Cloud Services

How to Create and Customize Google Maps

Want to make a map of great-great-grandparents’ homestead? How about a map showing a family’s migration over the centuries? Google Maps is a natural for such uses except that most people down’t know how to create custom maps using Google’s mapping service. However, now there is an online tool that simplifies the process.

Snazzymaps is a tool that aims to make it easier for anyone to customize Google Map. It has a nice and friendly user interface. You can build the map with just a couple of selections from the select box and you don’t even have to write code. There are many options for you to control the look of the map. You may also insert your custom marker icon and places. Perhaps the best part is it provides plenty pre-built map styles for you.

Running Genealogy Programs and Storing Data on Different Operating Systems

A newsletter reader recently wrote and asked if she could run her favorite genealogy program in a server. I thought I would answer here in public in case others have the same question.

Question: “Can I operate my [program name deleted] genealogy program on a server?”

My answer:

Yes, but only if the server is running the operating system that the program is designed to use.

The program you mentioned is a Windows program so it will work on a Windows server but will not work on Linux servers, Macintosh servers, or on other operating systems.

That is one of the reasons I now keep all my genealogy records and genealogy programs in the cloud. They work on ALL operating systems, even with “smart” cell phones, Android handheld devices, iPads, or Chromebooks.

I no longer have to worry about which operating system is in use or worry about installing software. I can even use a public access computer in a local library to access my records, if necessary, without installing any software in the library’s computer. I also plan to someday purchase a new, cheaper, and probably more powerful computer without worrying about operating system compatibility.

Off Topic: Zello for Cell Phones is not an Actual Walkie-Talkie, and Still Needs Internet Connectivity to Work

Note: This article is off-topic. That is, it is not about family history, DNA, or any related topics. However, if you are somewhere near the eastern seaboard of the United States this week, this is information you probably need to know.

From the Apple Insider web site:

With Hurricane Dorian approaching the coast of Florida, word is again spreading about “push to talk” iPhone app Zello. However, downloaders should be aware that the app requires not only a solid internet connection, it also needs connectivity to Zello’s servers to function.

According to Zello’s CEO in 2017, the “walkie-talkie” app saw a 20-fold increase in usage during the Houston rescue situation following a hurricane, and was in use by the “Cajun Navy” as well as some first responders.

35 Google Drive Tips You Can’t Afford to Miss

This article has nothing to do with family history, DNA, or related topics. However, I do know that many newsletter readers use Google Drive or other cloud-based file storage services. If that includes you, I would suggest you read a new article by Eric Griffith in the PCmag web site at https://is.gd/oaKqHt.

In the article, you will find that Google Drive is much more than a simple file storage service. It is also a file copying (replication) service, word processor, file sharing service, secure file encryption service, a method of accessing Drive files when offline, OCR application, and much more.

Google Photos just got an Awesome Feature that makes it a Must-Have for Android, iPhone, and iPad Devices

This article isn’t about genealogy but it is about a new software tool that will be valuable for genealogists and for millions of others.

From an article by Chris Smith in the BGR.com web site:

“Google Photos is easily one of the best apps you could have installed on your phone, especially if it’s an Android device, and especially a specific type of Android that comes with unlimited storage. Even if you prefer a different cloud or storage device for your photos, you should still consider getting the Google Photos app on your Android or iPhone right now, because the service is about to get a super convenient feature.

“That’s optical character recognition (OCR), a feature that allows Google to read the text in photos and turn it into text that you can search for, and even copy and paste into documents. That’s a handy feature to have on a phone, especially if you find yourself taking lots of photos of things that contain plenty of text that you’d want to be able to access later.”

GRAMPS and Other Genealogy Programs in the Cloud

GRAMPS (an abbreviation for “Genealogy Research and Analysis Management Programming System”) was originally developed as a rather full-featured Linux genealogy program and later was ported to Macintosh, Windows, BSD UNIX and Solaris. GRAMPS is always available free of charge. (You can find my previous articles about GRAMPS by starting at https://goo.gl/gVUE9d.)

GRAMPS also has been available as a cloud-based program for some time. In theory, you should be able to use the cloud-based version of GRAMPS with any Android, Apple iOS (specifically iPad), Chromebook, Windows, Macintosh, or Linux computer. Since it runs from the cloud, no software installation in your computing device is required. Best of all, GRAMPS is available FREE of charge.

AWS Announces General Availability of Amazon S3 Glacier Deep Archive — the Lowest Cost Storage in the Cloud

If you want the security of backing up your important data files to a safe and secure off-site web storage service in the cloud, you might be interested in the new press release from Amazon Web Services (AWS):

SEATTLE–Today, Amazon Web Services, Inc. (AWS), an Amazon.com company (NASDAQ: AMZN), announced the general availability of Amazon S3 Glacier Deep Archive, a new storage class that provides secure, durable object storage for long-term retention of data that is rarely accessed. At just $0.00099 per GB-month (less than one-tenth of one cent, or $1 per TB-month), S3 Glacier Deep Archive offers the lowest cost storage in the cloud, at prices significantly lower than storing and maintaining data in on-premises magnetic tape libraries or archiving data off-site. To get started with S3 Glacier Deep Archive visit: https://aws.amazon.com/s3/storage-classes/.

Collectionaire Launches at RootsTech 2019

I suspect there will be lots of new product announcements in the next week or more in conjunction with the RootsTech conference. Here is one announcement from Collectionaire. I saw their product at last year’s RootsTech and was impressed. However, the company obviously has been working on the product even more since then, adding more value to the app.

Here is the announcement from Collectionaire:

New web app uses cloud technology to bring a unique approach to organizing, preserving and sharing one’s “best memories”

Unlike other family archiving programs there is no need to move photos – it links users to treasured memories and collections in any cloud site

San Diego, Calif. – Feb. 8, 2019 – Collectionaire today announced the launch of its new cloud-based web app created to help organize, preserve and share a family’s most cherished photos, videos and digital keepsake memories. Unlike other photo organizing solutions, users do not move photos and videos to the Collectionaire site. Instead, the app acts as a hub, linking users to their photo and video collections stored in other cloud sites.

The Cloud Storage Provider that Offers 100 Gigabytes of Storage Space FREE of Charge

I have written often about the need for genealogists and most everyone else to make frequent backup copies of files that are important to them. You never know when a hardware failure, a hurricane, a fire, a burst water pipe, or other disaster will destroy what might be your only copies of genealogy records, old family photographs, and much more. Actually, I believe the most common cause of destroyed data is simple human error. “Oooops! I didn’t mean to click on that icon!”

Making frequent backups can be a simple process and doing so provides cheap insurance. Of course, you always want to keep at least one copy of your backed-up files “off site.” That means most anyplace other than the place where your computer is located. If your computer is at home, keep backup copies at the office or in a cloud-based file storage service or at a relatives’s house (located some distance away) or in a safe deposit box or most any other place where one disaster will not destroy both the computer(s) and the backed up copies.

Of course, everyone likes the idea of free services. Indeed, a number of companies even offer FREE storage of backed up files. A Swedish company with the unusual name of Degoo offers the most free storage space of all: 100 gigabytes. I am not aware of any other company that offers 100 gigabytes of FREE storage space.

Compress Images the Easy Way with Squoosh

NOTE: This is not a true genealogy article. If you are looking for genealogy-related articles, you might want to skip this one. However, the article does describe a general-purpose image compression tool that has many, many uses, including some uses by genealogists. As such, you might find it interesting.

The gnomes at Google Chrome Labs certainly keep busy. The latest product to be delivered from this software development group is an image compression tool called Squoosh. You probably won’t need to use it often but, when you need to make an image file smaller to send by email or to publish on a web page, it can be a valuable tool.

After all, you probably don’t want your web site’s visitors to download 60 megabyte images! That makes for a very slow web site when viewed on slower-speed Internet connections, such as on dial-up or over a cellular data connection.

Squoosh is a cloud-based app. To use Squoosh, you do not need to install any software into your computer. You simply open a web browser and go to https://squoosh.app/ and start using the app. Since it is cloud-based, Squoosh works on Windows, Macintosh, Chromebook, Linux, iPad, Android tablets, and probably any other computer that includes a modern web browser. Squoosh will even work on an iPhone or on an Android smartphone although the small screen size of those cell phones can be a limitation.

Did I mention that Squoosh is available free of charge?

What’s not to like?

The Essential Ebook Converter Guide

Genealogists tend to collect lots of books. Of course, the trend in recent years is to obtain ebooks, not books printed on paper. Ebooks are much easier to store and carry, especially if you have hundreds of books. Ebooks are usually cheaper to purchase, although not always. They are also much, much easier to search for specific words or phrases than are printed books. However, ebooks are not perfect.

Here is a common scenario amongst people who use ebooks: One ebook that the ebook’s owner references often might be stored on the reader’s tablet computer in Kindle’s AZW format. Now the reader would like to have the same ebook on another computer and in another format, such as in EPUB format. How can anyone translate and copy from one format to another?

Backblaze B2 and Fireball Rapid Ingest

Backblaze is a well-known cloud-based file storage service that offers very low prices and yet has a good reputation for reliability. However, if you have a lot of data to back up to Backblaze B2 or to any other file storage service in the Internet, it may take days or even weeks to upload everything. Backblaze has a solution, called Fireball Rapid Ingest.

In this case, Fireball Rapid Ingest is designed to quickly transfer terabytes of data to Backblaze’s servers. To be blunt, I doubt if many individual genealogists have that much data to back up. However, I also suspect that quite a few genealogy societies and companies in the genealogy business will find the Fireball Rapid Ingest service to be very convenient and cost-effective to use. This article is written for those genealogy societies and companies and for anyone else with a large amount of data that needs to be backed up.

When you sign up for the Backblaze B2 file storage service, you have an option of Backblaze shipping a 70 terabyte storage system to you. In essence, it is a bunch of disk drives inside a rather large box, along with software that makes it work.

Use a Word Processor in the Cloud

NOTE: This article has nothing to do with genealogy. If you are looking for genealogy-related articles, you might want to skip this one. However, if you would like to learn of a cheap and very secure method of using applications in the cloud for word processing purposes, this article may be of interest to you.

If you already have a word processor installed in each of your computers and are happy with your present choice, you probably will want to skip this article. However, if you do not have a good word processor, or if you want to look at other possibilities, this may be the article for you.

Akshata Shanbhag has written an article in the Make Use Of web site that describes seven word processors and one text editor that are cloud-based, powerful, and are available free of charge for personal use.

If you are presently using Google Docs or Microsoft Word Online or some other cloud-based word processor and are frustrated by your program’s lack of some features you want, this is the article for you. If you need a better word processor for sharing documents with co-workers or with family or even with genealogy society members, this is the article for you. If you want a good word processor for a Chromebook, an iPad, or an Android tablet computer, this is the article for you.

Google Drive is now called Google One and is also Cheaper than Before

NOTE: This article has nothing to do with genealogy. However, it is information that I suspect will interest many computer owners, so I am offering it here. If you are looking for true genealogy-related articles, you might want to skip this one.

I have written many times about the advantages of storing data and apps in the cloud. (See http://bit.ly/2nPa6q1 for a list of my earlier articles about use of the cloud.) One of the most popular file storage services in the cloud is Google Drive… ooops, it was renamed to Google One earlier this year.

Google One is the new title for a number of cloud-based services the company provides for consumers, corporations, and non-profit organizations alike. Previously, Google Drive was also the company’s name for the gigabytes of online storage you’d share between Drive, Gmail and Google Photos. Now, all of that and more is called Google One.

Changes in Google One include the new ability to share that storage plan with up to five family members. Google says it will also now include “one-stap” customer support for your other Google products — including Google hardware devices such as the Pixel phones and Google Home speakers. Google One presently is only available to anyone in the United States. It is unclear when Google One will be available to users in other countries, but Google is offering to notify potential users when it opens up in their market.

Digipulse Sends Access Information about Your Digital Assets After You Die

If you should pass away unexpectedly or simply become unable to manage your own affairs for any reason, who will step in and manage your digital assets? Such assets might include passwords to web sites, access to Bitcoins or other cryptocurrencies, documents of any sort that are stored in your computer(s) or in the cloud, and any other digital items that need to be passed on to your heirs or caretakers. One new service uses the latest technology to securely make the information available to those who need it, but only after you can no longer control the information yourself.

Digipulse operates a decentralized asset encryption and distribution storage service, meaning that your uploaded files will only be accessible to you and your designated recipients. “Decentralized” means there is no one place that a hacker can go to to find the information you wish to keep secret. Everything is encrypted and broken up into pieces, and then the pieces are stored in different servers. Of course, normal backup procedures are also in use, as is typical in most cloud-based services. Everything is managed by a blockchain.

OldNews USA – an Online Search of Old Newspapers

OldNews USA is the app that won the RootsTech 2017 Innovator Showdown. It makes it easy to find interesting stories and articles in historical US newspapers, using the Library of Congress’ Chronicling America collection of over 11 million newspaper pages from 1789 to 1943. Quoting from the OldNews web site:

Designed for both genealogists and history enthusiasts, OldNews USA makes getting started with historical newspaper research easier than ever. With OldNews USA, you can quickly discover interesting stories and articles in historical US newspapers, using the Library of Congress Chronicling America collection of over 12 million newspaper pages from 1789 to 1963.

With OldNews USA, you begin by entering who or what you are looking for. If you want to find articles about a person, all you need to enter is a name, a date range, and a location.

Another Reason to Store Your Data in the Cloud

I broke my eyeglasses a few months ago. While loading a toolbox into the back of the car, my eyeglasses slipped off my face and landed on the concrete driveway. One lens shattered.

Luckily, I also have prescription sunglasses that happened to be in the front seat console of the auto. I put the sunglasses on and had full vision but I wouldn’t want to wear them around the house and especially not at night.

I should also mention that I was in Florida at the time but I purchased the glasses a bit more than a year earlier from a big-name optical franchise in Massachusetts. I drove to a local franchisee in Orlando of the same chain, hoping they would have my prescription on file in their computers and could make new glasses for me quickly. Alas, it was not that easy. It seems the local store’s computers could not access prescription information from another store.

A very helpful clerk suggested I call the office of the ophthalmologist that wrote the prescription and ask someone at that office to FAX the prescription to the local store. I had a better idea.

Is My Virus Checker Telling the Truth?

Virus checkers are wonderful tools-— when they work. The problem is that you never know if they are telling the truth or not when they claim to have detected a virus on a web site or in a file on your computer.

The problem is called “false positives.” This happens when a virus checking program says there is a virus or there is a POSSIBILITY of a virus when, in fact, there is no virus in the web site or in the file. Sadly, this happens thousands of times every day, mostly to Windows users.

My favorite reference for this issue is How To Tell If a Virus Is Actually a False Positive, an article written by Chris Hoffman four years ago that still seems to be very accurate. He wrote:

“Your antivirus will complain that this download is a virus, but don’t worry — it’s a false positive.” You’ll occasionally see this assurance when downloading a file, but how can you tell for sure whether the download is actually safe?

A false positive is a mistake that happens occasionally — the antivirus thinks a download is harmful when it’s actually safe. But malicious people may try to trick you into downloading malware with this assurance.

The article may be found at https://www.howtogeek.com/180162/how-to-tell-if-a-virus-is-actually-a-false-positive/.

Google’s Transfer Appliance Simplifies the Transfer of Huge Amounts of Data to Google Cloud

NOTE: I doubt if very many genealogists have a need for this service at home. However, I suspect that several genealogy societies, genealogy libraries, museums, and perhaps a few genealogy book publishers and magazine publishers could use this. Those organizations often have huge databases or collections of data files. Those organizations are the intended audience for this article.

Do you need to back up a lot of data to the cloud for safekeeping? In this case, I am talking about terabytes of data. (One terabyte is equal to one million million bytes, the same thing as 1,024 gigabytes, or 1,024,000 megabytes.)

We tend to think of our normal Internet connections as being “high speed.” Indeed, they are much faster than the old dial-up modems we all used a number of years ago. Still, “high speed” is a relative term.

If you or your employer has a typical in-home or small business Internet connection of 10 megabits per second, backing up your file server’s most critical terabyte of data might require several months to accomplish! Do you have many terabytes of data, such as videos and images? Multiply the time required as needed.

SmallPDF Converts PDF Files to JPG and Other Formats

Genealogists seem to use a lot of different documents in their computers and sometimes need to convert from one format to another. For instance, one newsletter reader recently mentioned a need to convert an e-book in PDF format to JPG files. With the right software, this is easy to do.

Any number of programs are available that will convert files from one format to another. In this case, the newsletter reader wanted to convert an entire book that was in PDF format to individual JPG files, one file for each page in the book. I suggested using SmallPDF, a FREE online service.

Since SmallPDF is a cloud-based service, there is no need to install software in your computer. Simply open a web browser and go to SmallPDF.com to use it. Like most other cloud-based applications, the service works equally well on Macintosh, Windows, Chromebook, and Linux computers. Since the conversion happens in the cloud, the service works well even on low-powered computers, such as very cheap Chromebooks or on older Windows computers.