04 October 2011

Dick Eastman on Keeping Up with Technology

I traveled last Saturday to Bellville, Ohio, to attend the 2011 Ohio Genealogical Society Fall Seminar, which featured Dick Eastman lecturing on “Keeping Up with Technology.”
He gave four presentations to about 85 members and guests. To accommodate the crowd, OGS arranged to hold the conference at Citi Church, about a half a mile from the OGS Library and headquarters.
Eastman’s first presentation was about “The Organized Genealogist.” During this presentation, he expressed his views on several topics: 1. Searching for information with Google and RSS. 2. Backups. 3. Digitizing research results.
Eastman noted that Google’s mission statement includes the company aim “to organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful.” He stressed that this aim includes more than just information found on the Internet, and that it is a long-term goal.
Google indexes static pages, and as a result it is great for finding pages of this type. Static web pages are those that don't change until the owner uploads revised pages. Most personal web pages are static. Google will find most of the information posted on static pages.
Eastman pointed out that Google does not produce search results for dynamic web pages. It cannot go in and extract information from dynamic websites.  Pages offered by these websites change frequently. They may even be created only at the moment you ask for them. In response to your request, a database provider’s computer system works behind the scenes, searching its databases and serving up a results page. This is transferred via the Internet to your computer where a copy is held as long as you look at it. If you go back later and request the same info, the page is recreated and downloaded to your computer again.
Eastman talked about using Google’s special syntaxes to specify languages, set up filtering, and request file in certain formats, i. e., to obtain only the search results you want. This can be done manually, but the easiest way to do this is with Google’s advanced search feature.
He also discussed the cache function on Google. As it indexes a web page, Google makes a new copy and retains a copy of a previous page in a cache. Both types show up in search results. The cache copy may be useful when the indexed page is has changed its contents.
RSS, according to Eastman, is a wonderful tool. For most people, the acronym means  Really Simple Syndication. It automates the search for a topic or subject. It enables you to look for newly changed or newly available information without doing the search yourself. To implement RSS for a website you want to follow, copy the RRS feed link from the website, and paste it into your RSS news reader. Google offers an RSS news reader at no charge, and there are others.
Eastman recommended that your data should exist in three versions: 1. Original. 2. Local Backup. 3. Offsite Backup. For convenience, always keep a backup on a hard drive, cd, dvd, or flash drive. This is your Local Backup. Eastman wants to have his original material ready for use at any time. For this purpose, he uses a 32 GB jump drive. For Offsite Backup, there are several services that will back up your files to their servers. Many of these online services offer free backup to 5 GB. Eastman also backs up his files onto a DVD and stores it offsite--at his daughter’s house.
Digitizing documents and photos is important for several reasons: 1. Improve an original photo, using Photoshop or some other photo manipulation program. 2. Share a document or photo with others. 3. Preservation. 4. Reduce the storage space required.
Eastman said, “I am in the process of scanning all of my papers, books, magazines and genealogy documents. And I am destroying most of the originals--on a selective basis.” He is working to downsize the amount of storage space he needs.

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