How I pimped my Doze!

If you are one of the unlucky souls stuck with a winDoze machine either in the work place or in school, then here is a nice way to mod your box to quench your Linux cravings. My school recently switched to Microsoft Exchange server 2007 and that broke the POP and IMAP connections that I had set up using Thunderbird. The only way by which we can now connect and check our mail is either using the web interface or Outlook. I tried the web method for a couple of days but got frustrated with the slow access times and the repeated session timeouts. I then tried to configure POP and IMAP using Thunderbird again, but somehow, every send/receive command was taking ages. I have an iMac at home running Leopard and I just installed the new Microsoft Office 2008 (standard) with Exchange support. I configured the accounts in Entourage and it was a breeze. But I was still facing loads of problems at my work computer and so I decided to bite the bullet and perform the evil deed. I grabbed hold of a Windoze XP CD and went ahead installing it on my machine. I then installed Office 2007 and configured my exchange accounts. Surprisingly, Outlook 2007 (or any other Outlook as per my understanding) allows you to configure only one Microsoft Exchange account per profile. I found that real dumb, since my Entourage 2008 allows me to configure multiple Exchange accounts. Why does M$ assume that someone would have only one Exchange account beats me… but then again, that is the M$ thinking for you. So, I just configured my other account with IMAP and everything was going good. The look and feel of XP seems real drab especially after years of working on Linux and a Mac, and I started to get withdrawal symptoms. I then decided to use a theme changer to suit my needs. One of the freeware solutions was Flyakite OS X . The installation is pretty simple and after installation and rebooting, my XP box now looked like a Mac running Tiger. There are some additional approaches to make it look like Leopard but I was satisfied with this. Besides, any additions would mean that XP would run even slower and that was something I did not need. The next step was to arrange the icons as in a Mac. Somehow, Doze just refuses to let the icons be fixed on the right side of the screen. The icons had an irritating habit of rearranging themselves to the left everytime I logged out or rebooted. Maybe, I wasn’t getting it right. But after a couple of minutes of searching on the interwebs, I came across Icon Restore. This little freeware installs Layout.DLL onto your machine and two additional options in your options menu. Now, I could arrange the icons on the left, select all of them, right click, and save the desktop layout. One limitation is that any new icons that appear will be arranged on the left by Doze, and you will have to move it to the proper position on the right and save the layout again, but that was a small inconvenience that I was willing to bear with. Next is to simulate Spotlight which is a very powerful tool in a Mac. I had to first install Google Desktop Search (GDS), and then go to Flyakite OSX Configuration settings and install SearchSpy, which mimics the behavior of Spotlight. The new version of SearchSpy works without GDS and indexes the files by itself. Here is a snapshot of the Flyakite OSX Tiger Preference Pane.

wpid-wpid-tigerpreferences-2008-04-30-14-37-2008-04-30-14-37.jpg

Quicksilver is another application on Mac with allows me to launch any application using the keyboard. I just don’t need to navigate through menus or the finder to launch an app. Skylight is a launcher and it performs the same operations on XP.

wpid-wpid-picture3-2008-04-30-14-37-2008-04-30-14-37.png    wpid-wpid-skylight-2008-04-30-14-37-2008-04-30-14-37.jpg

Quicksilver on Leopard            Skylight on Windows XP

After all these mods, my XP box now looked like this snapshot below.

wpid-wpid-desktop-2008-04-30-14-37-2008-04-30-14-37.jpg

Unfortunately, thanks to XP, I now had to go through a dual boot option if I wanted full fledged linux. I tried to use cygwin, but that would be like trying to slake your thirst with salt water. Cygwin is a good option, but I want to run programs like kword and akregator. I didn’t want to install a virtual machine as that would eat even more of the RAM. You would be suprised to know that it takes almost 90 seconds from login, for my machine to allow me to open any application in XP.

I needed a version of Linux which would coexist with XP and searching online took me to andLInux. andLinux is a complete Ubuntu Linux system running seamlessly in Windows 2000 based systems (2000, XP, 2003, Vista). It is free and extremely easy to install. According to their site,

andLinux uses coLinux as its core which is confusing for many people. coLinux is a port of the Linux kernel to Windows. Although this technology is a bit like running Linux in a virtual machine, coLinux differs itself by being more of a merger of Windows and the Linux kernel and not an emulated PC, making it more efficient. andLinux is not just for development and runs almost all Linux applications without modification

I just downloaded the recent beta from the Download section, and double clicked the installer. Most of the installation is self-explanatory, and easy to follow. I first chose the installation directory, amount of RAM needed by andLinux, and if I wanted sound to be enabled. I then selected to run andLinux automatically as an NT service. I was then asked if I wanted to mount any windoze directories either as a SMB share or as a COFS which is good for personal machines.

wpid-wpid-ram-2008-04-30-14-37-2008-04-30-14-37.jpg wpid-wpid-sound-2008-04-30-14-37-2008-04-30-14-37.jpg

wpid-wpid-andlinux1-2008-04-30-14-37-2008-04-30-14-37.jpg wpid-wpid-cofs-2008-04-30-14-37-2008-04-30-14-37.jpg

The installation finished in a couple of minutes, and I had to reboot the system. Upon logging in, I found a new KDE launcher in my task bar. The internal IP of the machine for andLinux now was 192.168.11.150 and a new network adaptor called TAP-Colinux was installed. andLinux listens on port 81 and it would be good to open that port in the firewall settings. And that is it. We are now ready to use andLinux. One thing that we have to note is that since we already have a windows desktop, andLinux will not install KDE or XFCE desktops. It only allows applications to run on Windows XP native desktop.

Here are a couple of snapshots of XP and andLinux at work.

wpid-wpid-coexist-2008-04-30-14-37-2008-04-30-14-37.jpg wpid-wpid-kde-2008-04-30-14-37-2008-04-30-14-37.jpg wpid-wpid-firefox-2008-04-30-14-37-2008-04-30-14-37.jpg

So, thats it. I can now peacefully work with XP for my email and andLinux for my documentation and research work.

Here are the steps to follow for the modifications:

  1. Download Flyakite OSX and install. If you just want to install andLinux, go to Step 5
  2. Install IconRestore to keep all the icons in a fixed pattern on the right side of the desktop.
  3. Install Google Desktop Search for SearchSpy to mimic Spotlight behavior.
  4. Install Skylight if you are used to QuickSilver
  5. Download andLinux and install. Choose the right amount of RAM for your machine and SMB/COFS mounts depending on your setup.
  6. Reboot a final time, and add port 81 in your Windows Firewall Exceptions
  7. Enjoy both XP and Ubuntu Linux on the same desktop without dual booting

Following these steps, we can convert

wpid-wpid-winxppro-2008-04-30-14-37-2008-04-30-14-37.png

to

wpid-wpid-1____coexist-2008-04-30-14-37-2008-04-30-14-37.jpg

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