Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Tech Tuesday - Dropbox, or How the Cloud Saved My Netbook from Obsolesence

A while back, I was listening to a back episode of Geneabloggers Blog Talk Radio and Thomas MacEntee mentioned this Cloud Computing service he uses called Dropbox for sharing data amongst his various computing devices.  I remembered reading an article in a genealogy magazine that mentioned it, so I surfed over to the website, http://www.dropbox.com and gave it a look.  I reviewed the site, saw I could use it to share data between my laptop and my Apple devices (iPad and iPhone) more conveniently than iCloud (which is great for sharing among Apple devices but not so much with my Windows PC), so I installed it on my PC and i-devices and it worked as advertised.  It didn't hurt that 2GB of storage is free - I'm not sure I would have paid for the service at the time.

Shortly after getting my iPad back in December, I purchased the Families app, designed to work with Legacy Family Tree genealogy software.  It was nice to be able to share my family tree data from my PC to my iPad and iPhone, but if I made any edits to the data, it was a pain in the rear to sync the data back up so all of my devices were working with the same data.  Plus, data entry in Families is something of a chore and not nearly as robust as in Legacy.  The iPad is a wonderful device, with many incredible applications, but it was coming up short in one way I wanted to use it - as an extension of my laptop for genealogy.

Fast forward a few weeks.  I had just recently completed the first phase of reorganizing my laptop - cleaning up the desktop, rearranging and organizing files on the hard drive, getting rid of unneeded applications and so on.  It's a worthwhile endeavour if you are anything like I am and basically did no maintenance or organization in the three or so years since I originally bought the laptop.

Then, inspiration struck.  I looked at my poor, lonely netbook, nearly forgotten in the wake of my new devices.  The netbook was slow and underpowered, used primarily for travel and when I rode the train when I lived in D.C.  I'd even thought about selling it to get a little value back out.  I fired it up and started the process of cleaning it up, jettisoning all sorts of unnecessary and unneeded programs and data, dumping pretty much everything except OpenOffice and a few games.  I downloaded Legacy and DropBox, then moved my Legacy files to Dropbox.  Now, I had a light-weight device with great battery life that could seamlessly share by genealogy database with my laptop.  And after getting rid of the various toolbars that had accumulated on my browser, I could actually surf the web at a reasonable speed.  Although the iPad is nice for web browsing, the netbook is better for both HeritageQuest and FamilySearch, both crucial stops on your average genealogical quest.

There's a lot of great technology out there that can make life easier for the genealogist.  The Cloud, through Dropbox, has certainly improved mine.  


  1. Yes to DropBox! I'm a fan as well, but I never thought to share genealogy files with my multiple devices via DropBox. Many thanks for this good idea.

  2. Glad that I could help. Thanks for reading.