September 26, 2016

Of Technology, Information, and Preparedness

We talked about this when I announced the release of How To Bake Without Baking Powder, my first paperback in my The Little Series of Homestead How-Tos. It was also one of my 2016 homestead goals. I'm referring to wanting to get my vast collection of useful homesteading information off of my computer and into hard copy form.

Goat notes, of which I seem to have volumes.

In the worst case scenarios, the system collapses and we lose electricity for years or even forever. At least long enough so that the stockpile of batteries is long gone or all our electronic devices are fried by the time we get power back. That's a bit sensationalistic, although I believe there's enough evidence to not blow it off as the imaginings of a bunch of kooks. Closer to home is something like what recently happened to me.

I was having trouble booting my computer. It started by occasionally not wanting to boot up at all, and then got to the point where it wanted to run a disk check every time I turned it on. I headed on over to Ubuntu Forums (my go-to place whenever I have a computer question) and queried the group. I was given some tests to preform on my machine and sure enough, the hard drive had bad blocks.

Basically this means that some of the sectors on the disk are permanently damaged. This means that no data can be written to or recovered from these sections. If I was more geeky I might have done something else, but I figured the best thing to do was to back-up all my important information and replace my 4-your-old computer.

I'd been needing to upgrade my operating system anyway.

How many of you back up the stuff on your computer that you want to keep? When I'm working on a book I back up all related files every time I work on them. Other things, not so much. As a collector of information, that could mean the loss of my entire collection in the event of computer problems. As it was, I felt fortunate to be able to recover everything that I wanted to keep.

I've been working on making hard copies of a lot of it. Some of it has been from sites that offer a print version of their recipe or material, much of it is handwritten notes. I'm arranging it in three-ring binders by categories and alphabetically as topics. All of it is information that will help us in our quest for self-sufficiency.

As you an imagine it's a slow job; partly because of the time it takes to copy what I want to keep, but also in finding where I put it on my computer in the first place. I have things scattered as bookmarks over three web browsers, and in numerous files and directories on my computer, plus my desktop.


A computer has the potential to be an easy-to-organize filing system. Just a couple of clicks and the information is snagged for keeping. But who takes the time to make sure everything is properly organized? And who wants to rummage around through everything to find it again, assuming I remember it's there in the first place. Does anybody else have this problem, or is it just me? So much easier just to do another search online; or is it? Has anyone else noticed how cluttered search engines have become with useless information disguising itself as what you're looking for? (All thanks to the fine art of search engine optimization, the goal of which is to get hits, not to provide meaningful content).

Sometimes I ask myself, do I really need all this information? I mean, if I can't even remember that I've got it, what use is it? Am I so caught up in collecting all this data, that I am unable to do anything useful with it?

A notebook for kinder, natural cleaners. These are
important if we want to irrigate with our greywater.

I'm finding an old-fashioned 3-ring binder simpler and easier for my information storage than my computer. Most of what I want can be accomplished with a handwritten note on a page of similar information. I find page flipping faster and easier than clicking all over the place (or swiping).  Everything I want to refer to is in one convenient place; I can grab it and go to the kitchen or the barn. Plus I find that the physical act of writing a note helps me remember the information better. I'm satisfied with this system.

What do you think?

35 comments:

  1. I have a few tiring ring binders. One for recipes ( including canning), one with sewing patterns. I like books, if the internet goes down, I can still function.

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  2. Ralph and I started our 'encyclopedia' in 2012, compiling hard copy and then putting it into binders. We keep the binders in plastic bins with good lids to keep they safe, the bins are clear plastic and you can read the binder titles through the side.They are not finished and the move here has stopped the process of filling and sorting all our information but we have a bin with file folders in the office we add to. This winter will see us finishing them (well that's the plan).
    Ralph just installed a new Linux O\S in his computer and is spending the heat of the days reorganizing everything. Yes he is also deleting things we no longer need or use.
    We both think hard copy is important for our future.
    God Bless you and your 5 acres.

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    1. Fiona, that was excellent foresight and planning on your part. I really like the bin idea for storing the binders. I think that would be good advice to others who are still in the dreaming and planning stages for their homesteads - start making a hard copy collection of useful information.

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  3. I think you're absolutely right, one day the power will go off/be so unstable it fries all our devices/something else.

    I love my Kindle, my Mac and all the other devices and thankfully I'm fairly good at organising data. BUT, if I really want to really remember something I have to read it from paper, not a screen.

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    1. Jayne, you bring up another good point - that screens are harder to read from than print pages. I also find that it's difficult to find information on my Kindle. The search function brings up too much, and it's very time consuming to try to go through it all. A good book has a good index! Which still means some searching on the pages, but it seems easier in the longrun.

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  4. I don't think that it's too far-fetched to think that one day (soon?)all our e-gadgets might get fried - one of those solar storms seems to be all that's needed! and like you I try to keep important infos in print - though silver fish and woodlice have a word or two to say about that:) and all that systematic storing on the computer is fine and well - but if you don't do it properly right from the start - you'll end up either with a huge backlog - or not doing it at all, because it's too time consuming:( also, e-storage becomes outdated very quickly! I started out with those floppy discs, then cd's - some memory sticks now... most modern computers don't read floppies anymore and I fear it's only a question of time for that to happen to all my cds:( already some of them are unreadable because of the constant browser updates:( so now I try to put the most important stuff in different storage systems - and try to massively reduce the rest of my collection aka recipes, photos etc. there's only so much space in my brain and not much more on my shelves:) and let's face it - there are only so many recipes I can still cook in my lifetime, even if I did live to be 100 (not sure that this is even desirable:)...

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    1. Bettina, that's a very good point about changing technology and data storage devices. I just found some floppies the other day that I wish I could take a look at, but as you say, computers simply don't accommodate them anymore because that technology is outdated.

      I would lament the loss of my photos, I admit that, although I have them on flash drives. But I guess if it comes to that, I can survive without them.

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    2. Leigh I took a whole box of old floppies of photos from the late 90's and got a gadget that will let me load them onto my photos on my lap top. What I like about it is I can view them all as I load them. I am very old fashioned in my knowledge of tech things with computers so it works well for me.

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    3. I'm gonna have to look for that, thanks!

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  5. I run with two laptops and a desk top, each computer has identical files, I also have back up of the files on an external hard drive, things of importance I always print out, I have a filing cabnit of craft stuff I have printed out, binders of self suffiency and prepping stuff, and a book I write recipes in, one of my computers is not connected to the internet because I dont want it updated in any way, it runs fine as it is, I am a stickler for organization and collect books like they are going out of fashion.

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    1. The ability to stay organized is the key to success in any system! Book collector here too, and my library shelves are something else I struggle to keep organized. :)

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  6. Nope, no binders for me anymore, everything is on the computer. However, as an author, I do print out manuscripts for safe keeping. All my research, blog resources, and other important data is saved to Evernote and a memory stick. I figure the chance of a lengthy power outage is unlikely. And... let's face it, if everything in the electronic world is lost we have much bigger problems than data loss!

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    1. You've thought it though and come up with a system that you are comfortable with, and that counts for a lot. Bettina (above) brings up a good point about data storage devices all eventually becoming obsolete, so that may be something to consider.

      I agree that in the event of a huge electronic disaster some things would be moot, like my photos. The information I'm hard copying is the stuff that will serve me in the event I can't access my digitized data, IOW, how to live without technology. :)

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    2. Data loss may include knowledge you need to grow food, care for a wound or other much needed information. I suppose we all have information we consider crucial to our existence but working knowledge of basics will be worth a lot if we are in crisis.

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  7. It's a very individual thing, and I would certainly, as a librarian, agree that hard copy has its good points. I would just recommend that you use good quality paper and ink, so it will last longer.

    As a second thought on technology, look into the bookmarks extension called Xmarks, which allows you to sync your bookmarks across different computers and browsers. You might find it useful!

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    1. Very good point about paper and ink quality.

      And thank you for mentioning Xmarks as I think some readers will be definitely interested. Can't say I'd personally want all of my bookmarks synced. I have too many as it is and I can't imagine weeding through 3 or 4 times as many when I wanted to find something, LOL

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  8. whew, bad sectors-so glad you saved your stuff before it died. The internet has become useless junk for searching all full of memes and movie star gossip.
    yep, CD's and solid state memory corrode but paper seems to last forever LoL!

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    1. The ones that get me are the sites that automatically redirect you to the home page. I find that extremely annoying and don't even bother to retry my search on their site. I just move on to the next search engine link.

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  9. I laughed out loud the first time I heard someone say that computers would make paper copy obsolete. I admit that I have way too much stuff saved on the computer, but my hard copy (books and print outs) still make up the bulk of my information treasure trove.

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    1. I remember hearing that too! With so much information out there though, it's hard not to save as bookmark if it's interesting. I find that I rarely go back to most of those sites however.

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  10. I'll be the odd person out here and say, why worry? I am 57, child of no tech to medium tech to high tech. I don't back up anything on my pc but pay a nominal fee to an online company to do it. But, when it all crashes, and I believe it will one day, will having all these micro, mini,macro files matter? Will 10 or 20 notebooks of hardcopy help at all? Will I not be able to plant potatoes by trial and error as has been done all these centuries before? Will I die if I cannot access the 9000 (no lie) photos I've taken in the last 12 months? For me, it's the complete acceptance that I can take none of it with me when I die and the more time I spend saving it, the less time I am outside doing it, or inside writing about it. Don't get me wrong, technology is a blast, but in the big scheme of family, life, God or no god if you rather, how much of our time do we allow it to steal? Balancing the living of life and the recording of life...always a challenge for me.

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    1. I can't speak for others, but the information I'm most interested in saving are things like herbal formulas, recipes for things like natural cleaners, and goat related info to help with diagnosing and maintaining their health. I copied all my photos when I switched to the new computer, and I'd hate to lose them in the event of a permanent crash, but like you say, I'm not going to spend all my time safe guarding every jot and tittle. At least you have that online company for your photos if something happens to your PC!

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    2. I do save copies of my book files! I own the copyright so I want to keep the option open of being able to take them to another publisher if I wish. :)

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  11. What you point out about turning a page and writing it down has to do with the way we humans learn. There are three modes of learning Audio, Visual, and Kinesthetic. Traditional classroom learning is typically the first two, which is why most children in sp. ed. are Kinesthetic. Most of us are a combination of all three with one or two being primary. All of us benefit from manipulating the information.

    I have hard copies of some stuff, computer files of other stuff. I use the file folder feature a lot for bookmarks in my computer and in my documents section to keep everything handy. I go through every-so-often and review with an eye to delete anything I no longer need or use. Most of the skills I have between my ears can only be passed on by physically showing/teaching someone else what I know. So trying to have a hard copy of what I know, to a certain degree, is irrelevant in my world.

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    1. That's very true about learning styles! I also agree that it's good to houseclean every now and then. When I was saving stuff off the old computer for the new, I deleted tons of stuff. And I don't miss any of it. :)

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  12. Love it. I started keeping 2 three-ring binders some time back. One is for animal related info and the other for plant related info. My recipes for soaps, bug repelents etc have their own recipe box that sits with my food recipe box. I do have some files online though. You make a good point. I should probably find them and make sure I have what I need. Our power goes out enough that the hard copy is usually easier.

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    1. I've thought about keeping a recipe box for my garden. I have a garden binder, but with index cards I could add things as I wanted and keep them in alphabetical order. The main thing I like to keep track of is companion plants. For some reason I have a hard time remembering what likes to grow near what.

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  13. Great post. I had thought of a similar post last year and only got as far as pictures (there I go, saving more photos, ha) of our binders. We have lots of books, in bookcases at the farm, so I'm happy with that. But when we started dreaming of the farm, I started saving articles and ideas from magazines and stuff I printed from the internet. I also print recipes, remedies, ways of doing things, etc, and keep them. 2nd Man jokingly calls me a paper hoarder, but it's true. I love the idea up above about the clear totes to keep them in.

    Great post and yes, while I don't think we'll have a zombie apocalypse anytime soon, I don't think a solar flare is out of the realm of possibility. We went for two weeks during the aftermath of Hurricane Ike without electricity, and it's amazing how many things we do are connected to electricity.

    Keep up the great work!

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    1. Good point about the hurricane. Another good example of why it's sensible to have at least some semblance of preparedness. And it's true, when the power is off you really realize how dependent we are on it. We take so much for granted.

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  14. My husband does back up a lot of things. I run off some things but am not organized with it. I would not do well without electricity! Nancy

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  15. Great points all around on this one. I got my first computer when I turned 50. So I know more than some less then others and enough to be dangerous. When the last Vet Clinic I was working in announced its goal was to get everything online and dump the physical files I had an attack. No one seemed to be the least bit concerned about a fatal crash. I still have an address/phone book and use a physical calendar to write down everything from breeding dates to chiropractic appointments plus birthdays etc. I don't know have the stuff my laptop or my iphone can do. But if they have figured out how to clean my barns for me let me know.

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    1. LOL, I want one of the barn cleaning apps too!I keep physical calendars and address books too (one address book is just for passwords!). We do our budget in a bookkeeping notebook. Honestly, some things are just easier that way.

      I think computers and digital devices are appealing because of the humongous amount of data they can store in an amazingly small space, but they still create a lot of paperwork. Copies have to be run off for every customer or client, and usually on a local printer. Considering how expensive ink, toners, and repairs are, I seriously doubt anyone actually saves money with such a system, as compared to ordering preprinted reams from a commercial printer.

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  16. I often think this about my blog and how I'd love a backup or hard copy of it. I do back up my pictures every y months to another hard rive and one I keep at my folks but I don't print as many photos as I should!

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