Georgia Archives to Be Closed to the Public

Update: It seems that the Gov­er­nor of Geor­gia has found a way to return fund­ing to the Geor­gia Archives.

Georgia Archives PetitionIn a move intend­ed to save mon­ey, the Geor­gia Archives will be closed to the pub­lic, start­ing 1 Novem­ber 2012. You can read a copy of the Geor­gia Sec­re­tary of State’s let­ter about the clos­ing at the Records Preser­va­tion and Access Com­mit­tee (RPAC) web­site. (RPAC is a joint com­mit­tee of the Fed­er­a­tion of Genealog­i­cal Soci­eties, the Nation­al Genealog­i­cal Soci­ety [of which I am the Pres­i­dent-Elect], and the Inter­na­tion­al Asso­ci­a­tion of Jew­ish Genealog­i­cal Soci­eties (IAJGS)).

The archives has be on restrict­ed hours as it is, being open only 17 hours per week (Fri­day and Sat­ur­day, 8:30 a.m.-5 p.m.), but clos­ing down com­plete­ly, is a blow that will be hard to recov­er from for fam­i­ly his­to­ry researchers and oth­er his­to­ri­ans. Under this sce­nario, there would be a lim­it­ed avail­abil­i­ty for the pub­lic to sched­ule access to the archives, but, since these archives are Geor­gia state pub­lic prop­er­ty, many Geor­gians are mak­ing their opin­ions known in a Face­book group (Geor­gians Against Clos­ing the State Archives) and via a peti­tion: “The Gov­er­nor of GA: Leave our state archives open to the pub­lic.”

Read more about this in the Atlanta Jour­nal Con­sti­tu­tion: “Sup­port­ers Ral­ly Against Geor­gia Archives Clo­sure.”

Access to records of his­tor­i­cal and genealog­i­cal impor­tance is cur­rent­ly under siege in many states and fed­er­al­ly. There have been sev­er­al attempts to lim­it access to what have been and should remain pub­lic records. Many of these attempts are well-inten­tioned, but mis­in­formed.

As an exam­ple, pub­lic access to SSDI (the Social Secu­ri­ty Death Index) is under threat because it was used to by crim­i­nals to claim as depen­dents recent­ly deceased chil­dren. This was a rep­re­hen­si­ble act that caused the fam­i­lies of those chil­dren to go through IRS scruti­ny, as well as hav­ing endured the loss of a child. How­ev­er, the point of these records being pub­lic is to avert fraud. Had the IRS been val­i­dat­ing against these records, they would have dis­cov­ered the fraud imme­di­ate­ly, and with­out con­tact­ing fam­i­lies.

It may seem easy to mis­con­strue geneal­o­gy as a sim­ple hob­by with no real neces­si­ty, but clos­ing records not only affects hob­by­ists, but also pro­fes­sion­als, many of whom are act­ing on behalf of courts as foren­sic geneal­o­gists, or attempt­ing to find next of kin of fall­en sol­diers. Pro­fes­sion­al qual­i­ty research can also be valu­able to under­stand a family’s med­ical his­to­ry, which can improve the val­ue of health care and reduce its cost.

Geneal­o­gists are just as con­cerned about iden­ti­ty theft as any­one, and have strict stan­dards designed to pro­mote pro­fes­sion­al con­duct even of ama­teur researchers, and these include stan­dards for main­tain­ing the pri­va­cy for liv­ing per­sons.

For exam­ple, NGS has NGS Stan­dards for Shar­ing Infor­ma­tion with Oth­ers, which state, in part: “respon­si­ble fam­i­ly his­to­ri­ans con­sis­tent­ly … con­vey per­son­al iden­ti­fy­ing infor­ma­tion about liv­ing peo­ple — like age, home address, occu­pa­tion or activ­i­ties — only in ways that those con­cerned have express­ly agreed to.” Addi­tion­al­ly, the Board for Cer­ti­fi­ca­tion of Geneal­o­gists has a Code of Ethics, to which all Cer­ti­fied Geneal­o­gists must adhere. It states: “I will keep con­fi­den­tial any per­son­al or genealog­i­cal infor­ma­tion giv­en to me, unless I receive writ­ten con­sent to the con­trary.”

The Records Preser­va­tion and Access Com­mit­tee (RPAC), a joint com­mit­tee of the Fed­er­a­tion of Genealog­i­cal Soci­eties, the Nation­al Genealog­i­cal Soci­ety, and the Inter­na­tion­al Asso­ci­a­tion of Jew­ish Genealog­i­cal Soci­eties (IAJGS) advo­cates for pri­va­cy and access issues on behalf of the genealog­i­cal com­mu­ni­ty. To keep up to date on records access issues, fol­low the RPAC RSS feed, or vis­it the RPAC web­site.

iBooks Author and iTunes U

iBooks Author
iBooks Author

Apple announced on Thurs­day their lat­est play to dom­i­nate the edu­ca­tion mar­ket. From its incep­tion, Apple has been focused on edu­ca­tion as a mar­ket. They have con­sis­tent­ly pro­vid­ed spe­cial dis­counts to edu­ca­tors and stu­dents, and they have devel­oped a series of edu­ca­tion-friend­ly appli­ca­tions and prod­ucts.

With­in iTunes, Apple has long had iTunes U, a col­lec­tion of free audio and video of instruc­tion­al mate­ri­als from col­leges and uni­ver­si­ties around the world, includ­ing Stan­ford, Har­vard, Yale, and Oxford. On Thurs­day, they announced that iTunes U was sep­a­rat­ing from the rest of iTunes, and being giv­en its own app for iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch. Addi­tion­al­ly, Apple is allow­ing K-12 school dis­tricts the abil­i­ty to pro­vide con­tent through the app. (How they will help those school dis­tricts or their stu­dents afford the devices required to view this con­tent is not made clear, though many have spec­u­lat­ed that Apple will offer deep dis­counts for large pur­chas­es. Even so, this seems to be an offer for anoth­er day, but per­haps as prices come down and the econ­o­my recov­ers, some oppor­tu­ni­ties for this will open up.)

The most impres­sive part of the iTunes U app is how close­ly it mir­rors the best aspects of a good learn­ing man­age­ment sys­tem. It’s easy to nav­i­gate and to find con­tent, as you would sus­pect, but it’s no longer only a col­lec­tion of pod­casts. Now, iTunes U uses a binder motif, where the tabs include:

  • Info — defin­ing the course in a para­graph or two.
  • Posts — usu­al­ly hav­ing a brief sum­ma­ry of a class, along with check box­es allow­ing you to keep track of the progress you have made, and links to the lec­ture on video or audio and the read­ings
  • Notes — where all the notes you take on the mate­ri­als or in relat­ed books are avail­able
  • Mate­ri­als — where you can get to all the video, audio, books (some­times from the iBook­store, some­times in print-only copies from Ama­zon, some­times via links to exter­nal repos­i­to­ries such as Jstor.

What Apple is doing here is remark­able. They are cre­at­ing an infra­struc­ture where you can learn, with a min­i­mum of depar­ture from Apple’s ecosys­tem of hard­ware and its con­tent vend­ing ser­vices. The ben­e­fit to the con­sumer is con­ver­gence: notes tak­en in the e-book you bought from the iBook­store as part of your class are next to your notes about the lec­ture. The ben­e­fits to Apple are in keep­ing peo­ple locked into buy­ing their hard­ware, and also their con­tent. Geneal­o­gy edu­ca­tion is going to be mov­ing in this direc­tion, though it remains to see how quick­ly.

Anoth­er thing that Apple announced on Thurs­day is iBooks 2 for the iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch. This app can now dis­play a new type of mul­ti­me­dia book. While this could be used for any con­tent, Apple is focus­ing on the text­book mar­ket. See their adver­tise­ment if you want to hear their pitch about this. They tout the cost sav­ings (most are priced at $14.95), the weight dif­fer­ence (we have all seen the mas­sive books chil­dren labor to car­ry back and forth to school), and the pos­si­bil­i­ties of engag­ing stu­dents. I’m not sure how the pric­ing mod­el will work for these pub­lish­ers, though I do think some kind of sub­scrip­tion mod­el could flat­ten out pur­chas­es that with phys­i­cal books cov­er a 5 year peri­od, into some kind of annu­al fee for updat­ing elec­tron­ic text books with no ship­ping and ware­house expens­es.

The launch includ­ed 8 books by McGraw-Hill, Pear­son Edu­ca­tion, and Houghton Mif­flin Har­court, who togeth­er account for 90% of the K-12 text­books in the Unit­ed States. These books, as shown by a free copy of E. O. Wilson’s Life on Earth: An Intro­duc­tion, are com­plete­ly dif­fer­ent from books you have seen before. They include video, audio voice overs, images that read­ers can inter­act with, charts that can be re-spun to dis­play infor­ma­tion from a dif­fer­ent per­spec­tive.…

Final­ly, Apple has released a free prod­uct that will help get con­tent into their iBook­store. The app, which runs on the Mac OS, is called iBooks Author. It is easy to cre­ate high-pre­sen­ta­tion qual­i­ty mul­ti­me­dia books using iBooks Author. It’s as easy to use as Apple’s oth­er con­tent cre­ation tools in iWork. The catch with the prod­uct is the End-User License Agree­ment (EULA). Most EULAs are designed to lim­it the lia­bil­i­ty of a soft­ware com­pa­ny to any­thing that might hap­pen to you if the soft­ware stops func­tion­ing or los­es your data. How­ev­er, this EULA includes the fol­low­ing (as sec­tion 1B, high­lights are mine):

B. Dis­tri­b­u­tion of your Work. As a con­di­tion of this License and pro­vid­ed you are in com­pli­ance with its terms, your Work may be dis­trib­uted as fol­lows:

(i) if your Work is pro­vid­ed for free (at no charge), you may dis­trib­ute the Work by any avail­able means;

(ii) if your Work is pro­vid­ed for a fee (includ­ing as part of any sub­scrip­tion-based prod­uct or ser­vice), you may only dis­trib­ute the Work through Apple and such dis­tri­b­u­tion is sub­ject to the fol­low­ing lim­i­ta­tions and con­di­tions: (a) you will be required to enter into a sep­a­rate writ­ten agree­ment with Apple (or an Apple affil­i­ate or sub­sidiary) before any com­mer­cial dis­tri­b­u­tion of your Work may take place; and (b) Apple may deter­mine for any rea­son and in its sole dis­cre­tion not to select your Work for dis­tri­b­u­tion.

So, if you sell works cre­at­ed with iBooks Author, you can only do so through Apple, and you can only do so if they agree to dis­trib­ute it. If they turn your con­tent down for any rea­son, you not only can­not sell it with them, you also still are not allowed to sell it with any­one else. If you are absolute­ly sure that you are going to give your work away, I say, by all means, use iBooks Author. You will like­ly have a lot of fun putting the book togeth­er, and end up with a very good prod­uct. If, how­ev­er, you are invest­ing time cre­at­ing con­tent you hope to sell, even to dis­trib­ute as a perk for mem­ber­ship in a non-prof­it genealog­i­cal soci­ety, then I would say, wait a bit, and see if Apple is pres­sured by the out­rage of the com­mu­ni­ty to soft­en this. (I can­not say that I have a lot of hope, because Apple has sev­er­al dra­con­ian aspects to their con­tent dis­tri­b­u­tion mod­el already that peo­ple are clos­ing their nose and swal­low­ing, so … they may not change this either.

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Oppose SOPA / PIPA

PROTECT IP / SOPA Breaks The Inter­net from Fight for the Future on Vimeo.

I usu­al­ly do not take polit­i­cal stands here on GenealogyMedia.com, but two pro­posed laws could have a chill­ing effect on the open­ness that has allowed the Inter­net to flour­ish. The Stop Online Pira­cy Act (SOPA, PDF) in the US House and Pro­tect Intel­lec­tu­al Prop­er­ty Act (PIPA, PDF) have the stat­ed goals of pro­tect­ing prop­er­ty rights and stop­ing pira­cy of intel­lec­tu­al prop­er­ty. Most peo­ple do not dis­agree with those goals.

Red­dit, Boing­Bo­ing, Mozil­la, Word­Press, Twit­Pic, MoveOn.org and the ICan­HasCheezBurg­er net­work, as well as Gene­ablog­gers, have gone offline in protest against SOPA/PIPA. Google has blacked out their logo.

Please look into these laws, and con­tact your Con­gressper­son and your Sen­a­tors. We have plen­ty of laws to con­trol pira­cy, and do not need more. We espe­cial­ly do not need laws designed to lim­it the secu­ri­ty of the Domain Name Ser­vice by forc­ing Inter­net ser­vice providers and con­tent providers to remove links to or not direct traf­fic to sites accused of hav­ing allowed or par­tic­i­pat­ed in pira­cy. This law sim­ply goes too far, and threat­ens the free dis­sem­i­na­tion of ideas that has made the Inter­net thrive. Twit­ter, Face­book, YouTube, GoogleRead­er, Red­dit, Word­Press, and Tum­blr are among some of the obvi­ous exam­ples of inno­v­a­tive web­sites that would not have been able to stay in busi­ness if con­stant­ly harassed by the kinds of laws that SOPA and PIPA rep­re­sent.

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Review: Evernote Clearly

New York Times Arti­cle: “War of 1812 Bicen­ten­ni­al Dis­or­ga­nized in New York State”

Today, in addi­tion to enjoy­ing Thanks­giv­ing, I have been tak­ing the time to look at Ever­note Clear­ly, a brows­er plug-in for the Google Chrome brows­er that com­petes with Read­abil­i­tyInstapa­per, Rea­d­It­Later, and the Safari Read­ing List.

As an exam­ple, I took a cur­rent arti­cle from the New York Times, “War of 1812 Bicen­ten­ni­al Dis­or­ga­nized in New York State,” clicked the Ever­note clear­ly icon, and saw it trans­formed from the clut­tered expe­ri­ence with adver­tise­ments above and to the right of the con­tent, into a clean, crisp view of the con­tent I was inter­est­ed in. The dis­play of Clear­ly is stun­ning, in fact. With­in the same tab that was active when you made the request, the Clear­ly inter­face slides over the con­tent. As a read­er, you can choose from a sepia toned “Newsprint” view of the text (shown below), a mod­ern black-and-white pre­sen­ta­tion (called “Notable”), or a “Nightowl” ver­sion that is white text on a black back­ground and would dis­play well in the dark. These pre­sen­ta­tions are sim­i­lar to what is avail­able in the oth­er offer­ings in the sim­pli­fied read­ing inter­face space.

Ever­note Clear­ly “Newsprint” Dis­play of “War of 1812 Bicen­ten­ni­al Dis­or­ga­nized in New York State”

But the real attrac­tion, for users of Ever­note, is the lit­tle Ever­note icon, on the right side of the Clear­ly inter­face. Click this ele­phant icon, and the con­tent is sent to Ever­note for longer term stor­age, search, and avail­abil­i­ty.

As a long time user of Ever­note, one of my pet peeves has been the dif­fi­cul­ty of get­ting a read­able clip­ping of a sub­set of a com­plex page, such as what the Times presents. His­tor­i­cal­ly, you had to either clip the whole page, and live with the clut­ter (and the search­able text such as the “First Fed­er­al” add above show­ing up in your search results for Fed­er­al records), or to man­u­al­ly try to select the cor­rect sub­set of con­tent. This was a dodgy propo­si­tion, with results that vary every time, and some­times one has to try a cou­ple of times, or man­u­al­ly edit the Ever­note clip­ping to get it to read well.

One no longer has to do any off that when using Ever­note Clear­ly. A sin­gle clip on the Ever­note ele­phant icon on the right hand rib­bon, and a clean ver­sion of the con­tent is sent to your Ever­note con­tent set in the cloud. Sync­ing your desk­top or mobile Ever­note client soft­ware, brings the con­tent down. The fin­ished prod­uct looks like the image below. In typ­i­cal fash­ion, Ever­note has auto­mat­i­cal­ly cre­at­ed a title from the page title, and added time­stamps for cre­ation and update. Addi­tion­al­ly, it has added the orig­i­nal URL as a click­able field, put it into the catch all fold­er (in my case, “Ever­note”) and done a rea­son­able job of con­tent pre­sen­ta­tion. So far so good.

But what else would an Ever­note user (who is still using Rea­d­It­Later and start­ing to exper­i­ment with Read­abil­i­ty) need to ditch the oth­er prod­ucts, and do all of this in Ever­note with Ever­note Clear­ly.

  • Pre­sen­ta­tion. The com­pe­ti­tion for this ser­vice real­ly own the “read­ing list” pre­sen­ta­tion. Ever­note touts itself as a “shoe­box for the mind” or a “shoe­box for the Inter­net”, and it can feel as clut­tered as a shoe­box full of clip­pings. Obvi­ous­ly, the mul­ti-faceted search and orga­ni­za­tion capa­bil­i­ties mean you can find things. But, if I’m on a cell phone or a tablet, I might want to just see the arti­cles I saved to read lat­er. A sim­ple tag or fold­er could gath­er this, and the mobile apps could sur­face up a but­ton to nav­i­gate right to this con­tent.
  • Orga­ni­za­tion. It would be nice to have an abil­i­ty to con­fig­ure a spe­cif­ic folder­ing or tag­ging scheme for con­tent com­ing in from Ever­note Clear­ly. This is sep­a­rate from the pre­sen­ta­tion issue above, and is more of an issue for long-term cat­a­logu­ing and orga­ni­za­tion of clipped sto­ries.
  • Cross-brows­er sup­port. Some of us use sev­er­al browsers. I reg­u­lar­ly use Chrome, Safari, and Fire­fox, and some­times use Inter­net Explor­er, Flock, and Opera. I need to be able to do this from any brows­er. Hope­ful­ly, the tech­nol­o­gy involved was stan­dards-based, and will be portable to oth­er browsers as they become more com­pli­ant.
If I get some of those fea­tures, even the gor­geous Read­abil­i­ty prod­uct will have a hard time com­plet­ing with the sim­plic­i­ty of using a sin­gle prod­uct.
Ever­note
Categories Uncategorized

Reading Apps: Readability. Instapaper. ReadItLater. Evernote.

ReadabilityRead­abil­i­ty is a handy tool that takes an arti­cle or web post, cleans it up, as the name implies to improve its read­abil­i­ty, and dis­plays it for you in your brows­er. They also gath­er up arti­cles post­ed this way for you to read lat­er, or to send to your Kin­dle. Aside from one-by-one view­ing of a cleaned up arti­cle, the ser­vice has required a $5 month­ly fee. In the process, Read­abil­i­ty shares rev­enue with the con­tent-pro­vid­ing pub­lish­er.

There are sim­i­lar ser­vices, notably Instapa­per and Rea­d­It­Later. Back in May, I wrote a blog entry com­par­ing these two. I have still be pass­ing back and forth between these two, lik­ing Instapaper’s inte­gra­tion with Read­abil­i­ty, and lik­ing Rea­d­It­Later for the clean­li­ness and usabil­i­ty of its web­site.

Both Instapa­per and Rea­d­It­Later have mobile apps. Both were inte­grat­ed with the incred­i­bly pop­u­lar iPad app Flip­board. One dif­fer­en­tia­tor for Instapa­per was a close inte­gra­tion with Read­abil­i­ty.

On Novem­ber 16th, Read­abil­i­ty announced a free option, as well as the impend­ing release of apps for the iOS plat­forms (iPad and iPhone/iPod Touch). Here is a sum­ma­ry of the new Read­abil­i­ty freemi­um pric­ing mod­el, with $5 a month get­ting the pre­mi­um plan:

 

Free users are lim­it­ed to 30 Read­ing List arti­cles and 30 Favorite arti­cles; Pre­mi­um users have no lim­its, and also can Archive arti­cles, receive an auto­mat­ed dai­ly digest to their Kin­dle (over wi-fi, and thus with­out addi­tion­al costs from Ama­zon), and up to 70% of their month­ly fee goes to authors and pub­lish­ers.

The announce­ment led to a fair­ly pub­lic dis­cus­sion between Instapa­per founder Mar­co Arment (The rela­tion­ship between Read­abil­i­ty and Instapa­per) and Read­abil­i­ty found­ing part­ner Richard Ziade (Read­abil­i­ty & Instapa­per).

The space has got­ten quite crowd­ed, in fact, since Apple added a sim­i­lar “Read­ing List” fea­ture to its Safari brows­er. And the day after Read­abil­i­ty announced its new pric­ing mod­el and forth­com­ing iOS apps, Ever­note launched a sim­i­lar ser­vice, Clear­ly, as a Google Chrome app.

For me, Rea­d­It­Later has been the main appli­ca­tion I have used for this pur­pose, because of the crisp, clean, and I would even say, beau­ti­ful design of their web site and apps. While I use Ever­note almost obses­sive­ly, its ten­den­cy to grab every­thing, or inex­plic­a­ble web page ele­ments, has made it a frus­trat­ing expe­ri­ence.

Using Rea­d­It­Later, I have missed the Read­abil­i­ty inte­gra­tion. Even with Rea­d­It­Later, I felt that Read­abil­i­ty had a bet­ter inter­face.

With Read­abil­i­ty going to the freemi­um mod­el, I expect to use that more, and move away from Instapa­per entire­ly. I will then be com­par­ing Rea­d­It­Later with Read­abil­i­ty once the Read­abil­i­ty iOS apps are released, and with Ever­note Clear­ly in Google Chrome. Those promise to have a high design aspect, with high-qual­i­ty fonts. And of course, while I steered clear of Read­abil­i­ty when it only had a paid mod­el, freemi­um (as Ever­note can attest) has a qual­i­ty of draw­ing peo­ple in to get them hooked.

My sum­ma­ry of the score­board at this point is:

  • Rea­d­It­Later — First to mar­ket, in 2007, with a great user inter­face design sense.Still a major play­er.
  • Instapa­per — Sec­ond to mar­ket, in 2008. Clean, but not styl­ish. A lit­tle nerdy as far as the design goes. Pos­si­bly suf­fer­ing from a mor­tal blow from the one-two punch from Read­abil­i­ty and Ever­note this week.
  • Read­abil­i­ty — Has the most beau­ti­ful design of the bunch. Set itself apart as with the com­bi­na­tion of gor­geous design and a paid mod­el, pro­vid­ing a com­pen­sa­tion mod­el for authors and pub­lish­ers to off­set what might be lost adver­tis­ing rev­enue.
  • Ever­note — Promis­es much need­ed clean­er imports of arti­cles into its wide­ly pop­u­lar “mem­o­ry” ser­vice.
  • Apple Safari — Handy, if you hap­pen to be in Safari on the OS X Lion or iOS 5, but I don’t think any­thing but diehards Apple fan­boys will use this as much as any of the oth­ers on the list get used.

[Updat­ed on 13 Decem­ber 2011 to cor­rect some inac­cu­ra­cies.]

Categories Uncategorized

Box.net 50GB Gift to iOS Users

Box (on the web at Box.net) is a ser­vice I rec­om­mend for file shar­ing.

In fact, we are using it for two genealog­i­cal soci­eties where I am on the board of direc­tors. File shar­ing on Box.net is sim­ple, sim­pler even than using Google Groups and oth­er meth­ods we have tried.

Box.net allows for uploads of large files and has an intu­itive inter­face. You can access your con­tent in Box.net on their web­site, as well as through ded­i­cat­ed apps for iPhone, iPad, Android phone, Android tablets, Black­Ber­ry phones, and Black­Ber­ry tablets. Addi­tion­al­ly, you can save files into Box.net from a vari­ety of mobile apps, includ­ing GoodRead­er, Jot­Not, Quick­Of­fice, Doc­sTo­Go, and Pix­elpipe.

But the big sto­ry about Box.net this week is the announce­ment on their blog that users who access their Box.net accounts from the new iOS (iPhone, iPad) app, will receive 50 GB of stor­age for life. This is nor­mal­ly priced at $19.99 a year.

So, why is Box doing this, and how can they afford it?

They are doing it because they see the incred­i­ble poten­tial of mobile devices, such as the iPhone and the iPad. While they have con­sumer offer­ings, Box.net is main­ly focused on sell­ing cloud-based con­tent man­age­ment to enter­prise cus­tomers. They want to expand “mind-share” or name recog­ni­tion as iCloud and iOS 5 have an impact on the mar­ket and dri­ve large com­pa­nies (whether their IT depart­ments want it to hap­pen or not), into a cloud envi­ron­ment.

Soon, Apple will be enabling iCloud, with 5 GB of free stor­age (media pur­chased from Apple will not be count­ed against that user’s quo­ta). While Box.net is pri­mar­i­ly about file shar­ing, not file sync-ing, this makes their exist­ing 5 GB offer­ing less of a deal. But 50 GB for life: Now that’s a big deal! Stor­age is becom­ing cheap­er all the time, and the cor­po­rate accounts, with TB (ter­abytes) and EB (exabytes) of stor­age are where Box will make its mon­ey.

So what are you wait­ing for? To get the 50 GB, down­load the free iOS app (or have a friend do it) and either log into or cre­ate an account.

Read more about it on the blog entry “Why Box is Giv­ing iOS Users Mas­sive Amounts of Free Cloud Stor­age” by Aaron Levie (Co-founder and CEO of Box).

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Free Access Week at Ancestry.com

Ances­try Free Access Week

Ancestry.com announced Free Access to immi­gra­tion and trav­el records from around the world through Sep­tem­ber 5th.

This is a very large col­lec­tion of mate­ri­als. If you are not an Ances­try sub­scriber, this would be a per­fect time to drop in to take a look and do some seri­ous research in their trav­el and immi­gra­tion records.

Anoth­er note, Ances­try has announced that the 1940 cen­sus will be avail­able for free, once they post it after April 1, 2012. I’m look­ing for­ward to it. (But to be clear, the 1940 cen­sus will also be avail­able on the Nation­al Archives web­site for free. It will be up to Ances­try to demon­strate com­pelling val­ue in terms of usabil­i­ty and search­a­bil­i­ty to make the 1940 cen­sus a dif­fer­en­tia­tor for Ances­try.)

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Zendone, Evernote, and GTD

ZendoneI have writ­ten sev­er­al times about Ever­note, which has become my all-around stor­age solu­tion for notes, web clip­pings, and doc­u­ments. This is true both both in pur­suit of genealog­i­cal finds, and for per­son­al and busi­ness endeav­ors.

One of the biggest gaps I have seen in the Ever­note prod­uct is its lack of a seri­ous suite of GTD (Get­ting Things Done) func­tion­al­i­ty (Wikipedia: Get­ting Things Done).

GTD is a whole sub­cul­ture. Some even say, albeit jok­ing­ly, a whole cult, built around the ideas of David Allen, the author of, you guessed it, Get­ting Things Done (Ama­zon | Barnes and Noble). If you dis­till his ideas down to the sim­plest lev­el, David Allen’s point is that our minds can­not pos­si­bly hold every­thing we need to remem­ber to do; our attempt to remem­ber every­thing we should do caus­es stress, which low­ers per­for­mance and the dimin­ish­es our abil­i­ty to get things done. He rec­om­mends that we find a trust­ed sys­tem for gath­er­ing ideas, tasks, thought tick­lers, and poten­tial next steps. Peri­od­i­cal­ly, we must process those items, tak­ing action on the quick­ly done items, and sort­ing the oth­ers based on con­text (@phone, @computer, @work) and pri­or­i­ty. Once we know we are gath­er­ing items and tasks in this way, we can use our minds to actu­al­ly con­sid­er things, instead of sim­ply try to remem­ber what it was we intend­ed to think about.

In Ever­note itself, there’s not a good way to man­age to do lists, dead­lines, and an over­all GTD work­flow. Sev­er­al inte­gra­tions have sprung up that attempt to address this gap, includ­ing ones with Nozbe, Reqall, and Dial2Do. Of these, I am most famil­iar with the Reqall inte­gra­tion. While this helps you get data from Ever­note into Reqall, it is a lit­tle lim­it­ing, and does not add up to an inte­grat­ed work­flow.

Zen­done, new appli­ca­tion, not quite released for Beta, but demon­strat­ed on Vimeo and with a detailed pic­ture of the user inter­face on their web­site, looks like it may address the GTD work­flow gap in Ever­note. Zen­done allows you to pull items from the default fold­er in your Ever­note account and process them, either tak­ing the action you intend to take (do), or orga­niz­ing them into tasks to be done lat­er (review & orga­nize). As you do this, Zen­done auto­mat­i­cal­ly moves your notes from the default note­book. You can also add items in Zen­done and have them show up in Ever­note. Any­thing you sched­ule is pushed to your Google Cal­en­dar. Alter­nate­ly, you can add things to your Google Cal­en­dar and they will show up in Zen­done.

Zen­done is a final­ist in the Ever­note Devel­op­er Com­pe­ti­tion, where near­ly 1,000 devel­op­ers com­pet­ed for $5,000 for six final­ists and a $50,000 for the grand prize. The win­ner will be announced at the first Ever­note Trunk Con­fer­ence in San Fran­cis­co on August 18th. I wish I could be there!

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Mac OS X Lion: A First Look

OS X Lion in the Mac App Store
OS X Lion in the Mac App Store

Today, Apple released Mac OS X Lion ($29.99 store | web­page). The oper­at­ing sys­tem is the sev­enth update in the OS X series (ver­sion 10.7), and it packs some of the most ground­break­ing changes into it.

For the first time in his­to­ry, a wide­ly dis­trib­uted con­sumer, pro­sumer, and enter­prise oper­at­ing sys­tem is not avail­able on portable media. The only offi­cial way to get Lion is to down­load it from the Mac App Store, or buy a new Mac­in­tosh with the OS pre-installed. The OS installer is quite large at 3.49 GB, and will take a while to down­load, even on high-speed con­nec­tions. (Apple is offer­ing to let peo­ple use its high speed wi-fi in its stores, should they be lucky enough to live near one.)

While Lion is tout­ed as being rev­o­lu­tion­ary — and it does in fact feel like a large change — the sys­tem is sol­id, depend­able. For many users, though, there will require some time to get used to some of the user inter­face changes. Instead of scrolling your fin­gers up to go up on the track­pad, you scroll them down to go up. Sim­i­lar­ly, you get to the left by mov­ing your hand to the right. This seems counter-intu­itive, though it is what peo­ple do on the iPhone and iPad. As you start doing it, you might feel like you’ve gone down Alice’s rab­bit hole; if you decide you don’t like it, you can go to Apple > Sys­tem Pref­er­ences > Track­pad (and/or Mouse) and turn off “Scroll direc­tion: nat­ur­al.”

Among the key fea­tures Apple is tout­ing, there are some of note:

  • Mul­ti­touch — The oper­at­ing sys­tem sup­ports using ges­tures with sev­er­al fin­gers to per­form com­plex tasks, such as open­ing Mis­sion Con­trol (three fin­gers up) or change full-screen appli­ca­tions (three fin­gers to the right or left).
  • Full-Screen Appli­ca­tions — Many Apple appli­ca­tions, and prob­a­bly many appli­ca­tions in the future from oth­er soft­ware devel­op­ers, take advan­tage of a new fea­ture that has the appli­ca­tion take up the whole screen. This is espe­cial­ly pow­er­ful in Apple’s Mail and iPho­to appli­ca­tions.
  • Mis­sion Con­trol — This dis­plays all of your active desk­tops, includ­ing the Wid­gets desk­top. It has nev­er been eas­i­er to man­age mul­ti­ple work envi­ron­ments and switch between them. I may actu­al­ly use this, while I found Spaces to be con­fus­ing and dis­ori­ent­ing. It will be easy to have a brows­er open in one desk­top and a geneal­o­gy soft­ware pack­age open in anoth­er, and switch back and forth.
  • Launch­pad — All of your installed appli­ca­tions appear on a list that expands infi­nite­ly to the left and right. This clear­ly mir­rors the iPhone and iPad appli­ca­tion nav­i­ga­tion method, and looks to be an eas­i­er way to get to your pro­grams than either the insane­ly small icons in your dock (if you have as many there as I do!) or sim­ply nav­i­gat­ing to the Appli­ca­tions fold­er. You get to Launch­pad either with the Launch­pad icon in the dock, or using a pinch with thumb and three fin­gers.
  • Spot­light — One of the true inno­va­tions of Mac OS X, which has only recent­ly had com­pa­ra­ble func­tion­al­i­ty on Win­dows in recent releas­es, is Spot­light, sys­temwide search. The new ver­sion of the OS adds pre­views to the search results, help­ing you see if this item is what you were look­ing for.
  • Air­Drop — Sim­ple, no-con­fig­u­ra­tion-required wi-fi file shar­ing. This will be handy if you are work­ing with some­one and just want to give them the cen­sus image for their grandfather’s house­hold in 1930. This will allow a lot of peo­ple to leave their thumb dri­ves at home.

I am very pleased with Lion. While I can­not agree with Apple’s pre­dictable hyper­bole, it looks to pro­vide a lot of short­cuts to allow me to get from one appli­ca­tion to anoth­er with­out los­ing my place. It’s well worth the $30.

One warn­ing: Pow­er PC appli­ca­tions no longer run with OS X Lion, which drops the Roset­ta tech­nol­o­gy that made these work­able in pre­vi­ous ver­sions. To see what you will be leav­ing behind if you upgrade, log in as the Admin­is­tra­tive user, then type Option-Apple and select Sys­tem Pro­fil­er. Go to Soft­ware > Appli­ca­tions. Any­thing with “Pow­er­PC” or “Clas­sic” (that is, OS 9) will not run in Lion.

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Cloud Management — Primadesk

PrimadeskPri­madesk, a new web­site in beta, allows you to man­age your cloud con­tent in Google (GMail, Google Docs, Picasa), Yahoo (Yahoo Mail, Flickr), Drop­box, Box.net, and about twen­ty oth­er ser­vices.

This looks to be a pow­er­ful resource, though it will need to be faster for pow­er users. One of the most pow­er­ful fea­tures promis­es to be the abil­i­ty to move images from one ser­vice to anoth­er. How many of us have per­son­al images scat­tered across mul­ti­ple sites such as Flickr, Pho­to­Buck­et, Snap­fish, Smug­mug, and so on. Now, we will be able to quick­ly migrate images from one site to anoth­er.

This fea­ture is not yet avail­able for pho­tos, but it is for doc­u­ments that you might want to move from Box.net to Drop­box, or from one account to anoth­er.

Pri­madesk allows you to search across mul­ti­ple accounts, back­up mul­ti­ple accounts, and — final­ly! — man­age pro­lif­er­at­ing cloud accounts.

On my wish­list are Ever­note and Office­drop inte­gra­tion. It would be great to be able to man­age what’s in Ever­note, what’s in Box.net, what’s in Drop­box, and so on from one inter­face. Files that I man­age in Ever­note, I might want to share with peo­ple in anoth­er ser­vice; this would be a quick way to do that.

Accounts are free, though the may cost some­thing once it leaves beta. More like­ly, is that the site would fol­low the freemi­um mod­el that has been so suc­cess­ful for Drop­box, Ever­note, and oth­er lead­ers in the field.

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