The home theater PC market has been rather dull for several years. Sure you can get a sound card with 7.1 surround sound, but they’ve generally been noisier than I’d want in my own home theater. You can purchase video cards that output to an HDTV and support HDCP, but the experience hasn’t been on par with using home theater components. At Computex 2008, AMD is showing off a couple of new boards from MSI that change the game in important fundamental ways.
The Windows Quick Launch bar, those little icons to the right of the start button, is over 10 years old. In that time, Microsoft has done little to enhance it’s functionality. You can add dozens of Quick Launch items if you want to, but they all require a mouse click to activate. Windows Vista adds a new feature to the Quick Luanch bar — keyboard shortcuts. For the first 10 items (and who really needs more than 10?) you can use the Windows key + the corresponding number key of the sequence to easily launch the application you want without ever taking your fingers from the keyboard.
For instance, in the image below Windows key + 1 launches Outlook, Windows key + 2 launches Firefox, all the way up to Windows key + 9 launching Quicken. If there were a tenth item on the list, Windows key + 0 would launch it.
If you don’t use Windows Vista, here’s some more Windows key shortcuts to save you time. You can also create your own shortcuts for anything using additional software.
Windows XP may be long in the tooth, but it’s certainly not dead yet. If you do only one thing to overhaul the current state of your Windows XP machine, download Windows Live Photo Gallery. This barely exposed update for the baked in Windows photo management tools is one of the most useful upgrades to your Windows user experience. An improved photo import makes this a worthwhile download all on its own. Photo management is upgraded to include views sorted by date and tags (a new tagging tool helps you ID your photos for grouping all pictures of a particular person, event, or location). Simple photo editing for red-eye removal, crops, and adjusting levels handles most common image fixes. If you happen to have a Windows Live Spaces account, there are additional features to publish direct from Windows to your Space or build slideshows for publishing to your Space. Download this free upgrade to the built-in Windows photo management experience and you’ll be looking at your images in a whole new way. (The same features also improve Vista) [Windows XP/Vista $0.00]
Windows Vista took what seems like a giant leap backward in Disk Defragmenter software from what was available in Windows
While the name AutoRuns sounds more like a laxative than a system utility, this is one app that everyone should have in their Windows tool kit. AutoRuns takes the on board Windows MSConig utility to the next level, going far beyond the basics in seeing exactly what’s starting up each time you boot your system. Find out all the nitty gritty details about what launches during the boot process and in what order. You can tweak application launching to precisely control what applications, browser helper objects, Windows services, and 3rd party utilities are allowed to start as Windows boots. This comes in handy for helping optimize the Windows boot time, keeps unneeded services from launching when you don’t want them, and is also a handy detective tool for discovering malware hidden on your system. If the interface looks overwhelming, consider switching to the mode that hides the official Microsoft signed entires, so you only see startup items that aren’t part of Windows. [Windows 9x/2k/XP/Vista $0.00]
I’ve been recommending AccountLogon as my favorite password manager for Windows for several years. I like the simplicity of how
“I tired out Windows Live OneCare and now I can’t figure out how to get rid of it. What do I need to do to uninstall Windows OneCare from my computer?”
Ideally you should be able to remove Windows Live OneCare simply by going to Add or Remove Programs (aka Programs and Features in Windows Vista). If that doesn’t work, Microsoft also offers a tool to help in uninstalling OneCare from your system.