Cloud Services

How to use Evernote to Organize Your Life

I have written about Evernote dozens of times. (See http://bit.ly/2eKdTjT for my past articles.) It is a cross-platform app designed for note taking, organizing, and archiving. It is my most used program, after email, a web browser, and a cloud-based genealogy program. Now Zainab Hasnain has written an article telling you how to organize most everything in your life with Evernote, not just genealogy data.

Hasnain writes:

“Some people might still prefer the old, foolproof method of taking notes with pen and paper, but this is the mobile era, and having one good note-taking app on your phone can save you constant hassle.”

He also wrote:

CrashPlan is Shutting Down its Cloud Backup Service For Consumers

I have written many times about the need to make frequent backup copies of your important data files. One of the services I have always recommended was CrashPlan. However, I won’t be recommending it any more.

CrashPlan is planning to shut down its consumer-facing “CrashPlan for Home” product. Instead, it is going to focus only on commercial customers. The plan is already in effect as the company has already stopped accepting new consumer users and won’t allow existing non-business customers to renew their backup plan. All current subscriptions will be honored until the end date of October 22nd, 2018. Details are available in the CrashPlan Blog at https://blog.code42.com/data-protection-needs-diverge/.

Luckily, there are a number of other companies in the same business and most of them have excellent reputations.

Use the FREE On My Disk Software to Create Your Own Private and Secure Personal Cloud

You probably have read a lot in this newsletter and elsewhere about the various file storage services in the cloud. Some of the better known ones include Dropbox, Google Drive, iCloud, SugarSync, SpiderOak, Tresorit, Mega.nz, and perhaps a few dozen others. These are valuable services that allow you to gain access to your files wherever you are, to (optionally) share files with others, and to copy files from one of your computers to another. However, there are two major drawbacks to these services:

1. They tend to charge a lot of money if you have a lot of files you wish to keep available.

2. You have to give your files and, more importantly, CONTROL of your files, to someone else.

To be sure, all the better file storage services provide industrial-strength encryption that prevents anyone else from being able to read the contents of your files—not even the employees of the file storage service. Nonetheless, many people are uncomfortable with giving control to strangers on the Internet.

I often hear or read comments from non-technical computer owners who say, “I don’t trust the cloud.” That statement always comes from someone who doesn’t understand how encryption works. Even so, convincing someone to forego their fears of giving up control is nearly impossible.

One new product called “On My Disk” would seem to solve both problems.

Zoho Workplace: My Favorite FREE Replacement for Microsoft Office

Microsoft Office has been the leading word processing/spreadsheet/presentation program for a couple of decades, maybe longer. It is powerful, feature-rich, and able to create files that are universally compatible with all sorts of other programs. There is only one major drawback: Microsoft Office is very expensive.

Prices for Microsoft Office vary from about $80 to around $350, depending upon the version selected. The more expensive versions typically are bundled with additional Microsoft programs, useful primarily in corporations or other environments where groups of people work together on shared projects.

Another big drawback is that the price is charged PER COMPUTER. If you own two computers, perhaps a desktop system and a laptop system, you need to pay twice in order to comply with the shrink-wrapped licensing agreement that you agreed to abide by when installing the product.

Google Backup and Sync is Now Available

I have written dozens of newsletter articles explaining why genealogists need to frequently make backups of their important information. You can see a list of my past articles by starting at: http://bit.ly/2uj4tF1. Actually, I will suggest that almost all computer users should make frequent backups, not just genealogists. However, genealogists often spend hundreds of hours gathering and saving information. It seems a shame when someone sends me an email message and states, “My hard drive just crashed and I lost 20 years of my genealogy records. What should I do?”

There is no good answer to that question. However, a simple backup plan will avoid the problem entirely.

A new vendor is now offering backup and restore services for Windows and Macintosh. You may have heard of this company before: Google.

Follow-Up: How Private is Your Genealogy Information?

Yesterday, I published an article entitled How Private is Your Genealogy Information? That article is still available at: http://bit.ly/2r4m26g. In that article, I strongly suggested encrypting any sensitive information stored in your computer’s hard drive, on flash drives, or in any cloud-based file storage service. Encryption keeps your private information private.

A newsletter reader then asked a very simple question: “How do I encrypt my info?”

The question is simple although the answer is a bit more complex. I decided to post my answer here in a separate article so that everyone could read my reply:

Announcing c3 Heirlooms – a Web Server App for Recording the History of Family Heirlooms

Did you inherit any family heirlooms that have been passed down from generation to generation? If so, you need to record and preserve the history of each piece as you know it to make sure the history does not get lost for future generations. In fact, some history may have already been lost before the items came into your possession. You owe it to future generations to preserve whatever historical information you may have.

Scott Hampton, the creator of c3 Heirlooms, states on his web site:

“c3 Heirlooms was created to stop that trend and allow you and your family to easily record your heirlooms and their history. I created this because our family needed it. Maybe yours could use it as well.”

Some features are:

Dropbox vs. Google Drive vs. OneDrive: Which Cloud Storage Is Best for You?

I have written several times about the wisdom of keeping backup copies of your more valuable files. You can keep local copies or off-site copies but the important thing is to always have copies available someplace. One popular option is to keep copies in “the cloud,” using one of the file storage services, such as Dropbox or Google Drive or OneDrive.

Actually, there are dozens of available cloud-based file storage servies to choose from but Dropbox, Google Drive, and Microsoft OneDrive seem to be the three most popular, if not necessarily the best. Joel Lee has published a side-by-side comparison of the “big three,” pointing out the strengths and weaknesses of each. If you are thinking of using a file storage service, you might want to read the article on the Make Use Of web site at: http://bit.ly/2mRQmyW.

Dropbox Transforms Teamwork with New Products and Business Plans

Dropbox, with more than 500 million registered users, seems to be very popular amongst genealogists and for good reasons. It provides safe and secure storage of important files to guard against hard drive crashes, fires, floods, and other disasters that can destroy thousands of hours of a genealogists’s research within in a second or two. Dropbox also offers (optional) capabilities to share information with others.

Today, Dropbox announced a number of new services. Admittedly, most of the new offerings are aimed at teams, such as corporations or non-profits where many people work together on a common goal. Most of today’s announcements will not appeal to individual genealogists. However, one or two of the announcements may be of interest to a present Dropbox user. Also, perhaps all of today’s announcement will be of interest to anyone working in a group effort with other relatives or even a family association to research common ancestors. Anyone who is involved in co-authoring a future magazine or journal article also may be interested.

The new announcements include:

Mylestone lets you Access Your Personal Memories through Alexa

amazon_echoDo you own an Amazon Echo, the electronic personal assistant often referred to as “Alexa?” I do and I love it. I am finding new uses for it almost daily. However, I never knew of a genealogy use for Alexa until now. Our photographs and social media updates can now turned into memories that we – or our children – could later access just by asking a virtual assistant, such as Amazon’s Alexa. Mylestone transforms your memories into stories to be heard on virtual assistants.

Mylestone is a new startup that is experimenting with turning our digital footprints into narratives that help us recall highlights from our lives, as well as those of our family members and other loved ones. Mylestone’s mission is to ensure life’s most precious memories are accessible upon command. Utilizing memory artifacts, and a combination of artificial intelligence and external data, the company generates narratives that are available via virtual assistants, such as Alexa.

Amazon unveils Chime, a Competitor to Skype and GoToMeeting

amazon-chimeI doubt if many individual genealogists will use this new service to call each other but it should become valuable for meetings, such as at your local society meetings or the board of directors’ meeting of any organization. Amazon Web Services has unveiled Chime, a new service that it says takes the “frustration out of meetings” by delivering video, voice, chat, and screen sharing.

Instead of forcing participants to call one another on a dedicated line, Amazon Chime automatically calls all participants at the start of a meeting, so “joining a meeting is as easy as clicking a button in the app, no PIN required,” the company said in a press release. Chime also shows a visual roster of participants, and allows participants to pinpoint who exactly on the call is creating annoying background noise.

A No-Cost or Low-Cost Replacement for Microsoft PowerPoint

If you make presentations to genealogy audiences or to anyone else, you are probably familiar with Microsoft PowerPoint, available for both Windows and Macintosh. It has been the leading slide show presentation program for many years. However, PowerPoint hasn’t had a significant update in years, and the price is not what we expect of modern software: it is far too expensive!

Actually, Microsoft usually sells PowerPoint in a bundle that includes Word, Excel, and perhaps some other programs as well. The prices of the various bundles range from about $120 for a single-user version of Microsoft Office Home and Student 2016 to $360 or more for “Professional” versions that include OneNote, Outlook, Access, and Publisher. Those prices seem excessive when compared to the competition. For instance, LibreOffice does almost all the same functions and is FREE. However, LibreOffice’s presentation program is not as powerful as PowerPoint.

Microsoft has recently added a new, free offering called Office.com, also known as Office Online. It is a cloud-based offering that works well although the feature set is limited. Office Online does not have all the features of Office 365 and does not include OneNote, Outlook, Access, or Publisher. Its online version of PowerPoint is also stripped down. However, the basics of document editing, spreadsheet formulas, and presentation options are all covered. You can check out Office Online at no cost at https://www.office.com.

A New Option Called Slides

slides-screenshot1

I have been experimenting with Slides, a new cloud-based program that lets you create, present, and share slide show presentations in a web browser. Unlike traditional presentation software like PowerPoint, there’s no need to download anything. All of your work is stored securely on slide.com’s servers, accessible wherever you are. You can create your presentation and display it to an audience with most any device that has a web browser: Windows, Macintosh, Linux, Android, iPad, iPhone, and most “smart” cell phones.

Dropbox Paper Challenges Evernote, Google Keep, Zoho Notebook, OneNote and Other Cloud-Connected Note-Taking Products

This is an article I published last August. At the time, the program was still in beta. I have been using it occasionally and find it is a simple word processor but also one that works well. Today, Dropbox took the program out of beta test status and is now supporting it fully. Therefore, I decided to republish the article. If you are looking for a FREE word processor, you might want to use the one you already have: Dropbox Paper.

Evernote has long been one of the best note-taking apps for use by genealogists and by millions of others. I have been a big Evernote fan for years and still am. However, Evernote recently increased the prices of its Plus and Premium versions. Evernote Basic remains available free of charge but is now limited to two devices per account, like a computer and a phone, two computers, or a phone and a tablet. Bummer! (See my earlier article at https://goo.gl/n0v4qa for the details.)

Many Evernote users were disappointed by the news and have since looked for replacement programs. See my article about one possible replacement at https://goo.gl/EwKVFN while others are switching to Microsoft’s OneNote (see https://goo.gl/deGfCZ). Now a new candidate from a well-known vendor is entering the marketplace.

Dropbox has long been a very popular cloud-based file storage service. Most Dropbox users find it is an excellent service for making backup copies of files as well as copying (or “replicating”) those files amongst multiple computers, such as keeping the same files at all times on both your your desktop and laptop computers. The same files also can be retrieved on an iPad, iPhone, Android device, Windows Phone, or even on a Kindle Fire. Now Dropbox is adding a new trick that appears to be aimed at enticing Evernote users to switch to Dropbox’s new service.

Use Send Anywhere for Secure Sending of Files

sendanywhere_logoIf there’s one thing you should keep both anonymous and disposable, it’s any file that you share with friends or family on the web. Sending an attached file from your email account is risky. First, normal email is non-secure; hackers can easily intercept it. Once intercepted, the same hackers can easily retrieve the attached file. Sending something private? It’s best to not use email!

A better method is to use a disposable file transfer service for privacy’s sake. You can find a dozen or more file transfer services. I prefer Send Anywhere because (1.) the service is free and (2.) the recipient can only retrieve the file(s) if he or she knows the 6-digit key used when you sent it and (3.) Send Anywhere deletes the file(s) immediately from the company’s servers as soon as the recipient finishes retrieving the file(s). Use of the 6-digit key locks out most hackers. However, don’t send the key via email!

Many Send Anywhere users regularly send files up to 100 gigabytes in size through the mobile app and up to 300 gigabytes by using the desktop apps.

Cloud Storage

I have written numerous times about the advantages of storing files online, popularly called “in the cloud.” Yet many people are reluctant to use this technology because of phobias about security and the perceived threat of someone else accessing the stored data. Actually, these “threats” were resolved years ago but old fears linger on.

Corporate IT directors have to be even more cautious about storing their employers’ secrets and other corporate data. Yet, corporate IT directors worldwide have evaluated the risks and most have adopted cloud computing in a big way. According to Ooma (a provider of Internet-based VoIP telephone services to individuals and corporations alike) in an article entitled Business in the Cloud:

“Three of the leading cloud storage providers are Dropbox, Google Drive and Microsoft OneDrive.

“Number of Users: Dropbox had 50 million users in 2011, after which it grew to 100 million in November 2012, 200 million in November 2013, 400 million in June 2015 and 500 million in March 2016. Google Drive had 120 million users in November 2013. It grew to 190 million in June 2014 and 240 million in October 2014. Microsoft OneDrive had 250 million users in November 2014 and 500 million users in October 2015. Microsoft OneDrive had the largest number of paid accounts, with 11% of users. Google Drive only had 0.42% of users paying, and for Dropbox, it was only 0.03%.”

The same article also states:

One Year of Unlimited Amazon Cloud Drive Storage for $48 (Down from $60) Today

Today seems to be the day for “flash sales” on cloud-based file storage services. (See my other article at http://wp.me/p5Z3-4cY). Amazon announced this morning it is offering UNLIMITED storage space in Amazon Drive for one year for $48, a big reduction from the normal price of $60. However, this is a one-day sale: today only (Monday, December 5). I suspect it is for U.S. customers only although I do not see anything in the announcement about that.

amazon-cloud-drive-offer

According to the Amazon announcement, “When you upload a file or photo to Amazon Drive, you’re saving a backup copy in Amazon’s secure servers. There’s no limit to how many files you can upload, and we’ll never change or reduce the resolution of your images.”

Amazon is Offering up $50 Gift Cards when You Subscribe to a Year of Dropbox Pro for $99, Today Only

UPDATE on December 6: Amazon listed this yesterday as the “Deal of the Day” and said it was a one-day sale. However, I see this morning that Amazon is still offering it at https://goo.gl/GL0jOo. I have no idea how long the sale will last.

As I mentioned in an article last week, “Dropbox is a very popular service amongst genealogists.” This morning, Amazon announced a “flash sale” on Dropbox Pro that is only good for today (Monday, December 5): Pay $99 for a one year subscription to Dropbox Pro, including one terabyte (1,000 gigabytes) of online file storage, and receive a $50 Amazon gift card.

dropbox-offer

That is a great deal, especially as I expect the gift card will come in handy this holiday season. However, the offer is good only for new customers or for existing Dropbox customers who are using the free (2 gigabytes) service. The offer is not applicable for existing Dropbox Pro or Business accounts, such as my account. Otherwise, I would have signed up for this offer in a heartbeat.

pCloud: Better than Dropbox?

Dropbox is a very popular service amongst genealogists. I have often mentioned Dropbox in my previous articles. (See https://goo.gl/sTtLwu for a list of my previous articles that mention Dropbox.) However, Dropbox certainly is not perfect.

My biggest complaint with Dropbox is that it has a rather weak method of encryption for storing your data on Dropbox’s servers. (See https://goo.gl/G7cxNF for an explanation of Dropbox’s encryption weaknesses.) Dropbox employees can read your personal data. If Dropbox receives a court order demanding they supply copies of your personal data to some government agency, the company must do so. Also, in theory, if a hacker ever gains access to Dropbox’s servers, that person  possibly could also read your data. The odds of a hacker gaining access are slim but not impossible.

Next, Dropbox only provides 2 gigabytes of storage space free of charge, significantly less than that of most of its competitors.

One new service is “just like Dropbox, except (1.) it is faster than Dropbox, (2.) it can encrypt every bit of data before storing on the company’s servers, making the service much more secure and (3.) it offers 10 gigabytes of free storage space with the option to obtain 20 gigabytes at no charge if a user makes some bonus steps.

Digital Maine Brings State Library Content to the Cloud

The Maine State Library is working hard to preserve historical state documents. The library is relying on volunteers, scanning technology and a cloud-based repository platform.

One current important initiative is an effort to digitize the microfilm of historical state newspapers. This initiative is supported by a $275,000 grant from the National Endowment for Humanities (NEH). The grant covers “the digitization of 100,000 pages of historic Maine newspapers published between 1836 and 1922 as part of the state’s participation in the National Digital Newspaper Program.”

Make a 1000-year Copy of Your Photos and Videos

M-Disks look a bit like CD-ROM disks although they are created from very different materials. M-Disks should be readable for at least 1,000 years although there is a question of whether or not there will be a device available 1,000 years from now that will read them. I am guessing that the technology of 1,000 years into the future will be so fantastic that genealogists of the year 3016 will be able to read anything, created on any media, and in any language.

I briefly wrote about M-Disks earlier this year at https://goo.gl/2S7Jvj where I gave a link to a longer and much more detailed description available on Wikipedia.org at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/M-DISC.

Now a new start-up called Yours.co has announced a new service that will make copies of your photos and videos with a 1000-year shelf life.

The Yours.co press release states: