Does the NSA own GCHQ?

Ok, so a bit of hyperbole in the title to get you going…but the US government appears to be handing over huge sums of money to GCHQ – you have to ask, what are they getting in return?

If it was me, I’d want the keys to the safe!

So what is it, exactly, that we give to the USA in return…after reading many articles, it seems the answer has eluded and evaded close scrutiny.

Anyone can guess, but I’m betting GCHQ didn’t get £100m for new desks and an increase in their paperclip allowance.

At a time when Edward Snowden has alleged major infringements to civil liberty, by the NSA and just survived almost certain life imprisonment, I’m guessing that we just sold our security rights to the NSA?

De Clutter Your Desktop!

Zen Desktop

Years ago, my desktop used to look like a war zone! I had every conceivable icon, shortcut and document  ‘machine gunned’ all over the place – it was a sort of organised chaos.

Then came the ‘transparency’ craze, which still appears to be prominent – if film evidence is anything to go by, where police ‘techs’ scribble case notes on vertical planes of glass. On the desktop, icons and windows could be made semi transparent and everyone went mad for the new look.

But your eyes are very bad at reading transparent window overlays.

So out went transparency, desktop clutter and in came order and calm. I achieved this, mainly by two important improvements which came out in Windows 7:

  1. Search.
  2. Libraries.

The new search facility has made all application launchers redundant.

Windows has never been very good at searching through files and folders – in some cases it still isn’t. But the Windows 7 search, in all other respects, is fantastic. Suppose you want to run a program and can’t remember where it’s icon is located?

In Windows 7 it’s a doddle:

  1. Tap the ‘Win’ key
  2. Start typing the program name…
  3. Windows will display a list of possibles…
  4. Then you just click on the one you want.

This process is really fast – Notepad, for example, can be started by Win+no+return. This led me to remove almost all of my desktop icons – because by the time you have minimised all the windows and looked for the right icon, you could have run the program – straight from the keyboard.

Then there are the Libraries.

Libraries are simply a special type of shortcut which is located in the Navigation Pane, in Windows Explorer: Tap Win+E

If you can not see a navigation pane, simply open Windows Explorer (Win+E) and then click Organise>Layout>Navigation Pane:


Libraries can be fully edited to reflect your chosen folder layout, so you can create them for all your most used folders. In this manner, every time you hit Win+E – you’ll get a list of these important folders – immediately.

And they can be local folders or network locations – yippee!

Thus, navigation is made really fast and efficient – in seconds you can start a program and find the files you need to edit, say goodbye to those thousand or so desktop short-cuts!

To complete the picture, you may need one more tweak: “Everything”.

There is only one small chink in the Windows 7 armour – it’s still not really fast at searching for an individual file – by its name.

Enter a program called “Everything” by VoidTools software. You configure this tool to search the drives and folders you want, set the hot key (in my case ALT+Z) and away you go!

When I hit ALT+Z a window appears with a list of all the files, on the locations I setup Everything to search:


Then I simply type into the search bar to find what I’m looking for:


That sounds long winded, right? Wrong!

Everything is really fast. Once the program has started (it has a System Tray icon for options), opening the application (ALT+Z) and typing your search displays the answer as fast as you can type.

Unlike Windows 7, it has never failed to find a file.

This completely overcomes Windows 7 inability to find some files by file name and completes this trilogy of desktop organisation nirvana.



A Journey To The Dark Side

My Move From Microsoft to Google

I’ve been more than a decade on the Microsoft platform, both as an end-user and technical support guru. But over the last year, I have been looking at cloud computing in-depth, keeping a weather eye on what is and isn’t good about the services on offer.

And I have to say I’m impressed!

So much so, that as of yesterday, I have moved my entire operation into the cloud.

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No Photoshop? No Worries!

Pixlr logo

Just came across Pxlr the other day – working on a machine without Photoshop or The Gimp – and thought I was done for!


But no!

This online tool came to my rescue – and very useful it is too: supporting layers, opacity, scaling including a full range of selection and cut and crop etc.

Apparently it’s also available on mobile platforms like iPhone and Android – though I haven’t tested these yet! Why not nip over to the good folks at Pixlr and take a look?