Last month, I discussed some of the easier things flip 3d, task bar visual tips, media center replacements and themes. In this installment, I’ll go over several dreamscene alternatives, DVD software and some other things that will make your experience better.
Dreamscene is an animated background that ships as an Ultimate Extra. In a nutshell, it gives you the ability to play videos on your desktop while consuming few CPU cycles. Well, depending on the video, you could actually chew up quite a few of those CPU cycles. I have yet to figure out a pattern for what types eat up more, but MPEG video seems to tax it a little more than others. There are two alternatives that I know of that work well. The first is from Stardock and it now works with all flavors of Vista. It works well and does not tax your CPU all that much. Plus, Stardock has a dedicated site with quite a few videos specifically tailored for this purpose. Also, they have information on creating your own ‘scenes. The other alternative is from someone who is rather prolific with Vista and Vista like applications. Ave’s Vista App’s is a site that contains a plethora of little applications that make your Vista experience a bit better. One of them, Ave’s Desktop Effects, is a Dreamscene like application. Admittedly, I have not played with this all that much since I had Dreamscene on my desktop and Stardock’s app on my laptop. I did try it and it seems to work well and did not bog down my computer.
Ave also has a really useful application called HTML Explorer Thumbnails. This little gem shows you a visual representation of html files inside of Explorer. This is useful if you do any html work.
Another thing that Home Basic lacks, but is made for by many hardware makers, is a DVD burner software package. There are many alternatives, including CDBurnerXP. CDBurnerXP burns Blu Ray and HD-DVD’s, if you have burners that can handle those formats. I’m guessing, though, that if you do, you probably do not have Home Basic anyway. Just a guess. There are other free and low cost packages, CDBurnerXP just happens to be one I’ve used for a long time.
Microsoft has an entire line of products that is free called Windows Live. I’ve written about them previously, so I’ll not go into details, but I would suggest downloading Windows Live Mail, Windows Live Photo Gallery and, if you blog, the Windows Live Writer. All three of these are terrific applications and I use them on all of my computers, including the XP machine. The Live family runs on XP and all flavors of Vista. Microsoft has a winner here, but, for whatever reason, they don’t advertise them very well. Live Mail blows Outlook Express out of the water and, strictly as a mail client, is better than Outlook as well. Of course, Live Mail lacks the calendar, address book and other more corporate features. Microsoft also has, online, Live Calendar, Mesh and a few other ‘Live’ features. Some of them are more weaker than the others. Live Mesh, though, is pretty darn good although it is still in beta. Mesh is online storage, remote access and synchronization. Pretty killer and similar in function to MobileMe, only it works.
Windows Vista Home Basic is not the turkey that everyone made it out to be. It is a leaner version of Vista and is faster as well. SP1 made it’s footprint larger so it now does not function well in 512mb, you need at least a gig of RAM. I’d also stuff a dedicated video card in a machine running this version of Vista. Heck, I think I’d do that in any machine with any OS installed.
Read Part One here.