Making Windows Work

In the Mac/PC wars, I’ve occasionally commented that my primary computer is a Mac because it’s simply more useful to me right out of the box, and it takes less work to add the rest of what I need. Well, a few weeks ago the Lenovo outlet store had a few refurbished (~30% off retail price) S12 netbooks with the nVidia ION chipset that replaces the pathetic Intel shared graphics that the Atom comes with, and while I waited for it to ship, I started assembling things to install.

[Update: in the essential column, add GetGnuWin32, the wrapper for the GnuWin32 packages. Better than CygWin, less conceptually disgusting than Portable Ubuntu]

Bare minimum to make a computer more than a toy (supplied with every Mac):

  • Perl (I used Strawberry, not ActivePerl)
  • GNU Emacs
  • Putty (SSH)
  • Sqlite
  • Quicktime
  • Update: Virtual CloneDrive (mount ISO images)

Equivalent to extremely useful supplied Mac software:

  • Safari/Firefox/Chrome
  • iTunes
  • TrueCrypt
  • PasswordSafe
  • Sharpkeys (the CapsLock-killer; sadly doesn't install under Win7)
  • SecureW2 TTLS (sadly no longer free, despite all earlier versions being GPL'd)

Other stuff that helps make a laptop useful:

  • 3G drivers (AT&T USBConnect Mercury)
  • Adobe Flash 10.1 (beta, with hw-accelerated video)
  • CCCP codec pack (like Perian on the Mac)
  • DisplayLink
  • GPG4Win
  • Mercurial
  • Microsoft Office
  • Python
  • RealVNC
  • TeamSpeak
  • VLC
  • Windows Security Essentials


  • Steam
  • Good Old Games: Fallout, Fallout 2, Might & Magic 6
  • World of Warcraft
  • Champions Online

I still need to find something that will mount ISO images as file systems, buy a cheap bare drive to use for backups, and bump the RAM from 2GB to 3GB, but I’m set for now. I wish that the ION version of the S12 didn’t replace the ExpressCard slot with an HDMI port, and I’d love to find a Bluetooth mouse that holds up under regular use, but this is a nice little cool-running carry-around machine, with reasonable performance and battery life.

Oh, and I installed the Nanami OS-tan theme that shipped with Japanese pre-orders of Windows 7. :-)