lightweight

Adios AVG Antivirus

It’s been a nice little run on my home computers, but here are the things you’ve been short on

Scanning at Inopportune Times

It seemed like every time I’d wake my computer up from sleep mode, you’d want to get your scan on.  While I appreciate you’re only trying to keep me safe, you need to realize that the little lappy didn’t somehow come down with a cold while sleeping.  Let me check my email!

Using Fewer System Resources

Seriously, when Symantec Endpoint Protection is more lightweight…there must be somewhere you can trim down.

I expected more polish out of one of the to rated free antivirus packages.

I’m replacing with Microsoft Security Essentials, which I view as a bit of a shot in the dark considering I like to tweak and tune.

Now Testing: QT Lite (Codec)

Application: (codec) QT Lite
URL: http://www.codecguide.com/qt_lite.htm

I’ve dragged my feet for a long time, doing anything I can to avoid the bloat of QuickTime. You might be thinking..QuickTime? Really? Yes, really, because it’s more than just QuickTime…it’s QTLoader and the Apple software update service. These kind of processes add up quickly, and I’m doing what I can to avoid them.

I contemplated installing QuickTime Alternative (http://codecguide.com/about_qt.htm), but didn’t want the Media Player Classic software that comes bundled with the install.

I was a happy guy this morning when I was reading through my RSS feeds and found QT Lite. I’ll be testing this out on my work computer before installing on the netbook.

Dream: Consistent System Performance

Have you ever started up a computer that had a fresh installation of the operating system and a few other applications? I know I have; it’s a great feeling. Things like opening applications, managing files, waiting for the start-up, and all of the other basic tasks on a computer happen at lightning speed…because there’s not a bunch of crap bogging the system down.

I dream of a digital experience where the norm is consistent with that first-time feeling. I don’t want my computer to suffer because of the files I have and the applications I install.

Unfortunately, there are a few key hurdles that need to be cleared before this can be a reality:

Some apps are bulky and slow by nature
I’m looking at all of you indexing services out there. I know you always need to be on, but dag nabbit, you don’t always have to be such a resource hog. It’s an application by application debate…and I’ve waffled quite a bit on email indexers in particular. I weigh the usefulness vs boginess and see where I come out whenever I contemplate an install.

Oddly enough, I think Picasa3 does a pretty good job of staying out of the way when it’s not wanted. Not to say it’s not taking up resources, but it only seems to rear its head when I’m specifically adding pictures (even though I know it must be checking to see if any new file is an image).

As a hard drive gets filled, performance slows down
Nine years in the data storage industry has given me little hope of this kind of thing changing…and running RAID in a netbook (or notebook, or tower PC for that matter) just isn’t a viable option.

I combat this issue by being frugal about what needs to live on my computer, then defragmenting my drive. Though, I must say, my defrag application needs some updating (I use the built-in Windows defrag utility…crackers!).

There’s rarely a good way to know beforehand whether an application is going to kill your performance…and whether the damage can be undone
I’m talking about more than adware…I’m talking about even fairly benign software that installs some intense files behind-the-scenes and doesn’t tell you that it’s going to suck up all of your memory and cpu cycles.

No computer seems to be safe from this
No matter how fantastic of a system I configure, it’s likely to fall prey to performance setbacks.  Whether my system cost a few grand, or was tricked out with extra RAM later on, there was almost surely going to be a greater and growing number of performance issues.

This is actually one of the reasons I bought a netbook this last time I bought a computer.  I’m eliminating the “for what i spent on this thing, it should be able to…” mentality.  The system’s small, and not meant to be a workhorse…so don’t put a bunch of crap on it!

Despite these setbacks, there is still hope out there to help drive toward consistent performance.  Lightweight applications, and utilities that help keep a system lightweight, are the key to making this dream a reality. I’ve been in search of them for years, and there’s still a general lack of good ones.

I continue my search…

Launchy: Because the start menu is a hassle

Launchy is a simple application launcher that is extremely easy to use, yet can be customized to carry out rather robust tasks.  It’s the first application I install on any computer, home or office, and when I’m on somebody else’s system, I have to catch myself because it’s so intuitive.

For some context, I spent a good chunk of impressionable computer years  in DOS or a DOS compatibility mode.  This means I had a flashing cursor and needed to type my way to the application of choice, but it was a navigation interface rather than my primary means of interacting with my data.  I got really quick at  typing in a full path to run a program, or creating a folder and creating batch files (.bat) that I could easily crank out.  I was the king of the world.  From any directory, I could type c:\mca\appname.bat and ZING, all 16 megahertz (today, more) of computing power let loose to load my app of choice.

Later, Windows.  Very pretty, much more accessible to…well…everyone.  Look at the pretty colors!!  Most of the apps I cared about were launched by navigating the start menu.  Oh boy did my start menu become an unwieldy beast.  Even the most carefully planned folders couldn’t help make sense of the jungle that was the start menu.  Heck, half of what was in there was crapware that came preinstalled or was an “added bonus application” of some other software purchased…just a mess.

Microsoft has done a good job of trying to manage the start menu.  Auto-hiding lesser used folders, improving the UI for direct manipulation of the layout, adding the recent applications section to the main start menu.  However, none of these things helped when I’d try to find an application that was extremely useful, though it was rarely used, and stored in a folder named after the developer, not the application.  Heaven forbid I resort to try the old school MS Search functionality to find the .exe…

In 2006 I stumbled across Launchy.  A lightweight application that’s brings itself up in a window with a simple key combination.  This window is a text window where you can start typing the application I want to run, and it starts showing the apps I may want to launch.

Launchy-starting an application

Launchy-starting an application

By hitting enter, or keying down to the desired program, ZING!  Off it goes.  No menus, no scanning of folders, no memorization of directory trees, no time wasted, period.  Because of Launchy, it doesn’t really matter what the name of the folder in the start menu is…if the app has a shortcut there, it’s indexed by Launchy.  Have another folder where applications or shortcuts live?  You can add that folder (or your entire hard drive) to the Launchy indexer.

The other thing Launchy has going for it is its intelligence.  If in the image above, I picked the “fractaltrace” application, the next time I typed in “calc”, the default application would be just that.

Vista and Windows 7 users have a similar type of launching function built into the start menu, however I’m an XP user (as many, many still are) and appreciate the simple, lightweight Launchy application.  Additionally, Launchy supports custom scripts, which allows you to extend it further than just an application launcher.  I plan to dive into this further sometime in the future.

Want to try it yourself?  I only hope you find it as crucial to a successful digital experience as I do.

Launchy (http://www.launchy.net) (Windows XP, Linux)

  • Notable Preferred Settings
    • Hide Launchy when it loses focus = Checked
    • Alt-Esc as hotkey combination
    • Index PortableApplications directory