Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Getting my computer life together

Becky asked in a comment how I was doing with the computer problem. Please note that this is a genealogy-content-free post, but it may be helpful to you as a bad example - we all need to learn from the mistakes of others.

As I mentioned on Sunday, my desktop computer crashed - there is still no fix for it. My son-in-law, the IT wizard, is sending a CD down on Wednesday that might work. The other option is to try to recover the data, install a new hard drive, and reinstall everything that is saved or recovered.

The desktop computer is a Dell Dimension 3000, purchased in October 2004, out of warranty. I had backed up last on 31 January, so I lost about two weeks of work. I haven't done anything significant in the genealogy databases since then. I did lose a few MSWord documents, but am trying to get them back from correspondents.

The BIG loss was my email archives. I use Outlook Express, and had not archived anything since I got the computer. I don't have much hope that they can be recovered, based on my previous experience changing computers back in 2004. The other losses are my email address book and my IE Favorites, plus some music and downloaded web pages..

I am using my Dell Inspiron laptop computer on my home network (just installed last week - lucky that!). I hooked up the printer and the external hard drive, and I spent yesterday recovering files from the backed up archives. The laptop is a pain to type on when sitting at a desk - all of the angles are different, some of the key locations are different, and the keys are smaller with a different feel.

On the desktop computer, all of my IE genealogy Favorites were in several large lists - one for Blogs with about 110 entries, and one for Genealogy with about 200 entries. I recently entered almost all of my blog entries into my Bloglines reader, and I'll continue to use that daily rather than enter all of them into my Favorites. For the Genealogy links, I decided to organize many sub-folders, so that I have links to Rootsweb/Ancestry, Data Portals, FamilySearch, Vital Records, Census, Military, Immigratgion/Naturalization, Education, Libraries, Societies, etc. grouped together. This will be easier than sifting through a very long list hoping to see what you want as it scrolls past. The challenge is to remember and recover as many links as I want to recover. I'm going to review my blog archives for links to save.

I was able to capture several of my email groups into the Cox WebMail address book by asking people to send me an email that I had sent previously to the group list. You can set up the email to capture the email address of anyone you send an email to. When my helpful colleague forwarded my email back to me, I did a "Reply All" and sent an email to everyone on the list, and all of the addresses went into my Address Book. I still have to recover the family and "real-life" friends email addresses, and am working through that. Hopefully, they will write me sometime soon!

The lessons learned here are:

1) Back up more often - like daily. With an external hard drive, this is not hard. I'm going to look into doing it automatically nightly. Don't forget your IE Favorites and email address book.

2) Purge and/or save to files your important email messages. Then back up what you save.

3) Keep an email address book list on paper somewhere.

4) Make a list of your user names and passwords for web sites, and hide it somewhere. I use code words sometimes for important things - my wife or kids will get it if the unspeakable happens to me.

The good news is that I'm able to communicate and work fairly effectively. Thank God I have the laptop. If it had happened next Sunday, I would have gone to my CVGS meeting on Monday with no handouts and a scowl on my face!


Christina | AmiExpat.com said...

What happened to you is one reason I don't use Outlook. I like Yahoo email, but any web-based account would be fine. I back up my email archives to my home computer and my laptop. And if anything ever happens to my computers, my email archives are still safe on the Yahoo server. Not to mention that I think Outlook is more vulnerable to attack by viruses, worms, and other internet baddies.

Good luck with the recovery!

Becky Wiseman said...

It's been about 2 years since I saved my individual email files to text files, so I think I'm going to add that to my 'to do' list and get it done very soon. I too use Outlook and back it up periodically, probably not as often as I should though.

Did you know that you can export your 'favorites' bookmarks to a text file, at least in Internet Explorer you can. I do that a lot since I go web-surfing at lunchtime at work. Then periodically I import the bookmarks from work into my favorites on my home PC. Works great.