Beginners’ SIG Topics for 2020 and 2021

When: 2nd Saturday, every  month, 10 am – noon
Where: Pflugerville Community Church (PCC), 1214 Pfennig Lane in Pflugerville. It’s about 20 minutes north-east of the Old Quarry Library. Directions: from MoPac in far north Austin > East on TX-45 & go 3 mi > exit & South on A.W. Grimes Blvd. & go 1 mi > Left on West Pflugerville Pkwy & go 1.75 mi > Right on North Railroad & go .2 mi > Left on Pfenig & go .6 mi > Left into the driveway at PCC. Note that TX-45 is a toll road. Park on the west side of the north building and enter one of the west side doors.
Covid: Please wear a mask on the PCC premises. Steve may give you a touchless temperature check when you enter.
Zoom: You can also join the meeting virtually via Zoom. Phone Kelly Butler at 512-452-2811 for log in credentials to join the Zoom meeting.
Videos: If you miss the meeting you can stream or download the video afterwards from a Google drive. Handouts are also available. Phone Kelly Butler at 512-452-2811 for the link to the Google drive.
Breakfast: The early bird social breakfast meets beforehand, 9am-10am, in the PCC cafeteria nearby. PCC provides complimentary coffee and you might even find donuts or other treats from time to time. Feel free to bring in your own take out.
Leaders: Kelly Butler h: 512-452-2811
Don Jones h: 512-452-6640
Mission: The Beginners’ Special Interest Group (SIG) is a great place to learn more about PC compatible computers. We explain basic computer terminology and concepts so you can learn how your computer works and how to make it work for you. You’ll learn how to use Microsoft Windows to control your PC and how to use your application programs (apps) to get things done. We’ll introduce you to the most popular uses of computers like word processing, spreadsheets, email, internet web browsers, digital photography, home networking and more. We’ll also discuss smart phones and tablet computers, both Android & iOS, and their uses. You’ll be joined by people who can share their computer experiences, offer advice and help you solve problems. Admission is free at all SIG meetings. Apple Macintosh users should check out www.CapMac.org.
Schedule: The Beginners’ SIG runs on a 2-year cycle with 24 meetings. We begin by explaining the absolute basics of computers at the January 2020 meeting. Then, each month, we explain another useful topic and we’ll finally wrap up in December 2021. Then we’ll start all over again in January 2022. But please realize that, even if you miss some meetings or want to start attending mid-cycle, there’s no need to sit it out until the next cycle begins because most topics “stand alone” with no prerequisites or dependence on previous topics. We guarantee that you’ll learn something useful no matter when you begin attending.
Topics:

January 11th 2020: Computer Fundamentals: This month we’ll start our 2-year learning cycle anew by introducing computer terminology, components and concepts. You’ll see the internal computer components like the power supply, hard disk drive, CD/DVD drive, motherboard, microprocessor chip and memory sticks. And you’ll learn what these components do. We’ll explain the difference between Hardware and Software and introduce a couple of metaphors that explain computer workings in everyday terms. You’ll learn fundamental software terminology like Programs, Data, Files, Bits and Bytes. And we’ll refer you to a website with free tutorials on computers and other useful things. This is the ideal “first” meeting for computer beginners. If you have a neighbor, friend or relative who could use a new hobby, a productivity enhancer or maybe just a little help with computer problems, then please bring him or her along.

February 15th 2020: Windows Desktop: We’ll review key concepts from the last meeting then explain the Windows user interface, aka the Desktop. You’ll learn the meaning of Icons, what the Taskbar and Notification Area are telling you from the bottom of the screen and how to use the Start button to do almost anything on your PC.

March 14th 2020: Files and Folder Handling with Windows File Explorer: Keeping your hard disk organized and tidy is like keeping your house organized and tidy–it makes life a lot more efficient and satisfying. We’ll explain how to use File Explorer, aka Windows Explorer, to copy, move, rearrange and delete folders, files, documents, photos and music on your computer and on thumb drives and CDs. You’ll learn how to find lost documents and how to keep them from getting lost in the first place. You’ll discover the Windows Clipboard, the handiest tool ever for manipulating folders, files, text and more. Come to this meeting and learn how to get your disk drive (and your computer life) organized and in-control.

April 11th 2020: Word Processing: We’ll show you how to use Microsoft Word, the Word Processor that comes in the Microsoft Office (MSO) suite. With it you can create memos, letters, envelopes, flyers, signs and even business cards. We’ll explain the “ribbon” interface that’s now common to all MSO apps like Word, Excel and Powerpoint. We’ll review the more commonly used tabs and operations done with Word. If time allows, we’ll also demonstrate the simple Wordpad word processor and the Notepad text editor which are built-in to all versions of Windows, i.e., you get them for no extra charge—unlike Word and MSO which are fairly pricey. We’ll also introduce you to free word processors like Open/Libre Office, Google Docs and Microsoft Office Online. And we’ll introduce you to GCFLearnFree.org, a terrific online library of free and easy tutorials on how to use Office apps and much more.

May 9th 2020: Spreadsheets for Calculations: Microsoft Excel Spreadsheets make working with numbers as easy as word processors work with words. Spreadsheets are the easiest and fastest way to tally up income tax deductibles, analyze mortgages, create financial statements, small mailing lists, bids, invoices, graphs and more. The spreadsheet is the famed “killer app” that, back in the 1980’s, turned obscure “hobby” computers into ubiquitous “personal” computers and made the PC a must-have for almost everybody. Come to this meeting and find out why spreadsheets are so useful and what you’ve been missing. We’ll also introduce you to free spreadsheet apps like Open/Libre Office and Google Sheets.

June 13th 2020: Browsers & Email: We’ll show you the World Wide Web, aka “The Internet”, and how you can find or learn practically anything about anything. We’ll demonstrate browsers like Microsoft Edge, Internet Explorer, Firefox and Chrome. Then we’ll compare Web-based e-mail like Google G-mail to Client-based e-mail like MS Outlook, Thunderbird and Eudora. You’ll also learn how to send out letters and pictures and attach files to emails without ever touching paper or licking a stamp. We’ll compare Internet Service Providers like ATT U-verse and Spectrum Roadrunner. Come to this meeting and get connected.

July 11th 2020: Computer Security: The internet isn’t always a safe place to be and most people don’t fully protect themselves from the bad guys out there. We’ll explain viruses, spyware, personal data surveillance, ramsom-ware, crypto-lockers, adware, hackers, pfishing attacks & ID theft scams–And the countermeasures that you should be using. We’ll also show you how to use passwords, password managers, user accounts and file encryption to better secure your computer and your private personal information. Come to this meeting and learn how to live safely in the cyber-jungle.

August 8th 2020: Home Networking: Are you tired of shuttling files between your computers with a thumb drive? We’ll show you how to connect multiple computers to a router & modem so they can share an internet connection and also share and sync files & folders with one another. We’ll explain the basics of both wired (Ethernet) and wireless (WiFi) connections.

September 12th 2020: Quick File & Folder Backups to Thumb Drives: Imaging is the best way to comprehensively back up your entire computer, i.e. Windows OS, apps, and data. But it can take up to an hour to do. We’ll demonstrate Backup Maker, a nifty file/folder backup program that can quickly back up a few important, frequently updated files or folders in less than a minute. This quickie method nicely complements regular imaging to give you thorough but also quick, convenient and up-to-date backups. We’ll also touch on Window’s built-in File History and Restore Previous Versions features.

October 10th 2020: Printers & Scanners: Learn the pros and cons of ink jet and laser printers and how to install and use them to print great looking documents. We’ll also demonstrate the use of a scanner and how to scan printed pictures and documents from paper into your computer. We’ll explain the mysteries and utility of Optical Character Recognition, (OCR), discuss the various file formats used by printers and scanners and cover PDF files, the free Adobe PDF reader, Nitro reader and Foxit readers.

November 14th 2020: Smart Phones and Tablets: We’ll introduce you to the basics of smart phones and tablet computers. You’ll learn how mobile wireless devices work, how to use the home screen and User Interface to configure your device, manage and operate its apps (application software programs) and download additional apps. Our focus will be on Android devices but we’ll also discuss Apple iPhones and iPads which are preferred by many to Android devices but actually quite similar. Come to this meeting and find out why these ubiquitous gizmos are so captivating and useful.

December 12th 2020: Communicating with Smart Phones and Tablets: Learn how to make phone calls, use a speakerphone and set up your contact directory. Also how to use Skype to make cheap or free international phone calls and video calls with only a WiFi internet connection, i.e. when you have no cellular coverage. We’ll cover text messaging, photo “texting,” email and browsing the internet. We’ll explain the differences between the four separate radios in a smart phone: cellular, WiFi, bluetooth and NFC. We’ll compare service providers and discuss costs, security and how to make a smart phone work for you.

January 9th 2021: Favorite Smart Phone Apps: There are many thousands of apps available for Android and iOS but we’ll demonstrate a few of the most popular and useful such as the clock, calendar, calculator, maps, translator and music player. We’d like to hear about your favorite apps too.

February 13th 2021: Mobile Entertainment: We’ll show you how to get free movies from the library with the Kanopy and Hoopla apps and then watch them on your computer, TV, smart phone or tablet. We’ll also discuss getting free e-books and audio books from the library and reading or listening to them with the free Libby app on your smart phone.

March 13th 2021: Speed Up Slow Computers: Computers tend to slow down as they age. Causes include hardware problems, memory and storage shortages, software corruption, program congestion and other things. Join us at this Zoom meeting to learn how to put a little more spring in your computer’s step. Topics will include Task manager and Windows Updating.

April 10th 2021: Windows UI Part 2: We’ll take another look at the Win10 Desktop, Icons, Notification Area, Task Bar, Search Box, Start Menu, Settings Menu and more. Familiarity with these will make you the master of your computer.

May 8th 2021: MS Word Part 2: We discussed the basic features of Microsoft Word a year ago. We’ll briefly review those and then look at some slightly more advanced features like shortcut keys, hyperlinks, multilevel lists (outlining) and document compare.

June 12th 2021: MS Excel Part 2: We discussed the Excel spreadsheet’s basic features a year ago. We’ll briefly review those and look at some of its handy functions like =math, =if, =Vlookup, etal. Also array formulas, macros and maybe a mention of VBA.

July 10th 2021: Zoom: You’ve probably been using Zoom for a while now. We’ll show you some features you may not know about to improve your experience attending Zoom meetings. And we’ll show you how to schedule and host your own Zoom meetings, including how to configure its various settings. Besides the Beginners SIG meetings, Zoom also works well for church groups, informal family reunions, seminars and other situations where people want to interact but without having to travel or leave the comfort of home.

August 14th 2021: Back Up Your Computer: Sometimes the unthinkable happens: Your computer fails and your programs and data are lost. The cause might be a computer virus, crypto-locker, hacker, theft, hardware failure, lightning or operator error. Hardware is replaceable and programs can be reinstalled but your precious photos, videos, financial records, emails and other important documents may be lost forever–unless you took precautions to back them up beforehand. Some people haven’t backed up because they haven’t thought about it much, don’t know how or they think it’s too much trouble. But it’s actually fast, easy and crucial. Doing frequent backups rewards you with data security, self-confidence and worry-free computing. Come to this meeting and get a safety net for your computer, your valuable data and your attitude to it all.

September 11th 2021: Restore Your Computer: Last month we demonstrated how to back up your computer. This month we’ll show you how to Restore all of those files and folders in the event they got lost or corrupted on your computer. You’ll also learn how to diagnose various types of computer problems. Recovering from a catastrophic computer failure is probably easier than you think. But only if you take the necessary steps beforehand. Come and learn how.

October 9th 2021: Build a Desktop Computer: Learn how to select a motherboard, CPU chip, memory, M.2 or U.2 SSD, rotating hard disk drive, graphics board, box and power supply. Then how to assemble, hook it all up and install Windows 10. It usually costs more to build your own computer but you’ll learn more about how it all works and you’ll get to build it just the way you want.

November 13th 2021: Organizing Your Hard Disk: I show you how and why I partitioned my solid state drive (SSD) and hard disk drive (HDD) the way I did. Likewise for how and why I arranged my Windows 10 desktop to optimize my computer for productivity and ease of use. You might prefer a different organization scheme but mine is a good starting point and will get you to thinking of better ways to set up your own computer.

December 11th 2021: Topic to be determined. Feel free to submit a request.

BSfly20-21h-web.txt, 5/16/21

View previous Beginners’ SIG postings here