Plus Edition Article

(+) 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.

(+) Publish Your Genealogy Data on the Web at No Additional Charge with Dropbox

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

Would you like to publish your genealogy information on the web at no cost? Sure, there are dozens of ways to do that, but most of those methods result in hosting on someone else’s web site and having advertisements inserted into your genealogy pages. I don’t like that. Another method is to pay a web hosting service and obtain your own domain name. That’s an excellent solution except for one thing: it costs money. However, if you use Dropbox, you have a free solution that does not insert any unwanted ads into your pages. Best of all, you may (optionally) make the files visible to everyone on the World Wide Web at no extra charge. You files will be visible to anyone who enters an address that begins with http://dl.dropbox.com

For a few dollars more, you can even use a custom domain name, such as: http://www.tollerfamilytree.com. (All domain names in this article are fictitious, used only as examples.)

I tend to think of genealogy when I speak of publishing information on the Web, but there are dozens of other uses as well. For instance, you could publish your bowling league’s standings, the web site for your son’s Cub Scouts den, or the new real estate company you just opened. The service works well for static web pages, which is what most individuals will want to publish. It doesn’t work with sophisticated web pages that use PHP, Java, or similar technologies. However, you can publish text, pictures, music, and most other media on the Web.

(+) The 1890 U.S. Census: Not Everything Was Destroyed

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

Beginning U.S. genealogists soon learn that the 1890 census records were destroyed in a fire in the basement of the Commerce Building on January 10, 1921. Many people who would like to see these records just shrug their shoulders and move on.

A short search on the Web, however, soon reveals that not all of the records were destroyed. In fact, census fragments for 1890 in Alabama, Georgia, Illinois, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, South Dakota, Texas, and the District of Columbia survived and are available now.

(+) The Advantages of VoIP Telephones When Traveling

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

This article has almost nothing to do with genealogy. However, it reflects my recent experiences when traveling overseas and at home. I find it interesting and hope that a few others also may be interested in this method of saving money.

I have been on the road for nearly four weeks. I left Orlando, flew to London, traveled by train to Ashford, Kent and then spent several days at the annual conference of the Guild of One-Name Studies (GOONS). I had the honor of making two presentations at the conference. I can tell you they are a great organization! I stayed in Ashford for an extra day after the conference, then took the train back to London and became a tourist for a few days. I then flew to from London to Seattle and made presentations at a conference at the Tacoma-Pierce County Genealogical Society in Tacoma, Washington, another great group. Finally, I flew back to Orlando twelve days after I had left.

(+) Self-Publish Your Book and Sell it on Amazon and Elsewhere

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

Many genealogists dream of publishing books about the family tree or about local history. Some want to write a book of “my ancestors,” but it may be better to write, “The Descendants of (insert ancestor’s name here)” or the “Early History of Washington County” or some other area where you have expertise. Either way, you have three tasks ahead of you: write the book, get it published, and then find buyers. I can’t offer much assistance for writing the book, but in this article I will tell you about some online services that can make it easy to self-publish and sell your new masterpiece.

(+) Donald Sterling has a Personal Archivist, You Can do the Same

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

Donald Sterling, billionaire owner of the Los Angeles Clippers basketball team, has made headlines this week. I won’t describe his racist comments as many others have already done that. However, an item in one report caught my eye: Sterling has a personal archivist. I guess when you are a billionaire, you can hire someone to record every word you speak, everything you write, and everything you ever do, in order to preserve all words and actions for posterity. However, Sterling probably now regrets having someone record the words that created all the problems.

(+) Why You Need a Temporary Credit Card Number

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

One of the things I detest about many web sites is that when you sign up for a subscription and pay with a credit card, the site automatically renews your subscription when it expires. Some web sites will automatically renew without even the courtesy of notifying you in advance. They keep on billing, and you cannot easily shut down the offending vendor.

NOTE: Subscriptions to the Plus Edition of this newsletter DO NOT automatically renew. I consider that to be a shoddy business practice and I will not do that to my subscribers.

Of course, you could cancel the credit card itself, but that usually isn’t convenient.

(+) How to Find City Directories For Sale Online

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

Gaffney City Directory - 1958

Gaffney City Directory – 1958

Looking for a city directory from the 1800s or early 1900s? You may be able to purchase the city directory you wish for modest prices. I have seen reprinted city directories sell for as little as $2.00 while digital copies on CD-ROM frequently sell for about $5.00 or so. Even the original city directories printed in the 1800s sometimes sell for as little as $4.95 although $10 or $15 seems to be a more common price.

Best of all, if you don’t see what you want today, you can create an “automated search robot” that will check for you every day. If the robot finds an item that matches the search terms you specify, it will send you an email message to notify you of the latest addition. It will search for you even while you are sleeping, even if your computer is turned off.

(+) What Happens to your Online Accounts when You Die?

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

Genealogists are well aware of the disposition of wills, diaries, letters, and other personal items when a person dies. Indeed, the legal processes make sure that a person’s personal affairs are wrapped up properly. If a will exists, those same legal processes have always made sure the wishes of the deceased are considered and implemented as closely as possible. However, today’s new technologies add new challenges that are not yet covered by probate law and also not well documented for the family members of the deceased nor for the corporations that have possession of the deceased person’s digital assets.

Today, many people tend not to keep things on paper; instead, their most intimate thoughts are likely to be online – in emails, social media posts, and personal blogs. I count myself as one of those “online people,” and I suspect you may do the same. What happens to your Facebook pages, blog, online bank accounts, online stock brokerage accounts, or personal email correspondence after you pass away? How about your photos on Flickr, Snapfish, Shutterfly, Photobucket, or other photo sharing web sites?

Perhaps the most important questions are: “What happens to all these online accounts if you die abruptly? Will your information remain available to your heirs? Will your heirs be able to find this information, and will they know what to do with it?”

(+) Preserve Newspapers for Years!

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

Most all paper manufactured in the past one hundred years or more contains acids. If left untreated, these acids will slowly decompose the paper itself. Old newspaper clippings or any other documents not printed on acid-free paper will eventually disintegrate. Today’s newspapers usually contain more acids than other paper so newspapers are often the first to disintegrate. Luckily, modern science has created methods of slowing down or even stopping the decay of such paper.

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