Saturday, July 30, 2016

Facebook Live and other video options now available - July 29, 2016

Facebook has made it easy to watch a church service, wedding, graduation, baptism or other family event with their Facebook Live feature.

If you can use Facebook, you can both create the video feed and watch it. Since many seniors rely on Facebook to stay in contact with family and friends they should be able to find the video feed.

Note: This column began in early July after a friend asked about live streaming her wedding later in the month. Just a week later, Facebook Live proved itself not only as a way to share family moments, but as a force of society when Diamond Reynolds streamed from the car moments after her boyfriend Philando Castile was shot.

Starting a Facebook Live broadcast is easy. Just aim the camera of your phone at the scene and touch the new post area, the one that says “What’s on your mind?”

Right below your name is the options to send the video to your friends or to the public. For a church service or a wedding, send it to public.

Below a series of options appears. One will be “Go Live.” Touch that and it starts sending video out.

Your friends should see a notification of the video and may begin watching it if they want.

Do a test at the actual venue before the date to make sure there is sufficient coverage.

Amazon has inexpensive mounts that will let you mount your phone to a camera tripod. Tripod’s themselves are fairly inexpensive if you do not have one. You do not want to hold the camera for the entire event.

You may want to promote the upcoming live feed ahead of time, with posts on Facebook to your friends and maybe even a notice in the wedding invitation, church bulletin, etc. Announce the time and tell them how to find the feed on the given day.

If you make the feed available to the public, tell people who are not Facebook friends to instead follow you on Facebook. That lets them see only your posts marked public.

When the event finishes, and you touch the finish button, the video is saved. People can view it after the event is over.

For a wedding, people may want to see more than the ceremony. Setup the camera/tripod rig at the reception so people can watch the first dance, the cake cutting etc. Assign someone to move the camera around.

Viewers can leave comments on Facebook the wedding party can later enjoy. You can even set the rig up somewhere where participants can go the camera and make toasts to the wedding couple for viewers to enjoy now and the bride and groom to watch later.

Ahead of time, make a sign on posterboard and place near the camera explaining what is going on, and inviting people to say a few words.

At the recent VidCon convention, Facebook announced enhancements were coming. The most useful is a lobby feature. It lets you create the post before the video begins, so viewers can be ready to watch when the event begins, and can even comment ahead of time.

And they added a programming interface, so we should see more apps to create video streams. There are several high priced ones now that let the output from professional grade TV broadcasts live stream.

And soon the Mevo device begins shipping, and it will stream video via Facebook. The Mevo is a small camera you set on a desk or on a tripod. It shoots 150 degree video. What makes it interesting is its iPad app. It shows the complete video and records it. A user taps on a face in the video and the image will become a close-up of that person. The Mevo shoots 4K high resolution video so even though a small portion of the image is enlarged to make the close-up, the image is still sharp.

This basically gives you multi-camera video switching relatively inexpensively. It might cost more than you’d want for a wedding, but would be a suitable investment for a church wanting to livestream services on a regular basis.

You can see a map of ongoing public live feeds and watch them. When I looked at the map on the Fourth of July, I found many parades being streamed.

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Thursday, July 28, 2016

Links for Facebook Live and other video options now available - July 29, 2016

Links for Family Tech Column newspaper readers:

Facebook Live and other video options now available - July 29, 2016

This column will appear online Saturday, July 30, 2016 at 9 AM EST.

Map of Facebook Live feeds

Facebook Live Help

Previous Column : You may need to rethink your definition of a camera

Amazon links for holder/ tripod

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Family Tech Throwback : The tech a Civil War vet lived to see

On July 21, 1861 the first battle of the US Civil War was fought near here.  

Five years ago, I wrote this piece for the News & Messenger newspaper,   I was thinking about the technology a young survivor of the battle saw in his lifetime.

With the Sesquicentennial of the First Battle of Manassas, I have been thinking about the technology in the home at the start of the war.  A little poking around leads me to believe there was not much, at least that was new in the previous one hundred years.

Gas lighting, while illuminating street lights in some cities, was not yet widespread in homes.  Horses were still the main mode of transportation and power on the farm.  Bathrooms were still outside the home.

In 1861, my ancestor Selic was a young man of 20 when he left his family’s farm to go to war.  I do not know if he was at Manassas, but I do know he was at Seven Pines.  His nine year old brother William was probably very jealous of his big brother going on such an adventure, as a nine year old boy would view war.

Selic may have seen a lot of new technology for the first time during the war.  It is possible he rode a train for the first time.  He may have seen photographers taking photos of the battlefields.  He did pay a photographer to take a tintype photo of himself and he sent it home to his family.

A young soldier at Manassas might have seen a man carrying balloon rising near the battlefield.  

Back home, news of the war might have reached the families of the entire outfit via the telegraph.

Those veterans who survived the war saw breathtaking change.  

If a young man born the year Selic was born had lived to be 80, then he probably heard music on a phonograph and more.

Depending on where he lived, he may have seen electric lights or in 1903 a motion picture, “The Great Train Robbery.”   He probably rode in an automobile before he died.  He might of talked to someone on a telephone during his life.

If he’d been prosperous perhaps he travelled to Europe aboard a luxurious ocean steamer when they became affordable in the 1870s.

If he lived in Northern Virginia, and was near Fort Meyer one afternoon in September 1908 he may have seen Orville Wright fly over as he demonstrated  the airplane to the Army.  Unfortunately, the demonstration did not go well.  The plane crashed, and Army Lieutenant Thomas Selfridge became the first person killed in an airplane crash.

If Selic and William had had an uncle who had sought his fortune in the gold fields of  California in 1849, that uncle may have come back to the family farm in the 1880s to visit.  Instead of the grueling six month trip he made in 1849, his trip home might have been a comfortable ten day train ride on the newly completed transcontinental railroad.

Farmers saw horse pulled combines become more common.  In the early part of the 20th century, veterans may have seen powered tractors on their farms.

Those Civil War veterans alive at the end of World War I, probably marvelled at the stories in the newspapers of aerial dogfights between airplanes and mechanized tanks on the battlefield.

And perhaps they listened to the first radio broadcast from Pittsburgh’s KDKA in November 1920.

Selic was not one of those veterans who witnessed all that change.  He fell at the Battle of Seven Pines in May 1862.  

His little brother William grew up and had a son Norman.  Norman had a daughter Elizabeth, my mother.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Send your student off to college with the right technology - July 22, 2016

Soon, some of last month’s high school graduates will have those excited yet fearful knots in their bellies as they head off to colleges and universities.

The days of sending them off with a manual typewriter are long gone. A tradition of this column is to consider what we should equip these new freshmen with before they go.

It seems this year the picture is clearer than in past years. I think a student needs primarily three devices.

Foremost is a laptop. A laptop to today’s young person, and I don’t really need to tell any parent this, is their window to learning and also to entertainment.

They will use it to research and write papers, interact with their professors and coursework through sites like Blackboard, and use a variety of online services and software needed for classes.

And they will use it to watch videos on Netflix, Hulu and network television websites. Many students will not want to haul a TV to a dorm, content with a laptop.

The risk of losing or breaking a laptop that is carried from dorm to classes and back again is great. I do not believe most students need a high-end laptop. There are students who need a high-performance laptop if they need to edit video, run high-end architectural computer-assisted design software or some kinds of application development.

For most, their computing needs will be mostly online research, email and writing papers. A basic under-$500 laptop will meet their needs.

And by not spending a great deal, the financial pain of replacing a lost or damaged laptop is lessened.

And if a higher-performance laptop is needed in later years of school, the lower-power laptop makes an effective backup system if needed.

If you go Macintosh, the Apple store will advise you. They’ll probably aim a student at a Macbook Air.

When shopping for a low-end Windows laptop, I find it is best to not get the lowest-priced one as much as I would avoid the higher-priced models. Get something with two or more times the memory Windows 10 needs. So a laptop with four gigabytes of memory is a good start. It will run faster.

Hard-drive space is important. You do not want your student deleting something old to make space for a new project, only to wish later they still had it. Research done for one project, might be a good start for a later project.

Battery life is important for some students. Laptops are used in classrooms, libraries and other places where power might not be easily accessible.

And finally, processor speed is important. The newest, fastest processors can cost more by themselves than an entire reasonably priced laptop, so don’t feel you need the latest and greatest. The older processors are a better value.

It is a balancing act. Look for quality, price, memory, processor, storage and battery. There is no right or wrong answer.

Some students may prefer a Microsoft Surface-type PC. These are tablets with an optional keyboard that runs Windows 10. While their portability is nice if your student prefers to type in bed, Surface types do not work as well as typing with them on a hard desk.

While many assignments can be handed in online, some professors still require hard copy. Schools have printers available, but students tell me it can be difficult to find a working and available one. Having their own wireless printer in their room makes their life easier and is my second suggested piece of hardware.

The last piece of hardware needed is of course a smart phone. Not only is this a student’s primary way to communicate, it is now an integral part of their social life.

In the classroom, its camera can scan documents, record white boards, help gather experimental data and a host of other uses. Phones are their alarm clocks, timers, audio recorders, music players, video cameras, video players and hundreds of other functions.

And, as an off-topic reminder, Windows 10 is available free only until July 29. After that it will cost $120.

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Thursday, July 21, 2016

Links for Send your student off to college with the right technology - July 22, 2016

Links for Family Tech Column newspaper readers:

Send your student off to college with the right technology - July 22, 2016

This column will appear online Saturday, July 23rd, 2016 at 9 AM EST.

When it is posted, it will be at this website.

There are no links this week.

Windows 10 free downloads are ending!

If you have not updated your PC yet to Windows 10, the window for a free upgrade ends on July 29.  After that, it will cost $129.

You can read more about Windows 10 at Microsoft's website.

Should you upgrade to Windows 10?  This is what suggests.

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Protect your computer against ransomware - July 8, 2016

You wake up one morning to find an ominous message on your PC. All your files are now encrypted, it says, and you are forbidden access to them unless you pay thousands of dollars.

This nightmare has crippled hospitals, businesses and individuals. It is called ransomware, and the FBI reports it is on the rise.

It used to be that trying to fool you into giving up information, so someone could steal your identity was the No. 1 goal of online crooks. Now it is ransomware.

This column is to help your director of family IT keep all your PCs and devices safe.

While the likelihood of someone encrypting your PC is relatively low, it is painless for the perpetrator and could cost you thousands of dollars if you choose to pay the ransom.

A user is tricked into installing a piece of malware on their PC. The malware runs in the background and encrypts your files using a strong encryption algorithm. It then posts a message instructing you to send money via Bitcoin within a short period to get a decryption code. If you do not send money by the deadline, even the crooks claim they cannot decrypt your files.

A hospital in California resorted to paper systems for a week before giving up and paying $17,000 in ransom. A Kansas hospital paid the ransom — only to have some files remain encrypted until it paid more. Some report paying the ransom and never receiving the code to decrypt their files.

Anti-virus and malware detection software often fails to detect ransomware. Most often there is no software available to decrypt the files without paying the ransom. Payments are mostly sent to foreign countries. Finding, yet alone prosecuting, the criminals is not going to happen, experts say.

If you have a backup drive hooked to your PC, it too will be encrypted, as will network drives in a business.

Prevention is done through education. Your home IT person needs to educate all their users to be wary of emails with attachments.

At first malware came in spam emails, but as our email providers improved their spam filtering, ransomware turned to more targeted and fearful emails.

An email might say it is from your bank, or the IRS or the FBI. It will have a message designed to make the reader panicky and not think through opening the attachment. For businesses, it is worth the time for a criminal to identify individuals and their roles, and send them an email citing them by name.

Or a legitimate website can be hacked and malicious code inserted to automatically download ransomware silently to a PC.

The best safeguard here is to make sure all devices are kept up-to-date with the latest security updates.

Mistakes will be made. Ransomware may find itself onto your PC.

An offsite backup service that stores several versions of your files is the best approach. Services like Crashplan and Carbonite give you apps on your PC that automatically back up your files in the background to their online service. Multiple versions of backups are critical. It may backup your encrypted drive. You need a backup version prior to the encrypting.

Of the two, Crashplan seems the more robust. You can protect one computer for $5 a month and a family’s worth for $12.50 a month when paid annually.

For those who like to roll their own, you can subscribe to Amazon’s unlimited cloud storage for $60 a year, and then purchase backup software like Arq for a onetime fee of $50.

Personally, if my laptop were hit by ransomware I wouldn’t be harmed that much. These columns are written in Google Drive, so they exist off my PC in Google’s cloud. My photos are all stored in Google Photos.

Most other important files are copied to Evernote. For $70 a year, it stores my files and other information locally and also syncs them to their servers.

I’d reinstall Windows from a DVD and then download Evernote. Everything else would be online. I’d lose some longer video files perhaps--not a life-changing loss.

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Thursday, July 7, 2016

Links for Protect your computer against ransomware - July 8, 2016

Links for Family Tech Column newspaper readers:

Protect your computer against ransomware - July 8, 2016

This column will appear online Saturday, July 9th, 2016 at 9 AM EST.

When it is posted, it will be on this website.

It is available before in the July 8th issue of Prince William Today on sale at these retailers beginning this Thursday, July 7th in the afternoon.

FBI Warning on Ransomware



Amazon Drive

Arq Backup Software