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Author Topic: Getting rid of windows shell  (Read 7949 times)

Ampeter

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Getting rid of windows shell
« on: October 19, 2008, 01:36:20 PM »
Hi guys!

I'm tweaking a windows xp install to use on a UMPC, so I want it to use as little resources as possible(while still being easy to use and looking nice)... so far everything has gone smooth, but now I'm trying to get rid of that stubborn explorer.exe (I hate how it's always sitting there doing nothing... using 18-30mb of ram and lots of CPU cycles when it sees fit) and I'm almost there!   


So far I'm using:


-FARR to launch programs and run commands so I don't need the start menu.

-Objecdock to launch programs, minimize and maximize apps and check the system tray, so I don't need the taskbar...

-Freecommander to browse files, so I don't need windows explorer.

-Opera (I like firefox better but opera is much lighter) instead of internet explorer.

-Avedesk (It's a shame it's not being developed anymore as it is still the best widget engine out there in my opinion) so I can have nice desktop icons and even icons for removable drives when using a thumb drive or mp3 player... so I don't need the desktop for anything...



Looks perfect right? wrong! I have 2 big problems I can't solve yet after closing or replacing explorer.exe with any of this or other programs in the registry (it's what you have to do so explorer.exe stops being the shell and doesn't load automatically on startup)


1) windows minimize ok to objecdock but still show where the taskbar would be... I guess it must be because explorer desktop is some kind of frameless window behind which this minimized windows bars would hide or something like that... It looks really ugly, and it's confusing...something like this:


http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v260/soloquierosubirunscrin/sinbarra.jpg
Getting rid of windows shell


What could I do to prevent that? I tried putting the dock on the bottom to try to hide them but they come on top of it again when minimized.


2) tray doesn't update or doesn't work properly... this is minor as I don't really have a crowded tray but still I'd like to have a way of checking it if I need to.




What could I do? I've thought about a shell replacement but litestep and bblean use way too much resources for my taste (specially cpu)...

maybe a minimall shell that is only a desktop without icons? what about the tray then?


Apart from that, it's great to live without explorer.exe! Everything else is working fine and I don't miss it one bit  ;D


TucknDar

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Re: Getting rid of windows shell
« Reply #1 on: October 19, 2008, 01:47:59 PM »

40hz

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Re: Getting rid of windows shell
« Reply #2 on: October 19, 2008, 02:19:31 PM »
I don't really see how you could do it other than by replacing the command interpreter with something else: (ex: shell=\directory\command_interpreter_name.com)


You could look at Black Box for Windows (BB4W)
Link: http://www.bb4win.org/news.php

or its cousin Xoblite
Link: http://xoblite.net/

Doesn't get more minimal the BB4W. If you want something leaner you may need to consider writing your own.




scancode

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Re: Getting rid of windows shell
« Reply #3 on: October 19, 2008, 03:19:54 PM »
What could I do? I've thought about a shell replacement but litestep and bblean use way too much resources for my taste (specially cpu)...

Are you serious? I'm running bblean on my Asus Eee 900  (1GB RAM, no swapfile, 630mhz celeron, xpsp3) and I never saw it taking more than 5% CPU (while opening and closing lots of windows, I think it was bbleanskin's fault) and eating more than 4MB of ram.

I attach my whole bblean setup so you can see for yourself: , and a screenshot.

omgwtfbbq.jpgGetting rid of windows shell

VideoInPicture

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Re: Getting rid of windows shell
« Reply #4 on: October 19, 2008, 04:29:37 PM »
Ever had any compatibility issues with using an alternative shell in place of Explorer.exe?
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TucknDar

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Re: Getting rid of windows shell
« Reply #5 on: October 19, 2008, 04:59:29 PM »
I've been using LiteStep since as long as I can remember, without any major problems. Maybe there's been a couple of occasions where some app seems to have relied on explorer being set as shell, but apart from that (which I don't even remember the details of) no problems.

Paul Keith

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Re: Getting rid of windows shell
« Reply #6 on: October 19, 2008, 09:07:46 PM »
Just out of curiosity, which do you think is much easier for desktop users to adapt to? Migrating to Linux or using a shell replacement?

Since I've discovered both, I've been conflicted on which one to start REALLY learning first.

40hz

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Re: Getting rid of windows shell
« Reply #7 on: October 19, 2008, 10:55:39 PM »
Just out of curiosity, which do you think is much easier for desktop users to adapt to? Migrating to Linux or using a shell replacement?

Since I've discovered both, I've been conflicted on which one to start REALLY learning first.

Depends on what you're trying to accomplish. Think of it this way:

A shell replacement is your present lover decked out in skimpy lingerie. Linux is a whole new lover.

(Bet you won't forget THAT analogy anytime soon! ;D)

Paul Keith

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Re: Getting rid of windows shell
« Reply #8 on: October 19, 2008, 11:32:50 PM »
Quote
A shell replacement is your present lover decked out in skimpy lingerie. Linux is a whole new lover wearing even skimpier lingerie and has a strong immunity towards STDs but is unfortunately wearing a chastity belt whose hole requires more than inserting a key

Fix'd  :D

I guess I just want a minimalistic desktop that I can understand and have great FREE alternatives to the applications I'm used to. (which so far are available in Linux in the form of java apps requiring installation from source)



40hz

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Re: Getting rid of windows shell
« Reply #9 on: October 20, 2008, 12:53:55 AM »
Quote
A shell replacement is your present lover decked out in skimpy lingerie. Linux is a whole new lover wearing even skimpier lingerie and has a strong immunity towards STDs but is unfortunately wearing a chastity belt whose hole requires more than inserting a key

Fix'd  :D


Uh...ok.

MrCrispy

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Re: Getting rid of windows shell
« Reply #10 on: October 20, 2008, 02:40:31 AM »
Are there any functional advantages to these? i.e. besides looking cool and the widgets etc. If you run explorer (the file manager), use the file open/save dialog from any app, or run IE, you are effectively running explorer.exe, so I don't see how using a different shell will save any memory or resources. Quite the contrary in fact.


f0dder

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Re: Getting rid of windows shell
« Reply #11 on: October 20, 2008, 02:44:57 AM »
Are there any functional advantages to these? i.e. besides looking cool and the widgets etc. If you run explorer (the file manager), use the file open/save dialog from any app, or run IE, you are effectively running explorer.exe, so I don't see how using a different shell will save any memory or resources. Quite the contrary in fact.
Using many of the same DLLs yes, using explorer.exe no.

You don't save much in RAM or CPU, but could be noticeable on really low-performance systems.
- carpe noctem

Paul Keith

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Re: Getting rid of windows shell
« Reply #12 on: October 20, 2008, 03:03:24 AM »
Quote
Uh...ok

Sorry. Took the funniness of it away too much?

Quote
Are there any functional advantages to these? i.e. besides looking cool and the widgets etc. If you run explorer (the file manager), use the file open/save dialog from any app, or run IE, you are effectively running explorer.exe, so I don't see how using a different shell will save any memory or resources. Quite the contrary in fact.

Besides what fodder said, there's also the illusion of minimalism that helps motivate users to become more productive.



Edvard

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Re: Getting rid of windows shell
« Reply #13 on: October 20, 2008, 10:44:03 AM »
Quote
Besides what fodder said, there's also the illusion of minimalism that helps motivate users to become more productive.

Whoa! I couldn't have said it better myself.
For a while I had a Litestep setup that was basically a kiosk for what I did at work. It's really just a print/scan workstation, so I thought "why do I need all these desktop icons and quicklaunch nonsense? I'm taking it to bare bones!"

I must say I felt more productive. Maybe because I had less extraneous info to focus on?

If you want to try a REALLY minimal shell, try the GO shell
Quote
FEATURES:
GO is FREEWARE (do you hear the sound of baby angels singing?)

GO is set to IDLE CPU usage, which means it doesn't gulp your runtimes.

GO, as a shell, can start with system resources above 90% (Mileage may vary)
...
(there's more 'features' listed at the website)
There's even a "light" version...  :huh:
« Last Edit: October 20, 2008, 10:47:11 AM by Edvard »

40hz

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Re: Getting rid of windows shell
« Reply #14 on: October 20, 2008, 01:13:35 PM »
If I could just get something that worked like FARR or Direct Folders ( www.directfolders.com ) as my main interface, and something like NexusFile to replace Explorer, I'd be perfectly happy. Toss in a copy of the K-Melon browser and Notepad++ for text work and I'd be ready to roll.

Portable-NexusFile_2.jpg

Edvard

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Re: Getting rid of windows shell
« Reply #15 on: October 20, 2008, 01:47:17 PM »
Both Litestep and *box shells will do that for you.
Just be prepared for some configgin'...

MrCrispy

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Re: Getting rid of windows shell
« Reply #16 on: October 20, 2008, 04:48:51 PM »
Using many of the same DLLs yes, using explorer.exe no.

Well, yes. That's what by meant by 'effectively'. Its like using MSHTML to render web pages without iexplorer, I doubt the savings amount to anything.

I've tried alternate shells in the past and none of them seemed useful enough for everyday work. Simple things like dragging over a taskbar program and have it open up didn't work.

f0dder

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Re: Getting rid of windows shell
« Reply #17 on: October 20, 2008, 05:15:20 PM »
Using many of the same DLLs yes, using explorer.exe no.

Well, yes. That's what by meant by 'effectively'. Its like using MSHTML to render web pages without iexplorer, I doubt the savings amount to anything.
You can't really compare those.

iexplore.exe is nothing but a shell around MSHTML and friends, while explorer.exe itself implements a lot of functionality (and runs background threads etc). Granted, you might not gain a lot from using an alternative shell, but there's more to explorer.exe than just using SHELL32.DLL etc.
- carpe noctem

40hz

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Re: Getting rid of windows shell
« Reply #18 on: October 20, 2008, 05:29:01 PM »
Both Litestep and *box shells will do that for you.
Just be prepared for some configgin'...

Wee iz not afraid! Bring on da configgin'! ;D

Seriously though, Litestep could be set up to do something like that? Black box is just a little "too little" for my tastes.


Ampeter

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Re: Getting rid of windows shell
« Reply #19 on: October 21, 2008, 12:50:00 PM »
WOW! so many replies! this forum is truly awesome!


Liteshell, maybe? http://www.labyrinth...s/rob/liteshell.html

I don't know... looks like one of the most poorly documented shells in the world! :S


I don't really see how you could do it other than by replacing the command interpreter with something else: (ex: shell=\directory\command_interpreter_name.com)


I don't know if I understand what you are trying to say... why would I want to replace the command interpreter? I can launch CMD from object dock or FARR whenever I want without using explorer.exe, so...?


Quote
You could look at Black Box for Windows (BB4W)
Link: http://www.bb4win.org/news.php

or its cousin Xoblite
Link: http://xoblite.net/

Doesn't get more minimal the BB4W. If you want something leaner you may need to consider writing your own.


yeah, I've thought about writing a shell but the closer thing to programming I can do is a lousy AHK script  :D


I guess the only thing I'd need it to do is hide those damn minimized windows on the bottom of the screen, that can't be that difficult but... I don't even know where to start!  :(


What could I do? I've thought about a shell replacement but litestep and bblean use way too much resources for my taste (specially cpu)...

Are you serious? I'm running bblean on my Asus Eee 900  (1GB RAM, no swapfile, 630mhz celeron, xpsp3) and I never saw it taking more than 5% CPU (while opening and closing lots of windows, I think it was bbleanskin's fault) and eating more than 4MB of ram.

I attach my whole bblean setup so you can see for yourself:  (see attachment in previous post), and a screenshot.
 (see attachment in previous post)

Well, maybe it was because I was running a different blackbox or I hadn't installed it properly but last time I tried it was almost constantly using 2-8% of my (crappy) CPU, and process explorer showed it was using more CPU cycles than explorer.exe IIRC.

Your BBlean setup looks really cool though.. specially that bbMemLimiter plugin! what does it do exactly?


BTW I see you are using a Spanish version of Windows... ¿Eres español o latinoamericano por casualidad?  ;)



Quote
A shell replacement is your present lover decked out in skimpy lingerie. Linux is a whole new lover wearing even skimpier lingerie and has a strong immunity towards STDs but is unfortunately wearing a chastity belt whose hole requires more than inserting a key

Fix'd  :D

I guess I just want a minimalistic desktop that I can understand and have great FREE alternatives to the applications I'm used to. (which so far are available in Linux in the form of java apps requiring installation from source)


Well, you don't need linux for that... the only thing the explorer shell does is providing the taskbar, desktop icons, desktop right-click menu(right-click menu outside of the desktop still works without explorer.exe), and of course the default Windows hotkeys (win+D, win+E, etc).

It's also needed for internet explorer and Windows explorer, but those are not strictly speaking shell functions.

If I could just get something that worked like FARR or Direct Folders ( www.directfolders.com ) as my main interface, and something like NexusFile to replace Explorer, I'd be perfectly happy. Toss in a copy of the K-Melon browser and Notepad++ for text work and I'd be ready to roll.
 (see attachment in previous post)

Well, as far as I know there's nothing preventing you to use FARR as your system shell and NexusFile as your default file manager, so what are you waiting for?  :D


Using many of the same DLLs yes, using explorer.exe no.

Well, yes. That's what by meant by 'effectively'. Its like using MSHTML to render web pages without iexplorer, I doubt the savings amount to anything.

I've tried alternate shells in the past and none of them seemed useful enough for everyday work. Simple things like dragging over a taskbar program and have it open up didn't work.

Well, my UMPC has 720 mb of ram total, so the main advantage to me is not having explorer.exe wasting 30mb all the time considering I don't use anything of what it does...

I agree that replacing your shell normally isn't worth the headache and there are no good enough alternatives... I've searched for months for a shell for XP that would mimic vista desktop with those nice big icons and thumbnails for my main pc but found absolutely nothing... most shell replacements haven't even been updated since 2-3 years!

Are there any functional advantages to these? i.e. besides looking cool and the widgets etc. If you run explorer (the file manager), use the file open/save dialog from any app, or run IE, you are effectively running explorer.exe, so I don't see how using a different shell will save any memory or resources. Quite the contrary in fact.

Those are .dll so even if you completely eliminated explorer.exe from your system those dialogs would still work.

Speaking of Windows open and save dialogs... they are total crap! does anybody know of a way to replace them? The only thing I found is a couple of programs that extend them but I could do that with AHK also... what i'd really like is a total replacement, sort of what I did some time ago with TeraCopy and the default windows file copy.

Edvard

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Re: Getting rid of windows shell
« Reply #20 on: October 21, 2008, 02:01:34 PM »
Quote
I guess the only thing I'd need it to do is hide those damn minimized windows on the bottom of the screen, that can't be that difficult but... I don't even know where to start!
Any replacement shell would do that for you.
Quote
Well, as far as I know there's nothing preventing you to use FARR as your system shell and NexusFile as your default file manager, so what are you waiting for?
The shell takes care of a lot more than just launching programs. (DDE messaging, for example) so I don't think simply setting farr.exe as your shell is going to be a good idea.
Quote
most shell replacements haven't even been updated since 2-3 years!
Litestep is still being developed and has the largest user base. Right now, Vista compatibility is still being worked on.
Just setting Litestep as your shell with no configuration shouldn't show minimized windows, I'll check...

Edvard

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Re: Getting rid of windows shell
« Reply #21 on: October 21, 2008, 02:12:25 PM »
OK, yes. Running Litestep with a blank step.rc file will get you no minimized windows.
Right now it's running 9.5 megs of memory, 0% cpu, ~5 megs Virtual memory size (whatever that means)...

Give it a shot
Here's my AHK script to switch to litestep and log off:
shell=c:\progra~1\litestep\litestep.exe
shellid=LiteStep

RegWrite,REG_SZ,HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE,SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion\IniFileMapping\system.ini\boot,Shell,USR:Software\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion\Winlogon

RegWrite,REG_SZ,HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE,Software\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion\Winlogon,Shell,explorer.exe

RegWrite,REG_SZ,HKEY_CURRENT_USER,Software\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion\Winlogon,Shell,%shell%

RegWrite,REG_SZ,HKEY_CURRENT_USER,Software\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion\Winlogon,ShellID,%shellid%

RegWrite,REG_DWord,HKEY_CURRENT_USER,Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer,DesktopProcess,1

RegWrite,REG_SZ,HKEY_CURRENT_USER,Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer,BrowseNewProcess,yes

Shutdown,0
When you log in, Litestep will be your shell and I'm sure you've set up everything else to start up automatically, right?.

For this script, I included everything I could glean about setting an alternative shell.
If you decide to use it, let me know if you have questions.
« Last Edit: October 21, 2008, 02:48:09 PM by Edvard »

scancode

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Re: Getting rid of windows shell
« Reply #22 on: October 21, 2008, 02:18:12 PM »
Liteshell, maybe? http://www.labyrinth...s/rob/liteshell.html

I don't know... looks like one of the most poorly documented shells in the world! :S

Do you really need any docs? Liteshell rocks!

What could I do? I've thought about a shell replacement but litestep and bblean use way too much resources for my taste (specially cpu)...

Are you serious? I'm running bblean on my Asus Eee 900  (1GB RAM, no swapfile, 630mhz celeron, xpsp3) and I never saw it taking more than 5% CPU (while opening and closing lots of windows, I think it was bbleanskin's fault) and eating more than 4MB of ram.

I attach my whole bblean setup so you can see for yourself:  (see attachment in previous post), and a screenshot.
 (see attachment in previous post)

Well, maybe it was because I was running a different blackbox or I hadn't installed it properly but last time I tried it was almost constantly using 2-8% of my (crappy) CPU, and process explorer showed it was using more CPU cycles than explorer.exe IIRC.

Your BBlean setup looks really cool though.. specially that bbMemLimiter plugin! what does it do exactly?


BTW I see you are using a Spanish version of Windows... ¿Eres español o latinoamericano por casualidad?  ;)


Soy Argentino... Buenos Aires, Argentina... Luján, Buenos Aires, Argentina... Pueblo Nuevo, Luján, Buenos Aires, Argentina... etc :D

Yup... bbMemLimiter... I don't know what it does, the name looked cool... J/K...
It simply calls SetProcessWorkingSetSize to swap out all unused memory to disk... but since I'm not using any swap file... :) Doesn't lead to an insane performance hit on swap-enabled systems tho...

Well, my UMPC has 720 mb of ram total, so the main advantage to me is not having explorer.exe wasting 30mb all the time considering I don't use anything of what it does...
On other news... nLite the fuckfunk outta your WinXP install :)
« Last Edit: October 21, 2008, 02:20:56 PM by scancode »