Cloud Services

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.

Evernote Defends User Data Security and Transparency

I have written a number of times about the note-taking application called Evernote. (See https://duckduckgo.com/?q=site%3Aeogn.com+evernote for a list of my past articles about Evernote.) Indeed, Evernote is a very popular application amongst genealogists and for good reasons: it is an excellent method of keeping track of all the scraps of information that genealogists typically accumulate when researching family history.

evernote_logoOne of the big concerns about using any application that stores data online is security. Is your personal information safe and secure from identity thieves, credit card scammers, and government snoops? It is reassuring to read a recent article from the folks at Evernote, detailing the security of your personal data when stored in Evernote. It says, in part:

We created Evernote to be your digital brain. Shortly after we set that as our goal, we wrote our 3 Laws of Data Protection to codify these principles:

Google is Shutting Down Picasa

Google_iconGoogle’s Picasa has been one of my favorite photo editing tools for several years. Now there is bad news and good news about the free service.

Bad news: Google will stop supporting the Picasa desktop application on March 15th, 2016. It will still work beyond March 15th, but Google will stop developing it and there will be no future updates.

Good news: Google is replacing Picasa with Google Photos, the company’s new-and-improved photo service. In fact, Google Photos is a better app than Picasa although I am sure it will take some time for Picasa users to get used to the change. If you happen to have photos or videos stored away in a Picasa Web Album, Google says all of your media will already be available in Google Photos. Once you access Google Photos, you’ll be able to share, download and organize all of your media in one location.

The Easy Way to Store Backups on Multiple Online Services with cloudHQ

cloudhqThis article has nothing to do with genealogy. However, having backup copies of all your important documents, pictures, videos and other items is a must for everyone. I will suggest that having backups of your important data can be a lifesaver.

I believe that everyone should have a MINIMUM of three copies of every digital file that is important: the original file stored in the computer’s hard drive, plus a copy of that file stored on a backup device (hard drive, flashdrive, CD-ROM disk, or whatever you choose) that is stored near the computer for convenience, PLUS AN ADDITIONAL copy or two, stored off-site where the copies will be safe from in-home disasters, such as fire, flood, or burst water pipes.

Three copies are a barebones MINIMUM. For safety, I would recommend even more copies be kept in more locations. Luckily, that is easy to do.

Backblaze B2 Cloud Storage has moved to Public Beta

About three months ago, I wrote an article entitled Backblaze to Sell Cloud Storage for a Quarter the Price of Amazon S3 and Its Other Competitors. It described the company’s plans to sell secure and encrypted online storage in the cloud at just half a cent per gigabyte per month with the first 10 gigabytes free. That’s about one-fourth the price of most other file storage services. The earlier article said that the new service would be available “soon.” Backblaze’s “soon” has now arrived. B2 Cloud Service is available today as a public beta.

male mountaineer standing on top of a mountain in a rough landsa

Backblaze B2 Cloud Storage for Windows and for Macintosh works similar to Amazon S3, Dropbox, Google Drive, and most other files storage services except for one thing: the prices are much lower on Backblaze B2 than on the others. It allows you to store unlimited data in the cloud. It will also store any kind of files, including text, pictures, videos, genealogy databases, and more. You can see a price comparison of Backblaze B2 versus some of its larger competitors at https://www.backblaze.com/b2/cloud-storage-providers.html.

Free OCR Services

OCROCR is an abbreviation for Optical Character Recognition, conversion of images of typed, handwritten or printed text into machine-encoded text. In other words, someone scans or takes a picture of a book or newspaper or printed piece of paper. The result is an image, typically a JPG or GIF or PNG or TIFF file. To convert that image to normal text that can be used in a word processor, an OCR conversion is required.

A newsletter reader wrote today and asked, “Do you have a suggestion for a free OCR program that doesn’t download a lot of “junk” onto your computer?” My answer is: “Don’t do that!”

A Special Offer for Family Tree Maker Users: MyHeritage is Offering the Family Tree Builder Genealogy Program for Windows and Macintosh PLUS an Unlimited Size Family Site for FREE

ftbThe recent announcement by Ancestry of the “retirement” of Family Tree Maker (see http://goo.gl/BCk2qO for details) has turned out to be a great gift for other genealogy software producers. Thousands of disappointed genealogists are now looking for alternative products. Several companies have announced “special offers” for Family Tree Maker users who wish to switch to a Windows or Macintosh program that will remain supported for some time. I will suggest that a new announcement this morning from MyHeritage should be seriously considered by any Family Tree Maker user.

Disclaimer: MyHeritage is the exclusive sponsor of this newsletter so I could be accused of bias. In fact, anyone who accuses me of bias is correct! To be blunt, I probably am biased. Even so, I do think this is an excellent offer and I will invite readers who do not share my biases to read the announcement and decide for themselves.

MyHeritage has announced a two-pronged offer: both Family Tree Builder software and an unlimited size Family Site for FREE. Of course, Family Tree Builder software for both Windows and Macintosh has always been free. (See my Free Genealogy Software article at https://blog.eogn.com/2015/12/10/free-genealogy-software for details.) The real gem in this announcement is the offer of a FREE family web site of unlimited size on MyHeritage.com.

Easy File Encryption on your Chromebook, Windows, or Macintosh Computer with miniLock

A few people have phobias about placing their personal files in online file storage services, even though the online services have proven to be safer and more reliable than saving the same files on your own computer’s hard drive. Sadly, most of these users do not know how easy it is to add bulletproof security: simply encrypt your files before storing them ANYWHERE: online, on your computer’s hard drive, in a flashdrive, or anyplace else. Encryption is used by military and government agencies, by banks, by stock brokers, and, yes, even by drug dealers, to make sure nobody else can read the information. You can do the same. Encryption works well.

I wrote about one easy method of encrypting files in my Privacy Blog web site at http://goo.gl/AhUUfW. If you want to keep any files secure, I suggest you read the article there.

Online Genealogy Programs for Invited Family Members

A newsletter reader asked a question today: “I am wondering if there is an online genealogy program [where the data] can be seen, added to and shared only by family members so that we can all see each other’s descendants.”

I assume my correspondent wants a service that is visible ONLY to invited family members, not to everyone in the world. Indeed, there are many such programs. Actually, they are web sites where such data can be entered and shared, but only visible to people who have been given access to the site.

While I did answer her in email, I thought I would copy my answer to a public article in this newsletter in case anyone else has the same question. Here are a few of the web sites and service I can think of at the moment:

Backblaze to Sell Cloud Storage for a Quarter the Price of Amazon S3 and Its Other Competitors

IntroducingBackblazeB2I have written many times about the need for backup services, including an article about Backblaze that I published last week at http://goo.gl/OMHR0Z. I have also written many times about the constantly decreasing costs of online file storage services, such as Dropbox, Google Drive, iCloud, Amazon S3, SugarSync, Microsoft OneDrive, SpiderOak, Box, and a number of others. Now I can combine several articles into one: Backblaze has always been known as a method of backing up data files from your computer. Now the company is expanding into file storage (of any kinds of files) and claims to have the lowest prices of any of its competitors. The other file storage services charge 2¢ or more per gigabyte per month. However, Backblaze is pricing its service at just half a cent per gigabyte per month with the first 10 gigabytes free.

Sync.com – A Secure File Storage and Sharing Service

The online world is crowded with cloud-based file storage services: Dropbox, Google Drive, iDrive, SugarSync, OneDrive, Box, Amazon S3, Mega, and probably a dozen more. One small, almost unknown, file storage service is offering something different: absolute file security. Sync.com claims that nobody can access your files unless you give permission to someone. In fact, even the Sync.com employees cannot see what is in your saved files. The company states, “Productivity and privacy, no compromises.”

sync

Sync.com promises zero-knowledge, end-to-end encryption. That means that all files are encrypted in your computer before being sent across the Internet and stored in the company’s servers. If anyone ever access your files on Sync.com’s servers (which is highly unlikely) they won’t be able to decrypt and read the files unless you provide the encryption key to them. The security remains under your control at all times.

Another Reason to Not Install Dictation Software on Your Windows or Macintosh Computer! You Probably Already Have a Similar Product.

This is a follow-up to my earlier article, Do Not Install Dictation Software on Your Windows or Macintosh Computer! that describes the new cloud-based Dragon Anywhere voice dictation software for or iPhone and iPad and Android. Dragon Anywhere costs $15 a month or $150 a year.

google_docs_click_to_speakGoogle has announced ANOTHER REASON to not install dictation software on your computer. The new reason is also cheaper. Much cheaper: FREE. In my early testing, I found that Google’s offering works well. Google’s competitive offering works in Google Docs on any Windows, Macintosh, Chromebook, Android, iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch computer with a Chrome browser. Best of all, the new Google software is available FREE of charge and probably is already available in your computer today. Voice typing is available in 40 different languages so it should help with your French homework or for writing to your relatives in Greece.

Keep Notes with Google Keep

google-keepGoogle Keep is a syncing notepad that connects to Google Drive. It also supports photo notes, voice notes, and checklists. It is available for Chrome browsers  on Windows and Macintosh, for Android devices, and for Chromebooks. It can be an excellent tool for taking notes in the field or for transcribing information found in books and old documents. It also saves audio notes meaning you can dictate any notes or old documents into the app to save and play them back later. (It doesn’t convert your spoken words to text, however.)

It also creates excellent to-do lists. Set a location-based reminder to pull up your grocery list right when you get to the store. The next time you go to the store, share your shopping list with your spouse or significant other on Keep and watch as items get checked off in real time. There is no need for text messages back and forth.

Do Not Install Dictation Software on Your Windows or Macintosh Computer!

DragonAnywhereDictation software has been popular for several years and continues to improve its accuracy. The biggest drawback has been price: most dictation software is expensive. Nuance thinks it has a better option: Dragon Anywhere for iPhone and iPad and also available for Android.

“For years, professionals across industries have relied on Dragon on their PCs and Macs for completing the documentation and paperwork requirements that are critical to their businesses, and we are excited to extend that experience to mobile devices with Dragon Anywhere,” Peter Mahoney, senior vice president and general manager of Dragon, said in a statement.

The company pointed to field workers, lawyers, social workers, insurance adjusters, public safety officers, and other pros who conduct much of their work away from a desk. I would suggest that a genealogist will find that reading an old document out loud into dictation software is a lot more convenient that re-typing all the information, especially on handwritten documents that cannot be decoded with OCR (optical character recognition) software.

Organize Your Cloud-Based Services with ExpanDrive

I have been using a number of cloud-based file storage services for years, including Amazon Cloud Drive, Google Drive, Dropbox, Box, OneDrive, SFTP, Amazon S3, and a few others. Keeping all these services organized has been a bit of a problem. After all, each service has its own user interface, and switching from one to another requires at least a few seconds to refresh my memory of how each service operates. Now I have found a piece of software that treats each service as a separate drive on any Windows or Macintosh computer. I can also use multiple accounts on the same cloud service. If I have multiple Google Drives (say, one for me and one for my friend and one for my daughter and maybe another account for work) I can access all of them from my computer simultaneously.

ExpanDrive lets you access a wide array of remote server types as if they were local USB drives. You can then open, edit, and save files to these remote services from within your favorite programs, even when they are on a server half a world away. All of your present applications installed in your computer can transparently use that remote data.

Another use of ExpanDrive is to save space on a computer whose hard drive is getting full. I’ll explain that in a minute.

Twile Converts Family Trees into Visual Timelines

The following announcement was written by the folks who produce the Twile cloud-based service:

The online genealogy tool now supports GEDCOM import to automatically create a timeline of a family’s history

Sheffield, UK, August 10, 2015 – Twile (www.twile.com) has added a GEDCOM import feature to its online genealogy product, which lets family historians create timelines of the events in their ancestors’ lives.

“GEDCOM support has been the number one request from our users, many of which have family trees with thousands of people on them – they really didn’t want to manually add them all into another tool,” said Twile co-founder, Paul Brooks.

GEDCOM (which stands for Genealogical Data Communication) is a standard file format for migrating family tree data between different genealogy software services.

Unearthing the Dead with Mobile GPS

The following announcement was written by Ryan Vinson:

The dead shall never be forgotten – not if a certain smart American software engineer and genealogist has anything to do with it.

Ryan Vinson has developed an app that will excite genealogists worldwide by potentially unearthing long dead ancestors. He’s also hoping his Here Lies project will encourage users to explore local cemeteries and learn a little about their town or city – or those of a place they’re visiting.

The app works by getting individuals to catalogue gravesites around the world using mobile GPS data. Ryan is looking for anyone who uses the app to upload a pic of their favourite tomb or gravestone (or as many as they like). They should also add a name, date of birth and even any comments. By making a digital recording, that burial plot will remain recorded for ever – even if the markings on the stone fade from view over time. This, in turn, will make ancestors much easier to find, including those buried in long-forgotten small family graveyards.