Computers are supposed to make our lives easier, but they can be frustrating, time-wasting, stubborn machines. Here are 10 of the most common gripes amongst computer users, and some suggestions for fixing them.
10. Dashboard widgets (OS X)
If you've got a newer or high-powered Mac, then your Dashboard widgets are probably just a dandy little convenience. But for those lacking memory, or just sick of accidentally hitting F12 and getting their screen taken over by Dashboard, here’s a little help. If you just want to make the widgets go away for one session, you can install the simple Dashquit widget or use these terminal commands for the job. Killing multiple widgets, like those iterations that pop up from delivery trackers, is easier if you hold the Option key. Those looking for leaner, cleaner Dashboard can speed it up with some cache cleaning. And if you're really only hitting F12 for a single widget, try pulling it onto the desktop.
9. Remembering passwords
Sure, you can use Firefox to save your passwords, but even Firefox can be used more securely, and made to remember any password. For your other data, including login and encryption tools, you could try an easy universal password system, a randomizer like Diceware, or other tools like Strong Password Generator or the Password Chart.
8. Google search result links are indirect, awkward, and too long to copy
If you're constantly grabbing image, site, and news links from searches, you know that you don't actually get the direct link from right-clicking -- you get more than 100 characters of link-tracking gobbledy-gook. True, the link will get you there eventually, but it's not exactly email-friendly, and it's an unnecessary click-through. CustomizeGoogle fixes this with just one of its many, many tweaks -- "Remove click tracking," found in the first "Web" set of options. You'll get nice, clean links to copy or send.
7. Hours spent re-installing Windows XP (or Vista)
It's often a few hours' work getting everything customized, updated, and tweaked to your liking. With the nLite tool for XP, or vLite for Vista, you can skip a ton of clicking and pop-up answering during installation and first boot-up -- in the case of nLite, pretty much all of it. Here's a guide to slipstreaming XP Service Pack 3 into a new, automated installation CD, and the Digital Inspiration blog has a similar walk-through of vLite for Vista. nLite's also a great tool for creating a stripped-down, speedier XP for virtualization or older machines.
6. Windows Vista, in general
Windows Vista isn't as bad as one would believe from the common blog or news post. It does, however, have some quirks that can quickly nip at your last nerves. Luckily, The How-To Geek wrote up 10 ways to make Windows Vista less annoying, each with a link to a detailed explanation.
5. RE: Fwd: Fwd: Email (and time-wasting email in general)
Your best options for dealing with chain forwards, repetitive conversations, and other email gaffes are smart filters, including a fwd filter. Need proof that wasteful messages are eating up your time? Gmail/Google Apps users can take a detailed look at the waste with Mail Trends.
4. File copying freezes and awkwardness (Windows)
Free Windows add-on TeraCopy is exactly what you need. It makes file transfers faster, more consistent, and it provides realistic job times and status reports. You'll hardly notice it's there -- which is just about perfect.
3. Office IT restrictions
Here’s a guide to surviving IT lockdown that should get you around most IT restrictions. If you're all but chained to the default Internet Explorer and long for Firefox, you can still get some of its best features.
2. GIANT email attachments
The best suggestion we've got for nearly any account is to create a Gmail account to manage your other mail. That way, you can jump in and check your important messages, while your dedicated mail client is frozen trying to grab that huge file. You can then use tools like Gmail Drive (Windows), gDisk (Mac OS X), and GmailFS (Linux) to clear space-hogging attachments from your email accounts. Or you can just simply filter and kill giant attachments with Gmail's advanced search-and-filter tools.
If you're stuck with big attachments in Outlook, there are ways of extracting attachments without having to open the actual email, using Outlook Attachment Remover or this simple trick described by the Digital Inspiration blog.
The real solution? Get your friends or relatives a copy of Picasa or another photo manager that auto-magically shrinks pictures before sending.
1. All that crappy "default" software.
Here are the free, and superior, alternatives to lousy default programs. Many of the suggestions are cross-platform, open source, and do a better job than the system-dragging softs you find in the wilds of computing.