Keeping Records

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Keeping Records

Post by editor » Wed Mar 12, 2014 8:23 am

Keeping good records is so important, I've posted this topic in Security.

That doesn't mean I'm always perfect at it. Sometimes I neglect to do it, and when I do, it usually costs me.

Anyone who has read my book How to Survive Hospital Costs Without Insurance knows how important it is to keep good records. I wrote a whole chapter on it. But those records are dealing with an instance in which you know for certain that someone is trying to take as much of your money as possible, at the same time you're trying to keep it.

What about other records in your life?

I never kept a diary, growing up. It always seemed like something girls do. Guys aren't that emotional. But things changed for the better in my life when, in 1990, a friend introduced me to the Franklin Day-Planner. Franklin, in my opinion, does things a lot better than the other planners.

You've got your usual to-do list, and appointment calendar. You have a place to write down reference information that you'll frequently refer back to and, of course, a contact list. One thing Franklin has that most others don't, is a whole blank page where you can write notes about conversations you've had, or things you done, or just whatever comes to mind. At the front of each month's pages there is a sheet designed to make an index for those note pages. It's ingenius.

Let's say it's August 20th, and you wrote down three things that day:

1) Charlie offered me his Ford Pickup for $3,500
2) Aunt Gloria's chocolate chip cookie recipe...
1 C Flour
1 C Sugar... (you get the idea)
3) Sally passed her driver's exam.

On the index page, you might write this:

20.1 Charlie's pickup
20.2 Aunt Gloria's chocolate chip cookie recipe
20.3 Sally passed her driver's exam

This makes notes really easy to find. You only have to look on one page, instead of through the whole month. When you find the correct entry, you can turn to its page for more information. You can also reference notes in other notes. For instance:

1) Tried adding an extra teaspoon of vanilla to Aunt Gloria's recipe (08/20/2014.2)

The ".2" at the end of the date, says it's the second note on the page. It's a great system.

For a bunch of years I carried a Franklin planner everywhere. One day in 2005, I lost it. My whole life was in there, and I was royally screwed. It turned up two weeks later, but during that time I did a lot of thinking.

That was when I bought a Palm Pilot. I put all my info in there, and I backed it up regularly. So if anything ever happened to it, I'd still have my important info. Palm had some really excellent programs. My favorite was called DayNotez (Natara Software). It took the place of Franklin's note page, and did it really well. It could even attach photos and sound clips to notes.

Of course the Palm company is no more, and the makers of DayNotez never moved on to newer platforms. When I bought an Android phone, I found no journaling programs which gave me the same abilities I'd had with the Palm, but I found something close. The real struggle was converting my DayNotez data to the new program. Some data made it; some was lost. Anything with a picture or audio clip did not get transferred over. Still, it was better than nothing for awhile, until I discovered the program I was using made it difficult to retrieve data.

Now I was stuck. Again, I was using a proprietary program with its own file format, which made it difficult to switch to something else. And since I couldn't be sure I could get the data back out again, I started neglecting making my records.

I now have a laptop, an Android phone, and an Android tablet. At times I would like to be able to retrieve my information from any one of them. I know I could use something like Evernote, but I don't like the idea of sharing my personal data on "the cloud". Whatever I use has to work on at least two platforms, since I don't run Android on my laptop.

Thanks to open source, I think I've finally found the right solution, at least for me, so I'm writing to share it with you. It's at the same time simple, and elegant.

I use Linux on my laptop, though my solution will work just as well if you use Windows (but why would you want to?). Here's my method, starting with my laptop:

Let's start with creating a folder I'll call "clone". Call yours anything you like. Underneath it, make one called "reference", and another called "journal".

In the reference folder, create a plain text file, using a text editor such as Windows Notepad, or gedit, kate, or anything that creates plain text files. Name it auto.txt. Now list your cars, and under each car put all the data you may have, or ever want to know about that car. Then do one for your household equipment; one for memberships; eyeglassPrescriptions, phoneCoDetails, and whatever else you might need as a ready reference. Put the extension ".txt" at the end of each file.

By doing this in plain text, you can forever switch to any number of programs to manage the records.

Now for journaling. You're going to do the same thing as above, but with a directory tree like this:

journal
|-2013
| |- 10
| |- 11
| |- 12
|-2014
|- 01
|- 02
|- 03

The folder "journal" contains subfolders named for the years. Each year-subfolder contains subfolders named for the month-numbers. Then in each month-subfolder, you'll have files for the days named 01.txt, 02.txt, 03.txt, and so on. Thirty days hath September, April, June and November. You get the idea, right?

In each text file, separate ideas with numbers, just like Aunt Gloria's recipe above was number two. Then you can use references the same as Franklin's pages.

Here's another cool tip. Want to attach a photo or audio clip? Just save the file in it's month's folder, with a name that begins with the day's number. So if I have a photo of somthing I want to link to my third note for the 25th day of February, I might name it "25.3_lisasNewCar.jpg". The note itself might look like this:

3) Lisa bought a new Buick today. (See 25.3_lisasNewCar.jpg)

Sure, I can't just click on the link to see the picture. I'll have to open a file manager, navigate to folder, and doubleclick the file. But as long as I keep good backups of my files, this picture will never get separated from this note, and I'll never lose my records.

Now for the discovery that made all of this really cool. If you're still reading, this is the part you've been waiting for.

There's a new program, still in beta, called Bittorrent Sync. Install it on your main computer, and point it at your "clone" folder.

Now install it on your Android device. Yes, they also have a version for Apple mobile devices, but in my opinion you're silly if you're using one. Create a "clone" folder on your mobile device. Point the mobile version of Bittorrent Sync at that folder. Now on your computer screen click "QR Secret". A QR code will display on the screen. On your mobile device, click "Scan for QR". The mobile device's camera will scan the code on your computer's screen, and now the devices are linked. All communication between them is encrypted.

You can also create other sub-folders under "clone", for your music, miscellaneous photos, books, magazines, or anything you want. As long as Bittorrent Sync is running on each device, the files in the "clone" folder of both devices will automatically synchronize. If you have multiple mobile devices like I do, you can link them all.

Now you need to find a simple text editor for your Android device. If you haven't ever used the repositories at f-droid.org, you should check it out. You'll have to go into your settings and disable the security setting that limits your installed programs to things in the Google Play Store. Then, download and install the f-droid ap. Now you'll have a whole separate set of programs to choose from, all open source.

So far, I like the "920 Text Editor". But if I tire of it, there will be plenty of others from which to choose.

Now grab another program from f-droid, called "Agrep". This is your search program, and with it you'll be able to easily find anything you ever write into any of your journal entries.

By the way, on the Linux desktop, I use KDE. The standard file manager is "Dolphin", and it has a very nice "Find" feature which does the same as Agrep. But the beauty of this system is that even if I only have a Linux command line, I can still find my data. Let's say I want to find a note about one of my trips to Florida. I can't even remember which year. So I open a terminal emulator, navigate to my "journal" folder, and type:

grep -ri florida *

Every Linux system comes with grep, and it will search years worth of records in the blink of an eye.

If you've been interested in reading this far, I'm sure you can find similar solutions for Windows, Mac, or whatever you're using.

As for privacy, there is encryption. I'm auditioning several candidates, and I'll let you know what I come up with. OpenPGP is in beta in the f-droid repositories, but so far it's command-line only. When a more Android-friendly version is released, it will probably become my encoder of choice.

I know, this was long, and probably not many people will read it all. But think of how important records have been throughout history! We wouldn't even have our Scriptures if people hadn't kept records. I am so excited about this I can hardly see straight. I pray it helps you as much.
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Re: Keeping Records

Post by editor » Tue Feb 09, 2016 7:52 pm

Update--

I have swapped out Bittorrent Sync in favor of a different program called Syncthing.

https://apt.syncthing.net/

Bittorrent Sync is proprietary, so there's no way of being sure of your privacy. Syncthing is open source. Also, I've had problems with Bittorrent Sync working correctly, whereas after using Syncthing for about a month, I've had nary a hitch.

Syncthing is a little strange to set up a first. But once you get your head around how it works, it's very easy and straightforward to use. Try it, you'll like it.
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