5 Amazing Windows UI Tweaks
Mix Up Your Input Devices With a Peregrine Gaming Glove
Keyboards and mice are so 2009. A surefire way to add some flavor to your tech life is to change your input device--with all sorts of motion-sensing controllers for the Wii and other gadgets, there's no reason your computer should be limited to boring old QWERTY.
If you like waving your hands, for example, you'll definitely like the Peregrine gaming glove, an input device with 18 touch points and three activator points.
The Peregrine, manufactured by a company of the same name, was originally designed as a game controller--it's essentially a nontraditional USB keyboard in the form of a glove. Users can program over 30 "actions," or hand gestures, to correspond with keyboard shortcuts. If you can do a task with your keyboard, you can do it with the Peregrine.
The glove's "pod," which connects to the back of the glove magnetically, plugs into your computer via USB and is what powers the glove. The pod also has LEDs (with different settings) for putting on a light show as you input shortcuts.
Sure, the Peregrine glove makes a lot of sense for gamers--after all, most games have keyboard shortcuts. But the glove can also work well for just about any application that offers keyboard shortcuts--everything from Microsoft Word and Mozilla Firefox to Adobe Photoshop. Just imagine pressing two fingers together and opening a new tab, or making a fist and zooming in. Awesome.
Add Some Widgets
The easiest way to make your desktop more futuristic-looking (not to mention more useful and productive) is to add some widgets. You can find a lot of free widgets out there--the Windows Website, for instance, features a number of "gadgets," and you can also try Yahoo Widgets, as well as Google Desktop Gadgets. Yes, many of them are just fancy ways to tell you the time and weather, but a few cool ones are definitely worth sampling.
- Yahoo Widgets iTunes Bar: This is a great widget for anyone who enjoys listening to their iTunes music in the background. It's thin enough to sit unobtrusively over your taskbar, and it's skinnable. It features a pop-up album-artwork window that you can toggle on or off.
- Windows Gadgets Vista Shutdown Control: Stuck with Vista? How many times have you wanted to shut down your computer with one click? Now you can.
- Windows Gadgets Black Glass CPU Meter: This practical tool tracks your CPU usage, and it's black and glossy--what a sexy way to monitor your PC's stats.
- Yahoo Widgets Multicam: This desktop widget allows you to display four or nine live Webcam feeds. Adding it to your desktop can instantly make you look like a world traveler or an animal lover.
- Windows Gadgets SideTris: It's a Tetris game. Need I say more?
Make Your Desktop Dynamic With Video Wallpaper
You're way too cool for a boring stock-photo wallpaper, which is why you have an abstract work of art, or a snapshot of your cats. But is your current desktop wallpaper dynamic?
Yeah, I didn't think so.
Maybe it's time to change that. After all, how fun would it be to have desktop wallpaper that's not just a photo from The Matrix, but video from The Matrix? VLC Media Player, an open-source (read: free) media player, allows you to set video as your desktop wallpaper.
Setup is pretty simple, and--because I know you're going to ask--no, the video doesn't sputter along in the background or slow down other apps. It's just as lightweight as normal still-image wallpaper.
To set it up, download VLC Media Player, go to Preferences, and select Video. In the list of settings, select DirectX Video Output. Click Save, and exit VLC Media Player. Now, find the video clip you want to use, and start playing it with VLC Media Player. Once it's running, right-click on the video clip and select Video, DirectX Wallpaper. Voilà!
To change back to your normal wallpaper, you can close out of VLC, but you may also have to make the switch to your usual theme manually (this happens only occasionally). You can find more-detailed instructions at How-To Geek (with pictures).
Sure, video wallpaper might not make for the most productive workspace, but it definitely makes for an awesome workspace.