Tuesday, January 15, 2008

ABC's of data storage and retrevial

I learned the alphabet by the time I was 5. This understanding has served me well (probably the second most useful thing I know, rated right above counting and just below toilet training.) As I grew older, I found out that all sorts of things are ordered alphabetically. Great idea. One system works with many things, in the same way.

Libraries used to have card catalogs (I've got some of the drawers of my local library's old card catalog in my basement with miscellany stored in them in alphabetical order. The labels are on each drawer, written by me with just the right information I need. It isn't rocket science. A third grader could have done it.

Lately, in the name of progress (?) I've come across some storage systems that aren't based on the alphabet. My old e-mail provider (excite.com) had a very nice address book- one click and automatically all the names in alphabetical order were there, with as much other information as I'd care to add to each name. I could sort my mail in various categories, it was all nice and neat, and done just the way I wanted it. Recently, this particular e-mail provider decided that I shouldn't be allowed to receive all my e-mails. Oh I still got all the spam all right, but not my credit card statements. You can see where that situation might pose a slight problem.

I've always had other e-mail accounts, but Yahoo required me to go through about six pages of ads just to see my mail, and gmail would always laugh at my dial-up service:
"This seems to be taking unusually long to load, try signing in using basic html...)"

So, by default, I've found myself using Google's gmail. I figured out how to export my address book and dropped it in. No personal info on my contacts made the leap, besides, there was no place to put it anyway. Some of the contacts were old, some I wanted to rename, some were new. The new and renamed contacts were put in at the top of the list- no alphabetizing for you, sir! When I went to the contact list, it showed me seven names, those names it thought I should see! Another click and I was then allowed see all the names (which was what I wanted to do in the first place! The archives were another story. Instead of a list, I was asked to google- search for my own email. ("Let's see what was the name of that guy, what was the exact name of the thing we were talking about?") I give up.

I made my peace with gmail (still think its organization is dumb, however) and moved on. The other day a saw that Firefox (a pretty good browser IMHO) had a beta version 3 available for trial. I had used the beta of version 2, it worked great. So I downloaded and installed it.

Big mistake.

What was an efficient, reliable and quick method of bookmarks in FF 2 (located in the Apple Menu, so as not to add another "taskbar") became "smart bookmarks" in FF 3 with a new, dedicated bar, an incomprehensible (to me at least) system of storage, complete with bookmark folders that I couldn't rename or delete! I could use my old bookmarks, but they were under several layers of folders. There was even a "search bookmarks" function. Grrr!

K.I.S.S. (Keep It Simple Stupid.)

Maybe Opera would do me better...

By Professor Batty



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