Archive for the ‘Family History’ Category

Speak To Me and Use a Good Microphone!

May 10, 2011

Start Recording Yourself

Creating a slide show with narrative makes a huge difference. Getting the best sound quality is very important.  However, one of the big problems is finding the right microphone without putting it on your charge card.

Price – Not an Indicator of a Quality Microphone

Over the years I’ve tested many types of microphones with disappointing results. Price does not seem to be the discriminator unless you spend over $100 which is more than I can not justify.

In my experience, pricey technology does not seem to make any difference. In fact, the more expensive microphones provided inferior sound quality.  The least expensive USB microphone I used made me sound like I was recording in the bathroom. Not exactly the image I wanted to portray of where I make my recordings even though no one bothers you there!

Previously I recommended the GE microphone / headset sold at Target. However, you had to get the headset with a removable microphone to get the right one. Unfortunately my local Target no longer carries that model of the GE headset and requires you purchase on-line. I’m too impatient to wait so I checked out the microphones at Radio Shack.

A Great Little Secret

Excellent and Inexpensive MicI’m delighted to report that Radio Shack carries an outstanding microphone for about $15. You read correctly, fifteen bucks! It gets even better. It has a six foot cable, lapel clip and mute button. What more could you ask? Does it sound like a $15 mic? Nope! The sound quality is excellent. I’m so impressed I’ve been using it for the webinars I produce.

Go to Radio Shack and ask for the “Gigaware, Clip on Microphone.”

Good things still come in small packages.

Speaking makes you look so good so record yourself for the kids and family to treasure in the future.

Get more sound recoding tips from the Old Shoebox Newsletter.

Want more proof? Listen to me on our next Family History Webinar. Click  here to view our webinar schedule.

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Proper Care and Handling of CDs and DVDs

October 6, 2010

Saving Your Bacon”

Over the years I’ve had some ‘almost’ tragic experiences losing information and digital images. Fortunately I had multiple backups on different kinds of media and devices that saved my bacon.

I’m writing today to help save your bacon and protect you from yourself. I’m guessing you are like many people I speak with via the phone or at family history conventions. Unfortunately you may have acquired some bad habits over the years. Worst of all, you thought you were doing the right thing by protecting the reflective side of your CDs. Oops!

First of all, let’s shed some light on a few myths.

  1. There’s no perfect medium for preserving information and photos unless you can afford to write and record on gold, stainless steel or stone.

  2. All the archival media of today have trade offs. CDs, DVDs, Blu ray, hard drives, flash drives (have the lowest life time expectancy and are meant for temporary storage), tape drives etc. Each has a vulnerability for future destruction, failure or data loss. Not to mention having no access in the future to a device that can read or “play” the media. Here’s an example. Do you have any old 8-track tapes? Do you have an 8-track player? Ah haw! I got you there. So without the player you can’t play any of the tapes making your old tapes worthless and inaccessible no mater how well preserved. Do you know a friend with an 8-track player? That would be me. However, as time marches on, access to old technology will become impossible and the old device may not work anymore.

What’s the Best Archival / Storage Method?

Let’s be very clear and realistic – there is no single, best method for archiving and preservation. My recommendation is somewhat simple.

  • Use different kinds of media.
  • Create multiple copies that are stored in different locations outside your home.

Why? A flood, fire, earthquake, theft or other natural disaster could wipe out ALL your family history in seconds. Sharing your photos and information is the BEST survival strategy.

Please refer to my newsletter for an interesting perspective on preserving and archiving. Following the simple recommendations in this newsletter will assure your photos and family history will be backed up and preserved using the latest and most sophisticated technology. Best of all, it won’t cost you a dime to utilize this preservation strategy.

You should also consider learning how to embed photo information directly into the photo file (IPTC) so information will survive with the file into the future. It’s doesn’t do much good to go to all this work to preserve photos without any identifying and associated information. See this newsletter.

CD/DVD Do’s and Don’ts

Protect the correct side of the CD. It’s NOT the reflective side. Trust me and read on. Protect the label side of the CD from scratches and abuse. Any damage to the label side may destroy the information on the CD. If you must lay the CD next to your computer, lay it down with the reflective side up!!

Don’t Write on a CD. The acid in the ink will eat through the thin layer of protective coating. The pressure applied while writing with a ballpoint pen may damage or pierce the surface coating. Always use pens that are made specifically for writing on CDs. You can find these at any office supply or stationary section of a department store.

Never Put Post-It Notes or labels on a CD. Once a I put a post-it note on a CD. A week later when I removed the post-it note and part of the reflective coating came off with the note. However, all was not lost since the CD made a nice drink coaster.

Labeling CDs? I admit it – I’m paranoid. I never put any kind of a label on a CD. One fear is it may cause the CD to wobble in the drive which makes it impossible for the drive to read the CD. This is kind of like the wheel on your car vibrating at high speed because the tire is out of balance as it spins.

Never Put a Partial Label on a CD. If you must use a paper label select from a high quality brand. I’d never put any paper labels on a CD to use for archival purposes. I prefer to create colorful jewel case insert for a CD/DVD I’m sharing.

Protect the Reflective Surface of a DVD. Just when you thought you had a one size fits all strategy for protecting CDs I throw this next curve at you.

Protecting a DVD is the opposite of CD. Unlike a CD, a DVD has two layers of plastic so you don’t need to worry about protecting the label side of a DVD. You need to protect the reflective side. Why? Because a DVD uses smaller dots to record the information which is why they hold more data than a CD. However, scratches on the reflective side of a DVD are much more serious than a CD. In other words, a few small scratches on the reflective side of a DVD may be the kiss of death when trying to access anything stored on the DVD.

Protect BOTH Sides of a CD/DVD. This is obvious. I added this so I would not be embarrassed by some sending feedback Titled – “Well Duh, you should protect both sides dummy!”

Proper Storage of CD/DVDs. Just like the old vinyl music records of past years, store your CD/DVDs in a protective plastic jewel case standing on its edge in a dark, cool dry place. The plastic and coating used may age when DVDs and CDs are left out in the sun. Even ambient room light can deteriorate the surface of CD/DVDs.

Use Archival Quality CD/DVDs. Consider purchasing “gold” archival DVDs. Why use an expensive CD? A CD holds less information. The cost of archival DVDs will be less than the cost of using archive CDs. Just because it looks like it’s gold doesn’t make it a gold archival quality CD/DVD. Read the CD/DVD specification to be sure it is an archival quality CD/DVD.

You can find more information about preservation in my book, The Digital Family History Guidebook.

Are Your Photos Overwhelming You?

April 12, 2010

Photo Management Suggestions

During the past fifteen years I’ve struggled with many strategies to preserve, organize and manage photos. I have many different types and sizes of photos including slides and newspaper clippings.

The photo at the left is one of many photos in my Olsen family photo collection. This photo represents an avoidable tragedy. The photo was taken about 1900 in Norway. These two beautiful young ladies are probably relatives. Unfortunately we may never know their names, where they lived and how they were related, No one took the time to write any information on the back of the photo. Hopefully I may find a relative who has the same photo with information.

Here are a few things I’ve learned about working with photos:

  1. Scan and save only the best quality photos. No one will be interested in looking at poor quality photos unless a photo is ‘one of kind.’ Refer to my blog about scanning recommendations so you don’t waste time creating poor quality scans. More scanning information can be accessed by clicking this link.
  2. Eliminate duplicate photos. Pick and save the best photo when you have several similar photos.
  3. Photos without descriptive information are worthless. Sorry to be so blunt. Few people enjoy looking at meaningless photos. Click this link for more information.
  4. DO NOT copy photos into your computer without a plan. You will discover it’s easier to find photos in boxes than disorganized folders on your computer. See the next suggestion.
  5. Avoid organizing photos by names and dates. Maintain the context in which photos were taken when copying photos into folders. Use topical names for folder or collection names such as the occasion when photos were taken. For example, you take photos on a picnic or hike. Put all the photos taken during the picnic or hike into a folder named “Dry Canyon Hike” because that is the location where the hike occurred. For a graduation you might name the photo folder “Nathan Graduation 2009.” Photos of my great grandfather’s rock home are in a collection called, “Carl Steen’s Rock Home.” More information may be found by clicking this link.
  6. Do not break up photo albums. Scan photos into categories (folders) similar to the pages in the album. This will maintain the organization that was used to create the album. For example, you may discover the photos on an album page were all cousins. Studying the photo grouping of album pages and sections may reveal other hidden information.
  7. Add oral narrative and stories to photos. Next time you visit your grandparents ask to see their photo album. Be prepared to hear fascinating stories of their history that you’ve never heard. Don’t forget to ask about how they met, courted, and married. Old photos were expensive and usually taken for a reason, Your challenge is to discover the story hidden in each photo. Record the stories and information with a tape recorder or digital voice recorder. Associating oral narrative with a photo is priceless, enhances meaning and really brings a photo back to life. 
  8. Keep Information within the photo file. Use a computer software program to embed (store) descriptive text information and dates in the computer photo file. Learn more about “Photo & Information Survivability by clicking this newsletter link.
  9. Improve your digital camera skills. Learn to take better quality photos. For more information, click this newsletter link. Digital Photography in Family History.
  10. Avoid scanning promotions. If someone comes to your door and offers to scan and preserve all your photos – Smile and then RUN! All you will end up with is several DVDs and a big bill. Your photos will be preserved but without any of the descriptive information that makes the photo meaningful and valuable. There is still hope if you copy the images from the DVDs and use another program such as Heritage Collector to add photo captions and identify the people in the photos. Make new DVD archives of the photos and information. Note: Having someone scan and enhance your photos maybe helpful and save time if you do not want to scan your photos. Sort photos into groups so you will have some general photo organization when you receive the DVD photo collections.

More information links about photos

Old Shoebox Newsletter 

Photo Identification Suggestions

Scanning Tutorial

Photo Management Software

Writing a History – Tips and Mistakes

April 10, 2010

Start Simple!

Over the years I’ve helped many people compile, format, print and bind a Family History. The process can be an enjoyable and fulfilling experience or it can be a costly and frustrating nightmare. This blog will focus on a few things to make it positive and rewarding experience. I will discuss mistakes and things to avoid and offer a few tips from “Create a History.”

 

Mistakes and Things to Avoid and What to Do (Tips)

Mistake: Save time by trying to do it all at once. (Causes a lot of stress and frustration).

Tip: Relax and start writing your history. Write the most important and humorous stories first. Don’t worry about formatting or inserting photos. Do that later. Creating small chapters (documents) will make it easier to manage.

Mistake: Trying to stretch or enlarge a photo when inserting it into the document. (Photos will look awful – blocky and pixelated).

Tip: Scan ALL photos resizing them to 8”x10” @ 150 – 350 DPI. Resize (shrink) photos later when inserting them into the document.

Mistake: Most of the popular word processing programs do not really lock or anchor photos in the document. Photos just appear to be locked or anchored in the document. Later you may find some photos have moved around in the final PDF. The problem with moving photos continues to be a serious and frustrating limitation in most programs.You may not discover this maddening inconsistency until AFTER you make a PDF. A Portable Document File (PDF) is required for printing. You can find more information about a PDF by doing a Google search on “PDF.”

Tip: Use OpenOffice.org (OOo) to format and prepare your book for printing. OpenOffice.org is registered trademark of OpenOffice.org and a freeware program.

Mistake: Editing your drafts starting with the first page is a big mistake. (All the text will ‘bump’ down through the entire document causing you to proofread the entire document again to make edits.

Tip: Edit your draft starting at the last page and work toward the first page.

 Mistake: Cramming too much text onto a page trying to reduce the number of pages. Small margins look even worse when the book is trimmed. Top, bottom and side pages are cut down before a book is bound.

Tip: Use the standard ‘Mirror’ margins settings recommended in OOo. A mirror margin formats the text for printing on both sides of the page. It also prevents the text from going too far down into binding (middle of the book) making it difficult to read the beginning or end of a sentence.

Mistake: Trying to get a “ballpark” printing cost estimate before knowing how many pages the book will contain and the number of copies to be printed. Your printer is not a mind reader and cannot divine cost without a page and book count.

Circulate your first draft among a few relatives to get their response. Take your first complete draft to your printer to get your first cost estimate. Survey relatives and friends to see if they are interested paying for a copy. You can then get a final cost estimate. Collect money BEFORE having the book printed.

 Mistake: Thinking your book can be printed from the documents you create using your word processing program. Printers require books to come to them in PDF format. You may also have a problem if you have used special fonts in your book. It’s impossible for a printer to have all the millions of fonts. Typically the fonts the printer does not have are substituted with the ugly Currier font which is very noticeable and appears unprofessional.

OOo will automatically create a PDF of your book. Use the setting to embed fonts in the PDF. Embedding the fonts will save (embed) the special fonts you’ve used in your book in the PDF so the correct fonts will be used to print your book.

Mistake: Your book will never be perfect. You will miss a few errors and misspelled names in the final draft no matter how many times it is proofed – trust me.

Create a preface or forward indicating you have tried to make the book as perfect as possible but you know there may be a few inadvertent mistakes. Consider using the following poem.

 APOLOGY

No book is entirely perfect

For errors will creep in;

Sometimes wrong information sent

Is what commits the sin.

And even printers make mistakes

For which they tear their hair;

Sometimes two people disagree

On who or when or where.

It might have been the person

Who wrote the history.

It might have been the typist,

Or blame can fall on me.

So, if you’re dead before you’re born,

Or married when you’re three,

Or I’ve omitted anyone

Who sent themselves to me,

Or your last name is not your own,

You’re picture’s not too good;

I ask you, “Please forgive the crime!

I did the best I could!”

 Author Unknown

Final Thoughts and Recommendations

Start writing, even with a pen or pencil or record your narrative. Get the important parts of your history documented so your children and grandchildren will have the chance to know you better and benefit from your experience and wisdom.

Unfortunately there is not enough space in a blog to offer more detailed information. Please refer to my new “Create a History” for additional help and information.