Software

(+) One Easy Method to Create Online Databases for Your Website, Replacing Spreadsheets

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

Have you or perhaps your local genealogy society accumulated a lot of information that you would like to make available online, either free or for a fee? Indeed, many societies would like to publish tombstone information, local tax tax records, school records, and a lot more local history records online. However, there is one difficulty that often blocks organizations that do not have web publishing experts amongst their members: “How do we do that?”

Unfortunately, publishing listings of thousands of pieces of information is not as simple as creating an HTML document or an Excel spreadsheet. A true database is a better way of publishing records online, especially if there are hundreds or thousands of records to be made available, but such a solution also can be rather complex. The most common solution is to create a SQL database or something similar, then write a custom “front end” to it that users can use to query the database.

Simple? Well, yes, that is simple IF you are an accomplished programmer. Luckily, there is one solution that requires some technical skills, but you don’t need to be able to write a single line of SQL code.

Keep Loved Ones Digitally Close with Family Locator

Disclaimer: Despite the name, “Family Locator” won’t help you find your long-deceased ancestors.

Every time we have a disaster, I think of the cell phone app called Family Locator. I am in Florida at the moment, and news about this week’s Michael hurricane certainly reminded me of the need to find and even track the whereabouts of family members. This app answers an age-old question: “Where are you?”

The Family Locator app for iPhones, Android phones, and even BlackBerry phones lets you know where some or all of your family members are located, plus or minus a few feet. This can be critical information when they have been evacuated to a storm shelter of some sort in advance of a hurricane or forest fire or tornado, or if they are simply stuck in a blizzard. Setting up alerts in the app will also allow you to know when family members have made it safely to their next destination.

In order to function, both you and all family members you wish to locate must have the Family Locator app installed on everyone’s cell phones, and each phone must be turned on and communicating with cell towers or wi-fi hotspots.

RSS Newsfeeds Explained

NOTE: This is an article I published four years ago. The subject recently arose again and I realized that many newsletter readers are unaware of the simple way to read this newsletter, other blogs, and many other web sites that publish new articles more-or-less daily. I decided to make some additions to the original article and then republish it for the benefit of those who haven’t read the four-year-old version:

You may have noticed that this newsletter and several other genealogy Web sites are available via RSS news feeds. So are thousands of other Web news sites covering a wide variety of topics. This article will hopefully explain what RSS feeds are and what they can offer you.

RSS is an abbreviation for “rich site summary” or “really simple syndication.” Most people don’t need to remember this definition any more than they would spell out “ATM.” As to the word “feed,” this simply describes the way information gets to people: web servers “feed” their information to those who ask for it. For those who want more technical detail, RSS feeds are composed in XML, a format that is similar to HTML, the standard language in which many Web pages are created. For a rather technical explanation of RSS, look at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/RSS.

RSS has been available for years but many people are not yet aware of its capabilities. RSS can simplify your life and save time. It is an excellent method of avoiding the flood of internet security problems and email overload. RSS has become a popular way for news publishers to provide information without sending computer users to different Web sites, cluttering their email with spam, or exposing them to adware, spyware, worms, or viruses. These factors make it equally attractive to those who read their information.

Infinite Family Tree Drawer – a New App in the Macintosh App Store

Infinite Family Tree Drawer is a rather simple Macintosh program that reads GEDCOM files and then can convert the data to expanded pedigree charts or descendant charts, suitable for printing and even for hanging on the wall.

Several users of the program report that is is a great tool for anyone who keeps family trees on Ancestry.com because Ancestry users can generate and download a GEDCOM file and then use that file with Infinite Family Tree Drawer to create printouts that aren’t available on Ancestry.com itself. Of course, it will also work with any other modern genealogy program that is capable of generating GEDCOM files. (Almost all of today’s genealogy programs can generate GEDCOM files.)

The program’s description claims:

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.

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.

Synium Software Releases a New Update of MacFamilyTree and of Logoist for Macintosh Mojave

The following announcement was written by Synium Software:

Have you ever wondered why our apps provide that tremendous look and feel? One of the reasons is that we always make use of Apple’s latest and greatest technologies. Synium always has been first in line supporting what Apple had to offer – delivering the best in Mac and iOS software to 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).

Displaying County Lines on Google Maps

Google Maps doesn’t show county boundaries, so Randy Majors created a tool to display them. The tool is simple to use. Simply enter a place name and then click “GO.” The normal Google Map commands of Plus (+) and MINUS (-) can be used to zoom in and out on the displayed map

Simple, easy, and very effective. That’s the kind of tool that I appreciate. You can access County Lines on Google Maps at https://www.randymajors.com/p/countygmap.html.

Free and Open-Source Software (FOSS) Explained

NOTE: This article may appear to be unrelated to either genealogy or history. However, some genealogy software is released as Free and Open-Source Software (FOSS) and a number of questions about such software have been posted to the discussion board on the newsletter’s web site in recent weeks. I thought a short article explaining the term might help others who have not yet asked “What is FOSS?”

Free and Open-Source Software (FOSS) is exactly that: FREE. However, not all free software qualifies as open source.

I will classify free software into four groups. The first three are considered to be proprietary software. That is, the producing organization does not allow else to see the source code of the software the programmers created. The source code is private, or proprietary, information that only the employees of the producing organization are allowed to see.

1. Ad-supported free software

Free software is proprietary software that might be something created by a corporation or a non-profit organization and may contain advertising that promotes the products or services of that organization or perhaps purchase something from one their advertisers that pay to have advertising inserted into the free software. The producing company does not make the source code of the program public, however. You have to hope and trust that the free software does not contain viruses, trojan horse software, or other malware (malevolent software) that might steal your credit card information or bank account credentials or something similar. Facebook is perhaps the best-known free software that contains advertising.

Gramps 5.0.0 Released

Gramps is a FREE genealogy program originally developed for Linux and UNIX-like operating systems. However, it has since been ported to Windows and Macintosh systems as well. It is an impressive program, both intuitive for hobbyists and feature-complete for professional genealogists. Not bad for a FREE program! Gramps has thousands of users all over the world.

Gramps is a community project, created, developed and governed by genealogists. It is not developed and sold by any commercial company. Instead, you can download this program online and start using it immediately. There is no registration required, no spyware, and no invasion of your privacy. In fact, you can even download the source code yourself and examine it for any flaws or bugs. Once you are satisfied with the source code, you can compile it on your own computer. However, for those who prefer an already packaged version, you can download the executable program itself and simply start using it immediately.

A Report on “Which Computer(s) Do You Use?”

About a week ago, I published a 2-question poll asking newsletter readers Which Computer(s) Do You Use? 2,548 people responded and told which system(s) they use for genealogy tasks. I found the results to be interesting and decided to publish them here.

Question #1: What is your PRIMARY computer, the one you use the most for genealogy purposes, such as recording your own family tree? (Please check only one)

Answers:

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.

Now It’s Easy to Publish Your Family History in an Electronic Book with Gedcom Publisher

John Cardinal is well-known for the excellent software products and services he has created, including the genealogy hosting service, Family History Hosting, and his products that produce web pages for personal genealogy web sites: Second Site and GedSite. Now he has a new product that produces electronic books (ebooks) containing the results of your family history research. These ebooks can be read on most ebook readers, such as an iPad, as well as on Windows and Macintosh computers. Here is the announcement:

Narragansett, RI – July 25, 2018 – Family History Hosting, LLC is pleased to announce Gedcom Publisher.

Gedcom Publisher is a ground-breaking application that creates an electronic book in EPUB format by combining text and images you enter with information taken from your GEDCOM file. Gedcom Publisher knows the ins and outs of constructing a book in EPUB format, and it knows how to read your genealogy data. That means you can focus on the content of your family history book.

“Digital publishing is very popular,” said John Cardinal, CEO and Founder of Family History Hosting, “and it’s likely that when our grandchildren mature, most if not all their reading will be e-books, not paper books. That’s why we should create family histories using electronic books.”

Digipulse Sends Access Information about Your Digital Assets After You Die

If you should pass away unexpectedly or simply become unable to manage your own affairs for any reason, who will step in and manage your digital assets? Such assets might include passwords to web sites, access to Bitcoins or other cryptocurrencies, documents of any sort that are stored in your computer(s) or in the cloud, and any other digital items that need to be passed on to your heirs or caretakers. One new service uses the latest technology to securely make the information available to those who need it, but only after you can no longer control the information yourself.

Digipulse operates a decentralized asset encryption and distribution storage service, meaning that your uploaded files will only be accessible to you and your designated recipients. “Decentralized” means there is no one place that a hacker can go to to find the information you wish to keep secret. Everything is encrypted and broken up into pieces, and then the pieces are stored in different servers. Of course, normal backup procedures are also in use, as is typical in most cloud-based services. Everything is managed by a blockchain.

The Scanner in Your Pocket or Purse

NOTE: This is an update to an article I wrote four years ago. A newsletter reader asked about scanners today and I wanted to refer her to my old article. However, when I looked at the old article, I found some of the information I published four years ago is no longer accurate or relevant today. In addition, there are several new apps available today that did not exist four years ago. Therefore, I updated the article with today’s information and am re-publishing it now.

pixel-xlGenealogists have lots of uses for scanners. We like to make digital images of information from books, court records, old maps, and even records found on microfilm. High quality portable scanners are inexpensive these days, typically $50 and up. You can occasionally find them at even lower prices if you watch the sales. However, convenience is always an issue. Do you really want to carry a portable scanner with you at all times just in case you happen to encounter something you want to digitize? Actually, you probably already have such a scanner with you every time you leave the house.

Today’s Apple and Android smartphones typically have excellent, high-quality digital cameras built in. These make terrific scanners. Need to digitize a record in the deed books or the receipt you just received from a fast food restaurant? Make sure you have good lighting and snap a picture of it. I have been doing that for years and find it works well.

OldNews USA – an Online Search of Old Newspapers

OldNews USA is the app that won the RootsTech 2017 Innovator Showdown. It makes it easy to find interesting stories and articles in historical US newspapers, using the Library of Congress’ Chronicling America collection of over 11 million newspaper pages from 1789 to 1943. Quoting from the OldNews web site:

Designed for both genealogists and history enthusiasts, OldNews USA makes getting started with historical newspaper research easier than ever. With OldNews USA, you can quickly discover interesting stories and articles in historical US newspapers, using the Library of Congress Chronicling America collection of over 12 million newspaper pages from 1789 to 1963.

With OldNews USA, you begin by entering who or what you are looking for. If you want to find articles about a person, all you need to enter is a name, a date range, and a location.

Is My Virus Checker Telling the Truth?

Virus checkers are wonderful tools-— when they work. The problem is that you never know if they are telling the truth or not when they claim to have detected a virus on a web site or in a file on your computer.

The problem is called “false positives.” This happens when a virus checking program says there is a virus or there is a POSSIBILITY of a virus when, in fact, there is no virus in the web site or in the file. Sadly, this happens thousands of times every day, mostly to Windows users.

My favorite reference for this issue is How To Tell If a Virus Is Actually a False Positive, an article written by Chris Hoffman four years ago that still seems to be very accurate. He wrote:

“Your antivirus will complain that this download is a virus, but don’t worry — it’s a false positive.” You’ll occasionally see this assurance when downloading a file, but how can you tell for sure whether the download is actually safe?

A false positive is a mistake that happens occasionally — the antivirus thinks a download is harmful when it’s actually safe. But malicious people may try to trick you into downloading malware with this assurance.

The article may be found at https://www.howtogeek.com/180162/how-to-tell-if-a-virus-is-actually-a-false-positive/.

Google Podcasts

Google now has its own podcast app called Google Podcasts. OK, there’s not much originality in that name but, then again, it is obvious what the app does and who produced it. If you have an Android phone, you can head over to the Play Store and obtain it right now. Google Podcasts is available free of charge.

Google Podcasts allows you to LISTEN to whatever the podcast creator(s) produces. It works on all sorts of podcasts. I assume it works not only on Android phones but also on tablet computers and other devices that use the Android operating system, although I didn’t test that. However, I downloaded it and installed it on my Android phone this morning and immediately subscribed to a half-dozen genealogy-related podcasts. That app worked well on all of them. If you don’t know what genealogy podcasts are available, Google Podcasts will help you find them. Once you install the app, open it, click on the magnifying glass icon (that means “search”), and enter: genealogy

Polarr Photo Editor is Available Free and (Optionally) Requires No Installation in Your Computer

I know that many genealogists frequently use photo editors to improve or restore old family photographs and for a myriad of other uses. If you would like to do the same, you might already be aware that the two leading photo editing products are Photoshop CC (Creative Cloud) which is only available as a subscription service for $20.99 US per month, and Photoshop Elements, which retails for $99.99 or is also available as a subscription service for $9.99 per month.

NOTE: Adobe, the producer of Photoshop and Photoshop Elements, often bundles other products along with the company’s mainstream products and prices vary frequently as various bundles go on sale. Always check the Abode web site at http://www.adobe.com for the latest offers.)

While Photoshop CC and Photoshop Elements are both great products, they tend to appeal primarily to professional photographers and to other business users who can justify such expense. The prices often discourage casual users who only want to edit a few pictures on their home computers. As a result, a number of lower-cost alternatives to the Photoshop programs have become popular, including: