A Few of My Favorite Things (For Windows)

I used to have an Apple PowerBook but switched back full-time to a PC over a year ago. My reasoning at the time was basically a preference for some of the PC hardware choices out there (namely, a laptop that wouldn’t burn my lap) plus an understanding I could dual-boot / virtualize Linux whenever I couldn’t stand Windows.

I use Windows 7 full-time now, but this post is not about Mac vs. Windows vs. Linux though (even though I, and every other computer user on the planet, have plenty to say about that).1

Below the fold, a list of some of my five favorite tools on Windows. Most of these are things I downloaded to replicate functionality I missed from OS X or Linux.

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Some helpful reminders re. Damn Small Linux

Damn Small Linux (DSL) is a distro that’s less than 50MB. It’s great for booting off a USB stick (directions here). The problem (or feature) is that by default things don’t persist on DSL. To get that working, you’ll want to periodically back stuff up somewhere– in my case, I wanted to plop it back on the original drive I booted from.

To do that, just right click somewhere on the desktop and go to system > backup/restore. You’ll need to enter in the device that represents your USB stick (probably sda1). This will write a gzipped tar file to the drive. To restore, you just need to supply a “cheat code” of “dsl restore=sda1”. Note that this won’t remove any of the default files already in the home directory (e.g. events.cal) on the restore; it only restores stuff you’ve added or changed.

Also, the USB drive is mounted under /cdrom, so you can manually fish out any additional data you’ve stuck there as well.

Fun with AutoHotKey

I’m rather fond of the e text-editor. Coming from TextMate, e presents a familar environment for Windows users. The one beef I had though was the inability to configure keyboard shortcuts. Specifically, I felt Ctrl+G should be “Find Next”, like it is in so many other programs, instead of “Go to Line”.

I tried a few other editors, but they all annoyed me to no end. Habits, familiarity, and all that. So rather┬áthan wait for e to add it’s own configurable keyboard shortcuts or muck around the in source code (brief aside: the availability of the source code actually makes me pretty happy — it means I can compile an alternative to vim / emacs on *nix that I actually like), I decided to use AutoHotKey.

In short, AutoHotKey lets you write scripts that remap keyboard shortcuts as you see fit. Some (minor) programming ability required and the documentation is a little convoluted, but it still beats all the alternatives. My e remapping below the fold.

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