Beginners’ SIG

When: 2nd Saturday, 10 am – noon
Breakfast at 9 am at Kneaded Pleasures
Where: Old Quarry Library, 7051 Village Center Dr. Directions: From MoPac (Loop 1) take the Far West Blvd. exit, (it’s 2 miles south of US-183) and go west 4/10ths mile to light. Turn left on Village Center Dr. and go past the post office to the library on the left. (map)
Breakfast: The early bird social breakfast is at 9am, at Kneaded Pleasures. From the library walk north, around the corner, to the right, then east, just past the post office. (map)
Leader(s): Kelly Butler h512-452-2811, c512-823-0066; Don Jones h512-452-6640
Topics:   The Beginners’ SIG will run on a 2-year cycle beginning with the absolute basics of computers at the January 2018 meeting then continuing with a series of additional, essential topics and wrapping up in December 2019. Then we’ll start all over again in January 2020. But please realize that, even if you miss some meetings or start mid-cycle, there’s no need to sit it out until the next cycle because most topics “stand alone” with no prerequisites or dependence on previous topics. We guarantee that you’ll learn something important and useful no matter which month you begin attending. There is no charge for attending Beginners SIG meetings.
 January 13th 2018:  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 parts do. We’ll explain the difference between Hardware and Software and introduce a couple of metaphors that put computer workings into everyday terms. You’ll learn fundamental software terms like Programs, Data, Files, Bits and Bytes. And we’ll refer you to some websites with free tutorials on computers and other cool things. This is the ideal “first” meeting for computer neophytes. If you have a neighbor, friend or relative who could use a new hobby, productivity enhancer or maybe just a little help with computer problems, then please bring him or her along.


February 10th 2018:  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 10th 2018:  Basic Operations with Files and Folders:  Keeping your hard disk organized and tidy is like keeping your house organized and tidy–it makes life 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 see why the saying “a place for everything and everything in its place” also pertains to your computer. You’ll learn how to find lost documents and how to keep them from getting lost in the first place. We’ll introduce you to the Windows Clipboard, the handiest tool you’ll ever use 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 14th 2018:  Word Processing:  We’ll show you how to use Microsoft Word, the Word Processor that comes in the Microsoft Office (MSO) suite, to create memos, letters, envelopes, flyers, signs and even business cards. We’ll explain the “ribbon” interface that’s common to all MSO apps like Word, Excel and Powerpoint. We’ll review the more commonly used tabs and operations done with MSO. If time allows, we’ll also demonstrate the simple Wordpad word processor and the Notepad editor which are built-in to all versions of Windows, i.e., you get them for no extra charge—unlike MSO. We’ll also introduce you to free word processors like Open/Libre Office and Google Docs.


May 12th 2018:  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 and 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 most 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 spreadsheets like Open/Libre Office and Google Sheets.


June 9th 2018:  Printers & Scanners:  Learn the differences between 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 get printed pictures and documents from paper and into your computer. We’ll explain the mysteries and utility of OCR, Optical Character Recognition, discuss the various file formats used by printers and scanners and cover pdf files and the Adobe reader.


July 14th 2018:  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. One can also use the public computers at the library. We’ll discuss these alternatives and how to check out & read e-books with the library’s reader app on your tablet.


August 11th 2018:  Digital Photography:  If you haven’t yet adopted digital cameras, we’ll show why you probably should. You’ll learn how to take better pictures and how to crop, enlarge, print and move them to your computer. You’ll learn how to email them to others or put large collections of photos on CDs for cheap and easy distribution to others.


September 8th 2018:  Browsers & Email:  We’ll show you the World Wide Web, aka “The Internet”, and how you can find practically anything. We’ll demonstrate browsers like Microsoft Edge, Internet Explorer, Firefox and Chrome. Then we’ll compare Web e-mail like Google G-mail to Client e-mail likeMS Outlook or  Mozilla Thunderbird. You’ll also learn how to send out letters and pictures and attach files without ever touching paper or licking a stamp. We’ll compare Internet Service Providers like ATT U-verse, Time-Warner Roadrunner and the new Google Fiber. Come to this meeting and get connected.


October 13thth 2018:  Computer Security:  The internet isn’t always a nice place to be and most people don’t fully protect themselves from the bad guys out there. We’ll explain viruses, Spyware, ramsomware, 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.


November 10th 2018:  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 and even 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. Come to this meeting and learn how to participate in the world of classified internet sales and marketing.


December 8th 2018:  Social Networking:  Learn what the buzz is about. Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, 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 and why’s of social networking. BSfly18-19a.doc

                        2019 Topics


January 12th 2019, Smart Phones and Tablets:  With a focus on Android devices, 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. We’ll also touch on Apple’s 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.


February 9th 2019:  Communicating with Android 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 four distinct types of radio 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.


March 9th 2019:  Favorite Android 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.


April 13th 2019:  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 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 and wireless (WiFi) connections.


 May 11th 2019,  June 8th 2019,  July 13th 2019:   Still looking for topics to cover at these three meetings. Suggestions welcome. Possibilities include mail merge, bits, bytes and how computers represent information, how the internet works, Macintosh survival guide, Android app development, tax and financial software, drawing software, CAD software, 3D printers, building computers, virtual machines & Oracle Virtual Box, free Linux OS and portable apps.


August 10th 2019:  Utilities: Has your PC been running slow?  At some point they all get bogged down with spurious software, file clutter and other efficiency killers. We’ll discuss Windows Updates and utility programs like Disk Cleanup, Defragger, Task Manager,  CCleaner and a few nifty speed-up tricks.


September 14th 2019:  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, theft, hardware failure, lightning or operator error. Hardware is replaceable and programs can be reinstalled but your precious photos, videos, music, 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 and your valuable data.


October 12th 2019: Restore Your Computer: Continuing from last month’s discussion of computer backup, we’ll demonstrate how to use a rescue CD disk together with a backup image to restore your Windows operating system, application software and data to a new hard disk drive on your computer. It’ll run again exactly like it did the last time you backed it up. You’ll also see how to easily replace a failed hard disk drive on a laptop computer. We’ll also review the diagnostic procedure one uses to determine what’s wrong with a computer. Come to this meeting and see how quick and easy it can be to get back up and running after a catastrophic computer failure. Bonus: You’ll see how much faster your computer will run when you replace that mechanical hard disk drive with a fast solid state drive. (SSD)


November 9th 2019:  Quick File & Folder Backups to Thumb Drives:  Imaging is the best way to comprehensively back up your entire computer, i.e. Windows OS + apps + data. But making the image can take a half-hour or more. We’ll show you a quickie method to back up a few important 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.


December 14th  2019:  Organizing Your Hard Disk:  We’ll discuss using solid state drives, encryption and sharing and syncing your PC with your laptop, phone and tablet computers. And we’ll discuss how to partition and organize your disk drive. (or SSD)  You’ll see one good way to organize your Windows Desktop so you can quickly run your programs and find your data. We’ll also briefly discuss hard disk utility programs like Windows Defragger, Disk Cleanup and CCleaner.


View previous Beginners’ SIG postings here