Plus Edition Article

(+) QR Codes Create Internet-Connected Tombstones – A Good or Bad Idea?

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

QR Codes have many uses. They are often used on business cards and also in printed advertisements. Mercedes-Benz attaches them to automobiles so that rescue crews can use their smartphones or tablets to instantly retrieve information on how to make a speedy and safe recovery when using the “jaws of life” to extricate victims from an auto accident. (See Now genealogists have recently been finding QR Codes on tombstones and on columbariums

NOTE: A columbarium is is a place for storage of cinerary urns (i.e. urns holding a deceased’s cremated remains).

A QR Code (abbreviated from Quick Response Code) is the trademark for a type of matrix barcode (or two-dimensional code) first designed for the automotive industry. You can see a typical QR Code to the right. You probably have seen similar QR Codes on all sorts of products and advertisements. To use a QR Code, use a smartphone (typically an Apple iPhone or an Android phone) with appropriate software installed to take a close-up picture of the QR Code. The software reads the QR Code and then opens a web browser that displays the web page address that is embedded within the dots of the QR Code.

(+) Why Are We Limited to Soundex?

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

Genealogists love Soundex, a method of matching names that have similar sounds but may be spelled differently. In fact, Soundex became popular amongst genealogists almost as soon as it was invented in 1918. Soundex was patented by Robert C. Russell of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and is sometimes called the “Russell Code.” The U.S. Census Bureau immediately adopted Soundex for indexing census records. Since then, others have used the Soundex code to sort similar-sounding names for telephone books, work records, drivers’ licenses, and many other purposes. I noticed that the first four characters of my driver’s license number are “E235,” the Soundex code for my last name.

Genealogists use Soundex to find variant spellings of ancestors’ names. Almost all modern genealogy databases have a “search by Soundex” capability.

Soundex is a form of “phonetic encoding” or “sound-alike” codes. A Soundex code consists of one letter followed by three digits. For instance, Smith and Smythe both are coded as S530, Eastman is E235, and Williams is W452.

(+) How to Run Windows 7 from an iPad, Android Tablet, Kindle Fire, Macintosh, or a Different Version of Windows: Use a Leased Virtual PC

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

This week I found myself facing a quandary: I needed a Windows computer and didn’t have one. I want to write software reviews for a number of genealogy programs for Windows, Macintosh, Android, iPad, and cloud-based systems. I have all the computers I need to run those programs except for a Windows system. Actually, I do own a Windows 8 laptop, but I left it in my winter home when I went north for the summer. My error. I started evaluating my options.

I certainly could buy a new Windows computer, probably a laptop. However, that costs more money than I happen to have in the checkbook at the moment. Besides, it seems silly to purchase an expensive piece of hardware that duplicates something I already own but neglected to bring with me. I probably could borrow a Windows system from a friend, but I really need to keep it for several weeks, possibly for 2 or 3 months. I also expect to be traveling during that time (I’ll be in Scotland two weeks from now) and wasn’t sure that any of my friends were in a position to lend me a computer to take on extended, international trips. It also needs to be a rather recent computer, not an old clunker. To be blunt, I am reluctant to ask.

(+) Do You Already Have a Local Area Network Installed in Your Home?

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

I recently published I Added Four Terabytes to My Personal Cloud at where I described my recent addition of a huge networked disk drive to the local area network in my home. I now have more than five terabytes of available storage space, counting the new four terabyte disk drive plus some older devices I have used for several years. The space is available to be shared amongst all the computers owned by family members. In addition, any of us can access our files from anywhere in the world, using an Internet connection and a user name and password.

A newsletter reader recently wrote, “How can I use that if I don’t have a local network?”

I suspect she does have a local area network in her home but probably doesn’t know it. The same may be true for you.

(+) Leave Your Existing Genealogy Program Behind and Look to the Future

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

This article was inspired by the recent announcement that The Master Genealogist, a popular genealogy program for Windows, will soon be discontinued. (See for the details.) However, the information here applies to any program that becomes unavailable or to anyone who perhaps is thinking about upgrading to a new computer, possibly including an upgrade to a new operating system.

This week’s announcement that a popular genealogy program would be discontinued was sad news, but not unusual. Indeed, similar announcements have happened over the years. Do you remember Personal Ancestral File, CommSoft’s Roots 5, Carl York’s The Family Edge, Quinsept’s Family Roots, Ultimate Family Tree, or SierraHome’s Generations 8.0? Those and a number of other, lesser-known genealogy programs have all faded away over the years. May they all rest in peace.

(+) 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 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 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 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, explained what the cloud is. The second part, available at, 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?


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.

(+) 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 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 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.

(+) 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.


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