Some Vista Graphic Cleverness For XP

One of the few things I’m looking forward to in Vista is the 3D Alt-Tab mechanism. Well, now that’s available on XP thanks to TopDesk from the good people at Otaku Software. Click the link to see what I’m talking about if you don’t already know. Give the trial a run.

Something to watch-out for is if you have another application, like the Microsoft Alt-Tab Replacement PowerToy, then that will have control of Alt-Tab and prevent TopDesk from working. The solution is simple; remove or disable whatever else you’ve been using!

An additional benefit for users of Logitech mice with a task switch button is that the program doesn’t have to respond only to Alt-Tab. So what? Well, this provides an opportunity to get away from the <cough> functional task list provided by Logitech by re-mapping the mouse button to a key combination in the mouse driver and then telling TopDesk to use that combination to activate. Once that’s done, all the task switching gets done using the same cool technique.

All this for about £5 a go! Can’t be bad. Now if only Linux had the same kind of thing…

In case you’re wondering, alt-tab won’t work as a key combination for the mouse button because you’ll switch away from the software before it can record it. Which is why if you do this make sure to re-map the mouse button before configuring TopDesk or you’ll have the same problem.


Poor Man’s Hybrid Drive

I haven’t heard anyone else suggest this so either I’ve had a really good idea or I’ve been missing out on something:

Hard drive manufacturers are starting to make drives with a lump of flash memory in them so that frequently used files can be reached more quickly; the trouble is, these drives are so new they’re barely available and the ones that are available are as expensive as you’d expect something as new a revolutionary as this to be. So, what to do? Well, the other day I saw a message box pop-up on my PC , followed by a click from my hard drive as it woke-up followed a second or two later by the playing of the sound file associated with the message box and I thought to myself how that whole process wasn’t as smooth as anyone would like and won’t it be great when we get these hybrid hard drives. Then it hit me: Use a USB flash memory stick to hold files that get used often! Things like sound files, wallpaper, all the things that are used so often they more or less blend into the background (or at least, are supposed to). This idea can be used for other files too, like perhaps mail client files (Outlook PST files, for example). The only real limitations are how much space is available and whether the program can be convinced to store it’s files there. I’m thinking this will let things happen more smoothly on PC’s where the hard drive has spun-down and also save power and wear and tear on the hard drive. I’m also thinking about perhaps installing Firefox on a stick to see whether there’s any performance gain to be had there. This ties in neatly with Portable Apps and the work they’re doing on being able to take your most important applications with you from computer to computer.

[Edit] Apart from the limitations mentioned above, the real disadvantage of this approach is that you have to do it by hand, finding the files and changing settings. The advantage, apart from cost and availability, is that you get to chose the files that are stored in flash. The files I mentioned above are most likely not going to stay in a cache for long because they aren’t used often enough so by my choosing which files to move I can taylor the storage as I want it and after all, isn’t that all any geek wants? 😉

So, what do you think? Is this old news or a good way to get flash storage working for you without the big outlay?

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