Cloud Services

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:

The Argument for Building an Offline Version of Your Family Tree

I am a big fan of storing all sorts of personal data, including my family tree, both online and also offline (in my computer’s hard drive). I like online access because of the increased security (assuming it is encrypted), the automatic backups, and the ease of access to the information when traveling, even when traveling to a local genealogy society meeting.

familyhistorian_screenshot

Simon Orde, the owner of the colorfully named company Calico Pie, has a different viewpoint. After all, he and his company produce Family Historian, one of the very popular genealogy programs for Windows. Simon has written an article that provides his opinions of online versus offline storage. I will say that his article makes a lot of sense.

GRAMPS Can Now be used as a Cloud-Based Genealogy Program

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

GRAMPS is now available as a cloud-based program. 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 is required. Best of all, GRAMPS is available FREE of charge.

I find GRAMPS to be a very powerful genealogy program. Perhaps the most attractive feature is its price tag: FREE.

GRAMPS is a community project, created, developed and governed by genealogists. Dozens of programmers have contributed to its success. Now the folks at rollApp have ported GRAMPS to an online version, accessible to everyone in the cloud. One unique feature is that the online version of GRAMPS will save your data files in your choice of Dropbox, Google Drive, Box.com, OneDrive, or Yandex.Disk.

Evernote’s Future Is in the Cloud

evernote_googlecloudI have written frequently about Evernote, a note-taking app on steroids that is very useful for genealogists and most everyone else. (See http://goo.gl/uEaV7X for my past articles about Evernote.) I have also written frequently about use of “the cloud” for genealogy and other purposes. (See http://goo.gl/f6IkQh for my past articles about the cloud. I especially recommend a Plus Edition article, (+) I am Moving to the Cloud, that has an introduction at http://goo.gl/z6P2TL with the full article available at http://eogn.com/wp/?p=40129.)

Now Evernote has come to the same conclusion that I came to some time ago: it makes sense to move to the cloud.

The Future of Cloud Storage

I have written often about the advantages and disadvantages of file storage in the cloud. (See https://goo.gl/mO4cjC for a lengthy list of my past articles.) Now BackBlaze, one of the major providers of file space in the cloud, has published an article with an infographic showing how popular cloud file storage services have become and also makes some predictions.

Amongst the facts mentioned:

Zoho Writer in the Cloud

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. 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 an iPad or Android tablet computer, this is the article for you.

Oh, by the way, this article describes a word processor that is FREE for personal use.

zoho_onlineZoho is an online Web service that lets you do almost anything online that you can do on a desktop computer, from creating documents to building a spreadsheet to managing a database, plus conferencing, project-management, chatting, and a dozen other functions. Zoho also duplicates many applications that Google offers with sophisticated calendars, spreadsheets, presentations, email and chat. In some cases, Zoho’s products may be more powerful than Google’s; but, in other cases, the opposite may be true. For this article, I will focus on one product called Zoho Writer.

Zoho Writer is an online word processor that is very easy to use. Yet it has most of the bells and whistles of an expensive, traditional word processor. I also find it to be much more powerful and useful than the word processor available with Google Docs.

Microsoft to Reduce the Amount of Free Storage Space Available on OneDrive

No-OneDrive-Windows-10I have often written about the advantages of having cloud-based storage space, primarily as a place to store copies of your important information, including copies of all your genealogy information, family photos, and more. There are a number of safe and secure file storage services to choose from, and their pricing also varies. Most of the file storage services give away some amount of storage space free of charge and then charge modest prices to anyone who desires even more storage space. Today I received a notice from Microsoft about the company’s OneDrive service, one of the more popular file storage services. Microsoft is dramatically cutting the free space available in OneDrive.

According to an announcement I received in email from Microsoft:

We want to inform you about some upcoming changes to OneDrive that will affect you. In approximately 90 days, the amount of storage that comes with OneDrive will change from 15 GB to 5 GB. We are also discontinuing the 15 GB camera roll bonus. As a result of these changes, you will be over your OneDrive storage limit on June 16, 2016 (visit the Storage page to check your account). You can learn more at our FAQ.