Off Topic

Write a Future E-mail

I have often wished that some of my ancestors had written a letter to their descendants. If I could go back in time, I would ask them to include stories about their lives, some of the major events of their time and, oh yes, information about their parents and grandparents.

Of course, if it was a worthwhile thought for my ancestors to write such messages, then I should do the same: write a letter for my descendants. One online site even simplifies the process.

Here’s Why You Should Use Google Duo for Your Video Calls Instead of Zoom


Easier to use

More features

Much more secure (all communications use end-to-end encryption)

Higher quality connections

Free even for commercial use


This article is “off topic.” That is, it has nothing to do with the normal topics of this newsletter: genealogy, family history, DNA, and related articles. However, I believe it will interest many people, genealogists included, who use more than one computer.

Do you use two or more computers? Perhaps you have a desktop system and a laptop computer. Perhaps you use one computer at the office and a different one at home. Then again, perhaps you have two homes; a summer cottage or perhaps one home in the sunbelt and another “up north.” Do you keep separate computers in each location?

Perhaps you and a relative who is also working on the family tree want to keep genealogy information and old family photographs updated all the time in both of your computers in your homes. Whatever your situation, the question this article hopes to answer is, “How do you automatically keep some of the information up-to-date on both (or all) of the computers?”

The question can be answered with one word: Syncthing.

The Influence of the Great Depression and How It’s Saving Us Right Now

The entire world seems to be facing economic turmoil. A recession is already upon us and it looks like that recession may turn into a “Great Depression.” How will we cope with it? The answer is to look back and find out what our ancestors did when they faced a similar situation.

Roberta Estes writes a great blog called DNA Explained. She usually sticks to DNA-related and genealogy-related topics. However, she recently stepped out of that role and described how her mother, grandmother, and other ancestors handled the Great Depression of 1929 through 1939.

The article brought back many memories of my parents describing their lives during the same years. The same article also reminded me that all is not lost. As the old saying goes, “This, too, will pass.”

For a reminder of past history, you can read The Influence of the Great Depression and How It’s Saving Us Right Now by Roberta Estes at

Also, for some ideas on how you, me, and everyone else should handle this upcoming financial crisis, you can read the same article: The Influence of the Great Depression and How It’s Saving Us Right Now by Roberta Estes at

“We’re all in this together.”

The Best RSS Readers and News Aggregation Apps

I have written before about the many advantages of using RSS Newsreaders to quickly and easily find articles of interest published on dozens, even hundreds, of web sites that interest you, including the web site. You can find my earlier articles about RSS Newsreaders by starting at:

Brendan Hesse has posted an article that I think everyone should read: The Best RSS Readers and News Aggregation Apps. (I found this article by using my favorite RSS Newsreader, of course.) As Brendan writes, “Without further ado, here are the best RSS readers/news aggregators, plus a few alternatives for good measure.”

I also noted that he claims that Feedly is the best RSS Newsreader available today. I cannot say that I have tested as many newsreaders as Brendan Hesse has, but I will say that I have been using Feedly for several years and am pleased with it.

Better Business Bureau Announces New Website for COVID-19 Scams

This article is “off topic.” That is, it has nothing to do with the normal topics of this newsletter: genealogy, family history, DNA, and related articles. However, I believe everyone should be aware of scams and also know where to find a reference that identifies any “unbelievable offer” as a scam.

The Better Business Bureau started a new website to tackle COVID-19 scams.

As the virus spreads, scams related to the virus are becoming more common: price-gouging, travel scams and more.

The BBB’s new web page,, compiles the organizations articles about individual scams. It also has information for people whose vacations or financial plans are disrupted by virus fears.

Declutter Your Inbox. Subscribe to Email Newsletters Straight Into Inoreader

This article is off-topic. That is, it is not about genealogy, family history,DNA, or any related topic. However, I suspect many readers of this newsletter will find it interesting. It describes a better way of subscribing to all sorts of email newsletters by posting them to an RSS newsreader instead of cluttering up your email in-box.

Comment: I have been using RSS newsreaders for years to cut down on my workload and I would hate to read dozens of web sites without a newsreader. For details, read my earlier article, Is It Time to Try a Newsreader? at

Here is a quote from the Inoreader web site:

“Inoreader now allows you to subscribe to Email Newsletters just as regular RSS feeds. By creating a new Newsletter feed, you have the opportunity to create a unique email address where you can direct emails and read them just as regular articles.

Could a Chromebook Replace Your Now-Outdated Laptop?

This is a follow-up to my earlier off-topic article, How to Switch from Windows 7 to Chrome OS CloudReady. That article is available at However, the newer article was written by Ben Schoon and published in the 9to5Google web site at:

“It’s official. This week, support ends for Windows 7 as Microsoft pushes users to upgrade to Windows 10. While a Windows 7 laptop isn’t just going to die, a lack of future updates leaves it open to attacks. So, is a Chromebook a viable replacement for your Windows 7 machine? Let’s discuss.

“Why should I stop using Windows 7?

How to Switch from Windows 7 to Chrome OS CloudReady

NOTE: The following article is off-topic. That is, it has nothing to do with family history, DNA, or any other genealogy-related topic. If you are looking for genealogy articles, you might want to skip this one.

Instead, this article is about some of my favorite topics: the latest software and hardware along with saving money and the use of computer hardware and software. If you are interested in these topics, you may find this article to be of some interest.

However, if you are already using Windows 10 or a Macintosh or a Chromebook or Linux, you probably will not  find anything of interest in the following article.

According to many articles on the Web, including one written by Danny Palmer and published in the ZDNet web site:

Windows 7 has reached end of life and now isn’t supported by Microsoft. It means businesses and consumers with PCs running on Windows 7 – which was introduced in 2009 – will no longer receive technical assistance, software patches and security updates from Microsoft, unless they want to pay extra.”

Later in the same article, Palmer writes:

“Such is the potential risk posed by this that the UK’s National Cyber Security Centre – the cyber arm of the GCHQ intelligence service – has issued a warning over the continued use of Windows 7 PCs and laptops, telling users they shouldn’t use Windows 7 devices when accessing personal data.”

You can find dozens of other articles about the Windows 7 end-of-life problem by starting at:

What should the Windows 7 users do to protect themselves from viruses, identity theft, credit card theft, and similar problems? Actually, there are several very good answers.

My Not-So-Evil “Twin Brother”

I have long been a fan of the television series “The Curse of Oak Island” that is now in its seventh season on the History Channel. I think I have seen every episode of the program. I also have had a long-term interest in another possibly related topic of European adventurers roaming around North America in the 1300s.

The travels of these Europeans in North America is unproven, but there is a lot of circumstantial evidence. I find the subject interesting. For details, see my earlier articles, “Was the Westford Knight also on Oak Island? and “Update: Was the Westford Knight also on Oak Island?”

Because of my investigations into the Westford Knight, I even had a very brief appearance in one of “The Curse of Oak Island” episodes last year.

I also have been a technology geek for years and have written a number of articles in this newsletter about genealogy uses of GPS devices, ground penetrating radar, and other high-tech methods of finding graves, ancestors’ homesteads, and other locations of interest to genealogists and historians.

Imagine my surprise last night when I watched the latest episode of “The Curse of Oak Island.” One person on the show looked strangely familiar. He is also a high-tech geek and is very involved in GPS and ground penetrating radar.

Do you see a resemblance between us?

Will My Cellphone Work During and After a Hurricane?

This is a bit of a follow-up to yesterday’s off-topic article, Reminder: Zello for Cell Phones is not an Actual Walkie-Talkie, and Still Needs Internet Connectivity to Work. I have some experience in emergency communications. I have been a ham radio operator since I was 14 years old and have been involved in a couple of real emergency communications operations as well as in dozens of preparedness drills. This article details the preparedness plans I follow.

As I explained in yesterday’s article, the very popular and sometimes life-saving Zello walkie-talkie app has one big shortcoming: it needs to be connected to the internet in order to work. That connection might be via wi-fi or via a cell phone company’s data connection to a nearby cell tower. Indeed, internet access can be a problem during a hurricane or other disaster when cell towers and wired internet connections alike are knocked offline. However, internet connectivity still remains more reliable than most any other form of communications.

Comment: There is one notable exception: the most reliable communications method during a hurricane or most other disasters is via satellite phones. These phones are not perfect, but they will provide communications in most disasters when wired telephone and cable connections are knocked offline, cell towers are destroyed, and widespread power outages leave most of the area’s communications infrastructure out of operation.

However, satellite phones are expensive to purchase, and the monthly charges (whether you use the phone or not) are so high that few consumers ever purchase them.

In the recent hurricane disasters in Puerto Rico, the Florida Keys, and nearby areas, a hurricane knocked power offline for weeks. Telephone poles were knocked over and cell towers were flattened. Not only were cell towers knocked over, so were towers and roof-mounted antennas of police departments, fire departments, ambulance services, road crews, and most everything else that depends on two-way radios.

Off Topic: Zello for Cell Phones is not an Actual Walkie-Talkie, and Still Needs Internet Connectivity to Work

Note: This article is off-topic. That is, it is not about family history, DNA, or any related topics. However, if you are somewhere near the eastern seaboard of the United States this week, this is information you probably need to know.

From the Apple Insider web site:

With Hurricane Dorian approaching the coast of Florida, word is again spreading about “push to talk” iPhone app Zello. However, downloaders should be aware that the app requires not only a solid internet connection, it also needs connectivity to Zello’s servers to function.

According to Zello’s CEO in 2017, the “walkie-talkie” app saw a 20-fold increase in usage during the Houston rescue situation following a hurricane, and was in use by the “Cajun Navy” as well as some first responders.

35 Google Drive Tips You Can’t Afford to Miss

This article has nothing to do with family history, DNA, or related topics. However, I do know that many newsletter readers use Google Drive or other cloud-based file storage services. If that includes you, I would suggest you read a new article by Eric Griffith in the PCmag web site at

In the article, you will find that Google Drive is much more than a simple file storage service. It is also a file copying (replication) service, word processor, file sharing service, secure file encryption service, a method of accessing Drive files when offline, OCR application, and much more.

Off-Topic: What is Wi-Fi Calling and Why Would I Want It?

NOTE: The following article is off-topic. That is, it has nothing to do with family history, DNA, or any other genealogy-related topic. If you are looking for genealogy articles, you might want to skip this one.

Instead, this article is about two of my favorite topics: saving money and state-of-the-art communications, especially communicating with cell phones. If you are interested in either saving money or in cell phones, you may find this article to be of some interest.

This is an update to the information given in my earlier article, What is Wi-Fi Calling and Why Would I Want It? A lot has changed since I published the original article three years ago. In fact, today I am a bigger fan of wi-fi calling than ever before. It works well and I save more than $100 in monthly wired and cellular telephone charges as well.

Many people think that a cell phone can only be used on a cellular network. Not true!

In the earlier article, I described Google Fi’s cellular service and how it could make cell phone calls over several different cell phone networks as well as over wi-fi networks, even switching connections in the middle of a call, if necessary. I stated “Phones for Google Project Fi are all expensive (check the latest prices as they vary often), but they are all high-end phones with the latest technology. I am using a Nexus 6P phone with Google Project Fi and love it.”

A Quote from Mark Twain

NOTE: There is some dispute whether or not Mark Twain ever said this. However, it is a great line, regardless of its origin.

Buy a Chromebook Laptop for $129

The following article has little to do with genealogy, family history, DNA, or the other topics normally covered in this newsletter. However, it does reflect my interests in low-cost computing and I think it may be of interest to many readers of this newsletter.

I have written often about the advantages of low-cost Chromebook computers. (See for my past articles about Chromebooks.) These low-cost and highly secure laptop computers have all of the essentials most computer users need. They are famous for how they “get things done efficiently and easily.” Best of all, Chromebooks are very secure and never get viruses. They also never lose data because all systems are automatically backed up online all the time. If a Chromebook gets lost, stolen, or crushed by a truck, the owner can obtain a new Chromebook and then restore all data within a matter of minutes.

Now you can purchase a new (not refurbished) Samsung 11.6-inch Chromebook 3 (originally $219) Chromebook for $129 US from Wal-Mart and that price even includes free shipping or else you can pick it up at your local Wal-Mart store. However, you will have to pay state and local sales taxes, if any.

Using a Chromebox as My Primary Day-to-day Computer

The following article has little to do with genealogy, family history, DNA, or the other topics normally covered in this newsletter. However, it does discuss my recent experiences with low-cost computing and I think it may be of interest to many readers of this newsletter.

Here is a conversation I had recently with a friend:

“A couple of weeks ago I installed a Chromebox computer and it soon became my primary computer.”

“A what?

“A Chromebox.”

“What is a Chromebox?”

“It is essentially the same as a Chromebook computer except that it is not a laptop computer. Instead, it is a small desktop computer that requires an external, plug-in keyboard, a mouse, and an external monitor. It is powered by plugging it into a wall outlet, not by batteries. It runs the Chrome operating system, the same as the operating system used in Chromebooks.”

In fact, the Chromebox has become a better addition to my collection of computers than I expected. Of course, I haven’t disposed of my other computers. I still have the Macintosh, Windows, Linux, and Android systems.

I also have a Chromebook laptop which has become my primary computer when traveling. I have always been able to use the Chromebook for almost all computer tasks that I need to do. However, when returning home, I used to switch to the iMac desktop system for my day-to-day tasks. The iMac is the most powerful and flexible of all the computers that I own so I simply assumed it should be the one that I used most of the time. However, I have changed my mind in the past few weeks.

Update: A Success in Fighting Diabetes

OK, I give up!

Three days ago I posted an off-topic article at telling about my recent results at fighting diabetes. In short, after 11 or 12 years as a diabetic, I conquered the problem, perhaps for a short term or maybe forever. I mentioned that anyone who is interested in my fight against diabetes should join in in a message board that I had created at where I would tell anyone and everyone interested about how I drove diabetes into remission.

There was but one problem: the new message board on Google Groups never worked very well. Therefore, I am moving it to a new hosting platform, WordPress. WordPress is the same hosting platform where both EOGN.COM and PRIVACYBLOG.COM are hosted. I have many years’ experience with WordPress and it has always worked well for me.

If you have an interest in how one person drove diabetes into submission, please join me at:

A Success in Fighting Diabetes

NOTE: This article has nothing to do with genealogy, family history, DNA, or any of the other topics normally discussed here. It certainly is “off topic” and I am asking anyone who wishes to comment on it or to ask questions to do so on another web site:

About two months ago, I posted an article that started with:

I earlier published an article entitled  23andMe is Looking to Expand to Millions More Users with a New Genetic DNA Report on Diabetes at

In that article, I mentioned that I was diagnosed as a diabetic about 11 or 12 years ago and that I had recently found a promising method of driving diabetes into remission. That article generated a lot of comments here in this web site and in email asking for the details.

I have now reached a point where a blood test taken a few days ago reports that I am no longer a diabetic.

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.