Archive for Category: Random Musings


Europe 2012 – Day 5 – Trains

Thursday, 28 June 2012

Another adventure with mixed results dominated the day.

First, I drove back to Warsaw. I wanted to get a record at the Jewish Historical Institute, but I hit traffic too often and didn’t quite make it in time. I circled around and around and around and finally found a spot to park, then visited several Jewish historical sites. One building was under construction and completely surrounded so I couldn’t even see one of them.

I returned the car to the airport (I’ll skip the gory details of that ordeal) and took the train back to Warszawa Centralna, the central station, to head over to Konin. I tried to buy a ticket, and someone even helped translate for me, but I don’t know what the ticket agent gave me. It wasn’t a ticket for what I wanted. Eventually, once the train was mostly empty, a conductor asked for my ticket and I had to buy one. I sure hope I don’t see a charge for that “other” ticket later.

What bothered me most though, was realizing 90 minutes into the two hour ride that there were electrical outlets; my phone was dead. I plugged it in and booked the hotel online about an hour before I got to it.

The train station was pretty baron with two exits. I took the wrong one first — there were no signs. Eventually I went back through and found a taxi to get to my hotel. Weird keys here. And I’m wondering if this is a truck stop.

I hope I have fewer transportation problems tomorrow. I only have one day for two archives and the civil records office. I anticipate not enough time for all three, but it’s Friday and it’s all I’ve got. Sadly, at multiple times, I find connections or don’t for the same trips; I’m not seeing anything for tomorrow right now. More complications.

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Europe 2012 – Day 1

Monday, 25 June 2012

I should call this minus day one and not count it, but I am in Europe, so here goes.

This post will be filled with the nitty gritty details of my journey here. I haven’t really been anywhere yet, so skip it if you only want to know about seeing Europe and doing research. This one is kind of more about venting.

I didn’t sleep at all last night because I wasn’t close to being ready. I do that far too often actually when I fly somewhere. Driving, I just leave a little later. I still have things to do to plan for the trip I’m already on.

Amazingly, and to my own surprise, I was able to pack for a month in two carry-on bags. (I figured ten days of clothes was good.) I called for the shuttle and took a flight to JFK. I was three rows from the back of the plane and all the small children were back there. And yet, the flight was fine. The elder gentleman sitting next to me was friendly enough. And I guess most of the kid noise was drowned out by the engine noise. We even arrived a little early.

At JFK, it started going downhill. There was a shuttle to my terminal but there was no sign about it where there needed to be. I had about 30 minutes left of my two hour layover, after walking through the terminals, to check out the Delta Sky Club. I got some free passes for it a while back. The clerk let me in without keeping the pass since my time was so short, but they expire soon anyway so when else will I use them? (When arriving early to SLC, would be the appropriate in hindsight answer.) I was not impressed, then took the bus to the new terminal.

Because I pay attention to things, I saw the sign about one carry-on and checked it. The flight was very long. I dozed off many times but never got any real restful sleep. They served breakfast before landing but surprised me with dinner too, which I missed because I was half asleep. Exiting the plane, I saw a guy with three bags. I guess nobody enforced that sign much. I should have ignored it myself.

And then, I was in Europe. If I haven’t mentioned it enough, this is my first time off the American continent since I was 12, and that was the only time back then. After a walk through the airport, I got to customs and stepped into the shortest line, which moved at least eight times slower than all the others. And I’m not exaggerating about that. I now have an Amsterdam stamp in my shiny new passport.

My next flight boarded and it was less than two hours in the air. They gave us two sandwiches each. Seriously, US airlines are pathetic in comparison to the KLM service; the number of meals, drink service, the long flight even had warm towels for everyone multiple times just like I’d only seen in movies.

Warsaw is not a large airport. At least, it didn’t seem like it. After the bags went around and no more came out, there was a line at the missing baggage office, all from my flight. That’s right. I packed two carry-ons, checked one, and it didn’t make it to Poland with me. My first lost bag ever.

I was planning to use a bigger bag and check it, carefully packing a few clothing changes in the smaller bag, but once I realized I could go with two small ones, the second bag only held what it needed. I do have a few extra shirts, all my Androids and their chargers, my camera, and a few other things. Several hours ago, the KLM web site said they’d initiated delivery to me. It’s almost 4am. Are they waiting for sunrise? Not cool. Their Twitter person said someone would contact me. Then they said they would forward it in the morning. That had better be really, really early.

Now, about this hotel… It said it had a hotel shuttle when I booked it, which is why I came so far out from the airport. They changed the listing already. My taxi driver had trouble finding it even with a map. It also doesn’t mention the lack of air conditioning. Actually, I don’t see that listed for my next hotel either. It’s raining too, but not cooling off enough for me. That’s bad for sleep, but sleep is bad for this trip. I don’t have time for sleep or weekends.

What else went wrong on day one? My bluetooth keyboard refuses to pair with all of my Androids suddenly. I brought all my charger cables, but only one for two devices, and it’s the two I use the most. They’ll just have to take turns. I only brought my USB cables and not all the plugs, but one device actually needs its own plug and won’t charge. I haven’t eaten and I got hungry around 11pm in the middle of nowhere. Breakfast is in 4 hours. I still need a SIM card for my phone.

(Future note: take the plug for the biggest device. And do some doggone testing first.)

But those really cheap American to European adapters work just fine.

I think I’ll just kind of start over tomorrow. After breakfast, I will take the train to the city center and get started on my plans. I just booked my next hotel but not the rental car.

Also, when I got to the Warsaw airport, I followed the signs to customs and thought I took a wrong turn when a door just opened with no guard. No customs here for me. No Poland stamp. Too much European cooperation. I stepped back and took a picture. Hey, it’s better than pictures of my planes.

image

You may have also noticed that I’ve been trying to learn some Polish. I don’t know why I feel weird trying to speak to them. Maybe today. I eventually turned on the TV just to listen. So weird. US shows. Not captioned or dubbed how you might think. They play the original audio but a man overlaps it with a translation slightly louder.

Wait, I do have one other picture. I had a window seat only on the last flight. I took a picture of my view for most of that trip.

image

I didn’t have my camera ready as we approached for landing. Pretty. Lots of green and all orange roofs.

Gosh, that was a lot of venting, wasn’t it? I’ll balance that a little more.

HEY, I’M IN POLAND! :-)

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The Journey of Learning Other Languages

Friday, 8 June 2012

… and a review of one method in two languages.

In anticipation of my first European Research Trip, I have been trying to learn Polish. I actually started with Russian, but switched pretty early, realizing that I would probably be in Poland longer. How am I learning to speak Polish? I’ve tried a few things.

First, I went with Pimsleur. The problem is that I don’t do listen and repeat learning well. I need to be able to read what I’m saying. In addition, while Pimsleur starts by teaching some useful things, it then gets into the more ridiculous. It teaches how to ask for directions, but the only answers it teaches are “here” and “there”. Not helpful. When it gets into food and drink, it teaches beer and wine. Um, no water? It also takes either three or four lessons until it teaches how to say “I am an American”, for a female. Seems a little sexist there, since it teaches the male version right away.

Second, I tried Rosetta Stone. This taught some general vocabulary, then went into a few phrases with no explanation of the grammar — Polish words change depending on where they are in a sentence, and I need real instruction. When it insisted that I learn how to say “the boy is under the ball”, I knew it was teaching me some very useful phrases. Yeah. I did learn that flash card-type learning actually works for me though, because I did remember a few of those words for a very long time.

I didn’t know where to go from there, so I turned to the Internet. I found some videos on YouTube that taught the numbers, the months, and just some general how to speak in Polish lessons, including conjugating verbs. I typed in some sentences I thought would be useful to me in Google Translate, and I loaded all of this into Quizlet, downloading those flash cards to my Android. I worked with those for a while, but it kind of faded away.

Memrise.com was brought to my attention next. I started learning vocabulary in Polish and I even went into French for a refresher. Well, refresher might be an understatement. I am still using the site, but no amount of vocabulary was going to teach me the grammar and how to put together sentences. Having learned French in school, that one wasn’t the problem. It was still the Polish I needed.

My final destination was another audio method of learning. Again, like with Pimsleur, I needed to read, so I typed as I went.

I had briefly listened to a bit of the beginning of the Michel Thomas Polish Foundation some time ago and thought it was also teaching useless vocabulary. This time, I listened longer and realized that it was actually a terrific way to learn a language. Because I’d been trying to learn for so long, I already knew some of the words it was teaching.

And here is where I begin my review.

The Michel Thomas method involves listening to a recording between a teacher and two students. The teacher teaches a few words then asks the students to compose sentences from them. As the third student, they suggest you pause after the English to compose the word or sentence in the new language before the other students answer. Groups of words that are similar to English are taught together. Grammar rules and sentence structure is explained. You are not supposed to read or write, though there is a booklet with the vocabulary.

The Polish Foundation course was wonderful. The teacher was a native speaker, the students were intelligent, there was time to pause before they spoke the answers. It went into conjugation, future tense, and paste tense all in the eight hour foundation course. It did not mention the cases in Polish, which still confuse me. I did not have the booklet when I started, so since my only Polish background was in reading vital records (and the previous attempts to learn), I typed as I learned.

By the third CD, I felt like I was falling behind and not remembering things, so I began to repeat. I did the first three again, then after completing each CD, I would play it back a second time. I really wanted to learn the language well.

As I began the Polish course, and realized how much I was learning so quickly, I looked online to see if there was more. Among other things, I came across a site that gave the French course a bad review. But since I was going to France on this trip, I decided to try it too.

The Polish course was by far superior to the French.

Having taken French in high school and college, I had a head start. I had also been working with French in Memrise, though not as much as the Polish. I had the booklet for this one before I began, so I could read as I went.

The French teacher was Michel Thomas himself, who is a native Polish speaker. He pronounced words oddly to teach them, over-exaggerating constantly. He also pronounced English oddly, and a few times, I couldn’t understand what he wanted me to say. On many occasions, he had to stop and think about what sentence to ask next, as if he hadn’t prepared the lesson. Especially in the later lessons, he would just spew off a list of vocabulary words or sentences, not even asking the students to respond. That is not the way you are supposed to learn with this method, so it didn’t do much for me.

The French students were terrible. The students often jumped in with the French so there wasn’t time to pause the recording before they began. The female was especially dense, and French is much closer to English than Polish, so it should be easier to learn. She often repeated things after the male student and the teacher, many times. As the lessons continued, there were fewer and fewer times when I heard her voice, until she came back again near the end. She did not listen very well, struggling right at the beginning.

Probably because the students were doing so badly so often, when asking for a sentence with more than just a few words, the teacher often repeated the English while the student was trying to translate, one or two words at a time. The Polish never repeated like that, except for very long sentences with multiple phrases.

Because I mentioned it about the Polish, I’ll point out that the French lesson taught the future tense in two different ways, just barely touched on the past tense, and did not complete the conjugation lessons. The informal “you” does not exist in the French Foundation.

Even with the drawbacks of the French version, the method is still valid for learning another language. Because I had that school background, it made the French easier for me. Someone learning from scratch might have a slightly harder time learning some things correctly the way he taught. I completed the Polish Foundation before beginning the French Foundation. I went on to the French Foundation Review, which was the Foundation chopped up, just the teacher without the other students, stating the English, then pausing before stating the French. I enjoyed it much more without waiting for the other students, but the full course is still needed first, unless you already have the vocabulary and grammar rules it teaches. Upon my completion of the Review, I have just returned to the Advanced Polish.

After that, I don’t know if I will go on to any of the other French lessons. There are Advanced, Advanced Review, Builder, and Vocabulary; I believe they should be played in that order.

I also have the Russian lessons ready to go, but I’m not sure if I want to get into them before this trip. Russian and Polish have many similarities and I will likely confuse them a lot. Maybe I’ll listen on the plane, or the trains; I probably won’t get much else done on the long journeys.

Uczę się mówić po polsku.

Je peux parler français un peu.

Now that I’ve learned how to type those Polish characters, and got them working in WordPress with a bit of nudging, I’ve got to figure out the French ones too.

Anyone else out there bilingual or trilingual or more? How did you learn the other languages? Any other tips for me when I’ve run out of these lessons?

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Add Your URL

Monday, 27 February 2012

Randy Seaver posted on Genea-Musings not long ago about including the URL of each blog post within the blog. His main reason in that particular article was because of his iPhone. Apparently, from within his RSS reader (Google Reader, I believe), there was no way to go to the original blog post in order to see more from the blog or to leave a comment. He suggested leaving the URL within the post so that it could be clicked for those reasons.

I have another reason. Yesterday, one of my blog posts was copied in its entirety on three separate blogs. These weren’t even the typical genealogy sploggers. They were seemingly random sploggers who just copied posts on a variety of subjects. I didn’t try to find a connection. But I think that once one of them copied it, then the others picked it up possibly just from each other.

How did I find them? Two ways. Google Alerts told me about one. The other two reported back to my blog as pingbacks, meaning, those blogs mentioned my blog post and informed my blog about them. Because they copied the URL of my blog from within the article.

Have my articles been copied before? I hadn’t seen them on some previously found genealogy splogs, but there are obviously hundreds if not more other blogs just stealing content. And for no good reason. They weren’t trying to be topical and they had no advertising, or very little. It’s just pointless and blatant stealing.

For the record, the Posterous site was shut down in less than a day. The other two are anonymous domain registrations, so no one is going to shut them down easily.

But I’m definitely ending all my blog posts with the URL from now on.

The URL of this post is http://idogenealogy.com/blog/2012/02/27/add-your-url/.

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Oppose SOPA and PIPA

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Why is my logo blacked out? Maybe you’ve heard that our government is trying to turn this country into a police state. The latest attacks on our freedom, or at least the biggest ones that affect us on the Internet, are SOPA and PIPA, one each for the House and the Senate.

I’d love to tell you more, but there are so many other web sites that can explain it better. I never understand all the legaleze in these government things. I’m convinced they deliberately write bills so that no one can understand them. In this case, people were paying attention. There has been discussion and protest to these bills on the Internet for quite a while.

These two bills are supposed to be about protecting copyrights and such, or so the Congress thinks, but really it just makes any web site guilty until proven innocent. I’m all for copyright protection, especially with the number of sploggers we’ve seen just in the genealogy blogger community, but even in my somewhat limited understanding of these bills, I know that they’re going about it the wrong way.

And so many web sites are going dark for 18 January 2012 to protest, including Google, Wikipedia, and Reddit. So hang on over to those sites to read more about this, if you want to know more.

So why is this blog my only site to go dark and why didn’t I make the whole thing go away? Well, if every page on every site went dark, you wouldn’t actually know what was going on because there’d be nothing to explain it. Right? OK, maybe I’m being a little bit lazy, but those big sites have been planning for this while I’ve been procrastinating. Even this blog post is less than an hour until “protest day” begins in my time zone. In any case, at least I’ve been helping to spread the word via social networking, and I’m doing it now on my blog as well.

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Genealogy Goals For 2012

Thursday, 5 January 2012

This seems to be a common genealogy blog topic, so here’s my go. I didn’t do goals for last year, so I can’t judge them.

In 2011, I made my business paperless by using Android. I tried previously with my PDA but it didn’t work. I finally finished scanning all the family photos that had been given to me years ago and I organized all my photos on my computer. I began re-organizing all my genealogy documents, but only got part way when I switched to the photos. At the beginning of the year, I reprogrammed my family web site, but now I need to add the photos back in. Since they’re organized, it should be easier, but I haven’t gotten to it yet.

And that brings me to my goals for 2012.

1. Go to Europe.

The IAJGS conference is in Paris in 2012. However, it’s losing it’s appeal to me for a few reasons. A cousin of mine is going to Poland and has arranged for a day tour of our ancestral town. It is almost exactly one month before the conference, so to go to both, I’d have to stay in Europe for over a month or fly home and back in the same month. Both options are not appealing to me. But if I skip the conference, I can easily plan for a June trip.

2. Organize my documents.

I started this in 2011. Then my cousin asked about pictures on the web site and I switched to organizing those, which I finished. Now I have to get back to the documents, making sure everything has a good digital copy and is sourced better in my program.

3. Get pictures on the family web site.

I finished organizing them. Now I have to write the programming to link them up to the database and then get them on the web site.

4. Blog more.

I’ve had some busy times, then some slow times. Also, I started another blog to post a picture a day. It started really well, but December was terrible and I skipped days all over the place. There will also be a new society blog for me to keep up with very soon. Also, don’t leave off Nitpicker’s Versions of WDYTYA episodes until the next season starts. Again. Yes, I know I still have one more to do.

Business Goals

1. Don’t procrastinate emails.

I end up taking upwards of an hour sometimes to answer an initial genealogy inquiry, so I tend to procrastinate on those. Like my photo blog, it got much worse in December. I had 100 near the end of the year. I have less than 30 now in my inbox, and still several that need answering. But at least none are a month old anymore.

2. Invoice better.

This also includes for my web development business.

I have some other smaller things, but they fall in line with not procrastinating emails and updating my family web site. I did improve on some things last year, so now I get another chance to improve even more.

Also, just writing this blog post means I’m blogging more, right? :-)

————-

Late addition: Index more.

I forgot about this one. (Kind of like I keep forgetting to index the pages I already have?) I’m part of one indexing project and I haven’t been doing much lately. I need to finish the pages I’ve got and do more. I also want to get my society indexing, so I assume I’ll be doing at least some of that too.

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Android Wars

Friday, 7 October 2011

This post was originally called Tablet Wars. Then I forgot to post it before I ended up with a third tablet. Now I’m on my fourth Android, and the latest isn’t a tablet.

Three Tablets and a Small Android

My first Android was the ViewSonic gTablet that I bought from woot for about $280. When that died, I graduated to the Samsung Galaxy Tab 7″ from Best Buy, on sale for $300.  When I returned that, I couldn’t bear to leave the store without another Android and bought the Asus Transformer for $400. Then woot, usually the ones to get rid of old stock, had an exclusive sale for the Samsung Galaxy S Wifi 5.0 for about $180, which isn’t yet released officially in the US. (I’ll refer to this later as the S5 for brevity.) So here is my comparison, what went wrong with the first two, why the last two are the best, and why I can’t stop buying these things.

Hungry for an OS?

The Asus is the only one running the Honeycomb OS, version 3.2, made specifically for tablets (3.x is for tablets). All the others have Froyo 2.2, which I discovered is shorthand for frozen yogurt. (Who already knew that?) All the OS versions have food names: cupcake, donut, eclair, gingerbread, and the future ice cream sandwich.

Size Matters

The gTablet and the Asus are both about 10″. These are measured on the diagonal, so the 7″ Tab seems about half the size of the 10″, and the 5″ is possibly a quarter of the size.

I bought a bag for the gTablet, which also suits the Asus. The Tab fits in my purse. (Not that I use a purse, but I do own a couple. So I used one for a couple weeks for that.) The S5 slides easily into my back pocket. It is the same width as my Palm TX and a little taller. I was not the only person to notice that someone had finally created an Android replacement for the PDA. Palm OS is unfortunately obsolete, but I still rely on my PDA. Once I get all my data out of that and into the S5, I’ll be sad to retire it.

Because the S5 is not a phone, some people are calling it a tablet. I prefer not to, after having three others. I consider a tablet to be much bigger. It’s, you know, tablet sized.

Monitor Matters

The biggest complaint from everyone about the gTablet is it’s viewing angle. As one person put it, for something that is entirely a screen, and from a monitor manufacturer, it should have been better. I really only noticed it while playing games in bed, propped up on my elbow, with the gTab lying flat on the bed.  It did offer more privacy where my neighbors couldn’t see it so well, like on a plane. Other than that, I think they all have beautiful displays.

Charging Matters

The gTablet died just as I started traveling with it. I really wanted to use it all week at a genealogy conference. (I wanted to not bring my laptop, but didn’t feel confident that the gTablet would suit all my needs. Of course, if I didn’t have the laptop, I might not have dropped and killed the gTab…) It was charging, fell off the chair, and the AC plug just disconnected itself from the circuit board. (I dissected it later.) It never charged again. Very sad. But it uses a standard plug and if it was the charger itself that had broken (like I initially thought), I could’ve gotten a replacement at Radio Shack.

The Asus has a proprietary connector for charging. The wire just beyond the connector feels a little flimsy to me. I saw a few complaints online that it stopped working for other people, and a replacement is expensive.

The Galaxy Tab has an apparently very rare but not proprietary plug. The S5 has a standard micro USB.

Market Matters

The gTablet has to be hacked to get to the Google Market, where too many Android apps can only be found. Even then, I still didn’t have access to many apps. The other three come with the Market. I read that the Tab had limited access, and I noticed a couple things missing. The Asus probably has slightly different access also, because it’s a different OS version. The S5 seems to have almost everything.

There are a few apps I’ve found that Market says are incompatible with all of my Androids. The requirements match, so I have no idea what they’re doing.

Typing Matters

All three tablets, even the 7″, are easy enough to use with the on-screen keyboards. The gTablet needs an app to use the bluetooth keyboard that I purchased specifically to use with it. Even then, it has some trouble.

The wifi Tab has the bluetooth keyboard support deliberately deactivated by Samsung. This really bothered me, especially after avoiding the Verizon 3G version (for $100 less) because of the same problem. The 3G has better hardware than the wifi version. I was ready to live with the lesser hardware, but not when I discovered the keyboard issue, which was the reason I returned it.

So when I returned the Tab, I brought my keyboard to the store. I was really there to check out the Acer Iconia because I’d just read there was a 7″ version and I was loving the size of the Tab. I knew the store didn’t have it, but they had the 10″. I ended up turning on the bluetooth on both the Asus and the Acer, and both paired up flawlessly. I decided not to leave the store without another Android and bought the Asus. (The two were virtually identical with only a couple of differences.)

I was incredibly pleased when the keyboard also paired right up with my S5. I learned quickly how to type with the on-screen keyboard, but can’t fathom how people with even smaller screens can type so much.

The Asus does have one advantage when it comes to the bluetooth keyboard. When the keyboard is paired, the on-screen keyboard is hidden. I don’t know if there’s a setting for that on the S5, but I’m sure there’s a hack somewhere. Especially with a smaller device, on-screen real estate is more precious.

Hardware Matters

The hardware inside the gTablet was compared to the Motorola Xoom, which I assumed was good given the higher price of that one and the other geeks who raved about it. The wifi Tab has lesser hardware than its 3G siblings. It lags on its home screen with the included launcher. Once I installed LauncherPro, it worked better. The other two are wonderful. The S5 has the same processor of the 3G Tab. I’m skipping the technical details, so I won’t look up the processor GHz and such for each. (But the S5 has the 1GHz Hummingbird processor, if you know what that means. It’s the only one I know about without looking it up.)

Differences

The gTablet is the only one with a regular USB port so I could plug in a flash drive or just about anything. (The Acer Iconia has one also.)

The Asus is often reviewed with its keyboard, which practically doubles the battery life and includes an SD card slot and two USB ports. But I had no plans to buy their keyboard since I already have one.

When my gTablet died, I considered buying an identical replacement. However, since I was already started with Android, I realized why I shouldn’t. There are numerous apps that require a camera or GPS. I want to use them and the gTab doesn’t have them. (I had a couple of GPS-faking apps, but when I hacked it for the Market, they stopped working for me.) Specifically for genealogy purposes, both the BillionGraves and RestingSpot apps require GPS, BG requires the camera, any scanning of QR codes needs the camera, etc.

All of my Androids since the gTablet have had GPS and camera.

No Cell Phones

None of my Android devices has been a cell phone or received 3G or 4G signals. They each require a wifi signal to connect to the Internet. This does put a damper on things sometimes, like apps where you check-in wherever you go or if you want to be in constant contact with people via Twitter or instant messaging.

I bought a 4G wifi hotspot for my trip (the one when the gTablet died) but did not buy a long-term plan. I can activate it whenever I want and have done so. It has a very short battery life, compared to the Androids, but it will allow any of these devices to connect online wherever I can get the 4G signal (in all major US cities). Also, it allows five devices to connect at once. Many Androids allow tethering (using the cell phone signal to connect another computer to the Internet), but sometimes the cell plans do not allow it.

The Winners

I definitely improved on my device with each purchase. The gTablet was my introduction to Android. The Galaxy Tab was my introduction to what an Android should be able to do. The Asus Transformer is what an Android can do. And the Galaxy S Wifi is the replacement for my Palm.

I loved the Tab, and especially the size of it. It’s similar to the Kindle and the Nook, smaller, easier to hold. It was the lesser hardware than the 3G version and especially the lack of keyboard support that made me return it.

I loved the Asus. It is a little bigger than the gTablet. But it has the newest version of the Android OS and does not need to be hacked to work. I almost kept it, but I anticipate a drop in price when the next version comes out. I’ve already seen some early evidence of that. If it wasn’t for buying the S5, I have no doubt that I would have kept it.

I love the S5. I also love that I have a device that hasn’t been released in the US yet. Several other purchasers tried to research it; one person determined that we have the Central American and Caribbean version. For once, I’m actually ahead of the technology, sort of.

I Keep Coming Back

Once I had my first Android, I was hooked. When it died, I was crushed. I almost couldn’t replace it fast enough; I just needed to have another. I was hoping to transfer my affection and my data from Palm OS to Android. My affection is certainly there, but I haven’t finished with all of the data quite yet.

I don’t remember when I bought my first PDA, but it was a Visor Handspring and the 1990s. When that died, I replaced it with a Sony Clie, and then the Palm TX in 2006. The Palm is still going strong. When I leave the house and make sure I have everything in my pockets (wallet, phone, keys, etc.), I always check my back pocket for my Palm. Well, now it will be my S5 instead.

When you hear advice that you should always have pen and paper or a smartphone to record people’s phone numbers or other information, that back pocket is what I reach for.

I might have been happy with the Palm forever had I not tried Android. But the TX would have eventually died and the only replacement would be someone else’s 5+ year old used PDA. It was time for something new and I’m thrilled to find that Android is an excellent successor.

I’m not the only one who instantly fell in love with their Android, am I?
(Well, OK, iPhone users can comment too.)

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Google+ – What’s Missing

Thursday, 14 July 2011

Not long after my last blog about Google+, I realized I missed a few things. While it takes hints from Facebook and Twitter, and lessons learned from Wave and Buzz (though I never used Buzz), it’s missing a lot of things. Hopefully some will be added; we know that some things are in the works already.

In no particular order, except that the Twitter comparisons are first…

1. Verified accounts. There are a lot of celebrities on Twitter. There are even more fake celebrities. I’ve seen posts questioning Mark Zuckerberg and Nancy Pelosi profiles on Google+. How will we know if they’re real or fake? Mark was verified via Twitter. Felicia Day posted her own G+ profile on her verified Twitter account. Twitter seems to have stopped verifying, but enough celebs are around to let us know about the newer joiners. G+ needs to get a handle on this.

2. Muting. This is kind of a feature in Twitter, but G+ needs it. Sometimes I may want to mute one person for a while without removing them from my circles or blocking them. Another option that would be great is even more selective muting. When Felicia Day posts something to Twitter and gets 200 comments, I don’t see them unless I deliberately search for them. She has 30k following her on G+ already. I would like to see her posts but not see any of the comments unless I choose to view them.

3. Events. Google already has a Calendar, so they need to integrate it into G+. I noticed that my Calendar doesn’t show the +You link or the notifications in the toolbar, but someone said that his does. Maybe they’re still working on it.

4. Businesses. G+ accounts are specifically for individual people. There are no fan pages like FB and no business pages. They say this is in the works, though many business have already created accounts. Will they make it easy for them to switch to business accounts?

5. Photo Uniformity. Adding a photo album is easy; adding more photos to an existing album looks like it will be simple too. A few people have needed help finding where to upload their profile photo (under Edit Profile). Adding photos onto your profile page is kind of a nightmare compared to uploading to an album. There was no drag and drop and the “manage” option took me to Picasa, which I’ve never used, and even when I put photos in the Scrapbook album, they still didn’t show up until I fought with G+ some more. It needs a little more consistency with the various ways of uploading photos.

Also, when I uploaded an album, in one view, they appear in the correct order while in another view, they appear in the order they finished uploading, which is out of order.

Felicia Day uploaded an album in a way that posted each one to the stream separately and she had to apologize for spamming everyone. But that might have been entirely due to the third party app that she used.

6. Exclusions. This is something that FB has. If I post something and want to share it with all circles except one, or hide it from one person, I have to individually choose every other circle or every other person instead of just specifying not to that one.

7. Games. Currently. I understand these are coming so enjoy it while it lasts. Hopefully G+ will have a way to block games better than FB, where you have to block every game and every quiz separately. I think I have hundreds if not thousands blocked. If G+ can do a block all games option, that would be nice.

8. Edit, delete, disable comments. This is not missing. When you leave a comment anywhere, you can easily find the “Edit” option. But if it’s your post, the problem is finding the edit option because it’s a tiny, light gray button on the right of the post. People keep asking how to edit. There are more options in there too. Maybe they should make it a blue arrow?

9. Instructions and Updates. Wil Wheaton asked how to show who is in some of his circles and not others. He probably has about 100 replies, many with instructions to do exactly what he wants. Instead of following all the Google employees, maybe they should have set up one account to announce as they changed things. I didn’t remember seeing that functionality, but I know I have seen some changes the past two weeks. Maybe they’ve changed something I was looking for but I haven’t gone back to look for it. If they announced all updates somewhere, that would be nice. Or is there a blog with all of it? Does anyone know? I need instructions to find the updates.

So far, I have only noticed one person complain about privacy issues. G+ suggested friends to him and he kind of freaked out that it would know who he knows. But Facebook does the same thing based on who your friends know; I think he’s never seen that on FB. I have been invited to a Huddle, so I got to use that. It’s a slow, quiet huddle, but cool nonetheless. I’ve used the Hangout a couple times and used the chat function because a friend’s computer is in the dark ages with no microphone or camera. (The chat function was basically Gtalk in the browser. My Gmail tab picked up some of the conversation, Pidgin connected to it also.)

Now, if someone would just teach Google to open up their market to ALL Android devices so I could easily upgrade the app they just upgraded. (Both Twitter and Facebook recently updated their apps and I can’t get those either.)

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Google+ vs Facebook vs Twitter – 10 Things

Sunday, 10 July 2011

People have been asking what’s the difference and why should they switch to Google+ if they’re already on one or both of Facebook and Twitter. I have also read several other blog posts noting the differences and comparisons, and some of them tend to annoy me when they’re wrong (brand new pet peeve). So if you want a reason to switch, I will try to convince you.

This has turned into a really long blog post. Sorry. I try not to do that too often.

1. Organize your friends. We organize our friends in real life, so we should be able to do that online. I have genealogy friends, writer friends, random friends, relative friends, etc. All services allow you to organize.

  • On Twitter, it’s with lists, and if you use an app, you can usually access your lists or make other groups of them. (I use TweetDeck.)
  • On Facebook, it’s friend lists. No, it is not Groups, it is friend lists. Stop getting that wrong bloggers.
  • On Google+, it’s Circles.

I have seen several blogs comparing G+ Circles to Facebook Groups, which is wrong. Circles are exactly like FB friend lists. Except that G+ has put Circles front and center where FB has shunted the friend lists so far into the background that a lot of people have completely forgotten about them. People are raving about Circles on G+ because they can send their status updates to just those who would be interested. I can do that on FB with my friend lists, but apparently I’m one of the very few who have remembered they even exist and I have kept up my lists.

Also, why would I want to limit most of my postings? Some, sure, but not most. For example, I like sharing my blog posts with everyone. I have family and friends who aren’t genealogists who read them. Another example, I posted a photo on G+ that was relevant to my writer friends, but I posted it to all my Circles. My first two comments were from a friend/genealogist (he’s in two lists) and a relative. If I’d limited who saw that to just the writers, I’d have no comments and my friend and cousin wouldn’t know more about me.

However, G+ definitely excels in this aspect. Already in G+ as in FB, I have friends that I don’t really know. In G+, they’re all genealogists at the moment, but in FB, I’ve added some people for different games. Some of those people change their names. When I see them randomly show up in my news feed, I have no idea who they are. In G+, I can hover over their name and see which Circle they are in. In FB, it’s a convoluted mess to find what friend list they are in. (Not really, but it’s far more effort.)

2. Chat. All three have this feature.

  • Twitter has direct messages (DMs) and @mentions. Whole conversations can happen publicly.
  • Facebook has their chat, which they’ve integrated into messages (ugh). More recently, they’ve introduced Skype video chat integration.
  • Google+ wins this one. First, there is Gtalk, the old chat function which exists in Gmail and shows up the same in G+. (Actually, that still just shows my old friend list for chat plus a couple others, and it’s different in Gmail and G+ at the same time. I guess it still needs work.) Second is the Huddle. You might not have seen this as it’s only in the mobile app. It’s a group chat. Other instant messengers have it too, but I don’t think Gtalk has had it before. But the real winner is the Hangout, group video chat. This is totally cool. I don’t usually use video on Skype, but when I saw an almost total stranger Twitter friend in a Hangout today, I joined him and we tried it out, soon to be joined by two more of his friends. (Apparently, all my friends were taking the afternoon offline and nobody joined.)

3. Messages.

  • Twitter is all messages via DMs and @mentions.
  • Facebook integrated chat and messages and makes them into one long chain of chats and messages. Ugh.
  • Google+ has a way to send a message via email right from someone’s profile page. Another option is to post a status and then only share it with one person (just like you can share with just one Circle). This is available on FB also, if you post a status and click the lock icon and customize, but again, G+ makes it simpler, more obvious, and with slightly fewer steps.

4. Walls. On Facebook, any friend can post stuff or spam to your wall and your other friends can see it before you can delete it.

  • Twitter has no such thing. The closest you can get is to search for someone by their @name and see what others are saying to them.
  • Facebook walls can also be filled with game statuses. Even if you tell the game not to post, it will constantly ask if it can and eventually you’ll click ahead and hit yes when you didn’t mean to, then you have to go in and delete it.
  • Google+ has no walls. If someone wants to post something so your friends see it, they have to leave a comment to one of your posts. Deleting someone else’s comment can be done via the little arrow at the top right. You can also disable comments on anything you post from that same menu.

5. More about Circles. Google+ is very much like Facebook, but it’s also a cross between FB and Twitter. On Facebook, both people have to confirm their friendship. On Twitter, you can follow anyone (who doesn’t block you) and anyone can follow you (that you don’t block, or if you don’t privatize your account). In G+, you can put people in your Circles and not be in theirs and vice versa, although I imagine most will reciprocate, as they have so far. But that’s also true in Twitter. What’s different in G+ is that if someone has you in their Circle, you can see what they’re sending out to you by going to your Incoming stream. You don’t get that in Twitter.

6. Edits. Twitter and Facebook are both failures at this. How many of us have sent a tweet or posted a status only to immediately see a typo in it? Yeah, just try to deny you’ve done that. Google+ has an edit function. Hopefully people won’t use it to completely change their comments which could make the rest of a conversation look odd, but every time you send out a typo, you can fix it.

7. Ads.

  • Twitter has some sponsored ads. I’ve never seen them, but apparently they’re going to be coming through like regular tweets soon, especially with them buying TweetDeck.
  • We all know about Facebook ads. A relatively recent update makes the ads refresh while you’re playing games so you see more of them. And they’re putting them on more pages.
  • Google+ has no ads. Are they going to add them? I have no idea. But I think Google makes a lot of money with ads on their search engine and on everyone else’s web sites. Maybe they’ll keep G+ clean, but probably not, since they’ve just added more ads into Gmail.

I guess nobody wins that one. But if you want the service for free, sometimes this is how you have to pay for it: by seeing annoying ads.

8. Games.

  • Twitter used to have some. I haven’t seen them in a long time.
  • Facebook games are constantly clouding up my news feed. I have so many blocked, it’s pretty stupid. The few that I play are not blocked, but they get annoying too.
  • It looks like there is room in the Google+ code to add games. We’ll have to wait and see.

9. Mobile Devices.

  • Twitter is available in a multitude of apps. On PC, I use TweetDeck. In Android, I’m leaning towards Tweetcaster now.
  • Facebook has many apps also.. Many apps will integrate both FB and Twitter, plus LinkedIn, MySpace, and possibly others.
  • It’s Google, so it’s already got an app in Android. This includes the Huddle, which is not on the web site. I understand the iOS app is still awaiting approval. The API isn’t available yet, so the other apps can’t integrate it yet. Maybe G+ will offer the integration and cross-posting themselves? There’s also a Nearby stream option. Some people were having issues with it sharing their location, but my gTablet doesn’t have a GPS and it wouldn’t let me define my location, so I can’t report anything about that.

10. Trust Issues.

  • While Twitpic changed their terms of service claiming ownership of your pictures, Twitter now has it’s own picture service that people prefer the terms to. I don’t know much about either as I’ve never used them.
  • Facebook has had issues with privacy and changing the TOS many times.
  • People seem to trust Google with their information. (Most do; I had one friend who was wary of sharing her birth date at sign-up.) After all, we’re already letting them handle our email, documents, blogs, calendar, news reader, videos (YouTube), searches, etc. Google already knows everything about us anyway.

I read one paranoid blog post about how Google wanted even more information from us so they could serve up ads, thus G+. That same blog had multiple Google ads in addition to giving information to Facebook, Twitter, DoubleClick and a few other sites I’ve never heard of. So he’s paranoid about giving G+ his info but he’s happy to tell Google about all his blog visitors? Can we say sensational journalism?

Conclusion

It looks to me like Google+ has the upper hand, especially once they get out of field testing and let everyone sign up. They have turned on “proper” invites, so we don’t have to sneak out those messages, and they seem to allow sign-ups a little more often as time keeps passing. And once they release the API so TweetDeck, Hootsuite, and all the others can integrate the service, I think more people will cross-post to it. Sometimes I see people posting on Facebook and Twitter about how there’s not much is on G+, and then I suggest that they post the comment in G+ also. They usually do.

While the other services have a lot more members already, and people are used to using them, people are flocking to Google+. I just invited someone who specifically stayed away from Facebook, but she signed up for G+. After all, she was already using Gmail. Another person tweeted yesterday that he’d be using G+ more often and Twitter less; he’s already converted, and I’ve seen mention of others reacting the same. Even my Mom signed up for G+ after I sent her an invite. (She probably has no idea what it is; I’ll have to explain it to her.)

So, are you using Google+ yet? Come join me! https://profiles.google.com/banai47

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Google+ – My First Thoughts

Thursday, 30 June 2011

I woke yesterday to a pleasant surprise, an invite to Google+. It came from someone in the same group that helped me get into Google Wave. I jumped on the bandwagon again!

According to other Twitterers, there is no limit to invites like with Wave, so anyone I added to a circle should get an invite. I went ahead and added some people who were suggested because I had emailed them from gmail at some time. The first person who asked me for one didn’t get an invite, so I told her to wait, that maybe they were sent out in batches when Google was ready. We’ll see.

Google+ looks much like Facebook in how it works. There are friends and there is the Stream — that’s like Facebook’s News Feed. So far, the main differences (besides that hardly anyone is on G+ yet) is the Circles and the Hangout. Circles are exactly like friend lists in Facebook, but instead of shunting them to the background, G+ puts them front and center, which I like. No more seeing someone in my news feed and wondering who they are because I added them for a game on Facebook and they’ve changed their name. Hopefully G+ will stay away from the game connections, but it’s hysterically easier to find what Circle someone is in — just hover over their name in the stream. There’s also a list of who’s in my Circles at the top right and I can hover there too.

The other big difference is the Hangout. On Twitter, Paul B. Allen mentioned that Hangout would be the killer app of G+. Once I investigated and traded a few tweets, I saw what he was saying. Hangout is video chat. I thought Skype could do that, but apparently it’s not free for group chats, which I didn’t know. I don’t usually use the video in Skype, but I can turn off video in Hangout too.

So, I’ve added some people to my Circles and hopefully some will sign up so I can see what this can do, and if it’s different than Facebook. Part of the trouble with Wave was that we didn’t have invites and the whole purpose was to collaborate. Google seems to have learned it’s lesson. G+ is social networking, and it takes being able to invite people you know to network with them.

Another problem I pretty much expected was getting Google+ on my Android. Google Market says a lot of things are “incompatible” just because it doesn’t like the gTablet. I was able to find the APK (installation) file and side load it. It seems to work. It doesn’t come with Hangout, but it has Huddle, which is not on the web site. Huddle is group chat. I need some people on G+ to actually try it. So much for being incompatible; when will Google learn to stop trying to lock out compatible devices to their market?

There is no hover in Android, so finding someone’s Circle requires clicking (well, touching), but then it’s right there for me to see. Also, looking at the list of who’s in my Circles shows their email address, where the web site requires a hover.

Another bonus of G+ over Wave is Gmail integration. I posted something to my Stream and got responses — they showed up in a Gmail thread. That could get redundant, but it can be shut off in settings.

Update: I also like how Photos are easy to get to. Every time I try to post pictures on Facebook, or especially to add to an existing album, it’s buried deeper and deeper. G+ appears easier to find them. But the way it uploads multiple photos at a time, if the first photo isn’t the quickest, then they end up out of order and I can’t see how to change the order. Although, with the G+ upload, I can add comments once the photo is uploaded and while the rest are still going.

What I don’t see in G+ is a list of who’s online. The chat in G+ appears to just do regular Gtalk chat and it showed my usual list of suspects, but the Gmail tab shows some online where the G+ tab doesn’t. (Update: They are both showing the same list of people online now; must’ve caught a glitch earlier.) But for the Hangout or the Huddle, it would help to know who’s online to chat with them.

Do we really need another social network? Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, Google Buzz (it’s still around), MySpace, Friendster, Hi5, Bebo, Ning (including GenealogyWise), etc. I never signed up to some of those, or barely used them if I signed up. Will video chat really make G+ stand out? Or the group chat? Or is there something else in there that people will prefer over the others?

And whatever happened to Diaspora? Didn’t a lot of people donate money so a few college students could program that last summer?

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