Monday, May 14, 2018

Computer Archeology

I had my DNA sequenced by 23 and Me a while back, and I was surprised to get a couple of messages from a 2nd cousin and a possible 4th cousin.

This led me to trying to find a printout of a family tree that my brother had compiled some time before he died in June 2005.  Unfortunately, I couldn't find the printout, but I found something better:  a 3.5" floppy with the family data.  That's when I discovered that my 3.5" floppy drive (yes, I still have one) had died.   That sent me on a scavenger hunt at work, trying to locate a portable drive that I could borrow.  I struck pay-dirt with my supervisor, who knew of a couple of 3.5" USB floppy drives that LAN Services used to use for flashing updates.

It took a bit of coaxing to get my Windows 10 computer to recognize the drive, and then I was further stymied by the data.  The disk had a single data file:  Olynyk.FTW.   The FTW file extension was something used by Family Tree Maker.   But then, things got crazy complicated.

First, Family Tree Maker software costs something on the order of $80.  Then, it was a matter of the FTW file being in a very old, circa 2004 data format.

Fortunately, I was able to locate a free, downloadable installation file for Family Tree Maker version 4.0 for Windows 95 (May 15, 1997).  I have a copy of VMWorkstation on my work PC, so I first tried installing Windows 95 on it from an ISO image.   This was a non-trivial task, because in order to install the Windows ISO I first had to have an image file of a bootable DOS disk.


When I finally got Windows 95 installed, I was further hamstrung with various incompatibilities.  The USB drivers were not native to Windows 95, and connecting to the Internet with Windows 95 was a real bear.   I finally gave up on Windows 95 and installed a Windows 98 virtual machine.   That allowed me access to the  the internet.  I still had trouble with the USB floppy drive, but I burned the data file to a CD (talk about a waste of space!), which worked with Windows 98.



I loaded and installed the ancient version of Family Tree Maker, read in the Olynyk.FTW data file and then exported it to a more portable GEDCOM format.  With internet access, I was able to log into FileLocker.wvu.edu and upload the data file.



With that data, I was able to use a free Family Tree Builder program that runs on Windows 10.

I've been working with computers for 35 years, but I didn't appreciate until now how evanescent old data formats could be. 

I guess anything I have on old computer tape is pretty much lost forever.  And thank goodness that I don't have anything left on punch cards!

Post Script:  Success!

I can't leave well enough alone.  I re-installed Windows 95 and got the internet thing.


Big surprise:  IE 3.0 has a bitch of a time resolving web pages -- even Microsoft's.

Friday, May 11, 2018

Way Up North

This is the first time ever that I spotted a double-crested cormorant (Phalacrocorax auritus) north of the Florida gulf coast. 


This isn't a great picture of one.  It's just swimming and diving around in the Monongahela river near the Decker's creek confluence.  It has the prettiest color eyes.



According to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology site, this bird is well within its migratory range.  It looks like it breeds in Canada, so this one is likely just passing through.

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Trillium signs the likes of which even god has not seen

I had seen this stand of white trilliums (Trillium grandiflorum) from along the highway for a couple of years now.  Yesterday, I decided to brave the traffic and hauled my camera and tripod out to capture these.


Granted, the landscape leaves a lot to be desired, but I tried to convey the sheer number of these flowers.  Here's a more up-close shot:


According to one web site, Trilliums spread very slowly by underground root stocks, and the seed produced creates new plants even more slowly. From a planted seed, it takes approximately five to nine years for a Trillium grandiflorum plant to bloom. So when you see a massive drift of these in spring, you know you're looking at a bunch of plants that are at least a decade old, probably much older.

Obviously, this stand has been lumbered (at the least), but it's nice to see that such a large growth of Trilliums have escaped the bulldozer.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Cheap Frills

The bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis) is said to be quite variable in flower and leaf.  I shot this one in the Arboretum last Saturday, where it is shown displaying its frill in a threatening manner.


Although this type of behavior is typical of certain animals, it's not at all common in the plant kingdom.


The juice of the bloodroot is red and poisonous, but at least it doesn't spit.  The other plants nearby nonetheless felt threatened.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Spring in the Arboretum

Took a stroll down the rail trail to the bottom of the WVU Arboretum last Saturday.  The highly variable weather we've been having has had a strange effect on the wildflowers there.  I went for the Bluebells, but they weren't anything like what they've been in previous years.

Here's a panorama shot, facing up hill.


What was impressive was the volume of plants like Trout Lily and Wakerobin.



I learned something new about the Wakerobin.  There are a couple of closely related species of it.  I've always thought that this is the red trillium or wakerobin (Trillium erectum), but now I've leaned that this might also be a furrowed wakerobin (Trillium sulcatum), which is more southern and also grows in this state (W.Va.). Although quite similar, you can tell them apart by the smell: Trillium erectum smells like rotten meat and Trillium sulcatum smells faintly musty, like fresh fungus. Sorry to say, but I did not think to smell this.

Monday, March 26, 2018

A tale of two shots

I took some time off from work last Thursday and made a brief trip up to Desker's Creek in Preston County.  There was still a good bit of snow on the ground, and I didn't exactly come prepared to do what I did, which was to work my way down into a ravine that held a torrent of icy water.

Not knowing what I'd do next, I fired off a bunch of shots with my camera.  This one has certain aesthetic elements, as I composed it for all of the triangles in the picture:  the fallen tree, the path of the water, the sky, etc.


You can follow certain rules of composition and make the best out of a sow's ear, but this picture is still a sow's ear.  It's too busy.  The snow-covered tree is interesting, but there's just too much going on here.

I mustered the courage to climb up and go back down a little further up stream.  I crawled onto a boulder and took this next shot.


This one doesn't scream "winter" like the other one.  You have to look carefully to notice the snow.  And the composition is pretty straightforward here:  law of thirds, with the top of the falls and the bottom of the falls taking up the middle third.

Still, this picture is way nicer than the previous shot.  It's the one that made it worth falling on my ass for.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

...And the flag was still there!

The fourth nor'easter in three weeks was hitting Morgantown this morning.


This is a shot from the 7th floor of One Waterfront Place.