Not much has changed for Windows users

As I waited in line last night at Fry’s I noticed something peculiar: Customers (I counted 8) in line carrying boxes of Norton Anti-Virus. I also noticed three people waiting to buy a spyware program. I think it’s called Spyware Blaster.

I don’t ever recall buying an anti-virus program because there are a number of decent free one’s available. Personally, I’ve used eTrust for years, but I don’t know if it’s ever done me any good. I don’t open email from people I don’t know let along download or click attachments from them.

But it made me wonder if things have changed much for the average PC user over the past 10 years or so. When Windows 3.11 was around, there were many utilities one could buy to help keep it running properly. Remember PC Tools and System Mechanic? This was well before the spyware and adware days. The utilities I used most back then were a disk defragger and a duplicate file finder.

I notice the latest version of System Mechanic is advertised as fixing the following Windows (Vista compatible) issues:

Optimize PC for peak performance

Repair problems and errors

Clean up clutter

Remove spyware and fix security vulnerabilities

Maintain reliability and speed

I can’t imagine paying for Windows XP or Vista and then spending another fifty bucks to fix it. There’s an entire cottage industry around helping people fix or work around the Windows problems. Are PC users so lazy and so stupid that they mess up their computers to the point that 3rd party software is required to keep them operational?

Or is Windows so slow, so bug-ridden and vulnerable that such software is required?

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Is this guy smiling because he switched to Linux?

Wasn’t Windows XP supposed to fix this? How about Vista? How would you feel spending up to $400 on a new version of Windows only to find out that you’ll need to cough up more money for utilities to keep it running? Given my experience with Vista, I don’t believe there’s a utility in the world that can make it run as it should. It’s just downright annoying to deal with.

Ten years from now are Windows users going to be in the same predicament?

How to cure Vista sidebar envy

googlesidebarSo you’ve decided to stick with Windows XP, but you’ve a little envious of the sidebar you’re friend is running on his copy of Vista? Well, you can get a sidebar of your own on XP that takes up far less memory than the one on Vista.

Up until last year I ran Desktop Sidebar. It’s a good product with a huge number of skins and plugins available. It also has a number of pre-installed plugins giving you a lot of functionality out of the box. If you want access to the largest number of plugins, this is the sidebar for you.

But my preferred sidebar application is called Google Sidebar. It also has a good number of plugins (Google calls them widgets) for nearly anything you’re after. It uses very little memory and is quite stable. I also like it’s simple design and stability.

My favorite plugins are the analog clock, desktop photos, Outlook calendar, desktop stocks, desktop to do, desktop system monitor, and desktop weather.