Setting a PC up for Work

By Shamus Posted Thursday Mar 28, 2019

Filed under: Projects 85 comments

This week’s lack of a Spider-Man post is brought to you by my now-dead solid state drive. After 6 years of heavy use, it finally gave up the ghost.  Considering that it spent most of those 6 years with 220+ of its 250GB in use, I’d say the device performed admirably and died gracefully. In the end, I could still read from it, even though I couldn’t write to it. This prevented Windows from booting up, but it let me rescue my dataActually, I didn’t need much from the drive. I backed up my old /Users folder, but I haven’t needed to retrieve anything out of there yet..

I originally blamed this mess on Windows Update, since the machine died just a couple of minutes after installing an update. But I think the patch was just the straw that broke the camel’s back. The machine was probably destined to die at some point that day. It was just a question of which program would attempt the final write that exhausted the drive.

I’ve since replaced the drive with a 500GB SSD and re-installed Windows. The machine is mostly back to normal now, but I’m still missing a few bits and pieces of software and working to get caught up on some of the other bits of writing I have to do.

I will say this new Windows 10 install feels very snappy. Either SSDs slow down as they reach the end of their useful lifespan, or Windows 10 still suffers from the long-running problem where a particular install will accumulate boot-time cruft that eventually erodes the system performance.

The Cloud-Based Future

A little over 20 years ago, I started seeing articles predicting the end of local software. Oracle co-founder Larry Ellison was always a big critic of physical media and frequently promised us a future in the cloudAlthough I don’t think it was called “the cloud” until recently.. I remember being really annoyed by an article by John Dvorak in PC Magazine in the mid 90s where he predicted that all of our software would be served over the web. At the time, that sounded preposterous. Why make all these super-fast computers and then run our software over the slow-ass web? Even with a T1 line to your house, there’s no way web-based stuff will be as fast as local. 

But Dvorak’s prediction is slowly coming to pass. Google’s services now provide me with word processing, spreadsheets, and calendars. I even wrote my most recent book entirely in Google Docs. That’s 134k words written in an online app. Not bad. The app got to be a little sluggish near the end of the book,  but it was still better than the bloated LibreOffice and MS WordGD launches quickly and runs smoothly, but staggers once the document gets to be large. The big word processors launch slowly, but once they get going they don’t have trouble with document size. In the vast majority of my use cases, the first is better..

I do word processing on the cloud. I sometimes stream music rather than playing local MP3s. I watch streaming video and I haven’t touched a DVD movie in months. I’m nowhere near the point where everything is on the cloud, but I’m closer now than I would have thought possible just 10 years ago.

Having said that, we’re still not living in the cloud. If anything, I depend on more local programs than ever.

They Say That Setting Up is Hard to Do

It’s been almost a week, and I’m still stopping about once a day to install things. For the curious:

  • Google Chrome: I hear Microsoft Edge is actually not bad these days. But it’s still easier to stick with Chrome. If I WAS in the market to try a new browser, I seriously doubt Microsoft would be my first choice.
  • My password manager: One thing nobody thought about when they dreamed of that far-away cloud-based future, is how we were going to handle all of those disparate logins.
  • Gaming platforms: Steam, Epic, GoG, Origin, Twitch and Discord. Am I forgetting one? There are so many these days.
  • Studio One: My music creation software. In the old days, I played videogames to take a break from coding. These days, I sort of play games for a living. So what am I supposed to do when it’s time to get away from the job and clear my head? Over the past five years, music has filled this role. I fire up my music-making DAW and noodle around when I need to force my brain to stop thinking about games.
  • Paint Shop Pro 8: Yes, I’m still using an image processing program from 2003. Everything modern takes forever to launch and is packed with bloat I don’t need. I just need a tool to browse, crop, and scale screenshots. PSP8 is still my favorite tool for this, and its Windows XP era installer gives me techno-nostalgia.
  • FileZilla: Once I’m done editing those images, I need to upload them to the website.
  • WAMP: Short for Windows, Apache, MySQL, PHP server. I run a local webserver so I can work on a test copy of this blog. That lets me muck about with styles and themes and plugins without subjecting visitors to all the incremental changes. WAMP is a bit fiddly and it always takes some time to get set up just right.
  • Ventrilo: I use this to make the podcast.
  • FooBar 2000: My MP3 player.
  • Programming Stuff: Ugh. Visual Studio is good software, but it takes AGES to get my C++ coding tools all set up. Game development in C++ means using a terrifying snarl of cobbled-together libraries. Boost, SDL, OpenGL, and a dozen little helper libraries all need to be installed before I can do anything. Usually this means figuring out which versions are good and where to get them and how to install them and how to set them up to work together and arg I can’t stand it anymore why don’t I just download Unity? I don’t have time for coding right now so I haven’t gotten around to this one yet.
  • Anti-installing: On top of installing all my apps, there’s the annoying task of uninstalling all the crap that Microsoft foists on usHi Cortana. Bye Cortana. and figuring out how to fix all the horrible default settings.
  • But wait, there’s more! I can’t remember it now, but sometime in the next couple of days I’ll mouse over to where the icon should be and remember something I haven’t installed yet.

Maybe we’ll be doing stuff on the cloud in another 20 years, but for now it looks like we’re stuck installing things on our hard drives. And I’m okay with that.

EDIT: That didn’t take long. Two hours after writing this post I realized I needed Notepad++, which is what I use for editing technical text files like HTML and INI files.

EDIT: A few hours later, I need something to open RAR files.

EDIT: Oops. Don’tforget VLC media player because the built-in Windows player is horrendous.

EDIT, the next morning: I need Bandicam for video / screenshot capture.



[1] Actually, I didn’t need much from the drive. I backed up my old /Users folder, but I haven’t needed to retrieve anything out of there yet.

[2] Although I don’t think it was called “the cloud” until recently.

[3] GD launches quickly and runs smoothly, but staggers once the document gets to be large. The big word processors launch slowly, but once they get going they don’t have trouble with document size. In the vast majority of my use cases, the first is better.

[4] Hi Cortana. Bye Cortana.

From The Archives:

85 thoughts on “Setting a PC up for Work

  1. Infinitron says:

    Chrome itself is a cloud-based platform that auto-installs a bunch of stuff for you as soon as you log in with your Google account. Your saved passwords, extensions, etc. And it installs very quickly, so you can get going on a new system pretty fast.

    1. Thomas Adamson says:

      On browsers, MS Edge is now a chromium driven browser. It’s essentially chrome with a different front-end.

      I use Vivaldi as my everyday-ride. It’s a super customisable chromium browser. I also use Comodo Dragon (chromium) and Ice Dragon (mozilla) for other tasks. Having different browser for different contexts seems to really help my work flow and cut down on distraction. It’s nice to have demarcation and be logged into reddit or google with different accounts for different purposes.

      1. Sven says:

        Edge is still it’s own thing, the Chromium-based Edge hasn’t released yet.

  2. Lanthanide says: is the completely free spiritual successor to paint shop pro. You should try it.

    1. Geebs says:

      While we’re recommending software, Scrivener is a pretty great option for long-form writing (although the Windows version is admittedly not quite as great).

      1. grumble says:

        My wife tried to use scrivener for one of her novels once. It ate a decent chunk of it. They’ve probably since fixed whatever bug caused it, but the only unforgivable sin in a text editor is destroying data.

        Of course, I use Emacs for pretty much all my text editing needs so it’s not like I can give good suggestions to normal people.

    2. Matthew Downie says:

      I’m still using Paint Shop Pro 7.

      I’m sure there are better alternatives, but if my usual keyboard shortcut doesn’t work, or a menu option isn’t where I expect it to be, it breaks my whole workflow.

      1. Duoae says:

        I’m on psp7 as well. But I also use cs2 as well. Both programmes cater to different needs quite well.

    3. Erik says:

      +1 on It’s replaced all the other better-than-paint-but-not-as-complicated-as-GIMP things that I’ve tried. Simple, capable for most things, functional, and free. Definitely worth trying out, especially since you’re being forced to re-examine your work flows anyway.

      1. Mike P. says:, aside from it’s terrible name, is pretty good and does all the things I want it to do.

  3. Lino says:

    Happy to hear that everything’s gone well! I noticed you have the Twitch desktop app, but even though I also watch a lot of Twitch, I do it only through their website. Is there any benefit to having their desktop app?

    But other than that, I’ve got about 5 times less programs I need compared to you. I guess it’s because I don’t work from home, and I haven’t really found the time to sit down at my desktop over the past year or so – something that will hopefully change once I finish working on my Master’s Thesis (it’s technically done – I just need to present it in mid-April – crossing my fingers).

    1. evilmrhenry says:

      I’d guess it’s for the Minecraft support. Twitch’s desktop app ate the Curse launcher a while back, and is now one of the big modded Minecraft launchers. (I don’t actually see Twitch in the screenshot, though.)

      No Audacity, though?

      1. Lino says:

        It’s not in the screenshot – it’s in the list of apps under “Gaming platforms”. But I had no idea it offered Minecraft support. Thanks for the info!

    2. Khizan says:

      The Twitch desktop app can serve as a mod manager for a lot of games. I never watch Twitch, but I’ve got the desktop app installed to handle my WoW mods.

  4. Lee says:

    Lack of a Spider-Man post this week? I see one….

    1. BlueHorus says:

      Yeah, I was amused by that too.

      ‘Oh, so no Spider-Man post this week. Fair enoug-‘

      *scrolls down*

      ‘…huh. Okay then.’

      1. bigben01985 says:

        It’s gone now though? I read it, then read this, then for some reason checked again and it seems like it’s gone now

      2. Hal says:

        Looks like Shamus took it away.

        Which was fun, because it seemed to have disappeared while I was writing my comment.

      3. Shamus says:

        Yeah. My mistake. I forgot I’d scheduled it.

        I could’ve left it up, but there were no screenshots and I’d rather publish it with screenshots.

        Next week.

        1. Hal says:

          Next week is also the end of the Mass Effect series, right? So will Spider-Man run twice a week after that, or will you be filling the space with a different game?

        2. Asdasd says:

          I have a tab with the article still open in my browser. If anyone is interested in reading it a week early, I’ll sell you my computer. Of course I don’t see how we’re going to ship it without disrupting the power supply, so you’ll also have to buy my house, but I’m sure we can work through the details.

          1. Lino says:

            you’ll also have to buy my house

            It’s a good thing you’re not reading it on an office computer – otherwise whoever wants to read it would have to buy the entire company you work for! And that could take at least two weeks!

            1. Asdasd says:

              I’m not so sure. A cursory watch of any classic corporate thriller would tell you a company can be bought in the time it takes to do a montage of shots from a board room meeting, the floor of the New York Stock Exchange and someone in an inexplicable hurry to catch a subway train while barking into a brick-sized phone. So 5-10 minutes tops?

              1. Lino says:

                Wait, you have access to a Hollywood montage? If you also have access to some 80’s music, could you make me a training montage? I’d really like to have a six pack for this summer (and I’m fit, so it won’t have to be a particularly long montage)…

                1. BlueHorus says:

                  Getting a six-pack is easy – just go here!

        3. Nixorbo says:

          So what you’re saying is I *shouldn’t* read the one in my Feedly and instead wait until next week when there will be pictures?

          1. Carlos García says:

            Or that you can choose between not having a new Spider Man article this week or not having it next week.

            1. Lino says:

              Well, that’s a depressing way to look at it… How about: “You can choose to be ahead of everyone this week, or experience it alongside everybody else in the community next week!”
              See? That way it sounds way more exciting!

  5. Gargamel Le Noir says:

    I reinstalled my computer yesterday evening and did most of the work using Ninite, it’s pretty handy! Just check the softwares you want to install and it’ll do them in order without any input from you.

  6. parkenf says:

    Speaking of anti-install. Have you found anyway to actually get rid of (as in remove the files and stop them re-installing) all of the store apps that windows 10 has – including various King stuff that takes well over a Gig of space? It’s really irritating. I can remove them from my user, but it keeps them on file so it can add them to any new users that join. I’ve run through the online recommended scripts of power shell and that’s how I got them removed from me, but they don’t work for removing the facility.

  7. parkenf says:

    Speaking of anti-install. Have you found anyway to actually get rid of (as in remove the files and stop them re-installing) all of the store apps that windows 10 has – including various King stuff that takes well over a Gig of space? It’s really irritating. I can remove them from my user, but it keeps them on file so it can add them to any new users that join. I’ve run through the online recommended scripts of power shell and that’s how I got them removed from me, but they don’t work for removing the facility.

    1. parkenf says:

      I tried to delete one of those but it didn’t work. I’m guessing this is an insolvable problem then? The cruft, not the messaging.

  8. Dan Dunn says:

    Dude. You don’t use Scrivener for writing books? How 2005.

    1. Kdansky says:

      Personally I like FocusWriter for just writing raw text.

  9. ElementalAlchemist says:

    WAMP? I would have thought a LAMP server running in a VM would have been a more useful analogue to your actual production server (and less likely to introduce Windows screwiness).

    As far as Edge goes, that is now just a rebadged Chrome, so there’s even less reason to ever consider it. Firefox is your only real practical alternative.

    1. Chad says:

      Running a LAMP stack in a VM is much less cuddly than it used to be, but adding VM and a separate operating system to the install requirements isn’t actually improving the installation overhead, and it’s unlikely that his local VM will use the same admin interface as his hosting provider anyway.
      Of course, he could use Docker in both places to get an even more similar setup, but then hers increasing the overhead even more…

    2. Sven says:

      Chromium-based Edge hasn’t released yet. Edge currently is still its own thing.

      And instead of WAMP, setting up LAMP using the Windows Subsystem for Linux should be possible, and likely easier than WAMP setup or a VM.

  10. Daimbert says:

    The main advantage of the cloud is that you can access it from anywhere you can access the site or Internet. I used to use Google Docs for Excel spreadsheets and a Word document that I used to mod PBF board games. However, the disadvantage is that if that ever goes down or gets blocked by a site or server — which happened for me with those things for the board games — then you can’t get access to it when you want it. Also, there are always issues with security since those things are always technically publicly accessible even if you’re supposed to be the one in control of who can access it.

    Given this, cloud computing will be pushed until something disastrous happens at which point things will back off a bit.

    1. Bloodsquirrel says:

      That’s why using something like Onedrive is the best of both worlds. I can access everything online, but if I don’t have access to the internet then the file is still on my computer. I can work on it, then let it re-sync when I get back online.

      File management is also way, way nicer than using Google Docs. llllllllllllllllllllllllll

      1. Daimbert says:

        I’ve heard of people — maybe Shamus? — who had automatic synching in general do REALLY disastrous things …

  11. For painting/image stuff take a gander at the free program
    It’s improved a lot over the years, it might fit your use.
    The windows store version costs, but the direct download from their website is free.

  12. Wiseman says:

    You had said in some podcast you used Firefox. I had you counted as ONE OF US all this time.

    1. Daimbert says:

      How would you count me who uses both? Chrome at work — except on my Red Hat box — and Firefox at home.

      The reason for this is that I tended to use Firefox myself most of the time, but worked on a product that was only supported on Chrome. I don’t work on that product anymore, but it stuck.

    2. Echo Tango says:

      Firefox broke all the addons with their security upgrades…two years ago? I’m still waiting for Tab Mix Plus to become compatible. I really want to be able to rename tabs, and remove useless items from the right-click menus. :S

  13. John says:

    Shamus got me curious, so I conducted a little experiment. It takes about ten seconds from the point where I click on LibreOffice Writer in my start menu to the point where I can type in a new document. It takes about fifteen seconds from the point where I click on Firefox in my start menu to the point where I can type in a new Google Doc. I can shave five seconds off that time if Firefox is already open. So Google Doc’s time-to-typing is either 50% longer than LibreOffice’s or else exactly the same, depending on what else I’m doing. LibreOffice wins, I guess. (Don’t ask me what the prize is.) I generally use LibreOffice rather than Google Docs, but that’s because my brain goes straight from word processing to word processor rather than web browser and not because I’ve got something against Google Docs.

    For the record, my computer is very different than Shamus’s and so I never expected that our results would be similar. He’s got Windows 10 and a SSD while I’ve got Linux Mint Cinnamon and an older mechanical drive. In strange coincidence, however, I did re-install the OS just last week.

    1. Nessus says:

      The fact you’re running on Linux makes a non-trivial difference. A lot of apps from the free Linux dev sphere open WAY slower on Windows.

      On my Windows machine, LibreOffice writer takes ~30 seconds to go from start to write. Inkscape takes 23 seconds. For years GIMP was absolutely horrible, taking upwards of 2 minutes. It was literally “click to open, then switch to a browser or something in another window while it loads in the background”. They seemed to have fixed this in more recent updates, and now it’s pretty fast. Blender is the best: 2.7 takes ~15 seconds, and 2.8 Beta ~10 seconds.

      Contrast Firefox and Chrome, which open basically instantaneously. Page loading of an actual site would be the only source of slowdown.

      Maybe once a year I go window shopping for Linux distros to see if they’ve sorted out the stuff that’s historically kept me from going full Linux myself. No luck yet on the OS, but it always startles me how snappy those same apps are when run in Linux.

      The worst stuff are things that act as dedicated net clients, like Steam or iTunes. You’d think they’d be like super streamlined browsers, but no: a browser set to remember and autofill passwords is at least an order of magnitude faster. Dunno what’s up with that (well… iTunes on Windows is kind of a bizzare shambles in a lot of ways, and somehow I wouldn’t be surprised if Valve doesn’t even have any programmers at all anymore).

      1. John says:

        Interesting stuff. I tested Inkscape and GIMP just now. Inkscape was about 5 seconds and GIMP about 7. My impression is that Inkscape generally takes longer than that, although most of the time I open it by clicking on an existing svg file in my file browser rather than via the start menu. I almost never use GIMP so I’m not sure how long that normally takes.

        The Steam client for Linux has atrocious loading times. When I tested it just now it took over 30 seconds. It normally takes even longer than that, because there almost always seems to be some kind of update that it needs to download and unpack. I haven’t used the Steam client for Windows in several months so I don’t remember what the loading times were like there.

        1. Zak McKracken says:

          I think Inkscape’s launch time in particular depends on the number of fonts you have installed. That can make a huge difference.

          BTW: On my current Linux machine, Libreoffice Writer ( starts up in 1.5 seconds (or so, probably a little less), Inkscape in 3, but Gimp (2.10.8) takes 8 seconds, which is a bit annoying. On my previous machine, I always had time to do something else between launching Inkscape and it actually popping up, probably mostly due to the number of installed fonts and running from a mechanical hard drive.

      2. OldOak says:

        You definitely might want to upgrade the machine you’re using — even your 15 sec./10 sec. for Blender seem harsh, honestly. In a Win7/64 bit here, these two don’t take anything but mostly up to 5 sec., at most.

        1. Nessus says:

          Windows 8.1 64 bit, i5 3570k, 16GB DDR3, GTX 1080, 1TB 7200 RPM hard drive.

          Not cutting edge, but not underpowered either. I’d like to give it an SSD, but can’t afford one in a useful size right now.

          TBH there isn’t a noticeable difference between its performance on modern software and software from when I first built it years ago, so I’m inclined to think anyone acting alarmist at me about a need to upgrade is just the hardware equivalent of a WOW powergamer telling people that their character builds are “non viable” just because they aren’t 100% topping every stat.

          1. Nessus says:

            …But also, as I said above, these programs open waaaayyy faster in a Linux environment on the same hardware, so I’m pretty sure it’s an OS thing.

      3. Zak McKracken says:

        I recently installed Kubuntu (18.04 — the version from last year) on an ooold Pentium M laptop from 2006.
        Booting is quick, KDE takes ages to log me on* but otherwise runs fine (including fancy desktop effects and all), both Firefox and Chromium (not Chrome) start okay-ish, but dude is Chromium faster to display pages and play youtube videos! Firefox is practically unusable in this regard, Chromium is fine.

        Did regular old web pages really get that much heavier in the last few years, or did Firefox become orders of magnitude slower? It takes ages just to show me some text with pictures.
        I’m normally using Firefox only but in this case, I just uninstalled Firefox again …

        *XFCE runs much faster on that machine, but it was for a Linux beginner, and I think KDE just looks way better to someone otherwise used to Windows 7.

        1. Nessus says:

          I regards to web pages, I think there’s two different things that have gotten worse over the last ten years or so.

          One is the rise of the mobile vs desktop design split. Everything has to have both a mobile and desktop version these days, and that adds a lot of work for the designer, tempting them to cut corners on whichever they see as the lesser priority, which is often the desktop version. My big issue with this is actually that mobile browsers are still crippleware on the user end, so mobile websites tend to a much bigger pain to navigate, with lots of missing navigation features and severely reduced information density, and that drives me towards the desktop even when mobile would be much more convenient.

          The other is rampant proliferation of scripting gizmos, web DRM, and increasingly convoluted off-site content/feature hosting schemes. This combined with lots of warring compatibility lock-in schemes going on behind the scenes with various web app companies and big players like MS and Google who have fingers in both web tools AND browsers at the same time makes for an over-complicated and hostile environment. This stuff has always been around to some degree, but it’s gotten exponentially worse over the last few years.

          Back in the aughts, or even just five years ago, really, I could pick whatever browser, install an ad blocker and noscript, and EVERYTHING would still “just work”. These days I have 3 browsers on my desktop and 2 on my phone, because I routinely running up against content that just inexplicably won’t display or work on anything other than browser X with config Y.

          And the kicker is that almost all of it is stuff that could be done in plain old works everywhere HTML. The actual user-facing functions are all the same stuff that websites were doing back in 2000 or whatever. From the conversations I’ve seen among web developers, that professional field seems to have deep cultural issues with willfully disregarding the actual purpose of websites in favor of whatever they personally enjoy tinkering with.

          And yeah, I’m with you on KDE/Plasma. It’s the only modern-ish feeling Linux desktop. Everything else either looks like it’s still carrying a torch for the ugly parts of WinXP, or wants to be some worst-of-both-worlds Mac/mobile chimera.

          I see people pimping XFC as being lightweight, and criticizing KDE for being the heaviest, but I’ll be damned if there was any noticeable difference on my hardware. These people must be running on Chromebooks or RPis or something, ’cause even the heaviest Linux is an order of magnitude lighter than Windows, and even Windows doesn’t eat enough resources to matter.

          1. Zak McKracken says:

            I suspect that actually much of the increase in web page load is for surveill… I mean data analytics purposes. “To improve user experience” … instead of serving a single html file and a few pictures from one server for a single pageview, most sites are now embedding stuff from tens to over a hundred third parties, each of which needs to be contacted etc…

            Re KDE: I’m a staunch defender of the UI (find it way better for productivity than Windows or anything else), but fast … depends. The PC I put together in December is pretty fast, but it will still make me wait for 4-5 seconds after login, with no indicators of activity. Baloo will sometimes make the whole UI freeze without warning because somethingsomethingindexing (They should really get around to fixing that sometime…). And it seems as if Dolphin (which I otherwise love!) is taking longer to start up with every new version. All of this seems to be related to file I/O, not CPU load.
            When none of these things are happening, it’s as fast as anything can hope to be.

            That said: If the old laptop had been for use by myself, I would probably still have preferred XFCE (coupled with some serious customizing) because it just doesn’t do those things. Luckily that laptop also has a ridiculously small hard drive, so there aren’t that many files to I/O, and that saves it.

  14. Sniffnoy says:

    Hardly anyone else seems to have a problem but I find Google Docs *horrifically* slow to start up, with further random occasional slowdown; LibreOffice may also be slow to start but at least, expecting to be slow, it has a progress bar!

    1. Lino says:

      This is precisely the reason why I use Google Docs only if there is literally no other option (e.g. if I have to do it for work or school). Even though I have a pretty fast Internet connection, it’s still agonizingly slow when compared to Word or LibreOffice.

      1. ZekeCool says:

        My only issue with GDocs is file management. There doesn’t really seem to be an easy way to set up folders or sort things so everything is just in a big list.

        1. Echo Tango says:

          You do it from a seperate interface. is where you manage all of your Google file-things. You can have folders to organize things. It’s pretty decent for organizing personal files.

          Corporate accounts can have shared “team drives”, which help collaboration between lots of people. (Basically like large folders that have ownership as the drive, rather than one person, and all people can see the thing if they’ve got access. Normal folders don’t show up well in the search results.)

    2. Algeh says:

      My problem with Google Docs (and Google Sheets, which is even worse for this) is that it keeps loading with a little teeny “loading” message for what feelings like a long time while I can see the file text, so I start trying to work on whatever-it-is and get frustrated because it’s not all loaded yet. Since Word instead loads with a little box o’ loadscreen, at least I can tell when it’s ready for me to start typing and not feel like I’m having a fight with the interface every time due to my impatience and divided attention. (These are both programs I use at work on a work computer, and the nature of my job is that I am constantly interrupted and so often trying to load some specific document to either add something to it or get information out if it RIGHT NOW because someone is at my desk asking me questions or I’m trying to record the results of the previous conversation while someone else is waiting to ask me a new question. Since I don’t fancy keeping 20+ Google Docs/Sheets and 50+ Word Docs open all the time, there’s a lot of waiting for stuff to load as needed.)

      Also, work just gave us new computers. Not only do I get the fun of trying to get everything set up more-or-less the way I had it (the new box is Windows 10 rather than Windows 7, so I’m also having to get used to all of the new quirks of how Microsoft now thinks computers should work), but since IT has everything really locked down here I don’t have administrator access to my own computer so I have to go play Mother May I with our office manager (who is the only one at our site with admin rights) every time I realize there’s something else I need installed. Judging from the range of computer skills possessed by my co-workers, “should be trusted to figure out which software is safe to install” is not part of the job description for my position – I’m the only one with a technical background who does things like find or write little code fragments or use command-line utilities to automate things. This became apparent when we all got “trained” on our new computers and I kept asking questions like “how can I turn off everything that is trying to ‘help’ me?” and “where did they hide the command line this time?” and other folks were asking questions like “how do I get those cats back in my browser again?” and “why aren’t my desktop things on this new desktop?”

      1. Echo Tango says:

        If you’ve got the skills, can you get admin access to your own computer? It seems like it would be harming your productivity not to do your own thing. Any way to prove to your IT guy that you know how to handle yourself?

        1. Algeh says:

          I work for a large school district as a teacher. I’m pretty sure if the one person at my school with admin access were allowed to give it to me she would have a long time ago (I’m pretty broadly known as the person with the most low-level tech knowledge in the building – she wears lots of hats other than on-site IT and doesn’t have a background in programming like I do, so I’m often the one finding and implementing the solutions for the annoying tech stuff that can be solved by things like installing TamperMonkey and selected scripts on all the teacher’s browsers), but that’s not the kind of thing that’s up to individual discretion. District IT pretty much is only going to see all of the possible problems if they start giving some teachers more access than others, or the “how do I get the cats back in my browser” teachers access to their own machines, and is not going to see any benefit to giving me more access since they’re not the one who has to stop what they’re doing to type in a password every time I remember “oh yeah, I also need Inkscape for That One Thing I Do Twice A Year”. It’ll die down once I’ve spent enough time on this computer to get all of my stuff installed.

  15. MadTinkerer says:

    Google’s services now provide me with word processing, spreadsheets, and calendars. … I hear Microsoft Edge is actually not bad these days. But it’s still easier to stick with Chrome.

    Ew! Ewwwwww! EEEEWWWWW!!!

    Shamus, I am disappointed. It’s like you asked my Mom to set up all your Internet related stuff.

    Steam, Epic, GoG, Origin, Twitch and Discord. Am I forgetting one?

    Itch (as in and GameJolt launchers are perfectly fine substitutes for Epic and Origin and you’ll find plenty of Indie titles on them that you won’t find anywhere else.

    Paint Shop Pro 8: Yes, I’m still using an image processing program from 2003.

    See, now that’s more like it. Now I know you actually are Shamus Young and not secretly my Mom who somehow figured out how to post on your blog in spite of her lack of technical competence.

    Programming Stuff: Ugh.

    Tried Godot yet? As of the most recent version, I think it can use C# and C++ now, as well as GDScript (it’s own scripting language) and I want to say Python but that might be a third party plugin. It gives me too many problems on my currently too-old computer for me to use it, but it certainly boots WAY faster than Unity.

  16. Calmre says:

    Hope you got a MLC drive. Significantly higher life expectancy than TLC (and god forbid… the recently released QLC ones). MLC ssd for system, TLC for expendable stuff such as Video game installations.

    1. Moridin says:

      Do they even make consumer-grade MLC drives any more? I’m pretty sure all the modern ones are TLC with SLC cache(except for the few QLC ones that are just starting to trickle into the market). Also, going by some articles I’ve read, lifespan is basically not a concern on modern TLC SSDs unless you’re writing terabytes per day. I wouldn’t recommend QLC(at least for primary drive), but that’s just because QLC drives suck at the moment(and they aren’t even that cheap!), not out of concern for the lifespan.

      Either SSDs slow down as they reach the end of their useful lifespan

      I’m fairly certain that it’s just because the old SSD was… well, old. New SSDs are much faster than ones from 2013, especially since we’re talking about a higher capacity drive as well.

      1. Calmre says:

        yes, the easiest example being the popular samsung drives. Pro=MLC , Evo=TLC and QVO=QLC

  17. Olivier FAURE says:

    C++ development is bound to get easier pretty soon, when WebAssembly becomes ubiquitous and gets a runtime on every major platform (so in ~10 years at most). It’s WORA, it can already run on the web, and it will be able to use existing web development tools (NPM, Webpack, React or an equivalent lib, Chrome devtools, WebGL, WebIDLs, etc).

    It’s a few years old, and you can already use it as a backend for most major video game engines to run 3D, hardware-accelerated games on the browser. As the standard gets more complete (web bindings, OCAPs and GCs are the biggest features WebAssembly is currently missing), people will start using the same code for PC, mobile and browser-based applications (like they already do for Discord-style chat apps); we might get pretty close to the “everything on the cloud” dreams of the 90s.

  18. Paul Spooner says:

    Figured I’d post my “essential software” list.
    AHK: To make Windows do the drudgery.
    Audacity: For when I want to do sound stuff.
    Blender: Because when all you have is a 3D hammer…
    Gimp: For when I don’t need Blender’s extra D.
    Python: For technical text editing, and automation.
    VLC: To play music and video, which WMP still can’t seem to do properly.
    WinDirStat: To avoid the full-drive problem Shamus had.

    1. OldOak says:

      C’mon Paul, name your editor of choice, I don’t believe idle/tkinter is the tool you’re using :)

      1. Paul Spooner says:

        Believe it. With the number of times I type:
        [windows key]ID[Enter]”[Ctrl]-V”.upper()[Enter]
        I should make it into an AHK script.
        For the really plain-text stuff I just use Notepad, but you don’t even have to install it! If I ever get into real programming, I’ll probably invest in a copy of Sublime.

        1. Zak McKracken says:

          As much of a Python fan as I am, may I suggest using notepad++ for the writing bits? Block select, proper search/replace, tons EOL conversion, tons of other functions (including case conversion), recordable macros, and some prerecorded ones, a builtin diff tool…

          1. Paul Spooner says:

            I installed Notepad++ a few times, but I never found the features worth the hassle.
            I’m the guy who edits his own website html live using the pack-in text editor in the website back-end. There’s an html editor right there, the buttons are adjacent, but I use the text editor instead.

            1. Zak McKracken says:

              Hassle? Maybe more a question of habit?
              Nothing against habits, of course, I’ve certainly got a few of those, too … but I’m fairly certain that notepad++ is faster for most tasks. Sublime is “mightier” in some ways but that also depends on how much time a user puts into learning them (which is why I haven’t learned Sublime yet).

              … I’m still hoping that one day, some text editor can actually meet the nedit standard of popping up _immediately_ upon launch and being able to do search/replace with copy/pasted content: special characters, linebreaks, tabs, even binary data… anything.

      2. RFS-81 says:

        Now I’m too late to make a joke about how discussing religion is against the rules…

        P.S. vim is the best!

        1. Zak McKracken says:

          Obligatory XKCD reference

          Also, between notepad++, sublime, atom, kate, notepadqq, and a large number of others, there is really no reason these days (except working in a remote console without display) to use vim.

          I used to be an avid nedit user until it started to go missing from more and more distros. Best search/replace functionality ever, still better than anything else I’ve seen so far.

          1. codesections says:

            You know, I’ve been around a lot of editor war conversations, but I think that’s the first time I’ve ever heard someone advocate for notepad++ over vim. In contrast, a solid third of the coders I know are pretty strong vim advocates—it’s very powerful once you climb the learning curve and set up the appropriate plugins.

            But, as in other “religious” matters, to each their own.

  19. Steve C says:

    The podcast suffers from a fair amount of distortion. I doubt it is due to microphones as it is same kind of distortion for both of you. You may want to consider an alternate set of software if setting up Ventrilo is a process anyway.

    1. Nessus says:

      This. Distortion, AND that thing some voice chat systems do where they chop off the ends of sentences unnaturally.

      You have a lot of weird pauses in your podcasts where it sounds like the whole recording broke until someone starts talking again, because the audio for the last speaker’s voice cut out too harshly and there’s no “room tone”.

  20. tmtvl says:

    Such a strange difference between Windows users who need to spend all that time reinstalling their programs, and me who needs to spend the same time getting my dotfiles and setting up my GPG & SSH keys.

  21. Kdansky says:

    Whether SSDs slow down isn’t quite as relevant as the fact that there are very different types of SSDs. If you had a six-year old device, it probably had read/write speeds in the 100 to 200 MB/s range. (Spinning disks produce about 60 MB/s). So that was fast compared to disks, but not insane.

    If you run a Samsung EVO 960, you get around 600 MB/s, that’s about four times faster than the first generation.

    Modern NVMe drives give you north of 3 GB/s instead.

    SSDs got a lot faster in the last couple years. The price differences are not very significant between these tiers, however the last one needs a different socket: It plugs into the PCIe-bus because SATA just cannot provide the bandwidth needed.

    I would also suggest you benchmark it (use Crystal DiskMark, it’s a matter of ten seconds) and compare to the official specs. If you are down by a factor 2, then you likely have it on the wrong SATA port, or your settings are set to half-duplex. The defaults are often wrong.

  22. paercebal says:


    I’ve read your comment about C++, and all the libraries that need to be installed with it.

    There are two very easy solutions that could, I hope, make that process seamless for you:

    1. VCPKG
    Their page on github explains how to install it, then how to easily install any third parties:
    In essence, once installed, all you need to do is, in the console, something like:
    vcpkg install sdl2 curl
    … and it installs sdl2 and curl.
    And your Visual C++ 2017 automatically gives you access to those libraries, without any additional configuration.
    You can read the list of all the libraries here:
    I’ve used it for ages, and on Windows, it’s AWESOME. And it is available on Linux, too, now.

    2. CONAN

    This I didn’t use, but it is much more extensive than VCPKG (on Windows, I’m told it actually relies on VCPKG and its libraries). It is also less direct, I guess (i.e. the integration with VC++ is not as seamless/fluent/natural).

    Seriously, those could change your life. I know VCPKG just made development much easier by removing all the “where is that lib? How do I compile it?”crap. I guess it is still far from .NET’s (and Unity’s?) massive standard library, but, well…

    1. DoveBrown says:

      Yes, I’d take a look at VCPKG. In the past year I’ve moved all my hobby game dev over to using dependencies served by VCPKG. Easilly the best version way to get library dependencies for use with VisualStudio. I’m even coming around to their weird way of using Git to create a version set of your dependencies (but I do as much as possible attempt to live at HEAD)

  23. Leocruta says:

    Chrome, huh? When I finally get around to building a new computer, I’m not sure I’ll be reinstalling chrome. It’s just too much of a hassle to deal with all privacy issues, like crippling the software reporter tool (which you did do, right Shamus?).

  24. Duoae says:

    I simultaneously love starting a new, clean, fresh and snappy system and yet loathe the same thing.

    It’s just that the loss of that reflex memory for accessing things; all those incidental adjustments made to, not just the OS, but also each and every programme really have huge quality of life aspects and their absence causes me negative emotional responses…

  25. Zak McKracken says:

    Just remarking that Steam itself is a thing to install all the games you got through it on your local machine. So those also get installed, just not manually by the user. In Shamus’ case, I’d expect that to be a large amount.

  26. SKD says:

    I’ll just put in a suggestion for

    It has become invaluable as my go to first stop whenever setting up a new machine. You can get most of the more common applications installed with no 3rd party crapware tricks.

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