Category Archives: Random Musings

I’ve Been Doing Genealogy

What’s been happening at I’ve been doing genealogy. I haven’t blogged in a while, so I figured I should say something.

1. I’ve been trying to finish up my Bernie Sanders research. I’m very sad he lost the primary. I think I’ll survive. I was trying to get one last piece of information before finishing up that post, when I realized that there was more for me to do in Polish records. I still have to do that.

2. I wanted to write about WDYTYA. Rather than a blog post for each episode, I had things I felt like I needed to say about the last three episodes of the last season. I still need to write that.

3. I’ve been busy with some client work. I’ve gotten a few clients lately that needed research (as opposed to digitizing or just look-ups) so I’m happy about that, but I don’t blog about their families. I still have one waiting for a report and another waiting until next month for me to get started.

4. I’ve been trying to get a new family newsletter issue put together. I have so much stuff for it, but I haven’t gotten it all neatened up yet. I don’t know if that will happen this week, and then it will have to wait a few more weeks until I can get back to it.

5. I’ve been doing unpaid work for the past few weeks in preparation for the IAJGS Conference. I am quite behind in my prep for the lectures I need to give. One of them needed a whole lot of genealogy research conducted, and I’m still working on it.

6. And next week is IAJGS. Of course I go to that conference every year. I’ve been researching for it (see #5) and I need to get things finished up and my presentations put together in the next three days. I think I can do it.

And that’s where I am now. I expect I’ll be blogging from the conference as I usually do, so my blog will finally be active again. Hopefully that will get me going with the other blog posts I need to get written. But at least now, anyone following my blog knows I’m still here and where I’ve been lately.

Utah Caucus 2016

Getting away from genealogy for this post, I got home a little while ago from voting in my caucus.

What’s a caucus? It’s what happens when the state is to cheap or too lazy to have a proper primary vote, apparently. The caucus is run by volunteers, whereas an actual vote would have the mail-in voting, which I am signed up for. It would have saved me four hours tonight.

In 2012, there was a vote for something by ballot, then we were all in the high school auditorium and chose precinct delegates for the county convention. I was the only person in my precinct, so I got the job.

One hallway. Imagine this kind of crowd filling every hallway of an entire school. And then some.
One hallway. Imagine this kind of crowd filling every hallway of an entire school. And then some.

This time, there was a long line. It started down the block, snaked around the school hallways, passed two other lines, went out the back of the school, and split into those two lines, which then snaked around again. We had to pick a line based on our house district, but the map was at the front door and they rushed us past it.

And the web sites were all crashing while people in the line were trying to verify they were in the right place. I was lucky that I looked up my district before I left home, though I had to count on the lines not moving from four years ago, which they hadn’t.

And then, the other lines didn’t move. They would move in small batches, like they took 10 or 20 people at a time. Then we would stand. And it was cold outside. And then the sun started setting.

Winner of the door decoration contest. I was joking they should have had a contest and we would vote at the end. This was the only decorated door.
Winner of the door decoration contest. I was joking they should have had a contest and we would vote at the end. This was the only decorated door.

Someone said “I have a fireplace,” so I asked, “Did you bring it with you?”

They finally got everyone inside before it was dark. At least, they got my line and many people behind me inside. Our line snaked through two more side hallways that they opened up for us. More people were still outside and they were brought into the gym to sit and wait. We passed them in our last half hour.

With me in line was a 20 year old young woman who was voting for the first time who had been at Bernie’s rally at This is the Place Park last week. Behind her was a couple, one wearing a red U sweatshirt. He left while we were outside and came back to find us inside. He brought back hot chocolate, enough for all four of us.

I had almost arrived at Beehive Elementary school at 6pm when the caucus was supposed to start, but the traffic was mad. After taking a turn through the full parking lot, I picked a street and headed away, finally finding somewhere to park. So I was in line before 6:30pm, and I voted at 10pm. It was supposed to be 6-8:30pm.

After filling out my ballot, I asked about the caucus and was told it was in the gym, but I already knew the gym was just the end of the line, so I was out of there. I participated in the caucus four years ago and didn’t feel the need to wait until probably midnight for this one.

I finally saw this wall about 20 minutes before I voted.
I finally saw this wall about 20 minutes before I voted.

I used to laugh and wonder about the incompetence of places that made people wait for hours, never expecting to be in one.

Here’s what I learned, some after I got home. That part I mentioned earlier about having a caucus instead of a primary, that’s on the state.

The state and county web sites crashed under the weight of people looking up their polling places — or in our case, the district number.

The voting process was stupid. They verify you on the list with your ID and hand you long form to fill out. So everyone stops right there and fills it out, with just the one vote at the bottom after all the identifying information (which they already have) and half a dozen questions about what we would volunteer for. There wasn’t even a ballot “box” to put it in, we just handed it back.

What I think they should have done?

  1. Put that form online and let people fill it out in advance. That would have saved so much trouble. Or ditch the long form and let us vote with less handwriting.
  2. Expect that when a single rally, for just one of five candidates, draws over 14,000 people, that the voter turnout is going to be high.
  3. Do not put multiple districts at the same location. Just trying to figure out what district we were in after trying to figure out the polling place was nuts.
  4. If the 2012 caucus filled the high school auditorium, why was the 2016 in an elementary school? They went from a bigger school to a smaller one on a minor street that was overcrowded with cars like it’s probably never seen before, and a major shortage of parking. Some people suggested they should have had us in the Olympic Oval. There was probably plenty of room there, and parking.

Update: I just read this from the Salt Lake Tribune: “Democrats wanted the state to run a full primary, but the GOP-led Legislature declined when the Republican Party said it preferred a caucus.” Yep, kind of what I figured.

A Memory, Because of Leonard Nimoy

Leonard Nimoy at the Las Vegas Star Trek Convention 2011. Photo by Beth Madison, found on Wikimedia Commons.
Leonard Nimoy at the Las Vegas Star Trek Convention 2011. Photo by Beth Madison, via Wikimedia Commons.

I haven’t blogged on the usual themes in a while, but I didn’t want to save this one for Monday.

With lots of tributes going around the Internet on the day of his death, I just watched a video of Leonard Nimoy in which he explains where the Vulcan hand salute came from. Here is the video.

Growing up, I watched a lot of TV shows that I don’t remember. I remember which shows, but none of the episode content.

One that stands out is Star Trek which I used to watch with my dad. I had to watch the whole series as an adult to remember any of the episodes, but I know I watched them as a kid.

And then came college, when Star Trek: The Next Generation came out. Well, it actually started when I was 14, but I didn’t watch it until college. At the time, it was playing on several stations, several times per day. While flipping channels, I saw something just before a commercial break and I had to know what happened next. I was immediately hooked.

I didn’t watch sooner because Dad was loyal to the original show. He insisted that Kirk was the only Captain of the Enterprise. (Psst, hey Dad, what about Pike?)

It turns out, however, that we must have watched the pilot, at the very least. As the series finale approached, I had to rent the pilot to be sure I had seen it, as I knew they were closely related. And I remembered that the station was actually an alien, so I had obviously seen it before.

Back in those days, there were lots of smaller Star Trek conventions. A few ran in South Florida and for a few years, I went to all of them that were within a few hours’ driving distance.

At the time, I had a Star Trek themed bumper sticker. I remember it was green and said “My Other Vehicle is a Federation Starship”. I was driving south to Fort Lauderdale for one of the conventions and I noticed another car on the highway with a Star Trek bumper sticker. I passed the car, the car passed me, back and forth a couple of times.

We both pulled off at the same exit, as I expected, and pulled up next to each other at the traffic light. We looked at each other and I smiled and waved.

The guy in the other car waved with a Vulcan salute.

Whoops. I quickly changed finger position before the light turned green.

And I’m pretty the main actor at that conference was Tim Russ who played Tuvok, the Vulcan on Voyager. (Yes, I liked Voyager too.)

One of my favorite tweets today has a genealogy twist to it.

Leonard Nimoy’s Twitter account is retweeting many messages sent out today, but his final tweet…

Thank you Leonard Nimoy for the memories. Live Long and Prosper.

Europe 2012 – Day 5 – Trains

Another adventure with mixed results dominated the day.

First, I drove back to Warsaw. I wanted to get a record at the Jewish Historical Institute, but I hit traffic too often and didn’t quite make it in time. I circled around and around and around and finally found a spot to park, then visited several Jewish historical sites. One building was under construction and completely surrounded so I couldn’t even see one of them.

I returned the car to the airport (I’ll skip the gory details of that ordeal) and took the train back to Warszawa Centralna, the central station, to head over to Konin. I tried to buy a ticket, and someone even helped translate for me, but I don’t know what the ticket agent gave me. It wasn’t a ticket for what I wanted. Eventually, once the train was mostly empty, a conductor asked for my ticket and I had to buy one. I sure hope I don’t see a charge for that “other” ticket later.

What bothered me most though, was realizing 90 minutes into the two hour ride that there were electrical outlets; my phone was dead. I plugged it in and booked the hotel online about an hour before I got to it.

The train station was pretty barren with two exits. I took the wrong one first — there were no signs. Eventually I went back through and found a taxi to get to my hotel. Weird keys here. And I’m wondering if this is a truck stop.

I hope I have fewer transportation problems tomorrow. I only have one day for two archives and the civil records office. I anticipate not enough time for all three, but it’s Friday and it’s all I’ve got. Sadly, at multiple times, I find connections or don’t for the same trips; I’m not seeing anything for tomorrow right now. More complications.

Europe 2012 – Day 1

I should call this minus day one and not count it, but I am in Europe, so here goes.

This post will be filled with the nitty gritty details of my journey here. I haven’t really been anywhere yet, so skip it if you only want to know about seeing Europe and doing research. This one is kind of more about venting.

I didn’t sleep at all last night because I wasn’t close to being ready. I do that far too often actually when I fly somewhere. Driving, I just leave a little later. I still have things to do to plan for the trip I’m already on.

Amazingly, and to my own surprise, I was able to pack for a month in two carry-on bags. (I figured ten days of clothes was good.) I called for the shuttle and took a flight to JFK. I was three rows from the back of the plane and all the small children were back there. And yet, the flight was fine. The elder gentleman sitting next to me was friendly enough. And I guess most of the kid noise was drowned out by the engine noise. We even arrived a little early.

At JFK, it started going downhill. There was a shuttle to my terminal but there was no sign about it where there needed to be. I had about 30 minutes left of my two hour layover, after walking through the terminals, to check out the Delta Sky Club. I got some free passes for it a while back. The clerk let me in without keeping the pass since my time was so short, but they expire soon anyway so when else will I use them? (When arriving early to SLC, would be the appropriate in hindsight answer.) I was not impressed, then took the bus to the new terminal.

Because I pay attention to things, I saw the sign about one carry-on and checked it. The flight was very long. I dozed off many times but never got any real restful sleep. They served breakfast before landing but surprised me with dinner too, which I missed because I was half asleep. Exiting the plane, I saw a guy with three bags. I guess nobody enforced that sign much. I should have ignored it myself.

And then, I was in Europe. If I haven’t mentioned it enough, this is my first time off the American continent since I was 12, and that was the only time back then. After a walk through the airport, I got to customs and stepped into the shortest line, which moved at least eight times slower than all the others. And I’m not exaggerating about that. I now have an Amsterdam stamp in my shiny new passport.

My next flight boarded and it was less than two hours in the air. They gave us two sandwiches each. Seriously, US airlines are pathetic in comparison to the KLM service; the number of meals, drink service, the long flight even had warm towels for everyone multiple times just like I’d only seen in movies.

Warsaw is not a large airport. At least, it didn’t seem like it. After the bags went around and no more came out, there was a line at the missing baggage office, all from my flight. That’s right. I packed two carry-ons, checked one, and it didn’t make it to Poland with me. My first lost bag ever.

I was planning to use a bigger bag and check it, carefully packing a few clothing changes in the smaller bag, but once I realized I could go with two small ones, the second bag only held what it needed. I do have a few extra shirts, all my Androids and their chargers, my camera, and a few other things. Several hours ago, the KLM web site said they’d initiated delivery to me. It’s almost 4am. Are they waiting for sunrise? Not cool. Their Twitter person said someone would contact me. Then they said they would forward it in the morning. That had better be really, really early.

Now, about this hotel… It said it had a hotel shuttle when I booked it, which is why I came so far out from the airport. They changed the listing already. My taxi driver had trouble finding it even with a map. It also doesn’t mention the lack of air conditioning. Actually, I don’t see that listed for my next hotel either. It’s raining too, but not cooling off enough for me. That’s bad for sleep, but sleep is bad for this trip. I don’t have time for sleep or weekends.

What else went wrong on day one? My bluetooth keyboard refuses to pair with all of my Androids suddenly. I brought all my charger cables, but only one for two devices, and it’s the two I use the most. They’ll just have to take turns. I only brought my USB cables and not all the plugs, but one device actually needs its own plug and won’t charge. I haven’t eaten and I got hungry around 11pm in the middle of nowhere. Breakfast is in 4 hours. I still need a SIM card for my phone.

(Future note: take the plug for the biggest device. And do some doggone testing first.)

But those really cheap American to European adapters work just fine.

I think I’ll just kind of start over tomorrow. After breakfast, I will take the train to the city center and get started on my plans. I just booked my next hotel but not the rental car.

Also, when I got to the Warsaw airport, I followed the signs to customs and thought I took a wrong turn when a door just opened with no guard. No customs here for me. No Poland stamp. Too much European cooperation. I stepped back and took a picture. Hey, it’s better than pictures of my planes.


You may have also noticed that I’ve been trying to learn some Polish. I don’t know why I feel weird trying to speak to them. Maybe today. I eventually turned on the TV just to listen. So weird. US shows. Not captioned or dubbed how you might think. They play the original audio but a man overlaps it with a translation slightly louder.

Wait, I do have one other picture. I had a window seat only on the last flight. I took a picture of my view for most of that trip.


I didn’t have my camera ready as we approached for landing. Pretty. Lots of green and all orange roofs.

Gosh, that was a lot of venting, wasn’t it? I’ll balance that a little more.


The Journey of Learning Other Languages

… and a review of one method in two languages.

In anticipation of my first European Research Trip, I have been trying to learn Polish. I actually started with Russian, but switched pretty early, realizing that I would probably be in Poland longer. How am I learning to speak Polish? I’ve tried a few things.

First, I went with Pimsleur. The problem is that I don’t do listen and repeat learning well. I need to be able to read what I’m saying. In addition, while Pimsleur starts by teaching some useful things, it then gets into the more ridiculous. It teaches how to ask for directions, but the only answers it teaches are “here” and “there”. Not helpful. When it gets into food and drink, it teaches beer and wine. Um, no water? It also takes either three or four lessons until it teaches how to say “I am an American”, for a female. Seems a little sexist there, since it teaches the male version right away.

Second, I tried Rosetta Stone. This taught some general vocabulary, then went into a few phrases with no explanation of the grammar — Polish words change depending on where they are in a sentence, and I need real instruction. When it insisted that I learn how to say “the boy is under the ball”, I knew it was teaching me some very useful phrases. Yeah. I did learn that flash card-type learning actually works for me though, because I did remember a few of those words for a very long time.

I didn’t know where to go from there, so I turned to the Internet. I found some videos on YouTube that taught the numbers, the months, and just some general how to speak in Polish lessons, including conjugating verbs. I typed in some sentences I thought would be useful to me in Google Translate, and I loaded all of this into Quizlet, downloading those flash cards to my Android. I worked with those for a while, but it kind of faded away. was brought to my attention next. I started learning vocabulary in Polish and I even went into French for a refresher. Well, refresher might be an understatement. I am still using the site, but no amount of vocabulary was going to teach me the grammar and how to put together sentences. Having learned French in school, that one wasn’t the problem. It was still the Polish I needed.

My final destination was another audio method of learning. Again, like with Pimsleur, I needed to read, so I typed as I went.

I had briefly listened to a bit of the beginning of the Michel Thomas Polish Foundation some time ago and thought it was also teaching useless vocabulary. This time, I listened longer and realized that it was actually a terrific way to learn a language. Because I’d been trying to learn for so long, I already knew some of the words it was teaching.

And here is where I begin my review.

The Michel Thomas method involves listening to a recording between a teacher and two students. The teacher teaches a few words then asks the students to compose sentences from them. As the third student, they suggest you pause after the English to compose the word or sentence in the new language before the other students answer. Groups of words that are similar to English are taught together. Grammar rules and sentence structure is explained. You are not supposed to read or write, though there is a booklet with the vocabulary.

The Polish Foundation course was wonderful. The teacher was a native speaker, the students were intelligent, there was time to pause before they spoke the answers. It went into conjugation, future tense, and paste tense all in the eight hour foundation course. It did not mention the cases in Polish, which still confuse me. I did not have the booklet when I started, so since my only Polish background was in reading vital records (and the previous attempts to learn), I typed as I learned.

By the third CD, I felt like I was falling behind and not remembering things, so I began to repeat. I did the first three again, then after completing each CD, I would play it back a second time. I really wanted to learn the language well.

As I began the Polish course, and realized how much I was learning so quickly, I looked online to see if there was more. Among other things, I came across a site that gave the French course a bad review. But since I was going to France on this trip, I decided to try it too.

The Polish course was by far superior to the French.

Having taken French in high school and college, I had a head start. I had also been working with French in Memrise, though not as much as the Polish. I had the booklet for this one before I began, so I could read as I went.

The French teacher was Michel Thomas himself, who is a native Polish speaker. He pronounced words oddly to teach them, over-exaggerating constantly. He also pronounced English oddly, and a few times, I couldn’t understand what he wanted me to say. On many occasions, he had to stop and think about what sentence to ask next, as if he hadn’t prepared the lesson. Especially in the later lessons, he would just spew off a list of vocabulary words or sentences, not even asking the students to respond. That is not the way you are supposed to learn with this method, so it didn’t do much for me.

The French students were terrible. The students often jumped in with the French so there wasn’t time to pause the recording before they began. The female was especially dense, and French is much closer to English than Polish, so it should be easier to learn. She often repeated things after the male student and the teacher, many times. As the lessons continued, there were fewer and fewer times when I heard her voice, until she came back again near the end. She did not listen very well, struggling right at the beginning.

Probably because the students were doing so badly so often, when asking for a sentence with more than just a few words, the teacher often repeated the English while the student was trying to translate, one or two words at a time. The Polish never repeated like that, except for very long sentences with multiple phrases.

Because I mentioned it about the Polish, I’ll point out that the French lesson taught the future tense in two different ways, just barely touched on the past tense, and did not complete the conjugation lessons. The informal “you” does not exist in the French Foundation.

Even with the drawbacks of the French version, the method is still valid for learning another language. Because I had that school background, it made the French easier for me. Someone learning from scratch might have a slightly harder time learning some things correctly the way he taught. I completed the Polish Foundation before beginning the French Foundation. I went on to the French Foundation Review, which was the Foundation chopped up, just the teacher without the other students, stating the English, then pausing before stating the French. I enjoyed it much more without waiting for the other students, but the full course is still needed first, unless you already have the vocabulary and grammar rules it teaches. Upon my completion of the Review, I have just returned to the Advanced Polish.

After that, I don’t know if I will go on to any of the other French lessons. There are Advanced, Advanced Review, Builder, and Vocabulary; I believe they should be played in that order.

I also have the Russian lessons ready to go, but I’m not sure if I want to get into them before this trip. Russian and Polish have many similarities and I will likely confuse them a lot. Maybe I’ll listen on the plane, or the trains; I probably won’t get much else done on the long journeys.

Uczę się mówić po polsku.

Je peux parler français un peu.

Now that I’ve learned how to type those Polish characters, and got them working in WordPress with a bit of nudging, I’ve got to figure out the French ones too.

Anyone else out there bilingual or trilingual or more? How did you learn the other languages? Any other tips for me when I’ve run out of these lessons?

Add Your URL

Randy Seaver posted on Genea-Musings not long ago about including the URL of each blog post within the blog. His main reason in that particular article was because of his iPhone. Apparently, from within his RSS reader (Google Reader, I believe), there was no way to go to the original blog post in order to see more from the blog or to leave a comment. He suggested leaving the URL within the post so that it could be clicked for those reasons.

I have another reason. Yesterday, one of my blog posts was copied in its entirety on three separate blogs. These weren’t even the typical genealogy sploggers. They were seemingly random sploggers who just copied posts on a variety of subjects. I didn’t try to find a connection. But I think that once one of them copied it, then the others picked it up possibly just from each other.

How did I find them? Two ways. Google Alerts told me about one. The other two reported back to my blog as pingbacks, meaning, those blogs mentioned my blog post and informed my blog about them. Because they copied the URL of my blog from within the article.

Have my articles been copied before? I hadn’t seen them on some previously found genealogy splogs, but there are obviously hundreds if not more other blogs just stealing content. And for no good reason. They weren’t trying to be topical and they had no advertising, or very little. It’s just pointless and blatant stealing.

For the record, the Posterous site was shut down in less than a day. The other two are anonymous domain registrations, so no one is going to shut them down easily.

But I’m definitely ending all my blog posts with the URL from now on.

The URL of this post is

Oppose SOPA and PIPA

Why is my logo blacked out? Maybe you’ve heard that our government is trying to turn this country into a police state. The latest attacks on our freedom, or at least the biggest ones that affect us on the Internet, are SOPA and PIPA, one each for the House and the Senate.

I’d love to tell you more, but there are so many other web sites that can explain it better. I never understand all the legaleze in these government things. I’m convinced they deliberately write bills so that no one can understand them. In this case, people were paying attention. There has been discussion and protest to these bills on the Internet for quite a while.

These two bills are supposed to be about protecting copyrights and such, or so the Congress thinks, but really it just makes any web site guilty until proven innocent. I’m all for copyright protection, especially with the number of sploggers we’ve seen just in the genealogy blogger community, but even in my somewhat limited understanding of these bills, I know that they’re going about it the wrong way.

And so many web sites are going dark for 18 January 2012 to protest, including Google, Wikipedia, and Reddit. So hang on over to those sites to read more about this, if you want to know more.

So why is this blog my only site to go dark and why didn’t I make the whole thing go away? Well, if every page on every site went dark, you wouldn’t actually know what was going on because there’d be nothing to explain it. Right? OK, maybe I’m being a little bit lazy, but those big sites have been planning for this while I’ve been procrastinating. Even this blog post is less than an hour until “protest day” begins in my time zone. In any case, at least I’ve been helping to spread the word via social networking, and I’m doing it now on my blog as well.

Genealogy Goals For 2012

This seems to be a common genealogy blog topic, so here’s my go. I didn’t do goals for last year, so I can’t judge them.

In 2011, I made my business paperless by using Android. I tried previously with my PDA but it didn’t work. I finally finished scanning all the family photos that had been given to me years ago and I organized all my photos on my computer. I began re-organizing all my genealogy documents, but only got part way when I switched to the photos. At the beginning of the year, I reprogrammed my family web site, but now I need to add the photos back in. Since they’re organized, it should be easier, but I haven’t gotten to it yet.

And that brings me to my goals for 2012.

1. Go to Europe.

The IAJGS conference is in Paris in 2012. However, it’s losing it’s appeal to me for a few reasons. A cousin of mine is going to Poland and has arranged for a day tour of our ancestral town. It is almost exactly one month before the conference, so to go to both, I’d have to stay in Europe for over a month or fly home and back in the same month. Both options are not appealing to me. But if I skip the conference, I can easily plan for a June trip.

2. Organize my documents.

I started this in 2011. Then my cousin asked about pictures on the web site and I switched to organizing those, which I finished. Now I have to get back to the documents, making sure everything has a good digital copy and is sourced better in my program.

3. Get pictures on the family web site.

I finished organizing them. Now I have to write the programming to link them up to the database and then get them on the web site.

4. Blog more.

I’ve had some busy times, then some slow times. Also, I started another blog to post a picture a day. It started really well, but December was terrible and I skipped days all over the place. There will also be a new society blog for me to keep up with very soon. Also, don’t leave off Nitpicker’s Versions of WDYTYA episodes until the next season starts. Again. Yes, I know I still have one more to do.

Business Goals

1. Don’t procrastinate emails.

I end up taking upwards of an hour sometimes to answer an initial genealogy inquiry, so I tend to procrastinate on those. Like my photo blog, it got much worse in December. I had 100 near the end of the year. I have less than 30 now in my inbox, and still several that need answering. But at least none are a month old anymore.

2. Invoice better.

This also includes for my web development business.

I have some other smaller things, but they fall in line with not procrastinating emails and updating my family web site. I did improve on some things last year, so now I get another chance to improve even more.

Also, just writing this blog post means I’m blogging more, right? :-)


Late addition: Index more.

I forgot about this one. (Kind of like I keep forgetting to index the pages I already have?) I’m part of one indexing project and I haven’t been doing much lately. I need to finish the pages I’ve got and do more. I also want to get my society indexing, so I assume I’ll be doing at least some of that too.

Android Wars

This post was originally called Tablet Wars. Then I forgot to post it before I ended up with a third tablet. Now I’m on my fourth Android, and the latest isn’t a tablet.

Three Tablets and a Small Android

My first Android was the ViewSonic gTablet that I bought from woot for about $280. When that died, I graduated to the Samsung Galaxy Tab 7″ from Best Buy, on sale for $300.  When I returned that, I couldn’t bear to leave the store without another Android and bought the Asus Transformer for $400. Then woot, usually the ones to get rid of old stock, had an exclusive sale for the Samsung Galaxy S Wifi 5.0 for about $180, which isn’t yet released officially in the US. (I’ll refer to this later as the S5 for brevity.) So here is my comparison, what went wrong with the first two, why the last two are the best, and why I can’t stop buying these things.

Hungry for an OS?

The Asus is the only one running the Honeycomb OS, version 3.2, made specifically for tablets (3.x is for tablets). All the others have Froyo 2.2, which I discovered is shorthand for frozen yogurt. (Who already knew that?) All the OS versions have food names: cupcake, donut, eclair, gingerbread, and the future ice cream sandwich.

Size Matters

The gTablet and the Asus are both about 10″. These are measured on the diagonal, so the 7″ Tab seems about half the size of the 10″, and the 5″ is possibly a quarter of the size.

I bought a bag for the gTablet, which also suits the Asus. The Tab fits in my purse. (Not that I use a purse, but I do own a couple. So I used one for a couple weeks for that.) The S5 slides easily into my back pocket. It is the same width as my Palm TX and a little taller. I was not the only person to notice that someone had finally created an Android replacement for the PDA. Palm OS is unfortunately obsolete, but I still rely on my PDA. Once I get all my data out of that and into the S5, I’ll be sad to retire it.

Because the S5 is not a phone, some people are calling it a tablet. I prefer not to, after having three others. I consider a tablet to be much bigger. It’s, you know, tablet sized.

Monitor Matters

The biggest complaint from everyone about the gTablet is it’s viewing angle. As one person put it, for something that is entirely a screen, and from a monitor manufacturer, it should have been better. I really only noticed it while playing games in bed, propped up on my elbow, with the gTab lying flat on the bed.  It did offer more privacy where my neighbors couldn’t see it so well, like on a plane. Other than that, I think they all have beautiful displays.

Charging Matters

The gTablet died just as I started traveling with it. I really wanted to use it all week at a genealogy conference. (I wanted to not bring my laptop, but didn’t feel confident that the gTablet would suit all my needs. Of course, if I didn’t have the laptop, I might not have dropped and killed the gTab…) It was charging, fell off the chair, and the AC plug just disconnected itself from the circuit board. (I dissected it later.) It never charged again. Very sad. But it uses a standard plug and if it was the charger itself that had broken (like I initially thought), I could’ve gotten a replacement at Radio Shack.

The Asus has a proprietary connector for charging. The wire just beyond the connector feels a little flimsy to me. I saw a few complaints online that it stopped working for other people, and a replacement is expensive.

The Galaxy Tab has an apparently very rare but not proprietary plug. The S5 has a standard micro USB.

Market Matters

The gTablet has to be hacked to get to the Google Market, where too many Android apps can only be found. Even then, I still didn’t have access to many apps. The other three come with the Market. I read that the Tab had limited access, and I noticed a couple things missing. The Asus probably has slightly different access also, because it’s a different OS version. The S5 seems to have almost everything.

There are a few apps I’ve found that Market says are incompatible with all of my Androids. The requirements match, so I have no idea what they’re doing.

Typing Matters

All three tablets, even the 7″, are easy enough to use with the on-screen keyboards. The gTablet needs an app to use the bluetooth keyboard that I purchased specifically to use with it. Even then, it has some trouble.

The wifi Tab has the bluetooth keyboard support deliberately deactivated by Samsung. This really bothered me, especially after avoiding the Verizon 3G version (for $100 less) because of the same problem. The 3G has better hardware than the wifi version. I was ready to live with the lesser hardware, but not when I discovered the keyboard issue, which was the reason I returned it.

So when I returned the Tab, I brought my keyboard to the store. I was really there to check out the Acer Iconia because I’d just read there was a 7″ version and I was loving the size of the Tab. I knew the store didn’t have it, but they had the 10″. I ended up turning on the bluetooth on both the Asus and the Acer, and both paired up flawlessly. I decided not to leave the store without another Android and bought the Asus. (The two were virtually identical with only a couple of differences.)

I was incredibly pleased when the keyboard also paired right up with my S5. I learned quickly how to type with the on-screen keyboard, but can’t fathom how people with even smaller screens can type so much.

The Asus does have one advantage when it comes to the bluetooth keyboard. When the keyboard is paired, the on-screen keyboard is hidden. I don’t know if there’s a setting for that on the S5, but I’m sure there’s a hack somewhere. Especially with a smaller device, on-screen real estate is more precious.

Hardware Matters

The hardware inside the gTablet was compared to the Motorola Xoom, which I assumed was good given the higher price of that one and the other geeks who raved about it. The wifi Tab has lesser hardware than its 3G siblings. It lags on its home screen with the included launcher. Once I installed LauncherPro, it worked better. The other two are wonderful. The S5 has the same processor of the 3G Tab. I’m skipping the technical details, so I won’t look up the processor GHz and such for each. (But the S5 has the 1GHz Hummingbird processor, if you know what that means. It’s the only one I know about without looking it up.)


The gTablet is the only one with a regular USB port so I could plug in a flash drive or just about anything. (The Acer Iconia has one also.)

The Asus is often reviewed with its keyboard, which practically doubles the battery life and includes an SD card slot and two USB ports. But I had no plans to buy their keyboard since I already have one.

When my gTablet died, I considered buying an identical replacement. However, since I was already started with Android, I realized why I shouldn’t. There are numerous apps that require a camera or GPS. I want to use them and the gTab doesn’t have them. (I had a couple of GPS-faking apps, but when I hacked it for the Market, they stopped working for me.) Specifically for genealogy purposes, both the BillionGraves and RestingSpot apps require GPS, BG requires the camera, any scanning of QR codes needs the camera, etc.

All of my Androids since the gTablet have had GPS and camera.

No Cell Phones

None of my Android devices has been a cell phone or received 3G or 4G signals. They each require a wifi signal to connect to the Internet. This does put a damper on things sometimes, like apps where you check-in wherever you go or if you want to be in constant contact with people via Twitter or instant messaging.

I bought a 4G wifi hotspot for my trip (the one when the gTablet died) but did not buy a long-term plan. I can activate it whenever I want and have done so. It has a very short battery life, compared to the Androids, but it will allow any of these devices to connect online wherever I can get the 4G signal (in all major US cities). Also, it allows five devices to connect at once. Many Androids allow tethering (using the cell phone signal to connect another computer to the Internet), but sometimes the cell plans do not allow it.

The Winners

I definitely improved on my device with each purchase. The gTablet was my introduction to Android. The Galaxy Tab was my introduction to what an Android should be able to do. The Asus Transformer is what an Android can do. And the Galaxy S Wifi is the replacement for my Palm.

I loved the Tab, and especially the size of it. It’s similar to the Kindle and the Nook, smaller, easier to hold. It was the lesser hardware than the 3G version and especially the lack of keyboard support that made me return it.

I loved the Asus. It is a little bigger than the gTablet. But it has the newest version of the Android OS and does not need to be hacked to work. I almost kept it, but I anticipate a drop in price when the next version comes out. I’ve already seen some early evidence of that. If it wasn’t for buying the S5, I have no doubt that I would have kept it.

I love the S5. I also love that I have a device that hasn’t been released in the US yet. Several other purchasers tried to research it; one person determined that we have the Central American and Caribbean version. For once, I’m actually ahead of the technology, sort of.

I Keep Coming Back

Once I had my first Android, I was hooked. When it died, I was crushed. I almost couldn’t replace it fast enough; I just needed to have another. I was hoping to transfer my affection and my data from Palm OS to Android. My affection is certainly there, but I haven’t finished with all of the data quite yet.

I don’t remember when I bought my first PDA, but it was a Visor Handspring and the 1990s. When that died, I replaced it with a Sony Clie, and then the Palm TX in 2006. The Palm is still going strong. When I leave the house and make sure I have everything in my pockets (wallet, phone, keys, etc.), I always check my back pocket for my Palm. Well, now it will be my S5 instead.

When you hear advice that you should always have pen and paper or a smartphone to record people’s phone numbers or other information, that back pocket is what I reach for.

I might have been happy with the Palm forever had I not tried Android. But the TX would have eventually died and the only replacement would be someone else’s 5+ year old used PDA. It was time for something new and I’m thrilled to find that Android is an excellent successor.

I’m not the only one who instantly fell in love with their Android, am I?
(Well, OK, iPhone users can comment too.)