Sierra Nevada Airstreams - Recreation with vehicles in the Sierra Nevada and American Great Basin areas -> owner's guide -> touring

Electronic Data Processing

Using computers to help you capture, store, and manage information about your travels.

Have you ever taken a moment to count up the number of computers you have with you when you head down the road? Your engine has at least one and your vehicle may have several more not counting the computers in various instruments or accessories. Many of your RV appliances also have computers to help provide control and safety. Your cell phone and camera are specialized computers. A GPS receiver also has a fairly robust computer is depends upon to calculate its location.

There is a move afoot to get all these computers talking to each other. The GPS will tell the weather radio where it is so it can pick out warnings appropriate for that location and pass them along to the entertainment center, cell phone, and other communications devices. The phone will tell the entertainment center to hush when it is handling a call. The battery bank will tell the genset when it needs a charge. The genset will work with the battery charger, the air conditioner and other appliances to make best use of its power available. Weather instruments on your rig will automatically open and shut windows and shades for optimum comfort and equipment protection. How far will it go? Don't place any bets on limits in the RV industry!

Making a Record

Not too long ago journals and records were observations, measurements, impressions, and thoughts written down on paper. The era of electronic data processing means that some of this can be automated or facilitated in a manner to reduce transcription error. The need for organization, classification, and interpretation is still where you make your journal yours rather than the product of some automaton.

A word processor is a good starting point for journal tools. Simple ones just allow entering text. A step up allows formatting and text attributes such as bold or italic. Even more complex word processors support outlining and indexing that can structure your notes and also allow inserting images and other material in your document. The free form nature and flexibility of word processors makes searching for topics or linking topics somewhat difficult but modern computer capabilities make these difficulties nearly invisible.

The spreadsheet is the tool to use for recording information that makes sense as a table of rows and columns. The first spreadsheets was called VisiCalc because it was presented as a visible calculator. The spreadsheet allows you to calculate things such as miles per gallon automatically after you have entered the specifics of a fuel stop. Modern spreadsheets provide capabilities to 'word process' each cell and to insert pictures and draw graphs of the data on the spreadsheet. Many will also support multiple pages so you can have a set of spreadsheet pages in one file.

Database software is the wizard behind the curtain. It is a general purpose engine that works on data behind the scenes. What a database user sees is a form presentation that displays selected data, a report generator that prints selected data, a query manager that is a form presentation to a query specification database, a spreadsheet that displays selected data, or some other tool that works with the database engine.

Custom software such as the many journal and log applications provide value in two areas. One is that they provide a structured data set for a particular need, use, or application. Second is that they provide a set of tools to enter, view, report, edit, and select this data in ways that are particularly meaningful for the application at hand. The better custom software will make it easy for anyone who understands the job to be done to use the software while at the same time allowing under the covers access for enhancing the application or transferring data.

Records archiving

Have you thought about how someone might be able to read your journal in fifty or a hundred years? Electronic data is very easy to copy without degradation but where it is stored and how it is stored may make future access difficult. You need to choose your storage media and formats carefully.

Data format is one of the more peculiar EDP problems because a user never really sees it and only encounters its implications when trying to move data between machines or applications. Many application authors will store things in a unique way to give them an advantage in features or convenience to their own facilities. The best way to make sure your data will be readable in the future is to use formats with open and published specifications. Examples of these formats include Adobe's PDF or portable document format, HTML used for web pages, jpg used for images, or just plain text.

Media life can be more easily managed by making copies onto new media. Currently, the CD-ROM is becoming popular because the media in inexpensive, the hardware to read and write on the media do not require significant capital costs, it will hold a good amount of data, and the media has a fairly long expected lifespan (fifty years or more, usually). Magnetic media such as tape or floppy diskettes used to be the choice but these suffered a shorter lifespan. You can see the problems with the life of magnetic tapes if you have a video library stored on VHS or Beta cartridges.

Where you store your records is also a matter for considerations. Since it is so easy to copy, you can share with friends or even post on the internet. Having multiple copies means that the destruction of the original for whatever reason does not mean the loss of the data. Multiple copies can be a concern if the data changes and you need to keep things up to date, the data is sensitive and you'd rather not share it with just anyone, or the data includes valuable information that might be misused.

Filing systems

After you collect a lot of stuff, you need to create a system to help you keep track of it and manage it. At the very least you need to be able to easily separate the public from the private stuff. Each part and piece should be given an identification that is meaningful and facilitates sorting and cataloging. Related material should be grouped into chunks for easier handling.

To see how others filed EDP materials, take a look at the links in the resources. After the http and something dot net, com, org, or whatever is a filename. If you look carefully you can see clues as to how the website designer structured the file system for that site.


Owner's Guide on Travelogues - journals, logs, and diaries of your experiences.

Owner's Guide on presentations - hints and tips to help you share your experiences with others.

Free web log service -

Links for online journals -

Journal Writing Resources - - nice dictionary of terms and a good essay on reasons why

gambling logs - for those who gamble seriously -

Can't find a Favorite File?

Linux file system - -

Web search: how the Web has changed information retrieval, Terrence A. Brooks, Information School, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington, USA - -

Automatically Generated Topic Maps of World Wide Web Resources, Carol Jean Godby, Senior Research Scientist, Eric J. Miller, Senior Research Scientist, Ray R. Reighart, Senior Systems Analyst - -

Why Automatic Information Management is Doomed to Fail - - "Reason #1: Not everything on your computer is important; Reason #2: Not everyone thinks by time, all the time; Reason #3: Not everything looks good in 3D; The answer to next-generation information management can be found in only one person: You "

Subject Classifications in the Scientific and Overall Digital World - - DRAFT - To appear in "High Energy Physics Libraries Webzine"

Resource Discovery in a Globally-Distributed Digital Library Working Group Report - Digital Library Collaborative Working Groups - -

Lancaster U paper on browsing as a communal resource - -

If you find any of these have ceased to become useful or if you have other sites to recommend, please let us know - email

disclaimer - owner's guide - -

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Last updated 08/19/2003