I’ve been playing around with this for a few days now and the internet has either really outdated or really unhelpful information. Now that I’ve got it working in all it’s tiny 4K pixel glory, I figured I would give back.
I did this on Windows 8.1 Professional using a Intel Core2 Quad Q8200 and 2 HD5770 graphics cards in cross fire. These are admittedly old hardware components but if you are using something different I can’t guarantee your results. With that being said, the results for me have been amazing.
The process is relatively simple thanks to ToastyX and his utilities. In the interest of giving credit here’s a link to the post that really made this all possible for me. If you don’t want to wade through all that the steps are below.
- Download and install the latest CCC drivers from ATI’s website.
- Download AMD/ATI Pixel Clock Patcher – For whatever reason ATI seemed to be refusing to let me use the dual channel capabilities of the cable that came with the Seiki tv. Apply this patch to get at all that bandwidth.
- Download CRU-1.1 – This amazing application lets you override the available options from the display settings menu.
- Click add and set your resolutions to 3840 by 2160 by 30hz and choose LCD Reduced to save some bandwidth. I was unable to get it to work without this option unless I reduced the refresh rate. Hit OK and restart your computer.
That’s all there is to it. Enjoy all your extra resolution without any additional hardware.
Recently my alt-tab functionality in Windows 8 reverted to a much more boring version. Instead of displaying super hand pictures of the target windows it showed just their icons. This makes it very tough to identify which explorer window I’m headed towards.
I discovered that the setting to change between the 2 modes is located deep in the registry. For those of you that know what I’m talking about the key is
setAltTabSettings = 0 for pretty preview mode
setAltTabSettings = 1 for old school XP display
Even if you like editing the registry, I recommend this awesome free tool. It’s called Alt+Tab Tuner by winaero.com. You can download it here. It gives you the power to change settings you didn’t even know you were missing. Increase the size of the previews, decide how many previews show up on each column or row, change transparency values. This is functionality that should have been included with Windows. It’s super tiny and doesn’t require an install. Just download and run.
One point of clarity, 0 means default so if you want minimum spacing set it to 1 like in the picture above.
Google Chrome is a solid web browser. It’s fast, generally reliable and will sync all your data with their servers, all your computers and mobile devices. It wont let you launch 2 instances which causes problems when using multiple desktops and it wont let you sign in as 2 users at the same time. There are some easy steps to make this possible however.
Step 1: Create a shortcut to chrome. Go to C:\Program Files (x86)\Google\Chrome\Application\ which is the default Chrome install directory. Right click on chrome.exe and choose “Create shortcut”
Step 2: Right click the new shortcut and choose “Properties”
Step 3: In the properties popup find the box labeled Target and add -user-data-dir=C:\Chrome\user2 be careful to paste only the underlined text onto the end of the Target text field. You don’t want to change anything else or your shortcut might not work. You can change user2 to any folder which allows you to have as many different instances as you want. You’ll need 1 shortcut for each instance.
Step 4: Hit ok and launch Chrome via the new shortcut. You can use that shortcut to start a second instance on your second desktop or sign in as an entirely different user. Chrome will automatically sync your settings for this new instance so all your bookmarks and addins will transfer over if you want them.
The quest for amazing software continues. This time it comes in an unusually small and simple package. Desktops v2.0 is a minuscule program available from Windows Sysinternals website and is hosted on the Microsoft website. This gem weighs in at 61kb or roughly 4% the size of a floppy disk you might have owned 15 years ago. The size means it’s not going to slow down your system or consume a lot of hard drive space.
What it does:
Despite it’s tiny size it packs a serious software punch. With the press of a keystroke you can now have up to 4 completely independent desktops available on your computer. Mac users might recognize this functionality from the built in Mission Control app. It’s frequently used as a point of contention between the 2 operating systems.
Why you want it:
Effectively you can have 4 computers running within all the same hardware. This gives you impressive organizational flexibility. Keep all your movie watching and song playing apps open off screen waiting for you to finish that paper you were working on. Or for the more tech savvy, keep all your test programs open on one desktop while you program on the other. The possibilities are limited by your creativity and workflow but having the option is worth the extremely small amount of effort to obtain it. Being officially part of the Microsoft world gives me more confidence in it than your average 3rd party app. Especially given how bad the software attempting to perform this function has been previously.
How to get it:
The setup for this program is easier than installing Chrome on a new computer. Go to the website – http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/sysinternals/cc817881.aspx and download or follow this direct download link. Copy the one file and double click to launch. Configuration is 2-3 clicks and you’re done.
The super simple configuration screen for Desktops V2.0
The Dark Side
Some programs don’t like being open in both places. Most programs which have an icon in the bottom right corner (the app tray) will not be very happy about running on a second desktop. Most of these applications check to see if they are running already and wont understand why you’re asking them to launch again. Google Chrome is probably the most notable example of this. To get Chrome working on your 2nd desktop follow these instructions.
Additionally, the Windows Start menu will only open on the primary desktop. This can make getting the apps you want to run a bit more challenging. This hasn’t been much of a problem for me as 99% of the applications I use have icons on the task bar and desktop. If you’re running into consistent issues try adding a shortcut to this folder C:\ProgramData\Microsoft\Windows\Start Menu\Programs This is where windows stores your start menu and all the shortcuts contained within.
Overall the good outweighs the bad by quite a lot. It’s definitely worth a look and “uninstalling” is as easy as deleting the Desktops.exe file from your computer. Happy multitasking!
Remember that time you had to do the same thing 400 times on your computer? It was probably pretty boring and tedious. The bad news: that’s how computers work. Do lots of boring stuff a whole bunch of times until you get what you want. The good news: there’s a program for that.
AutoIT has been around for a long time and it’s not very well known. However, it’s hugely useful if you’re willing to take the time to learn it. This easy to learn scripting language can automate virtually everything you do on your computer. Yesterday I used it to upload 900 files through a program that would only let me access 1 file at a time. I setup a script in about 15 minutes and over night the job was done. There’s nothing I like more than using technology to make my life easier.
Here are some details from their website.
“AutoIt v3 is a freeware BASIC-like scripting language designed for automating the Windows GUI and general scripting. It uses a combination of simulated keystrokes, mouse movement and window/control manipulation in order to automate tasks in a way not possible or reliable with other languages” more…
Now that you know what you’re missing, there’s a great tool for actually creating this stuff. It hadn’t been update for almost 2 years until this month! It’s called AutoIt Debugger and it’s worth it’s weight in software. I guess it probably doesn’t weigh anything. It’s just really useful.
Setup takes a bit of patience but it’s a small price to pay for all the time saving. If you want to start playing, here’s the Download page and
getting started instructions. (The getting started link is no longer functional)
Continuing with the theme of remote control software this one works in reverse from Synergy. Instead of reducing the number of input methods were going to add one that you already keep in your pocket.
This handy little app installs right on your smart phone and adds support for controlling your computer from across the room. This makes it ideal for watching TV in bed when you don’t want to get up. Ideal for all those times when Netflix demands that you hit “continue playing” right in the middle of the episode.
With this app you need to think big. They’ve added a variety of custom remotes in addition to just basic keyboard and mouse control. Connect your laptop to your speakers and use the media remote to control volume and play controls from anywhere in your house. No need to be able to see the computer so feel free to hide that old laptop away in your media cabinet and use Unified Remote as your only mouse and keyboard.
It can connect through the wifi or bluetooth and it automatically detects your computer so setup is super easy. Just install the software on your computer and on your android phone.
There’s a full version as well if you like supporting the dev’s.
Over the coming days I’m going to do a series on software that you really should know about. There’s tons of amazingly useful apps that can dramatically improve the way you use your computer. Some of this stuff is so good it seems like it should be bundled with the operating system. First up:
Most people don’t even know they need this software. I’m picking them first because they asked me for help spreading the word and frankly, the software is awesome.
What it does: shares one mouse and keyboard across all your computers seamlessly. Most people have embraced the concept of multiple monitors. The productivity improvements are super apparent. Well the same is true for this. Take that spare laptop you have sitting around from ages ago and put it to work.
All you have to do is install Synergy on both computers and you will be able to move your mouse from one screen onto the other. It’s all wireless and you just added processor capacity to your work space. Synergy is literally the first thing I install on any new computer. You probably wont need it all the time, but when you do, it’s there waiting.