Blog du Tristank

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Profile-On-A-Stick

I read items like this with interest.


After recently flattening, installing, rebuilding or migrating a bunch of machines, I started to develop my “minimum customized set” that makes my life on a Windows box more comfortable.


Jeff blogged a while back about how extensive customization was best avoided. I agree: I used to be a customization freak back when I had a single computer: I molded it to my personality, drew custom icons, special desktop backgrounds, ran WindowBlinds, the works. Now, I have three and a half home computers, two and three quarters work computers, and a reasonably high rebuild rate while testing beta-this and alpha-careful-it’ll-hose-your-machine that.


Customization is a lossy art; little flecks detach and are lost as you move from computer to computer, profile to profile. I never have quite the same profile twice.


But I started making a concerted effort to have a usable baseline this time around. Here’s a quick list of what my “do this on new computers” folder looks like now:



Directory of C:\Users\tristank\Documents\!Sync\!Tweak


05/03/2008  04:08 PM    <DIR>          .
05/03/2008  04:08 PM    <DIR>          ..
29/02/2008  12:24 PM               115 DownloadThese.cmd
29/02/2008  12:12 PM               526 IEMaxConnectionsRegValues.cmd
29/02/2008  12:05 PM                63 NotepadInSendTo.cmd
29/02/2008  01:25 PM               237 OneNoteIconDefaults.cmd
05/03/2008  03:52 PM                91 OutlookEmailTemplate.cmd
05/03/2008  04:13 PM               147 Puretext.cmd
05/03/2008  04:05 PM    <DIR>          resources
05/03/2008  04:06 PM                36 ResourcesFolder.cmd
04/03/2008  04:05 PM                46 WireShark.cmd
               9 File(s)          1,261 bytes


Basically, the minimum “oh, I need to go back and set that” set of customizations that I need to apply to a Windows machine I’ll be using for an extended period. Not exactly sexy, but it supports starting with any profile and modifying it, so the footprint’s tiny. Update: All non-EXE/BMP/WAV files are in a Skydrive folder here.


I would (of course!) argue that all my customizations should be set by default, but then my needs ain’t the needs of the many.


On a new computer, I just have to go get the Foldershare satellite, sync my main sync folder, then double-click for each customization.


File stuff like my Outlook email template (with my custom “Debug Spew” monospaced uncoloured formatting style) and sound effects for server-side email rules are stored in the Resources folder (along with the Notepad.lnk file to be copied into %appdata%\Microsoft\Windows\SendTo)


It’d be so much cooler (and unquestionably easier) to just shove a USB key into the monitor and have everything ready for me as I logged on, so I live in hope. The article above keeps that hope alive!


A profile-on-a-stick is looking increasingly viable – someone mentioned a 16GB thumbdrive the other day, and if they double every 18 months, we’re pretty close to being able to store all my actually-needing-portability “Documents and Settings” for a while to come.


Using a profile-in-the-cloud would solve many of my issues, but might cost a lot in bandwidth terms (and living here in Australia, bandwidth is still very expensive when talking about tens of gigabytes)…