Friday, November 26, 2010

Windows XP Revisited - Instructing the Devoted Old Dog Some New Tips

Just lately it appears to be the style amongst writers on the web to check and criticise working systems. Whereas one user talks up the merits of Ubuntu Linux versus Home windows Vista on her weblog, one other is fast to criticise Ubuntu’s lack of person friendly options and out there software. On this article I'm here to sing the praises of the outdated dog Windows XP. Once the all singing all dancing multimedia darling, XP is now the older brother of the a lot youthful and trendier Windows Vista. While Vista might be the life and soul of the occasion, it is still very a lot a problem baby for many users who're pissed off with incompatibilities, poor driver support and degraded performance in multimedia applications and games. If, like me, your Vista expertise wasn't all you hoped it might be, read on as we take one other look at Windows XP and discover that you just really can train an previous dog some new tricks.


One of many greatest shocks very long time Windows users had to face when upgrading to Vista was the brand new safety measures, specifically Consumer Account Controls. Microsoft's reply to the issue of rampant malware on Home windows machines was a barrage of security checks which can shortly change into daunting. Whereas emulating this function would possibly look like a nasty thought, UAC is a partial answer to a really sticky problem and the choice, allowing malware to proceed to spread unhindered, will not be actually an option. Though you'll be able to't have Vista model consumer account management underneath XP, there are a selection of alternatives. An aggressive firewall product resembling Outpost firewall not solely screens internet traffic but in addition alerts you when applications misbehave or carry out doubtlessly harmful operations. Outpost costs $39.ninety five per yr and features a regularly up to date spyware scanner.

Sudown is much like UAC and allows you to temporarily elevate the privileges on a restricted account to that of an administrator account in an effort to run programs equivalent to installers. Sudown is much less intrusive than UAC but arguably much less secure and less full (it's possible you'll discover that you still should log into the administrators account beneath some conditions). Sudown is a free utility and is accessible from sourceforge.

Home windows Explorer

Windows explorer featured a number of important upgrades in Vista. Dealing with of pictures and multimedia recordsdata was improved and search was fully integrated. “Breadcrumbs” had been launched, this can be a considerably weird identify Microsoft gave to their new windows explorer extension that permits for convenient searching between directories and subdirectories.

When you can't reproduce the Home windows Vista explorer fully, you'll be able to truly go one better. Directory Opus is essentially the most powerful file manager/explorer on the planet and works extremely well with Windows XP. If a bit intimidating at first, most customers will quickly study to appreciate the facility and suppleness this utility offers. Surpassing Vista’s new Windows Explorer in virtually every department and with highly effective picture/multimedia options, Listing Opus really is well worth the learning curve and there are a lot of complete tutorials out there on the web to assist ease new users in. Listing Opus prices around $70 per licence. If you wish to learn more about this excellent utility then begin right here.


Home windows Vista’s built-in desktop search is considered one of my favourite new features in the operating system. Here, XP lags a little behind its younger sibling nevertheless it isn’t an entirely misplaced cause. Many customers do not realise, but Microsoft Desktop Search can be available at no cost for Home windows XP. Whereas it lacks the slick integration with Home windows Explorer, it is still a strong tool. You possibly can download Desktop Search for XP right here.

Looking to actually get organised? Desktop search is good, however many of us have piles of CD-R or DVD-R disks kicking round our workplaces. Wouldn't or not it's nice if there was something that might neatly catalogue all these files too? Properly, there is. The aptly named “WhereIsIt?” is ready to neatly organise and catalogue not solely files on your laborious disk but information stashed away on detachable disks too. WhereIsIt? Is shareware, with the full model costing $39.95 per licence. Enter “WhereIsIt” into Google to seek out out more.

Look and Feel

For these techniques in a position to run it, the new Aero interface in Windows Vista is both quick and beautiful. By comparability, the blues and creams of Windows XP look distinctly last generation. In fact, beauty is just skin deep and what actually matters is functionality. That stated, a little bit extra eye sweet clearly appeals to lots of people, since numerous web-sites and utilities have sprung up for Home windows XP with the sole goal of creating the operating system look better. The top of these utilities is the Object Desktop suite from Stardock. With a number of clicks you'll be able to instantly transform your XP desktops feel and look into any of a whole bunch of visible types obtainable for download from Stardock’s website. Want Aero-like special results on Home windows XP? Object Desktop Window FX can do them and you'll even customise precisely which visible results to use. Want two begin menus? No drawback, with Objectbar you are able to do that too. Need Home windows Dreamscene animated wallpapers? Well sorry, you might be out of luck this time. The worth for all this desktop pimping? $49.95. To search out out more, or obtain a trial model, enter object desktop into Google. All this speak of desktop enhancements brings us nicely on to:-

Sidebar and Widgets

Home windows Vista comes with it’s own sidebar with detachable widgets, however sidebars and widgets are previous information in Windows (and certainly in most other trendy operating programs too). My favourite XP sidebar is the considerably unoriginally named “Desktop Sidebar”. This sidebar is extremely configurable, uncluttered and includes the perfect RSS information reader/ticker out of all the sidebars and widgets I have ever tried. In truth I even run Desktop Sidebar instead of Vistas own sidebar on my Home windows Vista installation. Google seek for “desktop sidebar” to search out out more.

If widgets are you thing then there are currently a number of competing standards. The Open Widget Engine is gaining momentum slowly, with the goal of in the future uniting the efforts of widget makers across the world. Till that day comes, you possibly can select between Google Desktop, Desktop X and Yahoo Widgets. Desktop X is a strong widget engine that's included as part of the Object Desktop suite that I discussed in the Look and Feel section. Yahoo and Google’s respective offerings are free and hence far more popular. Yahoo widgets in all probability contains the perfect collection of widgets out of all of the widget engines available. Once more, do a quick Google search on the program that pursuits you the most to find out more.

Media Centre

Windows XP media centre version has been around for a while now, however an improve to Vista Ultimate or Dwelling Premium offers you full media centre capabilities included within the price. If you're using vanilla XP dwelling or Skilled and you want media centre capabilities, they are available without spending a dime in the form of Media Portal, an open supply and highly configurable media centre application. Also free and value a glance (no less than if you are American) is Yahoo Go For TV. Based on Meedio, which was one of the best business media centre merchandise for Home windows, Go For TV seems to have been left to stagnate since Yahoo took control. However there are already a variety of plug-ins and equipment out there for it that had been beforehand developed for Meedio. Bizarrely, Yahoo currently insists on locking out all users outdoors of the United States, so in the event you reside elsewhere on the planet, give this one a miss. Set Google trying to find “media portal” or “Yahoo Go for TV” to search out out more.

Video games and Direct X 10

As any PC gamer will inform you, XP is (at the time of writing) the very best working system for games. With Vista, Microsoft introduced DirectX10 and made it Vista only. Various breathtaking DirectX 10 games are commonly plastered over the preview pages on major PC gaming websites and magazines. Up to now however, other than just a few replace patches for older games, Microsoft’s cutting edge games for DirectX10/Vista principally include Shadowrun (an above common multiplayer FPS) and Halo 2 (A conversion of an previous Xbox game). Re-hashing a previous technology console title to demonstrate your bleeding edge graphics know-how should have made sense to somebody in Microsoft nevertheless it makes little sense to gamers assessing if an upgrade to Vista is value their cash, particularly in light of the performance handicap or crippled sound that some video games exhibit beneath Vista. Nonetheless, like every new gaming platform, quick forward to Christmas and XP avid gamers can expect to be enviously eyeing up the brand new Vista only games starting to appear. If you're hoping that I’m going to inform you now some way of getting DirectX 10 to work on XP, you'll be disappointed. A company called Falling Leaf programs claims to be engaged on some type of project that will accomplish this feat, however they still have lots to show especially contemplating early variations struggled to run the most basic of DirectX 10 demo code. Sadly, it looks like DirectX 10 is one trick that XP isn’t going to be performing any time soon, if ever.

So there you have it, far from being on its last legs, Home windows XP is still a very capable operating system with a good few tricks up its sleeve. When you’re prepared to invest in just a little new software mentioned on this article (much of which also works below Vista) you possibly can easily remodel your XP into a prime notch working system and nonetheless take pleasure in your old games and multimedia software.

Matthew Buxton is the web master at A computer science diploma graduate, software program engineer and pc fanatic from an early age, Matt has almost 10 years expertise with the ups and downs of Home windows working systems.

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