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Author Topic: I love my computer configuration...  (Read 2870 times)

the3seashells

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I love my computer configuration...
« on: August 29, 2008, 10:39:15 PM »
I love how I have my computer configured. It has taken me many years, but I am now at the point where the elegance of the configuration itself makes me happy. I have decided to give a down and dirty overview of my configuration. If there is any interest, I can go into more details.

I start with a fresh install of XP, fully patched (SP3) and install all of the needed drivers. From there I install StorageCraft’s ShadowUser which takes a snapshot of the configuration. I can then use my computer as I see fit, but it reverts to the initial configuration on reboot.

I configure ShadowUser so that one folder is excluded from that automatic reverting.

Instead of installing a lot of applications, every application I use is portable. For software not available in a portable form, I make my own portable versions using a combination of InstallRite 2.5 (application cloner) and AHK, or ThinApp. I place all of the portable applications in the folder excluded from automatic reverting.

By only using portable applications, I can run the programs that I want, but my system is not cluttered. The only changes I make to the fresh install of XP are adding shortcuts to the portable .exe’s.

This setup has two major advantages:

1) I don’t need to worry about security. I still keep XP patched and up to date, but I do not run a firewall (although I am behind a router) or a virus scanner. This speeds up my system considerably and frees me from the constant headache of configuring and updating them. I do not worry if my system is compromised, because all of the windows system files a restored on reboot any compromised file would be discarded.

2) I can install whatever application I want and not worry about bogging down my system. Like many of you, I am addicted to trying new software. The only problem with this addition is that it can quickly bog down any system. I previously had so many programs installed that my start menu, after spilling across about 5 columns, ran out of room. Most of the programs I installed I used one or two times and then never touched them again. Unfortunately they would remain on my hard drive cluttering system files and the registry until I did my every 6 month install of XP. With my current setup, because all changes are discarded on reboot, I am now free to install whatever I want. If I don’t like the software, I reboot my computer, and it is as if it never was. If I decide I like it and I want to continue using it, I make a portable version of it.

These two advantages result in essentially worry free computing. I’ll install anything now, even from questionable sources. I don’t need to hope that whatever virus scanner / spyware / firewall combinations I am using will detect malicious software. If I download software that seriously undermines system performance or stability, I reboot and I am back a fresh install of XP.

I used to be incredibly nervous when I would let friends or family use my computer; I was always worried about what they would muck up. Now I don’t care. I tell them to use it however they would like; install programs, delete programs; it doesn’t matter. After I reboot, everything is back to normal.

I’m sure this isn’t an original way to configure a computer, but I certainly enjoy it.

-the3seashells

wreckedcarzz

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Re: I love my computer configuration...
« Reply #1 on: August 29, 2008, 11:57:02 PM »
Sounds like a good idea, but what when you need to install something that can not be portable (ex: games that integrate directly with the filesystem/registry)? That would bug the heck out of me - I don't run any security software either (on demand on occasion, but otherwise it is closed), and I use Sandboxie to test questionable software.

I have my computer configured in such a way that most people can not find anything because it is right in front of their face, and they are used to searching through heaps of stuff to get to it. Start menu, Music, Documents, Pictures (VERY specifically organized), Games, Programs are all organized...

Call me a picky neat freak, but I have learned that if I don't force myself to organize now, I format stuff I want later because I have forgotten about it.

zridling

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Re: I love my computer configuration...
« Reply #2 on: August 30, 2008, 04:07:59 AM »
I think the worst enemy of one's personal computer is a snoop -- spouse, kid, or anyone other than yourself who sits in front of your system. No, I don't have anything to 'hide,' but to me, it's a personal space to which no one else is invited. What the3seashells has done is pretty smart, and if nothing else, great insurance!

4wd

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Re: I love my computer configuration...
« Reply #3 on: August 30, 2008, 07:45:44 AM »
I make my own portable versions using a combination of InstallRite 2.5 (application cloner) and AHK, or ThinApp.

Silly question but....to make ThinApp packages don't you need the ThinApp Packager ?

If so, isn't it a little excessive at US$5000 ?

Or, have I missed something really obvious ?

You can trial it for 60 days, do the packages still work after this ?

I mean, I use a lot of portable software and try to find replacement portable versions for others but I don't think I'd spend US$5000 just for the ability to create it myself.
« Last Edit: August 30, 2008, 07:47:51 AM by 4wd »

the3seashells

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Re: I love my computer configuration...
« Reply #4 on: August 30, 2008, 10:37:34 AM »
Sounds like a good idea, but what when you need to install something that can not be portable (ex: games that integrate directly with the filesystem/registry)? That would bug the heck out of me

Hey wreckedcarzz: I'm glad to find a fellow sandboxie user, it's what I use at work. Regarding the games, my setup still works with games that use the registry and filesystem, you just need to do a bit of legwork with InstallRite and AutoHotKey (AHK). To install a game, I install all of the files to my excluded directory and then, using InstallRite, I can make a very small .exe file that adds the needed information to the registry and updates any system files that the game needs.

I then use an AHK script. When it runs, it first checks to see if the registry has the information it needs to run the game. If it doesn't, it runs the above .exe to initialize the settings. The script then loads the game. While I playing the game, the AHK waits until I exit (and the process stops) then it copies the save game information from wherever it is saved in the system and back to my excluded folder.

It probably takes about 5 or 10 minutes for to setup each bit of software, but I think it is worth it.

Silly question but....to make ThinApp packages don't you need the ThinApp Packager ?

If so, isn't it a little excessive at US$5000 ?

4wd: You are right, $5000 is excessive just to make portable applications and I wouldn't use it if I didn't already have a license through my office for other professional use. I have only needed to use it once though, all of my other applications I have setup using the InstallRite and AHK method outlined above. The only piece of software I couldn't get this method to work with is MS Office.