Off Topic

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.

Wasabi: the New, Low Cost Cloud Storage Service

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 storing data in the cloud for backup purposes, this article may be of interest to you.

Wasabi is a brand-new cloud storage service. The company is so new that not all the planned “bells and whistles” are yet available. However, the present implementation hows a great deal of promise. In short, Wasabi appears to be perfect for Macintosh and Windows users looking for a simple way to use cloud storage at very low prices.

I signed up for Wasabi a few hours ago and, so far, it seems to work well. I am using Wasabi in the same manner as an external disk drive. Installation and operation was simple. If I do encounter problems with Wasabi in the future, I will publish a follow-up article at that time.

The most obvious advantage of Wasabi is the price: $.0049 per gigabyte/month which equals $4.99 per terabyte/month (all prices are in US dollars).

With the Next Version of Microsoft Windows, Say Goodbye To Your Windows PC As You Know It

NOTE: This article is not about genealogy but I suspect many Windows users will be interested in it. If you are looking for true genealogy-related articles, I suggest you skip this one.

Huge changes are coming from Microsoft. A new rumor is going around that claims Microsoft is switching from SELLING Windows to RENTING it instead. Some users think it will be an improvement while others believe it will be a major step backwards to computing in the way it was done in the 1970s when very expensive mainframes did all the computing and all data input and output by humans was done by using remote “dumb terminals.”

Microsoft is getting ready to replace Windows 10 with the Microsoft Managed Desktop. This will be a “desktop-as-a-service” (DaaS) offering. Instead of owning your own copy of Windows, you’ll “rent” Windows by the month. Microsoft already does this with Microsoft Office 365. Other companies, notably Adobe, also have software rental models, replacing the old concept of purchased software.

How to Get in Touch With Loved Ones During and After a Disaster

NOTE: This article has nothing to do with genealogy. However, it is information that I suggest everyone should know, so I am offering it here. If you are looking for a true genealogy-related article, you might want to skip this one.

From flash flooding and hurricanes to earthquakes and tornadoes, disaster can strike at any time. One of the first things on the minds of those directly or indirectly involved in such situations is the well-being of their loved ones.

 

When Hurricane Harvey pounded Texas and Louisiana in 2017, many users on Twitter and Facebook reached out to strangers for help in locating their missing loved ones. Success was limited as these services were overwhelmed. There are better ways of communicating.

Depending upon the nature of the emergency, all electricity, telephones, and even all cell phone towers might be out of commission. In such cases, the use of telephones, cell phone towers, the Internet, and other high tech means of communications will be useless. If you really need to make contact under those conditions, your choices are limited. I’d suggest contacting a nearby ham radio operator and asking him or her to relay a message for you. Many ham operators, but not all, are prepared for such conditions and can make long-distance contacts using equipment powered by batteries or generators.

This article will focus on the days following a disaster as communications systems come back online or for those situations when some, but not all, of the high-tech communications systems do not go off line. I would suggest everyone should think of their own preparedness for power outages, whether caused by weather, automobiles running into telephone poles, or any other calamities.

Legend of Loch Ness Monster will be Tested with DNA Samples

NOTE: This article has nothing to do with genealogy but it does concern DNA, something of interest to many genealogists.

For hundreds of years, visitors to Scotland’s Loch Ness have described seeing a monster that some believe lurks in the depths. University of Otago (New Zealand) professor Neil Gemmell says he’s no believer in Nessie, but he wants to take people on an adventure and communicate some science along the way.

Gemmell said that when creatures move about in water, they leave behind tiny fragments of DNA. It comes from their skin, feathers, scales and urine. He said his team will take 300 samples of water from different points around the lake and at different depths. They will filter the organic material and extract the DNA, he said, sequencing it by using technology originally created for the human genome project. He said the DNA results will then be compared against a database of known species. He said they should have answers by the end of the year.

Details may be found in an Associated Press article at: http://bit.ly/2GIB9KA.

Social Security Cards Issued by Woolworth

The most misused Social Security Number of all time was 078-05-1120. In 1938, wallet manufacturer the E. H. Ferree company in Lockport, New York decided to promote its product by showing how a Social Security card would fit into its wallets. A sample card, used for display purposes, was inserted in each wallet. Company Vice President and Treasurer Douglas Patterson thought it would be a clever idea to use the actual SSN of his secretary, Mrs. Hilda Schrader Whitcher.

Off Topic: Perhaps the Most Secure “Burner Phone” of All?

I wrote a rather technical article about how to create a highly secure and private version of a cell phone. However, the article has nothing to do with genealogy or with history so I decided to not publish it here. If you think you might have an interest in the topic, look in the other blog that I write: the Privacy Blog at https://privacyblog.com/2018/04/30/perhaps-the-most-secure-burner-phone-of-all.

The Russian Government wants to Block Zello, But Can It Really Do that?

NOTE: This is another off-topic article: it has nothing to do with genealogy. If you are looking for genealogy articles, you might want to skip this one.

This is a follow-up article to the one I wrote about Zello, the free walkie-talkie emulation software for cell phones, a few days ago at http://bit.ly/2H9TWjw. Zello is a great app that gives users excellent one-to-one and one-to-many communications capabilities. Now the Russian government thinks that Zello is an evil thing. Well, it is evil in the eyes of a repressive government. The Russian government wants to block all usage of Zello. It seems that Zello is another example of the type of secure communications service which the Russian regime is determined to stop its people from using.

The regime of President Vladimir Putin sees apps like Zello as being a threat rather than a vital communications tool. That is because apps of this nature are frequently used by opposition groups to coordinate protests and opposition to the Putin regime.

There is but one problem: blocking all Zello users within the country will be a difficult, maybe impossible, task.

The Zello App Can Help Save Lives During Major Storms and Has Many Others Uses Also

NOTE: This article is off-topic: it has nothing to do with genealogy. If you are looking for genealogy articles, you might want to skip this one. However, it is something that I believe all cell phone users should be aware of. The online app called Zello could save your life. It is also a great way to communicate with groups of people, such as relatives or members of a search-and-rescue organization. I have been using Zello for non-critical communications for a couple of years now and would hate to be without it.

Zello converts your Android or Apple iOS or Blackberry cell phone or your Windows computer into a general-purpose walkie-talkie. It is sort of a high-tech replacement for CB radio except that Zello converts your cell phone into a free 2-way radio with worldwide range. I have used the free Zello app to talk with friends and relatives in North America free of toll charges while I was walking along the streets of Singapore as well as when I was in New Zealand. I have also used it to talk with communications hobbyists in South America and in the Sahara desert while I was driving in my automobile in Florida.

Zello also was recently used in the Houston area, New Orleans, all over Florida, Puerto Rico, and in other Caribbean islands during the recent hurricanes when wired telephones and emergency two-way radio towers (police, fire, ambulances, and others) were destroyed by the hurricanes. Cell towers also were sometimes knocked offline during the hurricanes but usually were the first communications systems to be restored to operation once the winds subsided.

Perhaps the greatest story of all was the use of Zello by the “Cajun Navy” during Hurricane Irma. According to Wikipedia:

Happy New Year!

Steve Morse Creates a New Online “Applying 2016-2018 Tax Brackets” Calculator

NOTE: This article has nothing to do with genealogy except that Steve Morse is famous for his “One Step Genealogy” web pages at https://stevemorse.org/. Steve is now branching out into other topics, helping to simplify the use of complex information.

Steve Morse created his “One Step Genealogy” web pages that have since become standard reference pages for millions of genealogists. He also created the “Viewing ObamaCare Health Plans in One Step” several years ago. Steve hasn’t been standing idly by as more complex information is becoming important to every American.

The so-called tax reform bill looks like it is about to be passed by Congress and signed by the president. Indeed, it is complex and has many, many changes. Some taxes will be lowered while others will be raised. Steve apparently decided to help simplify the information.

The new online “Applying 2016-2018 Tax Brackets in One Step” uses the tax brackets for various years to compute the federal tax for any income up to one million dollars. The years covered are 2016, 2017, and 2018. There are two 2018 calculations — one is based on the tax brackets under the old tax plan and the other is based on the tax brackets under the new tax plan.

A Family Tree that is Out of This World

This isn’t a pedigree chart drawn to strict genealogical standards, but it is amusing. With the new Star Wars: The Last Jedi movie being released this week, this is is a “must have” for any genealogist who is also a Star Wars fan.

You can see the Star Wars Family Tree at http://images.amazon.com/images/G/01/video/stills/star-wars/sw3-famtree.l.jpg

Microsoft Office is Now Available on Chromebooks

This article has nothing to do with genealogy. However, I have written often about Chromebooks, the inexpensive laptop computers. (See http://bit.ly/2zNe4HY for my past articles about Chromebooks.) This is a follow-up to the earlier articles.

Perhaps the most common question about Chromebooks is, “Can it run my favorite Windows (or Macintosh) programs, such as Microsoft Word?” The answer was “No.” However, that is changing.

Chromebooks are designed to be used with the cloud and run programs that are stored on servers in the cloud. There are thousands of such programs available. See https://play.google.com/store/apps?hl=en for a list of the available apps that run on Chromebooks. The genealogy apps may be found at: https://play.google.com/store/search?q=genealogy&c=apps&hl=en.

HOWEVER, Microsoft has now released versions of Microsoft Office (including Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneDrive) written especially for Chromebooks. The Chromebook versions have most of the functionality of the Windows and Macintosh versions, although a few features may be missing.

Nokia Security Report for 2017

Are you concerned about malware (malevolent software), such as viruses, keyloggers, and trojan horse programs? If so, you might want to read a new report from Nokia.

The Nokia Threat Intelligence Report examines malware infections found in mobile and fixed networks worldwide. It provides analysis of data gathered from more than 100 million devices by the Nokia NetGuard Endpoint Security solution. The new report details key security incidents and trends from the first three quarters of 2017. Amongst the findings:

  • Devices using the Android operating system were the most likely to be infected this year, according to Nokia research.
  • Android was the #1 target for Malware, about 1% of all Android devices will be infected, an increase from 2016. This means 0.94% of all Android devices were infected, slightly above Google’s 2016 Q4 estimate of 0.71%.
  • Out of all infected devices, 68.50% were Androids, 27.96% ran on Windows, and 3.54% used iOS.

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.

Hallowe’en in 1875

The Online World is Going Mobile

This article has nothing to do with genealogy, other than many genealogists are sensitive about changes in the world around themselves as well as what the worlds of their ancestors were like. Indeed, the world is changing rapidly today.

If you are looking for true genealogy articles, you might want to skip this one.

Are you mobile?

It seems the current trend of the online world is moving to small, handheld devices. Sales of laptop computers are stagnant while sales of desktop computers have been dropping for several years. Yet the sales of tablet computers and so-called “smartphones” is exploding. I admit that I spend more time on the Internet and with email with my smartphone than I do with the computer with a 27-inch monitor that sits on my desk back home.

Why You Perhaps Should Not Retire at Age 65

Consider the changes in retirement between you and your grandparents. When the national retirement age of 65 was established for the Social Security Act in 1935 (82 years ago!), the average American lifespan was 61.7 years. The age of 65 was chosen at that time because it was beyond the average life expectancy for Americans. While there certainly were exceptions, most Americans of 1935 aged 65 or more were in poor physical condition and were unable to earn a living. In fact, the average 65-year-old American of those days was… DEAD!

Again, I am talking about averages. We all know of exceptions, but financial planning by the actuaries at the Social Security Administration is based on averages.

NOTE: Actuaries are the individuals who determine the rate of accidents, sickness, death and other events, according to probabilities that are based on statistical records. Actuaries then use trend information to predict future averages.

Today, we still think of retirement age as 65, but the average lifespan of Americans is now 78.74 years — 17 years more than it was when Social Security started. The impact is enormous.

An Update on my Status in Orlando

Some newsletter readers know that I have a winter home in Orlando and have asked if I was OK and if my house was OK after Hurricane Irma passed through. I’ll post a brief note here to let those who care know about my status.

Luckily, I am safe and sound and dry in Massachusetts right now.

My Orlando next-door neighbor just called me. He says my home appears to have minor damage. The damage appears to be limited to some siding blown off the back side of the house, probably easily repaired. We may have to first rip out some insulation that may have been soaked by the rain after the siding was ripped off.

Considering the damage other people sustained, that’s trivial.

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.