Friday, October 25, 2013

More wise words to ponder...

David Allen, the man who created the "Getting Things Done" concept continues to stress the importance of being organized. And he's not talking closets, but data, information, lists, and all the things that make us run through the day to reach our goals. and he makes his living as an evangelist for just that... keeping people focused on reaching goals.

David runs the enterprise, and is a major keynote speaker at tech and business conferences. The concept is as simple as making a list, but the benefits of doing so are far greater than organization. List-making clears your mind, so you can focus on what matters in the now. He also teams up with Evernote, the info-gathering note-taking tool. As keynoter at their recent conference, David was quoted with these nine inspiring words.....

"Your mind is for having ideas, not holding them."

Think about that, then use paper or your computer or smartphone to list everything you need/want to do and then clear your mind so you can choose the most meaningful ideas to work on now.

Helen Gallagher

Tuesday, October 01, 2013

A few wise words from Twitter founder, Ev Williams

It figures. the man behind Twitter is a man of few words. Yet they are worth absorbing into our tech life.

At a recent conferennce, he is quoted as saying the key to making a fortune online is to remove extra steps from common activities as he did with Blogger.

“Here’s the formula if you want to build a billion-dollar internet company,” he said. “Take a human desire, preferably one that has been around for a really long time…Identify that desire and use modern technology to take out steps.”

Williams’ philosophy might seem pedestrian. But that’s the point. Twenty years after people began using the web en masse, it’s time, Williams said, to accept that the internet isn’t a magical universe with boundless potential. It’s just another engine for improving quality of life.

So, think of ways you can continuously improve your tech life, now that we've all got the basics covered. How can we streamline more?

 Take a tech break....

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Computer Clarity

Welcome to the combined blog and web site for Computer Clarity, a Chicago-area tech consulting firm since 1996. Things have changed a lot in the tech world in these 15 years, yet it keeps getting better. Clients need less problem-solving support and more ideas for working smarter and of course learning how to live online and still take time out for fun. We offer solutions to save you time for both work and play: consulting services, data analysis, tech support, technical writing, and off-site services to fill critical needs. 
Helen Gallagher, email:

Thursday, August 08, 2013

Don't be fooled again by spam...

Spammers and hackers are clever people, and their tactics to get us to click a link look authentic.
Yet all they want is access to your computer, so it is never worth the risk to click a link sent by someone you don't know

Here's an example...

"This is an Email Service Alert from Helpdesk. Your account has exceeded its storage limit, to re-set your account Click Here for Validation. Inability to complete this process will render your account inactive.
Warm Regards,
Helpdesk Administrator.
"CONFIDENTIALITY NOTICE: This e-mail communication and any attachments may contain proprietary and privileged information for the use of the designated recipients named above. Any unauthorized review, use, disclosure or distribution is prohibited. If you are not the intended recipient, please contact the sender by reply e-mail and destroy all copies of the original message."

And here is how you can be convinced it is spam:

1. Did you write to a company called Helpdesk?   Probably not. Most likely, you never heard of them and surely aren't paying for a help desk service.

2. Look at the sender name...

3.  Look up and you'll find they are a company involved in water, hygiene and energy technology. Hmmm... suspicious yet?

3. In the message above, I've disabled the Click Here link for your protection. Never click a 'Click Here' link without knowing where the link will go.  Rest the mouse on the link, or right-click and you'll find it goes to:

And, of course, if you look up that company, you'll find many references to email scams.

Stay safe online,


Monday, July 22, 2013

Can a tablet computer be "too difficult"?

A recent New York Times column (7-19-13) states the Microsoft Surface is trailing the Apple iPad in sales because it is too complex.

That makes no sense -- the Surface is superior because has more features, not complications. In an effort to compete with Apple, Microsoft added jut about everything that was missing from competitor devices.  Things that make a tablet really useful: Surface has a keyboard, folks!  And a USB port, a memory card slot, it works with a Surface pen, and has a kickstand....  Oh, and Office 2013 is pre-installed. How complicated is that?

Have we really become so spoiled by gadgets that a few practical enhancements actually overwhelm us?  Not me! Please tell me its not true.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Can social media make you more popular?

We used to measure our popularity and successful relationships by the number of friends we had; those who exchanged birthday cards, met for lunch, sat on the front porch on a summer night. Now, though, our "friends" are measured by the activity in our social media sites.

How many followers are enough to make you popular? If you have more social media traffic, are you inclined to make more frequent posts? Are thousands of online friends better than a few true friends? Is social media an effective way for you to keep in touch with close friends?

A recent Writer's Digest article posted counts for notable pageviews for writers trying to prove they have a decent following for their work.

Notable numbers are high, starting with:

20,000/month for blogs
5,000 followers for Twitter and for your own email newsletter.

By those standards, most of us are lurkers - reading just the blogs and Facebook/Twitter feeds we can scan in a few minutes.

It's summer, and we know where our real friends are - out on the porch, waiting for us.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Are you wasting your summer days with email overload?

It's summer and you want to go out and play. but instead, you're losing precious time struggling with your bulky email inbox.

InformationWeek has a roundup of a dozen tools that might give you some relief, just in time for the official start of summer on June 21...

Monday, June 03, 2013

Web design software

With the proliferation of web tools and social media to keep in touch, you may not think you need a website any more. But if you do, and don't want to spend a lot of money on web software such as Adobe Dreamweaver, take a look at Xara Web Designer. A recent Network World article by Mark Gibbs points out the advantages of this windows web software. With colorful templates and a $49.99 price, you can't go wrong.

Sunday, June 02, 2013

Face2Facebook review

I don't usually post book reviews on this site. They generally go here....

But this one is for all you social media users who, like the author, don't understand the meaning of "Friends" and "Like" anymore.

Very clever concept: Woman begins to wonder about the value of having hundreds of 'friends' on Facebook. Are they really friends? What about these people she's never met?

Well, in face2facebook, Arlynn Leiber Presser set out to learn who all her friends are. After failing at many things in life, seeking a purpose, and never made a big mark in life, she created a plan to see how many of these so-called friends she could meet in a year.  Continue reading at GoodReads here.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Evernote ramps up with blogging tool

Evernote graphic 

Fans of Evernote's note-taking tools will go nuts over the addition of Postach-io. It converts your online notes into a content management system. Many of you know I'm addictd to Microsoft One-Note, which is a little known feature in Office 2007. But Evernote and Postach-io might be the ultimate in ingformation management.

:Learn more here at TechCrunch. 

Monday, May 13, 2013

Google Glass: The end of privacy

Photo source:

The latest news on Google Glass....

The Congressional Privacy Caucus has asked Google for more information on the privacy policies it will include with its newest interface, Glass.

The bipartisan committee, led by Joe Barton (R-Tex.), presented Google with a series of questions related to how the privacy of non-users will be protected with Glass. Glass has the potential, though it’s not currently active, to take photographs when the user winks, for example. As image recognition technology becomes more sophisticated, those captured in images may be linked to online profiles or other sources of information about them.

Yesterday, in its roll-out of automatic image-enhancing technology, Google said that it could tell which photos in an uploaded set included family members, suggesting that it can identify people who appear in a photograph.

Glass doesn’t include any new features per se, but because its users wear the eyeglass-shaped interface constantly, those around them may not know when and how it is being used.

From beginning, social implications and social etiquette has been at the top of our mind in how we design and develop the product, not only for people wearing Glass but also for the people around them,” said Steve Lee, the product director, in response to a question.

excerpted from: Social Times

Let's hope we're ALL too busy to embrace this and it will become another bad idea in search of a purpose.

Monday, April 29, 2013

A Nobel Prize-winner on rational decisions

Daniel Kahneman is a Nobel Prize-winning psychologist and the author of the new book: "Thinking Fast and Slow,"

Kahneman was featured on NPR's Desktop Diaries, and ironically, much of the interview centers on the fact that he does not use a desk. While I plan to review his new book, it may be beyond me, to do a critical evaluation of a Nobel Prize winning author.  But maybe I'm being irrational. ...

The NPR interview with Ira Flatlow cites:  "But the basic premise is that people operated in their self-interest and that there are - people can be rational decision makers, you know, except maybe when passion or love or fear is involved. And what Dr. Kahneman and his colleague, Amos Tversky, showed was that people make irrational decisions all the time."

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Book review: Turing's Cathedral: The Origins of the Digital Universe

The multiple tales in Turing’s Cathedral: The Origins of the Digital Universe take place in America during the days of spies, World War II, the hydrogen bomb, and the century’s most constructive invention: the birth of the computer industry.

A fellow named John Von Neumann and a dozen others, including Albert Einstein, formed the Institute for Advanced Study (IAS), at Princeton University and began planning for the future by writing 1’s and 0’s on a sheet of paper.
Yes, today’s digital universe started with one computer in one laboratory in one building, and with a tiny five kilobytes of memory.

As simple as it started, George Dyson’s book generously lists over eighty names of principal characters involved in this technology adventure, including Vannevar Bush, Richard Feynman, Julian Bigelow, and Kurt Gödel, along with Alan Turing, a British logician and cryptologist, creator of the Universal Machine. This creation moved technology beyond the counting machines in use in the early 1940s. It made the difference between numbers that mean things and numbers that do things.

In its simplest form, data is a bit, which can either be a one or a zero. That is the essence of the digital universe, for logic and mathematics. Today, as we dawdle through our days with gigabytes of memory and processing power, we can hardly appreciate that in March 1953 there were exactly 53 kilobytes of high-speed random-access memory in the world. Five of them were in use at the IAS lab at Princeton, 32 kilobytes were divided among eight clones of the IAS computer, and 16 kilobytes were unevenly distributed across six other machines. Without cross-communication, Dyson considers them: “Each island in the archipelago constituted a universe unto itself.”

Alan Turing, on the IAS team, configured machines to read, write, remember and erase marks on tape, in both directions, giving birth to the Universal Computing Machine.

Dyson takes us through the 20th century with a fascinating American history of mathematics at a time when sugar was rationed and super-calculation power was more experiment than science. It was also a time of using accelerated knowledge to help design weapons and power explosives.

As the U.S. was immersed in WW II, there was an urgent need for computing power. Engineers were busy building computers using electro-static storage tubes and vacuum-tube technology, equivalent to modern silicon memory chips. Suddenly the effort involved for a human to calculate ammunition trajectories could be done within minutes, instead of hundreds of hours.

These hand-built, room-size, machines also fostered next-generation nuclear weapons, and led to development of the Internet, the microprocessor and multiple-warhead ICBMs. Soon, the ENIAC computer, occupying a 33 by 55 foot room, built with 500,000 hand-soldered joints, had the power of twenty human processors, and remained in use until 1955.
The work of John Von Neumann and Alan Turing gave birth to software and established principles that would guide the future of computers.

As Alan Turing enters the story, he says goodbye to his family and sails in steerage from London to New York in 1936, heading for Princeton to work with Von Neumann. He carried with him a heavy brass sextant and soon after arrival delivered his 35-page paper, “On Computable Numbers,” said to symbolize the powers of digital machines. The men worked together for two years while Turing completed a fellowship. His paper described a Universal Machine, able to compute any computable number.

Turing’s Cathedral should be required reading for today’s techies, who will delight in every new development along the way, including a high-speed wire drive, coiled via bicycle wheels, running at 90,000 bits per second. A memorable forerunner to the tape cartridges and removable drives that came along in the late 20th century, indeed. As we know today, technology also brought about the ability to conduct computer-assisted weather forecasting, Monte Carlo simulation statistics, and grew exponentially to include many thousands of innovations.

The history of computers and statistics is part of the history of the U.S., WW II, immigration, university life, weather, Los Alamos, and beautiful story telling. Through a well-told story and rare photos, Dyson’s book is both a history lesson and a tribute to the pioneers of technology who changed the world.