Bettie and I are a team.  At church, she runs Powerpoint and I run sound.  At home, preparing for the worship services, she creates the Powerpoint, and I supply the background images.

My job is much easier.  If I mix the keyboard a little high, or the background singer’s voice doesn’t come through as well as I’d like, I’m the only one who knows (big feedback problems, which are very rare, excluded).  If Bettie misses getting the next verse to a song up there, everybody knows.  That’s pressure.

Another kind of pressure comes from the creation side of the coin.  It’s not public, but it can be frustrating.  The church uses Powerpoint 2003.  Back before Bettie’s XP went south (she could dual-boot with her nifty Win7 on her SSD), she had PPT 2000.  There’s enough differences in the two versions that the newer one is really nice to have.  If she brings home presentations from church, they weren’t editable on her version.  And now that the old version is lost (and XP is not bootable), she’s using OpenOffice Impress, which just isn’t the same.  OpenOffice’s Writer does a pretty good job of emulating MS Word, but the Powerpoint-alike piece doesn’t cut it.

This has been a frustrating problem, and when Bettie mentioned it to our minister, he said that there was a spare PC with a copy of PPT on it, version 2003.  Bettie could create the slide shows at home and have them work just fine at church.  Win/win!

Except . . .

Except that this is an older PC running XP, from the days when CPU speed was everything and memory and disk suffered.  On this PC there was so much junk running that every action was terribly slow.  It obviously needed to be speeded up somehow, at a cost very closely approaching zero.

This is where I come in.

First things first.  I didn’t have the password for the box.  I downloaded the CD image of a password-resetting utility (it works, but it is not for the faint of heart.  It’s cool and it’s free, but it’s not a Cool Tool Tuesday tool.) and wipe out that ID’s password.  Now I can get in and start cleaning out the dreck that has accumulated.  Uninstall all the bloatware that came with the PC.  It’s a Dell, so this includes MusicMatch and a passel of Dell utilities.  Get rid of the converters and players.  Dump the printer software and six different versions of Java.  Two different antivirus programs – really?

Bring in some new tools – Microsoft Security EssentialsCCleaner, MyDefrag, and for a browser, Google Chrome Canary edition.  That last is an update of Google’s fast Chrome browser, that runs circles around other browsers when it comes to rendering web pages quickly.  It doesn’t have a lot of extensions for it yet, or I can’t find them, so I updated the hosts file to block ads.  I turn off the eye candy that Windows offers – all the drop shadows, font smoothing, and transitions/animations that don’t do anything useful except suck up CPU cycles.  I changed the background from a picture to nothing – it’s blank gray now – so that wouldn’t use up memory.  Once the disk defrag finishes, I’m going to apply the registry hacks that Dave Farquhar recommends here.

This should get the box into a usable condition.  Not fast – it has only a half-gig of memory, and XP likes a whole gig – but much better than when it was running all those little watcher programs to notify me of updates.  But it’s not really usable yet.  The monitor was busted, so I have it hooked up to my main PC’s monitor, meaning that my main PC is unusable.  This is problematic, but there is a solution to the problem.  VNC, or Virtual Network Computing.  This lets you see and control another computer’s screen over a network.  So the new box can sit under a desk, and Bettie will be able to remote in, provide a password, and do her work almost as if she’s on her own computer.

But just like saying that you need a paint program, there are several choices.  The pay flavors are off the table – this is a low-rent operation.  That eliminates RealVNC, which I have used before.  The choices will come down to TightVNC and UltraVNC.  I may put both of them on (sequentially), or I may just go with Ultra because it does file transfers.

Either way, we’re going to end up with a usable solution to the access problem.

And end up with a nice solution to the “no Powerpoint” frustration.