Category Archives: Blog

Computer Tips for Travelers and anything else that these Geeks feel like writing about will show up here! For additional articles on Picasa, see our separate site PicasaGeeks.com
. For additional articles on Internet Connections on the Road, see our separate site WiFiSavvy.com

What is Zoom for online meetings?

With orders to stay at home during the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, meetings are going virtual, and Zoom.us is quickly being adopted as the tool of choice for friends, families, businesses and organizations to hold online meetings. Whether you just want to get together with a few friends for happy hour, keep your Book Club going, or manage a community meeting when no one can come to the Community Center, Zoom might be your answer.

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. What is Zoom meetings?
    It’s a website (Zoom.us) and apps for Windows, Mac, Android and iOS that provide tools for holding online group meetings. Meetings can include video, audio and screen sharing by any participant.
  2. How does Zoom meetings work?
    One person sets up a meeting and “hosts” it, inviting others to “join” by sending them a link with the meeting ID.
  3. How much does Zoom meetings cost?
    It is completely free to host a meeting for 100 participants up to 40 minutes. A “Pro” account costs $14.99/mo. and allows meetings up to 24 hours. See Plans & Pricing for more. People who join the meeting can have a free account, or even no account at all.
  4. Does Zoom meetings really work?
    I’ve been involved with several groups who use Zoom meetings over the last few years and we have nothing but praise for how easy and effective it is. Zoom has a well-deserved reputation for having excellent video and audio quality – even in this time of unprecedented usage. The only thing we have found that degrades the experience is the quality of the Internet connection on the participants’ end.
  5. Is Zoom safe and private?
    Zoom’s popularity has skyrocketed, from 10 million daily users just 3 months ago to 200 million today. That kind of activity is bound to attract bad actors. There have been reports of “zoom-bombing” (think photo-bombing) where uninvited guests crash your meeting and display hate speech or porn. This can be avoided by requiring a password for your meeting, and/or changing settings so that only the host can do screen-sharing.
    The company is taking these reports seriously and working hard to make Zoom more secure. But, they need to walk a fine line. Total security is at one end of a line, ease of use is at the other. It’s not an easy job. Here is what the company CEO has to say.

What does a Zoom meeting look like?

Although it is truly easy to host and join a Zoom meeting, there is a lot it can do, and plenty to learn. Below is a video recording of a one-hour Zoom meeting with 50 people. Everything taught here is written up in detailed notes at Episode 187, and also see the video and written notes at Episode 186.

 During the one-hour meeting we offer How-To information on many topics:

  • How to mute and unmute your microphone while in a meeting
  • How to change the name displayed with your picture
  • How to view everyone in the meeting (gallery) or just the person speaking
  • How to display a virtual background rather than the messy office behind you
  • How to share your computer screen with the entire meeting

In addition to our Beginner’s Zoom lesson in Episode 186, and our Real, 50-person Zoom meeting in Episode 187, here are 4 short videos:

Stay healthy my friends.

Practical Tips for Running Online Zoom Meetings

If you remember the Hollywood Squares TV game show from the 60s and 70s, you’ll feel right at home in Gallery View.

We’ve been involved in a few different groups that meet online using Zoom over the last several years. In the last few weeks, due to CoronaVirus quarantines, we’ve attended and hosted many more. OMG, the things we didn’t know it could do! To learn the details of everything it can do, the best place is to go to the source – the Zoom.us website Help Center. The purpose of this article is to give some practical tips that we’ve learned along the way.

Have at least one co-host

It can be difficult to pay attention to everything going on in a zoom meeting. A co-host can be assigned to listen for distracting background noises and mute the offender. Also they can be watching for people who are trying to speak and need to be UNmuted. They can also kick people out of the meeting if necessary.

If you have more than 20 people, consider having multiple co-hosts, one co-host who listens as mentioned above, and one who watches the chat and makes sure that everyone who posts a question in chat, gets a response.

It’s easy to assign a co-host. After the meeting is started, the host clicks the “Participants” button at the bottom so you can see the listing of people the right sidebar. From there, you can simply click on a participant’s name and “make co-host.” Co-hosts have all the powers that a host has.

Learn more at Zoom help on hosts and co-hosts.

Audio etiquette

Probably the most problematic part of zoom meetings is participant’s audio. “Can you hear me now?” People need to know how to mute and UNmute their microphones. No one can hear you if you’re muted, and if you’re unmuted and some noise happens in your room, it can be very annoying.

The common etiquette is to stay muted unless you are speaking. However, this results in awkward pauses while people try to figure out how to unmute themselves. It is ok, if you are a small group – less than 8 say, and everyone is in a quiet place, to stay unmuted. This makes the meeting more relaxed, less formal.

There are many ways to mute/unmute. Try to find the one that is most comfortable for you so you can do it quickly.

  1. Click the microphone icon in the lower left. This is the primary method for mute/unmute. However, that microphone icon can sometimes be elusive as you may be focused on other parts of the screen, making it take too long to get to the microphone and click.
  2. Click the 3-dots on your cubicle and then the Mute option, or just right-click on your face/cubicle to get the same menu.
  3. Click the “Mute Me” or “Unmute Me” in the right sidebar. IF you have the participant list showing (click the Participants button at bottom) then you should see the words “Mute Me” or “Unmute Me” in the right sidebar at the bottom of the participant list. I find this position easiest to find quickly when I need to unmute. If you are a host or co-host, this is where you’ll find the Mute All and Unmute All buttons.
  4. Alt-A (Cmd-Shift-A on Mac) This keyboard shortcut will toggle you between audio mute and unmute. Note: if you are using multiple monitors, this only works when the Zoom meeting window is the active window – click on it.
  5. Space bar: This keyboard shortcut acts like a walkie talkie. If you are muted, holding down on the spacebar will unmute you so you can talk. Let go and you go back to being muted. Note: if you are using multiple monitors, this only works when the Zoom meeting window is the active window – click on it.

See help at Zoom.us: Mute All, Attendee controls

Video Etiquette

There’s a reason we use video conference calls rather than phone calls – so we can see you! Therefore, unlike audio, the standard etiquette is to leave your video on. If all we see is your profile photo, we don’t know if you’re even in the room! You control whether your video is on or not with the icon in the lower left of your Zoom screen.

Scheduling

The host should open the meeting at least 5-10 minutes before the scheduled start. This allows participants to gather, test their mics and video cameras, and practice sharing their screen before the scheduled start of the meeting. Be aware that a “scheduled” meeting starts whenever a host starts it. The purpose of the schedule is just for people to put it on their calendars, it has nothing to do with when the meeting actually starts – or ends. A scheduled meeting can be used like an always available meeting room, it can be used to start a meeting at any time, not just the scheduled times.

See Zoom.us help center for more on Instant and Scheduled meetings.

The Waiting room

One of the meeting settings is to have a “waiting room.” When you turn this on, people cannot pop in to the main meeting. They will be held in the waiting room until a host or co-host lets them in. This provides a way to control who enters the meeting without requiring a password.

See Zoom.us help center for info on Waiting Room

Calling on people

The host, or co-host needs to moderate the discussion in a Zoom meeting. Unlike an in-person meeting, there are no visual cues about who should speak next. The “Hollywood Squares” are not even in the same order on different participants screens. So, you can’t say, “Let’s go around the room and everyone introduce yourself.” You need to say, “Peggy, unmute and introduce yourself.” Then, “Carlos, unmute and introduce yourself.” It is the host’s job to see that everyone gets called on.

The moderator, or Host needs to be prepared to encourage individuals to speak. S/he also needs to be prepared to stop people from speaking too much. It’s not always an easy job.

Recording meetings

One of the benefits of using Zoom is that you can record the meetings. It’s important to make attendees aware that they are being recorded. Make that part of your standard greeting. When you view the recording, you may be surprised that it doesn’t look like the meeting you attended. That’s because you may have changed your view once, or even several times, between Gallery view and Active speaker view. You may be surprised when you see that the recording all happened in Active speaker view.

Learn more about the Recording Layouts.

Zoom.us Help Center

Here’s a Zoom.us blog post for more helpful tips:
Video Meeting Etiquette: 7 Tips to Ensure a Great Attendee Experience

As I’ve reference throughout this article, the Zoom help center is very useful. I encourage everyone to take advantage of their Live Training. You can join a live meeting, get instruction and ask questions. If a live meeting doesn’t fit your schedule, you’ll find recorded meetings as well.

Mrs. Geek’s Guide to Google Photos – an update

I first wrote Mrs. Geek’s Guide to Google Photos and published it in December of 2016. The second edition was published in July of 2018. I’ve been promising another new edition for a few months now because so much has changed.

I am working on it … honest! I am setting a launch date for May 1, 2020 for it to be available on Amazon, and we will be offering a special package just like we did in 2016. Stay tuned!

Meanwhile, to see what all has changed, see this post at my LearnGooglePhotos.com blog. It’s all about the changes I’ve noticed during 2019.

Other resources from Geeks on Tour include a Facebook group: Learn Google Photos, and an online course, Google Photos: 12 Steps to Success.

Tell me what you need

If you have particular requests for what you want covered in the book, now is the time to ask! Just leave a comment here and I’ll see if I can work it into the book.

Make your own map of scuba diving sites

Jim and I are scuba divers and I’ve come up with a way of plotting dive sites on a custom map. This same technique could be used for RV boondocking sites, or backpacking campsites, or fishing sites. These are all places that need GPS coordinates in order to locate them.

Click the picture to go to the live, interactive map – then you can click on markers and see photos. Notice the markers off the north shore? Those are the sites where we dove. How did I know where to place them? Read on …

Get the GPS Coordinates

The only way to plot these locations is with GPS coordinates. If you have your phone with you on the dive boat, and if you remembered, and if your phone has a data connection, you could open Google Maps and get the GPS coordinates for your current location, then copy and save.

I may never remember to do that, but I will think to take a photo with my phone. My phone has the setting turned on to record the GPS coordinates with the photo. Now, when I look at the photo using Google Photos, I can just swipe up to see all the “metadata” recorded with the photo, including a map. Just tap on the map and you’re taken to Google Maps. The GPS coordinates will show up at the top, in the search box. You can also tap on the marker and see the coordinates in a pop-up box at the bottom. Copy them for use in your custom map.

If your photos don’t have maps, that means your camera settings for location are turned off. Here’s how to turn them on:

  • Android: Open the camera: Camera setting, Location Tags (or GeoTags) Turn on
  • iPhone: Open the system settings: Privacy, Location=on, Camera – turn on
  • See episode 161 for demonstration

Make a map with Google My Maps

We use Google My Maps to create all our custom maps. For a new map:

  • Open MyMaps.Google.com – be sure you’re signed in with your Google account
  • Click in the Search box and paste the GPS coordinates, press Enter
  • Click on the marker that was created on your map
  • Click +Add to map

That adds the place to your map. Once the placemark is there, you can change the title, write a description, add photos, and more.

Learn More

We use Google My Maps a lot. For our Geeks on Tour members, we’ve created a Learning Guide here. Google My Maps – How to make your own maps

We’ve also done a few episodes of our YouTube “Button” Shows on Google My Maps: #176: How to make a map with Google My Maps #111 Adding Photos to Google My Maps And we just did a new one this week specifically about making maps with GPS coordinates using our Dive Sites example.

Geeks on Tour offer Live Remote Seminars using Zoom.us

As we travel the country, we’ve presented seminars from Southern California to upstate New York, and all points in between. But, what if your California group wants us to present a seminar and we happen to be in Florida at that time? That’s when we use an online meeting software called Zoom. It allows the audience to see and hear us and we can see and hear the audience. We can display powerpoint slides as well as demonstrate on our smartphones. In some ways, it can be even better than being there in person.

A computer club meeting (TPCUG) with Geeks on Tour presenting a seminar remotely

It’s gotten a lot easier

We have been in technology training and support since the ’80s when personal computers were brand new. Back then we had classrooms where we taught hands-on business software as well as how-to-use the technology.

We would occasionally address large audiences at special events. Today, most of our hands-on teaching is about smartphones and our live audiences are Technology Clubs, senior centers, and groups large and small of RVers gathered at a Rally.

Technology and Computer Clubs rely on educational presentations to sustain their memberships. That’s where Live Remote seminars with Geeks On Tour can help.

Live Remote vs. Recorded for Club presentations

Recorded tutorial videos can be a good addition to any meeting agenda. We have a couple of great ways clubs can use our recorded content.

  1. View episodes of our YouTube show, “What Does This Button Do?” in whole or in part. They can be projected, paused, and discussed. The Show Notes facilitate the discussion. The episodes run from 40 minutes to an hour and there are 184 episodes so far.
  2. Watch videos from the Learning Library of tutorial videos. Short, single-topic videos, teaching a single topic or feature. There are over 600 of these tutorial videos. You do need to have a Geeks on Tour premium membership to access all of these videos.

If we are traveling through your area when you have a meeting or event on the calendar, we’d love to present in person. Audience size doesn’t really matter. It’s the interaction and Q&A we think are important.

If we’re not traveling thru your area, we offer Live Remote seminars using Zoom Meetings. With the proper hardware and planning, a Live Remote is (almost) as good as us being in the room. As an added bonus, the seminar is recorded and available afterward.

You probably already have the minimum hardware needed to make it happen.

  • a good, fast Internet connection
  • a screen and projector setup
  • sound system for computer audio and PA
  • Sometimes it’s a big-screen TV connected to a computer. That’s enough for you to see and hear us.

A camera and microphone make it possible for us to see and hear you the audience, the facilitator and the all-important Q&A interaction. Most laptops have built-in cameras and microphones. An external USB camera and mic will probably look and sound better and may be easier to place for better effect.

Using Zoom

Zoom (zoom.us) is a software to create online meetings. It’s a two-way conversation. A host (that’s us) starts the meeting and guests join in at their end. The software is easy to use and it works well under most conditions. A good, stable Internet connection is important at both ends of the connection.

You’ll see our faces as well as our screens for demonstrations. We try to make it as interactive as we can.

A little preparation is important. We always do a test run before to check the connection and equipment. We’ll teach you what you need to know about using Zoom.

For our online Live Remote Seminars, we use Zoom to connect to the club’s presentation computer. That computer will also have a camera and microphone attached. A club facilitator should stay close to monitor the connection and repeat any audience questions if necessary. We should be able to see and hear the audience at our end.

Check out our planned route and calendar. Get in touch if you would like a Geeks On Tour Live or Live Remote appearance!

Ready to give it a try? Let us know! There is no charge for the seminar, but the club should have a premium Geeks on Tour membership in order to access all the other materials.

Our current list of popular seminars is on our website geeksontour.com/seminars

Another picture of how it looks in the room. Laptop in room should have camera facing people in room, as well as an active microphone. This way presenter can both see and hear the room.

You don’t need Google Maps to give you directions to a restaurant when it can deliver your food to you.

Both Jim and I were relaxing at home when we started to get hungry. We didn’t feel like cooking and we didn’t feel like going out. I had recently tried using the DoorDash food delivery app, but couldn’t find any restaurants in their list that I liked, so I just opened Google Maps on my phone and started exploring the restaurants.

Pretty soon I ran across an old favorite eatery and I notice a button that read, “Order” – so I tapped it. I could see the complete menu and choose whatever I wanted. I handed the phone to Jim and let him make his own choices. I tapped on Deliver and checked that they had our address correct, then I checked out with my credit card – already on file with Google Pay.

45 minutes later, we were sitting at the dining room table enjoying our hot meal.

Amazing.

How Google Calendar can keep you from missing an event by setting your default notifications.

Don’t you just hate it when you see your friend and they say, “Where were you last night? We missed you at the party.” When the only reason you missed it was that you forgot!

I’ve been using Google Calendar to notify me of upcoming appointments ever since I started using a smartphone, and yesterday I found it especially useful. I want to make sure that all of you know how to set the default settings so that you get a notification before any upcoming event.

I had completely forgotten about my Yoga class at 10:30. I also completely forgot about a dinner party we were going to at 6pm. Because of my default settings in Google Calendar, I get a ringing automatic notification an hour before any appointment. Whew! I made it just in time. Thank you Google Calendar!

You can even set your default to give you two notifications if you want, like one at 2 hours and another at 1 hour before any event entered in your calendar. Here’s how:

  • Open Google Calendar (on Android or iOS – just make sure it is the Google Calendar, not Apple or Samsung.
  • Tap the 3-line menu at top left
  • Scroll down and tap on Settings
  • Tap Events (under your account)
  • Tap Notifications
  • Select your choice
  • You’re done, just tap the Back arrow at top left

Never miss a party, or a dentist appointment, or a meeting – ever again!

How to combine Travel Blogs and Travel Maps

A travel blog without a map is like cake without icing!  It’s good, but not as good as it should be.  And, sometimes don’t you just want the icing!  A travel map can give your readers everything they want to know.  Then, if they want more, they can click on a marker and follow the links to your blog posts!

When we started our fulltime RV travels back in 2003 I wanted some way to keep track of where we’d been so I started a blog, using the free tool from Google called Blogger.com. Nearly 2,000 posts later, I’m still writing in that blog. I even have a hard-bound book made of each year and they sit on a shelf in our living room now – a constant reminder of all the adventures we’ve had and a great way to spend a lazy afternoon. See this past article about how to make books from your blogger blog:  Save your Blog! Get a Printable Copy

Blog posts are where I write our stories, but maps are essential for the visual experience of where we traveled. I make a map for each year of our travels and I put them on a separate page of the blog. Using the free MyMaps tool from Google, each marker on the map is interactive. When you click on it, you can see photos and/or text.

Using Maps as a Blog Navigation Tool

Map markers can contain text. In addition to writing a short description of the spot, text can be used to insert links. Those links can be to your blog posts about that place. If you use this feature a lot, your map can become a table of contents for your blog.

For example, if you click the map above, you’ll be taken to the full interactive map. See the gold marker in North Florida? Click that and you’ll see some photos about the place. You should also see a link to our blog post. Click that and you’ll be taken to our blog and the post about our stay at that place. Many markers on this map link to a blog post. Try #3 in Raleigh, NC, or #6 in New York City.

You might say that this sounds like a lot of work. It certainly does take some time, but if you love looking at your photos and your maps as much as I do, it is truly a labor of love. If you want to learn how to make blogs and maps using the tools we recommend, we have Learning Guides for Geeks on Tour members. We have also covered these topics in our free YouTube show, “What Does This Button Do?”

Member Learning Guides

Here’s the first Blogger lesson, for free:

Free “Button Shows” on these topics:

How to Control the Auto-Rotate on your Smartphone or Tablet

Isn’t it cool that your phone or tablet automatically rotates the contents when you change the way you’re holding it to see a picture take up more of the screen?

image

Isn’t it annoying that your phone or tablet automatically rotates the contents when you lie down to read your book in bed?  Especially when you’re in that reclining position just between vertical and horizontal and your book keeps flipping back and forth!

image

There’s a Setting for That!

On an Android device, access your quick settings by swiping down from the top of the screen.

  1. You should see an icon for auto-rotate.
  2. If it’s ON your screen will adjust
  3. If it’s OFF your screen will stay the same regardless of how you are holding your phone. Note that, if you were holding the phone vertical (portrait) when you tap the Auto-Rotate button, then your phone will be locked in portrait mode. If you were holding it horizontal (landscape) then it will be locked in landscape.

auto rotate android.gif

On an iPhone or iPad, access your quick settings on the Control Center. 

  • Swipe up from the bottom of the screen to reveal the Control Center
    or – on iPhone X and higher, swipe down from the upper right corner
  • You should see the Auto-Rotate/Orientation Lock icon right there

On the Kindle App

  • If your only need for controlling the rotate is for reading books on your Kindle App, there is an option right in the Kindle App.
  • Tap once, anywhere on your page and you should see a little padlock icon appear in the lower right corner.
  • Tap the padlock to close or open the lock.  When the lock is closed the orientation will stay put.

Still doesn’t rotate?

If you make sure that the auto-rotate setting is on, aka the portrait lock is off, and your screen still isn’t rotating, then something is wrong. I’ve seen this many times and each time, rebooting the phone has fixed the problem. Just power it off and back on, or restart your phone and odds are that the rotate will work now.