BOOT CAMP ARCHIVE 2008

  

 

BOOT CAMP 510 (05/02/08)

Poor Man’s Vista, part 2

 

Upgrading an older XP computer to Windows Vista can be a tricky business with the potential for all sorts of hardware and software conflicts, not to mention lacklustre performance. If you want Vista, and there’s much to commend it, fine, just make sure the PC is question is brand new and up to the job.

 

If you are not yet ready to buy a new PC you can still benefit from the best bits of Vista, in particular the eye-catching visuals and over the next couple of weeks we’ll look at some free utilities that can transform your XP computer into convincing Vista look-alike. The changes are mostly superficial and you should only install these programs if your machine is behaving normally, and don’t forget to backup any important data first; the changes we’ll be making are mostly very safe, but don’t take any chances…

 

This week we’ll begin with a full makeover that includes a set of Vista-like desktop themes, backgrounds, icons and sounds, transparent windows and dialogue boxes and the handy Mac feature we mentioned last week. They’re all combined in one convenient package called BricoPack Vista Inspirat Ultimate 2. It works best on PCs with 2GHz or faster processors; it should still work on slower machines but you may have to switch off one or two features or suffer a reduction in performance. By the way, if something does wrong and you need to uninstall the program see this week’s Top Tip.

 

In addition to adding to Windows XP’s repertoire of visual and audio effects BricoPack also installs four stand-alone components called RocketDock, Y’z Shadow, TransBar and UberIcon, more about those in a moment.

 

So let’s get started and install BricoPack. The download is around 28Mb so it can take a few minutes on a slower connection; otherwise it is all very straightforward, just follow the prompts. If you have an older machine select the Classic option, otherwise choose Total, for all of the available packages. When it has finished extracting files it will ask to reboot the machine, click Finish and as the new and rather ethereal Exit Windows tune plays, wave goodbye to your old XP desktop. When Windows returns you will notice a lot of changes, including a new Welcome screen and Windows Start sound 

 

If you want to change back to your original background or theme, or try something else then right-click on the desktop and select Properties. You’ll find the old, and new options listed, as usual on the Themes and Background tabs, and if you want to try another set of Vista styles, select the Appearance tab and click the Windows and buttons drop-down menu. To revert back to standard Windows pointers and system sounds go to Start Control Panel and make your changes in Mouse > Pointers or Sounds and Audio > Sounds.

 

Apart from a new desktop theme one of the biggest changes is the appearance of RocketDock at the top of the screen. This is a fairly blatant copy of the Mac OSX Dock and if you move your mouse over it you will notice how the icons ‘balloon’, click on one and the selected program or utility opens – impressive eh? Personally I find it a bit too large and intrusive in its default position. To move and resize it click the Settings icon on the docking bar and have a fiddle with the Icons and Position adjustments. You can easily add icons to the bar by dragging them from the desktop or All Programs list, and remove them by dragging them off the bar. To configure or change an item on the bar just right click on it and select Icon Setting.

 

Y’z Shadow is the one most likely to cause problems on slower machines as it uses a lot of resources, creating a smart-looking drop-shadow around windows and dialogue boxes, and adding transparency to program menus. If you find your PC has suffered a serious post installation slowdown, switch it off by clicking the Vista Inspirat 2 Config icon, which appears on the desktop. To adjust the shadow and transparency effects right-click on the Y’z Shadow icon in the System Tray (next to the clock). It will probably be on the default French language setting, in which case click ‘Langage’, select English, and then OK. Right-click on the icon again, click Setting and play around with the controls. You find the transparency adjustment on the Menu tab, a value of 230 works for me.

 

TransBar is arguably the least interesting BricoPack feature; all it does is apply a variable transparency effect to the Taskbar. The control panel – for changing transparency level -- is very well hidden. On my PC it is in C:\WINDOWS\BricoPacks\Vista Inspirat 2\TransBar; I found a setting of 75 percent about right.

 

Finally UberIcons and this adds an animation effect to desktop icons. When you click on them they appear pulsate and expand. It doesn’t do much for me but it might tickle your fancy and it is worth a quick look. Once again you can change the effects by right clicking on the icon that appears in the System Tray.

 

Next Week – Poor Man’s Vista, part 3

 

JARGON FILTER

 

DROP SHADOW

Shading along the left and bottom edges of windows and dialogue boxes, giving a 3D effect

 

MAC OSX

The current Apple Mac Operating System, first launched in 1999. The most recent version (v10.5), released in October 2007, is widely known by its codename ‘Leopard’ 

 

THEME

Collection of visual and audio customisations to change the appearance of Windows or an application

 

TOP TIP

If you don’t get on with BricoPack or it disagrees with your computer then don’t try and uninstall it from Add or Remove Programs in Control Panel as parts of the program may be left behind. The best way to do it is from the BricoPack Config menu, which should be on your desktop. If you don’t see it go to Start > Programs BricoPacks > Vista Inspirat2 > Vista Inspirat 2 Config and click the Remove button.

 

Don't forget, there's a full archive of previous Boot Camp Top Tips at www.pctoptips.co.uk

 

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© R. Maybury 2008, 0701

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