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Posts from the ‘Software’ Category

Family Tree

This weekend I hosted a luncheon for 12 of my cousins. One highlight was the poster-size family tree I created using a computer-based genealogy program. It made for what one of my cousins called “a valuable roadmap” to understand how everyone in the room was related. Just seeing some of the names prompted wonderful stories about past generations.

A handful of genealogy programs exist for under $50. By adding the names of your close relatives into the program — and then enlisting others to help with names of more distant relatives — you easily build a database. (Additionally, you can pay to join an online ancestry search but you don’t have to do this just to keep your own local database).

In time, you can add significant dates, milestones, photos, anecdotes, and documents. As you come across new facts, add them where they belong.

You don’t even have to have a plan for this data from the outset. As long as you enjoy the process of collecting the information, keep doing it.

Perhaps you will create a family tree for a reunion as I did, or maybe make an album as a gift, or even write a book. Perhaps you will share the file with your children and grandchildren. Future generations can keep updating the data.

Even if you already have a “historian” in your family, don’t hesitate to create your own database. Your perspective is unique.

For one review of the most popular genealogy software programs, click here.*

*Within this comprehensive review of genealogy programs is the somewhat intimidting term GEDCOM. This stands for GEnealogical Data COMmunications. It’s the standard computer file format family historians use to exchange information. (Read more here.) While the programs differ in their ability to translate GEDCOM data, you don’t have to know technical GEDCOM issues to enjoy any of the genealogy programs.

iCloud Backup

True or False?

If your information is backed up to the iCloud, you can recover something you deleted before yesterday.


Ugh. Then what’s the point of the iCloud backup?

I get this question all the time. I think the word “backup” itself is confusing; it describes very different approaches.

Traditional backup systems copy data from your computer to an external hard drive and keep each complete backup intact; nothing is overwritten by subsequent backups. In these systems — Apple’s Time Machine and Windows’ File History, for example — you can locate and restore a file or files you deleted a day, week, or month ago.

Apple’s iCloud backs up your mobile data too, but primarily for sharing contacts, music, pictures and calendar events, etc. with your other devices in real time. In the process, it backs up your data, but only as one ever-changing daily backup that keeps overwriting yesterday’s backup. It is not your long term storage. (The limited, although important, function of iCloud’s backup is to load your data onto a new device. That it does seamlessly.)

To work efficiently, you want both systems:

  • Back up to the iCloud to keep a current copy of your mobile data to share among your devices, and to share with a new device if necessary. Be sure it is turned on: iPhone Settings > tap your name > iCloud > iCloud Backup > On.
  • Back up your computer to an external hard drive to keep your information longer term and unchanged by more recent activity.

Is that clearer or should I, um, back up???

Note: some of you backup your computer data to Carbonite. This offsite system’s data retention is somewhere between the iCloud and an external hard drive. From the Carbonite website: When Carbonite is backing up, it will keep a copy of your files in the backup as long as the files exist on your computer. If files are deleted or missing from your computer while Carbonite is backing up, the files will be removed from Carbonite after 30 days (15 days for trials).

Sharing eBooks

Ebooks are genius!
Read books on your vacation without taking up more space than the phone or tablet you were already packing. Continue reading on one device where you left off on another device. Choose your print size, screen brightness, and page orientation. Awesome.

But what about sharing an ebook with your spouse? Not so easy.

Or is it?

If you purchase an ebook from the Apple Store or the Google Play Store, the book is owned by the account the device is registered to — your Apple ID or Google Account. If you and your spouse do not share the account, you cannot share the books. For your spouse to read the same book without also buying it, he/she would need to read it on your device, or sign out of his/her account and sign into yours (this has many downsides and limitations; it is not at all practical).

However, if you purchase ebooks from Amazon (for the Kindle or Kindle app) or Barnes and Noble (for the Nook or Nook app), you can register your separate mobile devices to the same Kindle or Nook account — without impacting other phone functions — and share the books in different devices without re-buying them. And you can delete a downloaded book from one device without deleting it from other device(s).
Happy sharing!

Voicemail to Email

Get your landline voicemail as an email!

If your landline is provided by Comcast (xfinity), and you use the xfinity voice mail system (not an answering machine box), you can receive your voice mail messages (text and audio) as an email.*

I love this feature.


  • You don’t have to “call in” to check your voice messages (but you do have to check your email).
  • If the caller doesn’t leave a message (many marketing calls don’t), you will not even be bothered.
  • If a robo caller does leave a message, you can “see” it faster than that you can listen to it, and delete it sooner.
Other notes
  • To set this up, you will need to have an xfinity account and know your username and password. You probably have an account if you already have Comcast service; your username and password can be located or reset.
  • Even if you delete the voice mail email, the voice mail message itself is still on the xfinity website. Go to your xfinity account periodically and delete old messages.
  • The voice-to-text is not always accurate. Best to listen to the audio (scroll to the bottom of the email to press “play”) if you question the translation.
To set this up:

* I am highlighting Comcast as most of my ITmail readers on Skidaway Island have Comcast. If you have a landline with another provider, check to see if it offers the same service.

Weather App Setting

Most of us use the weather app on our smart phones or tablets and rely on it for weather information at home and elsewhere. But do you know the difference between the “local” and “home” settings?

If you allow Location Services on your weather app, the first weather report you see will be your “local” weather: where you are at that moment, which is most often your home city. When you travel, however, the first weather information you see will also be for your “local” location — where you are, not your home city. This is most helpful, until you are away and want to know what the weather is like at home.

To be sure you can easily check your home weather, include your home location in your list of weather favorites. It might take an extra swipe or tap to get to your home weather information, but at least you’ll know right away if your sprinklers are on when it’s raining!

Group FaceTime

Last week I shared a travel tip; this week I am sharing a non-travel tip: group FaceTime!

If you won’t be with family and friends for the holidays, use your iPhone or iPad to share a few far-away minutes with everyone, no matter where they are (but as long as they have an iPhone or iPad).

Video conference programs have been around for a while but Apple recently added the “group” feature to their already easy-to-use FaceTime program. To take advantage of this great new feature, you must upgrade your iPhone or iPad to the 12.0 (or newer) operating system: (Settings > General > Software Update > Install).

To learn more about Group FaceTime — including how to initiate or join a group call — click here: Group FaceTime.

Happy Holidays!

Applauding Quicken

If you use checkbook software Quicken — and even if you don’t — please take a minute to appreciate Quicken’s customer-friendly move. From within the program, Quicken warns you against Quicken imposters and then helps you, the customer, by giving you the correct number for their actual customer service.

Bravo Quicken!

Scammers try to get our attention by passing themselves off as “real” companies, and we often fall for it. But, knowing these scammers are out there, I think the “real companies” could do more — as Quicken has — to protect us.

If the actual companies announced “We don’t call you,” or “We don’t pop into your computer and scare you into believing you will lose all your data,” or “Your email account with us won’t expire with 24-hour notice,” I know I would appreciate such assurance and feel much safer.

So I’ve included Quicken’s support number below, pulled from within my Quicken account (I added the checkmark), in case you need it. But you don’t have to take my word for it. If you use Quicken, you’ve probably already seen it.

Screen Shot 2019-01-25 at 6.31.34 PM.png
Maybe other companies will follow suit.

Shift + Click Shortcut

Rather than drag your mouse to select (highlight) text in a document, an email, or a webpage, try this much easier shortcut:

Click at the beginning of the text you want to select, then hold the “shift” key down as you click at the end of the text you want to select.

Your text is selected without dragging. Try it!

Names in Spreadsheets

Spreadsheet programs like Microsoft Excel, Apple Numbers, and Google Sheets, are ideal for simple presentations and basic data-keeping functions like membership lists, party invitees, and schedules for tennis, golf, bridge, and mah jongg.

If you are creating a spreadsheet, consider entering Last Names and First Names in separate columns. This might seem like more work at first, but it will make your life much easier later if you need to sort alphabetically by Last Name. If the names are entered as Full Names (First Name followed by the Last Name in the same cell), you cannot sort the data by Last Name.

  • You may also want a column of Full Names (for envelopes, place cards, or nametags) which you can create alongside the separate First and Last Name columns.
  • If you inherit a spreadsheet that only has Full Names in one column, you can create separate First and Last Name columns by copying the Full Name column twice and deleting the First Names in one column and the Last Names in the other column. (Anything but re-typing!)

I hope this helps.


One of my clients recently purchased a machine that turned out not to be what he wanted. He asked the salesperson for a “printer that just prints” because he didn’t want “all that other stuff.”

When I arrived to set up this new machine, my client asked me to show him how to make copies.

“This printer doesn’t make copies,” I explained, “It just prints.”

“But I asked for a machine that just prints copies. I already have a machine that prints from my computer.”

What he wanted was a stand-alone copier for large copy jobs. He confused “copying”and “printing.” I come across this quite often.

Here’s a quick breakdown:

Paper to paper copy: start with a paper document and create a paper copy of that document.

Electronic file to paper copy: start with an electronic document (in your computer, tablet, or phone) and create a paper copy of that document.

Paper to electronic file: start with a paper document and create an electronic copy of that document in your computer.

Most of us have the compact “all in one” machines that copy, print, and scan, and we don’t really care what the specific action is called, as long as we get what we want. But it is important to know the correct terminology, especially if you are going to go shopping.