“Information, truth and lies,
It’s all yours and it’s all mine.”


As a break from the norm, I thought I’d write about some geek stuff. Don’t worry, there is a trans element to this 🙂 Tracey (Chameleons) was kind enough to give me a copy of the photos from last week’s photo session and that may be wonder about keeping said information safe.

Clearly, there are on-line backups such as Microsoft SkyDrive, iDrive and Google Drive to name but a few. All are fairly easy to use, although Google Drive seems to be holding my interest at the mo. I know a number of folk swear by DropBox, but I’ve yet to have the pleasure. One for another time perhaps. For those of you know in the know, these remote storage systems let you upload your files via the Internet. Should your computer go pop, it’s a fairly nice way of keeping the data safe.

Talking of safe (Ed: seamless as per, Lynn. Anyone would think this was planned! Well, almost :-P), what about data you need to keep locally? I mean, you may have a need to keep your browser traffic hidden; not so much secrets and lies, but if you share a computer, do you want the nippers to be logging into trans FaceBook account? 🙂 So there’s a few things you can do….

Different Logon Account

Most modern operating systems let you have more than one user account on the system. You could set a spare one up for yourself – preferably with an innocuous name such as ‘service’ or ‘backups’ – and then hide it. Now, I can only talk about Windows, although I’m pretty sure both Linux and Mac will allow you to prevent a user account from displaying on the log in screen. For Windows, just use your favourite search engine to look for ‘hide user account’. This will allow you to open a desktop environment that’s just for that account. All the browsing history will be within that session and will not spill over into your main account.

If you’re using Windows, you can also make use of a feature called Run As. To access this, hold you mouse over the shortcut – say Internet Explorer – and hold shift as you click with the right hand side mouse button. You should see an option to Run as a different user. Click that and enter the user name and password you created earlier. Internet Explorer will now open on the same desktop as your main user, but it will be under a different account, so the favourites and history will not mix in with yours. Sadly, this doesn’t work with Firefox, but other browsers might be fine.

Portable Apps

Lots of open source programs – like Firefox, Thunderbird, etc – are available to run on USB memory sticks. Sure, it’s one way to get an application to run without having to install it. They work well (just check out ‘Portable Apps’ and put your OS name next to that in a search engine). You may that that on older systems, the applications can be slowed down by poor USB performance.

A way to get around this is to download one – say Firefox, Chrome or Opera (note: you can’t seem to run multiple instances of Firefox, the program doesn’t seem to like it) – and install it to a folder buried in your computer. Don’t put it under Program Files or /usr, have a good look under the computer’s settings to find a place to stash it. Again, use a search engine to change the permissions on the folder you install it to. That will mean that only you can get into it and anyone wanting to break in will find it harder than usual.

Keeping it all stashed away

I don’t know what it is about kids, but at a certain age, they turn into Neo when it comes to technology. If you’ve given your kids administrator rights to the computer, it’s a matter of time before they work out how to get through any security you’ve laid down. There’s a lot to be said about limiting certain family members’ rights on a computer. Not only for their own safety (viruses/malware), but also to protect the computer from being messed up…. and you having to fix it again. 🙂

That aside, there is another option to the thought about Portable Applications: TrueCrypt. This is a piece of open source software (so, free and available for Windows, Linux and Mac) which allows you to create a virtual drive. For those of you not down with the nerds, it basically a chunk of your hard disk that pretends to be a proper drive letter or mount point (Mac/Linux). However, as TrueCrypt is fully encrypted, no one can get into it without the right password and you can make that as complicated as you like.

One thing you could do, is create a TrueCrypt virtual disk on your computer and copy your photos and portable apps (Firefox, Chrome, etc) to it. TrueCrypt needs to be running in order to open those, so even if someone gets hold of the file, they can’t do anything with it. Likewise, you can make a copy of that to a USB memory stick for safe keeping.

I hope you find the above useful and I’ll stick the usual disclaimer about tech advice: use at your own risk 🙂 If anyone has any other suggestions about keeping data / programs safe, please do share.

Take care,

[ Today’s lyric: Zeros and Ones by Jesus Jones… which I have probably used in the past. Oh well. ]


  1. I'm busy annoying my ISP at the moment wit this. I have 180GB of photos on my computer. These are all backed up to two or three external HDD's. So, nicely protected against mechanical failure.

    But… All three of them are stacked on top of each other. Should, god forbid, anything happen at the house there is no other backup and all of my data is gone.

    So… I've started to test CrashPlan. It gets mixed reviews on-line. Some people have had good experiences, some not so great. As they have a 30 day free trial I thought that I'd give it a go.

    After I have finished the initial back up (7 days to upload 180GB) and tested the restore I'll decide if it's worth the cost for the future!


    1. Wow, seven days is quite a time to leave the machine running all day and night. Still, I think I know what you mean. It took most of the weekend to upload the 4 GB of family snaps. I've got copies on a PC downstairs and on a NAS. The trans stuff I keep on-line and on USB.

    2. 180GB is a lot of photos 🙂 But, I hope, it's a one time process and once it's done it will just be changes to my pst email files and a new batch of photo's occasionally.

      Mind you, a day with the camera can mean up to 24GB of new photo's.

      Once it's finished and I have tried to restore to a second machine I am going to do a bit of a write up about it.

      One thing in advance, if you don't have a big internet connection, don't do it! The 7 days (broken over a couple of weeks) is using a 10Mbps upload connection. I'd hate to do this over ADSL.


  2. Wont be using Google drive as I already use several of their services and I'm wary of placing all my eggs in one digital basket even if it does mean remembering an extra dropbox password.

    I use different browsers for work and personal to avoid any mix up. A habit I took to mobile. Private browsing mode is a good suggestion and not just the porn mode wags dubbed it when it was introduced the surfing wont display the tell tell signs of links being clicked on or helpful suggestions in the address bar.

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