Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Instagram for luddites

The one bit of social media that I use regularly is Instagram, mainly because my middle school daughter has a couple of accounts, and I like to keep track of her and her friends. (Yes, I'm one of THOSE moms). But it's really a lot of fun to see the pictures that she wants to share, and the things that she writes to accompany them, a terrifying insight into the 6th grade mind. My account is personal and private, primarily to amuse my daughter and her young friends, so I post photos of our pets and my daughter. I was on a trip to SLC recently and I posted daily so she could see the weather (60 degrees? Really?) and some interesting places I visited that she's familiar with. Though I didn't post photos of the Family History Library where I spent 3 glorious days, I posted images of restaurants that I visited and local sites. Instagram is an app that you can download to a tablet or smartphone, and I haven't yet tried to figure it out on my laptop but you can access it online as well.

As far as a useful genealogy tool, I can imagine that if you were doing a group family history project, it might be nice to post images of documents that you discover in your research. And what a great way for families to share photos that they have in their collection! I've heard of people using it as a research log, where you could take a picture of a genealogical find, and then add the citation in the notes section. Not exactly the best way to track research, but what ever works for you.

It also a great way to promote your business, though I choose not to use it for that purpose. Similar to a twitter account (I would have to assume that because I don't do twitter), it could be used to update your followers on where you'll be speaking, or something new and interesting that you've found and want to share, and any promotions that might be new and exciting. The biggest drawback to the social media aspect of modern technology, in the mind of a true luddite like myself, is that it takes time to update everything, to be constantly searching for and creating new content, when what I'd really rather be doing is researching and writing! But this might be a quick and easy way to create fun content to share with your followers!

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Do I note everything in Evernote?

Evernote (https://evernote.com/) is a great program that is supposed to save everything in the world to one place and have it at your fingertips. It's the newest piece of software that I've tried, and so far, I'm liking it. I have the app on my phone, and the program on my laptop. I bit the bullet for the premium account, since it allows for more uploads and I haven't yet hit my limit. I find that the most useful thing that I've been able to do so far is to take pictures of documents on my phone and save them directly into the correct "Notebook" on my Evernote account and after I "sync," I then have the photos added to my laptop files in the right client files.

For now, I'm mostly using it as a research log for various client projects. If I'm at a particular repository working on a surname, I'll save images of various documents into a file, and then have that file or "note" put into a notebook. I can then annotate the note with citation information, and highlight significant areas of the document with arrows or notes. The date the note was created is supplied directly to the note so you know when you looked at the materials (hence it's usefulness as a research log).

It's very simple to use, and it helps me stay organized. Probably one of the most useful research log-type features is the ability to create a note directly from a website. You can just make note of part of the site or the whole thing, which makes creating citations a lot easier, since you have the web address as well as the date you accessed it automatically added to the note. It allows me to put all my notes for one research project into one file including web searches, textual notes, and images of documents. You can tag the type of note it is to allow searching when you have bazillions of notes. I've been categorizing things by surname, first name, record type and location so far. I may add tags as I continue such as repository tags (so I know where I was), and I'm always looking for helpful suggestions.

There are a ridiculous number of ways that I've been using it (including for types of cheese I want to try) and I'm sure that I'm not even maximizing its value for a professional researcher. That's why I plan to attend Lisa Louise Cook's Evernote talk at the FGS/RootsTech conference coming up in Salt Lake City in February (https://www.fgsconference.org/program/tracks/).

Next time, I'll talk about the latest social media site that I use primarily for my personal life, though am thinking about leveraging for research, Instagram.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

I've learned something new. I'm a pathetic blogger. I see so many of my genealogy colleagues with fabulous blog posts coming out daily, and I think..."wow, I love reading their posts!" They're all connected to update with links on their facebook, twitter and linked in accounts and websites. I'm not there yet. I'm not sure that I'll ever be a completely comfortable modern media person. I still write in my journal, by hand.

So as I reflect back to when I started this blog, and what I wanted to learn, I ask whether I've achieved non-luddite status. I realize that I don't want to achieve status in any way. I like not being hip to the latest social media, and not being constantly connected. I'm still just trying to sort through all the ads I get in my email mailbox when I order something online from a new company. (Sometimes, I don't even realize I'm signing up "to receive special offers." Every day, come on... how much did your sales change since yesterday.)

But I have found several new business helps and one fun new app that I use daily. The first one that I've discovered is called Klok (http://www.getklok.com/). I was looking for an easy time tracking program that I could use for my client research, so I would be able to track the time spent researching and writing. I could then total the billable hours and enter them into my financial management software. This is easy to use, easy to add projects and turn the timing on and off. I can even change the entries if I find I got distracted and forgot to turn it off when I finished my work. It allows me to see how many billable hours I've gotten in for a week, and on which projects. There's a new mobile app that I may try, especially since I'm often out doing research at a repository, and may forget to turn it on on the laptop. I entered non-billable hour activities as well, and if I used it religiously, I'd see where my time was going, playing Mahjong and reading Facebook (and deleting those emails from my inbox). Still working on the using it religiously part. More soon.

The other one I've been using is Evernote (https://evernote.com/). I had heard at previous conferences people talking about how Evernote was such a great tool, and learned a bit about it. I had to give up on my previous software, ByGones, since I couldn't find it on my hard drive. Please don't ask about that. Anyway, Evernote is really great and in my next post, I'll tell you why I like it, and what I do with it.

If you check out that, I'll tell you about my fun one!

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Smart Phones and Operator Error

While my life gets in the way of blogging, I have to say that my smart phone is often what keeps me on track and helps me get done what needs to be done.

About a year ago, I decided I wanted to get a smart phone. My phone contract was up and though I had liked the slide out keyboard for texting, I wasn't sure about the touch screen. My husband has a blackberry and has used it for years to get his email on his phone. Since I've been spending a lot of time working on genealogy research around the state,  I figured it would allow me to not be out of touch all day while I was working at libraries and clerk's offices.  I got a Motorola Droid 2 Global with a slide out keyboard, and after more than a year of discovering all the amazing things that it can do, I can't imagine life without it.

For genealogical research, there are primarily three functions that I use every day, and a bunch of those "apps" that make research a whole lot easier. Beyond the standard talking and testing that I do with my family, my phone allows me to leave a bunch of stuff at home. First, I love having email come to my phone. Not having to break out my laptop to check email is quite a treat, particularly in places without wi-fi. Next, the camera on the phone has replaced the digital camera that I used to lug on every research trip. And lastly, the navigator/GPS feature which gives turn by turn directions to obscure locations that I would have previously needed to print out google maps beforehand, or wrestled with our Magellan GPS. That means two devices that I no longer have to carry with me on my travels, and worry about if they are charged or have extra batteries.

And that doesn't even touch the various apps that can allow you to access Ancestry.com trees on your phone, update your research logs and access books, the web and files all in a handy little palm sized device. The other fabulous thing my phone can do is be a mobile wifi hot spot so if I'm working in places without wifi, like most town clerk's offices, I can still access the internet with my computer.

It was definitely worth overcoming my technophobia to upgrade to the smart phone, and now I'm working on convincing my husband to give up his blackberry and wake up to the world of touch screens and android apps! Best device EVER for a genealogist on the road, and next time, I'll talk about some of my favorite apps!

Friday, March 16, 2012

Printers and scanners

I wrote last about my new laptop, and now, 2 months later, I think I have most data transferred and I can figure out where most of the stuff ended up. The problem that took a while to deal with is the old 3-in-1 Lexmark that I had been using. This thing was a beast and took up a lot of space, but I liked it because I knew how to work it, and it didn't give me too much trouble until I upgraded to Windows 7. No drivers for Windows 7 because the printer is too old, I assume. I would send things to print, they would print, but then they wouldn't delete, so I had to turned the thing off and back on again to clear the spool thingy. I got pretty good at doing it with my big toe, since it is under the table near my desk. Not very convenient for loading paper, but the only space that I had.

So, in a household with 3 printers, 2 of which are Lexmarks with flatbed scanners, I swapped out the big beast for a smaller, sleeker wireless network model that almost works the way the other did. It's a bit newer and I think that I have it set up to do almost everything but scan to the new laptop. It scans beautifully, but again, it doesn't like Windows 7, so I have to send the scans to the house desktop downstairs, an old XP system, go and save them to a jump drive, yadda yadda yadda. I'm sure there's a more efficient way to do it, but at the time I needed the scanner and was changing printers,  I was of course on a deadline and didn't want to futz around, figuring out the gorey details. Alternatively, I can use the old beast with the old desktop for scanning and that works really well. It seems to me that trying to troubleshoot wastes more time than I'm willing to spend, it's easier and faster for me to do what I know how to do, rather than look at all the twain things and whatever all else is going on in the background. But as long as it gets the job done, I don't suppose there's too much to do about it except live with the little inconveniences. Of course, I could go out and buy a new printer scanner, but then I would have to install it, you get the idea. Although, that might be a way for me to learn something new...

Friday, January 6, 2012

New Year, New Computer, New Laments

Now that the holidays are over, and I'm back to work (sort of), the biggest thing to work on learning is the new laptop my husband bought for me. Of course, that's probably just so that I don't continue to call him saying "my laptop's frozen up, and I can't this thing opened to do your bookkeeping right now!" And "Can you get this thing to run faster?" Or "Why is this thing running so slowly?" Notice how I generally refer to it as "this thing?" As much as I've been thrilled to have a "new" laptop, apparently they don't make things like they used to, and a 3 year old refurbished computer that you've had for 2 years really doesn't get it done.

So, I got a new one. The first one that he brought home had a fabulous 17" screen that he thought I would love, since I don't use a separate monitor. Pretty much everything I do is on the laptop, including the keyboard, and the mouse. I had a separate webcam that I plug in when I need it, and the printer of course. But, he figured he was doing my eyes a favor. And he was! Except that he wasn't going to be doing my back any favors. The thing weighed a ton! And since I'm generally cruising around the State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations with my laptop, I did NOT want to be lugging that 10 pound weight across my back.

So we settled on a smallesr one, which I like very much. It has a built in webcam, a keypad for numbers (I didn't have that before, and with the accounting, it's nice to just turn on the number lock and go). Since I had been at about capacity with my old 55GB hard drive (why does this stuff take up so much room?) It's nice to have a nice big partitioned hard drive and a whole mess of RAM. I remember the days when it was an upgrade to get 256MB of memory. This one has 8 GB! Not that I would presume to know what that means, I just know that the thing is blazing fast, and though I'm still getting used to the keyboard, I really like it.

The biggest issue is transferring all the old stuff to the new computer. An external hard drive and a girlfriend with way saavy computer skills is a must for this project. Then there's all the new software you have to deal with, and finding where everything is!

The first day I started working on reloading the software, I dropped the whole thing, and bent the door on the DVD tray. I just about cried, but nothing like a couple of screwdrivers and a set of needlenose pliers (and above mentioned computer saavy girlfriend with mad skills!) to set everything back where it belongs. Probably the biggest new thing I've learned is that these new laptops are slippery little suckers. After the DVD door incident, it slid off my laptop desk and luckily I caught the thing with my foot!

  The new OS is OK, somewhat hard to find stuff. I've always used microsoft XP, but now have MS 7, and everything looks weird. I'm sure after a while, it'll be second nature, and I'll have definitely learned at least one new thing today.