Gnosis

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An attempt at optimizing resources in a computer

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With the addition of the netbook I got my mother and wrote about in the other page, I needed to find a group of useful applications that were not memory or processor intensive, yet could do their jobs easily and are quick to learn. It is with that in mind that I began a serious review of the software my mother might be using and by review – myself.

 

  • Adobe Acrobat Reader versus FoxitReader

images images (1) The first contenders for size cutting and optimization I found in the PDF readers that we all take for granted. For years those of us who use PDF’s have defaulted to Acrobat Reader by Adobe for out PDF format conversions and printing needs. Alongside this we were required to install Adobe Air, the exclusive downloading program required for updates an installation. “Ok, that is not so terrible, its a needed application” ; you think to yourself as you use this monstrosity, never realizing the size or processing power this sucks out of your machinery. Even while you are not reading PDF’s, it is there..checking for updates, stealing clock cycles, getting incrementally larger and less beneficial.

So where did we stand on Hard disk usage? Well when I checked my Add/Remove Programs location, Adobe Acrobat Reader in its latest incarnation used up a mind bloating 112MB of space! Not that much you think?! Well compare that to Foxit Reader, which loaded in at a trim and respectable 9MB!!! Yes.. only 9MB of space needed to do the same task, a savings of about 90%. Added to this is another 30MB (for Adobe Air) or so that is used to install and constantly update and recheck your 112MB leviathan. To be more specific, that means there is a program sitting in your precious RAM memory (the one needed to run the stuff you use all the time) that just looks and looks and looks for new crap to install on your machine. Foxit Reader does have this but the size is nowhere near 30MB, heck the whole program is less then a third of just the install program Adobe uses. For those of you who think I am pulling hairs with this one think logically for a moment: Many PDF files that you view are around 500kb –10MB in size. Why would you want PDF reader that is magnitudes larger then the file it is trying to read? That can be compared to someone who owns a pair of glasses that weigh 50lbs and is only used to read store receipts!

Give it a try and see for yourself : http://www.foxitsoftware.com/pdf/reader/

  • Microsoft Office 2003 versus OpenOffice

images (5) images (2) The next item that I reviewed was my office products bundle. Microsoft Office is notorious for their ability to bulge their word processing programs and add in so many unneeded and complexity to their software as to render them useless to everyone. To create a better environment for writing documents, using spreadsheets and powerpoints, etc., we have to determine how much of these tasks will be done and how many of the features will be used, not forgetting the size of the documents created and the user’s demands. After careful introspection I have come to the conclusion that most people do not use their word processing programs with sufficient complexity to merit anything complex. Most people in their lifetimes write resumes, simple letters, and the occasional flyer, reports (which the most I have seen people write is around 100pages, usually 40). None of this can really justify what Microsoft did to their line of Office products. A quick look at the install lists of my Office Suite indicates that, including the compatibility pack for 2007 file formats (the docx crap), this dung heap dirtied up about 2GB of space!!!! Do not forget that this might not include all of the updates and security patches to repair MSFT’s flawed designs. So…2 gigabytes (2,000 MB or 2,000,000 KB) is being taken away from my computer, all in the name of providing me with a resume writer, a letter writer, and an envelope maker (the only three things I have used it for in the last 4 years)!!! Let me check how much space each of those documents used up on my drive: the most recent resume took up 51KB, with another 24KB for a references page, the envelopes are made instantly and are not saved so 0KB, and finally a cover letter for a job application that used 143KB. Let me add that up for you: the three documents that I made using Office took up 194KB of space but needed about 2,000,000 KB of space for the program that I used to make them!!! Does not seem justifiable in my mind. Added to this is again, another updater program that takes up RAM and your computer’s resources that could be better used towards doing the things you wanted to do while on your own machine.

images (3) images (4) As a worthy substitute, let me recommend OpenOffice. The footprint in your machine is around 400MB and does not have the added bonus of MSFT’s security flaws and constant patching of bad programming. It is free, does nearly everything that I could think of doing in MSFT’s Office 2003 products, and does it much faster (as in the computer runs better because the program is written better) then Office 2003. It includes conversion utilities to read MSFT’s files and it can save it as an MSFT file in case someone needs to view it who does not have it. The layout of the program is very simple to use and reminds me of the glory days of Word 2.0a on my old Compaq LTE Lite laptop, which was the word processor that I used the most during college. One of the things that I love about this changeover is the lack of hassle I get from MSFT regarding upgrades to the Office 2007 trash heap.

 

images (7) images (6) Many of my friends, neighbors and clients have bought newer Laptops and Desktops recently, only to find that they were cheated out of a full working copy of Office 2007. Why on earth would MSFT do this? Profits of course. They sent out ‘trial versions’ of the new software, instead of including it in the total package as a means to generate more revenue. The problem is that you do not really have the program, and it will constantly remind you of this, and when the 30 days are up, it will stop working. Usually people find out that their program no longer works at the worst possible time: when they have to write something up ASAP and send it out for processing. This is what MSFT is hoping for: they give you the program, force you to need it, then they tell you that you can buy it immediately for a low low price (which is not low at all) and with a credit card. My humble suggestion to anyone using Office products? Uninstall it and get used to using Open Office or any of the other myriad of better written and easier on the machine programs. Do not buy into their bulk if you have the ability to opt out. They have written poorly performing programs since 2002 and most of what they made is not really a new program but an overly expensive update of a prior version. If you doubt me, try to find an old copy of Microsoft Word 2.0 or Works 4.5 (circa 1995-2000)  watch how fast it loads and how easy it was to write a letter or quick report. Granted they do not have the features that the new Office can do, but I can not see how the original word processors are measures in Megabytes and the new ones are in the Gigabytes. A 1000 fold increase in size, all so that we can do what? Add a picture to a report, make a slide show, a business card, adding up a row of numbers and making a pie chart, or an advertisement?! I am not buying that malarky for a minute.

Give OpenOffice a try: www.openoffice.org

 

  • Internet Explorer 8 versus Google Chrome

images (8) Last but certainly not the least is the browser switch. Let me be the first to declare that I was a hard sell on Google’s Chrome browser. I was one of the early adopters of Chrome and tested it using my PC and frankly, it annoyed the hell out of me. I have used IE, Chrome, Firefox and Opera over the years and always managed to return to IE. Yes it is a bloated, poorly written program that should be substituted. The only hinderance to changing IE for another browser was that the IE browser was generally the browser that worked with the least number of errors over the longest timeframe. I tried Firefox but it felt just as sluggish and constantly required me to install add-on after add-on to do the stuff that I normally did. I tried Opera on the Wii, which has potential but still has compatibility issues. Lastly there is Chrome, a browser that was designed with the internet in mind, a browser that was meant to load pages faster and more reliably then IE. Well the Beta version that I tried sucked the big one. Not only did most pages give me trouble, but the browser functions seemed to run slower then even the slowest of IE’s bad days.

images (9) That was the past, today’s version of Google Chrome loads incredibly nice and so far has not crashed, nor has it given me the errors that its previous Beta wrought upon my screen. Chrome is the originator of Tabbed browsing, a feature that saved memory and resources, and allowed security to be much tighter when online, and was later adopted my MSFT for IE. Chrome’s browser has very little security problems, an omnibar (which is a combination address bar and search bar) and almost no extra screen space wasted on framing the internet page that you are viewing which results in more space to see what you wanted to see online. When using google as the default search engine, Chrome has the ability to quick search..meaning as you type what you are looking for, it offers suggestions based on other peoples searches and offers you complete sentences, saving a lot of time typing and retyping to find what you need. For example: Firefox is an option to search as you type ‘firef’, yes two letters less may not seem like much but over time, they result in longer lasting keyboards, and a more satisfied client base.

So let us look at the real meat of the issue: Size requirements. Chrome needs about 100MB to install on your hard drive, IE 8 states that it needs 200MB for an XP PRO system (the one I am doing the benchmarking since it is the most stable OS in circulation) Chrome uses about 128MB of RAM to run on your system, this is the same that IE 8 states it uses on your machine (I don’t buy it…try a test yourself and see if it stands up to scrutiny).

The problem I see with the MSFT stats is that they are disingenuous. A simple thought arises, when I install IE 8 onto my computer the first thing that happens is a 10 minute wait while IE downloads and installs all the security fixes, patches, and backend junk that they did not bother to fix when they shipped out the browser the first time. This never happened with Chrome which makes me believe the 100MB figure is close and that the 200MB figure stated my MSFT is much, much larger (especially when you think that those security fixes are installed in IE /OS and can not be reliably measured at a glance).  A better indication of IE 8’s size might be this: Uninstall IE 8 and all its components, then make a mark of your HD size. Reinstall IE 8 and its components and updates and compare the 2. The difference will be what IE 8 adds to your computer and what inevitably gets loaded into your RAM everytime you use it (that is b/c MSFT is notorious for making loading a bunch of ‘in case you need it crap’ mandatory).

Give Google’s Chrome a try and see if you agree with me: www.google.com/chrome

 

So in changing out those three programs, I saved myself about 2-3GB of Hard drive space and a large chunk of available RAM and system resources. Seriously give it a shot, and experiment for yourself. You’d be pleasantly surprised!

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Written by Josecito

October 13, 2010 at 6:32 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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