Hardware

Death of the Keyboard? Let’s Ask Alexa.

Radio Shack TRS-80

I have written often about my vision of the future of computer hardware and software. One thing I am certain of is that today’s computer state-of-the-art will not be the same the state-of-the-art in a few years. Just ask anyone who owns a Radio Shack TRS-80 computer with data storage on audio cassette tapes or anyone who has a collection of floppy disks or even CD-ROM disks. In that vein, I was interested in a recent survey which predicts that computer keyboards are already being replaced in many cases by voice input.

A survey conducted by Pindrop Solutions queried 4057 consumers in the UK, USA, France, and Germany. According to the survey, nearly half (48 percent) of the general public think keyboards will barely be used by 2023 as voice technology takes over. That’s just four years away.

Buy a Dell Chromebook for $129.99

UPDATE: This sale has now ended as the available inventory was exhausted.

I have written about the advantages of Chromebooks many times.These low-cost laptops can meet the computing needs of most computer users, although these laptops are not suitable for anyone running high-end (and expensive) engineering, graphics, video editing, and similar software. However, Chromebooks are excellent systems for surfing the web, reading and writing email messages, using genealogy web sites, playing online games, and even for publishing an online genealogy newsletter. Yes, I love my latest Chromebook. It has become my primary computer when traveling.

See https://blog.eogn.com/?s=Chromebook for my past articles about Chromebooks. If you have questions about Chromebooks, I would suggest you read my article, The Myths About Chromebooks, at https://blog.eogn.com/?s=The+Myths+About+Chromebooks.

Now Dell is selling the Inspiron Chromebook 11 for $129.99.

The KIC Self-Serve Book Scanning Stations

I’d love to have one of these book scanners in my spare bedroom that serves as an office for my genealogy research! At a price of $5,000 to $25,000 (US dollars) each, I’m afraid these professional grade scanners are far too costly for me or for most other genealogists. However, that price is not out reach for many public libraries, some local genealogy society libraries, and perhaps even the office supply store in your neighborhood that already offers scanning and photocopying services. If you are interested in getting your hands on one of these professional book scanners, you might drop a hint or two at your local library or society!

In fact, I wouldn’t limit the potential audience to genealogy societies. You may have historical societies, museums, or other organizations in the area that would be interested in these high-speed book scanners. Perhaps they could even start a partnership with another local organization to purchase one. Another possibility is that you might encourage your local genealogy society to make a donation to a nearby library as “seed money” for a campaign to collect funds from local businesses, organizations, and individuals to purchase such a scanner.

At these prices, the scanner needs to be used frequently to justify the purchase price. A group purchase by several organizations and individuals probably is the most cost-effective method of obtaining access to one of these scanning powerhouses.

QromaScan v3.1 is Now Available

I have written about the QromaScan device several times. Start at https://tinyurl.com/yc8oma9c to see my earlier articles about QromaScan. Now a major new software upgrade is available for this product that converts your iPhone into a scanner.

QromaScan Version 3.1 has the following new features and improvements:

Get a Refurbished Google Pixelbook for $600

UPDATE: This sale is now shown as “Sold Out.” No surprise. I expected these to sell out quickly.

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

Chromebooks are supposed to be cheap, right? Not always. There is one notable exception: the Google Pixelbook that normally sells for $999 to $1,649, depending upon the options selected. However, even this Pixelbook is now available at a lower price than ever before.

I purchased an identical Google Pixelbook while it was on sale a few weeks ago and I love it. However, I now wish I had waited a bit longer. A refurbished Pixelbook is now available for an even lower price than what I paid: only $599.99.

I have written often about Chromebooks. To see my past articles, start at: https://duckduckgo.com/?q=site%3Aeogn.com+chromebook&t=h_&ia=web.

The Simple Method of Adding a Huge Monitor to Your Computer

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 easy way to add a television set’s display to your computer, this article may be of interest to you.

Are you using a rather small monitor on your computer, perhaps even using a laptop computer and its small screen? Do you also have a huge high-definition (HD) television set in your living room or family room? (Almost all television sets built within in the past few years are high-definition models.) Would you like to connect the TV to the computer and use its large screen as a computer display? The process is ridiculously simple, yet many people are not aware of this.

Here is a picture of the 49-inch high definition television in my living room, being used to check comments posted to this newsletter overnight.

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.