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Why does Google need to know my underwear size?

August 15, 2008

Lifehacker ran a story yesterday about the top desktop search tools as voted on by their readers.  Now, ever since I’ve switched to Vista, I have sorely missed the old simple search tool in XP.  Most people would probably think I’m crazy as the XP tool wasn’t that powerful.  But you know what?  It did exactly what I needed it to do and didn’t waste a lot of time or space.

My biggest problem with most modern desktop search tools, including the built-in tool with Vista, is that they all want to learn every single thing about me.  They want to search all of my file names, file contents, emails, chats, pictures, videos, etc., and store all this private data in a quick-search index.  Is this convenient for some people?  Sure, I guess.  If you want to know what Word documents you have that reference a certain project you’re working on, or you want to see every photo on your computer from your recent vacation to Marrakesh, then a full index tool might come in handy.

I don’t like that.  I don’t want a central store of all my personal information.  I store tax refunds, credit card payment receipts, bank account info, etc., on my hard drive.  It’s hard enough keeping a computer secure without having another vector of attack for potential hackers.  You set the NTFS permissions on your personal folder so that only you can access the files inside?  Great!  Guess what?  All the info in those files is also stored in your super-search index, which most people wouldn’t even think of locking down.

Personal security issues aside, these search tools are usually gimped by default.  On my Mac (when I owned a Mac), Spotlight would only search one or two folders by default.  It wouldn’t index every single file on the hard drive.  Which means that if I wanted a certain file in one of the system directories, I wouldn’t be able to find it with Spotlight.  And I could never figure out how to get it to index the entire drive, so it was basically useless to me.  It was pretty, but it didn’t search the whole drive.  Same thing with Google Desktop, Vista Search, and more recently, Copernic.  They all seem to be these big, all-inclusive apps, but they fail at the one thing I need them to do:  simple fucking searches.

Now, this is why I was happy to see one tool in the Lifehacker list:  Locate32.  Locate32 doesn’t index anything.  It’s just a simple search tool, like the one in XP.  It will search file contents if you want it to, but when you just need a small, quick filename search, it seems to be the best out of the bunch.  I don’t want Google knowing all the intimate details of my files.  I don’t want Vista indexing any credit card payment receipts that I have saved.  I just want a tool that will search EVERY file and folder on my drive, not just the my pictures and videos folders.  I want a tool that will only search file names and won’t build a huge index of all my personal info.  I’m glad to see Locate32 on the list because it means I’m not alone in my extreme lack of excitement for “smart” search apps.

I’m going to have to give Locate32 a try.  They even have a 64-bit version!  For those of you on Macs, try EasyFind.  It’s a great freeware app that I used all the time on my Mac.  It is another great simple search tool.

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