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Saturday, June 25, 2011

How to Digitally Preserve Your Family's History

Ever heard of PDF-A files? How about JPG 2000 lossless? Know what an M.DISC is?

Well neither did I until I attend the Preserving Your Roots, a family history conference held the weekend of June 4th in Regina, Saskatchewan.

The event, organized by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, centered on how to archive - not simply backup - family history (genealogical) records from hard copy to digital formats.

Knockout keynote
There were sessions on how to use Google for family history work, choosing the best software downloads for genealogy work, how to retouch family photos and more - including a knockout keynote by Gary W. Wright who works for the Church and is Senior Product Manager for Digital Preservation.

Wright gave a powerful presentation on how to digitize all the tangible stuff that binds you to your family members who have already passed; photos, vital records, journals, music, artwork, oral histories, newspaper clippings, family videos, books, maps, etc.

He's written a 16-page document called Preserving Your Family History Records Digitally that details the hardware and software you'll need, offers solutions to problems in archiving this special information.

Clear picture
He paints a clear picture of the challenges involved in digital preservation:

"It is NOT merely backing up your data! Rather it is a process that involves storing digital records (i) with descriptive information (ii) for a very long time (iii) in multiple locations (iv) at the highest resolution you can afford; (v) periodically migrating the records to new storage media in order to prevent data loss or the inability to read the data; also to take advantage of new storage technology; (vi) changing file formats before they become obsolete; and (vii) providing access to your digital collection now and in the future."

Free download
If you're at all interested in the subject, Wright's paper is worth the free download. There's also a wealth of other tech tip resources on the site. And if you've never had the pleasure of starting to research and preserve your family's history, why not check out the free FamilySearch website and see where your family line takes you.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Why Aren't Restaurants Smarter About Free Wi-Fi?

Free wi-fi means I'll drop more cash at your fast food outlet or eatery.
So why don't more restaurants and merchants offer it?
Why do most restaurants want to sell me wi-fi access over lunch?

When I go to my local Perkins or Salisbury House, or visit a good number of eateries, one of the first things I do is fire up my iPhone or iPad to see if I can surf on their dime.

So often I can't.

Instead they want to make money from me by sending me through a big service provider.

Yet, I can sit down at a McDonalds, stroll through a Safeway or wait for my sons at the orthodontist and get free access.

Those who do give me a chance to enjoy a little digital respite at no charge make me feel valued. It's an unexpected perk that cements my loyalty.

While those who hope to make a buck from selling me access come off as marketing dinosaurs. The fact that free access will increase the frequency of my visits and leave me pre-disposed to dropping more money in their establishments is lost on them.

But maybe it's not about the money. Could it be that it's a filter to discourage youths from sucking up bandwidth by filling up the booths while tethering their iPod Touches to the house router?

Whatever the case, the kids aren't there. And neither are the business customers that would appreciate a smart 21st-Century marketing gesture.

The bottom line is that more traffic equals more dollars - and those who won't serve me wi-fi gratis get fewer of mine.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

The Majestic Mountains of Winnipeg

What better to go with Winnipeg's NHL franchise, Bomber stadium and Canada's largest IKEA than a set of majestic mountains. Someone I know did this won-der-ful mash-up. And even though I love Winnipeg just the way it is, I think these peaks look good on us.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

QR and the Seabirds in my Globe and Mail

Coming "from away" and having once taken in the breathtaking beauty of Newfoundland during a PR conference, I was delighted to see this insert tucked into my Globe today.

The headline "give your senses a trip to remember" is so appropriate and I was really intrigued by the QR and words "get the soundtrack."

When I scanned it with my I-nigma app, I was shocked when it resolved to a YouTube video. Did they really want users to rack up charges streaming their over-produced travel vid?

Mericifully, the video is only 21 seconds (smart move, guys) and it's a blowy, windy, visual soundtrack of the birds on the rock pictured in the bumf with a final tag of "Seabird Capital of North America."

Calm. Understated. Nice.

Got your smartphone ready? Go!

Monday, June 13, 2011

5 Ways Wearable PVRs Will Change Your Life

Wearable personal video recorders, like this one advertised in a London Drug flyer, could go from simple gimmick to part of everyday life - for better and worse. Scan the QR code above for an eye-opening video on how this gadget works or click on the embedded video below.
The gates to the future can turn on small hinges. I spotted one of those hinges in a recent London Drugs flyer.

The Looxcie Bluetooth Video Camera is essentially a personal video recorder you wear on your ear. The camera looks like a typical bluetooth device. Press record once and you begin keeping a running video log of the last five hours of your day in real time. After five hours, it begins recording over the last unsaved portion of video. You manage your settings from an app on your Android or iPhone.

Gimmick or brainwave?
So what exactly does this mean? Well, if your daughter scores that winning goal or your son decides today is the day he'll take his first steps, you've got it on video - without ever pulling out your camcorder or smartphone or putting your eye to a viewfinder.

In fact, you can capture the last 30 seconds of any sudden event you witness and turn it into a separate video with just one on-the-fly click.

Gimmick, right? I mean who would really want to stockpile videos of everything they do throughout the day? You'd likely use this for short periods of time at family events and outings, your kids' games, and maybe to keep your hands free while you pull that fish out of the lake.

But here's why I think this little toy has the potential to dramatically affect our lives - maybe not right now, but as resolution and recording time expand - and attitudes toward privacy become even more liberal.

1) Many people - especially the young - are living their lives more transparently because of the social media that form such a huge part of their identity. As strange as it seems now, the idea of an always-on video journal would not be narcissistic, but simply a convenient way to record and ferret out daily gems from an otherwise unremarkable day. That means we will be in proximity to more video-obsessed folks around us and more opportunities to have our personal interactions captured close-up.

2) People will grow increasingly used to being videotaped in public. It already happens through closed circuit TV, municipal video cameras, built in cameras at bank machines, red-light cameras, and by hundreds of smartphones brandished at concerts, festivals and other public events - none of which we consent to be recorded by. Wide-spread adoption of wearable PVRs could mean that resistance to the idea of being recorded in public will at some point become, know.

3) Traffic cops, parking commissioners, bank tellers and the kid handing you your order at the McDonald's drive-thru might all have bosses who would like to record their interactions with people - up close and personal - for training purposes, evaluation or legal use. Initially, there could be posted or verbal warnings about being recorded on video, but these would likely give way as wearable PVRs make more inroads into the public.

4) It could reach the point where wearable PVRs may be so widespread that the mere act of stepping out of your home will put you on the video record - not of some huge centralized agency, but by the dozens of people you interact with every day. This could push the boundaries of what's public and private into extremely uncomfortable territory. Would there be safe sanctuary for those who want to be free from the prying eyes of mobile videocams?

Already, we have to contend with the double-edged sword of citizen journalism. It can document and even foment revolution; chronicle the human and material devastation of a tornado, flood, nuclear incident; or even bring scene of a local car wreck onto our iPads. But this proliferation of video devices can also be extremely invasive. Ask anyone who's had to fight to remove their images from social networking sites like YouTube.

Also, video recording by private citizens has largely been a deliberate act until now. It involves making a decision to video, pulling your smartphone or Flip out, and recording the action. Because there's usually a viewfinder between you and your subject, it's usually obvious to onlookers that you are videotaping. Theoretically, at least they can remove themselves from your camera's immediate view.

5) None of this applies to wearable PVRs right now. They look like every other innocuous bluetooth device. There's not much to give away the fact that every movement of the wearer's head is grabbing whatever is in the field of vision - whether it's a prairie landscape or your personal interaction with the wearer.

Of course, these concerns could be overwrought. The wearable PVR could be a wash, a non-starting piece of technical ingenuity that doesn't find much use in daily life. But I remember seeing my first black and white video demonstration back in my twenties and wondering what kind of application it could ever have. Now I carry an iPhone for personal use, a Blackberry for work, and sometimes even my Flip - all of which I can use to record video.

If the idea of preserving large parts of your waking life on video does catch on, people will have to make peace with the fact that their lives may not be chronicled by Big Brother or any other surveillance-obsessed overseer. It could simply be captured by the dozens of people we come in contact with every day.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Quick, Cheap FM Transmitter Tip for iPad

FM transmitters for iStuff can be pretty pricey, but they sure are handy for watching movies or listening to tunes from your iPad when you're on a road trip.

Since I wanted to pump some cool tunes through my car stereo yesterday, I ran into a London Drugs in Regina fully expecting to get hosed.

I skipped the usual $79 to $100+ name brands to see if I could find something reasonable.

I took a chance on a cheap off-brand transmitter for a miserly $35. It was meant for iPhone 3G/3Gs and older iPod Touches - and didn't say a word about iPad compatability. But it works brilliantly from almost any position in the car, doesn't need batteries and measures about 1" x 1.25".

Had we had one on our road trip to Edmonton in January, we could have untethered the iPad from the audio cord and spared the boys a lot of leaning forward from the backseats.