52 Weeks to Better Genealogy – Week 23 – Find a Challenge

The challenge this week is:

Come up with a personal genealogy challenge of your own. Each person has different research goals and experiences. Use this week to come up with your own challenge, and then take the steps to accomplish it.

Haha, I thought. that one’s easy! My biggest challenge is finding the time to get everything done that I need to do. So I’ve decided, for the sake of this challenge, to narrow it down.

I don’t seem to find time to read any more. To just sit down with a book and read it. I used to do most of my reading on the train into the city, but these days I tend to do stuff on my netbook computer, which I’ve talked about before, or read research notes or minutes and notes for Council and committee meetings.

I used to always carry a book with me. Always. Now I don’t. If I think I’ll need something to read I might take a family history magazine or journal with me, but usually the netbook is enough to keep me occupied.

How do I read the books I need to read to further my research? There is so much I have to read:

  • books on Australian history
  • books on Fijian history
  • books written by early settlers and sailors in Fiji (usually downloaded from Google Books as PDFs)
  • books on how to find records for family history
  • journals and magazine, which are arriving all the time
  • fiction (we all need some down-time)

Kobo e-readerLast weekend, when I was walking past my local Borders bookstore, I saw the answer. The Kobo is Borders’ answer to Amazon’s Kindle. It’s an e-reader that is cheap ($199 Australian), light, easy to read, and small enough to take anywhere. It does nothing except read books, which is what I want. It reads PDFs as well as e-book formats.

Unfortunately I couldn’t buy one on the spot as they had run out, and were taking pre-orders. I said I’d think about it and went home. I thought about it so much that I rang and pre-ordered it from home. They told me it would be in on the 7th June, which is next Monday.

On Thursday (3rd June) I got a call to say they were in, and I could pick mine up! Woohoo!!! I did. I had a workshop to prepare so I didn’t really get to play with it until yesterday.

I’m already reading more than I ever did before. I’ve started on Dickens’ Great Expectations, which I’m embarrassed to say I’ve never read before, although the story seems strangely familiar. I think that contemporary fiction counts as educational, don’t you? At least I’m not reading Harry Potter!

And I feel much better for it already. Reading is what was missing from my life.

The Kobo is a little slow to change pages, so I’ve already learned to press the button a little ahead so it’s there when I’m ready for the next page. I’m still looking around at what books I can put on there. It came with 100 books already, including Dickens and Jane Austen.

The PDF part is still a bit of a challenge, though. I downloaded two PDF books to experiment. They are:

  • Smythe’s Ten Months in the Fiji Islands, 1864
  • Fanning’s Voyages to the South Seas, 1838

I’ve had success finding ancestors, or potential ancestors, in these sorts of accounts, so I’ve got to keep reading them. Printing and reading takes way too much paper and toner, and I tend not to read them on the laptop, although of course I search them for surnames and places as best I can.

So far reading these PDFs has not been a success. An e-book flows so that no matter what font size you select, the text flows to fit the page. PDFs don’t do this, so there’s a lot of scrolling involved which is too disruptive, even in these old books where the pages are actually quite small. Apparently they are looking at software changes to allow this, but in the meantime scrolling is slow.

So that’s the challenge I need to resolve next, and this is what I’m doing to resolve it:

  • I’m experimenting with zooming in and changing the orientation to landscape, but it’s still slow to get down the page.
  • I’ll experiment with the different page sizes of different documents
  • I’ll look at different formats. Perhaps these books are downloadable as e-books rather than PDFs?
  • I’ll be experimenting with Descent, the journal of the Society of Australian Genealogists, which was published from the beginning of the Society in PDF form. That will save me having to decide before I leave the house which one I’m up to. If I can resolve the PDF issue!

Wish me luck!

I love my new Toshiba mini notebook!

Well, I was brave enough to take the risk! My new mini notebook is a Toshiba NB200, which arrived by courier yesterday. I broke the seal warning me that my new purchase may not function correctly and I’ve been playing with it ever since.

So far I’m just installing the software I need and downloading and installing updates, and the battery has lasted very well. The keyboard feels solid and the major keys are much the same size as on my standalone keyboard, although of course all the other keys are in different places – another keyboard to get used to. The touch pad is much the same size as on my 15in laptop.

It works well and quickly, even though I wasn’t able to upgrade the RAM to 2GB as the salesperson advised me. I’ve seen forums where a lot of people have upgraded theirs successfully, and I might consider that later when I really start using it.

I am expecting to use it when I go into the city or out to the archives, and for my birthday last year I got a mobile broadband … thingy (whatever the thing is called). My old mini is a HP 2133. The battery lasts less than 2 hours, and with Vista it’s very slow to get going – both reasons to leave it at home. If I use it on the train on the way into the city I have to take the power cable to charge it again for the ride home, especially if I actually use it while I’m in the city. I bought it too soon – at the time there was very little around, and what there was was small and made from flimsy-looking plastic.

It’s so small and convenient that I’ll probably use it around the house as well. The fate of the HP is yet to be decided.

Thanks for buying, but your new mini notebook may not work

I bought a new mini-notebook, to replace the piece of junk I bought a year and a half ago. It has just arrived, and the label stuck across the opening to the box states, in part:

You must read and follow all set-up and usage instructions in the provided manuals and Instruction Manual for Safety and Comfort. If you fail to do so, this product will not function properly and you may lose data or suffer other damage. EVEN IF YOU DO SO, TOSHIBA MAKES NO GUARANTEE OR WARRANTY THAT THIS PRODUCT WILL FUNCTION PROPERLY IN ALL CIRCUMSTANCES. [Upper case in original]

Thanks, Toshiba, that’s very comforting.