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2016-03-22: This site is being moved to my main site at https://kevininscoe.com/wiki as part of a consolidation to one domain.


The web site you have reached should be http://ke3vin.org. It is my publically available collection of notes, diaries and discoveries I have made on a more technical, observational or personal note. For my approach to how I capture, organize and prioritize my thoughts and notes please my article How I work.

http://ke3vin.org is powered by Apache 2 and PmWiki.


Why the web and why a wiki?

Ubiquitous access for one thing. Web access is available on almost any connected device: phones, tablets, software and of course web browsers. I first used to make notes on paper (going all the way back to the 70s) on lined journal notebooks.

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Remember those?

For a time in the early 90's I used Franklin Covey planners.

Franklin-Covey-Planner

I progressed to more electronic methods first email archives, then a Palm Pilot.

Palmpilot5000 eu

I also used Lotus Notes but because it was prioritary and not very portable I settled on using text files in different directories sort of like a tagging system. But because off Lotus Notes my love on online systems began to kindle. I even started to write my own open source version of Lotus Notes to a small scale.

Early 2000's: finally I decided one day to try using a wiki to store my notes since text files were notoriously hard to categorizes and not very portable. I no longer had to carry a Palm Pilot or planner thank goodness. But still getting access to my files was becoming difficult. I could rsync them between my work and home systems and then I just started using a laptop. But you can't carry a laptop around everywhere and the older methods had poor organization and limited storage plus they were heavy and bulky.

Then in 20007 everything changed with the announcement of the Apple iPhone or in my case the iPod Touch. I had carried a Blackberry around since 2004 but that was clunky and hard to use. The iPhone however was smooth and easy to use.

At about this time I was experimenting with wikis for internal company documentation first starting with MoinMoin and then later MediaWiki and it occurred to me I could use a wiki for my notes as well as archive files as attachments. I was already running my own public web servers so it was a natural adoption. I looked at available wikis and I liked PmWiki best. I now use private and public wikis in my house (with secured two-factor authentication and encrypted VPN access) and other institutions I maintain to store everything from insurance documents to scanned correspondence. I have become quite a no paper kind of guy. Some caveats about this. I found this article in dear Abby one day:

"Dear Abby: Going digital leaves no paper trail for survivors

Dear Abby: My problem concerns my children and others who may have to deal with my finances or estate should I become ill or die.

I constantly get requests from credit card companies and other businesses, like utilities, urging me to “go paperless.” “Save a tree ... save a forest!” While I’m sympathetic, I worry that if I were to get sick and no paper bills arrive in my mailbox, my children wouldn’t know they need to be paid. (They have my durable power of attorney.) If everything arrives online, they’ll have no access to that information. Bills and late fees will accumulate, and no one will be the wiser.

This is why I resist. I pay many of my bills online, but I also receive paper documents. I know many companies and credit card issuers are unsympathetic about reducing or eliminating late fees, regardless of the situation. I don’t trust them to waive these fees — even if I’m desperately ill or dead. I don’t know how to “go paperless” and keep my children informed at the same time. Abby, your column could create a national dialogue on this problem. Thank you. — Deborah In St. Cloud, Minn.

Dear Deborah: Before you go paperless, make a list of all of your accounts and usernames and passwords. There is software that allows people to upload their account information into so-called “digital vaults” for storage. Alternatively, the information could be written down and placed with your health care and financial powers of attorney.

To make certain that everything goes smoothly should you become incapacitated, or in the event of your death, give a list of your current digital information to someone you trust, let people know who has that information, and leave instructions on how you want things handled."

So yes I do have one ledger notebook left. In the safe with instructions for another geek friend on how to access and recover the wiki from the web server when I die. Also read In A Digital Chapter, Paper Notebooks Are As Relevant As Ever.

An interesting history of the wiki can be found at http://c2.com/doc/etymology.html by Ward Cunningham its creator.


Why PmWiki?

First I like the philosophy, I like wikis in general, I didnt care for the structure of MediaWiki at the time I chose this in early 2008 and I (used) to code in PHP so the thinking was I could extend PmWiki if I wanted to.

Second it is easy to edit owing to the wikis collaborative nature. The interface to most wikis is built into the web application which means no apps! Well besides a browser that is. The interface is universal and easy to make edits. You need to know Wiki formatting syntax and rules although there is less of that in MediaWiki. It's all about the presentation. All wikis will take plain text and format it just fine. It is only when you need indentation, bold text, different font sizes or section headings that you begin to need wiki formatting syntax or simply markup.

Third is indexing and document search, retrieval and relevance. PmWiki has a built in search which is simple enough but to give more relevance to document searches I installed tagging. I also use Cluster to add bread crumbs to my page links (see BreadCrumbs). An example of this is one of my articles which is hierarchy linked as "My public technical notes-> Software and operating systems -> Software -> Source code tools -> Subversion" is perma-linked on this web site as http://ke3vin.org/pmwiki.php/Main/MyPublicTechnicalNotes-SoftwareAndOperatingSystems-Software-SourceCodeTools-Subversion. Long isn't it? Not very SEO friendly either but I wasn't concerned about that too much. Other options for page level bread crumbs is using . I use BlogCalendar for my diary entries.

Fourth is storage. I have since purged myself of the twenty or so volumes of ledger and journals I used to keep archived mainly because they took up so much space. But also because they are no longer relevant. In a wiki there is no physical size save the size of the web server and disks themselves. There is only available disk space. If those journal were digital I would be more likely to have saved them for historical and emotional reasons. But because the premium of physical space outweighed the historical value they had to go.

Fifth is archive and retrieval of storage. My wikis are automatically archived and backed up in multiple locations. Amazon Web Services S3 and Glacier storage is really cheap these days so why not backup your server storage. In paper storage if I had had a fire or some other disaster I would be at a loss to recover those documents. I have taken to scanning in paper correspondence, bills statements, receipts and other such articles of important either for historical, legal or financial reasons. There are some legal issues to be aware of when replacing original documents with scanned copies but for the most part those kind of documents are exist in your local courthouse. I suppose fraud may be a future issue.

Sixth cost. I already host my own internal and external servers using Linux. I do this for a living. I know how to do this well and cheaply using hosting providers like http://www.linode.com/ and https://aws.amazon.com/. So there basically is no additional cost to me except maybe storage. But that's me. If you don't want the additional headache (keep in mind security updates and backups!) than I suggest a cloud solution although these are not always free or have premium tiers of service. Look at cloud services like Evernote. Lots of hackers have very cool solutions around Evernote and it's supported on all platforms table and desktop.


Alternatives to a wiki:

I have seen several clever ways of capturing and storing notes. One method I have used and still use on occasion is Google Drive. Many apps support Google Drive as well as being web accessible. I use the iPad iOS app NoteMaster which allows me to categorize notes in folders and sync that with Google Drive.

Another cool use I found is on Hacker Public Radio on episode hpr1832 where the author takes down notes using a markdown format which they then convert using Pandoc http://www.pandoc.org to convert markdown to different formats, including odt, docx, and pdf.

Many others exist this is just some samples I have come across.


Kevin's Public Wiki maintained and created by Kevin P. Inscoe is licensed under a
Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 United States License.

Back to my web site - http://kevininscoe.com

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Page last modified on October 01, 2015, at 03:42 PM EST