The ramblings of a dweeb who lives life like it's 2005

Category: Technology

Posts about tech and other geeky stuff

Seedy Reviews: KeyOp by Day Garwood

Very few times do I consider a piece of software or its developer worthy of a personal review. However, with the software I’ll be talking about today, I simply had to make an exception. The software in question, KeyOp, is quite literally changing the way I interact with the Windows operating system. I’ve been using Windows for 20 years now. Throughout virtually all this time, I’ve been using things like desktop icons, the start menu, and the run dialog for launching installed programs. However, with KeyOp, this near two-decade old habit is quickly being replaced by a much speedier, more efficient way of working with the OS.

What is KeyOp?

KeyOp is a free utility for Windows written by a blind, UK-based software and music producer by the name of Day Garwood.

I had the pleasure of chatting with Day by voice online a few days ago. In doing so, I found out that we have some things in common. We’re both British, we both like screwing around with tech and writing code, we both like text to speech synthesis, and we’re both into listening to and producing music, to name a few. He seems a genuinely funny, kind-hearted person to be around. But this isn’t a review of Day himself, this is a review of his software. Or, maybe this review just became a review within a review?
The basic idea of KeyOp is that it allows you to quickly and easily launch any Windows program you have installed on your system with a keyboard shortcut. Well, actually, 2 keyboard shortcuts. The first is a three-key combination, such as Shift + Control + P. This is known as a category. Basically, what type of thing are you trying to launch? The second shortcut is a single key which you press to actually launch the desired program or website; yes, this thing even lets you launch websites! This is known as a trigger, because it triggers the opening of the program or website tied to that key. Each category can house one or more triggers. For example, instead of manually typing

every time you wanted to visit this blog, or even launching it from your bookmarks, you could set up a web category, assign it to something like Control + Shift + W, then create a trigger that opens your default web browser to

with a single hit of the S key! In addition, these triggers can be activated from anywhere within Windows, such as the desktop or any running program, without the need for desktop icons, start menu shortcuts or what not! Version 1.2 even lets you define subcategories. For example, in your programs category, Shift + Control + P, you could have a subcategory for launching multimedia software, Shift + Control + M, and another subcategory for launching web browsers, Shift + Control + B, with each subcategory having its own triggers.


Very high speed, a very low footprint

Being written purely in the programming language of C, KeyOp is extremely responsive and fast. So fast, in fact, that when I click on my desktop shortcut to run KeyOp, it quite literally takes an instant to launch! Before my heart has even had a chance to beat, KeyOp is up and running, ready for me to open a program or website!
What’s more, the program is very small, with the main executable only being 951KB in size; one of the many beauties of C! It’s also very light on system resources. As of writing, KeyOp is using virtually 0% of my CPU, and only 600KB of my 8GB RAM. Six hundred kilobytes! Just 40 kilobytes shy of the amount of RAM Bill Gates allegedly said ought to be enough for anybody, way back in 1981!


The keyOp zip file clocks in at just over 1.8MB. Also, KeyOp is very self-contained, meaning it doesn’t store anything outside its own folder. Everything from the UI sound files to the KeyOp configuration file, keymap.ini, is stored within a single folder. This makes it great for carrying around on a USB flash drive or SD card, since all your KeyOp settings will be there, regardless of the computer KeyOp is running on. Provided, of course, that computer B has the exact same programs installed in the exact same locations as computer A. Also, since KeyOp does not try to access the registry or any other protected location within Windows, it does not need administrator permissions in order to run. If certain cards are played right, you could run this thing on a school computer if you really wanted to! Another thing that makes KeyOp so small is the fact that its UI sounds are stored in FLAC format. FLAC files can be made very small without losing any quality, so they’ll sound just as good as they would if they were uncompressed wave files.

Out of sight, out of mind

KeyOp keeps an extremely low profile when running on your system. It doesn’t take up valuable space in either your task bar or system tray, and there are no pop-up dialogs, ads, or toast notifications that get in your way. The only indication you’ll get is a couple of short sounds that play when you activate categories and triggers.

The ultimate in customizability and ease of use

The sheer power of this program lies in its keymap.ini file. You can define both categories and triggers for pretty much any program or website you want, and assign virtually any key(s) on your keyboard to these categories and triggers, with a well-written, simple-to-understand manual guiding you every step of the way. What’s more, as of V 1.2, each category or trigger can have a custom UI sound assigned to it. Just be careful you don’t assign a category to a key combination that is already in use by either Windows itself, or another running program, otherwise there’s a high chance that KeyOp will refuse to run. Key conflicts are pretty much unavoidable, and are a problem with any program that deals with keyboard shortcuts, not just KeyOp. What’s also cool is that when defining a trigger for an installed program, you don’t even need to enter the full path to the program’s main executable file. If the program has an execution alias, Firefox is an example of this, or the executable file is in your path variable, you need only enter the name of the file, and you don’t even need the file extension! Speaking of variables, KeyOp is also built to handle Windows environment variables, such as %appdata%, when entering program file paths. This means that


will work just as well as


You can also refresh the configuration if you decide to add a new category or trigger to the file later on while KeyOp is running. This allows KeyOp to reload your keymap.ini file with the new changes without you having to shut down the program and launch it again.

Awesome UI sounds

Those who know me well will know that I love my UI sounds. KeyOp does not disappoint in this department! There’s a UI sound for just about any occasion, from starting KeyOp, to activating a category or trigger, to trying to activate a trigger that doesn’t exist in any categories, to shutting down the program. Each UI sound has a retro vibe to it, especially the startup and shutdown sounds, which personally remind me of the Windows NT 4.0 startup and shutdown sounds with their electronic synth type elements.

A responsive, reliable developer

Yes, I know, I said this review would not be a review within a review. However, I need to talk about the fact that Day is an incredibly responsive, reliable and respectable developer who actually listens to user feedback and tries his best to act on it. After all, it’s not just stable, well-written code that makes a good program, it’s also the developer of said program. The reason for Day’s responsiveness is not only his awesome personality, but the fact that he is a lone developer, not working for some massive billion/trillion dollar tech company with a corporate structure more puzzling and complex than a rubik’s cube. This means that Day is able to quickly respond to feedback and improve KeyOp’s code without messages being passed to 5000 different teams and departments, half of them just not thinking its worth the time or effort and sitting on their backsides all day scratching their privates while enjoying their constant, fast-flowing money showers.


Honestly, I see know major downsides with KeyOp! It is truly a wonderful little program, through and through!

Final rating

Day Garwood has dedicated many hours and days of his busy life to ensure that KeyOp remains as fast, simple, reliable, stable, accessible and responsive as it can possibly be. KeyOp is a prime example of how anyone can create excellent quality products, even when wearing L plates. I’m sure that if you give KeyOp a try, your cyber life will be changed forever, whether you are blind or sighted. After all, you sighted folks really need to start using more keyboard shortcuts instead of expecting everyone to deal with the mouse all the time.
With all this in mind, I award KeyOp by Day Garwood an extremely rare 10 out of 10! May this virtual golden trophy serve as a permanent reminder of both your awesome software and personality! Keep up the good work!

Conclusion and credits

If you enjoyed reading this review as much as I enjoyed writing it, and you’d like to try out KeyOp for yourself, you can download the zip file from Day’s website. To extract the zip file, follow the instructions in your archiver of choice.
If you’re on the Mastodon platform, you can follow Day on the TweeseCake Social instance. You do not need an account on the TweeseCake Social instance to follow Day. You can simply follow him from the instance you’re currently on.
I must also thank Rebecca Legowski for contributing many of KeyOp’s UI sounds, as well as a few suggestions on how the project could be improved, bug fixes etc. The strong partnership between Day and Rebecca, and KeyOp’s constant high standards of stability, reliability and general coolness, proves the old adage: ‘Teamwork makes the dream work’.

20 years in gaming: a history

You may find this hard to believe, but I, an average twenty-something blind guy from the United Kingdom, have been playing video games for almost 2 decades! I know. Unbelievable, right? It only seems like just yesterday, I was playing Turok on my dad’s first generation, Red Ring of Death prone Xbox 360, and having a blast in WWE SmackDown! vs. Raw 2010, showing how truly badass John Cena can really be. Joooooohn Cena!

But how have I managed to cope in the video game sphere for nearly 20 years despite being without any eyesight? In this post, I shall answer this very question, detailing the ups, the downs, the ins, the outs, the whys and the why nots of my video game journey. This is… 20 years in gaming: a history!

The early years. Introduction to computers and DIY simulation

Our story begins in the third year of the third millennium. Two zero zero three. Zweitausenddrei. The year 2003!
Ah, 2003. What a time to be alive. Facebook hadn’t been invented yet, the Nokia N-Gage was all the rage, and Junior Senior’s Move Your Feet was flying up the UK charts like a newly launched NASA space rocket. Also in 2003, little 2 and a half / 3 year old me was about to get his first glimpse of the breathtaking feat of electromechanics that is the personal computer system, otherwise known as the PC.
I’ve covered my first ever computer before in a previous post, so I won’t talk about it too much here. In a nutshell, it was a custom built PC from a friend of my dad’s. It had both a floppy disk drive and a CD-ROM drive, and when I first received it in 2003, it ran Windows 95. It was my loyal servant for 8 years, and I loved it to death. Pity I can’t remember its exact hardware specs, though. 🙁
My introduction to the PC would also turn out to be my introduction to the ever amazing world of video games. There were 2 games I’d mainly play on my 2003 custom build.

Tonka Workshop

Tonka Workshop was released in 1998 by Hasbro Interactive. Targeted at young children, Tonka Workshop is set in the… uh… Tonka Town Workshop, Where players can build various structures and complete many DIY related tasks around Tonka Town. Town tasks include mending farm fences, repairing loose bicycle bells and fixing a dangerous hole in a park bridge so that children can play in the park again, with the cheery sounding Tonka Joe guiding you every step of the way.
You can either play using the hardware workbench and tool set that comes with the game, or you can just use the mouse like an ordinary PC gamer. Of course, being blind, I mainly used the hardware tool set.
You can find out more about Tonka Workshop by checking out this Wiki Fandom article (ignore the release date, it’s 1998, not 2000). You can also find a game play video by the CD-ROM Longplays YouTube channel below.

Playskool Store

Hey, look! Another Hasbro game! Playskool Store, released in the year 2000, sees you playing as a store cashier, serving your various animated customers. For each transaction you successfully complete, a gold star is added to your score. Once you have 15 gold stars, you can print out your virtual paycheck. Of course, a printer is required for this feature to work! 🙂
Like Tonka Workshop, Playskool Store also comes with a hardware playset. Of course, it’s a cash register this time. To price up items your customers want to buy, you simply enter the associated number using the number pad on your hardware cash register. Each number on the keypad corresponds to a price in pounds. Number 1 = 1 pound, number 2 = 2 pounds, number 5 = 5 pounds, etc. I’m not sure if there were country specific versions of the game. If there was a US or Canadian version, for instance, I’d assume pounds would be replaced with dollars. What’s cool with this is that when you enter a price, a human voice speaks the price(s) you’re entering, as well as the total price of all the items. This was extremely helpful to me as a blind player. However, some tasks require a lot of scanning and on-screen symbol counting to price up items, which my dad was always happy to provide sighted assistance with.
I’ve been scouring the internet for many years, and sadly, I have been unable to find a single piece of game play footage for this game. At least, not to the same standard as Tonka Workshop. If anyone knows who is still selling the game, or where to find some decent, no-commentary game play footage of this awesome game, please, please, please let me know! Take me back to the 2000s where I belong!

Of course, as well as those games, I’d also play the timeless Windows classics like Solitaire and Mine Sweeper with sighted assistance from my dad, despite being utterly terrible at them!

2007. Wired for sound

2007 saw me enter the very fascinating world of audio games. Best defined, an audio game is a computer game that uses sound as a primary means of experiencing and interacting with the game and elements within the game. Because an audio game’s primary focus is sound, most audio games don’t come with any on-screen visual effects like a typical video game, leaving the player completely reliant on their ears.
Ironically, the very first time I played an audio game was when I was at school, using a Windows XP laptop owned by the school.
The following are the first 5 audio games I ever played.


A simple but annoying game set on a 21×21 grid in which you have to avoid a beeping enemy for as long as possible. The longer you survive, the faster the enemy follows you around the board, making him increasingly harder to dodge. If he catches you, you die instantly and it’s game over!

Sonic Match

This game is kind of a beat matching game, but not quite. Think of PaRappa the Rapper, but you’re matching single sounds instead of rhythms. You basically have to press the correct arrow key, be it Left Arrow, Right Arrow, Up Arrow or Down Arrow, that corresponds with a specific sound. If you press the wrong arrow key, however, you will hear a long, loud, low-pitched buzzing sound and immediately lose the game.

Savage Gamut

I still haven’t mastered this game, and it’s been out for as long as I’ve been playing computer games! Think of the hardest boxing game you’ve ever seen or played, and times it by 10. The number of keystrokes you need to remember to play this game, as well as the order in which said keystrokes should be used, is migraine inducing!

Bobby’s Revenge

Have you ever wanted to fire paint balls at Santa’s slay and tase the living hell out of the fat sucker? Well, with Bobby’s Revenge by BSC Games, now you can!

Crazy Darts

This game needs no description. You’ve seen a darts game before, right?

These games, and more besides, can still be downloaded and played today via the Audio Games Archive.

Late 2007 to 2010. Family gaming, punching out, and leaving the PC Master Race

As well as being the year that got me into audio games, 2007 was also the year I started to move away from PC gaming and towards the video game console. My 2 primary consoles at the time were the Playstation 2 and the Xbox 360. I still proudly own a physical Xbox 360 to this day, however I unfortunately can’t experience the thrill of the Playstation 2 anymore, since I no longer have a physical PS2 and no computer I have right now is powerful enough to run the PCSX2 emulator. Oh, how I’d love to play the Simpsons Hit and Run and Road Rage again.
I was also introduced to handheld consoles around this period. My sister had a 2001 Nintendo Gameboy Advance and a 2004 Nintendo DS, and my dad gave me his 2005 Sony PSP 1000. We would sometimes have family/friends round the house and find ourselves in these little handheld game tournaments.

For Christmas in 2007, I got a Nintendo Wii. This was when the family gaming period really kicked off. We had many a Wii Sports tournament throughout 2008 because who didn’t? Wii Sports is, like, the best game ever! Wii Sports was ultimately what got me into the boxing and wrestling scenes, and the John Cena inside me would finally be unleashed in 2008 on both the Nintendo Wee and the Xbox 360 in the form of WWE SmackDown! vs. Raw. Of course, Cena wasn’t my only choice of WWE fighter, I was also an avid six-one-niner back then as well.
In 2009, I would get my hands on 2 new boxing games for the Nintendo Wii.

  • Punch Out! A 2009 Wii incarnation of the 1980s arcade/Nintendo Entertainment System classic of the same name.
  • Face Breaker. A much lesser-known title that was also released on the PS3 in 2008.

I loved both of them, but Punch Out was undoubtedly my favourite and the one I played most often.
We jumped into the Wii Fit craze in 2010 with a board of our very own. Only problem was that it could never seem to get our measurements right! Mine were often fine, while everyone else’s seemed to be slightly off in some way or another. My poor dad, who, by the way, had been exercising and had a perfect diet his whole life since serving in the military, was always the morbidly obese one. Never the less, we all took it as good fun, and we all had a good time playing on it for the very short period in which we had it.

2011 to 2016. Going live, trash talk and the end of my gaming life

2011 was a very big year for me as a gamer. On April 21st, my dad signed me up for Xbox Live. I’d been hearing about Xbox Live for about 2 years at this point. Seeing it pop up on TV from time to time and having spent much of 2009 and 2010 playing Kung Fu Panda on the Xbox 360 at my dad’s house, I’d always wanted to give Xbox Live a try. The idea of being able to play games with other people over the internet in real time had always deeply fascinated me as a kid. Can you guess which game I played on Xbox Live the most? If you said WWE SmackDown! vs. Raw 2010, you’re correct! I’d mostly be playing against random strangers, though. It wouldn’t be until months later that I’d start to build a list of actual Xbox Live friends who I knew in real life.
I soon found out that having an internet connected Xbox had unlocked a heap of new possibilities besides playing games. Watching movies and TV, engaging in instant messaging conversations, accessing social media sites like Facebook and Twitter… the opportunities were virtually endless! I remember my dad and I just sitting there for hours on end, browsing through the seemingly limitless selection of movies that could be purchased from the Xbox Live Marketplace, watching trailer after trailer after trailer.
3 new Xbox 360 titles would enter my collection in 2011.

  • Call of Duty: Black Ops, 2010
  • Crackdown 2, 2010
  • Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3, 2011

Throughout the next few months, I began to explore the vast universe of Xbox Live on my own. By the end of 2011, with help from my dad, I had virtually memorized the Xbox 360’s entire user interface, including the dashboard, guide menu and most of the settings menus. But then, that big user experience update dropped, introducing Xbox Live Beacons, adding the dreaded Bing search engine to the Xbox and changing the whole dashboard UI, which meant I basically had to relearn everything! Oh, and I also got an Xbox Kinect for Christmas in 2011. You know, that overhyped motion sensor, camera and crappy downsampled microphone combo that was popular for about 5 minutes?
Throughout 2012 and most of the 2010s, I would see myself getting into first person shooter (FPS) games more and more, thanks in large part to Call of Duty. Getting the very latest COD game every year almost became a Christmas tradition. Oh, and who can talk about Xbox games in 2012 and not mention Minecraft for Xbox? Having never played it on PC when it released 3 years prior, I was all over that crap when it arrived on Xbox Live Marketplace!

When I wasn’t playing games, I was either watching YouTube videos or receiving game related news and tips via what was known at the time as Inside Xbox. On Inside Xbox, there were 2 primary shows I’d watch.


SentUAMessage, which started in 2009, was a show in which Xbox Live users would write in and ask various questions about xbox games, the Xbox 360 console and/or Xbox Live itself and have them answered in some of the most comedic ways I’ve ever seen. The show was hosted by Dan Maher (A.K.A. Mr Pointy Head) and Andy Farrant, who’s nick name I can’t spell.
You can find a YouTube playlist of virtually all SentUAMessage episodes here. I say virtually because some episodes seem to be either missing or in the wrong order.

School of Xbox

School of Xbox was a series of videos voiced by Mr Pointy Head in which you learned about the wide range of exciting features that Xbox Live has to offer and how to go about using them. Think Video Professor, but non-fraudulent and dealing with Xboxes rather than personal computers. Unfortunately, I’ve been unable to find any of the School of Xbox videos anywhere online.

In 2013, I was one of the first people to get the brand new Xbox One, having received it as a Christmas present that year. However, this was when things started to go downhill. Over the next 3 or 4 years, I would start to lose interest in the Xbox platform due to many of the things I loved back when I first joined Xbox Live dying out, and being a blind gamer online would show its horrible downsides. Because I couldn’t see what was happening on screen, I didn’t really know what to do in the game, so I’d just be left standing there in the middle of the field. On the very rare occasion that someone would help me, the instructions they’d give were basically useless. I’d have people accusing me of

not actually playing the game

, and many nasty comments about me having no eyesight would be fired at me by everyone in the game.
The final blow came in mid 2016 when I permanently lost access to my Xbox Live account. At this point, I finally decided that I wasn’t gonna take this dog crap anymore and quit online gaming, and the general video game scene, completely.

2018 – present day. A gamer reborn, in retro form!

Throughout the latter part of 2017, a good friend of mine named Gary slowly began to introduce me to vintage video games. My nostalgia senses were already sky high at this point, having found out about such things as the Escargot Chat project, so I was more than excited to learn of such a prospect. I’d heard briefly about retro games and emulation before, but had never thought to give it a try.
In the early part of 2018, I received some DVDs from my friend containing a variety of arcade and retro console ROMs, and my journey back in time officially began.
I’d been shown how to use the Multi-arcade Machine Emulator (MAME) beforehand, so that was really my first experience of video game emulation. Then, I did some online research into different emulators and came across such projects as PCSX2, the best Playstation 2 emulator around, Duckstation for PS1 emulation, Dolphin for Nintendo GameCube and Wii emulation, and of course, the mother of console emulators… RetroArch!
Since RetroArch was made fully accessible to the blind in April 2019, I’ve been fully immersed in the retro game/emulation scene. The fiery passion and excitement I once had for video games is back and more powerful than ever before! I now mainly enjoy the fighting game/beat ’em up genre. This includes games such as Mortal Kombat, Street Fighter, Tekken, King of Fighters, Virtua Fighter etc. I also want to defeat this inferiority complex I’ve had since 2016 and get back into online games at some point. I just need a community of people who will actually help me out and accept me for who I am. Sure, I can be a bit slow and picking things up, but everyone is different. It wouldn’t be much of a community if everyone was the same, had the same skills etc, would it?


I’ve encountered some really awesome people throughout my near 2 decade gaming journey, especially in the Xbox Live years. Here are just some of them.

How I will make my TTS content

As some of you may be aware, I’ve been a huge lover of text to speech (TTS) content for a long while, having first stumbled across TTS videos on YouTube in 2013. I can’t quite remember the first TTS video I watched, other than the fact that it featured Microsoft Sam. This was before I’d officially entered the world of smartphones and got a computer of my own, so I was confined to an Xbox with no screen reader for browsing YouTube.

At the very end of 2020, I decided that I’d do what I’ve been wanting to do for years and become a member of the TTS community (or TTSC for short) with the goal of eventually making my own TTS content. After all, I’m not the only blind person out there who’s into TTS. Chris Wright, formerly known as BlindGamer95, also creates TTS videos. It is worth noting, however, that because I’m without any eyesight, my content will be quite different to that of creators such as Thunderbirds101 and AT88TV, both of whom I mentioned in my 5 people I’d like to get to know in the Text to Speech community post. This post will explain exactly how my TTS content will work. That way, if I get a comment like: “Hey, why doesn’t this video have any images like a proper TTS video should?”, I can just point them to this post.

So, let’s get going!

Audio only

There is next to nothing in the way of a screen reader accessible video editor out there. Not within my price range, anyway; money is basically nothing right now. That’s why, unfortunately, my text to speech content will contain no images or other visual effects. Normally, in something like an error video, the audio of a TTS voice reading the error will be synced with an image of the error, generated by a tool such as Atom Smasher’s Error Message Generator. The same goes for funny/weird sign videos. However, due to the reason I cited above, none of that is possible for me. Instead, you will only hear the voice reading the error or sign.

Sounds before errors

Normally, sounds aren’t cued unless a TTS voice malfunctions after raging at an error or there’s an OS switch, such as upgrading from Windows 95 to Windows 98 or downgrading from Windows XP to Windows 2000. In case of the former, the respective error sound of the operating system related to the error, such as Windows 95’s chord sound, will be cued. In case of the latter, the shutdown sound of the current operating system, followed by the startup sound of the new operating system, and its login sound if applicable, will be cued. However, I’ll have to make up for my lack of visuals with extra audio. Therefore, if I’m doing an error video, a single OS-related sound will be played before the error is read. For instance, if the current operating system in use is Windows XP, the critical stop sound will play. If it’s Windows 2000, 98 or 95, the chord sound will play. If Microsoft Sam should rage so hard that he flies off the face of the planet, either a small section of a sound will be looped to create a glitch/computer crash effect, or a massive explosion sound will play. It all depends on what best fits the mood.

I haven’t yet figured out what I’m going to do for stuff like sign videos, Christmas specials etc, so if you have any ideas, feel free to let me know in the comment section down below this post.


I hope this post helps you understand how, and why, my text to speech content will be different to that of other creaters in the TTSC. The reason I’ve been putting off doing TTS content for so long, besides not having the knowledge or tools to do so years ago, is because I’ve always been afraid that the TTSC would simply cast me out or think nothing of me for not being able to meet their standards and expectations.

If you want to know when I start making TTS content, which will hopefully be very soon, you can subscribe to my YouTube channel and follow me on Twitter.


Seedy Reviews: Nathan Tech



I can’t exactly remember when I first encountered Nathan Tech, but I know it was a while ago; long before this site, and the Fireseed Network in general, was a thing. I found out about a MUD (Multi-User Dungeon) called Cosmic Rage. I was actively searching for MUDs to get into at the time, so I thought I’d try it out. Unfortunately, it turned out that me and MUDs don’t exactly mix. However, when I landed on the website where the MUD was, I did some deep diving and found that there was a whole lot more to this content generating entity than just Cosmic Rage. An RSS feed reader? A media player? A website builder? What the hell was going on here?
I eventually found out that the creator of these projects was a blind UK-based software developer by the handle of Nathan Tech. Having tried some of his products over the years, and having had the honour of actually meeting the man himself at the beginning of this year, I thought to myself: why not write a review about this guy? However, this thought would soon recede into the back of my mind and fade to dust. The event that really inspired me to write this article was a March Pat Price Tek Talk podcast in which Nathan discusses the history of Nathan Tech and the software and other projects he’s developed over the years.

Who, or what, is Nathan Tech?

First, let me start by saying that Nathan Tech is not this guy’s real name. It is simply the handle that all his projects fall under. His real name is actually Nathan Smith, which he shares publically.
As I mentioned above, Nathan Tech is a blind software developer from the United Kingdom. I say software developer, but he’s done a lot more than just develop software since he started in early 2013. Some of his most notable works include audio tutorials covering writing websites in HTML5, programming in Python and using Apple’s VoiceOver screen reader on iOS. He has also made some audio games over the years. The following is a list of some of his software projects.

  • Calliope, a powerful media player that has support for many different file types. It’ll basically play any audio or video file you throw at it.
  • Luna RSS, a fully featured RSS feed reader, podcatcher and feed builder
  • .

  • Sunrise Waterfall, a feature-packed utility that allows you to make awesome websites and documentation files without any coding skills whatsoever
  • .

All Nathan Tech’s software is 100% accessible to the blind/visually impaired. It is also written for Windows, which kind of makes sense when you think about it. Nathan Tech, NT, Windows NT!

How this review works

This review is divided into 3 sections: upsides, downsides, and over all rating out of 10. The magnitude of the upsides and downsides will decide the over all rating, so future review subjects… beware! Each upside and downside will be titled with a level 3 heading, then a brief explanation will follow. Don’t fly in expecting a perfect 10, however, as there’s a downside to all things in this world, and not everyone is perfect.


1. Nathan Tech gives all and expects nothing back

Every single project of Nathan Tech’s is usable by everyone free of charge, and nothing is expected of anyone in return. Basically, Nathan’s view on donations is that if you’re going to ask for donations, you might as well charge. While I kind of agree with him, I have to ask: is he sort of saying that projects like NVDA should be paid? Never the less, this is definitely worth a million altruism points.

2. No annoying nags

Before I continue with the video, let me remind you to please subscribe to my channel and purchase my merch.


Today’s Top Deal! (insert product here) is now 75% off for one week only!

We’ve all been there before. Don’t you just find yourself pressing the skip button? I do. However, Nathan Tech doesn’t do any of that stuff. What you get with Nathan Tech is free of charge and free of hassle! Like a radio station that lets you enjoy your favourite music hits constantly without cutting to a 10+ minute ad break every 5 god damn minutes, or ending a song after the first verse so the DJ can chat a load of useless hot garbage about “the latest trend that’s sweeping the internet!”.

3. Always willing to improve

No project is free of errors, and Nathan Tech’s projects are no exception. However, he’s always reaching out to people for ways he can make his work better for everyone, be it fixing software bugs, correcting errors in a tutorial or improving the accessibility and user experience of his products. Most companies will just give you a canned reply, telling you that they value your feedback and they’ll pass it on to their teams so they can look into it. The next thing you know, it’s 5 months later and the company hasn’t done a god damn thing to resolve the issue you reported. Either that, or they started working on your issue 3 months prior, but have been too busy sitting on their backsides all day drinking tea to finish the job. Give Nathan a problem to solve, and it’ll most likely be solved in a matter of days or weeks!

4. He knows how to deal with tech illiterates

If there’s one thing Nathan is a lot better at than me, it’s dumbing stuff down so that the computer illiterate crowd can understand the points he’s putting across. Not only that, but he breaks things down into little pieces, assisting those who struggle to process very large amounts of information so they can take each bit of information in and process it in their own time. This is especially good for people like me who have a hell of a hard time dealing with huge user manuals with thousands of pages and subpages that are divided into a hundred different sections and subsections.

5. Accessible to all

I mentioned at the start of this article that Nathan Tech’s products are 100% accessible to the blind/visually impaired. However, they are really built with everyone in mind, no matter what kind of disability you have, or if you’re not disabled at all. Nathan’s tag line is

It’s not disability, it’s ability

. I don’t agree with this all the way from a realistic, scientific prospective, but the work he produces for the community at large really lives up to it.


Honestly, the upsides mostly outweigh the downsides. However, as I stated at the start of this article, everything in this world has a downside.

1. OS Limiting

OK, I’ll be reasonable with this one, as not everyone has the same mind set as me. If you know me well, you’ll know that I absolutely hate OS limiting software. That is, software that has very strict operating system requirements, such as only running on 64-bit versions of an operating system or requiring the latest and greatest operating system in order to run; I’m looking right at you, AltStore! Being a part of the vintage/retro tech community, I believe software developers should strive to make their software available on as wide a range of operating systems as possible, both new and old. Why can’t we have more RetroArch’s in this world?
A large amount of Nathan Tech’s software, including Calliope and Sunrise, suffers from OS limiting, requiring at least Windows 7 with a bunch of updates in order to run. However, they do support Windows 7, and they do run under 32-bit versions of Windows. Also, Luna RSS has Windows XP support. Hell, I even managed to get the thing to run under Windows 2000!

2. He was here, now he’s not

Again, I won’t be too harsh with this one, as I believe Nathan is doing a university degree at time of writing. I know how stressful education can be, I’ve been there many a time. However, it can be quite frustrating at times. Nathan can be very active online, chatting, developing, releasing… and then he’ll just fly off the face of the earth, taking days or even weeks to return.

Over all rating

Over all, Nathan Tech gets an excellent 8.75 out of 10. His altruistic nature, fiery passion for his work and willingness to help and support others no matter what earns him my highest honour. Let’s all take our hats off to this guy and what he brings to our world! Keep up the awesome work!


If you’d like to experience Nathan Tech’s work and show him some love yourself, you can check out his website and follow him on Twitter. The more people who know about this guy, the better. So go on, spread the awesomeness!

Data Wipe 2019: How I Lost 500GB in One Fell Swoop

Last month saw the 2 year anniversary of what was quite possibly the most devastating event of my cyber life. I’m still feeling the pain and recovering to this very day. In this blog post, I’ll explain everything that happened, as well as the act of sheer stupidity on my part that caused it. Be warned, however, this post contains a hell of a lot of tech language. Therefore, you may want to
have the Tech Terms Computer Dictionary open in a separate tab for reference to save your brain from exploding. I’d rather not spend all day cleaning up pieces of your grey matter, thank you very much.


At this particular time, my 2016 Stone Group laptop, which has a 2.3GHz Intel Pentium 3550M and a 500GB Western Digital HDD, was running Windows 10. I really wasn’t happy with this. The system would run slow as hell at times, the fans were always on full power for no reason, and… well… it ran the giant piece of spyware, adware and bloatware we all know as Windows 10! I wanted to restore the laptop to its former glory by downgrading it to its home operating system, Windows 8.1. However, there was one problem, I didn’t have a clue how to access the PC’s BIOS or boot menu screen. As any competent PC user knows, installing a different operating system requires that you boot into external media, be it a CD, DVD or USB drive. Because Windows 8.1’s boot image doesn’t come with Narrator, I’d have to boot into a special preinstallation environment (PE) with the NVDA screen reader installed, then launch the Windows setup program from another resource, such as an ISO file or other storage location.
After turning the web upside down, I eventually found what seemed like the perfect solution to my problem. EasyBCD by NeoSmart Technologies is a tool that allows you to modify the Windows boot configuration database (BCD) so you can get a dual boot configuration going. Since it modifies the Windows boot loader, it doesn’t require any form of BIOS access. Many minutes of fighting with not so EasyBCD were spent before I finally had a boot entry configured for my talking PE. Then, it was time for the downgrade party to begin!

Where it all went awry

Here’s where things start to go sideways. I’m booted into the preinstallation environment, proceeding through the standard Windows 8.1 setup steps. I selected my region, language and keyboard layout, chose a partition on which to install Windows and waited a while for the setup program to copy files and do whatever else it needed to do.
I noticed something was wrong seconds after the laptop restarted. There was no activity from the 500GB Western Digital drive. Usually, with mechanical hard drives, you can hear quiet clicking sounds as the drive head reads and writes data to the drive. In this case, however, there was nothing. Complete silence. I waited about half an hour, then pressed Windows + Enter to see if Narrator would start. The initial installation stage was complete at this point, so Narrator would have indeed been available for the rest of the setup process. However, nothing happened when I used the Win + Enter shortcut. I waited 10 to 15 minutes and tried the shortcut again, but still nothing happened.
After many restarts and a call to the Microsoft Disability Answer Desk through the free Be My Eyes service, I eventually found out what the problem was. In a fit of utter idiocy that Homer Simpson would be proud of, I’d somehow managed to fry the Windows boot loader, making the system completely unusable! And things were about to get a whole lot worse!

The Real Devastation

Many days have passed. My PC is still in an unusable state, even more so than before. The BIOS is now all kinds of messed up, and my talking Windows preinstallation environment, my one and only lifeline, was no more. Don’t ask me how this happened; I have absolutely no clue! The PE, along with all my other data, was stored on a 1TB Toshiba HDD, since that was the only means of external data storage I had at the time. I knew I only had one option, which I was not going to like one bit! I was gonna have to use my mum’s crappy Lenovo laptop to download another copy of the talking PE and write it to the Toshiba drive. This, of course, requires that the drive be reformatted… destroying all the data on the drive! Oh, and I also needed another Windows 8.1 ISO. After what felt like forever and a week, I finally had a new, fresh, clean PE drive to boot from. But I knew I couldn’t even attempt to boot from the thing, knowing the way my computer’s BIOS was. Luckily, I was able to find the manual on the manufacturer’s website and use it to help me reset the BIOS back to default. It took another call to the Microsoft Disability Answer Desk to get me around the BIOS and into the PE where I could independently install Windows. Soon, I had a clean install of Windows running and my PC was alive once more! However, all that rewriting of PE images and reformatting of drives had resulted in a combined total of over 500GB (half a terabyte) of valuable data being permanently lost. I’d experienced the digital equivalent of a house fire, losing all my personal belongings and everything I held dear in the blink of an eye.

2 Years On

Here we are, 2 years on from that fateful period. The Stone laptop is still alive and well, now quite happily running Windows 7. Yes, I know Microsoft doesn’t support Windows 7 anymore, but quite frankly, I couldn’t give 3 craps! I like Windows 7 and it works well for me. There is an enthusiastic community of retro tech lovers out there who are doing all they can to keep it and other icons of the past alive. I’m proud to be a part of said community and won’t be leaving any time soon! I’m also much more cautious about backing up my data now. I still have my 1TB Toshiba drive, but now I’m making use of cloud storage services like pCloud and OneDrive, so I always know where my data is. I also make more of a deal out of saving my work often. If I’m not sure if I’ve saved a piece of work yet, I save it anyway, even if I did actually save it earlier on. Better to save twice than to not save at all.
I’d also like to thank Be My Eyes and the awesome Microsoft Disability Answer Desk staff for helping me get back on my feet. I really don’t know what I’d have done without them.

7 Computer Related Things I Absolutely Despise

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been an expert when it comes to computers and technology. Conceded, I don’t know every single nitty gritty detail, but then again, who does? The field is so wide and it’s getting wider and wider by the day; it’s virtually impossible to know every single thing about the cyber world. In my many years of experience with computers, I have grown to really detest certain things people might say or do. If you want to get along with me in any computer related conversation, these are the things you need to watch out for and avoid at all costs!

1: Browsing the internet

Think about what you’re saying when you say “Browsing the internet”. The internet is a network of networks. Computers, routers, printers, smartphones, tablets, smart home appliances, all interlinked together. Are you saying that you have access to every single device connected to the internet and you’re browsing through their files right now? You must be the best hacker in the world! No, what you mean to say is: “Browsing the web”. The web is a large collection of HTML (Hypertext Markup Language) files that reside on millions of high-powered computers located across the world known as web servers. The web, or the World Wide Web, is a feature of the internet; it is not the internet! Why do you think web browsers, web servers and websites have the word “Web” in their name?

2: My (insert here) is not working

“My Facebook isn’t working”. “My Google won’t load”. These are phrases I really hate! You don’t own Google. You don’t own Facebook. They’re not yours. You’re really talking about the products, not the company itself. Say things like: “The Facebook app on my phone won’t load” or “I can’t seem to access Apple’s website”. It will make life a whole lot easier for me when trying to diagnose what the problem might be and it’ll also save you from getting an apple pie in the face.

3: It’s a virus!

Computer is running extremely slowly: virus. A program crashes while you’re working: virus. You get popup messages in your web browser: virus. Seriously, there are more than just viruses you know! There are many different types of malware including spyware, viruses, worms, trojans, keyloggers, adware etc. Yes, they can be extremely harmful to your machine, but they’re not all viruses! For god’s sake, get it right! Refer to the Tech Terms Computer Dictionary for information about the different types of malware your machine can pick up.

4: A tower drive?

No, that large box thing is not the hard drive! That’s called the tower unit or system unit. All your computer’s components, including the hard drive, Central Processing Unit (CPU), RAM and ROM chips, NICs (Network Interface Cards) etc, are all housed inside the tower unit. They are all connected together by slots and wires on the motherboard. Please, never again refer to the tower as the hard drive, CPU or anything else like that!

5: Big B, little b

Nothing makes me want to angrily smash every window in my house more than when bits and bytes get mixed up. Get this straight: a bit is a single binary digit (a zero or a one). A byte is a group of 8 bits. Bits are indicated by a little b while bytes are indicated by a big B. Bytes are commonly used to measure file sizes and drive storage capacities. Byte measurements include kilobytes, megabytes, gigabytes and terabytes. Bits, however, are commonly used to measure data transfer speeds (bits per second). See this paragraph.

The file I am downloading is 500MB in size. My download speed is 60Mbps.

Can you tell the difference? Just remember: a byte is bigger than a bit, so you use a big B.

6: I just got hacked

This is kind of similar to number 3. People sometimes think that just because their PC is displaying weird pop-up messages or running slow as hell, the PC has been hacked. If someone somehow managed to decrypt the password of your user account and use a remote access tool to log into your PC over the internet, then yes, your computer has been hacked. Getting pop-up messages and being redirected to dodgy websites is just a result of you clicking links you shouldn’t have clicked in the first place. Also, leaving your PC unlocked and coming back to find a casino site on your screen doesn’t count as getting hacked. That’s just your own stupid fault for not logging out or pressing Windows + L to lock your account before stepping away from the PC! The access is already there, so no hacking is needed.

7: Just google it!

Admit it! You say it too! In fact, pretty much everybody says this. The problem with this is that it assumes Google is the only search engine out there. What about Yahoo, Bing and Duck Duck Go? Yes, I know Google has enslaved half the population of planet Earth and you might not get the same results from other search engines, but other search engines do exist! Instead of saying “Google it”, say “Look it up online” or “do a web search”.


So, there you have it! 7 extremely annoying tech related things I absolutely cannot stand. I will definitely make a part 2 if I think of any more. Remember guys, if I catch you doing or saying any one of these 7 things, there will be hell to pay!

My Cyber Life Story: Why I Love The Hell Out of Computers

Those who know me well will know I am an expert when it comes to computers. Whenever someone in my family has an IT problem, I’m always the first to know about it. The question is, just why do I love computers so much? In this post, I will try to answer that question in the best way I can. Also think of this as my computing life story.
I’ve always been very much into how stuff works since I was a really small child. I did everything from messing around with light switches to randomly pushing buttons on TV remotes to taking the batteries out of stuff and trying to figure out which way they went back in.
It was the early 2000s; I wanna say around 2002/2003. My dad, who was in the army at the time, had a friend who worked for Microsoft. This was when my cyber life started. I was given a house-built desktop PC made by this friend of my dad’s and I loved it to death. I can’t quite remember the exact hardware specs, but it ran Windows 95 and came with a CD-ROM drive and a 3.5in floppy drive. I never got to use the floppy drive though as we had no floppy disks. I loved Windows 95 back then and still love it to this very day. I played many games on that PC. These included

  • Tonka Workshop, a game where you build and mend things such as houses, cars, computers etc and take part in fun games and contests.
  • Playskool Store, a casheer simulator type game where you had to price up items that customers wanted to buy, scan items and so on. You got gold stars for every successful transaction. If you got 15 gold stars, you got a virtual paycheck that you could print out.

The first time I used a computer in an educational environment was in my first years of primary school. It was a Packard Bell laptop that ran what would become my second favourite and still used operating system, Windows 98. This was also the time when I was learning how to touch type and how to use a screen reader. The reader I used at the time was the much loved and despised JAWS screen reader. I also had a laptop of my own around that time. It ran Windows 2000 and had the 40 minute trial version of JAWS because no way were my parents gunna pay a thousand quid for the thing! Unfortunately that glory was short-lived as my computer illiterate mother loaded the laptop with malware and it never saw the light of day again!
2007 was the year I got introduced to audio games. My school laptop, which ran Windows XP, had a selection of audio games including Crazy Darts, Sonic Match and Savage Gamut. Sonic match is a game where you have to press the arrow key(left, right, up or down) that corresponds to a specific sound. Savage Gamut is a hard-as-hell boxing game I still have yet to master.
Fast forward to 2009. I’m in a new house and a new school. My old custom-built desktop is still alive and well, now running my most favourite OS, Windows XP. I got myself introduced to one of the worst laptops I ever used. Well, the laptop wasn’t bad, but the screen reader was. Enter Supernova, one of theeeeee worst readers I’ve ever encountered! Seriously, why is that thing still around? It ran Windows XP and had Microsoft Office 2007 installed, so that was an upside I guess. More downsides were to come though, as 2011 was the year I said goodbye to my house-built desktop beast. I still miss the thing now. I hope to find it one day and see that it still works.
The period from 2012 to 2017 was when my love for technology would start to turn into frustration. Enter the crappy Windows 7 HP laptops from my secondary/high school days. That thing was the slowest slow thing to ever exist in the very slow world of slow things. It should take a few seconds to log into Windows, not 5 minutes! I also had to use Microsoft Narrator… I’ll leave you to figure out how that went. 2013 was the year I entered the world of note takers. My school’s sensory support team decided to purchase the Braillenote Apex… big mistake! Seriously, Uranium-235 is more stable than that thing! It froze, crashed, died and errored out like there was no tomorrow. In early 2014 I started to teach myself HTML because I wanted to create a website. At the time, I was confined to an iPhone and had no idea what a web host was. I launched many different websites on many different hosting platforms throughout 2014, all of which have since died out. 2015/2016 was the Python/MySQL period. Let me tell you, if I ever have to use MySQL ever again, I’ll rip my hair out!
This takes us up to right now. I’m currently studying Media at college after just finishing an IT course. The last year or 2 has seen me dig deeper into different operating systems such as GNU/Linux and MacOS. I now have an iPhone, an iPad, a Windows 7 laptop which I’m using to write this blog post and 2 Xbox consoles, an Xbox One and an Xbox 360. Also, my obsession with computers and technology is now stronger than ever. Who knows where the next 17 years will take me. We’ll just have to wait and C++

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