Google has announced that it is bringing Google Earth to the HTC Vive virtual reality (VR) headset. Here’s what that could mean for family historians.
Google Earth VR (virtual reality), which is available through Steam, allows users to visit various landmarks around the world, providing a 360-degree, immersive view. According to Google, “you can fly over a city, stand at the edge of a mountain, and even soar into space.”If you’ve read my book The Genealogist’s Google Toolbox, then you already know the potential genealogical goodness that Google Earth can bring to your family history. (If you haven’t, visit my Google Earth for Genealogy page to see what I’m referring to and you’ll quickly embrace the idea.)
And, if you’ve had the opportunity to sit in on my presentation The Future of Technology and Genealogy at a conference or seminar, then you’ve followed along as I explored the potential application of VR to genealogy. It’s a match made in heaven. VR does not only allow us a deeper exploration of our ancestral homelands, but could potentially intertwine with historical imagery.
According to Polygon.com, right now “the app is only available to use through the Vive. Google has not said if it plans to make the program accessible through its new, lower-end VR headset, the Daydream. The company recently released its ultra-powerful, VR-capable phone, the Pixel, so there’s a good chance that Google will eventually bring the app to specific phones.”
Since Microsoft announced in October it was working on a program called HoloTour (which allows headset wearers to visit different cities around the world through VR), the competition should encourage expansion beyond just global landmarks. But, it’s a start!
Watch this video to see it in action.
Learn More About Virtual Reality and Genealogy Tech
Host and producer Lisa Louise Cooke has packed this episode with new and fabulous technology tools for genealogists. The head-turning Evernote for Windows update may just win you over to Evernote at last (if you’re not already using it). She invites listeners to check out two new tech products that have come across her desk, and shares why she’s finally on-board with Inbox for Gmail (even though it’s been out for a while).
Other episode highlights:
Why all genealogists should take a lunch break with PERSI now and then (it’s a Findmypast database, not a person);
What genealogy TV shows and films are making news right now;
Spotlight on emigration records: would your ancestor appear in these?
DNA questions for Diahan from a listener;
How to Google your way to more recent records than are on Ancestry.com;
Diahan Southard talks about the DAR’s move to accept DNA evidence; and
A somber moment in U.S. history: The Johnstown Flood.
Not a Premium member yet? You’re missing out! Each month, Lisa shares in-depth news, innovative strategies, insightful commentary and inspiring stories in the Premium podcast. Premium members also have access to 30 (and counting!) on-demand instructional videos on the SAME topics that family historians flock to at major conferences. A Premium membership is like having Lisa host your own personal genealogy conference, all year long, any time. Check out Premium membership here.
Need to convert files to another file format? Whether images, sound files or even video, you may be able to do this for free online.
These days, it’s common to preserve digital copies of your most important genealogy files: oral history interviews, photographs, documents, even digitized family history books. But sometimes we’re given a file our computer won’t read, or we want to share a file on a website that doesn’t like the format we have. Also, at some point, file formats change, so we need to convert them so they’ll still be readable in future years.
Here’s a gem of a website that can help: Online-Convert.com. They make it simple and free to convert your files to new and different formats. For example, you can turn a sound file recorded by your computer or recording device into the popular MP3 format, which is so much easier to share because it is universal and a smaller file than uncompressed files such as .WAV files. You can turn your word-processing document into the nearly-universally readable PDF format, or even into an e-book format readable on Kindle or other e-readers!
Simply go to the site and select the type of file conversion you want to do:
Once you’ve chosen a file format, you’ll see a list of the different file formats to which you can convert. Click to learn more about them. And see the area with an X over it in the image shown here? That’s an ad. Don’t click on it. Just scroll down to the list of options available on this site.
The site will either recommend tools you can download to convert files yourself, or they will do them for you. Basic use of the site is free; you can subscribe to premium features for a fee.
The site’s blog has some great information, too, such as a post on how to capture audio material from a video. Then consult this post on what kinds of audio files you can insert into a PowerPoint presentation–and you’ll be able to insert a voice-over from Grandma’s video interview into your new PowerPoint slide show.
When a website is down, use downforeveryoneorjustme to see whether the problem is on your end or theirs. Save yourself some hassle with this free web tool!
If you’re like me, you sometimes come across websites that just don’t seem to cooperate with you. Perhaps they never load, or you get some sort of an error message. It can be frustrating, particularly when you are hot on the trail of your genealogy research.
The good news is that there is a free website to help you quickly determine whether the problem is with your online computer access or whether it’s a problem with the website itself.
Simply type the link into their search box, click the link, and go. Downforeveryoneorjustme will give you an immediate response and offer to help you access other sites (like in the image below.)
When you Google the name of the website, you’ll see that they have webpages devoted to checking on the major social media sites with a single click:
According to Tech Crunch.com, this bare-bones site was created by a Twitter employee. It’s sure a handy tool!Knowing whether the problem is on your end or theirs helps you know whether to check your own internet service or whether to wait for the site to come back online.
As Family Tree Maker software nears the end of its product lifecycle, many may wonder how far past the “expiration date” they should use it. Here’s my take.
Ancestry.com recently announced that they will stop supporting Family Tree Maker, the popular desktop software that syncs with Ancestry.com trees online. Sales will end on December 31, 2015. Product support and major fixes for current users will end a year later. (Click here for full details.)
This means the clock is ticking for Family Tree Maker users to decide where to put their family trees. Or is it? Can you continue to use software after it’s officially “expired?” For how long? What risks do you take if you do?
Consider the “Best If Used By” dates we see on the food products we buy. There is currently still some life in this product, and will be for a year after they stop selling it. According to Ancestry, during 2016 “all features of the software, including TreeSync™, will continue to work, and Member Services will be available to assist with user questions. We will also address major software bugs that may occur, as well as compatibility updates.” So technically, the “Best if Used By” date is the end of 2016. But then what?
What Happens with Family Tree Maker after 2016?
The software will still function on your computer. But it won’t sync to your Ancestry online tree anymore, and there will be no upgrades to make it compatible with future computer hardware or software. So eventually, you’ll need to transfer everything out of Family Tree Maker software anyway to be able to keep up with evolving technology. That’s what happened to me with my first favorite genealogy software. When it was discontinued, I hung on to it for a long time, and honestly, I had no problem.
Eventually, however, the old software was no longer fully compatible with new operating systems and I had to upgrade. I took a risk in continuing to enter information into an obsolete system–and wouldn’t take it again in retrospect. When it finally did come time to transfer, I was gambling with whether my system had gotten so far behind the times that it would be too difficult or even impossible to transfer everything. (Think how much our data transfer technology has changed in recent years: from floppy disks, CD-ROMs, CDs and DVDs to flash drives and now cloud-based transfers.) And I also ran the risk that there might be license limitations to how many computers my old software could be loaded onto.
Our genealogy software contains thousands of pieces of linked pieces of data: names, dates, relationships, source citation information, digitized photos and documents and more. This is not something we could easily re-create and I for one would not want to have to redo all that research (or even just key it in). Even if GEDCOM files continue as a universal file type for genealogy software, the ability to export every piece of information exactly as you want it in GEDCOMs is not guaranteed. For example, consider that when you download a tree from Ancestry, according to their customer support pages,”Any pictures, charts, books, views, or similar items found in the original file will not be included in the [downloaded] GEDCOM. Vital information, notes, and sources are usually retained after conversion.”
Why continue to load your Family Tree Maker software with data you might not be able to fully retrieve when you want to?
If you’re a Family Tree Maker user, I’m not saying you should panic. You have time to do your homework and carefully consider the best next step for you. You could start using new family history software with a reliable cloud-based back-up service for your computer, so your files are fully protected. You could migrate to another cloud-and-software-sync model over at MyHeritage (their desktop software is free). Click here to read more about those options and see current offers by RootsMagic and MyHeritage.com for Family Tree Maker users.
Bottom line: “Best if Used By” usually indicates that the sooner you finish consuming a product and move on, the healthier and better your experience will be. That is an applicable analogy for Family Tree Maker users. Research your options and move on to another product so your family tree will continue to grow and be healthy!
More Gems for Family Tree Maker Users
Here at Genealogy Gems we care about you and your data. Here are more resources for you:
Millions of us already rely on Siri (that disembodied voice on our iPhones) to find us the nearest gas station, make hands-free calls and answer random questions. Amazon Echo now offers that same kind of voice-activated help throughout your house.
There’s a lot of good gadgetry in the Iron Man movies, but my favorite is Jarvis, the virtual butler in Tony Stark’s house. He anticipates Tony’s every need, controls his home technology, even comments on his personal life.
Jarvis immediately came to mind when I heard about the new Amazon Echo from longtime Premium Member Jennifer from California. She raved about it so enthusiastically I bought one!
For $179, the Amazon Echo gives you “an always-listening Siri for your living room,”as FastCompany.com describes it. “It’s Amazon’s vision of the platform of the future, one that gives you the ability to control your home by voice.”
So why am I, a genealogy podcaster, blogging about the Amazon Echo? Well, it works as a whole-house sound system for listening to music, audio books and–you guessed it–podcasts! Thanks to the smartphone, podcast listening has become much more convenient thanks to native podcast apps like Apple’s “Podcasts”and our own Genealogy Gems Podcast app. But when it comes to listening at home, you may not always want to be tethered to your smartphone or iPod. Now, with the Echo, you don’t have to be.
The Genealogy Gems Podcast is now on the Echo. To the best of my knowledge, podcasts are only available on the Echo via TuneIn. I knew as soon as I fell in love with Amazon Echo that The Genealogy Gems Podcast needed to be there. And now it is! TuneIn has added the Genealogy Gems podcast to its lineup so you can listen with the Amazon Echo. Click here to visit our TuneIn page.
But using the Echo for listening is just the beginning! “The key is what’s inside: Alexa, an always-listening Siri for your living room,” says that same Fastcompany.com article. “It’s Amazon’s vision of the platform of the future, one that gives you the ability to control your home by voice.”
my Amazon Echo fresh out of the box
For example? It syncs with Google Calendar. Sweet! When I need to know the next deadline coming up, I ask Alexa. When I get an inspiration for the next podcast episode in the middle of making dinner (with marinade up to my elbows) I just tell Alexa to add it to my To Do list. And when I use that last clove of garlic, I just say “Alexa, add garlic to the shopping list.”
The Echo can also read you breaking headlines, tell you the weather forecast, set a timer or alarm for you, and interact with other home technologies that are gradually gaining that capacity. And of course it can answer your random questions, too. (Try these fun questions and commands from other Echo owners.)
The most challenging part of installation: “Where does the plug go?” Right here in the bottom of the Echo!
I’ve definitely gotten my money’s worth out of Echo! I just call her name and give her a command and she does it. I’m surprised how much I enjoy having her in the kitchen.
If you decide to purchase Amazon Echo, thanks for using our links! Your purchases support the free Genealogy Gems podcast and all the free content on our website.
My dog Howie listening to Alexa (you can tell Alexa is talking because the top lights up)