Saturday, 28 December 2019


Well it’s almost the end of the  year and that means a new diary.

So, why in 2020 do I still use a diary?

It’s not as if I’m technophobic, I was an early and enthusiastic adopter of the Palm pilot, so much so that around about 2000 I simply stopped using my diary as an appointment book, and then there was a gap of around seven or eight years when I simply didn’t use a diary.

And then I started using them again, simply because I started travelling for work and using a diary as a planning tool gave me visibility of what I was doing and where I would be. It also had the advantage that you could stick postit notes in it on appropriate pages with names of hotels, airport shuttle booking numbers and the rest to save wading through a loosleaf folder full of booking dockets.

I use to favour the Leuchturm planner diaries with a week on the left and a notes page on the right, and what I would do is write down a two or three line summary of any important meeting such as a meeting, and system upgrade or a system failure of some sort.

I was even geeky enough to use different coloured inks for notes relating to different projects.

And then what I would do is, at the end of the week, scan the diary and notes page - the Leuchturm books opened flat to A4 - for that week and save it in Evernote, which made compiling project progress reports and activity reports a hell of a lot easier and less of a work of fiction that they might otherwise have been.

After I retired I carried on with my Leuchturm planners for a couple of years, but this year, 2019 I used a more normal week to a page diary with any notes simply attached to a postit note.

That seemed to work reasonably well - I certainly don’t need the notes page anymore, but I found the individual day boxes a bit small and restricting, so next year (2020) I’m going to try a day-to-a-page diary which, while it’s still the A5 format is quite a bit bulkier than anything I’ve used in the last 20 years.

It’s not an expensive imported one - no Moleskines or Leuchturms this year, but one I bought in a discount store in Queensland last August for ten dollars or thereabouts.

The reason for buying one so early is that we’re planning a reasonably complicated overseas trip in 2020 and already by August we had payments for flights, deposits, and due dates for payment, and even by August this was overflowing into 2020, and I needed a diary for planning purposes.

It’s strangely difficult to buy a decent diary for the following year in August - the calendar year diaries are not yet in stock and the unsold financial year diaries (July to June) are being sold off.

We’ll see how it goes - you never know it might wean me off my taste for expensive import designer diaries ...

Wednesday, 18 December 2019

Bushfire planning

[This post is about bushfire planning for small museums. I've been getting some hits from people looking for help getting their bushfire plan together. If you've come here looking for general information check the relevant CFA or RFS pages.]

It's hardly the most festive of topics, but with the ongoing bushfire emergency on the east coast the time has come to update our disaster planning.

We've over four thousand artefacts - I'm not entirely sure how many, I havn't finished documenting the collection yet - so any evacuation would mean taking only the highlights.

It's a pity, but in an emergency we would have to abandon most of the collection to its fate.

I tried looking on the web for any useful examples of disaster planning for small museums or historic buildings but did not find any relevant examples, so I wrote my own based on my past experience of writing disaster plans as to what to do with archival computer tapes. (Since the recent bushfires more resources have become available online - see the Blue Shield resources page)

It's pretty minimal at the moment, and in no way an official document, but I've placed a redacted copy online to help anyone putting together a similar plan against a deadline.

As the document evolves and changes I'll put the changes into the redacted version as well.

Please feel free to copy, download or modify the plan - the redacted version is a Google Document and can be downloaded here.

If you do find it useful, please let me know how you've used it and what changes you've made - you can find my contact details online if you don't know them already - in fact if you end up using the plan, send me a postcard from your museum/historic house.

Saturday, 14 December 2019

2019 - what worked

For a long time I used to write a 'what worked' review of my personal use of technology in the preceding year.

Since I retired (almost exactly four years ago now) posting has been a little erratic with the last post being in August 2018, so I thought it was time for an update.

The success

I finally bought myself a new computer back in March and it's been an undoubted success, quick, fast, reliable - no comparison with my old Dell Inspiron

The not so much a success

My chromebook had gone end of life and my Macbook battery was seriously showing its age, so back in April I bought myself a second hand Yoga 11e. It's been a success as a second take to meetings laptop (yes I still go to meetings occasionally) but compared to my old Macbook Air it's still a bit on the heavy side. I don't regret the purchase, it's a useful versatile machine, but it's simply just not as light as my old Air, so much so that I've just paid out for a replacement battery for the air while I look for a sensible lightweight replacement

Hanging in there

The old Thinkpad X230 continues on as a useful workhorse, principally used for for family history work and for storing a second local copy of my work on Dow's Pharmacy. My coffee mediated disaster earlier this year taught me the value of having a second machine available as a backup.

While it's older, and is still Windows 7 based, the 500GB disk is big enough to store a local copy of  the family history database and associated documentation, as well as a second copy of the Dow's documentation.

Having a local copy has made it possible to get things done when I didn't have local access.

And of course coupling this with OneNote and Onedrive has of course meant that any new material saved locally is automatically uploaded as soon as the network becomes available.

This has also proved to be one of the problems with the Yoga - at 128GB its SSD is a little too small to comfortably store a copy of everything I've got on OneDrive.

My really old imac continues to be useful by dint of its large screen, which is ideal for viewing and transcribing scans of old documents, so while obviously there will come a time when it starts to suffer from software rot, everything is still at a recent enough version to be highly usable.

Not quite so useful

The iPad mini and keyboard combo I put together last year hasn't turned out to be quite as useful as I thought it would be.  I don't regret its purchase, its been incredibly useful on some occasions, but my work patterns have remained more computer focussed than I expected, hence my search for a light, versatile and cost effective windows machine. Currently it seems that you can have any two of these if you are on a budget, but not all three.

Other Changes

I've gone from using a Samsung Galaxy to an iPhone which has meant some changes in my work on the documentation project, mainly using a camera in place of the Samsung to take pictures of the artefacts.

Software and operating systems

Basically it's been Windows and the Microsoft ecology, with OS X and iOS playing aminor supporting role. While I still use Google docs for those living documents I have in docs, my use of the Google world has dropped right off since I made the change away from Android tablets and phones.

The other thing that's gone is my use of Linux. I always used to argue that software choice to a large extent dictates operating system choice and its true - my need for One Note and Evernote, not to mention OneDrive has forced me to abandon the use of linux in favour of windows.

Perversely, some of the genealogy software I use is designed to run on Linux, with the windows version being very much a follow on.

I've never got around to building a virtual machine to run it on - perhaps I should - to see how much better performance is. I have thought about converting my X230 to linux with the end of Windows 7 support next month, but the advantages of having a second machine to slot in are such I'll probably keep it windows until the end of the pharmacy documentation project.

That said I need to do something about getting rid of my old Inspiron. I havn't powered it up for about 9 months so I'm guessing that there's nothing on it I really need. Perhaps before I wipe it and take it to the eWaste disposal centre I'll stick linux on it and see how useful (or not) it is and how the genealogy software runs natively on an old machine ...