Showing posts with label technology. Show all posts
Showing posts with label technology. Show all posts

Sunday, 10 February 2013

LegacyTec seeks to make QR codes on graves obsolete

Last September I announced a story about QR (Quick Response) codes being added to gravestones by a funeral directors firm in Dorset (see http://britishgenes.blogspot.co.uk/2012/09/qr-codes-on-dorset-gravestones.html). A QR code is like a bar code that you can scan with a mobile phone or tablet, which when used in this case leads to a web page that can tell you more about the person who has passed away. It was a development on something that has been happening for a while in the United States.

In my blog piece I noted that whilst it was interesting, I had reservations about the long term use of such codes - "I must admit that I'm a tad sceptical - not necessarily on the concept of interactivity with a gravestone, but just that I suspect that QR codes will likely be replaced by something else in a few years, the way that technology is moving these days, and that the sites that they steer you towards have no guarantee of perpetuity."  It looks like this is now beginning to happen.

A news story on the Utah based station KSL notes that a company there is already looking to go beyond QR codes, with an app that allows you to learn about those buried in a grave simply by photographing the grave. The partners behind the innovation, called LegacyTec, are BillionGraves, My Legacy Memorial and Otter Creek Holdings. The following is a short video demonstrating the process:


The KSL story is at www.ksl.com/?nid=968&sid=24018150 whilst BillionGraves has a blog piece about it at http://blog.billiongraves.com/2013/02/otter-creek-holdings-announces-groundbreaking-technology-legacytec/.

Again, it's a fascinating idea - but as before, I wonder how long this one will last...?!

Chris

Pre-order my new book, Tracing Your Irish Family History on the Internet, through Pen and Sword (30 April 2013), or purchase early at Who Do You Think You Are Live 2013 in London. For my other genealogy books, please visit  http://britishgenes.blogspot.co.uk/p/my-books.html; whilst for my online Scottish based genealogy courses please visit the Pharos Teaching and Tutoring Ltd site.

Saturday, 12 January 2013

Using my iPad for client research

I don't normally do techhy things on this blog, but a few people expressed an interest in a tweet I made a few days ago about some research I was planning to do at the Glasgow Genealogy Centre, in which I mentioned that I was intending to road test my iPad as a possible replacement for my laptop when doing client research.

I suspect I am not alone with a lot of iPad owners in that although I own one, I tend to use it mainly for checking up emails and social networking sites, as a Kindle and e-book reader, a mapreader (Google Maps, not the horrendous Apple replacement!) and as an entertainment platform, primarily for Netflix and some news channels. One of the nastiest things about the device is the screen based keypad - it's not badly designed, it's just that you are effectively tapping a glass screen to input anything. There are also other limitations with the on board keypad that I have yet to learn how to overcome - simple things like how to select text with something like a URL to activate it as a hyperlink (you may have noted some posts on this blog where the links are not active - they were written on the hop with the iPad, and perhaps updated a few hours later to activate the links from my PC). As such, I've usually avoided using iPad programmes like Evernote and the carrying out of any form of word processing on it.

However, another disadvantage when going to an archive or library to do research is having to lug around a laptop, when the iPad itself is about a quarter of the weight. In truth I have often carried around both - the laptop for word processing, and the iPad for internet access via 3G (particularly handy for some repositories such as the National Records of Scotland, which unbelievably still does not offer WiFi). So I decided to try and do something about it.

To prepare for yesterday's research outing, I purchased a Bluetooth keyboard for use with my iPad, with the intention of trying to use that for inputting my data, and an app called Office2HD, which essentially allows you to create documents and save them in a Microsoft Word format. Bluetooth is not some form of gum disease inflicted dental affliction, but something with a high midichlorian count that instead allows you to connect up to a device wirelessly to a range of about 10 metres. The keyboard I purchased was the cheapest I could find at £9.99 from Amazon, whilst Office2HD was just £5.49.

The client work I had to do yesterday involved trying to research a brick wall for a particular ancestor, requiring use of records in the Glasgow Genealogy Centre, the Mitchell Library's genealogy suite (both on the 3rd floor) and the Glasgow City Archives poor law records on the 2nd floor of the building, and there was a fair amount of going to and fro between the various repositories. Normally this involves having to awkwardly unplug the laptop at various stages, not easy in the GGC as the plugs are located on the floor under a circle of tables, and in the centre! With the iPad it was an absolute doddle - it was a simple case each time I wanted to move to another room to simply pick up both iPad and keyboard and walk off, without any hassle. In terms of being able to key in the information being found it was incredibly straightforward. The Bluetooth keyboard does allow me to stand up my iPad within a dedicated slot in the board, but I preferred to keep it separate for this exercise.

I had wondered if the smaller keyboard size would be an issue, it absolutely was not, and made such a difference in two areas - one being the ability to highlight text, and the other to avoid the device's incessant desire to constantly use predictive text. With a laptop I normally back up frequently through the day when doing research by saving regularly onto a USB thumb drive - the equivalent way I did this on the iPad was to just email the document to my home account every hour (so I had five or six emails when I got home!). When later opened on my laptop and my PC, it read the submission as a perfect Word file, with only some minor formatting to be corrected.

Did I have any issues at all? Yes - the Bluetooth keyboard does not have a working hashtag symbol (#), which was a minor hassle when tweeting at a few points during the day! But the real joy was when travelling to Glasgow by train, I was able to blog four news items yesterday with fully active URL links and in half the time it normally takes to do so.

I will still be using both laptop and iPad at various points, but was so impressed with my experience yesterday using the iPad alone that there will be days when I am now confident enough to just use that as my main device and leave the laptop at home. I will be buying another keyboard, one that is integrated into a leather cover for the iPad itself (so combining what I currently have in one handy holder), and giving the test keyboard to my son for his iPod, which it equally works well with.

Another handy gizmo I recently purchased, which might be of interest, is one that plugs into the iPad charger socket and allows you to plug in memory cards from various cameras. The inbuilt iPad camera is, quite frankly, rubbish, and so I only use it in emergencies. I have on a few times though taken a pic with my regular digital camera and removed the memory card (or connected by USB) to the wee gizmo, and have instantly been able to upload images to the iPad's Gallery - a useful back up, but also allowing me to instantly tweet or share on Facebook at a considerably improved resolution. It only cost £2.75 - see www.amazon.co.uk/iPad-Reader-suitable-Connector-Camera/dp/B0079LTIA6/ref=sr_1_4?ie=UTF8&qid=1357987755&sr=8-4.

Enough tech nonsense from me...!

Chris

Pre-order my new book, Tracing Your Irish Family History on the Internet, through Pen and Sword (30 April 2013), or purchase early at Who Do You Think You Are Live 2013 in London. For my other genealogy books, please visit  http://britishgenes.blogspot.co.uk/p/my-books.html; whilst for my online Scottish based genealogy courses please visit the Pharos Teaching and Tutoring Ltd site.

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

QR codes on gravestones - Church of England reaction

There's an interesting article on the use of QR codes on memorial stones on the Diocese of Winchester website at www.winchester.anglican.org/news/story/533/. It raises the question of possible problems with the use of such codes in redirecting people to the wrong websites if they have been hacked - imagine scanning a gravestone of Great Auntie Flo only to be redirected to a pornographic site! A sum of £190 is then raised as the fee for those who wish to apply to the court of the Archbishop of Canterbury for a 'faculty' for the use of such codes on stones, apparently 'required by the Dean of Arches to add a code to either an existing or new memorial'. I'm not too familiar with the Anglican Church's jurisdiction in matters today, so this is a bit of an eye opener - worth a read.

(With thanks to @NatChurchTrust)

Chris

Scottish Research Online - 5 weeks online Pharos course, £45.99, taught by Chris Paton from 26 SEP 2012 - see www.pharostutors.com
New book: It's Perthshire 1866 - there's been a murder... www.thehistorypress.co.uk/products/The-Mount-Stewart-Murder.aspx (from June 12th 2012)

Thursday, 6 September 2012

QR codes on Dorset gravestones

QR codes (Quick Response codes) on gravestones are not a new thing, but it's definitely one of those concepts that always seems to emerge in the United States to which we usually react with a face that says "seriously?!". A bit like that story a few months ago with an ashes urn you can buy in the States in the shape of Barack Obama's head, in which to place the recently cremated dearly departed.

However, it looks like QR codes are now making their way onto headstones here in the UK. The Guardian has a piece at www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2012/sep/05/interactive-gravestones-dead-live-online about funeral directors Chester Pearce of Poole, Dorset, which is adding them to headstones to provide biographical information on the deceased, and steering people towards a site to add their own tributes etc.

I must admit that I'm a tad sceptical - not necessarily on the concept of interactivity with a gravestone, but just that I suspect that QR codes will likely be replaced by something else in a few years, the way that technology is moving these days, and that the sites that they steer you towards have no guarantee of perpetuity. But still, an interesting piece.

Oh but I did forget the good part - the codes will also cost you £300. I think this is the bit where you say "seriously?!" again! :)

(With thanks to Alison Spring) 

Chris

Check out my Scotland's Greatest Story research service www.ScotlandsGreatestStory.co.uk
New book: It's Perthshire 1866 - there's been a murder... www.thehistorypress.co.uk/products/The-Mount-Stewart-Murder.aspx (from June 12th 2012)

Thursday, 5 January 2012

QR Codes - a ready reckoner

I've just noted a tweet from Jill Ball (@geniaus) of the Geniaus blog in which she stated that she had come across a post that explained QR codes to her. The site was http://feastbowl.wordpress.com/2012/01/04/26-treasures-the-mobile-experience/#comment-1141 and describes how the National Museums of Scotland have just added 26 QR codes to various exhibits in their collection.

Here, just hauld yer horses there two minutes mister - QR what?!

QR codes - Quick Response codes - are the funny wee barcode images that you have probably noticed taking over the world in recent months, and which seem to have no logical, practical, and possibly even moral use whatsoever! They are the barcode equivalent of the Borg, assimilating everything, and have probably bugged you more than helped you - if the article is anything to go by, they've also totally confused you also as to their purpose but you haven't let on as you don't want to sound like a Luddite. But they are on the increase - so here's a quick pulling together of what they are, how to create them and how to read them.

First I will explain what they are and how to use them....  Actually, forget that - watch this wee video instead...!



To read a QR code you need to download an app to your phone or tablet, as the woman says. I have just downloaded one called Scan onto my iPad from iTunes - totally free. When I open it and point the tablet camera at the QR code of interest, it instantly gives a satisfying "beep" and takes me to the website of interest. I don't even have to press a button, it does it automatically - no typing in of a web address, no looking up favourites, the whole process is instant. Both Android based and Apple based devices can use them.

It is equally easy to make a QR code. I've just found one website at http://qrcode.kaywa.com which simply asks you to type in a web address and it instantly comes up with a wee diagram for it. So I had a go, and this is one I've just created for this blog:


Dead easy. Beep your wee tablet scanner at that, and you'll be instantly taken to err... this blog - but you get the idea!

Why is it important? Note the question asked by a reader at the end of the National Museums of Scotland article:

So does this technology mean that I could write a straightforward novel but have codes on some pages for people to explore the background/story/references further? Like a techie kind of index?

The answer was yes. Museums are doing it, magazines and books may end up doing it and more - imagine a family tree diagram where after the name, birthdate, marriage date and date of death there was a funny wee barcode like one above - one which provides a link to the entire story of that person's life.

A bit sci-fi? Have a look at this article - http://mashable.com/2011/07/15/qr-code-tombstone/ - which describes how an Israeli man attached a QR code to his mother's gravestone in July last year. Or http://abcnews.go.com/Technology/qr-codes-grave-markers/story?id=14102071#.TwT25DVJGz4 to read an American equivalent.

Something new to get used to!

(With thanks to @geniaus)


UPDATE: The Guild of One Name Studies has commented on Facebook, whilst sharing this post, that it has in fact just included a QR code for the first time within its current journal, JOONS. (With thanks to the Guild)

Chris