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How I Use AI at Ask Leo!

It’s my fast but unreliable intern.

I write all my own articles, but I often use AI as a tool along the way. I'll walk through a recent example.
An illustration showing a man working on his computer with a virtual AI assistant depicted as a friendly robot or hologram hovering nearby, suggesting collaboration. The background is filled with digital icons representing technology and creativity, highlighting the partnership between human insight and AI support. The scene conveys a sense of innovation and teamwork between the man and the AI, with elements such as gears, light bulbs, and digital code symbols subtly integrated into the background. The man appears focused and engaged, while the AI assistant exudes a helpful and supportive aura, creating an environment of mutual respect and synergy.
(Image: DALL-E 3)

You may have noticed a small update at the top of every page at Ask Leo!. Right above the search box on the right-hand side, it now says “Written by a real human.

That real human, of course, would be me. I suspect this will set me apart from the future waves of AI-generated content.

But that doesn’t mean I avoid AI completely. I want to lay out exactly how it helps and how it sometimes misses the mark.

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AI at Ask Leo!

I use AI as a tool to assist in writing articles, not for writing them directly. It helps me come up with ideas and summarize articles as well as image generation. Its suggestions aren’t always accurate or directly useful and often require editing. AI is a powerful and fun tool, but it’s just and only that: a tool to be used appropriately.

Using AI at Ask Leo!

I write every article on Ask Leo!. I don’t accept guest posts, sponsored posts, or anything similar. In some ways, it limits my reach, but it’s one of the ways I’ve chosen to set myself apart from other sites.

Of course, I use a variety of tools to help me. AI is just one of those tools. (I also have a fantastic human editor who continues to make me look like a better writer than I am.)

AI is incredibly powerful and frequently unreliable. It’s a tool that is constantly changing.

And it’s something I’m having a lot of fun with.

For this article, I’ll describe the AI processes I used in the immediately preceding article, “Is There a Way to Use One Drive as a Dumb Hard Drive?”

I used ChatGPT throughout. There are other tools, including Google’s Gemini, Microsoft’s CoPilot, MidJourney for images, and more. In my experience, ChatGPT gives me more of the results I’m looking for. Naturally, that could change over time.

I use these tools in distinct stages: ideas for content; article summarization; image ideas; image generation; and final polishing.


The OneDrive article title was the literal question I received from a reader. It’s a great question because it sent me in a valuable direction I’d known about but not considered.

Even though I already knew my answer, I wanted to see how AI would do and if it would derive the same solution.

My Prompt: Is There a Way to Use One Drive as a Dumb Hard Drive?

AI Response:

Using OneDrive as a “dumb hard drive” essentially means using it purely for storage, without the smart features like automatic syncing, file versioning, or integration with Office apps. While OneDrive is designed to be a cloud storage solution with these smart features, you can use it in a more basic manner with some adjustments:

    1. Manual Uploads and Downloads: Instead of relying on the OneDrive app to automatically sync your files, you can manually upload and download files via the OneDrive website. This gives you full control over what is stored in OneDrive and when it’s updated.
    2. Disable Sync on the Desktop App: If you prefer to have the OneDrive app installed but want to minimize its automatic syncing feature, you can pause syncing or selectively sync only specific folders. This way, OneDrive acts more as a storage space that you can access from File Explorer without automatically syncing everything.
      • To pause syncing, right-click the OneDrive icon in the system tray, click “Pause syncing,” and choose a duration.
      • To selectively sync folders, right-click the OneDrive icon, go to “Settings,” navigate to the “Account” tab, and click “Choose folders.” From there, you can select which folders you want to sync, effectively leaving the rest as online-only storage.
    3. Use OneDrive Files On-Demand: This feature allows you to access all your files in OneDrive without having to download them and use storage space on your device. Files you haven’t downloaded are marked as “online-only,” and can be made available offline as needed. This feature requires the OneDrive app but minimizes its impact on your local storage, making OneDrive act more like an external hard drive that you access on demand.
    4. Limit OneDrive App Startup: You can prevent the OneDrive app from automatically starting when you turn on your computer. Go to the OneDrive settings in the app, choose the “Settings” tab, and uncheck “Start OneDrive automatically when I sign in to Windows.” This way, the OneDrive app won’t run in the background unless you manually start it.

While these methods can help you use OneDrive more as a basic storage solution, it’s important to remember that one of OneDrive’s strengths is its integration with Windows and Office, along with its smart features. Completely bypassing these features might not provide the best experience or value compared to other storage solutions that are designed to act purely as “dumb” storage, such as external hard drives or simpler cloud storage services.

If your goal is to have cloud storage that acts more like a traditional hard drive without smart features, you might also consider other services that offer simpler, more straightforward storage solutions, though you’d lose out on OneDrive’s integration with Microsoft products and services.

That’s… an answer. It doesn’t address the question directly, since none of what it describes as a solution looks like a dumb hard drive. In addition, most of the proposed solution is about altering the configuration of the existing OneDrive software, which isn’t what we want either. And if I read it right, there’s one aspect of it that’s flat-out wrong.1

So I tried a different prompt.

My prompt: How can I use OneDrive without having the OneDrive app running?

AI Response:

To use OneDrive without having the OneDrive app constantly running, you can manage your files directly on the OneDrive website. Here’s how you can do it:

    1. Access OneDrive Online: Go to the OneDrive website ( and sign in with your Microsoft account. This gives you access to your files and folders stored in OneDrive without needing the desktop app.
    2. Upload Files/Folders: You can upload files or folders by clicking the “Upload” button and selecting the files or folders you want to add to your OneDrive storage.
    3. Manage Files: Once your files are uploaded, you can create, delete, move, and rename files or folders within the web interface. You can also share files or folders with others by selecting the file and clicking the “Share” button.
    4. Download Files: When you need a file on your computer, simply navigate to the file on the OneDrive website and click the “Download” button.
    5. Use Office Online: If you’re working with Office documents, OneDrive integrates with the Office Online apps, allowing you to open and edit Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote files directly in your web browser.
    6. Set Up File On-Demand (Optional): If you decide to use the OneDrive app minimally, consider enabling the “Files On-Demand” feature. This feature allows you to access your files in OneDrive without having to download them and use storage space on your device. Files you haven’t downloaded appear as available online-only, and you can download them as needed. This requires having the OneDrive app installed, but it doesn’t have to run actively for you to access files.

By using OneDrive through the web interface, you can effectively manage your files without needing the desktop app running in the background. This approach works well for users who prefer not to have additional apps running or those using devices with limited resources.

Remember, while using OneDrive online is convenient for managing files without the app, having the app installed and using features like Files On-Demand can offer a more seamless integration with Windows, giving you easy access to your files directly from File Explorer.

That’s the same only different, again focusing on I didn’t see any mistakes, but it still wasn’t what I was looking for. It did, however, remind me of one aspect (“Use Office Online”) I hadn’t thought of. While that didn’t play into my eventual article, this is the real reason I often throw questions at AI: not to get an answer per se but to remind me of things I hadn’t thought about.

OK, so in this case ideation was kind of a fail. I won’t say that’s common, but it happens. More often than not, I am reminded of something or elect to prioritize or research something based on the AI response.


So, I wrote the article.

In this case, I recorded the video for the article first since I’d be using screenshots from the video in the article itself.

After the video was recorded, I wrote — without any help other than spellcheck — the article itself except for the Summary box. Sometime later but before you see this, my editor will work her magic.


AI’s not bad at summarization. It’s not uncommon for it to pick up on things that my manual summarization might not capture or emphasize appropriately.

My prompt: Please summarize in 50 words or less (followed by the full text of the article)

AI Response:

You can use OneDrive as a “dumb hard drive” by using Mountain Duck, which mounts OneDrive as a virtual drive on your computer. This method doesn’t require the OneDrive app or visiting Mountain Duck lets you access and manage OneDrive storage directly through your file system, bypassing OneDrive’s integration and automation features.

It’s not bad, but it’s not great. And more importantly, it’s not me. Some of the phrasing is not wording I’d use. (AI also apparently can’t count. That’s 54 words, not the requested 50-or-less. Counting seems to be an ongoing AI weak spot.)

The approach that I use, if this initial response feels “close”, is to copy/paste it into my article’s summary and then edit the heck out of it. One thing I added that AI wouldn’t is a little bit of passive-aggressive value judgment calling OneDrive’s integration annoying. Smile

Image ideas

I’m not a very creative person, at least not when it comes to images and illustrations. I’ve been using AI to help me out there for quite a while now. It’s way more “creative” than I am.2

There are two ways I generally have AI help me: ask it to create an image based on the article text or ask it for a list of ideas. For this article, I did the latter.

My prompt: Give me five concepts for images representing the following (followed by the full text of the article, now including the summary)

AI Response:

    1. A Duck Connecting Cables to a Cloud and Computer: Visualize a cartoon duck (as a playful nod to Mountain Duck) in the middle, holding a USB cable in its beak. One end of the cable plugs into a fluffy, cloud-shaped icon labeled “OneDrive,” and the other end connects to a desktop computer. This represents the direct link Mountain Duck establishes between OneDrive cloud storage and a user’s PC, bypassing the need for the OneDrive app.
    2. Old-fashioned Hard Drive with Cloud Patterns: Picture an old-school hard disk drive, but instead of its usual metal casing, it’s adorned with cloud patterns and the OneDrive logo. This represents the concept of using OneDrive as a simple, “dumb” storage device, similar to a traditional hard drive but located in the cloud.
    3. Desktop with Virtual Drive Icon: Show a computer desktop screen with a special icon for a drive labeled “O:” (for OneDrive), alongside other regular hard drive icons. This icon could have a small cloud or the Mountain Duck logo on it, indicating that this drive is actually cloud storage accessed through Mountain Duck, appearing as a local drive on the PC.
    4. A File Explorer Window with OneDrive Folder: Illustrate an open File Explorer window on a computer screen, showing a list of folders where one is labeled as “OneDrive – O:” and contains files and folders just like any local storage. This emphasizes the seamless integration of cloud storage into the local file system through Mountain Duck.
    5. Conceptual Bridge from PC to Cloud: Create an image showing a literal bridge stretching from a computer on one side to a cloud labeled “OneDrive” on the other. A duck could be seen walking across this bridge carrying files back and forth, symbolizing Mountain Duck’s role in bridging local computing and cloud storage without the need for traditional sync mechanisms.

Not bad. Some, like #4, run the risk of confusing folks, but it’s way more than I would come up with.

I kinda liked #1, and elected to go with that.

Image generation

I asked AI to make the image.

My prompt: Please generate a 16:9 image of a cartoon duck (as a playful nod to Mountain Duck) in the middle, holding a USB cable in its beak. One end of the cable plugs into a fluffy, cloud-shaped icon labeled “OneDrive,” and the other end connects to a desktop computer.

AI Response:

DELL-E's duck featured image.
DELL-E’s duck featured image. Click for larger image.

A cartoon duck stands in the middle of a vibrant, digitally illustrated scene, holding a USB cable in its beak. The left end of the USB cable is plugged into a fluffy, cartoonish cloud, adorned with a clear ‘OneDrive’ label, showcasing its identity as cloud storage. The right end of the cable is securely connected to a desktop computer, which is depicted in a playful and slightly exaggerated style to match the whimsical theme of the image. The duck, with a friendly and helpful demeanor, symbolizes the ease and innovation of connecting cloud storage directly to personal computing devices, embodying the concept of using OneDrive as a simple, external hard drive through the assistance of third-party software like Mountain Duck. The background is a simple gradient, focusing attention on the central action without overwhelming the scene.

The text is provided with the image, presumably to describe it. It could be used as the ALT text of the image for screen readers.

Unfortunately, the text is wrong — or rather, the image is wrong. The text more or less accurately expands on and represents what was asked for, but the image does not. The image is close enough for me to use, but it’s not accurately described by the text. This is very common, I’m finding. I did copy the text for the ALT text of the image, but I had to edit it extensively.

Final polish, and another AI

You’ll note that I asked for a “16:9” image, meaning I wanted a traditional HD movie aspect ratio. Unfortunately, that’s not what I need, but it’s the closest I can get out of the AI right now.

What I actually need is 2400:1260 (40/21), supposedly the ideal aspect ratio for Facebook featured images.3

I opened the original in PhotoShop and used what’s called “Generative Expand” to widen the image to the aspect ratio I wanted. That feature uses AI to fill in the areas to expand into. In this case, after centering the image, the colors on the right and left were expanded into the needed area.

I added my typical black border, and that’s the image I used.

A cartoon duck stands in the middle of a vibrant, digitally illustrated scene, holding a USB cable. The left end of the USB cable is plugged into a fluffy, cartoonish cloud.
Click for larger image. (Image: DALL-E 3)

Do this

Don’t write off AI. While I completely agree that there are controversial aspects of its generation and use, it’s turning out to be a very valuable tool to many, including myself.

My newsletter’s not AI either. Subscribe to Confident Computing! Less frustration and more confidence, solutions, answers, and tips in your inbox every week.


I used portions of my process above on the article you’re reading now.

Here’s AI’s un-edited summary:

Leo Notenboom uses AI at Ask Leo! as a tool to assist in writing articles, not for writing them directly. AI helps with ideation, writing support, summarization, and image ideas, although its suggestions are not always accurate or directly useful. Leo emphasizes that while AI is a powerful and fun tool, it requires careful oversight and editing to align with his standards and style.

The featured image was based on the following request:

Please generate a 16:9 illustration showing a man working on his computer with a virtual AI assistant (depicted as a friendly robot or hologram) hovering nearby, suggesting collaboration. The background is filled with digital icons representing technology and creativity, highlighting the partnership between human insight and AI support.

That request was itself based on asking AI for ideas based on the article content.

Podcast audio


Footnotes & References

1: If you disable sync, there’s no way to store things online from the PC other than the preceding point, using online.

2: Particularly over at where I’ve been using it to create feature images.

3: Supposedly. Until they change it. Why 16:9 isn’t ideal, I have no idea. It’s complicated.

3 comments on “How I Use AI at Ask Leo!”

  1. Hi Leo
    Thanks for a very interesting article. May I enquire as to the name of the content editor your are using?

  2. Apart from numbers, AI doesn’t understand prepositions. It wrote “compared to” and that is incorrect. This should be compared with. Three common prepositions used correctly are, opposite to, compared with, different from.


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