Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Pack up, Take a Drive, See a Lake

The rally's over, where'd everybody go? We're never in a hurry to leave - we're tired and enjoy a day of rest after rallies like this. Besides, we had our weekly "What Does This Button Do? Internet show to do on Sunday. When we got back from breakfast, we found that the electricity had been turned off. Oh well, this wasn't the first time we had to do our show on generator power.

Here's my desk after the show is over. We use, and demonstrate, lots of different computers, smartphones, and tablets!
After the show we just took a leisurely walk around the fairgrounds. We always marvel at how these mini-cities can get all set up, be active, then disappear within 5 day's time.

Where'd everybody go?
 On Monday we also took it easy. We had to take Ally to the airport, then we planned to hit the road and head south. Our next destination was to visit friends in Eureka, CA. We didn't really expect to do anything in between. I was actually looking forward to some boring drive time to relax, but it wasn't to be! I looked at the map and noticed how close Crater Lake was. And, there appeared to be a route that would take us right by the lake and continue on towards Grant's Pass. So long to boring!

I'm sure glad Jim was driving! It was a narrow, curvy road with some steep dropoffs on the outside edge.

We stopped at a couple of places in order to walk around and enjoy Crater Lake.
Crater Lake is a stunning sight

I like this photo that Jim took with the Fisheye setting on his phone.

Just another drive? NOT!

A great viewpoint at the southern end of Crater Lake

Wizard Island and Crater Lake

Gotta have a selfie at Crater Lake!

Another angle on Wizard island and Crater Lake

And what a gorgeous day we had for Crater Lake
I liked this tree stump in the foreground of Crater Lake
The HDR photos above
You might notice that a few of the pictures above look almost like paintings rather than photographs - the colors are too vivid and the lines are too etched. That's because they are actually 3 pictures put together as one in what is called HDR, standing for High Dynamic Range. This is more than the HDR setting on your smartphone or tablet. I took the 3 originals with my Canon T3i digital SLR camera and then uploaded them to Google+. The auto-awesome feature puts the 3 originals together into a 4th HDR picture. Then I decide which ones I like and include them with my photo library. I know that some of them are a bit too much, but once you start getting used to them, the real photos look so plain.  If you want to know more about how Auto-Awesome works, here's an article I wrote about a different type of Auto-Awesome: http://picasageeks.com/2014/05/picasa-tip-smile-its-auto-awesome/
If you have a Verizon Unlimited Data plan:
And, on another techie note: we've just heard a notice from RVMobileInternet.com (a service by Technomadia) that the loophole that has allowed many of us to upgrade our smartphone while still keeping our Unlimited Data Plan - is going away soon. You cannot upgrade your phone at the subsidized price and keep your Unlimited data plan, but some Verizon reps have been willing to use a technique of swapping plans with another line. The Verizon representative who performed the upgrade for me is Ryan and his number is (740) 403-8414. If you have a smartphone with a Verizon Unlimited Data plan and you want to keep it while upgrading to a new phone - call him, or someone willing to do this Verizon contract swap before the 'swapping plans' loophole is closed on August 24.

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Monday, August 18, 2014

Geeks on Tour–Ten Years Teaching Technology to Travelers

Our first FMCA - 2004 - helping people in the Wi-Fi Hotspot (that's Jim in orange at right, and Frank Drew of Coach Connect, also in orange)
It was August 2004 - 10 years ago - that we worked our first FMCA convention, and it was in Redmond, Oregon too. We were working for Coach Connect at the time. Coach Connect was a company who installed Wi-Fi in RV parks. They sponsored the Wi-Fi hotspot for the rally and we were the support team.  Here's the blog post I wrote about it back then.
Shortly after that rally, we were teaching Wi-Fi at a Coach Connect park and decided to do a little session about managing digital photos, and making a Blog as well. A new career was born! And, that was before Picasa! Here's the blog post on that day.
Also 2004 - our very first Blogger class! (at Phoenix RV park in Salem, OR)
We credit FMCA with creating Geeks on Tour. When Coach Connect went out of business, we had no reason to go to the RV rallies, but FMCA wanted us to teach our seminars! The seminar coordinator then was Mary Ann Crowley and she made all the arrangements for us to present other topics besides Wi-Fi. We still wore our orange Coach Connect tshirts at the 2006 rally in Charlotte. But by the next one in Perry, GA March 2007, we were Geeks On Tour!
Our first FMCA as Geeks on Tour was in Perry, GA March 2007. I think those are iron-on patches on our shirts.

When we were at the FMCA in Redmond in 2010 we set our attendance record for one seminar. The photo below shows the audience for our intro to Picasa seminar. There were over 700 people in the live audience, plus another 400 watching online! Here's the blog post on that!
What a crowd!
2010 - our largest seminar ever! Picasa at the FMCA in Redmond in 2010. 740 people!
I doubt we’ll ever see that kind of crowd again, but we had good turnouts this year – 10 years later – at the same Deschutes County Fairground in Redmond, OR. We had 240 people in the Smartphone/Tablet seminar and we were told there were another 600 watching the live stream online. FMCA produced this Live Streaming event for people at home to watch - there were 6 of them total, 3 of which were Geeks on Tour!
If you're not an RVer and don't know about Rallies, here's an aerial photo showing the fairgrounds with 1,400 RVs!

The high-desert, volcanic region around Redmond is known for it's sunsets. Here's one I captured.

We like having our table next to the Rally’s WiFi hotspot and Computer Help Desk. The Help Desk is staffed by the Bits and Bytes chapter of FMCA and we offer our help whenever we can. I particularly enjoyed meeting Lena and hearing about her plans to hike the Camino in Spain. She had a lot of questions about how she could use her smartphone to best advantage while on the hike. In this photo we had just found, and installed, an App specific to the Camino Pilgrimage experience. She was excited. I think she attended at least 6 of our classes during the rest of the week! I sure hope we hear from her on her walk!

I showed Lena how to download some specific Camino apps.

Jim helped Lena and her husband in the hands-on Smartphone photography class.
For those of you who know TechnoRV’s Phil and Tracey May, you’ll understand why we were thrilled to have their daughter Ally as a roommate this week. Her parents could not make it to this rally, so she flew in to be part of the TechnoRV booth.  Since Ally literally grew up living in an RV, we knew she understood things like conserving water while we were parked in the fairgrounds with no water or sewer hookups. She didn't even ask about using the shower but trudged off to the locker rooms provided by the fairgrounds. She was also reunited with their dog, Murphy, during this visit. It was great seeing you Ally!

It was a busy, busy, week. Exhausting and Exhilarating. There were lots people who attended 4 or more of our seminars this week. We taught 10 classes during 3 days, and loved every minute. You can download any of our seminar handouts (for personal use only!) on our website's Seminar Handouts dropbox page.
  1. Google Maps
  2. Geeks On Tour: Technology For Travelers
  3. Smartphone Photography – hands-on
  4. Blogger: Every RVer Needs A Blog
  5. Smartphones/Tablets For Travelers
  6. Organizing Pictures with Picasa
  7. Editing and Sharing Pictures with Picasa
  8. Smartphone Photography: Hands-on
  9. Cloud Computing
  10. Geeks On Tour: Technology For Travelers

Just getting ready for our first seminar. Nice setup! Thanks FMCA.

Gotta get one picture of the two of us. Give us pitchforks and we have "Geek Gothic" ???

Some people told us that our seminars were the reason they came to the Rally! We welcomed 89 new and renewing members to Geeks on Tour during this week.

Since that first FMCA Convention for us in 2004, we've only missed one of their national conventions - the one in Perry, GA March 2005. You can see the list of all the FMCA conventions on their website. This one was our 17th. Next one will be in Pomona, CA March 2015. See you there?!

Friday, August 08, 2014

Back in Rally Mode

We scheduled ourselves into a small rally in Albany, Oregon for the week before the big rally. It was in the fairgrounds where we’ve been before. So we got to relax and ease back into presenter mode. It’s been a while! Our last rally was back in Goshen.
Here’s our parking spot at the fairgrounds.

It was a nice little rally. We were able to sit with individuals at our table and go thru all their questions. One person had a new Galaxy Note 10.1 – just like mine – so that was fun. Then another person needed help with her iPhone. I always like that to see how much my iPad knowledge translates. Here's our table:

Then we gave a couple of our regular seminars, and last a hands-on smartphone/tablet class. The people in this group were in the perfect place, they all had a phone and used it for calls, texts, and emails ok, but were not aware of a lot of the other stuff they can do. By the end of the session, they were all talking so excitedly about how much they learned. That’s what we live for!

And we were so excited because we had a new toy. Have you heard of AppleTV or ChromeCast? Well, we have both of those also, and we use them at home to project our phone or our iPad’s screen to our TV, but they don’t really do what we want in a seminar presentation situation. Jim just got the Samsung AllShare Wireless HDMI Display Adapter. So, as long as the projector has an HDMI port, we can be standing anywhere in the room with either our Samsung phones or tablet and whatever we’re seeing on the tablet is being projected to the big screen. Our powerpoint presentations work on the Samsung tablet, we can show web pages too. But my favorite part is that we can tap the camera app on the tablet, then we’re seeing – and the audience is seeing – whatever we’re focused on. So … we can stand next to a student who has a question on their iPhone for example, and we can focus on their phone and their hands – as we step them thru the answer to their question, everyone else in the room is seeing it too! I love it.
One little rally down, one big one to go. Over the mountains to Redmond we go!

Saturday, August 02, 2014

A Catch Up Day on the Coast

Thousand Trails parks are the closest thing we have to home when we’re traveling. We are members and that means you pay annual fees (approx $500), and you don’t have to pay anything when you stay. The problem is that “Home” also means “Office” and many TT parks are far away from good Internet. I had to have Internet for this stay because it was the end of the month and I had a newsletter to get out! Luckily, I remembered that Nick Russell had traveled this route last summer and stayed at TT parks, so I looked up the days in in his blog and found his reference to “decent Verizon signal” at the TT Oceana park. If you follow the link to his blog post, you’ll see some of the same pictures as ours from Olympic Peninsula! I know I recognize the one of a pullout along the road. Since he also works from his RV, I know that he often talks about his Internet connection. So, although I can look up Verizon signal on my coverage app, or check out location of cell towers, I most appreciate hearing from someone who has been there, done that.
But, with “decent” signal – I was still worried. We pulled into the park and, I had Jim drive around while I kept my eyes glued to the cell phone to see what area of the park had the most bars! It wasn’t pretty – 2-3 bars of 4G at the most, fading out to 3G in some areas. We really couldn’t identify any area that was much better than the others, so we picked a grassy spot at the beach end of the park. I did have enough signal to get my work done, but it was pretty slow going. Jim wrote one article for this month’s newsletter, then went out to do the work that really needed to be done … washing the motorhome and car!

Years ago, we started our monthly newsletter and I wrote it near the beginning of the month, then it started slipping towards the middle of the month. I finally decided that the newsletter was a way to recap the month past so I did it at the end. But, to be July’s newsletter, it had to get out by July 31, right? I clicked the “send” button at 11:30pm and felt quite proud of myself until Jim informed me that it was August by now on the East coast! :-( I know that nobody else cares if I get it done in time. I just hate it when the automatic archives show a newsletter in August and, when you look, it’s actually July. Wow – looking at those archives, I see that we’ve produced a newsletter at least once each month for nearly 8 years now!
On August 1, I deserved a treat! What is better than a solitary walk on a beach? I left Jim doing more chores around the rig, and took the short walk thru some sand dunes to one of the longest, most solitary beaches I’ve ever seen!

Actually it was so long and solitary that it occurred to me I might not know how to get back to the park from the beach side! Yes, there was this interesting tipi style pile of driftwood marking the path, but when I looked down the beach I saw other similar markers! So, I decided to turn on Runkeeper on my phone. As the name indicates, Runkeeper is usually used to track your exercise. I had no intention of “exercising!” I was just going to stroll. But, Runkeeper lets you know exactly how far you’ve gone. So, I figured if it told me I’d gone a mile when I decided to turn around, then when I hit the 2 mile spot I’d be back! That made me feel really relaxed as I strolled down the beach.
At one point, I found a nice big driftwood log where I could sit and use it as a back rest. I don’t think I could be any happier!

Toe Meditation?
I don't know who wrote this in the sand, but I could have!

You can see all of our pictures from July on our monthly Web Photo Album.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Olympic National Park

“Alaska South Annex” is what Greg and Marilyn call the Olympic Peninsula. It does seem like a small corner of Alaska was chipped off and put here next to Seattle. Ocean, Mountains, Forest, and Farms.
Mount Olympus
Having the opportunity to visit and see all this beauty makes us realize just how lucky we are in this lifestyle. We have seen so much of America. Almost as out of the way as Big Bend park in Texas, Olympic National Park needs a special visit – you don’t just happen upon it, and no road goes thru it. I’ll bet the percentage of Americans who have been to this peninsula is pretty small. We put Washington State on our RVing map early on in our travels, but that was only because we stayed on the Washington side of the Columbia river once.
Sequim, where we were staying at Greg and Marilyn’s house, is so close to the Hurricane Ridge entrance to the park, we could take an afternoon ride to go there – so we did. That was our “Apres-Show” treat for ourselves.
View from the Hurricane Ridge visitors center

Panorama from the Hurricane Ridge Visitor center

Do we look happy? Hard to believe that we even worked for half of this day! But, when we get to play ...

When we left Greg and Marilyn’s we were bound for a Thousand Trails park on the coast, south of the National Park, but Greg made us promise we would stop and see Rialto Beach. Believe it or not, he really had to twist our arms for this. I had planned to get to our destination and get back to work because it was the end of the month and I have a newsletter to write.  But a promise is a promise! So we postponed our TT reservations for one day and stayed at a park in Forks. From there we could see two more attractions of Olympic National Park: Rialto Beach and Hoh Rainforest.

We decided the beach would be best at sunset, so we visited the Rainforest first. I happened to be a bright, sunshiny day, so it didn't seem quite like a rainforest! The "Hall of Mosses" trail is the must-walk attraction at the Hoh visitor center.

But, Greg was SOO right that Rialto Beach was the to-die-for spot! We gathered our camp chairs, a bottle of wine, and two glasses and settled in to watch the sunset.

We weren't the only ones enjoying the beach. I happened to catch this group as they posed for their special, fun picture.