Notes from the past…


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Monday Madness: A Question of Back-ups

We all know how important it is to make off-site back-ups of our genealogical data. Watched the news this past weekend? Did you see what’s left of the Dallas Cowboys practice facility in Irving, Texas after a fierce storm and microburst winds hit the structure? Well, that same storm came through my neighborhood only about 20 minutes before it hit Irving. I was headed to Sonic for my daily Dr Pepper fix and suddenly found myself in the middle of 50-mile-per-hour winds, heavy rain and marble-sized hail. I’m talking very sudden! In about 5 minutes the weather went from cloudy but calm and dry to severe storm with lightening, hail, high winds and lots of rain. Fortunately, my house is a bit sturdier than the Cowboys house. The point is, things happen! Weather, hard drive crashes, thieves… it can happen. Don’t wait until after the disaster to wish your data was safe!

I have my genealogy data backed up on an external hard drive and also a USB thumb drive. Ok. But I also want it “in the clouds”, online somewhere, to be extra safe. Also so that I can access the data if I’m somewhere and don’t have my thumb drive handy.

I have been slowly uploading my images to My Picasa Web Album. I’ve been uploading them as I “complete” each surname study. A good start, but taking too long. As an example, I have been seriously studying my McBurnetts for a couple of months now, so at that rate it will be years before all my images are in the web album. But that’s ok, because the uploading process is part of the investigative process, and I want to be as thorough as possible.

But I still want my data safely online, as soon as possible. Remember, I live in Tornado Alley…

Several months ago, I began reading about Mozy, the online backup service. Sounded good, so I gave it a shot. The service will automatically upload your data, as background activity. Ok. So I signed up for it and the uploading process began. This went on for several days, and my computer was virtually worthless during that time period. I have a 3-year-old Dell 710m Inspiron laptop. Not lightening-fast brand new, but not a dinosaur either. My Internet connection is DSL, usually pretty fast. But while Mozy was doing its thing, my little laptop turned to molasses, it seemed. It took forever just to read the online newspaper!  After about 5 days of this sludge, my data was still nowhere near finished uploading, maybe because Mozy kept stopping and restarting. I finally gave up on it. I understand that a big bunch of folks use Mozy and are quite satisfied, but not me. So I just continued with my external hard drive…

Last week, I read a post from Elyse about how she backs up her data using Windows Skydrive. 25 GB free storage is plenty for me! So I went to the Skydrive site and signed up. Simple. I started uploading my data. Simple. The only drawback that I can see with SkyDrive is that you can’t upload entire folders, only 1 file at a time. But, hey, it’s free. Also there’s the Big, Bad Microsoft to deal with. A lot of folks don’t like Microsoft and don’t trust Microsoft. I personally have never had any problems, but then I don’t upload any “sensitive” data, like personal financial stuff. But to some, Microsoft is a stigma.

Overall, I was pleased with SkiDrive. Slow, but secure.

Then a comment from Bobby mentioned ADrive. 50 GB free storage, and the ability to upload entire files or directories. So off to ADrive I went. I read through the site and was impressed. My entire My Documents is only 17 GB, mostly digital photos, and the genealogy folder is 2.4 GB, so 50 GB is more than plenty. I signed up and began setting up my storage system. I created folders mirroring my hard drive organization, so everything is easy to find. My biggest folder within my genealogy folder contains about 800 images of family that my uncle gave me. Most of these photos are from about 1960 forward. Not many really old pix, but still valuable. I set that to upload last night before I went to bed, and when I got up this morning, the upload was just finishing.

Here’s what my files look like:

ADrive1

My plan is to set the upload every night before I go to bed. I’ll let you know how long the entire process takes.


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Another death in the family? Maybe not…

As genealogists, we frequently reference the deaths of ancestors. This is different kind of death, however:

GeoCities seems to be on its last breaths:

Current GeoCities customers:

I don’t have a site at GeoCities, so why do I care if they are shutting down their free accounts?

Well, there are a lot of free GeoCities sites devoted to genealogy. There is a lot of valuable data at these sites. And many have not been updated in several years. Although inactive, they still contain a lot of valuable data. And since they have not been updated in years, the webmasters of these sites may not be aware of the impending demise of GeoCities.
So, “later this year”, whenever that is, (perhaps tomorrow?) these sites and this data will be lost forever!
A distant cousin has a GeoCities site that contains oodles of McBurnett data. True, very little of this info has online sources or documentation. But, of what I have gotten from this site, I have been able to document almost all of it through Ancestry, Footnote, Family Search, etc. And my sources support her data at her GeoCities site. (I like to do things backwards :) )
I emailed this distant cousin and suggested she move her site to RootWeb or somewhere (anywhere!) before it’s too late. The address I have is old, so I don’t know if it’s still correct. Or maybe she won’t be interested in moving her site. I hope she will move it. But if she doesn’t move it, it will soon….be….gone….forever….!
There is still hope, however.
Dick Eastman posted about this situation this morning. And he suggested doing something that I had not thought of:
Copying an entire web site to your local hard drive is rather easy to do. I wrote about that several years ago for Windows users at http://blog.eogn.com/eastmans_online_genealogy/2005/12/copy_an_entire_.html and for Macintosh users at http://blog.eogn.com/eastmans_online_genealogy/2007/09/copy-an-entire-.html. Both products have been updated since those articles were written but the process remains the same.

You do not need to know any user names or passwords to copy publicly-available web sites. In fact, you can even copy web sites that you do not own…

I clicked on his link for Windows users, and in that post he recommends an open-source (free!) program called HTTrack Website Copier. Ok, Dick knows what he’s talking about, so I’ll give it a try.

I downloaded the first version listed, WinHTTrack : Windows 95/98/NT/2K/XP (also included: command line version).

That took maybe two minutes to download with my DSL connection. Then I installed the program, another minute maybe. I ran the program as is with its default settings, entered the address of my cousin’s site and pressed <next>, then <finish>.

I sat back and watched for a few seconds as the program began to download the website’s files. I expected this to take quite some time, so I started playing with my cellphone as I waited. After about 2 minutes, the program made a wierd noise and announced that the mirroring operation was completed!

I clicked on <Browse Mirrored Website>….

…and there on my hard drive, in a folder that I had created in my McBurnett surname folder, was her entire Geocities site, snug as a bug! All of the links worked (she used GedHTree to display her gedcom as html), all the data was there, everything.

I am thrilled, let me tell you. And this just might be the simplest “geeky” thing that I’ve ever done. My cat could have done it, I swear! Her entire site added up to only 10 MB on my hard drive.

So folks, if you have a GeoCities site of your own, or use someone else’s site in your research, don’t wait to take action. It would truly be a tragedy to lose all of these sites and all of their wonderful genealogical data!


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Store those .pdf files online… for free!

It seems most free online image-storing sites don’t deal with .pdf files. Flickr and Picasa Web Albums, the 2 that I have dealt with, don’t store .pdf files.

I have collected quite a few .pdf files in my research, many are newspaper articles from GenealogyBank. Even though I backup my files fairly frequently, I still want everything to be safe online, too. The solution?

WordPress.com’s Media Library!

WordPress.com allows .pdf file upload and storage. Even if I’m not using the .pdf file in a post or on my Documents page, I can still upload it to the Media Library. WordPress.com gives its users 3 GB storage per account for free, and upgrades are available if you need more space. 3 GB is a lot of room!

Just another reason why I like WordPress!