Tag Archives: iPhone

Storytelling Therapy

Recently one of my older relatives was involved in an automobile accident. Although he wasn’t seriously injured, at his age even the small things take a long time to heal. Our biggest concern is with his sight. Bottom line is we don’t know yet if his sight problems can be fully resolved and, as you might imagine, he’s in a very depressed state right now. One thing that has helped get his mind off his problems is getting him to talk about old times. That’s when the light bulb came on. The family historian in me jumped on this opportunity to provide him with some pleasant diversions while capturing a bit of family history in the process.

Recorder Plus screenshot

Monitoring recording levels.

Using advice from Susan Kitchens’ RootsTech presentation, I purchased an Edutige EIM-001 microphone [$27.43] for my iPhone. Susan’s Family Oral History Using Digital Tools is a fabulous resource for anyone interested in capturing audio stories. I also found a great little stand [$9.95] that also serves as storage for my earbuds. The stand makes it easy to watch the activity on my recorder app while I’m interviewing. Speaking of apps, I’ve tried several and found the Recorder Plus + II Pro [iOS – $2.99] easiest to use with the features I want. There’s a free version of Recorder Plus + II, but the paid version includes the ability to easily move my recording files to Dropbox and other apps that support “Open In”. This makes it a whole lot easier to move the recordings from my iPhone to cloud storage so I can access the files from my desktop or other devices when I’m ready to start building storytelling projects using my recordings.

With equipment in hand, my next challenge is to organize my notes. All of us have inherited the storytelling gene to one degree or another, but we all have a tendency to wander away from the main topic. Yes, often those wanderings are just as interesting as the starting topic. The challenge will be to get all of the main story while collecting a lot of side stories too.

I’m using my Evernote Moleskin notebook for both my questions and to jot down ideas generated during the conversation. Later I can use the iPhone to capture those notes and add them to my Evernote notebook for future reference.

I’m on the transport schedule to take him to his physical therapy a couple of times this week. We’ll stop off for coffee and a bit of conversation afterwards and see if it can’t spark a bit of storytelling in the process. Stay tuned.

File Management on the iPad

As tablets and other portable devices continue their dominance in the digital world, they have become a significant tool in our research world too. Combine the portable device with one or more cloud-based storage systems and you have most of your research tools and information with you wherever you go. Now, thanks to the updates to Readdle’s Documents [iOS – free] app, you have the ability to access, view and annotate just about any kind of file on your iThings.

This doesn’t mean just PDFs either. You can read ebooks (ePub and FB2 formats) that aren’t locked with digital rights management (DRM) as well as MS Office files. You can view videos in Documents and listen to audio files stored on your device. You can save email attachments and read them in Documents. You can edit text (.txt) files and annotate most others. There’s an internal browser where you can browse the web, save bookmarks, save web pages as Web archive files (great for Scrivener users) and download files to the app’s Documents tab.

All this is amazing enough, but the file management features included in this app are almost mind-blowing. First, you can connect to just about any cloud storage service – iCloud, Dropbox, Box, GoogleDrive, etc. There is also FTP and SFTP support and USB transfer via iTunes’ file sharing function. Best of all, you can connect your device to your computer’s file system via local Wi-Fi. By this I mean, it’s only available within your home when you are connected to your home Wi-Fi network.

The files in my Documents app as displayed in my Mac's Finder app.

The files in my Documents app as displayed in my Mac’s Finder app.

In this example, you are looking at the Finder (file manager) app on my Mac displaying the files in the Documents app on my iPad. I can easily copy/paste files to the iPad from my desktop.

Documents files screen

The same files viewed within the Documents iPad app.

The Documents iPhone app has all the functionality of the iPad, but the interface is designed for the smaller screen and reading a letter-sized PDF on the iPhone’s small screen can be a challenge.

Documents is quickly becoming an important component of my mobile research toolbox, giving me the ability to quickly load and unload the documents I want to have with me at the research library, society meeting or conference as well as giving me the ability to download files directly from the web. It didn’t take long to work this app into my daily workflow.

Flickr’s New iPhone App

This week Flickr released an updated iPhone app making it easy to capture, edit and share your photos. Once you’ve taken a photo, you can edit, crop and enhance the image then upload it to Flickr – adding it to groups or sets and even tagging people in the photo. You can upload an unlimited number of photos to your account using the app – preserving the quality and resolution of the original photo. And, it makes it easy to share your photos via Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and email.

Don’t stop there. Use the app to view your Flickr photos and those of others. You have access to your sets, groups and the millions of public images in Flickr’s collection.

The Flickr app is a free download in the app store.

Capture the Family at Thanksgiving

Are you planning a big family dinner this Thanksgiving? Here are some easy and affordable ideas to take advantage of the family history opportunities these holiday get-togethers provide to capture the many special moments they generate.

  • The new Givit platform makes it easy to capture and share video clips using either an iOS or Android device.
  • iOS users can take advantage of the Blurb mobile app to build and share stories that combine photos with video and audio clips to create a story that can then be posted at Blurb’s site .
  • Have you built your family news site at Posterous? Updating your site with news and video clips is as easy as sending an email. Make sure your site’s address is in your phone’s address book before the festivities get started.
  • Evernote offers an audio note feature which can be a quick, easy and unobtrusive way to capture those great stories that are often told at family gatherings.
  • Take lots of photos and video clips of the event and use your presentation graphics app (PowerPoint, Keynote, Presentations or Impress) to build a multimedia scrapbook of the event.

Thanksgiving combines two of my favorite things – family and great food – into a delightful holiday. My cousin is hosting this year so once my dishes are cooked and delivered, I can devote the rest of the day to visiting with family members. And, thanks to the opportunities my iPhone offers to capture the sights and sounds of this holiday, we’ll be able to share it not only with those who can’t be with us but also with future generations.

Digital Storytelling – Givit

Previewing a video in my online Givit profile.

If you’re a fan of Instagram and have an iPhone, you’ll love Givit[iOS – free]. This delightful app gives you the ability to capture, edit, upload and share videos taken with your iPhone. It’s quick and it’s easy. The actual video can be captured either in the Givit app or using the iPhone’s camera app. Editing is just a matter of selecting highlighted portions of your clips, stitching them together and adding a couple of special effects like slow motion or instant replay. You can include background music if you want. Once that’s done, you upload it to your profile at Givit and share it with others if you want. You can make connections with other Givit users from within the online site and you can share your videos via Facebook and YouTube – either from your iPhone or the site. Each user gets 5GB of space free and you can purchase more if you wish.

Sharing from your online profile.

Givit gives us an easy way to capture and share those little moments of our lives that are so special. How can you not love it?

Tech Notes – 14 September 2012

New fence installed this week – one that Bubba can’t climb or jump over.

Last week it was the Kindle, this week it’s all about iPhone 5. Apple introduced the iPhone 5 along with iOS 6. The iPhone 5 is thinner and lighter, but has a larger display with even higher resolution. The biggest improvement – for me anyway – is the camera. It’s faster with better low-light performance and the new panorama feature is amazing. iOS 6 is due for release on September 19th and will include more features for Siri, new maps with spoken turn-by-turn directions and 3D interactive views and even more iCloud integration. I’m looking forward to checking out the Passbook app which will organize my loyalty cards, boarding passes, gift cards, movie tickets and such all on the iPhone and iPod Touch. The beauty of this app is it uses location services to know when you arrive at the movie theater and automatically displays the movie ticket on the phone’s lock screen. If you’ve got a boarding pass stowed on Passbook and something about the flight changes, you’re notified immediately via your iPhone. Yes, it will take a while for stores and services to implement these features, but since other apps like Key Ring and Google Wallet have been out there for a while, I don’t think it will be too long.

Speaking of the iPod Touch, it’s getting a long overdue update too. I love the colors – and the Loop. Just don’t let my grand-children see them.

I noticed that shipping dates for both the new Kindle Paperwhite 3G and the Wi-Fi version have slipped back to October 22nd. I’m glad I ordered mine early! It’s hard enough to wait until October 1st for mine to ship.

On the Evernote front, I received an announcement this week that Skitch, the screen capture app for Mac that Evernote purchased, will be shutting down it’s image sharing platform and use Evernote instead. This happens October 10th. Your public images on Skitch.com will be archived and moved to your Evernote account. If you have private images out there, you will need to download or move them yourself.

Remember Feedly, one of the reader/aggregators using Google Readers? It’s given its mobile reader apps an update with a much-improved interface.

Last week the judge approved the agency pricing settlement as part of the price-fixing suit against several major publishers. This week Harper Collins Publishing announced reduced prices on its books. Their price reductions are significant. For example, last week the Kindle edition of Maria von Trapp’s book, The Story of the Trapp Family Singers, was $9.99. This week it’s $7.59. I noticed that Apple (who started this whole mess) has also lowered their iBooks price for this book. No report yet from the other two publishers included in the settlement – Simon & Schuster and the Hatchette Book Group. The two publishing companies that have not settled, Penguin Group and MacMillan, are scheduled to go to trial next summer along with Apple.

Blurb has now added PDF format as a book option. This is in addition to their existing print and iPad formats.

Over at Moultrie Creek Books, I’ve added a tag to keep track of the titles in the our growing Research Essentials collection.

That’s it for this week! We’ve got a few more landscaping chores to finish before we pick up Bubba and Lily from camp and they get a look at their new fence. It will be interesting to see their reaction to the change.

Tech Notes – 7 September 2012

Tolomato Lane near the City Gates

This weekend my home town, St. Augustine, celebrates its 447th birthday with parties, re-enactments and other activities.

Moving from the historic to the technical, the big news this week was Amazon’s introduction of its newest readers and tablets. I “watched” the event at The Verge. They were using the WordPress LiveBlog plugin to post updates and photos from the event. It allows multiple authors to post live updates within a single post and automatically refreshes the reader’s view as new updates are added. It could be a useful tool for reporting from a genealogy conference or event . . .

Amazon introduced a new e-reader, the Kindle Paperwhite, with both a Wi-Fi [$119] and a 3G [$179] version. This device has a brighter screen and includes a built-in light for reading in low-light conditions. They have increased the screen resolution which makes the text even clearer. These devices can be ordered now for October 1st delivery. The basic Kindle got an update with more font choices and faster page-turning. It also got a price reduction to $69. The 3G keyboard Kindle [$139] remains part of the Kindle inventory.

The Kindle Fire got a significant update with a faster processor, more memory and longer battery life. It also got a price reduction to $159. It can be ordered now with a September 14th delivery.

The new Kindle Fire HD offers two sizes – the standard 7″ screen and a larger 8.9″ screen. Both screens are HD quality and are combined with dual stereo speakers and Dolby audio. The processor is faster and the Wi-Fi system has been improved – including using two antennas – to make it even faster too. Bluetooth capability will allow you to use an external keyboard and there’s an HD camera on the front of the device which can be used with the Skype app to make video calls. The Kindle Fire HD  (screen resolution is 1280 x 800) is available September 14th and there is both a 16GB model [$199] and a 32GB one [$299].

The big story is the new larger Kindle Fire HD. They have all the functional goodness of their smaller cousin, but with a larger screen showing a 1920 x 1200 pixel display. The Wi-Fi version is available with either 16GB [$299] or 32GB [$369] of storage.  The 4G LTE wireless version offers all the goodness of its Wi-Fi cousins with high-speed wireless too. The 32GB model will sell for $499 and the 64GB model sells for $599. The wireless service for these devices is $49.95 a year and includes 250MB a month, 20GB of Amazon Cloud storage (in addition to the free storage you get for all your Amazon content) and a $10 credit in the Amazon app store. When you consider that 250MB  service for the iPad starts at $15/month – and is only 3G speeds – this is quite a deal. These devices are expected to ship November 20th.

There’s a lot more Kindle stuff to talk about, but that will be saved for later postings.

One news item from yesterday that all ebook readers will enjoy is the settlement of the ebook price fixing case against Apple and several major publishers. The settlement returns the pricing process to the “normal” method where retailers buy books from publishers at the wholesale price, then set their own sale price. With luck, we buyers should see lower prices, sales and other enticements.

SlideShark has a new app for the iPhone/iPod Touch that will let you post your PowerPoint presentations at the site, then view them on the device. And, you can use the device with AirPlay to present the slideshow to others.

MacWorld has a great article – especially for Windows users with iPhones – listing easy ways to get your pictures off your iPhone.

WordPress released an update – v. 3.4.2 – with both maintenance and security fixes. This is a mandatory update and should be performed as soon as possible.

If you haven’t already, stop by the bookstore and read my interview with Denise Levenick discussing her new book, How to Archive Family Keepsakes.

That’s it for this week. Hope you have a great weekend!

Phone it in!

The best camera you have is the one that’s with you.

Our grandchildren have been winning all kinds of awards at this year’s Alameda County Fair. Thanks to their parents’ iPhones and Facebook, we’ve been right there with them even though we’re more than 3,000 miles away. And, because it’s so easy to snap and post photos to Facebook, we’re not just seeing the awards ceremonies, we’re seeing all the effort – and exhaustion – that generated those awards.

I would love to have a single photo of a prize ceremony from one of my ancestors, let alone pictures of the farm, animals and their chores.

If you bought a smart phone in the last couple of years, you have the ability to take photographs, capture video and record audio – all in this small package that is normally close by wherever you are. So, put it to work capturing your family’s history! You don’t need the excuse of an occasion – use it to capture ordinary, everyday things that are part of your family’s world. Wouldn’t you love to know what your ancestors’ homes looked like or who their friends were. Your descendants will love to know that about you, too. The difference is you have an easy and inexpensive way to do it.

If you haven’t already, invest in a car charging kit to help insure your phone is ready when you want to use it. You might add a larger memory card or invest in an online photo-sharing/cloud storage plan that supports uploads from your phone. While Facebook is a great way to share these moments with others, it isn’t the best option for archiving photos so look for something like Flickr or SmugMug that lets you upload full-size images. Yes, I know that camera images are much lower resolution than most of today’s digital cameras, but you still want to get every pixel you can out of your shots.

Spend some time experimenting with your phone’s camera and various camera apps. Instagram [iOS & Android – free] lets you connect your Flickr account so you can archive your Insta-pics there as well as sharing them. Camera Awesome [iOS – free] is a must-have app for all iPhone users. It’s got tools that help you get the best photos possible from your iPhone’s camera plus it has plenty of editing tools to make them even better. It’s got tons of photo effects – many free, but others require in-app purchases. If you think all of this makes it truly awesome, you haven’t heard about its sharing capabilities. In addition to Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, SMS and email, it supports SmugMug, Flickr, Picasa, Photobucket and even YouTube. The PicsArt Photo Studio [Android – free] lets you edit your photos, add special effects – including sketches – and also offers a large number of sharing options. These are just a few of the many apps available.

Don’t stop with photos either. Put your phone’s video capabilities to work too. It doesn’t have to be a full-length movie to make an impact. A 20- or 30-second clip of a child blowing out birthday candles or seeing that diploma handed to him will combine with others to become a history of special moments. Smaller clips are much easier to incorporate into slideshows and even ebooks.

And, don’t forget to turn on your phone’s audio recorder when a relative starts telling a story. Mobile phones are always laying around and so are less intimidating than recording devices – and the results are priceless. The Evernote app [iOS & Android – free] will record up to 2-hours in an audio note for free accounts and up to 4-hours for premium accounts. Add that to your list of reasons Evernote is a necessity of genea-life.

Spend some time finding the apps that best suit your purposes and experiment to learn your limits [For example, trying to capture Uncle Joe’s stories in a busy restaurant may be a waste of time and digits.] so when the opportunity arrives you’ll be ready to capture your family history as it’s being made.

Notebooks for Mac Beta

I haven’t talked about Notebooks for a while, but it’s still has a favored spot on my iThings. Actually, lots of good things are happening with Notebooks including work on desktop versions. A Notebooks for Mac beta app is available through August 20th at the new Notebooks web site. Mobile Notebooks users will be right at home with the desktop version and my installation immediately found my data which I keep in a synched Dropbox folder so notes are immediately available on all my devices.

Notebooks is available on the iPhone [$5.99], iPad [$8.99] and now in beta on the Mac.