Thursday, July 8, 2010

What I Do - or - What Are You "Packing?"

One of my favorite blogs ( has asked users to supply information on "What I Do," or in geek terms, what hardware and other geeky things are you "packing?" You might think this list may be of interest to only true computer genealogy geeks, but I've found that when this type of information is shared, I always find new programs or websites to help me with my genealogy research or help me improve my computing skills.  I like to look at these lists in the same light you would ever use the saying, "why reinvent the wheel?"

Here's my list (I've selected/combined those items I felt most important to me):

Hardware: Dell with Intel Core 2 Duo CPU, 4 GB RAM, 500 GB hard drive.  My computer is never "big and bad enough" for me, but unfortunately I do have a budget.  Nevertheless, if you are going to be editing videos and working with a lot of images, just make sure you have lots of RAM, a fast processor (CPU), and a large enough hard drive to store it all (500 GB is sufficient).

External Storage vs Online Storage (for backup):  My main solution for all is   It is relatively inexpensive and offers unlimited storage, and works in the background.  I do have a second internal hard drive and I use flash drives, but I rely on Carbonite for my main backup.  If my computer gets stolen or my house burns down, at least all of my information will be safely stored on Carbonite.

Firewall, Virus Protection, Spyware:  Norton 360.  It's a hog, but it works.  I might switch to McAfee some day, but for now, this works.  I also use Spybot (free) for routine cleaning of spyware.

File cleaner: CCleaner (free) and Spybot.  Norton 360 also offers a similar feature (plus it reminds you to do it!).

Scanner:  You need a decent scanner if you are scanning photos and documents.  My pick:  Epson Perfection V500 Photo Scanner.  It doesn't need time to warm up, and it does a great job.  It also comes with a sheet feeder (extra cost).  (I just wish it had a good 4 x 6 photo feeder too.)

Phone, Mobile Media:  iPhone 3G, 16GB. Although I am tortured by AT&T's coverage, I will never give up my iPhone. I love it!  It does it all - mobile media, plays my music, surfs the web, sends/retrieves emails, and everything syncs with my Outlook address book and calendar. 

Media Player:  I use both iTunes and Windows Media Player.  Depends on what type of output music CD I need (my car stereo doesn't play MP3 files).

eBook Reader:  I'm a retro girl:  hard copy with a night light.

Internet Browser:  Both Mozilla, Internet Explorer 8.  Hackers love IE8 and they can lock you out from the internet (I know from experience).  My solution:  ALWAYS keep Mozilla loaded on your computer.  If IE8 won't work, you can use Mozilla to get to the internet to start finding programs to fix your computer.

Blog and Blog Reader:  Mostly, but experimenting now with  I like Google Reader for reading my blogs.

FTP:  SendThisFile, but will now check out FileZilla (per posts on this subject).

Text editor (for blogging):  Notepad (comes with your computer) and TextPad (free).  Both are excellent for drafting blog posts for later copying/pasting into your blog.  (FYI - never use Word for drafting blog posts; it inserts pesky codes in your blog and your blog post may not save.)

Graphics:  Adobe Photoshop Elements, Publisher, Powerpoint, PicPick editor (see below).

Screen capture:  PicPick is free, and excellent!  You can export to its editor, Word, etc., or to the clipboard.  You can easily add markups such as arrows, circles, etc.

Social media: (for family and friends), (for career), and for genealogy and fun.  Facebook is wonderful for genealogy:  I am constantly sharing my genealogy finds (via posts from my blog to Facebook).

Social bookmarking:  This is another one of those websites I learned of via geneabloggers.  Very nice.

Social profile:   None yet, but I see that's Thomas MacEntee prefers  Looks like I'll be checking out to learn more!

URL shortener: - absolutely necessary if you are twittering.

Software for email, calendar:  Microsoft Office products, Google's -- all sync with my iPhone.

Accounting: My husband (thank Heaven!), Excel, plus I recommend QuickBooks for small businesses.

Web Conferencing: Microsoft SharedView (it's free!)

PDF generator:  Adobe Acrobat, but a good freebie is PrimoPDF.

Genealogy database:  RootsMagicPAF.

Genealogy tools:  GenSmarts (excellent for suggesting research on your ancestors, also available at RootsMagic), AniMap (good for viewing county and state changes over the years, available at I also use's app for transporting my database files on my iPhone.

Other tech stuff:   Don't forget the online sites I use to extract online videos, convert movie files, etc: and I also use Audacity (a free program) to convert old cassette recordings of my ancestor interviews to digital files (also need the proper audio input cord).   I use Premiere Elements for movie editing.

Also, when I am searching for a review, a suggestion for a software program, or a website to solve my current computer dilemma, I turn to She has already reviewed most sites and software and will never lead you astray.

That's my geek list!  I hope you find some of these suggestions helpful.


  1. Great list! I love what you're "packin'"!

    I dropped both Norton and TrendMicro years ago - they were totally resource suckers. I am savvy enough to know a suspect site when I see one, so the free AVG and Comodo work for me in terms of protection.

  2. Thanks for the suggestions, I will be checking into PicPick. I also want to take a look at



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