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This was followed by a reception of the host club Pasco Area Computer User Group at their regular meeting location. Besides giving the attendees a chance to greet old friends that they may have met at previous conferences, Jay Ferron spoke and Dave (Doc) Dockery of the Tampa Bay Computer Society entertained us with his optimistic view of the future of technology.
On Saturday morning the Conference formally opened with a bang as Smart Computing, a longtime friend of User Groups sponsored a wonderful breakfast. Once again, Lindsey Alpers and crew made their usual top notch presentation. The next session I attended and participated in was one offered by Region 1 Advisor and newly elected FACUG President, Sam Wexler of the Valencia Falls Computer & Technology Club and FACUG Director Jeff Robins of the Bellaggio Computer User Group.
They spoke about some innovative ways of increasing membership.
Sam has evolved his club into a computer & TECHNOLOGY club. What is the difference? A computer club generally discusses emails, surfing the internet, malware and similar topics. Since many members feel they already know what they want to know, they may feel the club cannot help them. A computer and technology club does what a computer club does plus a lot more. During the past six months, Sam’s club had presentations in topics like automotive technology, televisions, keeping your mind sharp, travel, the history of technology and www.match.com. Many of these presenters were novice or intermediate at best but the meetings were very well received. Club members become involved in all sorts of consumer electronics and themes. This increases the size of the pie. There are many potential members who may not be computer enthusiasts but are interested in such things as iPods, Slingbox, Roku or Smartphones, as some examples. They have established relationships with Apple, Best Buy and Circuit City. They come to meetings, make presentations and often offer discount cards for attendees. He shows tech related movies, such as his most recent one, “The Net,” where he served sangria and snacks prior to the meeting. Jeff Robins has established a book and DVD library for members use. They offer both small and large door prizes. The large ones are offered every 3 or 4 months and you get one entry for each meeting attended. They have swap tables to share used stuff. These are just a few of the many ideas presented and they seem to come up with additional ideas for almost every other meeting. In the current economy, many User Groups are hurting, but the common thread among those groups that are thriving is that they offer new and novel themes.The next presentation was by Liz Stenger, who introduced me to a whole “new world” of virtual worlds.
It looks like a great deal of fun. I can’t wait to getting involved in creating my own 3D Avatar, traveling around on a magic carpet and being transported from one area to another. You might want to go to www.secondlife.com and get a more complete introduction.
Our own Don Singleton introduced the crowd to remote presentations. House Call, with the help of a free program called Cross loop, allows you to have access to another person’s computer. It gives User groups the ability to help repair a member’s computer without having to travel to their home to do it. Using Skype for audio and video allows User Groups to present courses live, online. Try www.snipurl.com/d42gs, www.unyte.net, www.teamviewer.com and www.ustream.tv to find out more about broadcasting meetings live. This is great for shut-ins, those who may be out of town when meetings are held, snowbirds, or if a big snowstorm hits on the day of your meeting.
Don Singleton once again appeared on the screen in Zephyrhills, Florida while physically remaining in Tulsa, OK. We received an overview of Microsoft’s Live Meeting product. Microsoft has donated the free use of Live Meeting for all APCUG members. Any group looking to have a remote presentation from a vendor or who would like to reach up to 250 locations can get free training by APCUG to certify their clubs ability to use the program. This can be a tremendously valuable tool, as more and more vendors are no longer finding visiting individual clubs and making presentations economically viable, thus making remote presentations the way of the future. Live Meetings can be recorded and placed on website or on www.sharepoint.com.
Doc Dockery talked about using Wikis as a powerful collaboration tool for your kit. Did you ever use emails to set a meeting time and place? Wikis are more effective since they are multi-directional and emails operate in only one direction. Wikis can be created at www.pbwiki.com and www.wikispaces.com.
The Magix software company, one of our sponsors presented an overview of many of their products. You can go to www.magix.com, www.magicwidgets.com and www.magixinfo.com to find out more.
The next presentation was also an awakening session. Tara Lamberson of www.doterati.com spoke of the growing expanded uses of social networking, formally known as Web 2.0. We learned about cross blogging sites like www.ted.com and the increasing popularity of Twitter, the Facebook Fan Page. These can be used by businesses to make connections with suppliers or consumers. You can contact them at email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com
APCUG President Jay Ferron gave an extremely frightening security presentation. He enumerated the many ways that the bad guys mine for information to steal your identity. Needless to say, most of us are often way too willing to provide little bits of information to varying websites which can be aggregated to become a really risky adventure.
DO NOT list your mother’s real maiden name, DO NOT list you real date of birth etc.
Jay also introduced us to Windows 7 beta, which is to be released “in the near future”. Windows 7 is said to overcome some of the annoyances of Vista, it is more robust, doesn’t use as much ram as Vista and loads relatively quickly. A copy of the beta version was given to all participants. It has the least glitches of any previous beta OS. Jay encouraged all Beta testers to send comments and bugs to www.connect.microsoft.com. You can download a program to create a virtual PC. This enables you to run your current operating system alongside Windows 7, therefore allowing you to maintain your current operating system. Here is the URL.
All this and we had yet to have programs on Sunday. Sunday began with a breakfast sponsored by AI squared.
Scott Moore presented their latest version of ZoomWare which is a light version of their classic program ZoomText. This is a company that provides vision enhancing software. ZoomText is for those with severe vision deficits and ZoomWare for those of us above the age of forty, who discover that their arms are shrinking and they need bi-focals as they try to read. It is especially helpful for those who spend a lot of time looking at a computer screen. ZoomWare enhances the size of all or part of a screen without losing sharpness. While Windows has ways of increasing the size of some browser items, it lacks the versatility of ZoomWare. I think it is great for use with a projector at User Group meetings. They now have a User Group special of $49 (a really great discount of the current price). Go to www.zoomware.com and use the code FACUG09.
Robert Dempsey introduced us to the world of Cloud Computing. Basically, it is a paradigm shift away from Microsoft’s model of all software being purchased and remaining on your machine to where you either can use open source products or rent the software online only as you need it or for a monthly fee. It eliminates the need for companies to spend a lot for hardware, there is no infra-structure to support and capacity can be added on an as-needed basis.
Stan Ashbrook took us through the use of Photoshop on line. This is a free program and another example of cloud computing. Go to www.photoshop.com and get access to basic Photoshop tools and the ability to post your pictures on their site to share with others and without having to make a purchase. An online site for PowerPoint like presentations is www.sliderocket.com.
Mike Ungerman, first FACUG President in the early 1990s made a presentation about Ning. Ning is another example of social networking. You can download this free software at www.ning.com. What in the world is Ning anyhow? Why would I want to download it? Ning, as I interpret offers the ability to build a basic website in just a few minutes. It is not a fancy site with all the bells and whistles but does provide a site that is easy to design and even easier to maintain. You get your own domain address (if available) for example, stusil.ning.com. You can invite people to your website and use it for collaborative efforts. Your User Group can sell ads or have partnerships whereby if a visitor clicks a link from your site, your club gets paid. Mike created a website on the spot for one of the attendees to demonstrate how really simple it can be. An interactive Newsletter can now be offered. How exciting!
Chuck Vroman spoke about the most discussed word at the conference. The buzz was all about Twitter and how it could be used to communicate. A company could develop a following among its customers and be able to offer short timeframe specials to those who follow him on Twitter. Twitter is a relatively new social networking tool. It is sometimes referred to as a mini-blog as it is limited to 140 characters and is very useful for mobile phones. A Twitter message is referred to as a Tweet. One can Tweet throughout the day and chronicle one’s events of the day. Even Sen. McCain, a self professed computer illiterate is now Twittering.
This year we held a raffle for an HP Netbook. The winner was Doris Collins, APCUG’s Regional Advisor and President of the Computer Club of Oklahoma City. Congratulation Doris!
This was followed up by dispensing door prizes and saying our goodbyes. While there were additional programs offered, obviously I could not attend them all.
Once again FACUG has presented a wonderful conference. A great deal of the credit needs to go to Marie Vesta, Conference Chair and Hewie Poplock, Program Chair. I feel the program was outstanding. It brought many new concepts for us to contemplate. We tried several new things that seemed to work quite well. Next year FACUG will again team up with APCUG for another Regional Conference. This time we will be moving about 200 miles south to Palm Beach County.
Sam Wexler, FACUG’s newly elected President, has promised a spectacular conference and we look forward to seeing you there next year. Remember FACUG will no longer be having a Fall Conference so all our energies will be concentrated on the Spring Conference. If you came this year, we know you will want to come again next year. If you missed this year, you cannot afford to miss it again.Your comments are welcomed. See my email address above.