Some people eat, sleep and chew gum, I do genealogy and write...

Friday, December 21, 2012

Gadgets for your gadgets

Once you have your desktop computer with a large screen, a laptop computer, tablet or iPad, a smartphone, a scanner and a printer, you may think you're pretty well set up and well into the technological jungle. But, alas, you're just starting on your technological journey. Oh, I forgot to mention a digital camera. Oh, I forgot to mention a portable digital recorder. I could of course go on and on and probably will.

Eventually, many of the functions of dedicated devices, can be equally as well done by software added to the existing computer-based devices you may already own. For example, I wrote recently about voice-recognition. Some of the computer operating systems come with voice recognition software. But, if you are going to use voice recognition software with any frequency, you will likely need to buy a dedicated USB microphone in the form of a headset. The digital microphone will greatly increase the accuracy of the dictation and the recognition of the words by the computer program. In fact, Dragon NaturallySpeaking and Dragon Dictate both are sold with an included USB microphone headset.

One of my favorite add-ons to a computer is a touchpad. Touchpads now come with a variety of finger functions such as one, two or more finger clicks, a variety of swipes and other commands. As with any new device, there is a period of time required to learn the new commands. I started out with a trackpad on my laptop computer. Originally, the trackpads came with two buttons, so you had to position the cursor with the trackpad and then use the button to click. There was both a right and left button, for right and left clicking. I found this to be very awkward. However, the newer computers, especially the Apple MacBook Pros, have done away with the buttons and single and double-clicking is done right on the trackpad. Clicking with one finger is automatically a left click on a two button mouse and clicking with two fingers is automatically a right-click on a two button mouse. As I became more proficient with the trackpad on my laptop, I finally purchased the trackpad for my desktop computer and now use that almost exclusively.

Depending on your hearing ability, you may find that cell phones, laptops and other devices with speaker systems are not merely loud enough for you to hear properly. There are a variety of add-on speaker systems some of which use Wi-Fi connections instead of cables. These can be very helpful especially when you're using your smart phone or cell phone in speaker mode.

At some point, you may discover the world of videoconferencing. This becomes especially useful if you have family members at great distances across the country or around the world. Of course, you need more hardware to do videoconferencing. You need a WebCam. Fortunately, most of the newer laptops come with an integrated WebCam.

If you buy a tablet computer or an iPad, you will immediately see the utility of purchasing a separate keyboard. Some of the newer tablet computers come with an integrated keyboard system. If you add a keyboard to a tablet computer, don't you in effect have a laptop? As laptop computers get thinner and thinner and tablet computers become more powerful, it is possible that the two different types of computers will merge into one.

Sometime, I may write about the world of interchangeable lenses on digital SLR cameras and all the accessories. It is very easy to spend more money on lenses and accessories than on the initial purchase of the camera itself.

It may also occur to you, if you purchase a tablet or laptop computer that you need something to carry it in. There are a seemingly infinite number of cases, bags, packs, luggage and other types of carrying devices for the computers.

In working on your different devices, it may also occur to you that you do not need to use the standard keyboard and mouse that come with your desktop computer. There are dozens, perhaps hundreds, of different models of keyboard and mouse combinations you can add on or substitute for the standard devices that come with your computer.

As you create documents, take photographs, digitize records and genealogically important documents you will need to store that information. You may learn either by listening to others’ experiences or through your own mistakes, that you will need to have some type of backup storage device. As the number of your files grows backing up your data becomes more and more of a crucial fact of life. Thus, you need to purchase either online or dedicated storage devices. These can consist of hard drives, flash drives or flash memory drives. You may notice that I do not mention CDs or DVDs. There is a decided movement in the computer industry away from both CD and DVD storage media. Many of the new lighter laptop computers do not have CD or DVD drives.

Unfortunately, your journey into the jungle of technology is only beginning at this point. You will soon find, all of this technology changes regularly, requiring the purchase of even more new devices and more gadgets for your gadgets.

Come to think of it, as I go through this, there is a pretty good argument for not getting involved in the jungle in the first place, but fortunately or unfortunately my foray into the jungle world of technology began in the dim past. Oh, I hardly mentioned software at all. You can easily spend more on software then you can on hardware.

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