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Thursday, December 16, 2010

Technology speaking -- Where will we be next year at this time? Part Two

Light Peak? Sandy Bridge? Ivy Bridge? Lion? If these codenames mean anything to you then you are technologically savvy and probably can make your own predictions about the future impact of technology on genealogy and genealogists. Just for information sake, Light Peak is the next major upgrade in a proprietary optical cable interface from Intel it is being developed as a replacement for SCSI, SATA, USB, FireWire, PCI Express and HDMI. Simply put it is a way to connect things like hard drives and flash memory to your computer that is much, much faster than present connectors. Sandy Bridge and Ivy Bridge are new CPU chips also from Intel. Lion? The next operating system from Apple. All of these faster and more complex items are supposed to be introduced in 2011.

Translated into English, they all mean change; faster, more memory and more everything else that computers are supposed to do. There was a Broadway show back in the 1960s called Stop the World - I Want to Get Off, sometimes we all probably wish we could just stop the technology world for a while so we could just catch up with what we already have. Unfortunately, that isn't going to happen. Your present electronic devices will look even more out of date in another year. Here is a summary of the anticipated changes during the next year:

Hardware: Faster chips with more processors. Laptops will get thinner and lighter. The distinction between cell phones, tablet computers and laptops will become even more blurred. Google and Apple will battle it out for market dominance in hand held devices. Right now, just in case you don't watch any TV, hardware is being driven by computer game manufacturers who are making interactive games where your movements and gestures are incorporated into the game, for example, Wii from Nintendo and Kinect from Microsoft's Xbox. All of these devices and many more are becoming compatible with Internet connections to download movies and TV shows. Two major issues that are growing in importance because of these changes are converting from a telephone land line to wireless service and dropping cable service in favor of obtaining all of your TV/Movies from the Internet. The difference between a "TV" and a "Computer Monitor" has largely disappeared and will continue to disappear during the coming year. There will be any number of ways to watch TV shows on your computer or work on your computer on your TV.

Although this impacts genealogists as consumers and people, we don't really get any real advantages either way. I do appreciate faster Internet connections and hardware connections for backing up my huge databases but otherwise, whether or not I can see the latest TV series on my computer or whatever leaves me absolutely cold. I could care less about TV. Now, there is another side to all this that does benefit genealogists. Webinars and other Internet video content. FamilySearch.org has over 100 online genealogy classes and I just participated in the first ever FamilySearch Bloginar online. These activities will continue to increase during the coming year and will become easier to host and attend through the hardware changes.

Operating Systems: Apple will have a new operating system called Lion. Microsoft hasn't announced a new system and may pass up a year now that Windows 7 is selling well. This probably doesn't mean much to someone who is still running Windows 95, but new operating systems mean new software and updates to programs.

Software: Every currently sold commercial program will have one or more updates in 2011. Well, perhaps you haven't noticed yet, but the new FamilySearch.org website does not emphasize the download for Personal Ancestral File. You can still get the program by going to the FamilySearch Downloads page but how to get there is not obvious. The page is in the Wiki portion of FamilySearch.org.

Internet: More software applications will be developed on the Internet, called "Cloud Computing." Open source software, such as OpenOffice, will continue to erode traditional methods of software development.When you store your genealogy online using an online program like Ancestry.com or MyHeritage, you are technically using "Cloud Computing." Cloud computing is Internet-based computing, whereby shared resources, software and information are provided to computers and other devices on-demand, like electricity. This will obviously increase during the coming year.

Now to genealogy. FamilySearch will continue to develop FamilySearch.org and will introduce a lot of new features including improved searching. Millions and millions of Historical Records will be added to FamilySearch.org (a very safe prediction). New FamilySearch may begin to make its way out of the dark forest and show some editorial improvement. Hmm. I can't say that for sure but I do have confidence in the FamilySearch team, they are fantastic people and if anyone can figure out how to make New FamilySearch into a viable online resource, they can.

OK, all that is pretty safe stuff. for genealogists who are just now considering upgrading either their hardware or software, they are going to see some really good deals in hardware and about the same selection of software. Is it time to upgrade? It is always time to upgrade. If you are hesitant or nervous about changing computers or programs, keep reading my posts, I will continue to talk about new technology. But, if you want some indication, I just recently bought a MacBook Pro. I think now is a good time to buy.

If you had trouble with all the acronyms and technical jargon, it will only get worse in the future. I suggest using Google (or whatever) and type in "define: whatever" and get the definition if you need one.

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