The word “Go” has so many connotations for such a couple of letters. It’s typically upbeat & positive, forward-looking and action-oriented. You get £200 for breezing past it in Monopoly, it’s the oldest board game known, it’s a popular open-source programming language and it’s what the Thunderbirds do.
Back in April 2021, ToW #574 talked about sharing a countdown timer in Teams, if you want to make it clear in a meeting that it’s about to get underway. That was by sharing the application window of a countdown clock, meaning that it would replace any other desktop sharing/slides etc being shown.
Also, the timer will loom very large on the screen of everyone watching, which could well be effective though maybe lacking some of the subtlety you’d prefer.
A more nuanced tip would be to overlay a timer on your own video feed, so you could make the point that things are about to change, and it could be shown alongside other content or whatever else might be happening in the meeting.
Depending on how you do it, the timer could disappear altogether when it has finished, and you’d carry on with the video as before. You might even want to replace your own camera feed with a backdrop and timer until you’re ready to go and show your face.
One recommended way to achieve this effect is to use OBS Studio, open source software which started life as a kind of video manipulation tool aimed at recording or streaming, and has grown to offer a host of features and plugins to modify and manipulate video in real time. It can look a bit scary to start with, but the basics can be picked up quickly.
OBS Studio can apply a series of effects to one or more video sources – could be the real-time recording of windows showing a live demo or a physical camera, with some other stuff like a video file, overlaid on top. You can go down a rabbit-hole of effects (like put a real-life green screen behind you, then chroma key a backdrop or video onto your own video feed – see Scott Hanselman’s tutorial for inspiration).
OBS also includes a virtual camera driver, so while you’re running the software and combining several sources – like a real camera and one or more media sources overlaid on top (along with selected effects) – OBS will combine everything to look like it’s a camera feed that can be selected in Teams, Zoom or any other software that could use a video input.
A simple trick could be to add only a countdown video to OBS and then choose the OBS Virtual Camera in Teams; it will display the video instead of your camera feed, and then when you’re ready to get going, just change the video settings in Teams to go back to your own webcam.
There are plenty of sources online for free countdown videos – here or here for example; download the file, add it to OBS as a Media Source and you’re off. If you’d like to take it up a level, here’s a more in-depth tutorial, and you can even script your own custom ones if you like to delver deeper into OBS features.
Not Aye-Aye, Ally-Ally, nor Why-Eye, but Ay-Eye, as in A.I. And not the cheesy Spielberg flick. The tech news has been all about artificial intelligence recently, whether it’s ChatGPT writing essays or giving witty responses, to Microsoft committing another chunk of change to its developer, OpenAI.
Original backers of OpenAI include Tony Stark (who has since resigned from the board in order to discombobulate the world in other ways) and AWS, though Amazon has warned employees not to accidentally leak company secrets to ChatGPT and its CTO has been less than enthused.
ChatGPT is just one application – a conversational chatbot – using the underlying language technology that is GPT-3, developed by the OpenAI organization and first released over 2 years ago. It parses language and using previously analyzed data sets, gives plausible-sounding responses.
Further evolutions could be tuned for particular tasks, like generating code – as already available in PowerApps (using GPT-3 to help build formulae) or GitHub CodePilot (which uses other OpenAI technology that extends GPT-3). Maybe other variants could be used for interviews or auto-generating clickbait news articles and blog posts.
You’ll need to join the waitlist initially but this could ultimately be a transformational search technology. Google responded quickly by announcing Bard, though Googling “Google Bard” will tell you how one simple mistake hit the share price. No technology leader lasts forever, unless things coalesce to there being only one.
Other AI models are available, such as OpenAI alternative, Cohere, and there are plenty of sites out there touting AI based services (even if they’re repainting an existing thing to have .ai at the end of it). For some mind-blowing inspiration including AI-generated, royalty-free music or stock photos, see this list.
Gaming is big business. There’s a story that gaming is bigger than Hollywood, though that depends what you include and what you don’t. Like TV and cinema, the gaming industry has faced transformational changes to its traditional model. The days of buying a game in a store, taking it home and playing it for days or months, before it gathers dust on a shelf or is passed to a new owner, are largely over. Mobile gaming, digital delivery, pay-for addons and subscription services are the new world.
Games consoles are typically subsidized by their maker, using the razor blade economics model of selling the device at a loss but making that back by charging a little extra on every game. Add to that the move to online services as a way of making money to help keep the cost of the hardware low.
Sometimes that hardware cost can bite – like the feared Red Ring of Death which affected the Xbox 360 console about 15 years ago; the action to extend warranties on Xbox consoles and to swiftly replace failed ones cost Microsoft over $1B (nearly a quarter of which was FedEx charges for the free shipping to and fro) but probably saved the Xbox brand from irreparable damage, thanks in part to swift decision making by SteveB.
Other costly mis-steps are all over the gaming industry – like a film studio releasing a bad movie, sometimes successful tech companies back track from their entertainment plans, like Google shuttering its cloud-streaming Stadia service or Atari literally burying unsold stock. There was even a documentary about that one.
The Xbox 360 went on to be a successful platform, and many of its games are still played today, as the weird hardware of the 360 can be emulated on the more powerful Xbox One and its successor Xbox Series S and Series X. Some of the old games can even be upgraded by the new consoles, running in 4K and with a higher frame rate than the originals.
Back in the present, the Xbox Game Pass subscription service (sometimes referred to as like Netflix for video games) continues to evolve and grow; new titles released include the Nintendo 64 classic given a 4K reboot, Goldeneye 007, and Age of Empires II has made the surprisingly successful leap from PC to console too.
Game Pass is available for Xbox consoles, for PC games, or in the Xbox Game Pass Ultimate combo which includes both PC and console games.
Check out TechRadar for some tips on finding special deals.
Happy New Year! Do you have any resolutions that you’ve decided to follow, other than the usual (eat less, move more, try all you can to write 2023 instead of 2022)? How about cleansing your web browser start up screen to something more useful and/or less distracting?
With the Edge browser, the default New Tab Page (or NTP) presents a configurable and sometimes useful way to display information, however the source of news articles and the advertising that is shown alongside can sometimes be, er, challenging.
Third party advertising aggregators take sponsored content from an originator and present it as an advert. This presents a problem for the sites that choose to sell advertising space – in tiles mixed with legitimate sources in the likes of the NTP, or in chumbox “Recommended for You” type content at the bottom or side of articles.
Some of the ads often lead users to a site which will do more than try to sell them something – some try to get them to install browser addons, show faux review sites recommending dubious-at-best products, or fraudulently push get rich quick schemes and the like.
If the originator keeps foisting nonsense adverts with poor quality visuals and clickbait headlines through the aggregator, the content owner who relies on the revenue stream from the ads can complain and have it blocked – it doesn’t do their reputation any good if their site is littered with stupid adverts.
Ad blockers don’t work on the Edge new tab page, but you can report a dodgy ad by clicking the ellipsis on the top right of the tile. Or submit a report here. This is a whack-a-mole game in a modern sense, since even if the original is blocked they may just appear the next day on a different URL but with substantially the same garbage content.
If this kind of insidious spam drains your energy, there are things you can do to minimize or remove the nonsense, even without switching to a different browser.
Looking at the Edge NTP, if you are using a browser profile signed in with a Microsoft 365 account, you might see “Work” or similar in the Enterprise page; it’s extremely useful and quite customizable, and administrators could make Edge default to that tab. If users click on My Feed, they’ll get the same view as a non-Enterprise tab, and it will stick for that user on the next new tab.
You can customize the “My Feed” section by choosing to Personalise your content selection and how you want it laid out, but if you want to switch the whole lot off altogether then look on the settings cog on the top right.
Switching the clickbait off will mean you get a beautiful Bing image taking up most of the screen (click the double-headed arrow on the bottom right to find out what it is), with a search bar and some collapsible quick links tiles pointing to pinned or recently-used sites, and other subtle info points like weather or stock prices.
Replace NTP altogether
There is no option within Edge to set what the New Tab Page should be – it’s only possible to tweak the one that’s there already. Install a simple extension like Custom New Tab, however, and you can point it to any URL you like (a largely clickbait and ad-free news source like Google News might be one choice, or a customized set of sources from something like Feedly). After installing and configuring, you’ll need to deal with Edge checking if you really want to replace the NTP and making sure that it’s not being subverted by some malicious code. Just say Yes.
A final nail in the NTP could be to just silence all the distractions by installing the Blank New Tab extension: that’s the equivalent of setting the new tab page to be about:blank.
If you’re still using Edge and have replaced the NTP with something else, yet feel like checking in on either your M365/Enterprise page or you’d like to outrage yourself over the stupid adverts polluting the “My Feed” section, just drop https://ntp.msn.com/edge/ntp?query=enterprise into the address bar to get the classic NTP experience.
Here’s a bonus Tip, akin to the Sweary Broccoli Soup one from last month. Since many of us will be taking time off in the next week, and activities may involve a modicum of adult beverages, what better time that to share some finely practiced tips in making the (IMHO) perfect martini?
The timeless cocktail which comes in many variants, is distinct from the Italian fortified wine, Martini – it’s thought that the barman who first gave the “martini” its name did so as a variant of “Martinez”. So it’s martini with a small “m”. Aficionados would probably choose a more premium vermouth as well…
This is a long post so pucker up and, of course, drink responsively. This is all a matter of opinion and exhaustive research – there are no product affiliations and recommendations are based on preference and plenty of practice.
Get yourself tooled-up
First off, you need to select the right glassware. The classic V-shaped glass is worth investing in if you think you want to make a habit of martini drinking; if not, a champagne coupe or even a decent-sized wine glass will do.
Since the ideal martini is served very cold, you’re generally going to need something to stir or shake over ice, so a cocktail shaker would make sense. If you don’t have one, Amazon et al have plenty of starter kits that will include a long spoon and even a measuring cup (or “jigger”).
If you just can’t wait to get started, a jug full of ice and a device like an espresso cup or even an egg cup will do. Proportions are important in mixology, and if you’re not an accomplished free-pourer, you’ll need something that can be used to dole out 25ml/50ml shots or whatever size takes your fancy – 1oz in the US is just under 30ml so a little stronger than a UK single measure of 25ml.
Before you start mixing, put your glasses in the freezer and get any garnishes – like olives, or fruit peel – ready. You’ll want to do the stirring/shaking, pour straight in the glass, drop garnish in and then directly to the hands of the eagerly awaiting recipients.
“Good quality” is an easy test – if you pour a little of the gin in a shot glass and take a slurp, does it make you wince and your cheeks pucker? Even though many gins are fine with a splash of tonic water, a gin martini made with 100ml Gordon’s and 50ml Cinzano Bianco isn’t going to set the place on fire. Most definitely stay away from any flavoured gins.
Start with Berry Bros No 3, Tanqueray No Ten, Warner’s London Gin or pretty much any of the millions of craft gins which pass the quality test above. If you fancy yourself as 007, substitute the gin with a quality vodka instead – same test of neat-drinkability applies – such as Grey Goose, Belvedere or anything of unflavoured quality. Smirnoff Red or supermarket own-label paint stripper? Probably not so much.
Vermouth is very much a matter of taste, but you probably don’t want anything that’s too sickly sweet and if you’ve gone to the effort of getting a nice gin, you won’t want to overpower it with cheaper fortified wine. Suggestions include Noilly Prat or Dolin Dry.
Proportions matter. Asking for a “dry” martini basically means less of the vermouth. If the 1920’s drink had 2:1 ratio of gin/vermouth, succeeding decades saw that rise to a more contemporary 3 or 4:1. Vary to your taste and endurance.
Ernest Hemmingway used to favour a 15:1 mix which he called a “Montgomery”, as it was said to be the preferred tipple of Field Marshall Montgomery before heading into battle. It’s amazing he could even see the front line.
“A perfect Martini should be made by filling a glass with gin, then waving it in the general direction of Italy” –
Mr Bridger would wave his glass to the Italian Martini vermouth factory, while Churchill would supposedly take a glass of ice-cold gin and bow towards France (and Noilly Prat). President Lyndon Johnson prepared an “in & out” martini where he would pour a glass of vermouth, then throw it away and replace it with gin.
As for garnish; some would say a shave of lemon peel is the ideal accompaniment, but for many it’s the green olive that should go in a classic martini, as the saltiness of olives go well with the cold, strong booze.
Take a single or three olives – never an even number. Being served a 2-olive martini in mafiosi days was a signal from the barman that someone in the joint was going to harm you. A “dirty martini” has a sploosh of the brine that the olives come in, and it makes the drink cloudy and salty, if that’s what you like.
The technique. Fill your cocktail shaker/mixing glass/jug with ice cubes, pour the gin & vermouth over the ice and stir† for 30 secs. Pour into your frozen glasses, add the garnish of peel or a cocktail stick of olives and you’re done. A dry martini is actually quite low-calorie so don’t feel too guilty.
If you want to go no-alcohol, try Blutul alcohol-free vermouth, possibly mixed with one of the numerous zero-alcohol distilled spirits, like Tanqueray Zero. Or save a fortune and just drink elderflower cocktail in a chilled glass.
† The whole Bond “shaken, not stirred” thing came from Ian Fleming’s belief that shaking vodka “bruised” it for a more intense flavour, so it was passed on to Bond. In truth, shaking over ice is only going to cloud the drink somewhat, and will cause shards of ice to be poured into the glass, melting and diluting the drink more quickly. That’s fine if you like you’re drinking Montgomeries, but not desirable for most. The best martini bars won’t even use ice – they’ll store their drinks in the freezer and pour straight from the frozen bottle.
A test of how good a bartender is: ask them to make a Vesper martini even if it’s not on the menu. If they don’t ask you questions about how you’d like it, prepare for disappointment. The ideal Vesper should be ice cold, very strong and is slightly sweeter than a classic martini.
The Vesper (named after the femme fatale, Vesper Lynd) was invented by Ian Fleming supposedly as he took breaks from writing, at the bar of the Dukes Hotel in London. Whether this is a misty-eyed memory or a marketing moment doesn’t matter – Dukes makes arguably the best Vesper in the world; it should be at £25 a pop, but you only need one.
“When I’m, er, concentrating… I never have more than one drink before dinner. But I do like that one to be large and very strong and very cold and very well-made”. – James Bond (Casino Royale)
In Fleming’s Casino Royale book, Bond invents the Vesper asking for 3 measures of Gordons, one of vodka and half a measure of Kina Lillet. It was revisited in the Daniel Craig film. Nowadays, you’d use a higher quality gin (see above – Dukes use Berry Bros No 3), and since Kina Lillet was an old quinine-laced form of aperitif, you’ll need to try a different mixer (Dukes makes their own blend).
Lillet is a brand of fortified Bordeaux which is available fairly widely over the counter or via mail. Keep a bottle of Lillet Blanc in the fridge if you like your Vespers. A few drops of Angostura bitters added to Lillet Blanc apparently brings it closer to what Kina Lillet was like with a little more astringency to offset the sweetness.
Many recipes will have a twist of lemon in their Vesper, but to be a little different, Dukes favours a slice of orange for the stronger smell of the orange citrus oil.
If you’re not adept at carving hunks of skin from lemons or oranges (and potentially wasting the rest of the fruit), try taking a clementine/satsuma and slicing it thinly into circles (3-4mm thick) with a serrated bread knife (yes, a bread knife – who’d have thought it?)
Take one of the innermost circles and nick the skin in one place so you can open it out into a straight thin line and peel the flesh of the fruit away. Now take a chopstick or a drinking straw and wind the thin slice of peel into a tight corkscrew and drop it into the glass that’s currently waiting in the freezer.
The measures for a tip-top Vesper are the same as in the Bond recipe – 3 measures of gin, one of vodka (both selected as per the classic martini above), ½ a measure of Lillet Blanc and a few drops of Angostura. Stir with ice in the cocktail shaker for 30 secs, pour and enjoy.
Much less boozy than the straight up drinks above, and a favourite of the cheaper cocktail bar who likes to feature syrupy sweet stuff that can be advance prepared in bulk. A proper espresso martini is a joyous and unctuous thing.
If you don’t have a kitchen worktop festooned with coffee making gear, go and buy some espresso beans for garnish and to help make your own liqueur.
The spirit of choice is vodka, and since you’ll be adding sweet and bitter additions to it in equal measure, you don’t need to worry too much about the provenance – Smirnoff et al will do nicely. You could tequila instead.
Apart from the coffee itself, the other key ingredient is a coffee liqueur – you could use something like Kahlua, though that is a little too sweet for some. Mr Black Cold Brew is a top alternative, though not inexpensive. If you have time on your side, it’s easy to make your own.
DIY Coffee liqueur
- Put 500ml of water in a pan with 300g of regular granulated sugar, cook on medium heat while stirring until all the sugar has dissolved. Take off the heat.
- Take 75g of espresso beans and lightly crush them in a Ziploc/freezer bag, with a rolling pin.
- Add the crushed espresso beans to the water/sugar mix, along with 500ml of vodka (own-brand stuff is OK though mainstream label might be better), and 1tsp of vanilla essence. Set aside to cool.
- Once cool, pour into a Kilner Jar or similar airtight container for 3 weeks (give it a swirl every few days), then strain it into a bottle though a coffee filter or kitchen paper etc. In truth, you could dip in after a week or so, but the longer you leave it, the better it gets.
For the price of a half a litre of cheap-ish vodka, some sugar and some coffee, you’ve just made 1L of good stuff that will last for ages in a dark cupboard. Depending on how frequently you partake of espresso martinis, obvs.
When you’re ready to make your pièce de résistance, put the glasses in the freezer and look out 3 coffee beans for each. To make 2 drinks, fill your cocktail shaker with ice and pour in one large measure (the size of an espresso cup, i.e. 2oz / 60ml) of vodka, and the same again of your coffee liqueur. Make espresso coffee into one or two regular sized espresso cups (again, 2oz/60ml) and pour one of them – still fresh and hot – into the shaker.
Put the lid on, give it a vigorous shake for 20-30 seconds. The mix of sweet liqueur, hot coffee and cold ice will froth the mix up and give it a velvety texture, while also creating a lovely crema to top off the pour. If you don’t have a shaker, try a plastic jug half filled with ice; something that you could give a really good strong stir and not worry about smashing the jug…
Dispense into the waiting glasses and top with the coffee beans on each. Drink the other cup of espresso as a chaser, or maybe leave it to the side in case you fancy a refill?
Learning how to find stuff in email is crucial, since many of us get so much that we let it accumulate until eventually it becomes a problem. Sifting through the many cc’ed work mails, or finding the order confirmation email in your personal mailbox amongst all the other stuff, we’re more reliant on search than ever.
This is a topic that has been covered numerous times in previous ToWs – 573 – Searching in Outlook and 504 – Searching Outlook for example – but is worthy of a revisit since we may have a chance to pursue the fallacy that is Inbox Zero over the next few weeks. And maybe it’s a time to find and delete the special offer emails and once-in-a-lifetime invitations that may be clogging up our personal mailboxes too.
Dealing with desktop Outlook on the PC, there are plenty of tools available to help you find specific messages, in fact there’s a whole toolbar full of them.
As you look to search mail that meets your chosen criteria – it’s from someone in particular, maybe with a keyword in the subject, or that you know has an attached PowerPoint file, you’ll see that clicking the filters and options inserts the actual commands that will drive the search, into the Search bar positioned at the window’s top.
Remembering a few of these means it’s quick and easy to search for mail from a person (you don’t need the quotes, really, and you could use just a part of their name) by typing straight into the box. ALT+Q (for query?) sends your focus straight onto the search bar, so if you’re a keyboard warrior, you could ALT+TAB to Outlook, ALT+Q and enter a search command, before your mouse-toting colleagues have even clicked a toolbar. While we’re at it, remember that CTRL+number jumps to the location on the (now vertical) icon bar on the left, so CTRL+1 will normally be mailbox, CTRL+2 is calendar, CTRL+3 contacts, and so on.
Commands could also be used to filter on properties of a message that are not so easily visible through the UI – eg from:ewan messagesize:>10mb or from:nico sent:”last week”. See here for more examples of the kind of thing you can type. Look under Recent Searches to re-run ones you’ve typed before.
Reducing Mail Bloat
Is your mailbox size is starting to look under strain (look under the File menu to see how big your ‘box is and what the limit is)? With an active work mailbox in M365, it shouldn’t be much of a risk unless you genuinely never delete anything, but a quick way of identifying the big rocks and getting rid of them may be needed occasionally.
You could run a one-off search for all big mail as per the instructions above, or for extra control try creating a Search Folder. Expand the folder tree on Outlook’s left side, and scroll towards the bottom, to locate the Search Folders hierarchy, right-click on the top of the tree and choose New …
This will bring up a wizard which creates a query across your entire mailbox or other data file, but which looks like a folder; it’s visible only in Outlook desktop (ie not in web or on mobile) but can be a great way to locate stuff that might be filed away in the darker recesses of your mailbox.
You can choose from some set templates or do your own custom thing entirely. The age of this feature is somewhat given away by the default value for “Large mail”… click the Choose button and enter something meaningful (like 10000 for ~10MB).
This should give you a few easily deleted big mails to at least get any short-term capacity problems dealt with.
Right-click on the Search folder and choose Customize… to give it a better name, or to tweak the criteria.
If you have a Hotmail / Outlook.com etc mailbox, there may be a more pressing size issue, as over a period of years you might have been signed up to a newsletter every time you buy something online, and without realizing it, those could account for gigabytes of data bloat on your mailbox. If every notification from Amazon or eBay is 400K, they soon mount up to a meaningful size.
To check, go into Settings and search for Storage.
The UI for Outlook.com is simple and effective, but one thing it doesn’t do a great job of is handling message sizes.
If you want to do a mass clean-out of your Outlook.com account, then you could try sorting by From, however the UI won’t let you click on the group heading to select all emails from that sender and make it easy to delete them.
The Windows Mail app on Win11 doesn’t offer Size either, not even to sort by.
Sometimes, the old ways are the best – you get much more functionality if you add your Outlook.com account to full-fat desktop Outlook, allowing you to change the view, see and sort by message sizes etc. Oh, and yes, you can even set up a Search Folder too. Now, tidy away!
This is the last “regular” Tip o’ the Week until January.
How you control the sonic emissions from your PC has changed repeatedly over the years; volume is often adjustable by hardware buttons or function keys but more advanced controls are usually found by double-clicking a speaker icon in the system tray. Windows 11 evolved the UI further, in the hope of making it easier to use.
Now, if you click the speaker, you don’t jump to the full blown sound control panel, but to a quick settings dialog which controls some commonly used connectivity and display settings, customizable if you like. Desktop PCs typically don’t need Flight mode, but nocturnal users may want to add night light for quickly changing screen colour.
Drag the slider by the volume icon and the predictable happens but click the icon to its right and you can easily choose which output device you want to use, if you have several (like headphones, speakers, monitors etc). Clicking More volume settings at the bottom takes you to a more fully-featured volume control panel.
If you have multiple monitors connected to your PC – especially if HDMI is involved – it’s possible your machine might expect to route sound to one or more of them; unless you do actually have speakers attached to the monitor, or it’s in fact a flippin’ big television, you’d probably prefer it didn’t show up on the list of potential output devices.
Click on the arrow to the right of the device you want to exclude – the ASUS monitor, in this case – and then hit the Don’t allow button: next time you look in the quick volume settings UI, it’s no longer there.
Some apps might have a UX for controlling audio output directly, over-riding the system default and probably sticking with whatever device you choose – Teams or Zoom, for example, may choose a USB speaker/mic or a headset if connected, rather than using the laptop speaker. If the app doesn’t know anything of sound devices, then ordinarily it will use the default (as per the options above), but there is a somewhat hidden setting that lets you tweak things further rather than having to alter the system’s chosen output just for that app or session.
If you want to fire the audio stream from a particular app at a different endpoint than the system default – let’s say you have a Bluetooth speaker connected, but you’d prefer system sounds and the likes to keep coming from your laptop speakers – you could tell Windows to send that app’s audio output to a different place, and the app will never know about it.
In the main System > Sound control panel, scroll down to Volume Mixer and click the arrow to open it up. In that page, you’ll see a list comprising the currently-running applications which have made some kind of audio output (in other words, if you want to set an app up, make sure it’s started it and if it’s not in the list, start playing something).
In this case, the Dell monitor does have an amp & speakers attached to its audio line-out socket (where audio is sent to the monitor via the display cable, and it then puts it out to the speakers), so while spending a day of Teams calls and other system sounds emanating from the tinkly-bonk USB speaker, the business of smashing out some banging tunes can go to the bassier speakers.
Finally, should you wish to give your devices more meaningful names than the ones shown, look for More sound settings in that first System > Sound settings page. This brings up a Windows XP-era dialog which allows more precise configuration of devices and levels.
The Sound dialog lets you choose the sound scheme (controlling all the bongs and bings of Windows), configure the speaker arrangement (if you have surround sound etc), or choose all kinds of enhancements and effects.
It also lets you rename the device altogether and set a different icon, so when it shows up elsewhere – including in the shiny Windows 11 Settings app – then it’ll be a bit clearer what it really is
Since many US colleagues are recovering from an eating & drinking stupor having recently given thanks, this week marks a departure from the usual Tip o’ the Week recipe. Instead of tech tidbits or productivity morsels, we’re making a delicious yet fairly healthy staple in only a few minutes, courtesy of sweary Chef Ramsay.
Yes, readers, fresh soup in less than 10 minutes and with only 3 ingredients – broccoli, water and salt.
It’s not uncommon for soup recipes to start with sweating onions or shallots in butter and garlic, adding herbs, chicken stock etc. But not this – it’s vegan and keto-friendly, and is best if you make it right before eating. Adding creamy cheese to the bowl before serving will give it a nice rich finish (though may compromise the vegan-ness).
The key thing about this soup is that the broccoli is cooked in water with the lid on, and the water is saved and used like stock to liquidize it into a smooth and light soup. It’s important to blend it while still steaming hot, and that means it can be served straight from liquidizer to bowls (though it can be re-heated, frozen etc, if necessary).
Hold by the stalk and run a sharp knife around the tips to cut off the florets (you can keep the stalks for vegetable stock, or add to a stir fry etc, but in this case we’re just using the darker florets).
Add water to a decent-sized pan with a close-fitting lid – about 1.5-2x as much water as the weight of the broccoli florets. In this example, we started with 300g, which gave 230g of florets, and added 450ml of water. Or 2/3lb of broccoli, yielding about 1/2lb of florets, cooked in a little under a pint of water, if you prefer those measures.
If you’re in a country which still measures mass by fractions of a hundredweight, you might not realize that a litre of water (=1000ml) at room temperature weighs a kilogram, so 1g = 1ml. It’s often easier to weigh water with digital scales than to try to use a volume measuring jug.
Add a good few scrunches of sea salt to the pan, put the lid on and bring the water to the boil. Once boiling, drop the broccoli in and toss it around in the water. Add a little more salt on top and replace the lid.
Spoon the broccoli into a liquidizer jug and pour the remaining water in – experience will tell you how much is needed (the water will be below the level of the florets in the liquidizer). Season with a final scrunch of salt and black pepper.
Pulse the liquidizer a few times, then start slowly and then give it a 30-60secs on full blast, until you can see the soup is smooth and velvety. You can always add a little more hot water gradually during the blend, if you think it’s too thick (at full speed, look in the top of the jug and you should see a swirling vortex – if it’s just blobbing up and down, it’ll be more like puree than soup so add some more – ideally recently-boiled – hot water).
Gordon suggests pairing with some walnut halves and some ash-rolled goats cheese; in this example, it’s Montagnolo Affine, a creamy blue cheese which melts a little into the hot soup and gives it an extra lift.
Serve by pouring on one side of the bowl and let the soup flow around. If you’ve seasoned it lightly but often throughout the cooking process, it won’t need anything else on top, other than some froufrou garnish if you like. Enjoy.
Normal service of talking about Excel pivot tables and other rubbish resumes next week. Happy Thanksgiving to those who celebrate it.
Even though Dilbert isn’t funny any more there have been some good ones in the past, satirising corporate life. People who used to be cubicle or office based might struggle to deal with the new reality that most office workers would rather not be in the office 5-days-a week, 9 to 5, yet bosses would prefer people to not be slacking off at home in their PJs.
Zoom, Teams and other platforms adopted a metaphor in an online meeting, where attendees can figuritively raise their hand so they can be asked to speak. It works well when the people running the meeting have the discipline to check that they don’t have a forest of lifted paws before asking, “are there any questions?” to their audience.
It helps if presenters are not doing the lowest-common-denominator thing of sharing their desktop to present slides. Using Teams’ own slide sharing means you can see the chat, and who’s joined, and whether they have their hand raised.
Meeting participants also need to have the practice of raising their hand and waiting to be invited to talk, rather than blaring in to raise new topics or talk over others. Other attendees can also see who has their hand raised (look in the video gallery and you may notice those who have their hand raised are highlighted) and if you look in the People pane, you’ll see the order that attendees raised their hands as well, so if you’re the organizer then you can ask the top and most patient questioner to contribute at a point that makes sense.
A new etiquette has sprung up in hybrid meetings, though – how to balance commentary from remote attendees with chatter that’s happening in the room? Ordinarily, you’d rely on body language in a meeting room to decide it’s time to interject, nodding and perhaps making hand gestures yourself.
When some / half / most of the attendees are remote but you’re in the physical meeting room, it might be prudent to actually join the same Teams meeting on your PC – you’d only be sitting in the room looking at email on your screen anyway – and use the hand raise function before speaking, even if you’re sitting next to other contributors. This way, you’re on the same footing as all the remote attendees and it shows that you are at least giving the pretence of thinking about them too.
When joining a Teams meeting on your PC, there’s a yeah-yeah dialog box which pops up just before entering the “room”, which presents various potentially relevant audio related options. The norm would be to use comptuer audio, then select what speakers/mic you want to use.
These join options can also give you a number to dial in to (or be called by the meeting, so you can stay silent and camera-less on somebody else’s dollar).
If you’re the first to join while in a physical Teams Room, you could bring the room system into your meeting and control it from your machine.
If you are a bod in the room, though, then choose “Don’t use audio” to avoid any mic or speaker issues, causing endless echo. That way, you can enter the online meeting while being in the actual room, interact with other attendees on chat and use features like reactions and hand raising just as if you’re sitting at home.
Just remember that you are, actually, in front of other people, and also remember to change the default option back to “Computer audio” next time you enter a truly remote meeting, or you’ll spend the first few minutes saying “hello, hello? Can you hear me…?”
The internet just wouldn’t work without the magic that is the Domain Name System, or DNS. If you are not a networking guru, this service is effectively the index of internet hosts (not just websites but also anything else that offers a service on the net), and is used to find the actual address that your computer will connect to, using a name as the reference.
If you put www.bbc.co.uk into your browser, that means you want to connect to a machine called www which belongs to the domain bbc.co.uk, and a beautiful yet simply elaborate system is used to figure out how to find that domain, get the address(es) of the actual host, and provide the info back to your device so you can connect to it and request information.
Being the one service to bind it all also means DNS is often the thing that brings everything to a halt, eg. if your home router can’t connect to your ISP’s DNS server, then you’re basically unable to communicate with the rest of the world as you’d be unable to find anything (unless you hard-code your machine to use a different DNS, like CloudFlare’s 126.96.36.199 or Google’s 188.8.131.52).
Futzing about with DNS can sometimes bring benefits, though. One such is that for the many webpages which contain embedded adverts or clickbait links, if your browser is unable to connect to the source of the advert, then it might just not show the content at all. On desktop computers, you could use ad blocker browser extensions of all kinds, but on mobile devices your choices are a bit more limited.
If you rely on mobile apps like Google News or Microsoft Start, which show content within the app and have no ability to install 3rd party browser extensions, you may have to take more action to block out all the insidious and stupid adverts.
A true geek’s solution at home could be to set up a Pi-hole; a DNS server (traditionally targeted to run on a Raspberry Pi microcomputer, hence the name) which will filter out the garbage by deliberately blocking the URL-to-address resolution of thousands of known advertisers or clickbait providers. Great when you’re on the home network, but what about if on the move and connected to another network?
One possible solution here is to use a provider like NextDNS, which has been described as effectively running a Pi-hole in the cloud for you to use.
Free for up to 300,000 name resolutions (which sounds like a lot, but in reality, isn’t), it’s a snap to try out and if you sign up, you’ll be given simple instructions on how to plug it into your phone, tablet, desktop or even home router, so as to extend protection to every device connecting through that network.
DNS queries would be routed to the NextDNS service and if the requested host is from one of a plethora of blocked sites – not just ads, but known trackers, phishing links etc too – then it will simply return a dud response as if the site doesn’t exist.
Your app or browser will either show you an empty box, maybe an inline error frame, or it may silently move on and display nothing at all. Just one small victory!
Using a service like this – others are available – can be switched on or off quickly (in Android, it takes the form of a single switch to configure a Private DNS with a URL unique to your account), and works regardless of whether you’re on Wi-Fi or mobile connectivity.