Previous article

APCUG Reports
October-December 2005

Next article Default font size
Large font size
Very Large

Mini Expo Sessions: Blogs & Smart Computing
by Vern Hendricks

All of the hard work that went into the planning of Mini Expo IV was evident in the list of sessions that were planned for the day. It was tough deciding which to attend, let alone deciding what to report on. I chose to report on only two sessions so I could also personally enjoy the remainder unencumbered by taking notes.

Blogs

Of the three morning sessions that were offered, I elected to go to the session on Blogs in which long-time CCS member Joe Nowak held a question and answer session. This session was so well attended that President Al Cheeks was forced to move it from the small classroom, where it was originally scheduled, to the auditorium. This writer guessed the attendance to be at somewhere around 100 people for just this session.

Blogs, Internet-speak for web logs, are becoming more and more popular as Internet users around the world discover the ease with which they can post anything they can think of for the world to see. Joe showed us his blog, which is a Google blog, located at www.blogger.com. A simple search on Joe Nowak will give you a list of Joe’s blog postings. (Specifically, Joe’s profile may be found at www.blogger.com/profile/3284040. There you will find a listing of all of Joe’s blogs in a convenient table format.) After showing us some of his recent postings, Joe entertained questions from the audience.

Q: How do I search for blogs?

A: Go to www.blogsearch.google.com. That’s one; there’s also www.technorait.com as well as www.bloglines.com.

Q: Are they free.

A: Yes, most are.

Q; Are they private?

A: No, they are generally open to the public, however there are some that can be made private, for things like family blogs where users would need a password to access the blog.

Q: Are reader comments permitted in blogs?

A: Yes, most have the ability to post a comment to each section of the blog, at least on the one that Joe uses. He showed us a sample on one of his blogs at jnunusual.blogspot.com.

Joe also posts blogs for the South Suburban Chapter, the West Side Chapter, and the Digital Imagery SIG.

Q: How does the information flow? Can you give us a broad overview of blogs in general?

A: The blogs are a no-brainer way of building your own website…a place where you can rant about whatever you want. Some people have political issues and they can write about them there. It alleviates the necessity to understand how to create a website yet it gives anyone the opportunity to create his or her own very basic site on the web.

Joe then changed streams and went to Google. Google has the ability to set your own personalized page. A Google account is required; it is free. Joe’s is set up with the Weather, a Quote of the Day and a Word of the Day. Some of the features of Google that Joe demonstrated were:

Moon.google.com shows a view of the moon and where we have landed.

Suggest.google.com will give you a list of the most popular searches.

On the Google page, click on More to get more options; things like groups, catalogs, and advanced web search features. Google also has a feature that lets you check the weather for a particular area by typing in weather:60611. Substitute your zip code for weather for your area.

Serenity movie:60611 will give you all of the movie times and theaters where the movie Serenity is playing in zip code 60611. Simply substitute the movie name and your zip code for the information about your choice of movies in your area.

Maps.google.com will not only show you street maps like other mapping programs, it also has a Satellite view as well as an overlay view (Hybrid) that overlays the street names onto the satellite maps shown. Satellite view works for most, but not all, of the United States.

One of Google’s newest offerings is Google Earth (www.earth.google.com) Google Earth combines satellite imagery, maps and the power of Google Search to put the world’s geographic information at your fingertips. Google Earth is a free program; details are on the website.

The hour went by quickly and Joe ended his session by inviting everyone to stop by his blog, have a look around and make a comment. This writer found the session to be very informative and I personally encourage everyone to stop by www.moon.google.com. Take a look at the detail and be sure to zoom in as close as you can for a good look at what the moon is made of.

Smart Computing

For the first afternoon session, I decided to check out the offerings of Smart Computing magazine. Luke Vavricek (see photo) introduced himself as the CCS rep. All attendees to the session were given the latest (October) issue of Smart Computing magazine as a gift. Smart Computing is a monthly computer magazine for all users of all skill levels. It improves PC productivity with easy to follow tutorials.

Users using Windows 98 and newer will find the tips and tricks section to be particularly valuable. The tech support section is probably the most useful section of the website. There is help in the What-To-Do-When sections and help with things like Repairing Windows XP.

Luke then did a real time online demonstration. Starting off with the latest issues section, Luke pointed out that subscribers have online access to all of their magazines, including PC Today, Computer Power User, Reference Series and more.

A questioner from the audience asked if back issues are available online. Luke showed the site that contained all back issues from when Smart Computing was PC Novice (back in 1992). Information from all issues is searchable and printable. There is also a feature that will enable users to add articles to a personal library. This feature is very useful for times when you find yourself needing repeated access to the same article or tutorial.

In their Worms and Viruses section there is a rather lengthy explanation on many of the virus types and how to eradicate them. There is also information on where to get drivers and other information from many hardware and software vendors. Smart Computing also offers a completely free tech support service by calling 800-368-8304. This phone number is answered in Lincoln, NE and lets subscribers and non-subscribers alike get help with their computer problems. While SC does not guarantee they will always be able to solve problems, they certainly will do their best to do so. If they can help you, it’s an astonishing benefit, open to any caller.

Attendees were also able to order subscriptions to the magazine and many in attendance did subscribe. Those who did not subscribe at MX-IV, but who still plan to do so, are encouraged to call Smart Computing to subscribe and, when they do, to mention CCS. For its part in referring new subscribers to Smart Computing, CCS receives one free subscription for each five paid subscriptions that the magazine receives. That should mean some nice drawing prizes at future CCS events.

And in conclusion …

MX-IV continued the proud tradition of CCS Users Helping Users, and the volunteers who helped make the Expo a success are to be heartily commended for their participation. It is the volunteers, the people like Al Cheeks, Joe Nowak, Jerry Sass, Stan Hungness, Beata Kernan, and all the others giving that most precious commodity, personal time, who help the Chicago Computer Society thrive and survive. As has been mentioned, MX-V is already in the planning stages. Please, step forward now and lend a hand.