Beginners’ SIG Topics for the 2020-2021 Period

When: 2nd Saturday, every  month, 10 am – noon
Where: Your place. While the libraries are shut down we are meeting virtually via Zoom. Call Kelly Butler at 512-452-2811 for log in credentials to join the Zoom meeting.
Breakfast: We’ve temporarily suspended the 9am social breakfast until the covid shutdown ends.
Leaders: Kelly Butler h: 512-452-2811
Don Jones h: 512-452-6640
Topics: The Beginners SIG meets on a repeating 2-year cycle.
The 2020-2021 topics are listed below.
Subsequent years will have a similar schedule.
Contact the SIG leader for any new topics you would like to see. 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:  (Note that this meeting will be on the 3rd Saturday.) 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 and more. Come to this meeting and learn how to get your hard disk (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 and Google Docs. And we’ll introduce you to GCFLearnFree.org, a terrific online library of free and easy tutorials on how to use Word, Excel, MSO and much more.

May 9th 2020:  Spreadsheets for Calculations:  MSO 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:  As we discussed for the last two months, 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 a minute or less. This quickie method nicely complements regular imaging to give you thorough but also quick, convenient and up-to-date backup. We’ll also touch on Window’s built-in File History and Restore Previous Versions.

October 10thth 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 plus some alternatives.

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 19th 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:  Smart Phone Photography:  Only professional photographers still use film and digital cameras. Most of us have switched over to smart phone cameras. We’ll discuss some of their features, drawbacks and how to take better pictures. Also how to crop and edit them, share them with others and manage large collections of pictures.

February 13th 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.

March 13th 2021: VPNs & Hot Spots:  Paul (Griff) Griffiths, a computer security expert, will show you how to set up a Virtual Private Network which safely connects your laptop to your home computer through the public wifi networks at libraries, coffee shops, airports and hotels. He’ll also show you how to set up a Hot Spot to allow nearby wifi devices like laptops and tablets to access the internet through your cell phone connection. If time allows he will cover other important issues of computer security.

April 10th 2021:  We’ll show you how to use your smart phone and tablet to read e-books, listen to audio books and watch e-movies. We’ll also discuss the use of the Amazon Kindle. The library has lots of great e-books, audio books and e-movies and you can check them all out for free.

May 8th 2021:  Mobile Entertainment:  PC Alternatives:  PCs aren’t the only game in town. Some folks prefer Apple Macintosh computers. Others like Chromebooks which rely exclusively on cloud based applications. You can also run cloud-based apps from your PC, tablet or smart phone with nothing more than a web browser. We’ll demonstrate these alternatives.

June 12th 2021:  Ebay and Craig’s List: CraigsList provides a free, web-based classified ad service catering to local cash sales—like a classified newspaper ad. Your ad can even have pictures. You can buy & sell stuff, promote a garage sale, find contractors and employers or post “personals.”  It’s easy to use but you should take precautions; we’ll show you how. Ebay is like Craig’s list but on a national scale. Transactions on Ebay can go out of state and may involve taxes, credit and shipping so it’s a little more complicated. Lots of small, home-based businesses use Ebay to bypass conventional retail distribution channels. If time allows, we’ll also discuss online payment services like Venmo and Zelle. Come to this meeting and learn how to participate in the online world of classified ads, sales and marketing.

 July 10th 2021:  Social Networking:  Learn what the buzz is about. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, WhatsApp, Pinterest, LinkedIn, and other social networking sites are all the rage. Find out what your friends, family, business associates and even your grandkids have been up to. We’ll explain the how’s, why’s and what-not-to-do’s of social networking.

 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 hassle. 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 in the event they get lost or corrupted on your computer. You’ll also learn how to diagnose other types of computer problems. Recovering from a catastrophic computer failure is probably easier than you think. But only if you learn how and take the necessary steps beforehand. Come and learn how.

October 9th 2021:  Updating Windows and More: Microsoft will automatically update your Windows operating system software for you but there are good reasons why you should understand what’s going on and take steps to better control the process. We’ll also discuss updating your other software apps and related topics like using Restore Points, migrating to a new computer, reinstalling Windows, driver utilities and portable apps.

November 13th 2021:   Utilities:   Has your PC been running slow lately?  At some point they all get bogged down with spurious software, file clutter and other efficiency killers. We’ll discuss utility programs like Disk Cleanup, Defragger, Task Manager,  CCleaner  and other utility programs to maintain and speed-up your computer.

December 11th  2021:  Organizing Your Hard Disk:  We’ll discuss why you might want to replace your slow-poke magnetic hard disk drive (HDD) with a new, high-speed solid state drive. (SSD) You’ll also learn how to partition and organize your HDD/SSD. I’ll show you how I organize my disk drive and Windows desktop so I can quickly and easily run my programs and find and use all of my data files. We’ll also discuss encrypting your disk drive and sharing and syncing it with your laptop, phone and tablet computers.   BSfly20-21e.doc, 9/15/20

View previous Beginners’ SIG postings here