Windows 7 traitor

A new laptop arrived with my name all over it a few months back. A particularly nerdy laptop – Alienware M11x. What can I say – I’ve always wanted to own an Alienware.

The let down? I’m running Windows 7. This was a big change for me – I’ve always run Windows at home and at my previous job but for the majority of my work with other *nix hosts I’ve used Ubuntu. I always liked the native terminal and ability to customise almost anything.

I always hate buying a pre-built system as they love to RAM so much stuff on the OEM install. Dell used to be the biggest offender – this time round it was alright. There were a few things on there.. McAfee/Backup agent that I dropped immediately but otherwise I’ve stayed with the original OEM install (this is the first time I haven’t done a fresh install).

Immediately the cut from Ubuntu to Windows had me missing a few of the basics that I had come to use. My biggest gripe was loss of ‘focus on mouse’ for windows management. There is an option in Windows 7 to enable “Activate a window by hovering over it with the mouse” which I tested out. This has to be one of the most annoying implementation I had seen. When you hover on a window it activates (which is great) but then it brings that window to the front. Annoying. I like to have windows overlapping and be able to type in multiple windows without losing my main window focus in the foreground. I pushed on and found there is a registry hack to achieve this:

First; Open regedit, go to HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Control Panel\Desktop
Edit UserPreferenceMask value to be 9F 3E 07 80 12 00 00 00

Then; In HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Control Panel\Desktop
Edit ActiveWndTrkTimeout, change ‘Base’ to Decimal and put in 150 as the ‘Value Data’
This value is time in milliseconds that it takes for the focus to change to the new window.

Lastly; Log off and log back in.

This sorted my focus problems and made it pretty much usable for work again.

Another point of pain was the lack of virtual desktops – pretty much tying me to having all my applications open and crowding my single desktop. I looked at a few apps that provided ‘virtual desktops’ for windows. Some were good but I struggled to find one that easily provided the features I wanted;
– Multiple Desktops
– Ability to drag between the desktops
– Ability to preview the virtual desktops from taskbar
Found a decent opensource project – which solved all my requirements. Check it out as the site has a decent demo if you need some better window management.

Otherwise – all is good in the world of Windows now. Its a massive improvement on previous versions and its nice to have things ‘just work’ like flash in Chrome. Once you’ve got all your nice apps on – Thunderbird, Chrome, Putty etc its pretty much usable. Also, the battery management is perfect.

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