Family Tree Maker 2012 running on a Virtual Machine & Win XP

Like many of you, I rely heavily on Ancestry.com to provide me access to genealogical source materials.  The difficulty I have had with these materials over the years is in simultaneously getting source media objects/images onto my desktop and linked to a viable copy of a family tree.  Well, it looks like Family Tree Maker 2012 (FTM 2012) finally has solved that problem for me.

Given that most of the ManyRoads readership are Windows users, the following section may have only limited value to you.  However if you are a Linux or Mac user or if you are contemplating transitioning operating systems environments (or mixing them), I think you might find my journey of value.

I think most of you know, by now, that I am primarily a Linux user.  Currently my business and personal PCs are running Ubuntu variants for our general computing and technical development needs, most generally Xubuntu 12.04. As a rule, I do not buy Windows software.  My typical experience has been that I can easily find Open Source software with the same or better functionality than that available on either Windows or Apple at a much lower cost (read, Free).  However, when I read that FTM 2012 was able to synch with Ancestry.com and synch across my PC and tablet platforms; well, I just had to give FTM a try.

My initial attempt at installation involved using Wine (Windows Emulator Environment).  To quote the folks at Wine:

Wine lets you run Windows software on other operating systems. With Wine, you can install and run these applications just like you would in Windows.

Wine is still under active development. Not every program works yet, however there are already several million people using Wine to run their software.

Sadly, FTM 2012 failed to run for me after installation under Wine. Because I had yet another installation option available to me, I did not bother to figure out why Wine did not work (sorry).

My next attempt involved installing FTM 2012 on my Windows XP Virtual machine running under Xubuntu (My virtual WinXP PC is installed in an environment using Oracle Virtualbox OSE.). For those who are unfamilar with VirtualBox, here’s what they say about themselves:

VirtualBox is a powerful x86 and AMD64/Intel64 virtualization product for enterprise as well as home use. Not only is VirtualBox an extremely feature rich, high performance product for enterprise customers, it is also the only professional solution that is freely available as Open Source Software under the terms of the GNU General Public License (GPL) version 2.

Now back to my tale, this second installation went very well. Although I did decide to make a few modifications to my WinXP Virtual environment for a better operating experience as well as an improved look & feel, specifically:

  • I modified my standard WinXP desktop settings to use Clear Type (prettier fonts)
  • I upped my Virtual PC memory from 256 to 768 MB, to speed things up because FTM seems a tad memory heavy to me (in terms of ‘apparent’ response time)
  • I added additional disk space to allow for smoother operation (another little improvement to response time was noted)

Because one of the major reasons I spent money on FTM was the synch between my Desktop and Ancestry… I began with a link to my Ancestry account. Here are my basic, ‘initial’ observations:

  • FTM 2012 synchs quite well with pre-existing Ancestry data.  Not fast but thoroughly!
  • Media does indeed download!  Yay!
  • Finally, to my joy and surprise, I have an easy method to correct errors on my Ancestry Trees.

Other nice features/ options I have noticed thus far include:

  • You can exclude Ancestry family Trees from automatic searches (the little leaf thingees)!  Those error-prone, inaccurate Family Trees can now be easily ignored. As they say in Germany: Gott sei dank! (Praise to God!)
  • FTM allows “enhance record images” to be downloaded from Ancestry.com; so much better to see them with…
  • It is easy to define a specific location for your FTM files, data, images, etc.; this allows me to place everything in a shared Linux/Windows file area.

In the main, this seems to have been money well spent!  As I learn more about FTM 2012, I will post noteworthy items on ManyRoads.