You can easily and cheaply add a second monitor to your Windows or Macintosh computer… if you already own an iPad or iPhone. Several ex-Apple engineers have created Duet Display, a $15.99 app that adds a second display for your Mac or Windows computer. It works well for any task that you might want to leave running all the time while dedicating the bigger screen for other tasks. For instance, you might want to keep a window open on the iPad or iPhone to monitor incoming email messages while using the main screen of the computer for word processing, surfing the web, or playing games. In fact, you can do all of those things simultaneously: run several programs on the big screen but still keep one program, such as email, displayed on the iPad or iPhone’s screen. The second display can be added to desktop and laptop computers alike.
I have written a number of times about Chromebooks, the inexpensive and very useful laptop computers. (See https://goo.gl/AAaOZr for a list of my past articles about Chromebooks.)
I have owned a Chromebook for three years or so and use it often. It is very secure, boots up quickly, and it only cost about $200. Best of all, its software is always up to date, the same as the newest Chromebooks. The newer Chromebooks may be a bit lighter and have faster processors, but my older system’s software is identical to what is installed in the brand-new Chromebooks.
Unlike Microsoft and Apple products, Chromebooks automatically update the operating system whenever a new version is released. Most releases are small, incremental improvements and are released every few weeks. There is never a huge download like Windows 10 or the Macintosh OS X Yosemite that change lots of things and sometimes break installed programs.
I have written a number of times about Chromebooks, inexpensive laptops that run the user-friendly Chrome operating system. (See https://goo.gl/jq3Exa for some of my past articles about Chromebooks.) I own one of these systems and love it. It is a good, low-cost and also low-powered traveling laptop. However, Chromebooks may have now met their biggest competitors: Acer’s Cloudbooks that run Windows 10 and sell for as little as $169.
Known as the Aspire One Cloudbook 11 and 14, the two new systems are designed to used in a similar way to a Chromebook, with a focus on cloud storage. Both the 11 and 14-inch versions of the Aspire One Cloudbooks are powered by Windows 10, with Intel Celeron processors, 2 gigabytes or memory and 1,366 x 768 LED backlit displays. There’s also built-in 802.11ac wi-fi wireless networking, a full-sized HDMI port for connection to a television set, a pair of USB ports and an SecureDigital card slot included.
Three days ago I published an article about a $20 Android PC. That article is still available at http://blog.eogn.com/2015/07/17/a-20-android-pc/. I described a Kickstarter project in which a company is trying to raise $50,000 to go into production of this tiny device.
Today the company announced that they met their $50,000 goal 68 minutes after announcing it on Kickstarter! The campaign hit $250,000 in funding about 27 hours after launch and hit $500,000 in funding about 113 hours after launch! That is ten times the goal. Not bad. Obviously, there is a lot of demand for this device.
And, yes, one of those orders came from me.
I believe this is the wave of the future. In fact, I also believe the days of the Windows and Macintosh desktop and laptop computers are numbered. Those bigger computers won’t disappear overnight but I suspect sales will dwindle within ten years. The world is moving to smaller, lightweight, handheld computers that are all connected online with storage in the cloud.
But wait, you say you don’t want a tiny screen and a make-believe keyboard that requires you to type letters on a small screen? The ultra-cheap Remix Mini PC might be just what you want. The price certainly is attractive: $20 to $40 (US), depending upon the amount of included memory and internal storage. You will also have to add a monitor of any size you wish plus a keyboard and mouse. The total cost with everything should be under $150 unless you decide to use a really large monitor. Of course, if you already have a monitor, keyboard, or mouse available, the total price will be reduced.
Many of us are disappointed in the limited life spans of today’s media. Paper and film fade with time. Floppy disks, CD-ROM and DVD-ROM disks, flash drives, and other media also all have limited lifespans. Even microfilm is expected to last only about 300 years and that is only when stored in rigidly controlled temperatures and humidity and then ONLY if it is never used! (Microfilm scratches and wears quickly when used.)
Now a new storage media has been created that should last long enough for most of our needs: a million years or more. Even better, reading data from the disk can be read by the human eye when using a powerful magnifying glass or a microscope. I suspect those items will still be available in a few million years. The information is recorded at 1/30,000th of the original size and is preserved for all time. Water, acid, age, scratches or fire will not deteriorate the information.
I have written a number of times about Chromebook laptop computers. (See my previous articles by starting at https://goo.gl/nrFf28 and especially my Why Use a Chromebook? article at http://goo.gl/lvU1Yv.)
Chromebooks are excellent low-cost laptop computers that are very easy to use. They boot up quickly, never gets viruses, and seem to be very reliable. I have owned a Chromebook for several years and use it often. A number of my friends also use Chromebooks, either for themselves or for their children. I also know a 90-year-old lady who uses a Chromebook frequently. All seem pleased with them. However, if you are looking for a laptop that is as powerful as your present Windows or Macintosh system, a Chromebook probably is not for you except possibly as a traveling system.
Here is a quick note that apparently is good for today only. Rick Broida writes in his Cheapskate Blog:
Sobering thought for the day: Data loss is not a matter of if — it’s a matter of when. If you use a computer or smartphone or tablet long enough, eventually you’ll lose precious documents, photos or the like. Might be the result of a virus, might be due to theft or accident, but it’ll happen.
The question is, will that event prove to be a major calamity or minor inconvenience? You can easily make it the latter by implementing a robust backup system, by which I mean one that archives your data locally and online. Automatically. All the time.
I recently wrote about a newly-announced product called QromaScan. It will convert an iPhone into a scanner. What separates QromaScan from the other scanning products is that QromaScan adds voice commands and transcriptions. You can read my earlier article at http://wp.me/p5Z3-1Vt to read the details.
I have since exchanged email messages with Tony Knight at QromaScan. He found me after he started receiving lots of “hits” on his web site that were redirected from my earlier article and he alo received email messages from quite a few pople asking about genealogy applications of his newly-announced product. He apparently then realized that genealogists often scan photographs! Well, I think he already suspected that as Tony is bit of a genealogist himself. However, the response from the announcement in this newsletter told him just how big the genealogy marketplace is.
Now the following announcement has been written by Tony Knight:
Here is a simple scanner to help you organize those boxes of old photos you’ve got gathering dust in the attic. One caveat: it only works with an iPhone. Oh, and another caveat: it isn’t available yet.
QromaScan is currently seeking funding on Kickstarter. If successful, the developers plan to start shipping in July. It looks like they may be successful. The developers have a goal of $20,000 to fund production. As of today, with 19 days left to go in the 30-day Kickstarter campaign, they have already raised more than half of the amount needed.
In my recent article of Wireless Phone Bargain: $29.99 at http://blog.eogn.com/2015/05/01/wireless-phone-bargain-29-99/, I mentioned that I purchased one as a gift for a young friend of mine. However, in setting it up for the first time, I ran into a problem. When powered on, the phone immediately took me to a sign-up screen that wanted me to enter my information so that I could obtain (and pay for) a telephone number from Verizon. I couldn’t see any method to skip the apparently required registration process.
Luckily, the Internet came to my rescue.
This article has nothing to do with genealogy. However, if you will permit me an off-topic article, I will mention that I often write about cell phone bargains and other communications bargains. However, I won’t call this a “cell phone” bargain. Technically, it is a cell phone but I suggest you not use it as cell phone. Confusing?
I would suggest using this very cheap “smartphone” for everything except a cell phone. And, yes, you can even make phone calls with it. You cannot make calls while driving down the highway but can make and receive calls as long as you are connected to a wi-fi network.
The UPS driver made a late evening delivery last night. About 10:30 PM, the big brown truck pulled into the driveway and delivered my new Apple Watch. I think that is the latest UPS delivery I have ever received.
The driver and I had about a ten-second conversation. He said, “Late night” so I asked, “Apple Watch?” He said, “Yeah. Hundreds of them.” Obviously, he was working overtime making the deliveries. All he needed was a red suit, a white beard and a sleigh with reindeer to complete the image.
Indeed, yesterday was the first day that millions of the new Apple Watches were delivered. I didn’t expect to receive mine on the first day but I was unboxing the new watch at 11 o’clock last night.
Writing in the Ancestry Blog, Aaron Orr has announced a new app from Ancestry: the Apple Watch App.
I haven’t seen the app yet, although my Apple Watch IS on order. However, after reading Aaron Orr’s article, it appears that it is not a full-blown, general-purpose genealogy application. That shouldn’t be a surprise. After all, just how much can you do on a tiny watch face?
This seems to be the week for articles about scanners. One new device has been announced but is not yet in production: Dacuda PocketScan. It claims to be the world’s smallest scanner. It is about the size of a stapler. It is so small that it cannot scan an entire page or even a photograph all at once. Instead, the user moves the handheld scanner over the item to be digitized and the PocketScan software automatically stitches the scans together into one image. It will work wirelessly with iPad, Macintosh, Windows, and soon should also work with Android devices.
PocketScan performs character recognition for 130 languages. The device measures 95 x 50 x 27 mm (3.75 x 2 x 1 inches), weighs 85g (3 ounces) and can scan 400 times between charges. The cheapest PocketScan will cost $99 for Kickstarter users who pay in advance, a $50 discount from the anticipated retail price. The producing company hopes to ship it in December. Competitors include NeatReceipts and ScanSnap.
Genealogists often are also scanner enthusiasts. We frequently take notes and make photocopies of documents, pages from books and much more. Having a scanner allows us to file digital images of all this paper in our computers. However, most scanners are too heavy to take with us on trips to libraries, archives, and county courthouses.
I have written before about some portable scanners, such as the Magic Wand and Flip-Pal. Both scanners are compact, reasonably priced and easy to use. These are great scanners (I own one of each) but are somewhat specialized devices. They only scan one side of a document at a time. The Flip-Pal only scans up to 4 inches by 6 inches at a time as it is primarily designed for scanning photographs. The included software does make it possible to make multiple scans and later “stitch them together” by using software. The Magic Wand is great for scanning pages in bound books but does require a slow and steady hand to properly move the scanner across the document of the document being digitized. You have to slide the scanner slowly and smoothly to get the best results.
Since I published the article of A $129 Chromebook at http://blog.eogn.com/2015/04/03/a-129-chromebook/ yesterday, several newsletter readers have written to ask if their favorite application(s) will run on a Chromebook. I am always willing to look those up for you but there is a faster and probably easier way to do it yourself: go to the Chrome Web Store at https://chrome.google.com/webstore/category/apps and enter the name of your desired application into the box labeled “Search the store” and then press Enter.
I have written several times about the advantages of using a low-priced Chromebook laptop computer. (See my previous articles about Chromebooks by starting at https://www.google.com/#q=site:eogn.com+chromebook.) I have also stated a number of times that the “prices keep dropping.” That is certainly true today as BestBuy is now selling an Acer 11.6-inch Chromebook for $129.
This isn’t a refurbished or otherwise used laptop. It is brand-new, still sealed in the box from the factory. You can purchase it in a BestBuy store or order it online with free shipping. Where else will you find a full-sized laptop capable of running tens of thousands of programs for $129?
I have often written “the price of hardware keeps dropping” and that has never been more true than today. This morning, Microsoft announced a new 1.37 pound Surface 3 tablet with Windows 8.1 selling for $499. (See my earlier article at http://goo.gl/OZoWk4 for details.) A few hours later Google announced that two companies will soon sell Chromebook laptop computers for $149 each. That is a very attractive price for a full-sized laptop computer that can run tens of thousands of programs!
Today’s announcement of $149 Chromebooks is only going to make these systems more popular. I wouldn’t be surprised if lots of youngsters found Chromebooks under the Christmas tree later this year. Quite a few adults may do the same.
Developed by Google but manufactured by a number of different companies, a Chromebook is a laptop computer for yourself, a child, a grandchild, or for an adult with limited or no computer experience. These low-cost systems also have become very popular in schools and in corporations where dozens, even hundreds, of computers need to be made available in identical configurations. As of last July, Google boasted it had sold more than a million Chromebook units to schools the previous quarter alone. System maintenance costs on Chromebooks are almost zero, much cheaper than the cost of maintaining a large number of Windows computers.
Microsoft today announced a new 1.37 pound Surface 3 tablet with Windows 8.1, available in May for a starting price of $499. It will run a full version of Windows 8.1 and should be capable of running any Windows genealogy program available today. With the 1.37 pound Surface 3 tablet, you should be able to carry your favorite Windows genealogy program and your entire database with you. Best of all, the battery will last for an entire day of constant use. I suspect this new tablet computer will drastically cut into the sales of iPads and Android tablets. However, the Surface 3 tablet won’t be available until some time in May.