Thursday, February 21, 2013

The National Geographic Interactive Magazine for the iPad

A while back I ran across a promotion for the National Geographic magazine on the iPad. You could buy individual issues for $5, or a year's subscription for $20.  I got the year's subscription, and I am so glad I did.  The iPad version of the magazine is incredible!  

It is like exploring an adventure video game.  The cover of the June 2012 magazine is a picture of a solar flare, except it isn't a picture, it's a video.  The story inside the magazine has a whole bunch of other videos of the sun.  

Another article in that issue talks about climbing Mount Everest.  There are pictures, interactive maps, videos, links to other sources, even shots of stories about Mt. Everest taken from earlier editions of National Geographic.  There is one picture inside an ice cave that allows you to look 360ยบ all around you.

interactive map
The July issue has an article on languages that are disappearing as their speakers die off and their children don't learn the languages. The article has audio of people speaking the language.

You can't go through the magazine page by page.  Rather you go to a page and then have two or three different directions you can go from there depending on what you are most interested in.  It is a lot of fun and it's dazzling to look at and read. If other magazines can match this high standard set by the National Geographic, we are in for some delightful adventures just by reading magazines on our iPads.

I just went back up to the National Geographic web site, and they have reduced the subscription costs. It appears that U.S. and Canadian subscribers can now get a one-year subscription for $15. This also gives you the ability to access all of their archived magazines clear back to 1888. I have never enjoyed reading a magazine so much.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Use Google Maps to Get a Preview of Where You Are Going

When you are driving, do you rely on landmarks rather than street signs to tell you where to go?

This is fine as long as you are in your hometown and you are familiar with the route. However, if you are in a strange town or in a part of your hometown you have never been in before, you have to rely on street names to get where you're going. But I have discovered that with Google Maps you can actually do both. If you want to see what an intersection looks like before you get there, you can use your web browser on your Mac or your iPad.

Go to Google Maps

First you need to go to Google maps. You can do this in your web browser on your Mac or on your iPad by typing in the location box in your browser.

Next you need to find the location you want to view. Do this by searching for the location in the Google search box.

Map with pin
You will be presented with a street map of the location that you searched for with a pin at that location if you were specific enough in your search.

On the Mac, you will see a small picture of the location in the left panel with a small icon of a little person in the picture. If you are using the iPad you will see the map with the little icon of the person in the lower right-hand corner. Click or tap on that little person icon.

Little man icon
That will bring up a big picture of the location. By clicking and dragging your mouse on the computer or by dragging your finger on the iPad you can rotate the picture to see a 180° view of this location, viewing it from all angles.

Picture of intersection
On the Mac, you can also move the little person icon around on the Map View to see different views of the location. You will see a small green platform under the person with a pointer pointing in the direction the person will be viewing the scene. There are not an infinite number of choices here. It will only settle down when it is pointing in a direction for which there is an image.

Another thing you can do on the Mac (but not on the iPad) is split the screen so that both the Map View and the Street View are on the screen at the same time. There is a small icon, barely visible in the lower right corner of the map. If you click on that when you are in the Street View, you will see a small square appear with a bit of the map inside. Now you have two choices, to make the map bigger or hide it again. You will click on the arrow icon in the upper left corner of the square if you want to make it bigger. You will click on the arrow icon in the lower right corner of the square to make it disappear.

If you make it bigger, you will see both the Street View and the Map View. The Map View will have the little man icon with the green platform indicating which way he is looking in order to see the Street View that is on the screen.

both views
There are a couple more icons I want to point out. They are sitting in the upper right hand corner of the Street View. The one on the right is an "X". That closes Street View and takes you back to Map View. The one on the left makes the Street View take up the entire screen.

one-way signs
In this instance when I was looking at the intersection of Georgia Ave., NW and Quincy St., NW in Washington DC, I could see that if I were heading south on Georgia, I could not turn left into Quincy Street because it was a one-way street. Without this information I would have had problems if I drove directly to this intersection before consulting Google Maps.

Google Maps has certainly presented us with a fun way to view our surroundings or even preview places before we get there.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Places in GEDitCOM II

I have been using GEDitCOM II for doing my genealogy. I have really grown to like it and respect it as a good genealogy program. For me the interface is very intuitive, and it provides a lot of functionality. Furthermore, it provides the ability to compile very complete information about your ancestors and relatives.

In this article, I want to share my enthusiasm for the way GEDitCOM has implemented a great way to identify those locations where events pertaining to a person's genealogy occurred, such as births, deaths, marriages, etc.

Place Advisor

GEDitCOM's most recent innovation is the Place Advisor. This part of the program allows you to identify a location by drilling down from the country to the state, to the county, to the city, and even to a suburb if that is appropriate. GEDitCOM identifies that location through a boundary box which includes the place that you're trying to identify. It also ties in to Google Maps, so it gives you a map and the geographical coordinates to identify the location. You can also see within the map places of interest which can be identified such as churches and cemeteries.

United States Utah
United States Utah
Uintah County Vernal
Uintah County Vernal

This contrasts with every other genealogy program I've looked at that give you the ability to enter a location tied to a map. They all identify the location as a point on a map. Well, for me, Seattle, Washington, for example, is not a point on a map. It is an area which is better described as lying within a boundary.

It is very easy in GEDitCOM to find a location because all you have to do is drill down from the biggest container to the smallest container. It is also very easy to do a search. For example, if you know the city and the state, but you don't know the county, call up the state, and then do a search on the city name. It will search for the city within the state. The results will include the name of the county.

Vernal search
When entering place names, you no longer need to worry about correctly formatting the name of the location since everything is selected from a drop-down list and the formatting is taken care of for you automatically. There is very little typing involved so the possibility of making a typo error is eliminated. When genealogists have to type place names into their genealogy, they often end up with a mess like this (the numbers in parentheses are the numbers of entries that use the name shown):

Buckingham House (8)
Buckingham House, London, England (3)
Buckingham House, St. James Park, London, England (1)
Buckingham Palac, England (1)
Buckingham, Palace, England (3)
Buckingham, Palace, London, England (18)
Buckingham, Palace, Music Room, England (2)

In fact, in the above list of seven names, there are really only two places that are being identified, assuming Buckingham House and Buckingham Palace are two different places. I just went through all the place names in my genealogy and eliminated almost 200 names out of an original list of around 750 by cleaning the data. GEDitCOM made this process very easy.

Use of Current Name or Historical Name

Genealogists have been confounded by the problem of identifying historical locations. This has become more problematic recently because of the ability to identify locations with GPS coordinates. But when you're using geolocation, the current names of a location do not always correspond with the historical names. So the quandary has arisen whether to use the current location name or the historical, and there have been all kinds of workarounds proposed. (See, for example, this blog post by Randy Seaver discussing how he is handling historical names for places:

With GEDitCOM II this problem is solved because once you have identified the current location you can then add the historical record of the names of that location or place. This is accomplished by the software creating custom fields which are available to the user.

The standard format for genealogy data is called GEDCOM. Because the place information is created within the GEDitCOM program, the information will not transfer intact to any other genealogy program. GEDitCOM does not provide an app for mobile devices. This means that if you want to use your iDevice on the road, you can use an application built for the iDevice which can export GEDCOM data. This will allow you to only enter basic genealogy information and export the GEDCOM file into GEDitCOM. However, the place information will have to be entered once you get back to your Mac.

With the use of the additional fields provided by GEDitCOM, you can list all the names which have been in use for the location and provide the dates during which time those names were used. Then you can decide which of the names to use as the primary name. The primary name is the one used when running reports. Thus you can choose to use the historical name that was in use at the time of the event, or you can choose to use the current name. The decision is yours to make. I personally will be using the historical name.

Bliss Idaho

The GEDCOM standard used by practically all genealogy programs allows for the basic genealogy information to be shared among genealogists and among genealogy programs. Most genealogy programs have deviated from the standard with the use of custom fields. I really like the way GEDitCOM has implemented the identification of places. This by itself is enough to make me stay with this program and use it rather than any other.