Plus Edition Article

(+) Is the Smartphone Becoming the PC Replacement?

The following is a Plus Edition article written by and copyright by Dick Eastman. 

91% of all adults in the U.S. now have cell phones, according to a study by the Pew Research Center. (Details may be found at http://goo.gl/nwNBuP.) That’s more than the number of people who own computers.

Basic cell phones only place and receive telephone calls. Others add cameras. However, the real growth area lies with the intelligent cell phones that have built-in computer functionality. These are typically called “smartphones.” Let’s examine these.

(+) Scanning Old Books

The following is a Plus Edition article written by and copyright by Dick Eastman. 

Genealogists love old books. Many of us would love to scan some of these books for our own use or to make them available to others when copyright laws allow. Scanned books can easily be distributed on CD-ROM disks or via online web sites. The only difficult part is the scanning of the original books.

Almost any scanner can be used to make images of old books. However, using a desktop scanner purchased at the local computer store has significant disadvantages. For one thing, these units are designed for scanning photographs and other individual sheets of paper. They do not work well for bound books. Trying to place a bound book onto the glass plate of a typical inexpensive scanner can damage the book’s binding. In addition, words printed near the center binding will not be flat against the glass, causing “curling.” That is, the images of the words seem to curve away from the reader. If OCR (Optical Character Recognition) software is used, the words near the center binding are difficult to decode and will lead to high error rates.

Here are some pictures illustrating the problem of obtaining good scanned images of pages bound in a book:


A scanner made for scanning bound books easily avoids these problems.

(+) Follow-Up: OCR Explained

The following is a Plus Edition article written by and copyright by Dick Eastman. 

Two days ago, I published a Plus Edition article entitled (+) OCR Explained at http://eogn.com/wp/?p=31639. In the article, I described several products that will convert images of text into machine-readable text documents, auch as .DOC files or .TXT files or something similar. Two of the methods I mentioned are available free of charge and do not require installing software in your computer.

While I mentioned the products, I did not provide step-by-step instructions for any of them. One of the products apparently has interested a number of newsletter readers and several have asked, “How do I do that?” Actually, I won’t write the instructions as someone else has already written an excellent step-by-step guide that is now available online.

(+) OCR Explained

The following is a Plus Edition article written by and copyright by Dick Eastman. 

Do you have a document or even a full-length book that you would like to enter into a computer’s database or word processor? You could re-type the entire thing. If your typing ability is as bad as mine, that will be a very lengthy task. Of course, you could hire a professional typist to do the same, but that is also expensive.

We all have computers, so why not use a high-quality scanner? You will also need optical character recognition (OCR) technology.

(+) How to Virtually Drive the Roads Your Ancestors Traveled

The following is a Plus Edition article written by and copyright by Dick Eastman. 

Google is a wonderful online tool with many uses, including genealogy. Most genealogists already know that using the online search giant allows us to find records that would be difficult to locate otherwise. However, are you also aware that Google offers other services that allow you to find the location(s) of your ancestor’s land and even to virtually travel to that place, all without leaving home?

One of my close friends did just that recently. She was able to locate a deed selling land to Silvanus Clark of Haddam, Connecticut, in 1787. The location of the land was described in the deed, but a description alone is not as satisfying as seeing the land yourself. Of course, travel to Connecticut is difficult for anyone who lives many miles away. A variation of the old phrase, “a picture is worth a thousand words,” allows the genealogist to see pictures, maps, and more, thanks to Google. Nothing beats an in-person visit, but Google allows for the next best thing.

I’ll retrace my friend’s steps as she followed her ancestor’s steps online.

(+) Two Easy Methods of Creating PDF Documents from Evernote

The following is a Plus Edition article written by and copyright by Dick Eastman. 

I have written several times recently about going paperless. One of my primary tools for simplifying my life is Evernote. It is the perfect tool to save notes, to save audio or video, to save articles from the web, and to create and store documents of all sorts. In fact, it is even possible to create blog posts directly from Evernote notes by using the Postach.io blog platform. Notes saved in Evernote are easily printed if you are really determined to create more paper. Evernote will also save notes as HTML or XML files. However, one format is strangely missing: Evernote will not create PDF files by itself.

Actually, creating PDF files from Evernote is rather simple although you won’t find that capability in Evernote’s menus.

(+) Donald Duck’s Family Tree

The following is a Plus Edition article written by and copyright by Dick Eastman.

This week I would like to present the family tree of one of our best known and most-loved movie stars. The ancestry of this famous 80-year-old movie actor has been ignored for far too long. Now is the time to document the extended family of a great movie star, the subject of film, television, and numerous comic books, the anthropomorphic duck with yellow-orange bill, legs, and feet: Donald Fauntleroy Duck.

Actually, this isn’t as much of a joke as one might imagine. It seems that the Disney Corporation has kept meticulous details about all the Donald Duck cartoons and comic books since Donald’s first appearance in 1934 in “The Wise Little Hen.” For the following eighty years, the Disney Corporation has been remarkably consistent in referring to Donald’s relatives as well as many other facts.

For instance, you may have seen many cartoons of Donald Duck driving his automobile; but did you ever notice the license plate number? It is always “313.” That’s right, Donald’s license plate number has always been the same since his automobile first appeared in 1938.

(+) What is the Cloud and Why Should I Care? – Part 3

The following is a Plus Edition article written by and copyright by Dick Eastman. 

The first part of this article, available at http://eogn.com/wp/?p=31142, explained what the cloud is. The second part, available at http://eogn.com/wp/?p=31199, described using genealogy applications in the cloud. In this third segment, I thought I would address frequently-asked questions about cloud computing. Namely, is it secure? How do I access the cloud? What does it cost to use the cloud?

Security

Is the cloud really secure? The quick answer is: nothing is ever perfect. However, data that you store privately in the cloud is probably is more secure than data stored on the hard drive in your computer at home or on your laptop computer. Let’s look at several examples.

(+) Downsizing: the Paperless Office for Genealogists

WARNING: This article contains personal opinions.

The following is a Plus Edition article written by and copyright by Dick Eastman.

“I believe historians need every possible piece of paper and archived byte of digital data they can muster.” — Dan Gillmor, computing editor, San Jose Mercury News, 1 September 1996

Paper. I have been drowning in it for years.

Genealogists soon learn to collect every scrap of information possible. We collect copies of birth certificates, marriage records, death certificates, census entries, military pension applications, deeds, and much, much more. I don’t know about you, but I have been collecting these bits of information as paper, mostly photocopies, for years. Over the past thirty+ years, I have probably spent thousands of dollars in photocopying fees!

(+) Why I Switched from Dropbox to Google Drive

The following is a Plus Edition article written by and copyright by Dick Eastman. 

I have written often about Dropbox. I have been a Dropbox user for years and have always had a high opinion of the service. In fact, I continue to have a high opinion of Dropbox. However, several competitors have appeared on the scene in the past few years. One of those competitors has kept expanding its services and dropping its prices. That competitor is Google Drive. In fact, Google Drive has improved so much that it now appeals to me even more than does Dropbox.

I recently moved almost all my files stored in Dropbox to Google Drive, and after a few days of use, I am very happy with the switch.

(+) Perhaps the Best Scanner and OCR App for the iPhone and iPad

The following is a Plus Edition article written by and copyright by Dick Eastman. 

If this isn’t the best scanning and OCR app for Apple’s handheld devices, I’d like to know what is! I have been using this great app for a couple of days and am very impressed with it.

Using a smartphone’s built-in camera may work fine for a quick photo, but taking pictures of pages that you want to read is another matter entirely. A scanner, on the other hand, digitizes the page and lets you do so much more with the resulting digital file. I have experimented with several apps that convert an iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch into a scanner. Most of them have worked well. However, I recently saw an announcement for a new offering and decided to try it. The bottom line: this $9.99 app beats everything else I have seen, hands down. It handles all the basics well and has a terrific set of additional capabilities that can be very useful to a genealogist at a research center—or most anywhere that one might want to capture text or pictures for use in computer programs. It easily captures text, such as the pages in a book or magazine.

(+) What is the Cloud and Why Should I Care? – Part 2

The following is a Plus Edition article written by and copyright by Dick Eastman. 

Last week I published Part #1 of this article and it is still available at http://eogn.com/wp/?p=31142. Part #1 provides an explanation of cloud computing. In this new article, I will provide a bit of history of cloud computing and then will focus on genealogy-specific uses of the cloud.

In the beginning…

When home computers first appeared in the late 1970s, they were free-standing devices. Home computers in those days typically did not communicate with other computers. If you wanted to get information out of your computer, you or someone else had to first put the information into the computer and store it. In those days, information was usually entered from the keyboard or from audio cassette tapes that had been recorded on another, similar computer. In the early 1980s, floppy disks started to become common.

(+) What is the Cloud and Why Should I Care? – Part 1

The following is a Plus Edition article written by and copyright by Dick Eastman. 

The newest technology these days in computers is called “cloud computing.” However, the buzzword is so new that many experienced computer users do not yet understand the term. In fact, “the cloud” can be different things to different people. I thought I would write a three-part article: the first part explains what the cloud is, and the second part will describe using the cloud for genealogy purposes. The third part will address some of the frequently-asked questions (FAQs) concerning the use of cloud computing.

(+) Crowdsourcing: the Most Valuable Genealogy Tool of the 21st Century? (So Far)

The following article was written by and is copyright by Dick Eastman. 

Wikipedia (which is itself a crowd-sourced collection of information) defines crowdsourcing as “the practice of obtaining needed services, ideas, or content by soliciting contributions from a large group of people, and especially from an online community, rather than from traditional employees or suppliers.”

Wikipedia then adds a bit more detail: “This process is often used to subdivide tedious work or to fund-raise startup companies and charities, and can also occur offline. It combines the efforts of numerous self-identified volunteers or part-time workers, where each contributor of their own initiative adds a small portion to the greater result.”

(+) Update: You Can Easily Be Very Safe and Secure While Online

The following is a Plus Edition article, written by and copyright by Dick Eastman. 

I recently wrote at http://eogn.com/wp/?p=30855 about an easy method of creating an encrypted Internet connection and using a super-secure web browser. The result is an Internet connection to web sites that is difficult, perhaps impossible, for anyone else to monitor. Security is believed to be top-notch when using this method. It was developed for use by the U.S. military for sending secret messages over the public Internet and is also used today by law enforcement officials, banks, stock brokers, and even drug dealers to send information securely. Even recently-leaked documents from the NSA indicate that the spy agency has not been able to intercept communications that use this method.

The article I wrote described how to easily add it to any Windows or Macintosh computer. It can also be added to Linux systems with a bit of work. However, I have since learned that the same techniques are also available for Chromebooks, Android, and Apple’s iOS operating system used on iPhones, iPads, and iPod Touch mobile devices. You can make sure that all your computers have secure connections.

(+) Free or Nearly Free Cell Phone and Wi-Fi Telephone Calls

The following is a Plus Edition article written by and copyright by Dick Eastman. 

NOTE: This article has nothing to do with genealogy. However, one of my personal interests has always been saving money. Last year I found a cell phone bargain that was almost too good to be true, so I decided to try it. I wrote about my experiences at the time. The company later changed their offerings extensively. Now I have switched to a new service from the same company at roughly half the price of what I was paying earlier.

Apple made a number of announcements this week concerning new software for Macintosh as well as for the company’s iOS operating system, which is used in iPhones, iPads, and iPod Touch handheld devices. Numerous articles about the new announcements are now available online . However, one newly-announced feature hasn’t received much notice, and yet, to me, it is perhaps one of the most useful features of all: use a cell phone to make telephone calls over a wi-fi wireless network connection.

This isn’t new to the industry, however. Actually, I have been doing the same for more than a year on a non-Apple cell phone and have found it to work well. No matter how terrible your local cell phone reception is, you can always make crystal clear calls as long as you can connect to a reasonably fast wi-fi network. In general, calls over wi-fi are clearer and less likely to drop, which is a good thing if you live or work in an environment with poor cell phone reception.

(+) One Week with Google Glass

The following is a Plus Edition article, written by and copyright by Dick Eastman. 

That’s me wearing my new Google Glass. Click on the image to see a larger version.

Google Glass is the latest advancement in wearable technology. Officially, it is called an “optical head-mounted display,” or OHMD. It is a tiny computer display screen attached to either a pair of glasses or a “mini-frame” supplied by Google. The screen is held just above the right eye when worn in the same manner as glasses. See the pictures for a better look. Google Glass is packed with Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, GPS, speakers, camera, microphone, touchpad, and a gyroscope that detects head-tilts. The major piece of interest, however, is the tiny, 640×360-pixel resolution screen the size of your finger that shows you all the information you need above your right eye.

Google explains that the new product is always properly called Google Glass, not Google “glasses,” because there is only one glass from Google: the tiny computer display screen. However, many others will call it “Google glasses.”

Most commands are given to the computer by voice input although a very few commands are given by tapping or sliding one’s finger along the touchpad built into the right side of the eyeglass frame.

I received my Google Glass more than a week ago.

(+) You Can Easily Be Very Safe and Secure While Online

The following is a Plus Edition article, written by and copyright by Dick Eastman. 

This is an update of an article I published last year. Several things have changed since I published the first article. Therefore, I have updated this article to reflect the changes.

I am a big fan of security, both online and off. I admit to being a bit phobic about online security. I also travel a lot and don’t trust public wi-fi networks in airports, hotels, and elsewhere. In fact, I am even a bit leery of the broadband Internet connection installed in my home. The in-home network is probably safer to use than most public wi-fi networks but nothing is ever perfect. In theory, someone might be intercepting my communications for nefarious purposes. (“Can you spell NSA?”) For the past year, I have been using an encrypted Internet connection and a super-secure web browser.

This software encrypts each and every byte of information I send or receive on the Internet, keeping my information away from prying eyes in the next hotel room or on the wi-fi network I am using at the moment or even from professional spies in remote locations. I suspect it keeps data safe from the NSA although that agency will not confirm or deny the security of this method of encryption. Then again, the U.S. military uses this method to keep information secret from our enemies so I suspect the NSA has tested it and verified it as being impenetrable. Again, I “suspect” but cannot prove it.

(+) The “Best” Password Manager Versus a Full-Featured Method of Securing All Sorts of Information

The following is a Plus Edition article written by and copyright by Dick Eastman. 

I just read an interesting article: Take control of password chaos with these six password managers, written by Jason Parker and published on the respected C|Net news site. In it, Parker describes what he believes are the six best password managers that securely keep track of the passwords you use on various web sites, including online banking, stock broker accounts, and all sorts of subscription sites.

Some of the password managers Parker describes work on multiple operating systems, including Macintosh, Windows, iOS, and Android. You can enter your passwords into software installed on one operating system and still be able to retrieve the passwords on your other computers by using the equivalent program from the same software producer. For instance, if you store your passwords on a program called “1Password” for Windows, you could retrieve those same passwords on your Android tablet, iPhone, or Macintosh laptop as long as 1Password is installed on that other device. Many of these password managers will automatically insert your user name and password when you visit a web site you have previously saved.

In all cases, the passwords are stored in some server, probably a cloud-based service, in a highly secure, encrypted database that is impossible for anyone else to read.

(+) Sending Bulk Mail Effectively and at Low Cost

The following is a Plus Edition article written by and copyright by Dick Eastman. 

This article is in response to a couple of queries I received recently. I was asked how I send thousands of email messages to newsletter subscribers. Those asking the question want to do the same with their genealogy society newsletters or with similar requirements that involve sending non-spam email messages to hundreds or even thousands of people who have asked to be included in a mailing list.

Indeed, I went through a long learning curve in search of a way to effectively send lots of long email messages without too many of them being blocked by spam filters. Along the way, I had my email account canceled abruptly by one Internet provider after I overloaded and crashed their mail server every Sunday evening when sending long Plus Edition newsletters to thousands of subscribers. It is very irritating to learn that your email service has been abruptly canceled! In short, you need to use a bulk mailing server that is designed for the job.

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