Saturday, May 26, 2012

Plans and Realities at the FHC

Yes, I know that every shift at the Family History Center can be a new adventure. For Thursday I planned to give a lesson on Doing More With Your Scanner. I planned to use

I arrived at the FHC an hour before class time. I discovered that the multi-function printer/scanner/copier was setup for the wrong network. All of our printing is normally done on an old HP Laserjet, at a fraction of the cost of the Dell inkjet. So when the network was changed, the multi-function device was not updated. A quick Google check indicated that updating it required uninstalling the software and re-installing it. While looking for the software CD, I found a USB cable I could use to connect the multi-function device directly to one of the computers. I was now able to scan and do OCR, and I had 5 minutes to spare before class time.

We had just two patrons, and they had other priorities, so we decided to help them. Lois wanted to know how to create books from her PAF database. She had created books full of photos on some of her family lines, and was looking for an easier way. This topic was fresh in my mind because I had given online training on that very topic just the previous day! So I proceeded to show her how to generate Ancestor (Ahnentafel) books and Descendancy (Modified Register) books including the default photos. She didn't know how to link photos to records in PAF so I showed her. She was amazed at how PAF could create a whole book in just a few minutes instead of months of time.

Her daughter Carol had a different question. "I have this new Mac laptop. How do I get my mother's genealogy on it?"

I asked what genealogy software she had, and she didn't have any yet. I suggested that she try the free Personal Ancestry Writer II software for MacOS-X. A Google search for [la nopalera software] found it at  Carol installed it on her Mac Book while I helped Lois export a gedcom file. We plugged the flash drive into the Mac, and Carol found how to import the gedcom into PAWII. She was impressed that in a minute or two she had her mother's whole family tree on her Mac.

So things did not go as planned, but a good time was had by all!

Thursday, May 3, 2012

The Best Choice of Web Browser?

Why would a FHC want to use Internet Explorer?
The main reason is that the Portal assumes that you are using IE. That is sufficient reason!

Why would a FHC not want to use Internet Explorer?
IE has serious compatibility problems that pop up at the most inconvenient times. Sometimes the patron is unable to see a document image. Other times a patron is trying to register for an account and is unable to advance beyond the page with the Captcha security text. If so, the patron will get stuck at the same spot when trying to recover a forgotten user name or reset a password!

Often the IE compatibility problem can be solved by setting the compatibility mode for the website. This is most easily done by looking for the "torn page" icon in the address bar. If the icon's background is gray, click it to turn it blue, and the problem is usually solved.

My personal suggestion is that FHCs should have Internet Explorer, Firefox, and Chrome installed. That way if they run into a problem with one browser the solution is just a click away. The hard disks in most FHCs are nearly empty, and these are relatively small programs. I see no reason not to have them available. Safari is a good option, but probably not necessary if the other three major browsers are installed.

I would avoid installing the free toolbars etc. that are offered during installation of the browser.
I would leave IE as the default browser, as the Portal expects it. Run FF or Chrome as needed.
When patrons wish to register for FS or LDS accounts, use FF (or Chrome) to avoid problems with Captcha. The same is true for recovering user names and resetting passwords, where Captcha can be a roadblock.
It is handy for FS Support if patrons can access their web-based email in the FHC (recover/reset uses email) but that would be subject to local policy.

My personal suggestion would be to use IE if you don't have any problems, and switch to FF or Chrome to deal with the problem, and then return to IE.

As the Family History Department moves everything to the internet over the coming years, the web browser becomes the key to accessing all of these services. For the present at least, I believe that every FHC should have a recent version of the three major web browsers installed on their machines.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Cordless Telephone

I spent a frustrating Support call with a family history consultant in a FHC, where they did not have a cordless phone and where the telephone cord was really short. So every instruction and item of feedback had to be relayed through the consultant (at the telephone) to the patron (at the computer). Sometimes the instructions were garbled in translation.

Before our FHC got a cordless phone (less than $40), I brought a 25 foot phone cord from home (about $3), so that I could talk with the technician while sitting at the computer. If you do not currently have some way to talk to Support while you are at any of your computers, please consider it. This is my personal suggestion, not from FamilySearch.


Bill Buchanan
(FamilySearch Product Support)