I probably talk way too much about how much I dislike Windows, and not offer enough solid critical feedback for anyone to take me seriously. I was messing around with my XP install, trying to find a way to clearly divide the two main workflows that I have, and automate switching between, making it as easy–and fast–as possible to get things done.
Now, I don’t know if these issues are unique to me, and the way that I do things on Windows, but I have a feeling there are other people out there who will agree with me.
The two main workflows that I encounter in Windows:
- Everything Else
When gaming, I want certain programs easily accessible, and nothing else running. This means no anti-virus, anti-spyware, sticky windows, docks, Windows search indexer, Google Updaters, etc. Just Steam, and Fraps.
When I’m using Windows, the “Everything Else” category consists of Windows-only software that I can’t use on Linux without some sort of performance hit. I could probably run Adobe CS4 in VirtualBox, or even through WINE. But the hassle required to get them running–and the subsequent speed issues–is enough to keep me in Windows land when work needs to be done.
While running CS4, I tend to use Firefox to find reference photos, or look through my assignments for college. Obviously, I’m incapable of simply sticking to one task, so there will be a measure of general browsing, as well as these targeted searches. That means that I need to have an anti-virus running at all times. Also, when using the archaic filesystems that Windows runs on, I must also be ready to run a defrag program when, inevitably, performance starts to decrease.
This is a lot of junk to run, just for some simple graphic design. If I had my way, CS4 would be available officially for Linux, and I would only have Windows installed for gaming, and nothing else.
What I’ve Tried
Life was simpler in earlier versions of Windows, when you could write a batch script to do just about anything. More and more, the newer Windows OS releases rely less on an underlying DOS functionality, and more on GUI-specific functions.
The first thing I tried was to create a batch script that would enable all of the settings, and run/disable the programs I wanted for each situation. Well, since the last time I had my workflow set up like this, things have changed drastically. I’ve found that there are two types of programs in the Windows environments:
- Those That Help
- UltraMon – This tool is indispensable when dealing with multi-monitor setups. UltraMon provides easy-to-configure profiles, allowing simple two-click access to whole new desktop resolution, refresh rate and monitor settings, as well as being able to be called from a batch script.
- Any program that can be simply killed through one or two commands. These programs are becoming increasingly rare, but include AllSnap, RocketDock, Steam, Fraps, and various other behind-the-scenes utilities.
- Those That Don’t
- AVG – AVG 8 Free Edition comes with some new bells and whistles, and a whole world of pain. Not only can it not be killed easily with one or two commands, it rises back from the dead, due to some use of system services. With version 7 (now unsupported), I could easily issue a taskkill command, and wipe it out in one fell swoop.
- Ad-Aware – This very useful tool now comes with its own system service which keeps the tray program running. Also not easily killed by one command.
- Windows Search Indexer – I’m not really sure how this one keeps evading my counter measures, but despite having the service disabled manually, and the processes killed, it always comes back for more.
Despite having taken the last few hours trying to determine a way to easily kill these processes, I have been successfully thwarted by the hulking mass that has become the Windows OS, and the utilities required to keep it in good repair. I have yet to find a way to start and stop system services using a batch command.
So the idea behind the batch script approach is to have two batch scripts, one for each workflow. This would allow me to load up a stripped-down Windows install, and simply double-click to pick my workflow of choice. Everything would be automated, so I would automatically have the correct screen resolution, and the correct utilities and programs running with no more effort on my part.
Let’s take a look at the possible solutions I can employ to take care of this problem.