Clutter on the disks

I have a lot of clutter on my disks. I keep projects around “just in case.” One thought was “Maybe I’ll go back some day.” As I migrated from computer to computer, the files kept multiplying… one copy on the old computer and a companion on the new. As partitions got full, files moved from one to the next, making new copies to add to the clutter. The debris of unfinished projects are everywhere.

This summer I took all of my old drives that were still readable and loaded them into the main computer, allowing even more clutter to spin silently. It’s amazing how small drives were 10 – 15 years ago. I even discovered that I have files of my floppy discs from the pre-Windows computer era.

To help with the declutter project, I wrote a utility that visits all of the files on the computer and records their name, size and where they’re located. I used the logs from that tool to find all of my “NewPoetry” folders. (NewPoetry holds copies of my poetry since 2010 and I really only want the most recent edit.) Now I only have one NewPoetry!

I am searching for an old project takes my poetry and formats them as a website. I haven’t used that tool for several years. I hope that the HTML formatted files can be a companion to blog where I published many of my poems

YYJ – a historian

One of my current projects is yyj (for lack of a better name. It’s the archive file’s suffix.). It’s a file historian system. It disclaims any aspiration to be a version control system. It is primarily meant to be used by a single user.

The goal of the system is to efficiently maintain a history of documents. It is not based on a check-in model. Instead, the history is updated continuously in the background. If a file was saved every half hour, each update would be available without any intervention from the user.

It make use of the fact that .docx and .ods files are actually compressed with zip. I believe it would be efficient Java .jar files. It is optimized for XML files.

I’ve been using variants of yyj for many years and find it useful. The versions I’ve been using aren’t useful by anyone else because there is no UI. Variants have existed since 1989.

My inspiration for polishing it was listening to a student describe his Capstone project at IUPUI. He mentioned having to make copies repeatedly and struggle to keep the copies organized and up to date.

yyj would make that organization trivial. The student could retrieve any past version if it was needed. He would only need to save a single file to keep his work safe from software and hardware failures. Intermediate versions could be deleted when they aren’t relevant any more.

I think that if I succeed, yyj could be useful to very many people.

Gas price history

I’ve found copies of my old gas price spreadsheet. Now I have a history of the Indiana gasoline prices from Nov. 2003 to Dec. 2015.

One of the reasons I wanted to find the data is to show the cliff. Between Oct. 8 and Nov. 7, 2008 the price of gas here dropped 40%.

Online sources show that the price of crude oil dropped rapidly in that period, but not as rapidly as the gas price in Indiana.

A graph of the price of gas

A graph of Indiana gas prices between 2003 and 2015

I’m still looking for data from the 20 month gap in 2009 and 2010.

John Martin Smith’s Books

front view of Willennar Genealogy Center

Willennar Genealogy Center (Original photo from Charlie Chat)

Today I volunteered at the Auburn, Indiana Willennar Genealogy library. John Martin Smith was a historian in DeKalb County. According to his obituary from 2011, he was the founder of the DeKalb County Historical Society and had many other accolades. He had built a very large collection of historical documents and artifacts. His family loaned the materials to the genealogy library to be indexed and archived. The phase that I’m participating in now will index all of the books from the collection.

Books that I indexed today include The Cold Spring Tragedy about a murder near Indianapolis in the 1860s. Also, I added a trade catalog from the Atlas Engine Company and a self-promotion piece about Midwest Engine company from 1919. It turns out that the Atlas Engine company evolved into the Midwest Engine company. The Midwest Engine company was very proud of their part in helping win WW I.

It was very interesting glancing through these books. My part is to take the pre-scanned images of each page and add them to a PastPerfect record. I also write a description of the books and select search terms and subject topics.

The archive software has a locally developed list of subject keywords, but with the books, that list is usually inadequate.  I go to Library of Congress Authorities and search for topics.  After taking Cataloging last year and a related class “Organization and Representation of Knowledge and Information” this spring, I feel pretty comfortable using the authority file.

In the classes, we had access to an OCLC service, Connexion, that has a more powerful interface than the Library of Congress, but we are only supposed to use that for class-related work. There’s another useful tool available, Cataloging Calculator, but I don’t have its URL memorized.

After finding The Cold Spring Tragedy on WorldCat, I found that the authority file has records for the murderer and her victim in the database. I was surprised, but I guess I shouldn’t have been. Some of the collection’s conventional books are not rarities. However, today’s books about the engine companies probably are.

This cataloging project is a lot of fun for me.  It’s a mixture of activities and I get to look at very interesting books, usually from the 19th century.