iPad 2 Run Down

Geneal­ogy Apps for the iPad

Apple intro­duced the iPad 2 yesterday.

This is about 9 months since the first iPad was released. The device has sold 15 mil­lion units. Accord­ing to some ana­lysts, this makes it the fastest sell­ing con­sumer tech­nol­ogy prod­uct ever.

I have to admit that I did not think the iPad would catch on. It seemed a lit­tle heavy in the hand, and was rumored to run hot. I fig­ured that this prod­uct was over priced, at $499 for an 8GB WiFi model and $829 for a 64GB WiFi / 3G model. While the usabil­ity fea­tures, such as “instant on,” would make it easy to use it was really just, as one com­men­ta­tor said, “An iPhone for Hagar the Hor­ri­ble.” It seems a device for con­tent con­sump­tion, not con­tent cre­ation. I’m also sim­ply a con­trar­ian, and never both­ered to get an iPhone. I have an Android, and prior to that had smart­phones from Palm and Hand­spring since, oh, about 2001.…

In the last nine months, tens of thou­sands of apps were deliv­ered. $2 bil­lion dol­lars has been paid out to the soft­ware devel­op­ers of those apps. While many of the apps are con­tent cre­ation apps, most are con­tent con­sump­tion apps. But of course, we do an awful lot of that on the web anyway.

The new iPad sports both front– and rear-facing cam­eras, with the rear cam­era cap­tur­ing 720p video. It’s 1/3 lighter, 2x as fast, and with 9x the video pro­cess­ing power. I look at those specs, and, see­ing a lighter unit, with this many apps, and this kind of per­for­mance, and I myself am tempted. Not only could this be a light­weight way to travel, it looks like a lot of fun, and the apps keep coming.…

The iPad 2 is offi­cially avail­able next Fri­day, 11 March 2011, at Apple Stores and on the web at Apple.com. The new iPad sup­ports Ver­i­zon as well as AT&T 3G networks.

Here’s a com­par­i­son of the specs, with specs that are either iPad 1 spe­cific or iPad 1-only (as found on the Way­back Machine) with iPad 2 specs highlighted.

Height
9.56 inches (242.8 mm)
9.50 inches (241.2 mm)
Width
7.47 inches (189.7 mm)
7.31 inches (185.7 mm)
Depth
0.5 inch (13.4 mm)
0.34 inch (8.8 mm)
Weight
1.5 pounds (0.68 kg) Wi-Fi model
1.33 pounds (601 g)
1.6 pounds (0.73 kg) Wi-Fi + 3G model
1.35 pounds (607 g)
Dis­play
9.7-inch (diag­o­nal) LED-backlit glossy widescreen Multi-Touch dis­play with IPS technology
1024-by-768-pixel res­o­lu­tion at 132 pix­els per inch (ppi)
Fingerprint-resistant oleo­pho­bic coating
Sup­port for dis­play of mul­ti­ple lan­guages and char­ac­ters simultaneously
Capac­ity
16GB, 32GB, or 64GB flash drive
Proces­sor
1GHz Apple A4 custom-designed, high-performance, low-power system-on-a-chip
1GHz dual-core Apple A5 custom-designed, high-performance, low-power system-on-a-chip
Sen­sors
Three-axis gyro
Accelerom­e­ter
Ambi­ent light sensor
Audio play­back
Fre­quency response: 20Hz to 20,000Hz
Audio for­mats sup­ported: HE-AAC (V1), AAC (16 [iPad 2: 8] to 320 Kbps), Pro­tected AAC (from iTunes Store), MP3 (16 to 320 Kbps), MP3 VBR, Audi­ble (for­mats 2, 3, and 4, [iPad 2: Audi­ble Enhanced Audio, AAX, and AAX+] Apple Loss­less, AIFF, and WAV
User-configurable max­i­mum vol­ume limit
Dolby Dig­i­tal 5.1 sur­round sound pass-through with Apple Dig­i­tal AV Adapter (sold sep­a­rately)
Cam­eras, Pho­tos, and Video Recording
Back cam­era: Video record­ing, HD (720p) up to 30 frames per sec­ond with audio; still cam­era with 5x dig­i­tal zoom
Front cam­era: Video record­ing, VGA up to 30 frames per sec­ond with audio; VGA-quality still camera
Tap to con­trol expo­sure for video or stills
Photo and video geo­t­ag­ging over Wi-Fi
TV and video
Sup­port for 1024 by 768 pix­els with Dock Con­nec­tor to VGA Adapter; 576p and 480p with Apple Com­po­nent AV Cable; 576i and 480i with Apple Com­pos­ite AV Cable
H.264 video up to 720p, 30 frames per sec­ond, Main Pro­file level 3.1 with AAC-LC audio up to 160 Kbps, 48kHz, stereo audio in .m4v, .mp4, and .mov file for­mats; MPEG-4 video, up to 2.5 Mbps, 640 by 480 pix­els, 30 frames per sec­ond, Sim­ple Pro­file with AAC-LC audio up to 160 Kbps, 48kHz, stereo audio in .m4v, .mp4, and .mov file for­mats; Motion JPEG (M-JPEG) up to 35 Mbps, 1280 by 720 pix­els, 30 frames per sec­ond, audio in ulaw, PCM stereo audio in .avi file format
Video mir­ror­ing and video out sup­port: Up to 1080p with Apple Dig­i­tal AV Adapter or Apple VGA Adapter (cables sold sep­a­rately)
Video out sup­port at 576p and 480p with Apple Com­po­nent AV Cable; 576i and 480i with Apple Com­pos­ite AV Cable
Video for­mats sup­ported: H.264 video up to 720p, 30 frames per sec­ond, Main Pro­file level 3.1 with AAC-LC audio up to 160 Kbps, 48kHz, stereo audio in .m4v, .mp4, and .mov file for­mats; MPEG-4 video, up to 2.5 Mbps, 640 by 480 pix­els, 30 frames per sec­ond, Sim­ple Pro­file with AAC-LC audio up to 160 Kbps per chan­nel, 48kHz, stereo audio in .m4v, .mp4, and .mov file for­mats; Motion JPEG (M-JPEG) up to 35 Mbps, 1280 by 720 pix­els, 30 frames per sec­ond, audio in ulaw, PCM stereo audio in .avi file format
Bat­tery and power
Built-in 25-watt-hour recharge­able lithium-polymer battery
Up to 10 hours of surf­ing the web on Wi-Fi, watch­ing video, or lis­ten­ing to music
Up to 9 hours of surf­ing the web using 3G data network
Charg­ing via power adapter or USB to com­puter system

RootsTech 2011: The Changing Face of Genealogy

The fol­low­ing is a video of Curt Witcher’s keynote address from Root­sTech 2011: “The Chang­ing Face of Geneal­ogy: Curt Witcher, Allen County Pub­lic Library.” Thanks to Geni­aus and Randy Seaver of Genea-Musings for point­ing this out.

On a per­sonal note, it’s been a dif­fi­cult day, what with fail­ures at Net­work Solu­tions tak­ing down this blog, as well as my wife’s cro­chet blog (CrochetBug.com, and 6 other web­sites I man­age. At first, the issue was a data­base sync-ing issue. When I called them to work on that, at about 1:00 a.m. last night, they obliged by remov­ing all the files under /htdocs. The files, as well as the data­bases were up by about 4 p.m., mean­ing that it was only (!) about 15 hours of down­time, but I noticed that some of the more recent uploads to a cou­ple of the sites were not in evi­dence; I had to upload files again. So, they restored the site from backups.…

Ama­zon EC2, here I come!

WDYTYA Episode 204: Kim Cattrall

I have been trav­el­ing, and only today got a chance to see the Kim Cat­trall episode of Who Do You Think You Are?, or at least the last 45 min­utes of it.

In this episode, Ms. Cat­trall, with the help of geneal­o­gists in the United King­dom, runs down her miss­ing grand­fa­ther. He had aban­doned her grand­mother, mother, and two aunts some 70 years ago.

If any­thing the shows are get­ting more and more engag­ing. This episode was less about the doc­u­ments and more about what must have been going on in the star’s bigamist grandfather’s head.

You can see why the show has been renewed for another sea­son. This is engag­ing tele­vi­sion. While, as a geneal­o­gist, I could quib­ble that most sto­ries are not this heart-wrenching, nor do they involve this much decep­tion, I sim­ply can­not deny that this is popcorn-munching enter­tain­ment, designed to keep peo­ple com­ing back for more.

Ancestry Increases Subscriber Base by 31%

Now that Ancestry.com Inc. is a pub­lic com­pany (ACOM: Google Finance), they are required to divulge more infor­ma­tion about their per­for­mance than they did as a pri­vate venture.

For them, the news is good. Ear­lier this week, they announced their year 2010 fig­ures, which included notably sub­scriber growth of 31% year-over-year and a 34% increase in rev­enue year-over-year. (At the end of Decem­ber there were 1,395,000 paid sub­scribers of Ancestry.com.) Total rev­enue for the year was $300.9 mil­lion. EBITDA (earn­ings before income tax, depre­ci­a­tion, and amor­ti­za­tion) was $101 million.

Monthly churn (mem­ber­ship turnover) is 3.9%, which is basi­cally equiv­a­lent to the 3.6% in the fourth quar­ter of 2009, and the 4.0% in the third quar­ter of 2010.

For 2011, Ances­try expects to have 1,700,000 t0 1,725,000 sub­scribers and bring in rev­enues of $370 — $375 mil­lion, lead­ing to an EBITDA of $125 — $130 million.

These are very healthy num­bers and bode well for the geneal­ogy indus­try. While a lot of us have some qualms about the size of Ances­try, as well as some of its busi­ness prac­tices, it’s still impor­tant that this major player is healthy and con­tin­u­ing to invest in dig­i­ti­za­tion and technology.

 

Black History Month at FamilySearch

Fam­il­y­Search made the fol­low­ing announce­ment on Monday:

Salt Lake City—This month, mil­lions of indi­vid­u­als of African descent are cel­e­brat­ing Black His­tory Month by explor­ing their fam­ily his­tory roots. In the U.S., Fam­il­y­Search vol­un­teers have been busy help­ing dig­i­tize his­toric doc­u­ments and cre­ate free, search­able indexes to them online. Through­out Africa, from Accra to Zim­babwe, where irre­place­able fam­ily infor­ma­tion and tra­di­tions are at risk of being lost due to neglect, war, and dete­ri­o­ra­tion, Fam­il­y­Search vol­un­teers are also help­ing pre­serve this valu­able his­tory so Africans can con­nect with their roots. Researchers can search the mil­lions of African-related records as they are pub­lished online at FamilySearch.org.

They con­clude their announce­ment with the following:

Many of the records col­lected by Fam­il­y­Search are now avail­able for free on FamilySearch.org. More African records will be posted on the site in the com­ing months. Fol­low­ing are a few sam­ples of some types of records at FamilySearch.org that may be of inter­est to those doing African or African-American research. Many of them are works in progress.

    • Vir­ginia, Freedmen’s Bureau Let­ters, 1865–1872
    • U.S. Arkansas Con­fed­er­ate Pen­sions, 1901 to 1929
    • Ghana 1982–1984 Census
    • South Africa, Orange Free State, Estate Files, 1951–1973
    • U.S. South­ern States Births, Mar­riages, and Deaths
    • U.S. Nat­u­ral­iza­tion Petitions

This is tremen­dous amount of mate­r­ial being made avail­able. Their blog entry about this release says that the Vir­ginia Freedmen’s Bureau records total more than 1 mil­lion records. It’s an impor­tant deliv­ery of doc­u­ments, and will pro­vide a great deal of help for African-American researchers.

Keeping Your Computer Up-to-Date

AppFresh

AppFresh

The com­puter is one of our most impor­tant genealog­i­cal tools.

Many of us remem­ber when this was not the case. I have my fair share of mimeo­graphed fam­ily group sheets filled out in fad­ing pen­cil wait­ing in a stack to be scanned. But today, with your research find­ings stored in a dig­i­tal data­base and your research con­sist­ing of a blend of pay and free web­sites, with the local and state repos­i­to­ries you want to visit tagged in a Google Map, and with your lat­est pho­tos of grave­stones shared on Flickr and Find­A­Grave, you need a com­puter and you need it to work.

Whether you have a Mac or a Win­dows machine, the key to keep­ing your sys­tem work­ing is main­te­nance. Just like with a car, you should have a sched­ule for main­tain­ing your com­puter. With a car, every 3,000 or 5,000 miles, you need to change the oil; peri­od­i­cally, you need to rotate the tires. It helps to check the air pres­sure, air fil­ters, and oil level from time to time. There is a sim­i­lar reg­i­men you should fol­low to keep your com­puter run­ning smoothly, so you can focus on your research and not on recov­er­ing from a cat­a­strophic com­puter issue.

Virus Check­ing

Those of us who use Macs often come off as smug about the lack of a need for virus check­ing soft­ware. This impli­ca­tion is that the supe­rior design of the Mac­in­tosh wards off all threats. (We can be such pains!) Of course, the Mac­in­tosh is just as vul­ner­a­ble as any other oper­at­ing sys­tem. Since OS X has been released, not as many viruses writ­ten for the Mac, but it takes only one virus to endan­ger your data or your pri­vacy. So, while Macs are less likely to get viruses, the Mac OS is not with­out its vul­ner­a­bil­i­ties. Addi­tion­ally, with cross-platform files (such as Microsoft Word files) can arrive with a virus and be sent on with that same virus, whether or not the virus infects your machine.

In addi­tion to viruses, it is impor­tant to under­stand that there are spy­ware appli­ca­tions that are designed to gather data about you and your online iden­tity. These often run based on your browser, and are there­fore often plat­form inde­pen­dent. So, no mat­ter what kind of com­puter your have, you should have anti-virus and anti-spyware soft­ware, and keep the virus and spy­ware def­i­n­i­tions up-to-date.

For both the Mac and the PC, the two main­stays of the secu­rity mar­ket, Nor­ton (us.norton.com) and McAfee (www.mcafee.com) offer a suite of prod­ucts that pro­vide pro­tec­tion against viruses, adware, spy­ware, and a vari­ety of other online threats. The biggest hur­dle for me in using virus pro­tec­tion like the pro­grams sold by McAfee and Nor­ton is hat they some­times take over your com­puter when you are not expect­ing it to do so. For the Mac, there is also ClamXav (www.clamxav.com), a free open-source virus pro­tec­tion soft­ware pack­age. While ClamXav is free, it does not proac­tively scan new or changed files; you have to remem­ber to run it. There­fore, you get less pro­tec­tion, but also more con­trol over what your com­puter is doing at any given moment.

Virus and mal­ware pro­tec­tion fall in the cat­e­gory of adap­tive main­te­nance. They are ways of adapt­ing to changes in the environment.

Sys­tem Secu­rity Updates

Both the PC in Win­dows Vista and Win­dows 7 and the Mac in OS X pro­vide peri­odic updates to the sys­tem soft­ware. Some of these are optional. They might be updat­ing a com­po­nent of the oper­at­ing sys­tem that you do not use, for exam­ple. But, often the updates will be issues to close up secu­rity holes in the oper­at­ing sys­tem. This is known as “adap­tive main­te­nance.” The When­ever you receive a security-related upgrade for your oper­at­ing sys­tem, you should allow it to install. The soft­ware ven­dors will usu­ally not announce secu­rity issues with their soft­ware until a fix is avail­able, so you will prob­a­bly not even know there is a prob­lem. How­ever, those who would like to exploit secu­rity issues with the oper­at­ing sys­tem are con­stantly on the look­out for these issues, so you should let the experts at Microsoft and Apple give you the ben­e­fit of their attempts to keep you and your genealog­i­cal data safe.

Secu­rity issues are often also dis­cov­ered with desk­top appli­ca­tion, espe­cially Adobe Acro­bat and the var­i­ous browsers, Inter­net Explorer, Fire­fox, Chrome, and Safari. Be aware of how your soft­ware ven­dor will make updates avail­able. Some updates, such as sys­tem updates for Win­dows or the Mac OS and many appli­ca­tions will be deliv­ered to your sys­tem auto­mat­i­cally, when­ever it is con­nected to the Inter­net and there has been a patch released.

In gen­eral, you should install these sys­tem and appli­ca­tion updates as soon as it is fea­si­ble to do so. If you have any con­cern with whether the updates you are receiv­ing are autho­rized by and deliv­ered from the ven­dor, go to the sup­port or down­loads area of their web­site to ver­ify that the change is valid, and learn what defect or vul­ner­a­bil­ity the change is intended to address.

Sim­ply Stay­ing Current

You have invested money in the soft­ware you use every day. More impor­tantly, you have invested time in it. You have spent time learn­ing how to use it, fig­ur­ing out its fea­tures and foibles. Any soft­ware that you use a lot for your geneal­ogy research, whether as a data­base for your records, or as a way to write or share your find­ings, should be pro­tected in another way. It should be kept rea­son­ably cur­rent. This does not mean that you need to be as assid­u­ous as you should be with installing OS secu­rity patches. How­ever, you should not be more than two major releases behind the released prod­uct. In other words, if the prod­uct is on ver­sion 7, you should be run­ning at least ver­sion 5. This is a gen­eral rule of thumb, and may vary depend­ing on how much the ven­dor has changed its product.

There are a cou­ple of pow­er­ful web­sites and desk­top appli­ca­tions that can help you keep on top of keep­ing your appli­ca­tions cur­rent. For both the Win­dows OS and the Mac OS, there is CNet’s Tech­Tracker (for­merly Ver­sion­Tracker), with both free and sub­scrip­tion ser­vices (www.cnet.com/techtracker-free). For the Mac OS, there is a handy desk­top soft­ware pack­age, AppFresh (metaquark.de/appfresh/) which uses the osx.iusethis.com web­site to keep track of changes to appli­ca­tions, wid­gets, pref­er­ence panes and appli­ca­tion plug-ins. In addi­tion to check­ing for new ver­sions of all the appli­ca­tions sub­mit­ted to osx.iusethis.com, AppFresh also keeps track of Apple and Microsoft Updates (and soon, Adobe updates), to help you keep your sys­tem cur­rent with the lat­est releases of the soft­ware you use on a reg­u­lar basis. The tool also allows for Sparkle updates, which are built into many Mac OS prod­ucts to auto­mat­i­cally keep an installed prod­uct aware of updates.

Reg­u­lar Maintenance

With your com­puter oper­at­ing sys­tem and the appli­ca­tions you run on it safe, you can focus the bulk of your energy on the search for and analy­sis of genealog­i­cal data. After all, your com­puter is sim­ply a tool for your research, for find­ing, gath­er­ing, arrang­ing, and stor­ing your genealog­i­cal find­ings. You are doing the key intel­lec­tual work of assess­ing sources, think­ing through unique ways to find your way past “brick­wall” prob­lems. It would be a shame if this work were lost because of a virus or a secu­rity hole. More com­monly, sim­ply by neglect of a stan­dard process, your sys­tem may degrade in its per­for­mance, and you will lose the ben­e­fit it can pro­vide you and get drawn into many hours of main­te­nance and repairs, of try­ing to reassem­ble the con­tent you have brought together. We all know, and I have talked about in this col­umn, the need for back­ups. In addi­tion to back­ing up your sys­tem, you should also main­tain what you have.
An ear­lier ver­sion of this arti­cle appeared in the National Genealog­i­cal Soci­ety Mag­a­zine. Used  by permission.

Pam Slaton: “Searching for …”

Pam Slaton, host of "Searching for ..."

Pam Sla­ton

Update: 9 March 2011

I am not Pam Sla­ton, and do not even know her. A lot of folks are post­ing here think­ing they are con­tact­ing Pam, but, unfor­tu­nately, they are not. I wish I could pass infor­ma­tion on to her, but I am not in touch with her.

This was news to me: Oprah Winfrey’s OWN tele­vi­sion net­work has a show that fol­lows a pro­fes­sional geneal­o­gist. The show, enti­tled “Search­ing for …” runs Mon­day nights at 9/8 Cen­tral. Pam Sla­ton, the geneal­o­gist the show focused on helps reunite the adopted with their birth fam­i­lies, and other fam­ily mem­bers with one another after they have been sep­a­rated for some time and lost touch with one another.

On the OWN site, they write:

“Search­ing For… is a doc­u­men­tary series that fol­lows the real-life work of Pam Sla­ton, a pro­fes­sional inves­tiga­tive geneal­o­gist, stay-at-home mom and New Jer­sey housewife.

View­ers can expect an intensely per­sonal ride when cam­eras fol­low Pam and her clients through each step as they track down lost loved ones. Each searcher’s story is dif­fer­ent, and the results are unpre­dictable and emo­tion­ally charged. Whether Pam’s clients find a joy­ous reunion, painful rejec­tion or tragic loss, they all walk away with the clo­sure they were des­per­ate to find.

Pam Slaton’s career as a pro­fes­sional inves­tiga­tive geneal­o­gist began nearly 20 years ago. Want­ing to find her own birth mother, Pam hired to a pro­fes­sional searcher. The expe­ri­ence was the most dev­as­tat­ing of her life, and Pam vowed that no one else should have to go through what she did. She keeps her own pain in mind when help­ing clients on their jour­neys. And her results are astound­ing! Pam has an 85 per­cent suc­cess rate, fol­lows a strict “no find, no pay” pol­icy, and is one of the most sought-after pro­fes­sional searchers in the country.”

I will have to take a look.

One of the key aspects of geneal­ogy shows, which this one looks to have in spades, is an emo­tional com­po­nent that most non-genealogists seem to not expect. With a focus on re-uniting liv­ing peo­ple, Pam Slaton’s niche in geneal­ogy seems to be focused directly on emo­tional con­tent which should drive the show. Unfor­tu­nately, I don’t know how many peo­ple know about this show.

Google Docs Goes Native

Google Docs was once an appli­ca­tion that was “like Microsoft Word” or “like Pow­er­Point”, and could read and write files from those pro­grams as well as Excel. But mainly, you under­stood that you were edit­ing your file and stor­ing it, in Google’s pro­pri­etary format.

Then, in Jan­u­ary 2010, Google announced that they would allow users to store any file for­mat in their Google Docs envi­ron­ment. That started to look like another cloud stor­age offer­ing. Frankly, it didn’t make a lot of sense to upload files you can­not even open in that envi­ron­ment. Google took a big step toward address­ing that week, mak­ing some key for­mats natively view­able within Google Docs.

On their blog, they say:

The Google Docs Viewer is used by mil­lions of peo­ple every day to quickly view PDFs, Microsoft Word doc­u­ments and Pow­er­Point pre­sen­ta­tions online. Not only is view­ing files in your browser far more secure than down­load­ing and open­ing them locally, but it also saves time and doesn’t clut­ter up your hard-drive with unwanted files.

Today we’re excited to launch sup­port for 12 new file types:

  • Microsoft Excel (.XLS and .XLSX)
  • Microsoft Pow­er­Point 2007 / 2010 (.PPTX)
  • Apple Pages (.PAGES)
  • Adobe Illus­tra­tor (.AI)
  • Adobe Pho­to­shop (.PSD)
  • Autodesk Auto­Cad (.DXF)
  • Scal­able Vec­tor Graph­ics (.SVG)
  • Post­Script (.EPS, .PS)
  • True­Type (.TTF)
  • XML Paper Spec­i­fi­ca­tion (.XPS)

Not only does this round out sup­port for the major Microsoft Office file types (we now sup­port DOC, DOCX, PPT, PPTX, XLS and XLSX), but it also adds quick view­ing capa­bil­i­ties for many of the most pop­u­lar and highly-requested doc­u­ment and image types.

In Gmail, these types of attach­ments will now show a “View” link, and click­ing on this link will bring up the Google Docs Viewer.

For me, one of the few annoy­ing aspects of how Gmail and Google Docs work together has been that, in the early days, sim­ply open­ing up a Word doc­u­ment in my Gmail would auto­mat­i­cally cre­ate a doc­u­ment in Google Docs, or that it wouldn’t allow me to pre­view it, and would force me to down­load the file. Now, I will sim­ply be able to View these doc­u­ments, and have them dis­ap­pear into the browser cache at the end of the session.

More Technology News for Genealogists

Google

Ear­lier this week, Apple announced a new sub­scrip­tion pay­ment model for the iPad.

Google responded yes­ter­day with a much more flex­i­ble sub­scrip­tion model using Google Check­out (a Pay­Pal com­peti­tor), and pro­vid­ing 10% in rev­enue for Google (in com­par­i­son with Apple’s 30%). Google does not require that the in-app pur­chase price be at least as inex­pen­sive as any other web offer­ing of the prod­uct. It’s a more open pro­gram, and hope­fully will gain trac­tion and help fos­ter a more sus­tain­able sales model for con­tent providers.

Until and unless other mod­els come along, expect to see genealog­i­cal con­tent providers, as they move into the tablet space, to opt for the Google pric­ing model, which will bet­ter align with their oper­at­ing profit margins.

SlideShare

SlideShare is a site that allows you to upload PowerPoint-style slides to share with oth­ers. (I post all my slides at SlideShare: http://www.slideshare.net/genealogymedia. This week they announced a free 1-click con­fer­enc­ing prod­uct, Zip­cast. I have not tried it, but it looks inter­est­ing, as most con­fer­enc­ing sys­tems that share slides require that the slides be uploaded in real time, as images of from the per­son shar­ing the slides. Zip­cast might be faster, because the slides will not need to be uploaded dur­ing the meet­ing, and will already be opti­mized for web view­ing at SlideShare.

Don’t be sur­prised if your next geneal­ogy meet­ing does not hap­pen in per­son, but instead over SlideShare’s Zipcast.

Subscriptions on the Apple App Store

Magazines on the iPad

Apple’s iPad

Apple announced today that they will be sup­port­ing sub­scrip­tions on the App­Store. A lot of us have been think­ing that would make for a good day, as it never made sense for own­ers of the iPad to only be able to buy some­thing like a mag­a­zine for the iPad one issue at a time (often for more than a print sin­gle copy).

How­ever, the way that Apple is doing this is caus­ing a great deal of con­ster­na­tion out­side of Cupertino.

First, they are demand­ing 30% of every sub­scrip­tion sale. This is a sim­i­lar rate that is paid on mag­a­zines at the news stand, but not hav­ing to pro­vide that dis­count to mag­a­zine stands is part of what allows mag­a­zine sub­scrip­tions to be so inex­pen­sive. Apple does allow peo­ple who sell sub­scrip­tions to do so “out­side the app.” But, again, the bar­gain they are ask­ing peo­ple to make is dra­con­ian. In their press release, they write:

How­ever, Apple does require that if a pub­lisher chooses to sell a dig­i­tal sub­scrip­tion sep­a­rately out­side of the app, that same sub­scrip­tion offer must be made avail­able, at the same price or less, to cus­tomers who wish to sub­scribe from within the app.” In other words, the time hon­ored tra­di­tion of the “cut-out-the-middleman” buy direct dis­count is not going to be allowed.

This means that Ama­zon can­not sell books in the iOS ver­sion of the Kin­dle reader, even though that reader only has a link to Amazon’s web­site to make that pur­chase. (For titles sold through Amazon’s Dig­i­tal Text Pro­gram, authors and pub­lish­ers get a 70% roy­alty. Sim­ple math shows that if Ama­zon gives Apple the remain­ing 30%, they will be spend­ing money to sup­port pub­lish­ers, authors, and Apple, with­out a penny going to pay for Amazon’s server farms, let alone its employ­ees or shareholders.)

Ama­zon does not have a sim­i­lar pol­icy. If you sell a book on Ama­zon, you can set the price, or let Ama­zon set guide­lines on the price ($2.99 — $9.99 and 20% less than the cheap­est print ver­sion of the title), and get a bet­ter per­cent­age of the sales price. But there’s noth­ing to stop some­one from sell­ing a Kindle-formatted book for $9.99 through Ama­zon and $7.99 directly from them. This is called the agency model, and it means that when Ama­zon acts as the pub­lisher or author’s agent, they get income, when they don’t … they don’t get income, and fur­ther­more, they make no stip­u­la­tions about how much the author or pub­lisher can sell the Kin­dle book for out­side of the Ama­zon store.

At best, this announce­ment by Apple will make legit­i­mate ven­dors of books, mag­a­zines, and audio and video think twice before offer­ing their ser­vices at cur­rent prices through the App Store, since doing so would incur a steep fee that they did not have before. At worst, some com­pa­nies will play, but oth­ers will be left out. It seems like a sure way for Apple to make good rev­enue from those who remain, and to sti­fle com­pe­ti­tion from the likes of Hulu and Net­flix (video rentals), Ama­zon (books and mag­a­zines), and Rhap­sody (music).

A com­pre­hen­sive arti­cle on the reac­tions appears on Read­WriteWeb: “A Round-Up of Reac­tions: Apple’s Greedy, Anti-Competitive, Evil, Bril­liant Announce­ment.” This arti­cle points out that the Wall Street Jour­nal muses about the legal­ity of the announcement:

Apple Inc.‘s new sub­scrip­tion ser­vice could draw antitrust scrutiny, accord­ing to law pro­fes­sors,” writes the Journal’s Nathan Kop­pel. Accord­ing to the arti­cle, the antitrust argu­ment hinges on two pri­mary points — whether or not Apple is exert­ing “anti­com­pet­i­tive pres­sures on price” and whether Apple is a “dom­i­nant player in the market.”

But what does this mean for geneal­o­gists? We may never know for sure. If Apple’s strat­egy goes for­ward, but actu­ally does have a chill­ing and anti­com­pet­i­tive impact, a lot of con­tent and ser­vices, some not yet con­ceived of, may not come to a dom­i­nant plat­form. Geneal­o­gists are rav­en­ous con­sumers of books, includ­ing e-books and audio books. This may delay or stop the deliv­ery of a lot of titles that might oth­er­wise have been avail­able. Hope­fully, Apple will re-think their announce­ment, at least as it con­cerns how ven­dors price and sell their con­tent off the iPad.