Where Is Your Stack Of Magazines?

July 15, 2010
Technology Editor Bill Wong talks about his dwindling stack of magazines moving onto the hard drive and the challenges in saving and tracking web-based content.

One of my magazine stacks that I still save.

Lately my Droid provides much of what a magazine did

If you’re like me, these days, you have a smaller stack of magazines (Fig. 1) waiting to be read and archived. I save a select few for a year and one or two for longer than that. Likewise, I have a rather substantial technical library that hits a wide range of topics. But like the magazine stack, it isn’t growing as quickly as it did in the past.

Lately, I’ve been getting more information electronically. A substantial chunk comes via my Droid (Fig. 2). This is good because I can carry it around in my pocket and check it almost any time. The almost is key because if 3G isn’t available, then neither is the information. The Droid has lots of flash, and mine holds a range of music, videos, and documents like sci-fi e-books from Baen that are always available.

Where Is It?
Browsing and search engines are great, but bookmarks only work if you have an Internet connection. There is also no guarantee information will be there the next time you look. This is one reason I have a very large hard drive, with a backup on another machine, that stores almost every device driver, application, and document I’ve decided to save over the past couple of decades.

Much of the information was acquired using open-source tools like HTTrack and PDFCreator. HTTrack downloads Web sites, letting me browse them when I want regardless of whether they’re still intact on the Internet. PDFCreator creates PDF files. PDFs are often a better alternative than HTML files so I tend to use both heavily for everything from recording sourdough recipes to instructions for installing some server software.

I’ve looked into ways to manage this mess because I’ve got gigabytes of data. Unfortunately, there tends to be a mix of document management systems that require check-in and check-out operations and indexing systems that work for text but rarely for images or videos. At this point, a directory hierarchy and Linux search tools are holding their own.

Being an engineer and programmer, I look at these problems a little differently than most people, and I think most developers do the same thing. For example, my Web browser has a host of plug-ins for blocking everything from ads to Javascript. It tends to be somewhat annoying because Web sites don’t render as intended, but it does block actions such as animated ads that I usually like to prevent.

Support Your Local...
Blocking unwanted material isn’t bad, unless you’re on the other side. Nowadays, technical editors have to worry about tracking the latest technology as well as the number of hits our stories get on our own Web site. It’s more complicated these days, because our tracking software provides daily reports. On the plus side, I can see what topics generate the most interest.

I’ve also been reflecting on the usefulness of ads. In the past, I read my stack of tech magazines from cover to cover including the ads, since they often provided lots of useful insight into the latest technology, especially larger ads. This has changed significantly with Web-based ads primarily because of space constraints and because readers can get immediate feedback with more details.

Unfortunately, most Web-based ads are very transient. Go and read a story and check out the ads. They likely will be different each time you return. You need to click on an ad and bookmark it or PDF or HTTrack the page, lest it disappear into the ether. Hopefully, the result is useful in the long run.

So let me know how you manage your information. And turn off that ad blocking and start clicking on the ads for those Web sites you want to support.



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