I’m getting older and I just can’t remember all these tips and tricks that I read in so many of these online forums and social media sites ;-). Merely saving them would entail my having to manually perform the required editing within the registry. Personally, I’m a big fan of the GUI, so I’d much rather have a decent looking but workable interface where I can pick and choose the tweaks I’d like applied.
Most tweaks are present in a number of tweaking utilities available with just a quick web search. Here are some of my favourite tweaking utilities:
1. Microsoft TweakUI – One of the rarer instances where Microsoft has named a product which users will find easier to know the function of by looking at its name. The newer TweakUI PowerToy for Windows XP is one of those listed on the PowerToys page and needs at least Win XP SP1 or Windows Server 2003 to work. Lots of easily customizable options and explanations are provided. A tree style listing categories on the left and the actual tweaks available on the right make it very easy to work with.
2. Group Policy Editor: Although not an out-and-out tweaking software per se, it still has the ability to make changes to the UI and to other Microsoft components of the OS like Internet Explorer, Outlook Express and others. Very powerful, not for the faint of heart but worth taking a look if you love tweaking stuff to your staisfaction. Only available on Professional and better editions of XP & Vista – you’ll need admin rights to run it. START > RUN > gpedit.msc
3. X-Setup Pro: The big daddy of tweaks! Supported by a community which frequently adds tweak and hacks that can be downloaded straight into the program. It has unfortunately gone shareware now, but here’s a link to an almost as capable last known freeware version 6.6. It’s largish in size ~4.1 MB but it also has the features to match – backups can be created, experimental plugins can be disabled depending on the user’s level of proficiency etc. What I like best is the RECORD mode which logs all the changes made to the registry and allows you to save it in a corresponding REG file. There are other tweakers like FreshUI too, but I’ve found X-Setup more than capable and beats the others hands down.
4. Ultimate Windows Tweaker: For Vista users, an unofficial freeware comparable to TweakUI does indeed exist. Ultimate Windows Tweaker is a freeware Tweak UI Utility for tweaking and optimizing Windows Vista, 32-bit & 64-bit. It can simply be downloaded and used as a portable application to customize your Windows Vista to meet your requirements. With judicious tweaking, It can make your system faster, more stable, and more secure with just a few mouse clicks. The tweaker detects whether you have IE 7 or IE 8 installed and accordingly offers you the relevant tweaks only.
There exists a number of disturbingly growing trends these days when we think of new software releases – the ever growing size and bloatedness of software and of course the propensity of developers to include additional (optional) software like toolbars and the like. The ever vigilant folks at Calendar Of Updates have a recent list of software that include these “add-ons”. IMHO, this is wholly unacceptable and is only a step away from actual spyware.
Adeona is an OpenSource software that’s designed to help track and retrieve stolen laptops.
It’s available for Linux, Mac OS X 10.4+ and also for Windows XP / Vista.
There are a number of commercial tracking software that notify owners about the stolen notebooks whereabouts by tracking the IP address and location, but Adeona (named after the Roman goddess of safe returns), is different in that it takes the owner’s privacy very seriously. No one except the owner is allowed to track the laptop in question.
Adeona is designed to use the Open Source OpenDHT distributed storage service to store location updates sent by a small software client installed on an owner’s laptop. The client continually monitors the current location of the laptop, gathering information (such as IP addresses and local network topology) that can be used to identify its current location. The client then uses strong cryptographic mechanisms to not only encrypt the location data, but also ensure that the ciphertexts stored within OpenDHT are anonymous and unlinkable. At the same time, it is easy for an owner to retrieve location information.
The designers claim that Adeona will only start tracking operations after proper authentication by the owner and not a moment before to prevent any kind of abuse. A bonus for Mac OS X users is the software’s ability to take a snapshot of the person currently using the laptop using the built-in iSight camera and the freeware tool isightcapture. Like your location information, these images are privacy-protected so that only the laptop owner (or an agent of the owner’s choosing) can access them.
Oh, and before I forget – this service is free. Mind you, this isn’t foolproof software, not by a long shot. The client shows up in the Task Manager and can also be seen in the list of running processes in both Linux and Mac OS environments. Other commercial offerings certainly make it harder for thieves to detect and also to remove themselves, but then this is designed to trap “common” thieves – the kind you expect to grab your laptop and then try to sell it as soon as possible.