The applications that make me love windows.

Well it’s that time of year again where windows needs a good ole’ reinstall. So I thought I’d take the time to write down the apps that transform it into an OS that, despite a bit of love-hate, I pick over any other: I used to love Linux. I used to love it so much I ran Gentoo with xmonad and compiled nightly. Now I just can’t stand to go back. Now, I do have to add the disclaimer that my day job is Design Engineer, and Solidworks doesn’t run on Linux. But I think even if I did, it would be a hard sell. Windows has a high degree of Just Works for a lot of stuff. Printers, WiFi, Graphics, Games, etc. Also, since XP, 7, and now 10. Windows has been comparatively, lightweight in feel to other OS’s. Though this is probably a matter of computer specs and personal perception. Ubuntu, has been by far the least responsive OS I’ve ever tried. OSX is super nice, but has less Just Workiness than Windows (and less software I need).

I’ve left of a bunch of programs that are a little more cross-platform, and wouldn’t really sway me one way or another. For example, GIMP for image editing, or inkscape for vector editing. Likewise, PyCharm, Python, etc. These are all pretty cross-platform, and don’t specifically improve the Operating System experience or fill a gap in it’s usefulness enough to push it one way or another. VLC, FastCopy, etc , however, does dramatically affect how useful I find windows. Some apps, like rescue-time, have an extra bit of Just Works on windows that brings it onto the list.

Installing Windows

I highly recommend installing from USB, it’s faster and less hassle. Plus, my laptop didn’t come with an install disk, so to use my legal windows license I have to pirate an ISO (thanks for shutting down Digitalriver, Microsoft, I know you secretly hate me, but it really means a lot more when you show it through action).To make the bootable stick I’ve always had good luck with Rufus .

  • Internet

    • Browsing: I use Chrome. It works great on windows. Firefox is great and has much better plugins, but it renders stuff wrong. It alternates between being phenomenal and being IE6. Opera, I just don’t know. Edge is alright, but basic.
    • Torrents: I have to get my illegal disk to use my legal license somehow: I like Tixati, it’s riddled with programmer art, and even worse, programmer interface design, but it just works and is lightweight.
  • Utilities

    • Compressed Files: Can’t get better than 7-zip. Fast, always works, and never ever pops up anything. Looking at you winrar-zip-whatever >:(
    • Screen Shots: Windows default screenshot behavior is dumb. Press Print Screen, Open Pain, Copy, Ruin Image with Clunky Interface, Rage. I really like, and have bought a license for Screenpresso. It does video, takes screenshots of regions of the page, automatically scrolls through websites to take a shot of the whole page, and just works. It looks like super sketchy software from the 00’s but it ain’t. Great stuff.
    • File Copying: I’m running windows 10 now, and it still sucks at copying files larger than a kilobyte. Especially over the network or to a thumb drive. So I always install FastCopy. It’s a bit clunky, but super lightweight and copies and deletes large files nicely. Highly recommend installing the shell extensions. The website looks sketchy, but it’s just Japanese.
    • Tiling Window Management: I love WinSplit Revolution. It’s the reason I bought a 15″ laptop (for the numpad). It lets you press Ctrl-Alt-numpad and arrange your windows nicely in regions. Great for coding or research. Unfortunately development stopped, but it still works on Windows 10. You have to get it from CNET. Don’t use their downloader.
    • Hard Drive Management: Where did all my space go? Windows can’t tell you, but nothing is better at answering this than SpaceMonger. If you search you can find a free version. I paid for a license.
  • Productivity:

    • Time Management: The internet is distraction. Try out rescue time. It’s great at making you feel guilty.
    • Office: Microsoft Office: I pay for this. That’s how much I prefer it over the alternatives. It just works. Also, no one has come close to Excel yet. (Especially not google docs, you should be ashamed Google.)
    • Cloud Storage and Versioning: I use dropbox and git. I do every single bit of work in my dropbox. When my computer dies my files remain. It’s great. Haven’t lost work from a computer crash in years. Though… Dropbox, do I really have to edit the selective sync settings from my computer? Why can’t I store that on the cloud? Also, Carousel is poop.
  • Media:

    • Videos: VLC. There is no other choice for windows, and that is okay.
    • Music: Spotify Web Player and SoundCloud Web Player. No need to install anything.
    • Things that need work, Image Viewer: Honestly, there’s nothing that is any good. They either support anything and have the worst interface in the world (I’m looking at you ifranview, the 90’s are gone), try to take over every image operation performed on your computer, or support nothing and suck: The built in windows viewer. Just rage. That’s all you can do. The new Windows 10 viewer finally supports animated gifs, but it’s interface is terrible (as my rule describes). It is the least terrible. But really, no OS has this down yet.
  • Windows 10:

    • Multiple Desktops: Technically windows has supported multiple desktops for a while, but in a hack-y way. This actually works pretty well in 10, though it always forgets where it’s supposed to put my chrome windows after a wake-up cycle.
    • Better File Explorer, Better Command Prompts. Windows is taking some hits and it’s nice.
    • Things that need work, More Dumb Bullshit: Bing, Cortana, Ads in the weather app. Yea, well, Windows is the ultimate design by committee. However, that committee also decides to not do a lot of stuff too. Which is why windows XP, 7, and now 10, were really nice and stable. 7 being the king of any OS I have ever used (It broke Linux desktop’s uptime record for my house.)



Why is Elon Musk Successful – A personal theory.

I approach all my problems the same way. Define a problem, Research, Act, Record, Repeat. My problem: I would really like to be someone like Elon Musk, Bill Gates, Nikola Tesla, and the continuing list of tech heroes. I am consistently not someone like that. Though I would like to believe that I am consistently more. I am on my millionth repeat by now. I have lost count of the experiments. I’ve read biographies. I’ve imitated sleep schedules (damn you Buckminster Fuller). I’ve changed diets.  I’ve thrown myself in and out of an assortment of physical ailments through these experiments. I’ve done all manner of things to unlock the secrets of these people. I truly think I’ve got all the pieces and parts in me to be someone like that. I, like everyone else, just was not fortunate enough to be born with the assembly guide.

I think I’ve got it. I have the secret to their success. It’s simple. It’s dumb.

It’s the ability to do chores. Or by my definition. Something you do every day, that has to be done, has a cumulative positive effect if done, and a cumulative negative effect if not done. Studying, dishes, exercise, emails, budgeting, etc.

Hard work is easy. I have worked on a fun, but extremely difficult engineering problem for days. I have been unable to sleep because I just have so much dang fun doing it. My head will ache, my eyes will have not blinked in hours; leaving them itchy for days. Hard work is easy.

Chores are extremely hard. Not in the actual doing. They’re usually easy. It’s in the mental strain of putting aside what you’d rather do. I have to send that email, even though it’s not really pushing the company forward as much as this one innovation might. I have to document this change, but it’s slow and I really want to test.  However, my experience in industry has told me that the email you didn’t send was a contact you lost and that documentation you didn’t write is four hours of lost time down the road.

Elon has come out and said as much, “You are in constant danger of the company dying and if you are the co-founder or CEO, you’ve got to do all sorts of jobs and tasks that you might not wish to do, that are not intrinsically interesting to you.  … And if you don’t do your chores, essentially, then the company won’t succeed. You’ve got to be prepared to do whatever it takes, work whatever hours. No task is too menial. I think, that’s the right attitude for CEO of a start-up.”

Alright fine, but you listed some other names up these. What about Tesla? Well, for one, Tesla was quoted as saying “By an irony of fate, my first employment was as a draughtsman. I hated drawing; it was for me the very worst of annoyances.”. Yet if you take a look at his Colorado Springs Notebook, it’s not only orderly, but beautifully drawn. Plus, if you’ve ever once tried to wind a copper coil. You’ve had  the meaning of tedious burned into your fingertips.

Fine, what about Bill Gates? Well, remember the email example I had earlier. Here’s an excerpt from an interview with the man“We’re at the point now where the challenge isn’t how to communicate effectively with e-mail, it’s ensuring that you spend your time on the e-mail that matters most. I use tools like “in-box rules” and search folders to mark and group messages based on their content and importance.” He’s often mentioned that he’d much rather being doing pure software design, but his days and his company needed him to correspond with people.

Brilliance has little to do with success. Being able to produce occasional bouts of it and wow your friends is common as dirt in tech crowds. I have sketches from High School where I was trying to figure out how to build an electric car charger and power station. I figured the person who controlled the standard for delivering the fuel controlled the money. I had it all figured out. I was going to start with golf carts and selling power at campgrounds. Then the world. By the standard of brilliant innovative ideas foisted by the media, I should be a bajillionare just for thinking thoughts like that. So where’s my car company? Well. Studying against the vertical incline that was needed to solve such a problem was hard. More interesting problems showed up. I didn’t stick with it because it became a chore.

People are smart, brilliance is common like diamonds, but the difference between a drawing of a brick building and a brick building is that someone actually placed those bricks one by one.

Anyway, that’s the latest from my research and personal development.  Comments and thoughts are very welcome.

“What program did you use?” an essentially useless question.

The question, “What program did you use to make this?” is inevitably asked a hundred times in the comment section of every cool video and project on the internet. It seems innocent, but at its core it speaks of a great misconception in those looking to produce something similar. The misconception being that the software has anything at all to do with the result. That somehow the software is the object responsible for the great work.
Now, don’t get me wrong, good software helps. Good tools help. The distinction to make is that good tools help those who have the skills to use them.

Acquiring skills is a long and painful process. There’s been many times when I’ve seen a master at something produce work a thousand times better than I have using tools I considered inferior and beneath me. I always try keep in my mind that we flew to the moon using nothing more than slide rules, drafting tools, and paper. That’s it. The lunar rover was some crappy aluminum tubing welded together in an “H”. Now we would use our rapid prototyping facilities to do the same thing, but I doubt we’d have a much better product.

Tools are there simply to express your skill. If you don’t have skill, no amount of fancy tools will help you. The only way to acquire skill is through countless hours of daily work.

Whether you’re coding or playing sports this stays constant.

Don’t ask what tool was used. If you have to ask you’re already doing it wrong. Research, practice, learn, and suffer.