Hardware

CZUR Aura: the Inexpensive Book (and Other Things) Scanner that Does Not Require Cutting the Bindings from the Books

Genealogists love scanners. We digitize old photographs, documents, maps, old handwritten notes, and dozens of other things that we wish to preserve in digital formats. Perhaps the most desirable scanners are book scanners, designed to quickly digitize the 100 pages or more pages found in a typical genealogy book. There are but two problems with most of the book scanners:

  1. They are expensive at $400 to $40,000 US, depending upon the features included and the speed of the scanning.
  2. Many book scanners require cutting the bindings off the books and then inserting the stacks of unbound pages into a sheet feeder that looks similar to what is found on high-speed office photocopiers.

Cutting the binding off a book is often traumatic for genealogists! Yes, I have cut bindings from modern reprints of old books without hesitation but I doubt if many genealogists will cut the binding from a book printed 100 years ago or even earlier.

A new scanner that is going into production now will solve most of these issues. Even better, it scans books, loose pages, photographs, and even small objects (coins, toys, jewelry, silverware, and more) without damaging any of the objects being digitized.

What is the Most Popular Operating System in the World?

Hint: it is not Windows. No, it isn’t Macintosh either.

According to an article by Dieter Bohn in The Verge web site, the Android operating system is installed on more computers, laptops, tablet computers, and smartphones than any other operating system in the world. In fact, it isn’t just slightly more popular than some other operating system; it is by far the dominant operating system of today.

The soaring popularity of Android is due in large part to its main platform: the smartphone. The number of smartphones sold today outnumbers sales of computers running Windows, Macintosh, and Linux. In fact, many young consumers and also people in third world countries never purchase a desktop or laptop computer; they simply use a smartphone or tablet for all their needs. And Android is installed on about 85% of all the smartphones in the world.

Here is the Android Tablet that Also Can Be Used as a Desktop Computer

In the June 1, 2018 newsletter, I published a Plus Edition article entitled, (+) Will Your Next Primary Computer be a Tablet or a Smartphone? In that article, I predicted that smartphone and tablets had become so powerful in the past year or two that they could soon be used as a desktop computer by simply adding an external screen, keyboard, and mouse. That prediction wasn’t too far off. Today, exactly two months after I published that prediction, a new Android tablet was introduced that offers a docking station that converts it into a desktop computer that will perform most of the functions that most desktop users want. It provides the productivity of a PC with the mobility of a tablet.

The new Samsung Galaxy Tab S4 Android tablet is fully multi-tasking, with multi-window capability, and includes familiar gestures like drag & drop. It also displays a task bar along the edge of the display screen, similar to that of Windows and Macintosh. It also works with a special “pencil” to function as a touch pad, digitizer, or touch keyboard.

You can Purchase a refurbished HP 14 Chromebook for $110

I have written often about the many advantages of Chromebooks. See http://bit.ly/2pm21Iu for a list of my earlier articles about these inexpensive laptop computers. Also see Turn a Chromebook into a Powerhouse With the Best Chromebook Apps written by Tyler Lacoma at: http://bit.ly/2JlY3si.

I have a Chromebook and it has become my primary traveling computer. I also use it often when at the house. (“Who was the director of that 1993 movie I am now watching on TV?”) Now the Cheapskate Blog, written by Rick Broida, describes a bargain: a Chromebook you can purchase for $110 US. If you are thinking about picking up a laptop for yourself or for a family member, this might be a tempting offer for you.

The Hewlett-Packard 14-AK040NR is refurbished, not brand-new. However, it includes a 6-month guarantee, longer than most other refurbished items.

The World’s Most Powerful Windows 10 Pocket-Sized PC

NOTE: This article is off-topic. That is, it has nothing to do with genealogy or history. If you are looking for genealogy-related articles, you might want to skip this one. However, I’d love to have one of these tiny computers on my next research trip to a library or archive. In fact, I ordered one today.

The Mi Mini PC, launched last week on crowdfunding site Indiegogo, has to be the smallest Windows 10 computer that is soon to be available. It literally slips into a pocket. Yet it has most everything built in that you will need except for a keyboard. Even that “problem” is easily solved by using a foldable Bluetooth keyboard that is included in the purchase price of the computer.

The Mi Mini PC is being offered on Indiegogo at an introductory price of $149 US although that price is expected to increase soon after it goes into mass production. The price includes a 2.56GHz Intel Atom x7-Z8750 processor, a 128-gigabyte solid state “disk drive,” 8 gigabytes of RAM memory, wi-fi networking, Bluetooth, a variety of USB ports, and a built-in 5-inch display screen of 1,280 x 720 pixels. The manufacturer claims the 6,000mAh battery will deliver six hours of power before needing to be recharged. The solid state “disk drive” also can be upgraded by the manufacturer to 256GB for an additional $30 or upgraded to 500GB for $50.

Hands On with a 256 Gigabyte Flash Drive

Flash drives have been around for 15 years or more. Sometimes called “thumb drives” or “jump drives” or “memory sticks,” these tiny devices have become one of the most useful devices a computer user can own.

A flash drive is a data storage device about the size of a tube of lipstick that includes flash memory with an integrated USB interface. It is typically removable, rewritable, and much smaller than a CD-ROM or DVD-ROM disk. Flash drives are rugged, can withstand normal handling, and are impervious to magnetism. As a result, they make great devices for storing data. They are often used for making backup copies of important information as well as for transporting files from one computer to another. As such, they have largely replaced floppy disks (remember those?) and CD-ROM and DVD-ROM disks.

There are many reasons for the success of flash drives, but perhaps the single biggest factor has been the increase in storage capacity of these tiny devices. The first USB flash drive was sold in the U.S. by I.B.M. in the year 2000. Called the DiskOnKey, it held just eight megabytes of files. That was considered to be huge at the time, more than 5 times the storage capacity of the floppy disks that it replaced.

Remember When a 29-pound Portable Computer was Light?

The staff at Wired remembers 1983 and produced a YouTube video showing how useful the “lightweight” computer was in those days:

Proof of the Changes in Technology

The world has changed a bit:

And here is a one-terabyte flash drive from 2018:

Microsoft to Sell Low-Cost Chromebook Killers

NOTE: This article has nothing to do with genealogy, unless you happen to use a computer to assist you in searching and recording your family tree.

I have written often about Chromebooks. See https://duckduckgo.com/?q=site%3Aeogn.com+chromebook&t=hf&ia=web for my past Chromebook articles. Chromebook laptops boot up quickly, never get viruses, and perform most of the operations that the majority of computer users want: they surf the web, play games, have excellent word processors, work with Facebook, handle homework, and most everything else. However, they don’t do well at processing-intensive applications, such as 3D rendering, financial / scientific modelling, or video encoding. Chromebooks typically sell for $175 to $300 with a very few high-end models selling for higher prices.

Chromebooks run the Chrome operating system, produced by Google. They do not run Windows or the Macintosh macOS operating systems. Therefore, you cannot install and use Windows or Macintosh programs in them. Instead, almost all Chromebook applications are cloud-based applications, such as Facebook, Gmail, MyHeritage.com, Ancestry.com, The Next Generation of Genealogy Sitebuilding (“TNG”), and thousands of others.

These low-cost laptop computers have proven to be very popular and apparently have been taking sales away from Microsoft’s Windows 10 operating system and, to a lesser extent, from Macintosh systems as well. Microsoft apparently has noticed the drop in sales. Now the company has announced that Microsoft will promote low-cost laptops manufactured by other firms that run a dummied-down version of Windows 10, called Windows 10 S. Prices will start at just $189. These new laptop systems obviously are designed to crush the Chromebook rebellion.

What to Do With Floppy Disks?

Do you or someone you know have lots of files saved on floppy disks? A lady contacted me recently and asked how she could read her old floppy disks that she had saved from many years ago. It seems her present computer does not have a floppy disk drive in it. I suggested she do something NOW to save the disks. Before long, floppy disks will be about as useful as buggy whips.

Actually, there are THREE separate problems:

Hands on with the $149.99 Insignia™ NS-P11A8100 11.6-inch Tablet with Removable Keyboard

I had a chance this week to use a new (to me) low-cost Insignia™ NS-P11A8100 tablet computer. I thought I would write about it here as many people are looking for potential Christmas presents or perhaps a tablet to add to one’s own “Christmas wish list.”

I selected the Insignia™ NS-P11A8100 tablet primarily because it is cheap. While it has a manufacturer’s suggested retail price of $199, BestBuy is selling it for $149.99. That is ridiculously cheap for an Android tablet with an 11.6” screen and a keyboard. After reading all the specifications, I visited a nearby BestBuy store and purchased one.

I plan to use the new tablet computer to run genealogy apps as well as dozens of other uses. It can surf the web, read and write email, run any of several word processing programs and spreadsheets, do everything on Facebook, and run all sorts of other applications for many different uses (see https://play.google.com/store/search?q=Android%20apps for information about the thousands of Android apps available). It even has dozens of genealogy apps available; most of them are available free of charge. (See https://play.google.com/store/search?q=genealogy&c=apps). I am primarily using it with MyHeritage’s genealogy app as well as BillionGraves.

QromaScan v3 Introduces Natural Language Tagging

I wrote about the QromaScan device earlier. Start at https://duckduckgo.com/?q=site%3Aeogn.com+QromaScan&t=hg&ia=web to see my earlier articles. Now a major new software upgrade is available for QromaScan. Here is the announcement from Qroma LLC:

Create Industry Standard Photo Metadata from Natural Voice Descriptions.

SAN JOSE, California— November 17, 2017— Consumers frustrated by the complexity of scanning and organizing their film based images will have a new option as Silicon Valley-based Qroma LLC announces the availability of QromaScan v3.0 for iOS®. QromaScan captures and organizes photos, slides and negatives in one step using specially designed iPhone® accessories and an innovative voice recognition technology. Version 3 brings a new Natural Language Tagging engine that enables users to describe their photos in their own words and use QromaScan’s cutting edge voice recognition technology to detect and embed photo metadata tags for key details such like the date, location and people. A new Relationship Manager detects the use of common nouns used for describing family members such as ‘mom’ and ‘dad’ and automatically tags the image with their full names.

QromaScan 3 greatly simplifies what was once the tedious process of creating industry standard photo metadata. Powered by machine learning and linguistic parsing, QromaScan 3’s Natural Language Tagging engine can store up to 2,000 characters of the user’s transcribed description of a photo and then automatically generate photo metadata tags for things like dates, places, GPS coordinates, and people names. The transcribed description and detected metadata are embedded into the image where they are recognized and made searchable by any operating system or photo organization software that reads standard EXIF and IPTC metadata, such as Adobe Lightroom CC®, Google Photos or Apple Photos®.

Buy a New Samsung Chromebook for $99

This article has nothing to do with genealogy. Instead, it is about one of my other interests: low-cost computer hardware. If you are looking for true genealogy articles, you might want to skip this article.

UPDATE: This was obviously a very popular sale! Most BestBuy stores are reporting they have now sold out of this model. However, you still might check with a BestBuy store near you to see if that store is one of the exceptions and still has a few left.

If not, keep your eyes open. Similar sales on other models of Chromebooks do happen, often in the $100 to $150 price range.

I have written many times about the advantages of Chromebooks, low-cost laptop computers that are web-oriented. I have a Chromebook and love it. The cheap laptop has become my preferred laptop for traveling. I know that laptops are frequently stolen from airports, train stations, bus stations, restaurants, coffee shops, libraries, and other public places. While I would hate to have my Chromebook stolen, I would feel much worse if my much more expensive Macintosh laptop was stolen! That is one of the reasons why I travel with a Chromebook: reducing the risk of financial loss. The other reason is the Chromebook accomplishes everything I need to do when traveling.

I also use the Chromebook frequently at home when watching TV. Chromebooks are designed to run applications “in the cloud” although they are also capable of running a few programs internally.

To find my past articles about Chromebooks, start at: http://bit.ly/2m3fGXz.

Now BestBuy is offering a basic Chromebook laptop for $99 US. That’s not a refurb nor a product by some manufacturer you never heard of. Instead, it is for a brand-new Samsung model XE500C13-S03US Chromebook with a one-year parts and labor warranty. To see the Black Friday sale, go to http://bit.ly/2AjZS4W.

Super-Accurate GPS Chips Coming to Smartphones in 2018, Will Improve Cemetery Locations Accuracy

New GPS (Global Positioning System) chips will be used in future cell phones that will be accurate within 30 centimeters (11.8 inches), rather than five meters (16 feet) which is typical of today’s cell phones. At least, that’s the claim chip maker Broadcom is making. While this may not seem at first to be significant for genealogists, it should greatly improve the accuracy of locations recorded with a cell phone and its camera.

The big benefit for genealogists will be in the accuracy of locations recorded in BillionGraves.com and FindAGrave.com.

Millions of tombstones are already recorded today with accuracy of plus or minus 16 feet or sometimes even worse accuracy than that. Sixteen feet sounds like reasonable accuracy in many cemeteries, but it still is not good enough for quick location of tombstones in many family plots and certainly not close enough for pinpoint accuracy in a columbarium, a room or building with niches where funeral urns are stored.

Write Your Notes in a Rocketbook

Introduction: I must say that I have mixed emotions about Rocketbook. On the positive side, it is an excellent use of technology to improve low-tech methods that have been in use for centuries. I can envision this being used extensively in genealogy research and note-taking.

On the negative side, use of any paper-based note-taking product is contrary to the paperless lifestyle I have been following for a few years. I try to never use paper as I find paper is easily lost, damaged, or at least is difficult to find when I need the information later. That is especially true if I am not in the place where the paper notes are stored. For a list of my past articles on going paperless, see http://bit.ly/2wfDaw6.

On the positive side, I realize that not everyone is comfortable with a paperless lifestyle. Paper notes are still used by hundreds of millions of people around the globe. If that includes you,  Rocketbook may be an attractive product for you. It helps store everything safely and securely in the cloud where you can quickly and later easily find digital images of your notes, drawings, and other paper-based items.

In short, if Rocketbook appeals to you, I’d suggest you try it out! As for me, I will write about it but am unlikely to use Rocketbook myself.

Are you still writing notes and transcriptions in a spiral notebook? It’s time to move into the 21st century!

A Rocketbook looks like many other notebooks. It has paper and even a spiral binding. You can write in a Rocketbook with a pen or pencil. What’s different is what you can do AFTER you have written your notes. In short, you can upload your precious notes to your own private area in the cloud where they can be easily accessed at any time. Your notes will never be lost unless you deliberately erase the online notes later.

The Demise of CDs and DVDs

Alas, poor CDs and DVDs, we hardly knew ye.

Have you purchased any software lately? How about digital images of an old genealogy book? Did you obtain them on a CD or DVD disk? If so, keep that disk. It is already an antique and probably will be a collector’s item before long.

Twenty years ago, we all purchased software on floppy disks. Perhaps ten years ago, software was usually delivered on CD-ROM disks. When was the last time you purchased software that was delivered on a CD or even a high-capacity DVD-ROM disk? Yes, there are a few companies that still deliver software that way, but the number of such companies is dwindling.

Most software these days is delivered electronically, usually by means of a file download. Even Microsoft is now delivering Windows 10 by software download.

Hard Drives and Storage Space Continue to Become Cheaper and Cheaper

The following isn’t directly related to genealogy but it is related to something that concerns all genealogists: storage of information that we have found. Today, it is easier and much, much cheaper to save information in our own computers or in the cloud than ever before. Saving things in digital format is also much, much cheaper (and safer) than storing paper. However, there are signs that consumers are saving less and less these days.

For the past 35+ years or so, hard drives prices have dropped, from around $500,000 per gigabyte in 1981 to less than $0.03 per gigabyte today. See http://www.mkomo.com/cost-per-gigabyte-update for details.

Somewhat surprisingly, manufacturers are selling fewer disk drives to consumers these days than they used to. Consumers are not downloading and saving as many files as they used to, be it text information, music, videos, or anything else. Why not? It appears that the primary reason is that all those things are increasingly more available upon demand in the cloud. There is less need than ever to save things yourself when you can retrieve those items again and again in the future at any time. Even better, the version you retrieve in the future may be updated or be an enhanced version, such as a higher-resolution image or video or contain higher-fidelity sound.

Turn Your Chromebook into a Killer Workstation with the Best Android Apps on Chrome OS

I have written often about the great value offered by Chromebook laptops. (See http://bit.ly/2sewngv for a list of my past Chromebook articles.) Now the Digital Trends web site has an article at http://bit.ly/2sejvad that should interest anyone who is thinking of purchasing one of these low-cost systems.

Turn Your Chromebook into a Killer Workstation with the Best Android Apps on Chrome OS describes the more than 2.5 million Chrome and Android apps that run on Chromebooks. That includes many genealogy apps. (See http://bit.ly/2tNrahN for more information about the many Android genealogy apps that run on Chromebooks.)

This article was written on and posted by my Chromebook laptop.

The Lenovo Chromebook is Now Just $129

NOTE: The following article has nothing to do with genealogy. If you are looking for genealogy-related articles, I suggest you skip this one.

I have written a number of times about the usefulness of the low-cost Chromebook laptops. (My past articles about Chromebooks may be found by starting at: http://bit.ly/2pm21Iu.) I use my Chromebook more or less daily. It also has become my primary traveling computer and I also often use it from the living room couch whenever that is convenient.

While Chromebooks are cheaper than most any other laptops, WalMart is now offering an even lower price than I have seen before: $129. The Lenovo N22 Chromebook isn’t a used or refurbished system; it is brand-new and comes with a full warranty. The WalMart web site doesn’t say anything about a sale or a “special price” so I assume this is the regular price. Other web sites sell it for $150 to $200.

If you were thinking of picking up a Chromebook for yourself or for a family member, now might be the time. You can have it shipped to you or you can pick it up in person at a nearby WalMart store.

Update: Is the Smartphone Becoming the PC Replacement?

Last December, I wrote the following in this newsletter at http://bit.ly/2nNh4gC:

“Today, the smartphone can become a person’s only computer, used alone when away from home or the office, then used with a “docking station” when at home or at the office. Of course, most smartphones already have internal cameras, even webcams. With a docking station to accommodate a keyboard, a larger screen, stereo speakers, printers, scanners, and more, today’s home computer may soon become a thing of the past.”

I also wrote:

“Will your next PC be a smartphone? Do you really need a desktop computer for checking email, surfing the web, or doing genealogy research? The smartphones of today will do most everything your present desktop computer can do.”

It looks like some people agree with me. One company with plans for converting a smartphone into a desktop or laptop computer is a rather well-known producer of personal computers and of smartphones: Apple.

A new patent application from Apple shows the company is toying with the idea of a laptop powered by an iPhone that’s docked face up where the touchpad is normally positioned.