It's true: Microsoft has confirmed that it's abandoning Windows as we know it. Cagey as ever, the Microsofties won't say when it'll happen, but they have talked a little bit about what the next OS is going to look like--or not look like.
Microsoft code-named the project Midori. As best I can figure, it's cloud computing: Everything, including applications and data, is on the Internet.
What Exactly Is Midori?
My colleague Elizabeth Montalbano, with the IDG News Service, tried making some sense of it in "Microsoft Prepares for End of Windows With Midori" and Erik Larkin, our crackerjack OS and Web guy, has plenty to say in "Cloud Computing, Microsoft's Midori, and the End of Windows." There are also details--and speculation--in an SDTimes piece, "Microsoft's plans for post-Windows OS revealed."
Midori for Linux?
One of my smarter-than-me buddies, Gary F., told me that Linus Torvalds worked on something called Midori a few years ago, an embedded Linux for mobile devices: "I doubt Microsoft would ever release something that could be traced back to Linux, but if I recall correctly, Transmeta's Midori had some rudimentary 'cloud computing' features vaguely similar to Microsoft's Midori." Read "Details emerge on Transmeta's "Mobile Linux" and "Transmeta Exports Midori Linux to China" for details.
Quick aside: Cloud computing is worth knowing about, if for no other reason than sounding smart at your next dinner party. Read "Yahoo, Intel and HP Form Cloud Computing Labs" and "Sci-Fi Channel Has Head In Cloud Computing" to get a handle on it. Interesting, too, is what Dell is trying to do; read "Dell Tries to Trademark 'Cloud Computing'" for details on that.
Three Free Tools
Now that I've got you completely mystified with this cloud computing thing, let's get back onto familiar ground: free stuff that does cool things.
Shut Down Shortcut: A reader, Tenbob, recommends Karen Kenworthy's Show Stopper, a freebie that gives you lots of ways to close down your PC.
"As with all of her free offerings," said Tenbob, "this one works flawlessly through a desktop shortcut and is easier than setting one up through the Control Panel."
Tenbob's right on target. Show Stopper gives you eight ways to shutdown your PC, including suspend, hibernate, restart, power off, and if you're not concerned about closing apps, force. The tool also has a way for you to schedule events, such as a reboot or shutdown, or launch another program at a specified time.
Copy Stubborn Files: Every so often I run into a file that just won't give in. I try to copy it and Windows says nope, you can't. It's not a sneaky copy protection scheme from the old floppy drive days. Most times it's another program that locked the file, likely because it's protecting it from changes. For instance, if Microsoft Outlook is running, it clamps down and won't let you copy--or back up--the PST file.
If you run into the problem often, you're in luck: I have a couple of ways around the hassle. Start by grabbing a copy WhoLockMe, a handy tool accessible from Windows Explorer in XP (sorry, not Vista). Right-click on the file and WhoLockMe tells you exactly that--the program that's locking down the file. Even better, WhoLockMe lets you force the locking program to close, releasing the file. Want an alternative? Try CopySharp, also an XP-only tool.
If you're using Vista, you might want to give Unlocker a try--I haven't used it yet, but a reader recommends the freebie. [Thanks, dgeiser13.]
Take a quick flight over the mountains. Just move your cursor over the screen and away you go. [Thanks, John H.]
Change the color of the blue ball by clicking on it. Though it's annoying, difficult, and a definite waste of time, you can assume it's possible--I have friends who can do it. [Thanks to Brian J.]
Browsing through the images on the Photoshop Disasters blog is like staring at a car wreck. I don't know why, but you I can't keep from looking at ads filled with dopey Photoshop errors. [Thanks, David J.]
When I watched the Sales Guy vs. Web Dude video, I LOLed and thought of every IT and system admin I know. Unfortunately, if you work from home and never had to deal with an IT department, you might not get it. Either way, I have to issue a stern warning: The language is pretty crude in parts.
Steve Bass writes PC World's monthly "Hassle-Free PC" column and is the author of PC Annoyances, 2nd Edition: How to Fix the Most Annoying Things About Your Personal Computer, available from Amazon.com. He also writes PC World's daily Tips & Tweaks blog. Sign up to have Steve's newsletter e-mailed to you each week. Comments or questions? Send Steve e-mail.