I’m writing this on the world’s oldest laptop, hunkered down in far corner of my studio behind a wall of old cart screen monitors and empty cases of Diet Dr. Pepper.
My computer just self-destructed.
It was not pretty.
This calamity is probably due to sympathy pains with the mainframe computers on the east coast still sitting under six feet of brackish water.
In this worst-case-scenario both the main drive and the second, storage drive on my computer went AWOL prompting the dreaded “Disk boot failure, insert system disk and press enter”.
While I know there are numerous tech-heads out there thinking “What’s the problem? You’ve got your system backed up on an external drive or cloud service, don’t you? Don’t You?…DON’T YOU???”
Sound effect: (sound of head hanging in shame)
So here I am, the poster boy for “The It Won’t Happen to Me Club”. So let’s look at my tale of electronic woe and learn a few lessons.
Number One Lesson –
Yes it CAN happen to you. Let’s face it, the electronic marvel that is a computer hard drive isn’t much more than a plastic box with a tiny phonograph playing an aluminum record at 7500 RPM.
Just for comparison, a 747 jet engine turns at 2552 RPM, a power saw spins at about 5800 and a Frisbee launches at about 550 rpm, so needless to say, that drive disk is cranking.
Now, consider the hours of you spend playing Angry Birds plus the times you forget to turn off the computer. The whole time your faithful hard drive is racking up 450,000 spins per hour. It’s astounding we don’t have thousands of these 31/2” disks of death flying out of computers like tiny guillotines sending the population into complete panic until a small band of outcast adolescent tech geeks save the town by discovering the government is conducting clandestine overclocking experiments on the unsuspecting town.
(note to self…register that script idea with Writers Guild tomorrow)
OK – back to the issue at hand…backing up…and we’re not talking about parallel parking, baby.
First, there is the “personal backup system” – attaching an external hard drive to your computer. This is a good start but there are a number of weaknesses with this idea. An external drive will be in the same place as your computer so if the disaster that befalls your computer is in the category of flood, fire or pestilence the external drive may get whacked too. It also contains the spinning disk of death and is just as likely to suffer mechanical breakdowns.
Then there is online storage.
There are two kinds – dedicated backup services and cloud sync services.
The main issues in these services are security, reliability, usability and cost.
Security is everyone’s business – make it yours.
There are some services that require your email address as the login name…not a good idea if you have an ex-spouse or teenager. Just guess the password and the magic electronic door opens.
Reliability – There are a whole mess of new online services offering great introductory deals. Does anyone remember the dot com crash? Make sure your gatekeeper won’t be going out if business when the start-up investment money is gone.
Updating can take a toll on your computer. Some services can seriously slow down your computer while they’re transferring files to storage. The only way to find out for sure is to use the free trial periods offered by some sites.
Finally there is the cost. Some services use a flat fee with file size limits, some are on a sliding scale with the amount of data you store. Again doing your own research will answer the question of, “What’s best for me?”
And so gentle reader…what the heck am I going to do?
For starters, it looks like the controller circuit on the motherboard has been hijacked by Nigerian hackers selling timeshares in Florida and has fried under the load of trying to compute how much weight Burt Reynolds has gained.
The final truth is the black box on the floor is dead. And I couldn’t be happier.
I had this computer built for me by the crack team of Brandon, Brandon and Justin. I asked them to build a high speed computer for video editing and animation. When it arrived many of the programs I had wouldn’t run. When apprised of this, ummm…little discrepancy I was told “Man, I just don’t get it. That is, like, the gnarliest gaming computer ever!!”. I calmly explained that my use for this machine was not for blasting pretend aliens, driving a pretend race car or playing pretend football. I had already done that in real life (except the blasting aliens thing…but I was trained and ready). I also explained that I did not live in my parent’s garage or work part time at the comic book store.
The sad tale of the BB&J 3000 is that it has been tweaked and massaged to somewhat do my bidding but like the bear riding a unicycle at the circus – you don’t criticize the bear for poor technique, you should be impressed the bear’s doing it at all. So having acquired a USB hub allowing me to plug in 27 outboard devices into a laptop I will now be blasting away on this tiny keyboard.
First up is the connection of a 1.5 terabyte backup external drive. Looking at the options for online storage, I’m opting for a fixed price backup system to start. This is sort of like wearing a belt with suspenders. Hopefully data won’t be disappearing like an ice sculpture at an outdoor wedding in Palm Springs (another true story we’ll save for later).
Stay tuned for future developments in our next episode.
I’m the first to admit that technology is whizzing past us like a runaway starship.
Just yesterday I was in a store standing next to a couple of young teen girls who were examining a new smartphone. One was saying, “This one is so different from all my other phones…I don’t know if I’ll ever get it” to which her girlfriend said, “We can ask my little brother – he understands all of this stuff”. In a couple of years only newborns will be able to comprehend any of it.
I’m so screwed.
Every generation has had their technology challenges.
In the early days of Cable TV, it wasn’t easy explaining to customers that the TV stays on channel three and that all the channels are changed on “the box”.
My Mom’s grandmother refused to talk on the phone…she thought it was the work of the devil (which, we now know is true).
I’m guessing my earliest ancestor Torf de Harcourt had a tough time giving up his mace for one of those new-fangled broadswords.
Let’s face it, unless you graduated from IT school in the last four minutes, your knowledge is already obsolete.
And so we come to the question of the day…what is the best way to store the precious family history movie you just made? That’s a question that you’re going to have to answer pretty early on in your project so let’s take a look at the contenders
This old stand-by has been with us since 1995. If you’re thinking of any earlier formats like, oh, maybe VHS or Betamax please remember that no one will be able to see all your hard work except night clerks at the local pawn shop.
Practically every computer built in the last few years has a DVD burner and it’s a fairly simple and straightforward task to make one. Also the number of households in the US that have DVD players is about 91%. The other 9% are Amish.
This doesn’t mean that you’ll have to give up your wide screen format, those movies you get from RedBox are in a wide screen format and play on your DVD player, right? So you can record your interviews with relatives in glorious HiDef and still use them in a DVD.
As of this writing, I think that a DVD is probably the best way to share your video with your family…and I reserve the right to change my mind tomorrow.
Now we’re talking HiDef! Yessir! HD, wide screen, 25Gb of rompin’ stompin’ 1920X1080 pixelated magic, roaring Dolby Digital sound, powered by a laser beam that can burn through titanium! (I made that up). Hook that up to your 70” widescreen and …oh - wait a minute…Grandma still has a portable Philco TV with rabbit ears sitting on the kitchen counter.
According to the latest figures (which are now also obsolete) only 22% of the homes in America have BluRay players. If you add up rap stars, Hollywood producers and the Kardashians that pretty much covers that percentage.
Making both a DVD and a Blu-ray is one answer but will mean about twice the work. You know the level of technology that runs rampant in your personal family gene pool so make that a big consideration in your decision.
I’m not the first to point out that the “cloud” name for online data storage is a bad idea. It should be called “The Impenetrable Fortress of Precious Documents”…or maybe just Bluto. Anyway – we’re stuck with it so let’s see what it’s all about.
You are probably either using or storing on a cloud system already. E-mail services like Gmail, Hotmail and Yahoo! Mail and photo and video sites like Flickr and YouTube are cloud providers. The whole idea is that data can be accessed from the storage by multiple users from different devices in different locations. The data can be retrieved by downloading it to your own computer to view after the download is complete or by streaming – where the playback begins almost immediately after a few seconds of buffering. Think of it as sending the key to your vacation cabin to all your relatives and telling them to stop by any time…
OK – probably not a great example. But according to experts who graduated from DeVry Institute less than four minutes ago this is the future of data sharing. Of course the next graduating class (who stopped by just 4 minutes later) has reminded me that electronic data should be backed up in three places – your personal computer, an external drive, disc or whatever and on a cloud system.
So to tie it all up I would still rely on good old DVD for sharing your family movie.
There are so many programs floating around out there on the internet it’s hard to decide what may be useful to you. It’s like a guy walking through the tool department at Home Depot. There’s always some little shiny thing that catches your eye. Yes, I truly did think I needed an under-counter recessed faucet removal wrench…in day-glow orange (to easily find in an emergency).
Many of the very specific programs do really cool things and can be a lot of fun for a Videalogist. The other nice thing is a lot of them are free or at least reasonably priced.
You might call this an “App” but since I don’t have a smartphone I’ll stay with software. My daughter, who is all up on the hip new trends, calls me “App-less” HaaaHaHaHaHa. OK Never mind…
So checkout FotoMorph. It’s from Digital Photo Software. Let’s meet them.
Digital Photo Software is no company. It’s just me, my hobby, and this web site.
My name is Knut Engebretsen, I live in Norway, and algorithms for digital photo manipulations are my hobby.
In the beginning, I tried to sell my programs online, but they were hacked a couple of days after each new release. Now I just distribute them for free and enjoy a widespread use. Each and every day I see my programs installed and used in almost every country of the world and that encourages me to keep my programs free and to continue their development.
Hey! Thanks Knut!
So here’s the deal. You can morph from one picture to another. Not just a crossfade but an actual morph!
Here’s what the editors at CNET said:
Digital imaging and graphic design software is often the victim of one of two problems: either it’s too advanced for everyone but expert users, or it’s too basic to do anything very useful. FotoMorph is one of the rare programs that manage to deliver impressive results with very little know-how. This fun application lets users create animations that morph one photo into another, no experience required.
We recommend this program to everyone.
Here’s a screenshot of the interface
Now that doesn’t look too scary does it?
There are the obvious uses like morphing a person from baby to adult (or baby to wild carnivorous animal, as shown here). But what about morphing between pictures of recent and ancient ancestors? Do people say that you look just like old Grandpa Seth? Now you can morph between your pic and his!
You can also morph between photos of buildings. You could show a picture of a house in the 1900’s and what it looks like today. The fun never ends!
Now I’m starting to sound like a late night infomercial!
So here’s a morph I did of my parents house in 1947 morphing to a screenshot from Google Maps today.
So run on out and grab this really cool toy. We’ll be digging up and testing new fun things in the weeks to come – so stay tuned!
I can do amusing, absurd, droll, dark, ironic, loony, ludicrous, ribald, ridiculous, silly, wacky, and witty; but I can’t do cute.
Except Bingo the Dog
There is absolutely no excuse for this animal.
That being said…here we are at Monday. I spent the weekend pouring over The Big Golden Book of Genealogy Blogging or the BGBGB. (Wasn’t that a punk club in New York City?). I’ve come to realize that I’m making some pretty big mistakes in my initial foray into the blog-o-sphere.
For instance I’m not including enough pictures, hence the previous pics of Bingo the Dog. I looked at 3,273 genealogy blogs (and that’s just the “A’s” on Cyndi’s List) and to be honest unless that faded sepia tone photograph is an actually a member of your family it sorta looks like the other 500 sepia tone photographs posted every day.
So here’s my static sepia shot
That’s my Great Grandfather Laurance. He was a steel worker. Not much to say about this shot other than…well…that’s my Great Grandfather.
So I’ll be posting photos with either amusing subjects or interesting stories…otherwise you get Bingo.
Back to the cute thing…
Seems every blog, genealogical or not, has cute names for the days of the week. Muddy Monday, Terrific Tuesday, Wash the Car Wendsday…
Without going to an ancient dead language like Modern Gutnish (the native language of the Gotlandic people) I don’t have a chance in hell (or a “kýrko var der byggd”) to find a bunch of new clever adjectives. So I’ll be sticking to the Middle English identifiers we’ve all come to know and love.
I also have been remiss in asking questions. As a way to generate comments it’s suggested I ask you, the reader, a question at the end, so I’ll do that…at the end.
There was conflicting opinions about grammar and punctuation. I assume they represented the pre and post texting generations.
Finally there was the advice to “tell your friends about your blog”. Are they crazy? These people know where I live!
So my question for you today is -
Would you rather see a photo of Kim Kardashian or Bingo on Wodensdaug (that’s Wednesday)?
No, that isn’t an alternative ukulele tuning (my – dog – has – fleas).
In pounding out my tales of advice and nonsense recently I’ve neglected my prime directive – keeping this house held together with baling wire and duct tape.
Fortunately there was a giant roll of baling wire in the garage when we moved in.
Unfortunately baling wire (and it’s relevant and contemporary cousin, duct tape) was not going to help me here.
Three weeks of looking out the window AT the pool instead of down INTO the pool had shielded me from the growing science experiment going on in there.
At this point I suppose I should include a picture of the great San Diego swamp but I will defer for those of you just enjoying your breakfast bagel.
I’m sure that the first thing that comes to mind for most of you is “So, where’s the pool guy?”
Unfortunately, my agreement with my wife is she doesn’t get a pool guy coming by each week and I don’t get the “Bikini Girls Mobile Carwash” stopping by on a regular schedule.
This means (as all you guys are thinking right now) I get to clean the pool and wash the cars.
The issue I found with pool guys is they seem to be specialists. When we moved in the house had been empty for two years. The pool was as green as the Chicago River on St. Patrick’s Day. I figured “Hey! Call a pool guy and he’ll clean it”. I was so naive.
Each prospective PG (as we will call them) had a different take. One guy kept saying “I’m all about the water, man” as I’m thinking “What about the haystack of leaves in the bottom of the pool?”. Others spoke of the fact that the pool was “dirty”. Let’s see, dirty pool – call a PG. Another comment was simply “Whoa…dude!”
The upstart of this was, of course, me going down to “The Great Big Hardware Store That Sells You Stuff For Projects You’ll Never Finish”. I returned fully armed with poles, hoses, sweepers and enough chemicals to qualify for a Society of Pool Cleaning Dudes membership card.
That initial hazmat clean-up made me swear I’d NEVER let the pool get funky again.
I believe the statute of limitations for swearing not to do something is two years for married guys.
Having returned from Dr. Caligari’s House of Chemicals I again started concocting my witches’ brew of microbe killers. Sometimes too much of a good thing isn’t a good thing. I started with a bottle of Algae Killer. It did a great job of killing algae.
Know what dead algae does? It floats to the top of your pool like the head of a freshly poured Budweiser. It does not disappear into the filter to be trapped like normal pool funk. Removing it requires a huge amount of skimming the pool. Know what the “by products” of dead algae do? They sink to the bottom of the pool and adhere to the plaster like tiny grey dots of crazy glue.
The next chemical warfare salvo I tried was Clarifier. This was a bottle of blue stuff. I figured the pool water looks blue – this stuff is blue – it’s all good.
(Please no comments about how the water looks blue because of a reflection of the sky yadda, yadda, yadda…)
24 hours later, the deck where I spilled some is blue; the water has a blue/green tint and I still can’t see the bottom of the pool, for all I know Shamu could be hiding out down there.
I’ve just had to tell my wife I won’t be able to go with her on the day long craft fair extravaganza as we’d been planning.
Here’s a short clip I put together as an experiment.
I wanted to see if I could tell a story without narration of captions. The story is this…My Mom entered a nationwide contest in 1935 for the dedication plaque to go on Mount Rushmore. She won 1st in the High School division and won a bronze medal in the overall contest. This is that story…
This clip was put together with about half the stuff from my Mom and the rest from archival material.
I got the idea watching the Disney movie “Up”. In the first few moments of the film the entire story of the couple’s life was told without any dialog.
This is an example of the kind of work-arounds you have to do when you don’t have personal interviews with family members. If I had taken the time to record my Mom telling this story it would have been so much better. So my mistake is a lesson to all you Videalogists out there. Get those interviews recorded even if you don’t know what to do with them just yet!
While (or whilst…as my wife who studied in England would say) hacking my way through the digital jungle we’ve discovered a little tidbit.
Seems there is a little info out there about a family dead end. My Mom’s family name is Senate. It was changed from Sennett after the Civil War, supposedly by a sergeant who phonetically spelled it on my Great Grandfather’s mustering out papers. It is also assumed that Sennett is derived from Sinnott the original Irish spelling. It is also surmised that the Sinnott clan descended from Sir Walter Sinnott who defended the County of Wexford, Ireland from Cromwell in the English takeover in 1650.
As a side note, this is Cromwell, how could this guy be the leader of
“The Roundheads” looking like the lead guitarist of Iron Butterfly?
Unfortunately old Walt picked the wrong side and as the real genealogists write “Cromwell’s soldiers absolutely destroyed the public records of the Sinnotts and in a large measure, the private records. There was no registration of births, marriages or deaths etc. until quite a recent time “
Now I know how bona fide genealogists are doing spit takes and are spinning on their heads about the leaps of faith here.
This does lead us to a totally stumbled upon item from Google Books (I think I’m starting to love Google). Seems a barber in Maine wrote a book in 1906 about all the conversations he had with customers. In it is a tale told by one Captain William Sennett, an officially registered ancestor in our family. In the story he mentioned places that fit with the scrawny family tree we have and…voila’! Not just a better timeline…but…a story about fighting pirates off one of the Malay Islands near Manila!
Holy goldmine, Batman!
I rushed off to Google maps and confirmed the locations in the story and it shed new light on this murky part of our heritage.
So here we are with a breakthrough. At first, folks thought we were from New Brunswick N.J. where they eat a lot of smoked salmon. Then that changed to New Brunswick, Canada where they catch a lot of salmon. Now it seems that the area around Brunswick, Maine is our old stomping grounds, and I have no idea about salmon trends there.
Of course there isn’t a “New” in this Brunswick, but what the hell; I’ve got an old barber’s word on it.
Fun Fact :
Did you know that when the royalists or Cavaliers or king lovers got back into power, 12 years after Cromwell died, that they dug him up and “executed” him????
The subject de jour is Google maps – favorite of real estate agents, delivery guys and low level stalkers. No, I’m not suggesting that some of you out there have found out a former flame’s new address and used Street View to take a peek at his/her new digs…(or crib, depending on your generation) no, I wouldn’t suggest that.
However…lurking looking in on places and properties from your past can be a great visual tie-in.
Let’s say you have a picture of the gravestone of an ancestor in a cemetery on the other side of the country. It would be an interesting transition to be able to grab a screen shot of the entrance to the cemetery off Google maps.
These are the gates of the cemetery in Trenton, NJ where my Grandfather was buried. Later this year I’m going to be trying to find his headstone here and I’ll get a better shot, but this could be useable if I wasn’t able to travel to New Jersey.
Here’s another idea – how about a then and now comparison?
That’s right folks those delightful tots are my brother and I with our own Christmas tree right in our bedroom! The cool part of this picture is I remember my Dad planting that tree (it was a live Christmas tree) in the front yard.
Now flash forward 58 years…
Yes folks, that towering pine behind the white picket fence is our beloved 1954 bedroom Christmas tree! The fact that it is still there and that I can get this shot of it is pretty cool, all compliments of the fun folk at Google!
In case you were wondering about our attire in the previous picture. No those are not Cossack costumes. Those are bathrobes made by my Mom. Knowing Mom (and observing the length and rolled up sleeves) I’m sure she made them “…so the boys can grow into them”.
I think I wore that robe until I was 13.
We’ll look into more useful things from Google maps in future episodes.
In genealogy there are what they call “walls”. That’s when research on an ancestor or family line just stops. No matter how many internet hours or trips to Salt Lake City you do, you can’t find out anything about where Great, great, great Uncle McSnorky came from.
It’s like he just appeared on this planet.
The first (and most logical) explanation is that he’s an alien. It’s a well known fact that flying saucers have been dumping off interplanetary spies for decades, if not years. They laugh alike, walk alike, sometimes they even talk alike…oh wait…that’s Patty Duke, who is not an alien.
The other explanation is that the records in Dirtswallow County were destroyed, lost or stolen (probably by aliens).
This was the case of the John Jacob Hain line in my past. They came out of Lincoln County, North Carolina (motto: Someday someone famous will be named Lincoln). The folks in Lincoln County were a little casual about record keeping. Property deeds were basically No Trespassing signs and birth records were usually “So, I see ya gots yerself another youngin’, huh?. Now the funny thing (not ha-ha funny but more Twilight Zone funny) is I found a photo of Jacob Hain – John’s son, taken about 1887 when he was 99 years old.
A couple of my relatives tried to do some creative genealogy (read imagination) connecting John with another John Jacob Hain from Pennsylvania. Their guess explanation was that one of the Hains must have traveled from Pennsylvania to North Carolina on Spring Break and liked it so much they decided to stay.
In the 1700’s that kind of travel would be like saying today, “I think I’ll go to Mars this afternoon”. Settlers would travel by boat or wagon or Shank’s horses* to get somewhere and then stay there for generations, hence the name settlers. The only practical way to get from Pennsylvania to North Carolina in those days was by flying saucer.
Now what does this mean to the videalogist?
We have our own walls – not having enough visual material to tell a story about a family member. I’m going to let you in on an incredible secret.
How would you like video scenes from the Civil War, the Revolutionary War or when knights in armor roamed the countryside saving damsels in distress?
All of that, plus much, much more has been filmed by the movie industry in the last 100+ years and a lot of it is available online for free. Here are some websites for you to look at.
These movies may be old, poor quality and kinda tacky. The beauty of these old crummy films is the background footage is really useable. You will have to download the whole video and then pick out the parts you need but I think it’s worth the effort.
*Definition of Shank’s Horses –
When I was 6 or 7 I was staying at my Grandmother’s house. She said we were going to the market that afternoon. I knew my Grandmother didn’t drive so I asked “How are we going to get there?”. She said “We’re going on Shank’s Horses”.
I excitedly spent the rest of the morning preparing for my first ride on a horse. I even changed into my official Roy Rodgers buckaroo shirt. When it was time to go I asked where the horses were. Nana just cracked up and said “They’re at the end of you legs! Shank’s horses are your feet!”.
In the adult world this was considered the height of comedy and required retelling at every family function until I was 17 years old.
I guess that’s pretty obvious to seasoned blog readers. I have been told by my ever-so-helpful daughter that the first thing people do in “blog reading” (soon to be either an Olympic sport or Emmy category) is to read the “About” page. The next thing they do is to look at the archives – and there’s the rub. (Does anyone but Shakespearean actors say that anymore?).
I see you just got back from looking at the archives.
I know, pretty sad. I’ve seen bloggers that have archives back to 1967 when they were writing a column in their high school paper. According to Wikipedia (and who else would know better) the whole blog thing started in 1993…or ’94 or ’95 or ’96 or ’97. Without going through the whole blog history or giving credit to the scores of basement dwelling programmers who started this, let’s just say,
I’m new here.
I was thinking of getting one of those cute animations of a guy digging a hole under a sign that says “Under Construction”. Then I found out that it would involve a widget…I think.
My wife made the astute observation that if I wrote more there would actually BE an archive. Sometimes the obvious escapes me.
Here I am, attempting to crash into a new media. My old medias have gotten stale. Radio? Yammering talk shows and music you can easily steal off the internet. TV? Did you see the Emmy Awards recently? They gave a giant hood ornament in the category of Reality Show Host. REALLY? For saying “The tribe (group, judges, tasters, audience) has spoken”? How about recording? Every kid has a complete recording studio in his laptop. Cable TV? Is there any more hated industry in the country?
So here we are, in that swirling electronic soup called social media. Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, Chatter, Google+, Hi5, IRC, LinkedIn, Mixi, MySpace, Netlog, Ning, Orkut, Plaxo,Tagged, XING, Yammer…well, I don’t know about that Ning thingy.
Anyway, I guess the point to this entry is that after running around plastering “Look At My Blog” signs all over the web neighborhood. I see a few of you have peeked in. I admit I’m still just pounding out these messages in my attempt to recruit EVERY SINGLE PERSON IN THE WORLD TO BE A VIDEALOGIST.
Sorry about yelling…
So this little rant will also warn inform you that we may go off target like that loopy Social Studies teacher you had in 10th grade. I will probably throw some recipes, music, and dog training tricks - because man does not live by gigabytes alone…sometimes he just wants a steak.