Archive for the ‘Getting Started’ 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.

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? Use OpenOffice.org – IT’S FREE!

December 5, 2009

Over the years I’ve helped several people prepare, compile, format and print family histories. You can avoid many problems if you start simple and right. There are many things you need to know about. However, let’s not start by overwhelming you or “dumping the whole load.” We will try and do this one step at a time with several blog articles. We’ll eat this family history elephant one spoonful at a time.

Major Goal – Start by using the right software and saving money.

All word processing programs are not created equal! I can promise that most of them are going to give you a migraine headache before you finish your project. Unfortunately, the pain is not going to strike until later after you’ve invested much time and effort. We could easily refer to this as a real “Attack of the Heart!” 

 Here’s one of my “Marlo’s Minefield Warnings.” You will not be able to lock or anchor your photos on the pages in your book no matter how hard you try. You will not discover this problem until you create the PDFs from which your book will be created by a printing company.  Two expensive solutions are to purchase a costly desktop publishing software (several hundred dollars) or to have a professional format and prepare your book for printing (a loan from the bank) .

Solution #1 – Get and learn to use OpenOffice.org (OOO)

Six months ago I downloaded and started playing around with OpenOffice.org.  I didn’t feel I had time to learn to use another word processor but since the program / download was free I couldn’t resist messing around with another program. I hoped to find an inexpensive alternative to help my friends and our users publish a family history. I’ve not been impressed with the “automatic” types of programs that sort of combine names, dates and locations into a pseudo family history. Very boring, not motivational and very impersonal – not my idea of a history or something to impose on my children and grandchildren. I want my grandchildren to love me and not have to resist reading grandpa’s old boring stuff.

WOW! OOO  really impressed me! Not only was it free but it offered so many additional options perfect for formatting a family history. I have a solution at the end of the blog you will like. Please don’t let the following list snow you under:

  1. Comes with a built-in PDF creator
  2. Free add-on PDF module that allows you to edit PDFs
  3. One, two (or more) columns formats
  4. Page numbering 
  5. Mirror margins
  6. Text flowing around photos
  7. Headers and footers
  8. Hyperlinks
  9. Automated table of contents
  10. Index (if you want to do one) 
  11. Much more

Solution #2 Saving Money

OpenOffice.org is FREE! You read correctly. All you skeptics (I’m one) are thinking what’s the catch? It must be full of spyware –NO. It must be a cut down or a crippled version to entice you to buy the expensive “Real” version – NO.  You can read more about OOOs growth and development here.

Some of you will be getting a new computer during the holidays, or because of all the great deals, or maybe your one-eyed monster (computer) needs to be retired.  You will be faced with the decision of purchasing a new word processing system since the computer will probably come with a trial period word processor.

 I challenge you to download OpenOffice.org. You will save a bunch of money (so you can add more RAM to your computer) and you will feel right at home using OpenOffice.org (OOO). It will also read and write other word processing files so you don’t have to worry about all the documents you already have created with those two other word processors. You will also be able to easily create PDFs.

Download OpenOffice.org

The Good News!

I’ve started to create a family history book template for use with OOO. I hope to release the templates at the Mesa, Arizona Family History Expo, January 22 – 23. My goal is to do all the hard stuff (formatting, page numbers, margins, table of contents, etc) so you can concentrate your efforts on compiling and writing your history instead of fighting with the software.

I will also write another blog explaining how Heritage Collector will help you organize and find the photos you want to use in your book. This was the initial reason we created Heritage Collector (Previously called Photo Collector). We discovered one of the more difficult struggles was finding the scanned photos to be used in a history. I will also show you how easy Heritage Collector can help you create a self-running CD/DVD to go in the cover of your history containing a narrated sideshow, all the photos used in the book and a searchable PDF of the history. This is really fun stuff and helps get the younger geeks (today’s computer wizards) interested in learning and reading your family history.

Consult Chapter 7, Creating a Bound History, in the Digital Family History Guidebook for more information about preparing and printing a family history.

FINAL TIP: Start writing some fun and interesting stories. Let your creative juices flow by NOT worrying about finding photos, formatting or organizing the content. Just get the fun and important stories  into your computer on paper using a pen or pencil as your input device. It will be worth it and you will be amazed how interested your family will become. So keep your project a secret and don’t let them read any of it until you are ready but drop hints to increase the intrigue!

Please refer to the Easier Scanning blog before you start scanning photos for your book.

Scanning – Do it right the first time!

December 5, 2009

I’ve taught many scanning classes and  I’ve answered many questions. I will offer more scanning suggestions and tips as this blog grows – just a spoonful at a time.

Here’s a scanning tip I consider the most important.

Scan all images using the following settings:

Image Size = 8 x 10 inches or 10 x 8 inches depending on the shape of the photo.

TIP – When scanning only enter one half of the image size number (8 or 10) and then click in the other image size box. The scanning software will automatically compute the other number keeping your image proportional. This will avoid creating distorted photos of tall / skinny or short / fat relatives! Be nice – this is not the way to get even with uncle Herman.

Resolution / DPI = 150 -350 DPI depending on the quality of the photo.

TIP: Avoid using a high DPI on poor quality images. All you will get is a very large image file with no improvement in image quality.

TIP: You are using your scanner as an enlarger. You will need to use the advanced settings option in your scanner in order to change the output or image target size as recommended above.

WHY? I know you all think I’m nuts!  In my classes I always get raised eyebrows or eyes rolled up toward the ceiling (like my kids used to do) until the attendees (too old to be students) hear the following reasons.

Most of us have no idea how we will be using our scanned images in the future. Don’t make the typical mistake of thinking your computer is magic and will allow you to stretch or enlarge photos later.

TIP: Stretching photos is a great trick for making scary Halloween photos with the pointed teeth, funny looking eyes with a little pixelization thrown for a spooky appearance – be nice to uncle Herman.

Someday you may decide to create a beautiful hardbound book, print out a calendar or engage in another project requiring large photos. Photos are never larger than 8 x 10 inches in a family history book so your scans will enhance interest and help create a professional looking book. You will be able to “shrink” your large scans to the desired size with a minimal amount of image quality loss for use on other pages in the book or calendar.

Don’t worry about filling up your hard drive with large image files. Move your scans to an external drive or to CD/DVDs for storage later use.

You may only have one change to scan some old photos so please do it right the first time!!

Need more scanning help? Purchase my Easier Scanning Tutorials or consult chapter two, “Easier Scanning,” in the Digital Family Guidebook that also comes in PDF with Heritage Collector.