating System:

Windows XP Pro

Much better than XP Home, if you are going to use your computer in any custom way, or on a network. I'm not even going to go into Windows Vista here.

Debian, Etch

Debian will be installed as a dual boot on my 80GB drive... I've only used Mandriva and Ubuntu/Xubuntu thus far, so this will be exciting.


Royale Noir XP Theme

Download the Royale Noir theme and follow the instructions. This will give you a darker (navy or black) version of the Windows Media Center theme. Or, you could set the theme to Windows Classic and forget about trying to look snazzy.

Desktop Wallpaper

Go visit Smashing Magazine and download a desktop wallpaper. They scour the web for amazing wallpapers so you don't have to. It doesn't matter what you pick as long as it isn't the default 'blissful hill'.



As a web developer, I install every browser, but only really use Firefox. Opera 9 seems comparable, but it comes down to 1) extensions and 2) familiarity. Chrome isn't ready for consumer use yet, Internet Explorer 6 is a dinosaur, and Internet Explorer 7 is slow / annoying to use. I let Windows install IE7, and then install multiple IEs in order to get IE6. This lets Microsoft update IE7 for me, so I have the latest version for testing. Safari is fast, but I don't like the User Interface - it's too hard to find the features I am looking for (without even knowing if they exist).

Browser Plugins

Flash and Shockwave, Acrobat Reader, Quicktime (skip if you plan on installing iTunes), Java, Real Player or you can install Real Alternative which lets you play the RM files without the terrible media player!


Pidgin is an all-in-one Instant messenger. I like it for the custom smiley themes and plugins. I used to use Trillian, but it conflicted with my computer for some unknown reason. Astra looks awesome, but it's been coming soon for at least two years, probably more. Digsby looks kind of cool, and if Pidgin ever fails me, I'll try it out.


mIRC is the best IRC client that I've tried. The UI is simple yet powerful. Lots of bells and whistles if you want them. And no fluff graphics either. I turn the theme to dark as soon as I install it.


Thunderbird is better than Outlook Express. There might be a better free email client, but this one is good enough for me. I don't like the default theme, so I install Azerty Mail instead.


Azureus (or Vuze) is a pretty good P2P app. Vuze sucks, change it back to the classic mode. Useful for downloading the latest Linux Distributions.


eMule is good for downloading old, hard to find programs.


Limewire is great for getting viruses and spyware!


Before installing Limewire, make sure you have some basic anti-virus protection. Unless someone out there knows of a better free anti-virus, I am currently recommending AVG-Free. Avira is also good, but has pop-up advertisements. Clamwin sucks, as does Avast.

Spybot S&D

Spybot's most useful feature is the teatimer system change monitor. This alerts you to changes to your registry, startup, browser, context menus, etc. Better than Vista's watch-dog because it actually tells you what is happening, and saying no lets the program continue to run as if it HAD made the change rather than just stopping the program from running altogether. I use this for programs like quicktime that want to add a startup entry so that it will load faster. Since I only use quicktime once every couple months, this is hardly a good use of my start-up space.


This is a great program, but I have not had good luck with version 3.x. I can only assume that it DOES work for most people or they would have fixed the issue already (disconnects every few minutes). If you can find version 2.x, it's pretty darn good.

Firefox Add-ons:

Camifox theme

There are a lot of good themes for Firefox, but Camifox is nice and simple without looking ugly.

Add to Search Bar

This lets you add any search box to the firefox search in the upper right-hand corner, instead of relying on the ten or so default ones.

Cookie Swap

Cookie Swap lets you quickly switch between named sets of cookies so that you can use multiple accounts with the same service without re-logging in all the time.

Edit Middle

An AwesomeBar hack.

Enter Selects

AwesomeBar Hack

Favicon Picker

Lets you change or add a favicon to any of your bookmarks.

Flash Block

Special mention to this extension for older computers that can't handle the amount of flash that some websites use. Or, if your eyes can't handle it!


Useful if you have more than one computer, dual boot, or have ever lost all your bookmarks when your HD crashed. It synchronizes all of your bookmarks with their server, so that when you add a bookmark it is added to all of your computers.

Go Parent Folder

Lets you go to the parent folder after searching for a bookmark in the organizer.

Google Notebook

A notetaking thingy - there are some problems with it, but I haven't gotten around to trying any of the other similar extensions yet.

Google Toolbar

Essential for the 'Go to Next Search Word' buttons. I can't use the web without them.

Hide Unvisited

AwesomeBar Hack

HTML Validator

A Web Dev tool that tells me how many errors a web page has.

Old Location Bar

AwesomeBar hack - Tries to make the AwesomeBar just be a location bar, it isn't quite sufficient, and I'm not sure if it helps or hinders more ...


Lets you customize the add bookmark dialog.

Organize Status Bar

Firefox 3 didn't have the same status bar layout as FF2, this will let you move things around however you like.


A quick blog editor.

Show Keywords

AwesomeBar Hack

Smart Bookmarks Bar

Transforms your bookmark bar into a list of single icons. This is where the favicon picker comes in handy.


I haven't tried this one yet. It lets you add little icons to your bookmarks, visually placing them into categories for you.

Unsorted Bookmarks Folder Menu

This places your unsorted bookmarks in a folder that is accessible from the bookmarks menu.

Web Developer

By far the most useful extension that I have installed. It is the swiss army knife of web development tools.


Open Office

Open Office is free and comparable to Microsoft Office. Writer is AWESOME! much better than Word for pretty much anything.

Google Earth

Edit Pad

Graphics and Design:


Paint.NET is a free photo editor along the lines of Photoshop.









Streamripper rips individual songs from streamed internet radio stations. If you use the WinAmp version, make sure to get a custom skin for it, the default one is (was) terrible.


Cool Edit replace


Step Voice Recorder

Video LAN

Switch Sound Converter


Sequoia View



For good measure, here's a list of the proprietary/non-free programs that I use:

Photoshop 7 or CS3
Adobe Acrobat
Microsoft Publisher
Nero 6
FolioBound VIEWS (if anyone knows of a good replacement, leave me a note!)
PowerDVD (same for PowerDVD)