Sunday, June 21, 2009

Useful Item #2 - Netbook

Laptops are portable, sort of. They are heavy, most weighing in about six pounds. They don't go very long without power. And what do you do in a library when you have a laptop but need to go get another book?

Netbooks are small laptops, generally with 9-10" screens. They weigh under three pounds. They aren't new. Gateway made tiny laptops in the early 90s but they just didn't sell. Others have made them since. After 17 years their time has finally come.

Mine fits in my purse. Ok, I tend to carry a large purse when I am traveling. The first day after I got mine I shoved it in my purse and carried it around all day, shopping, to lunch, to the library, to the grocery store, etc. It's doable.

The battery keeps going and going and going. The reason is you close the lid and it hibernates. Some manufacturers claim the battery lasts nine hours. Mine does BUT I don't use it steadily for those nine hours.

Two weeks later I went on a two week trip with the netbook as my only computer. Mine has a camera, wi-fi, bluetooth, a 160 GB hard drive and 2 MB of memory. I loaded up my programs, my work files, my pictures, my music [the sound isn't bad] and my genealogy files.

With cloud computing through programs such as Gmail and Evernote, your data is available to you wherever you are. More and more storage is available that way. My netbook came with 10 GB cloud file storage. Windows Live provides free cloud file storage. Cloud computing is the future.

There is no CD drive. To add a program you need to download it, install it from an external CD drive, copy it to the netbook across your network or copy it to a flash drive and then use that as your installation disk.

Some come with wireless cards. In fact, you can get a pretty inexpensive netbook with a built in wireless card if you sign a two year wireless contract. For about $30 a month you can "tether" your netbook to your smartphone to connect -- which sounds cumbersome to me. Or you can connect when you are at one of an ever growing number of places with free wi-fi access, places from city parks to fast food outlets. It's a great excuse to go to Dairy Queen.

The screen IS small for reading long documents but that's what scrolling is for. I wouldn't want to do eight hours of work on it. That's really the only downside. My biggest gripe is the inability to disable the built in touchpad to use a wireless mouse. There is a way to do it but it just doesn't work. I finally cut a piece of lightweight cardboard and taped it over the touchpad. That effectively eliminated about 85% of the problem. If you use the touchpad you don't have this problem.

I think a netbook is the perfect tool for research trips.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Useful Item #1 -- Smartphone

I recently got a couple new items that are quite useful. And they turn out to be useful for genealogy too. I finally gave in and replaced my antique with a new cell phone. I really don't even like having a cell phone. That has changed, at least in part. I still refuse to have it permanently attached.

I bought a Blackberry Curve. That's an older model with a keyboard made up of tiny but typeable keys and a 2 x 1.5" screen, not large. It's pink, dubbed Pinkberry, and in a neon pink case. It's easy to see.

The first thing I learned, quite by accident, was you can take a picture with the cell phone and then you can email it to yourself or anyone else, even post it to various online sites, regardless of where you are. Even if you can't figure out how to get it off the cell phone you have the picture. Later I learned that with the new phones you can easily get your pictures from the phone to the computer but I've gotten used to emailing them.

Soon I was taking pictures of everything. It's so easy. Your cell phone is always handy, much handier [and lighter] than the camera I always carry in my purse, and always ready. No copy machine. No problem. Click. I wasn't planning to stop at this cemetery and now look what I found! Click. You can even make a video if great aunt decides to spill the beans.

The smartphone holds more useful tools. Where exactly is that cemetery? Just look it up on the internet on your cell phone. You can even get GPS on the phone if you need such things. I looked up a cemetery layout on my web site when I couldn't find a particular stone. Even in the middle of nowhere I could do it. If you think you'll do a lot of looking up things online I suggest you look for a large screen phone but it is doable on the smaller screen.

Mine also has a calculator, note pad, voice recorder, maps, a calendar and Evernote, the program I cannot live without. The phone version, at least for my older version phone, is not that impressive but I can take notes and I can connect to the internet and use it there. For work we keep an assortment of information in Evernote too. Evernote is pretty critical to me and having it on the phone factored into the choice.

As far as I know there is no genealogy program for the Blackberry. If your smartphone uses Windows Mobile there is a genealogy program for it. I'm not hot to read my genealogy on that small screen so it wasn't something I considered.

I'm sure there are many other things you can do with a smartphone. If you are in the market I suggest determining what is available, what you will actually use [as opposed to might when stranded on an island] and then narrowing down your choices. I did that, went home with the information and researched for another week, went back with a phone in mind. When I got to the store I had two more questions. The answers totally changed the phone I finally chose [and saved a chunk of money]. So ask a lot of questions.

I have not scratched the surface of the Blackberry's talents and probably never will. For me it is a tool and not a toy. My life does not depend upon it. But it is useful and for the first time I'm happy to have a cell phone.

My package includes sending the pictures from phone to phone. That package also includes unlimited text messaging. I find myself using it more and more. I'd really rather get a text message than a phone call if it is just pass information. So much less intrusive. [HINT]

Friday, June 05, 2009

Blog Hits Pay Dirt

On February 1 I wrote about Berryman B. Wood, my great great grandfather. I have some pictures and a lot of questions.

As a result I have heard from several people. Two are relatives who have never lived in Logan County. The first is a granddaughter of his son, also Berryman B. Wood, who moved to Minnesota. When I was a child her twin aunts and their husbands [brothers] visited several times. Marlys resides in Minnesota. She has some great pictures.

Tessa wrote that she was related to a cousin. I hear that a lot and it invariably turns out to my relative's husband. But Tessa said no, she is a 3 great granddaughter of Berryman and a great granddaughter of my great aunt Mary. Her family had been the subject of discussion just days before. As soon as we had the connection figured out I heard from her aunt who lives directly across the state from me.

Tessa, young as she is, has been researching for about 15 years. She had lots of information. She even has a possible death date for Berryman. And yes, she has pictures, lots of pictures. Her great grandmother and my grandmother were sisters. I am having a great time with the pictures.

We've been trading all the stories about family skeletons. The infamous ones were in the family only by marriage but we have some that are almost as good who are blood relatives.

Eventually we should be able to draw a much more complete picture of this family line.