Plus Edition Article

(+) Put Away Your Wallet and Hold Meetings Online for Free

The following is a Plus Edition article written by and copyright by Dick Eastman. 

Remote meetings have become very popular in recent years and with good reason: holding online meetings with attendees in multiple locations saves a lot of time and money. Instead of having participants travel to one location, everyone can remain at home or in their offices and still attend, even if they are in different parts of the country or even in different parts of the world.

There are two facts about meetings that are difficult to ignore:

1. Meetings are costly to both planners and attendees.
2. Often, they’re wasteful and unnecessary.

Remote meetings and webinars have become very popular in the business world and now are spreading amongst personal interest groups, including genealogy society meetings and conferences. With today’s travel expenses, online remote meetings have become very attractive. Why spend money on travel, hotels, and restaurants? Instead, it often makes sense for attendees to each sit in front of a computer or a tablet or even a smartphone while still at home. Not only can small meetings be held this way; it is possible to hold an entire multi-day genealogy conference with hundreds of attendees, all of whom are scattered around the globe.

Goodby, hotels. Goodby, airline charges. Goodbye, expensive convention centers. Just let me use my iPad.

(+) Yes, You Can Run Windows Programs on a Mac

The following is a Plus Edition article written by and copyright by Dick Eastman. 

Windows-and-Mac-OS-XIf you have moved from a Windows computer to a Macintosh or are contemplating such a move, you do not have to abandon all your old programs. In fact, there are several methods of running Windows software on a Mac. The solutions I will describe are suitable for running Windows applications you simply can’t live without. It works on genealogy programs, word processors, games, and many other Windows applications you want to run on your Mac. While this newsletter focuses mostly on genealogy software, these three different options will work on non-genealogy applications as well.

Method 1:

(+) Genealogy Record Keeping in the Post-PC World

The following is a Plus Edition article written by and copyright by Dick Eastman. 

I believe the post-PC world is upon us. That is, PC computers, as we know them, are now slowly disappearing and will become museum pieces within the next ten years.

The term “PC computers” includes Windows and Macintosh desktop and laptop computers. It does not include tablet computers or Apple or Android “smartphones.”

The term “post-PC” refers to the computing world after sales of desktop and laptop computers have slowed to a trickle.

(+) How to Obtain Information from the 1950 through 2010 US Census Records

The following is a Plus Edition article written by and copyright by Dick Eastman. 

Seal_of_the_United_States_Census_BureauMost US genealogists believe that the US decennial census records are inaccessible for 72 years to protect respondents’ privacy. Not true! The records are restricted but not completely unavailable. That is, the records from the past 72 years are not available to the general public but are available to a very few individuals who have a need to obtain the information contained in a record. The process for obtaining transcripts of the information is simple although, like many other requests sent to the government, delays are common.

(+) Don’t Print This Article!

The following is a Plus Edition article written by and copyright by Dick Eastman. 

man_looking_at_stack_of_papersConsider the environment. Do you really need to print out this article?

I occasionally receive e-mail messages from newsletter readers asking various questions about how to print articles published in this newsletter. I also frequently hear comments at genealogy conferences and elsewhere from family historians stating, “I printed it out to save it and…” or similar words.

I have one question: Why?

(+) The Problems with OCR

The following is a Plus Edition article, written by and copyright by Dick Eastman. 

OCRMuch of the genealogy information available on the World Wide Web is obtained from old books, published many years ago. With today’s technology, vendors are finding it easy to scan the books and to convert the pages into computer text. The results are placed online and the text becomes searchable in Google and other search engines, as well as each site’s own “search box.” The conversion from printed pages to computer text can be performed at modest expense and the information derived can be valuable for many genealogists. There is but one problem: it doesn’t always work very well.

Scanning a page from a book creates a picture of the page. However, a picture is not easily searchable. The image is similar to taking a picture with a digital camera: while it is easily readable by a human eye, the computer cannot “see” the words in the picture. A conversion process, called Optical Character Recognition, is required.

(+) Calculating Birth Dates from Death Date Information

The following is a Plus Edition article, written by and copyright by Dick Eastman. 

What day was that ancestor born? It seems like such a simple question, and yet finding the answer can be surprisingly complex, even when you have the numbers in front of you. Exact dates are often found in death certificates and frequently on tombstones. The problem is that these are often written as death dates followed by the person’s age at death.

George_Eastman_tombstone

Here is a common example:

George Eastman
Died June 12, 1899
Aged 83 years, 10 months, 26 days

How do you tell George Eastman’s date of birth? You obviously need to subtract 83 years and 10 months and 26 days from the date of death. Simple, right? Well, not as simple as it first appears.

(+) Communicating in the Cemeteries

The following is a Plus Edition article written by and copyright by Dick Eastman. 

Communicating in the cemeteries??? No, I am not referring to communications with or amongst the “long-term residents” of a cemetery. Instead, I’m writing about communications for visitors to a cemetery. Namely, the genealogists who visit a cemetery looking for information about deceased relatives.

When searching for tombstones of ancestors and other relatives, I generally try to visit a cemetery with a friend or two. We mentally divide the cemetery into sections, and then each person searches through his or her section alone. The other friends are doing the same in a different section. I have done this many times and suspect that you have, too. Having two or more people involved increases the enjoyment of the search as well as the safety of everyone involved.

There are disadvantages, however. Upon discovering a particular tombstone, you may have to shout to the other person to make them aware of your discovery. In a large cemetery, the other person(s) may be some distance away, making shouting impractical.

(+) How Safe Are Your Old Documents?

The following is a Plus Edition article written by and copyright by Dick Eastman. 

Old_documentA number of us are fortunate enough to own old books, birth certificates, marriage certificates, naturalization certificates, old newspaper clippings, or other family heirloom documents that we want to preserve. What condition will they be in 20 or 50 years from now? For that matter, will the fruits of your genealogy labor be available to your descendants 200 years from now? You should take steps now to make sure the documents remain in the best possible condition. I thought I would discuss the techniques of document preservation a bit more in this newsletter.

Very old books and other paper documents are rather easy to preserve if a few basic precautions are followed. Modern day paper is made from wood pulp. The manufacturing process extracts cellulose from the wood, and then paper is manufactured from the cellulose fibers. Although pure cellulose is extremely durable, the various additives can cause deterioration, usually through acid degradation of the fibers. The life expectancy of most modern paper can be as short as 50 years. Even worse, documents you produce on your laser printer may not last that long. The toner that substitutes for ink in modern laser printers probably will not last as long as the paper it adheres to. Once upon a time, toner was made of carbon, which lasts a long time. However, carbon turned out to be carcinogenic so manufacturers switched to various plastic compounds. Neither carbon nor plastic will stick to paper forever. In fact, if rubbed occasionally, even by the expansion and contraction that occurs during temperature variations, the toner will easily rub off.

(+) Running Android Genealogy Apps on a Chromebook

The following is a Plus Edition article written by and copyright by Dick Eastman. 

I have written a number of times about Chromebooks, the low-cost laptop computers that boot up quickly, are simple to use, never get viruses, and perform the computer tasks that many computer owners want. (Go to https://goo.gl/TsSWQ5 to find my earlier Chromebook articles.) These $150 to $300 laptop computers are very useful for a very specific type of computer user—someone who spends most of his or her time using the Web and Web-centric services. These days, a lot of people fall into that category, including myself.

I love my Asus Flip C100P Chromebook and use it often. Chromebooks are not for everyone, but they have become very popular, amongst the hottest-selling laptops on Amazon and from other retailers. As of the time I write these words, a Chromebook is the third most popular laptop sold by Amazon. (See http://goo.gl/y7TWud for Amazon’s Chromebook sales figures.)

One of the weaknesses of Chromebooks has been the lack of good genealogy apps. That has now changed. Here is a screenshot showing the MyHeritage app for Android computers running in a full-sized screen on my Asus Flip C100P Chromebook:

 

MyHeritage_app_on_Chromebook

(+) Turn Vacations into Genealogy Fact-Finding Trips

The following is a Plus Edition article written by and copyright by Dick Eastman. 

“If It’s Tuesday, This Must Be Belgium.”

Where will you go on your next vacation trip? A trip to New England? Washington, D.C.? How about to the beach? Or how about a European vacation? How about taking a trip to the town where your grandparents grew up or visiting the country of your ancestors? What if you could actually walk the same streets as your great-great grandfather or see the home where your grandmother was born? This is something you want to put on your bucket list.

A trip back to the old home town or to “the old country” can be an immensely satisfying experience. Those who prepare for the trip usually report they have great memories and photographs of the experience.

(+) Create Better Pictures and Scanned Images

The following is a Plus Edition article written by and copyright by Dick Eastman. 

Nikon-DSLR-CamerasDigital cameras are perhaps the most universal technology of today. Hundreds of millions of people around the globe own and use digital cameras – not bad for a technology that barely existed 20 years ago. In fact, you do not need to be an electrical or optics engineer to produce good pictures from a digital camera. You don’t even need to own a computer, although a computer will allow you to accomplish a lot more than what you can do with just the camera alone.

Most people use digital cameras like the old box cameras: point and click. Very few people spend the time to learn how to obtain the best pictures possible. Indeed, “point and click” works well; but, there is so much more that one can do.

(+) Consider the Source: Original, Derivative, or Copy

The following is a Plus Edition article written by and copyright by Dick Eastman. 

Experienced genealogists are always aware that they must verify information by looking at original documents or a microfilm or digital image of an original document. We should know better than to believe a statement on a web site, in a genealogy book, or a verbal statement from Aunt Tilley about the “facts” of our family trees. However, what is the definition of an “original document?”

Let’s take one well-known claim of an original document that isn’t really accurate: the U.S. Declaration of Independence. Almost all American schoolchildren are familiar with this document; and, if we paid attention in class, we know that the document is on display at the U.S. National Archives building in Washington, D.C. In fact, millions of us, myself included, have visited that building to view the document on display. However, how many of us were ever told that the document displayed in Washington is not the original, hand-written document? Instead, it is one of many copies that were produced on a printing press.

(+) My Macintosh in the Cloud

The following is a Plus Edition article written by and copyright by Dick Eastman. 

macintosh-cloud-logoOn Friday, I published a Plus Edition article entitled (+) My New Windows PC in the Cloud. I described a virtual Windows PC that I am now using for certain tasks. The PC does not sit on my desk. Instead, it is a piece of software that runs on a server in a data center someplace else. I don’t know where it is located, and location doesn’t really make much of a difference when using resources on the Internet.

That article is still available on the Plus Edition newsletter’s web site at http://eogn.com/wp/?p=40259. (A Plus Edition user name and password is required to read it.)

After publishing that article, several newsletter readers wrote to ask, “I’d like to do the same thing but would like to use a remote Macintosh computer. Is that available?”

(+) My New Windows PC in the Cloud

The following is a Plus Edition article written by and copyright by Dick Eastman. 

There are dozens of reasons why someone might need a second computer, perhaps for a short period of time or maybe forever. Perhaps all you need is an upgrade to your present computer: a more powerful processor or perhaps a larger hard drive. Other reasons might include a short-time requirement for a second or “loaner” computer for a business trip or perhaps a test box to be used for a new project you are working on. Maybe you normally use a Macintosh but occasionally need to use a Windows program for some reason.

Thanks to today’s technologies, there are multiple solutions to choose from. Some solutions are cheaper and/or more convenient than others. This article describes a solution that many people will find cheaper, less hassle, more convenient, or all of these: meet the virtual computer!

Unlike regular computers that are clunky pieces of hardware, a virtual computer lives in the cloud. It’s a powerful computer available for a low monthly fee. From now on, I no longer have to buy new, expensive hardware when I want to access a computer with more speed and storage space. My new virtual PC is fast, always updated, and constantly backed up.

(+) The Future of Personal Computers for Genealogy and Everything Else

The following is a Plus Edition article written by and copyright by Dick Eastman. 

no-pcPlease look at the computer you are using right now to read this article. Is it a large, beige-colored box sitting on your desk with a separate monitor on top? If so, you are using very old technology. The idea of a computer box on your desk with a separate monitor and keyboard has been with us since the early 1980s. In computer years, that’s a century or more!

In fact, the definition of a home computer—or perhaps I should say a “personal computer”—is changing. I suspect many people are reading this article on their iPads, iPhones, Android tablets or phones, or perhaps on a 2-pound “netbook” or Chromebook laptop computer or something similar. If you are one of those reading this article on a non-desktop computer, you have already joined the revolution.

(+) How to Copy an Entire CD-ROM or DVD-ROM Disk

The following is a Plus Edition article written by and copyright by Dick Eastman. 

Three days ago, I published an article entitled Your CD Collection is Dying. I described various causes if the deterioration of CD, CD-ROM, DVD, and DVD-ROM disks. I suggested copying the disks every few years to new media in order to preserve the information for decades, if not for centuries. That article is still available at https://goo.gl/QMi8us.

But how do you copy a CD-ROM or a DVD-ROM? Copying normal files is simple enough but many data CDs and DVDs include hidden files and possibly boot records that do not get copied when using normal file copy methods. How do you copy ALL the files?

(+) A Different Online Backup Service

The following is a Plus Edition article written by and copyright by Dick Eastman. 

It’s important to make backups, but there aren’t many free services that offer unlimited space for them. I have now found a method of making free, secure, off-site backups of essentially unlimited size.

I have written a number of times about making regular backups. In fact, I recommend that everyone always have at least two current backups: one stored locally for convenience and another stored “off site” that will be protected in case of theft, fire, flood, hurricane, a burst water pipe, tornado, accidents, or any other disaster that will destroy both your computer and all backups stored nearby. Having two current backups stored in different locations is critical, but having three, four, or even more current backups provides even more insurance.

Typically, you don’t need to back up everything. Most computer users, however, do need to back up their Documents folder (sometimes called “My Documents”) and any subfolders under Documents, as well as any other files that contain important information that could not be recreated by other means.

Many of the comments posted at the end of my earlier articles have asked about security and expenses. This week, I thought I would describe a service that has excellent security, and can be free of charge, depending upon what you have available.

(+) I am Moving to the Cloud

The following is a Plus Edition article written by and copyright by Dick Eastman. 

CloudComputingI’ve decided to move. Well, not my personal possessions, my clothes, my tools, or even my computers. I am moving my data. I am moving to the cloud.

First, here is a quick definition of a cloud as the word is used in computer technology.

Cloud computing is Internet-based computing, whereby shared resources, software, and information are provided to computers and other devices on demand, similar to the electricity grid. In other words, most computing functions and data storage are provided by remote computers connected via the Internet. The computing power is shared amongst many users, and each user obtains as much or as little computing power and storage space as he or she needs. Expenses are also shared, and the result is more computing capability per dollar spent for everyone.

Some of those computers may be across town while others may be located at the far side of the world. The user typically doesn’t know or care where the computers are located; all he or she knows is that a connection is made across the Internet, and then the remote computer is used in much the same manner as a local computer.

(+) Convert Your Old Computer into a Server

The following is a Plus Edition article written by and copyright by Dick Eastman. 

file-serverIf you upgraded your home computer to a more modern system, you may still have the old system lying unused in a closet or some other place. There are many uses for old computers, such as giving it to a family member, installing UNIX or Linux on it to experiment with a new and more secure operating system, or any other number of worthwhile projects. I would suggest you consider converting the old computer into a server.

There are several good reasons for having a server in your home:

1. A server is a good place to store backup copies of your important files. In case of a hard drive crash or an accidental erasure in your primary computer, you can quickly and easily restore the needed file(s) from your file server.

2. Placing your data in one place makes it easy to share files amongst your own desktop, laptop, and tablet computers, as well as with your cell phone and even with the devices of other family members. You can use the server can function as a “media server” to let all computer devices within the home access with music, videos, and other files that you have stored on the server and available to all computer devices within the home.

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