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Where have my photos gone?

29 Jun

This should have been the next installment of my series of Sussex Day 2012 posts, but I turned on my PC this evening only to find my external hard drive sitting there doing nothing.

I am pretty sure that it is a power supply problem, which will hopefully be fixed in a matter of days thanks to Amazon, but it is nevertheless rather frustrating not being able to get at my photos.

It is especially frustrating because I hadn’t made a backup copy of these photos yet. I would normally have burnt a copy of them onto a DVD by now but I have been a bit lazy over the last few months.

Even if it is a complete hard drive failure then I won’t have lost anything of great significance, I have alternative backups of important stuff, so no need to panic or lose any sleep tonight.

It probably is a good reminder to make sure my backups are done on a regular basis.

Copyright © 2012 John Gasson.
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The S&N Story – twenty years of genealogy supplies

18 Mar

As well as providing news of their latest offerings and Who Do You Think You Are? Live, the latest S&N Genealogy email newsletter provides a link to an interesting article marking their 20th anniversary.

Twenty years ago family history was very different to what it is today. The idea of genealogy data being available anywhere other than archives was almost unthinkable. As we know that has all changed and one of the companies that helped make those changes was S&N Genealogy.

It is fascinating to read how the business has grown and evolved, often leading the way in a world that was becoming increasingly digital and internet orientated.

I remember those early days (although not the full twenty years ago) when only the 1881 census (in the form of a transcript from Familysearch) and 1901 census (after it’s initial teething troubles) were available digitally, so to fill in the gap I ordered the 1891 Sussex Census CD set from S&N.

This served me well until the images became available online, indexed as well. I still have the CDs in a drawer somewhere, now superceded by internet access, including S&N’s TheGenealogist website.

Congratulations S&N on your 20th anniversary, it has been an interesting 20 years. I look forward to the next couple of decades.

Copyright © 2012 John Gasson.
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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons
Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License

The Tech Savvy Genealogists’ Meme

20 Sep

On the day they opened up Google+ to all and sundry (but I still can’t be bothered to join) I decided it was about time I completed The Tech Savvy Genealogists’ Meme (thanks Geniaus), if only to show what a luddite I am (or that you can live without Facebook and Twitter).

I am sure you know how the list works by now, but just in case:

Things you have already done or found: bold face type
Things you would like to do or find: italicize (colour optional)
Things you haven’t done or found and don’t care to: plain type

You will see there is lots of plain type, but no italics, the reason for that probably being that if I had wanted to do it I probably would have done it by now. Anyway here goes:

  1. Own an Android or Windows tablet or an iPad
  2. Use a tablet or iPad for genealogy related purposes
  3. Have used Skype for genealogy purposes
  4. Have used a camera to capture images in a library/archives/ancestor’s home [have you seen the cost of photocopies these days?]
  5. Use a genealogy software program on your computer to manage your family tree
  6. Have a Twitter account
  7. Tweet daily
  8. Have a genealogy blog [I think so]
  9. Have more than one genealogy blog
  10. Have lectured/presented to a genealogy group on a technology topic
  11. Currently an active member of Genealogy Wise
  12. Have a Facebook Account
  13. Have connected with genealogists via Facebook
  14. Maintain a genealogy related Facebook Page
  15. Maintain a blog or website for a genealogy society
  16. Have submitted text corrections online to Ancestry, Trove or a similar site
  17. Have registered a domain name [several over the years]
  18. Post regularly to Google+
  19. Have a blog listed on Geneabloggers
  20. Have transcribed/indexed records for FamilySearch or a similar project
  21. Own a Flip-Pal or hand-held scanner [it is difficult scanning sections of 4′ x 3′ maps without a hand-held scanner]
  22. Can code a webpage in .html [but haven’t done so in years]
  23. Own a smartphone
  24. Have a personal subscription to one or more paid genealogy databases
  25. Use a digital voice recorder to record genealogy lectures
  26. Have contributed to a genealogy blog carnival [I really miss the Festival of Postcards]
  27. Use Chrome as a Browser
  28. Have participated in a genealogy webinar
  29. Have taken a DNA test for genealogy purposes
  30. Have a personal genealogy website
  31. Have found mention of an ancestor in an online newspaper archive
  32. Have tweeted during a genealogy lecture
  33. Have scanned your hardcopy genealogy files [ditch the paper, it wastes too much space]
  34. Use an RSS Reader to follow genealogy news and blogs
  35. Have uploaded a gedcom file to a site like Geni, MyHeritage or Ancestry
  36. Own a netbook
  37. Use a computer/tablet/smartphone to take genealogy lecture notes
  38. Have a profile on LinkedIn that mentions your genealogy habit
  39. Have developed a genealogy software program, app or widget
  40. Have listened to a genealogy podcast online
  41. Have downloaded genealogy podcasts for later listening [something to do on my way to work]
  42. Backup your files to a portable hard drive
  43. Have a copy of your genealogy files stored offsite [several copies in fact]
  44. Know about Rootstech [just because I know about it doesn’t mean I am interested in it]
  45. Have listened to a Blogtalk radio session about genealogy [not listened live, see No. 41]
  46. Use Dropbox, SugarSync or other service to save documents in the cloud [don’t trust clouds, they often bring rain with them]
  47. Schedule regular email backups [do it manually, but anything important is copied elsewhere anyway]
  48. Have contributed to the Familysearch Wiki
  49. Have scanned and tagged your genealogy photographs [scanned them, but not felt the need to tag them yet]
  50. Have published a genealogy book in an online/digital format

So there you go, 18 out of 50 and proud of it, especially not being on Facebook, Twitter, Genealogy Wise or Google+. In fact it is a little but higher than I expected. I do however resent getting a point for knowing about Rootstech, when I would be quite happy not knowing about it, but I cannot un-know about it now.

If it ain’t broke…

31 Mar

Despite my general lack of interest in the latest technology I do try to keep my software up to date, especially when it doesn’t cost me any money. It made sense to upgrade my web browser to Firefox 4, it was supposed to be quicker and more secure after all.

The upgrade was straight-forward, it took a while to get used to the slightly different appearance and I can’t say that I noticed any increase in speed and take their word for it that it is more secure.

Disaster (OK, perhaps that I a bit too strong a word for it) came a couple of days ago when I tried to use the Enhanced Image Viewer on Everything looked fine to start with (the scroll bars still didn’t work but I am used to that) but the problems started when I tried to save an image.

The first image saved fine, but when I tried another the browser started playing up. When the dialog box opened up and I tried to type in a filename the browser would freeze for a minute or so and I couldn’t type anything or it would let me type a few characters before locking up. Eventually the page disappeared and I was left to try again.

The only workaround appeared to be to close the browser down after saving an image and then opening it up again and moving on to the next image, not really a practical solution for a family historian short on time. I probably could have viewed the images without the Enhanced Image Viewer, but I do quite like the functionality it provides, so I have downgraded to Firefox 3.6 for now.

I was trying to keep up to date, but in this case technology has let me down. I don’t know who is to blame, presumably Mozilla have updated something and Ancestry need to update their viewer to take that into account.

Still, it is rather frustrating and I wasted too much of my time trying to get it to work and then having to roll-back to Firefox 3.6, so please get it fixed Ancestry or tell me how I can make it work properly.

The hidden cost of online storage and backup

3 Mar

There are many different options available now for online storage, backup and synchronisation and a range of charges for these services. Many providers offer free storage space, but there is a hidden cost that will affect many users.

My current broadband package has a monthly usage limit of 10GB, which is just about enough for me at the moment, but if I was to start using an online backup service and start uploading large chunks of data, it could quite easily push me over the limit.

Of course there are ways around it, I could increase my usage limit or just go over the limit and pay the extra charges, but either way there is an extra expense that needs to be considered.

Ultimately I know that I will need to upgrade my broadband account in the future, but until that time I am going to stick with burning DVDs of my data on a regular basis and storing them off-site as part of my backup routine.

A backup wake-up call

30 Jan

Last night I received a nasty reminder from my computer on the importance of having a good backup.

It was around 10 o’clock and I had just finished working on my family history for the night and started my nightly backup routine. I synchronised my family history files to my USB flash drive, my grab and run emergency backup (and netbook synchroniser).

I started the synchronisation to my external hard drive and was met with a couple of error messages, to the effect that the external hard drive didn’t exist. Surely there must be some mistake, I thought, it had probably been assigned the wrong drive letter.

I opened Windows Explorer and there it was, with the correct drive letter and it looked like all the folders were there. As I drilled down I found each folder was in fact empty. All my files had gone.

I stopped and thought about it, this was my backup, I still had the original files on my PC and my USB flash drive. There were a few non-genealogy files lost that didn’t really matter, but the external hard drive stores all my digital photos. Fortunately they are all backed up on DVD and stored off-site, so I hadn’t lost anything important, it would just be annoying to have to replace the external hard drive and start again.

But something still didn’t seem right, surely the files couldn’t just disappear and leave the folders where they are, that didn’t sound like hard drive failure? The more I thought about it the more it didn’t seem right. Something told my they were still there but I couldn’t see them.

So I did the most obvious thing and rebooted my PC. Of course when the system came back up all the files were there present and correct. I ran my backups successfully and shut the system down.

Does this mean my external hard drive is on the way out or is my PC getting it’s USB connections confused? I don’t know, but it sure made me stop and think. I would consider my backup regime pretty good, but those few minutes of lost data really made me wonder if it would all work if I had to restore my files.

Not only am I going to give my external hard drive a thorough going over, I am going to review what is actual stored on it. I shall probably burn a couple more copies of my digital photos and hide them away somewhere else. Truth is I can probably delete a load of those photos, just because I have the space to store them isn’t an excuse for not going through and deleting the rubbish.

No genealogy again!

12 Dec

Today is the second Saturday in a row where I have not really done any family history work.

Today was mainly devoted to getting my new PC up and running, and this is the first post written using my (nearly) new PC and Windows Live Writer, which must mean that everything is working properly.

There wasn’t really any problem with installing everything, I have all the CDs and licences, but what was really time-consuming was getting everything set up just the way I like it.

Family Historian is the best example, there are so many different settings and customizations that you can do, it took forever to get it back to what I am used to.

Apart from removing a couple of bits from my old PC (the CD/DVD writer and USB expansion card) it is now sitting unwanted on the floor. I’m not sure what I will do with it, I am reluctant to throw it away, but I’m not sure anyone else would get any further use from it either.

I’ve just remembered one thing I haven’t plug in and installed yet, that is my printer/scanner/copier. I am hoping not to use the printer too much, but the scanner I couldn’t live without.

Perhaps once I have that up and running I can spend a bit of time on my family tree, on second thoughts, perhaps I have spent enough time on my various computers today.

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