• Technology
  • Nov1

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    And now for a third post in my trifecta of tools for information viewing and copying – the free HTTrack Website Copier allows you to download the entire Internet to your local drive.

    No, not really – but their web site does a nice job of explaining what it does:

    It allows you to download a World Wide Web site from the Internet to a local directory, building recursively all directories, getting HTML, images, and other files from the server to your computer. HTTrack arranges the original site’s relative link-structure.

    Simply open a page of the “mirrored” website in your browser, and you can browse the site from link to link, as if you were viewing it online. HTTrack can also update an existing mirrored site, and resume interrupted downloads. HTTrack is fully configurable, and has an integrated help system.

    Last year I was working my way through reading a fairly large set of local history interviews and photos from the town near where my grandmother was born. These interviews contained interesting stories and I believe more than a few clues to the relationships of various families in the area.

    Then, one day I noticed a new post on the home page of the website: due to lack of local interest, it was to be taken down within several weeks. To avoid losing access to this resource, I broke out my trusty HTTrack, pointed it at the web site in question, set a local directory on my PC to save it in and let it rip. Read More | Comments

  • Oct28

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    Readability Reader Guy In my previous post I wrote about the open source Greenshot screen capture tool. Here’s another quicker tip and tool to use -

    Have you ever read a site comprised of several columns, with unrelated ads embedded in the center of the article you are trying to read?

    Have you ever wanted to save an article for later, either by converting to PDF or just plain printing it – and all of the text and formatting gets discombobulated in the resulting output?

    Well then, Readability is for you! Their own web site describes it as follows:

    Readability is a web & mobile app that zaps online clutter and saves web articles in a comfortable reading view. No matter where you are or what device you use, your reading will be there.

    I have not used the features that allow things to be sent to alternate devices (like a Kindle), but I do use it regularly in my web browser to simplify articles for archiving.

    Times Example - Original PageTake a sample page from the Irish Times – while not a particularly bad offender in the world of confusing page layouts, there is a lot of “noise” on this page. If you’d like to copy the info in the article, more often than not you and your trusty mouse will be in a fight to the death to select the article headers and content. Read More | Comments

  • Oct28

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    PC Cup Holder & Lighter
    As an IT professional there are quite a few tools that I find useful. And I’m not talking about the cigarette lighter cupholder bay at right.

    Anyway, quite handily a few of these tools that I speak of are also useful in doing genealogy and history research.

    This is the first post outlining  a few free or open source tools that are old favorites of mine. And I hope they will soon will be some of yours.*

    Greenshot

    There are many tools that allow you capture screenshots of web pages, programs or anything on your screen. Such captures are useful if you want to save an image in the context on the web page, or perhaps the settings of a site or program do not allow you to copy something you want to keep for reference later. (There are often ways around that, but perhaps that is a follow up post… assuming everyone promises to respect copyright.)

    The simplest way to capture a screen in Windows is to hit the <Print Screen> button, which copies the entire screen to the clipboard. Then you can paste the image into something else like Word or Paint. But, that can get old fast if you have more than a few screenshots to make – and that simple trick also captured the entire screen which is often much more real estate than you want and gives you more cleanup work later.

    So, enter Greenshot, a free and open source tool. From their site:

    Greenshot is a light-weight screenshot software tool for Windows with the following key features:

    • Create complete or partial screenshots quickly.
    • Easily annotate, highlight or obfuscate parts of the screenshot.
    • Send the screenshot to a file, the clipboard, a printer or as e-mail attachment.

    Read More | Comments

  • Aug31

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    Yesterday the code.flickr blog wrote about their new Geofences feature that allows users to create virtual fences around certain locations so that their geotagged photos can maintain some semblance of automated privacy.

    I think it is a great idea. You simply go to your account’s privacy page, select a location and tell them how large a circular fence you want to make. Then you assign access to the fence to your own groups – Friends & Family or School Contacts, for example.

    However, it does seem to me that drawing a fence also kinda tells people you are keeping out that the location in question is important to you for some reason.

    PAY NO ATTENTION TO THAT MAN BEHIND THE CURTAIN!

    You can read more information on the code.flickr Blog.

  • Aug16

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    Having run into a rather sturdy wall with my Tierneys in New York, I’ve decided to see if I might identify some possible relatives of my great-grandfather Michael Tierney. However, as he arrived around 1880 and we have only just discovered he died in 1913, that’s a tough nut to crack.

    So, for awhile I’ve been thinking of mapping out ALL of the Tierneys in New York over time using New York City Directories.

    To begin the project, I’ve downloaded the Tierney pages of every city directory I could get my hands on – I now have them for the years 1844 to 1934. I’ve then tried using OCR (Optical Character Recognition) software to turn directory images into text that I could massage into correctness.

    1913 NYC Directory Tierney Page Header

    1913 New York City Directory

    Some of these OCR programs worked decidedly better than others. Strangely, the beefy professional software I use at work did the worst job! But, most unfortunately, none of the OCR software did a good enough job to simplify the job of transcribing the names, addresses and professions into a usable format that I wouldn’t have to edit heavily anyway.

    So, I decided to bite the bullet and just transcribe them all by hand into a spreadsheet and go from there. With my *cough* years of computerificness I’m a pretty fast and reasonably accurate typist, and was able to transcribe the 116 Tierneys in the 1913 directory in about an hour and a half (with interruptions.)

    Once I get all of the data transcribed, I’m hoping that by mapping the names, addresses and professions I’ll be able to track not only the individuals over time, but find some patterns and clues for whom might be related to whom.

    For example, I have been trying to find where my great-grandmother Anna Tierney and sons Michael Edward and Thomas F have gone to post-1913. I have not found any of them listed in the 1920 census yet, which has been frustrating. However, by scanning the directories by eye I found an “Anna widow Michael” who appears uptown around 1914. I then noticed there are also men by the names of her sons at the same address. Later on, I find the same three names at a different address along with another Tierney or two.

    I may have found those addresses and the grouping of people sooner with a nice visual – and so may other Tierney searchers later.

    So, as a quick test I’ve taken the data from my 1913 transcription and have had it geocoded and mapped using Batchgeo – take a look below. You can also visit the map directly at this link. I will follow up with more information on techniques I find useful as time goes on.

    View Tierneys from 1913 NYC Directory in a full screen map

    Update: 15 Mar 2012: I’ve started testing out an alternate version using Google Fusion Tables. First run at the 1913 and 1914 data here. (Some bugs found already, and no search controls yet.)