Sunday, May 04, 2008

Onward and upward -- maybe

Technological developments in the last decade have been truly overwhelming, don’t you agree? PC or Mac? Windows, Macintosh OS, or Linux? Personal Ancestral File, Family Tree Maker, Reunion or ... With so many options to consider, and choices to make, paralysis sets in.

While selecting the computer and its standard operating system narrows the field, there are still many genealogy programs to choose from, and, once connected to the Internet, we are faced with a whole new set of decisions. Free data or subscription(s)? USGenWeb, the ubiquitous, or Random Acts of Genealogical Kindness? Not mutually exclusive choices, but still, a lot to choose from.

All this leads to my own recent ventures into Apple land, with the purchase of a MacBook and one of the handful of Mac-available genealogy programs, Reunion. It wasn’t difficult to move my data from Personal Ancestral File on the old PC, though, as I expected, the few photos attached to individual records were left behind.

So, that began a true test of patience and skills. I have hundreds of photos in Google’s free Picasa program -- easy to use and quite adequate for my amateur needs. These include not only pictures from my digital camera, but also many portraits of family members which I had scanned in from time to time.

Picasa is not compatible with the Mac operating system, which comes with its own photo management program, iPhoto. But neither iPhoto nor Reunion has a printed manual. So it was truly trial and error, and finally a purchase of David Pogue’s “Missing Manual” for iPhoto ’08 -- a lifesaver. (I lose patience with most online “help” applications.)

First, I copied the family portraits from the PC’s Picasa program onto a flash drive -- these thumb-size devices that plug into a USB port can hold as much or more data than a CD and work better for my setup. From there it was a simple matter to put the little stick in the laptop’s USB port and move the pictures to the iPhoto “library.” (One of the challenges of moving from PC to Mac programs is the difference in terminology.)

The big learning effort came when I wanted to select a particular portrait to accompany an individual’s record in the Reunion program. Trial and error, trial and error. To me, “multimedia” means movies and music, not still pictures. And “add item” (which I found in a minuscule box at the bottom of the screen in the Multimedia display) doesn’t seem too intuitive. But ... after some fiddling around, trying this and that, I learned how to manage it, not only adding selected pictures, but adjusting their size. Triumph at last.

The young lady pictured above, by the way, is my paternal grandmother, Mary Elizabeth Howard. The photograph was labelled Lebanon, Ohio, so I believe it was taken around the time she graduated from college there, in 1876.

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