Some people eat, sleep and chew gum, I do genealogy and write...

Sunday, July 31, 2016

How do program updates affect you as a genealogist?

There has been some considerable news lately about Microsoft's Windows 10 operating system with the July 29, 2016 cutoff of the "free" version of the program for most users. If you happened to miss that date and still want Windows 10 then see this article from, "How to upgrade to Windows 10 for free after July 29."

In my experience, there are a significant number of computer users and possibly a larger percentage of genealogists who either ignore updates to their programs or who update only very infrequently. I must admit that when I am working away on something important at the time and run into a need to "upgrade" a program or the operating system, I am not a happy camper. But I almost always take the time to immediately install the update.  However, I do run into people who are still using very old programs such as Personal Ancestral File or have operating systems on their computer dating back to Windows XP or even earlier.

One fact of life for computer users is that the hardware, i.e. the computers with all their chips inside, continue to change dramatically almost yearly. For example, Intel, one of the major computer chip suppliers is now supplying 6th Generation Intel Core processors. When the manufacturers develop new computer chips, there are necessary changes in the operating systems to take advantage of the new features. When Gordon Moore formulated Moore's Law back in 1965 until the present, there has been a steady change in computer processors. Although there is some controversy as to whether or not the changes predicted by Gordon Moore will continue into the future, it is certain that computer chips will become more complex and continue to rapidly develop. In short, you can expect new computers and other devices to "upgrade" every two years or so. If the hardware is evolving so rapidly, it should be no surprise that software programs continue to change.

As I have written a number of times in the past, if you opt out of the process of change, you will eventually run the risk of having a catastrophic loss of your computer data. As I noted recently, I came within one day, after moving all my computer data to a new computer, of having the old one crash completely. You insurance against this type of loss is to upgrade your computer system and software periodically, say no more than every four or five years.

Genealogists, more than the average person, usually have a significant amount of research and documentation on their computers memory storage system. Even if you are careful and back up your data regularly, you are still in danger of obsolescence due to changing operating systems and programs. For example, many genealogists have been encouraged to use a popular note taking program called  In fact, there have been a number of classes at major genealogy conferences about how to use the program effectively. I note that Evernote is updated frequently. However, most recently. It has had a "free" version for some time and paid version. Recently, the free version, which used to run on all of my devices and computers and exchange data was revised to support only two such devices. So, I either had to upgrade to the paid version of the program or give up using the program as I have for quite some time.

Program developers are in the business of selling their products and we cannot expect that "free" will last forever except in very limited contexts. So we have multiple issues, software developers, including online developers, want to make money. They do this, in part, by improving their programs and changing the subscription parameters. For example, recently raised their monthly fee. Users of the programs either have to upgrade their programs or pay the additional costs if they want to keep using a particular program. If you opt out of this change, you either have to migrate your data to a new program or risk losing it altogether.

Another example, this year the popular online genealogy program ceased to exist. It was purchased by and then shut down. If you were storing any data on, you either moved what you were doing to or lost the data.

We have several different things going on simultaneously. We need to back up our data regularly. We need to upgrade our programs and computers on some regular schedule and finally, we need to migrate our data to new programs as the older ones become abandoned or unusable.

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