Archive for the ‘Software Recommendations’ Category

Driving Your Car With a Computer?

October 16, 2010

We recently make a safari across the endless Nevada desert, over foggy Donner Pass, through the freeway amazement of Sacramento and on to a very pleasant little California community aptly named Pleasanton. All this was made possible, and much easier, thanks to my GPS navigation system.

The Sacramento Thrill Ride

Picture us approaching Sacramento at 6:00 PM. We had perfectly timed the trip so we could experience the thrill of rush hour traffic while navigating the famous California freeway maze.

Our excitement was heightened by the opportunity of driving blindly into the setting sun. Pulling down the windshield visor blocked all the approaching freeway signs hindering any attempt at normal human navigation. Essentially I was driving blind with cars darting and whizzing by all around us. I felt our van had magically turned into the roller coaster at Disneyland’s Thunder Mountain.

How the Garmin Saved Me

Luckily I didn’t have to make any freeway changes for the first 10 minutes allowing me to acclimatize to whirring and workings of everyday freeway life. Soon I discovered I could use my eyes like I use my dual monitor computer system. My left eye was focused on the brake lights of the car directly in front of us while my right eye scanned the Garmin GPS on the dash. I quickly learned my old brain could still multitask while driving. I could avoid accidents and watch the Garmin so we wouldn’t get lost.

My advanced degree in defensive driving with a minor in celestial navigation was awarded after I had successfully merged from one freeway, immediately moved quickly and safely across five lanes of traffic, while slowing enough to “exit right” to a cloverleaf entrance to another freeway! I was amazed we made it through without one accident or the Garmin tactfully announcing my defeat with “Recalculating – Recalculating.”

I love technology and can’t wait until some genius marries my GPS car navigator (Garmin Nuvi) with my beloved cruise control. Now that would be worth trying to survive another 20 years!

Reasons to Get a Car GPS Navigator

I will limit myself to a few of the many reasons you really need a GPS for your car. It will also eliminate backseat driving recommendations from the passenger side windbag – Oops! I meant “Airbag.”

Family History GPS Tagging. Most GPS systems have a GPS coordinates screen. The purpose is for you to enter coordinates and then let the device direct you to the desired destination.

When I take my GPS into a cemetery, I take a photo of the grave and then take a photo of the coordinate screen. Later I can import the photos into my computer and Heritage Collector software so I can transfer the GPS coordinates to the photo of the grave. Next I use the GPS Maps module in Heritage Collector to create beautiful cemetery maps I can print or turn into a PDF for my relatives and kids. Go to this link (GPS Maps Module) for step-by-step instructions and movies about getting and using GPS coordinates to make maps.

Getting Gas. I have a tendency to gas up at larger towns along the travel route so I can save a few dollars. We all know that getting gas out in the boondocks along the freeway will cost a lot more. My Garmin has two great options. If you are really desperate, running on fumes with the little red gas pump blinking on your instrument panel, click the GPS Fuel option. It will display a list of the closest gas stations, with arrows pointing the direction and the number of miles to the gas station.

We love to save money by getting gas at Costco. So how do you find a Costco when you are driving on the freeway? Simple. Click the “Points of Interest” option and then click “Spell Name.” Type in Costco and press Done. In a few seconds the Garmin will display all the Costco locations within 150 miles. This little trick also works to find Walmart, Safeway or the closest Olive Garden restaurant.

Never Get Lost and Save Time. It’s easy to resume your journey once you navigated to the gas station, store, or restaurant. You can easily return back to the motel where you are staying or enter a new destination and let your Garmin take you there.

Accurate Arrival Time. One of the lesser known features of a Garmin GPS is the Arrival Time indicator. It’s really nice to know how long it will take to get to your destination. “Are we there yet?” I used to despise that question from my kids. Now all you have to say is, “Watch this little place and it will tell you exactly when we will get there.”

Speed Limit Signs. How many times have you glanced down at the speedometer, sucked in a lot of air, followed by a quick glance in your rear view mirror and hoped you won’t see a speed cop with flashing red and blue lights? My Garmin places a little speed limit sign to indicate the speed of the road I’m traveling. It’s great to know and actually saves time since I tend to drive slower to a avoid speed trap in a small town if I don’t know the speed limit.

Elevation. Ok, I’m a geek. I like to know the approximate elevation of my travels. I also miss about half of the little elevation signs as they sneak past if I’m not looking exactly at right spot at the right time. Garmin has a setting to let you know the elevation at any time you are interested.

Goodies. My Garmin let’s me do hands free calling and speaking via my bluetooth cell phone, plays MP3s and displays photos from my SD card.

Lane Change Indicator. Garmin places a little green box in the upper left of the display showing if your next turn will be to the right or left. This is a real help on a freeway or busy road. All the locals know the correct lane to be in far in advance. This makes it impossible for you to get into the right or left turn lane because it may be full for the next block or mile on a freeway exit. It also tells you how many miles you have before you need to turn.

Traffic Indicator. This is a “must have” feature if you live or drive in a congested area. My Garmin can actually route me around rush hour traffic or an accident because it can “see” ahead down my route. It gets local information via a built in FM receiver. I purchased a Garmin with free lifetime traffic alerts. However, you need to check for this free feature.

Garmin Gremlins

In fairness, there are a few little trolls built into every GPS. My Garmin is not perfect and has gotten us lost a few times. Sometimes it’s not Garmin’s fault. The restaurant may have closed or relocated. The city moved or changed their speed limit signs, closed a road, and didn’t update the national map database.

Be careful when setting the shortest route. This is perfect if you are the adventurous type and want to travel the back roads. We had such an unplanned adventure during our last trip to Yosemite National Park. I didn’t know I had changed to the shortest route.

As we traveled we were marveling at the beauty and vastness of the grape vineyards of Northern California. Soon I noted the road signs (Road 24)were a bit strange and not helpful.

At one point I became a bit nervous when “Garmie” (our affectionate name for the Garmin) told us to turn right on Road 23. A big yellow sign greeted us with the message, “This is not a through road.” Oh boy! We weren’t lost but I didn’t have any idea where we were or how close we were to the south gate of Yosemite. Gas gauge check – half a tank so I wasn’t stressed yet.

We were traveling a little winding back country road with exquisite scenery, a few scattered farms, and no cell phone services so were really on our own. Eventually we made contact with the real world and gassed up after checking the “Fuel” option so I could avoid the tourist trap gas stations and get cheaper gas where the locals get it.

Recommendations

Study and plan your travel routes on Google Maps. Get an idea of the local attractions and check some alternate routes. Roads may be closed for a variety of reasons. It would be foolish to depend entirely on your GPS so print out some maps and store them in your travel binder for a good old backup reference guide if you get really lost!

Don’t leave your GPS navigation device on your dashboard unattended. There are many people who’d love to adopt it. Put it out of site BEFORE you stop so others will not know you have a GPS in your car.

Happy GPS Travels,

Click “Start” to “Stop” – – – Huh?

April 13, 2010

Turn off your computer with ONE click.

As a former speech pathologist and a human communication expert I’ve always been interested in word derivations and our inability to communicate simple things. The more we attempt to explain, the more complicated the answer. It’s no different trying to understand the logic and derivation behind computer processes, and the slang of the computer world – geek speak. For guys like me, ‘eek” speak would be more appropriate.

Here’s a fun technology flashback. Remember when the computer keyboard had a “Return” key? That was a throwback to the teletype machine and electric typewriter keyboard. “Return” was short for “Carriage Return.” It’s amusing that the first computer keyboards had a “Return” key. After several years the key was renamed “Enter.” However the key still has an icon that looks like the old “Return” icon.

 Another baffling computer mystery is why we have to click the “Start” button to “Stop” or turn off a computer. This sounds like contradiction of terms or the perfect example on an oxymoron. The term oxymoron comes from a man named Oxy who we all thought was a moron for making us click “Start” to “Stop” – a real Oxymoron. (just kidding).

 I hoped that Windows 7 would give me a “Stop” button and eliminate this oxymoron. They managed to come half way by removing the “Start” text from the button at the lower left of our displays. However, someone at Microsoft still can’t let “Start” die in dignity. If you put your mouse on the button “Start” still appears! So we could make a new word called Quazimoron for a process that has hidden contradictory terms by a man named Quasi that still works at Microsoft.

 How many the extra mouse clicks have I made in the fifteen year of shutting down Windows? Eventually some petty things really get under my skin! Today I decided I’ve had enough with the “Start” to “Stop” scenario.

 Please Note: If all this is a little over your head, trying pressing and releasing the power button on the first of your computer. Some computers are setup to automatically start the shutdown process if you click and release the button. Do not try this with the power button on the back your computer.

 I did a Google search for “Create shutdown shortcut.” I knew I was on the right track after typing “Create Shut” because Google filled in the rest – “Create shutdown Shortcut.”

 I did not test the following process on XP or Vista. This process is for Windows 7. However, I’m assuming the process will be very similar for Vista and XP.

 Here’s what I learned to do and it was easy. 

  1. Right Click on your desktop anywhere there are no icons.
  2. Click New > Shortcut
  3. Type in shutdown -S -t 0
  4. Click Next.
  5. Type in Shutdown or another word you like better such as Don’t Bug Me – Turn off!
  6. Click Finish.

 Congratulations! You now have a one button click Shutdown icon.

 The shortcut doesn’t look like something you’d click to shutdown. Here’s how to change the icon image:

  1.  Right on the Shutdown shortcut.
  2. Click Change Icon – I received an error message from Windows 7 telling me it contains no icons – do I really care? What else can I do but click OK. Duh – so click OK.
  3. Click on one of the icons you like.
  4. I selected the orange square with a white “I” ’cause it looks important (see image at the top of this blog)
  5. Click OK.
  6. Click Apply.
  7. Click OK.

 Caution: You should save your work and close down all your programs before using this shutdown process. Your computer will close down in about 1 minute and will not ask you to close programs that are still up and running. Translation – all the work and stuff you are doing in other programs will be lost unless you save your work and close the programs before clicking your new Shutdown Icon.

 I have not had any problems using this shutdown process. I cannot guarantee what will happen if you create and run the process outlined above. I’m sure that makes us both feel much better!

 Close your other programs and then test your new “One button click shutdown.”

 You can also drag and “Pin” the new icon to your taskbar in Windows 7.

 Start to Stop – not on my computer!!

Free Family History Tips and Suggestions

 

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.