Wednesday, May 28, 2014

A Week at the Office

When the Escapade was over, we moved just about 10 miles to Elkhart campground.  Nick Russell of Gypsy Journal newspaper and Big Lake mystery series fame, announced he was going to present a free one-day workshop on self-publishing at Elkhart campground and I wanted to attend.  We have one book on Amazon – our Beginner’s Guide to Picasa – but I have a lot of others I want to produce, and Nick has the experience.


My plan is to create a series of “Learn with Geeks on Tour …” eBooks.  I have a lot of work ahead of me, and I hung on every word Nick said.  Especially about marketing.  “Writing a book is the easy part,” Nick said, “Marketing is where the work begins. You must market EVERY DAY.”  I enjoyed his workshop and, as a thank you, I put together this little video ( that I hope he can use to help his marketing efforts:

We know that he’s done a lot for our marketing efforts.  A large percentage of our Geeks on Tour members first heard about us from Nick’s blog

Also in the park was Curtis Coleman, founder of RVillage.  We’ve written about RVillage before.  It’s a social network for RVers where you can see where everyone (7500 members and growing) is located on a map.  We hope to use RVillage to arrange get togethers and classroom sessions for our Geeks on Tour members, so we welcomed the opportunity to get to know Curtis and learn more about RVillage.  We suggested that we use Google+ Hangouts on Air to record a video all about RVillage.  Here is the first video interview of Curtis, it’s about 40 minutes long.  Then, here’s the short version: Intro to RVillage.  Chris and Cherie of Technomadia are also part of the RVillage team.  Cherie made this short intro video, and then they did an hour long video chat with Curtis.  

Here’s our “recording studio.”


Here we all are, along with John and Kathy Huggins of Living the RV Dream.  They do a weekly podcast about the RV lifestyle and they have thousands of listeners.  It occurred to me that this felt a little like an office happy hour!  It is so rare that we are in a group of people who all are working and using the Internet and their websites to run their business.  It brings another level of camaraderie to a get together.



Thursday we had a remote seminar scheduled for a Good Sam club in Massachussetts.  The topic was Cloud Computing.  We planned to use Google+ Hangouts for that as well.  We got all set up, including our own cloud!

Our contact, Bob Brown from the Mass Good Sam club, was instrumental in getting us started with remote presentations.  We’ve presented to his group 2 or 3 times before over the last 4 years.  This time, we got connected, went thru some sound checks and a few other things, but the connection kept dropping out.  After about 30 minutes of frustration, we finally decided to give up.  We had sent Bob some videos beforehand as a backup.  We heard from him later that a storm went thru their area and all Internet, even Cellphone service was out for a couple hours.  He showed the videos to his group and he said that went well.  Bob feels like a part of our team even though we’ve never met face-to-face.

Cloud Computing has become a very popular topic.  More and more of the groups where we speak are requesting that, even though it’s not really one of our topics.  We specialize in teaching about Picasa, Blogger, Google Maps, and other tools to Plan, Preserve, and Share your travels.  But, we do use Dropbox – a Cloud storage service – a lot, and recommend it all the time.  So I used the scheduled remote seminar as motivation to record a video about Dropbox synchronizing, and Cloud Computing.  This was a tricky video to make because I wanted to show “Device Independence.”  During the video I switched from my Windows computer, to my Android phone, to my iPad, and to my Macintosh.  I recorded the Windows computer with Camtasia for Windows, and the Macintosh with Camtasia for Mac.  I record the Android phone using the iPad, and the iPad using the Android phone!  Then, I had Jim record the live video with our Canon camera and external microphone.  That way I could use one sound track across all the various demos.  And, the recording was just the beginning … then I had to put it all together in the editor!  Whew!  I doubt that any of you really wanted to know all this TMI? Smile but I wanted to write it down for posterity! I’m not going to put a link here because this is a members-only video.  If you are a member, you can watch it under “Recent Videos.”


Next up was doing some work on our websites.  Two of our most loyal members, David Cross and Bill Osborne, were staying in the park this week and we asked them if they would help us review the website and see where there were places that it should be redesigned.  Jim visited each of them in their RV at their computers and took them thru the paces.  I stayed at my computer and made the fixes.  It was kinda like a usability study!  There’s still a lot of work to be done – a website is always a work in process – but it helped a lot to get David and Bill’s perspective.  Then, wouldn’t you know … right in the middle of these ‘usability studies’, our website was unavailable – some kind of major server crash at our host and you just got a 404 error when you tried to go to ^@%$^$!@&*@  So, the guys came over to laugh at me.  (It was back online within an hour.)

Jim used David and Bill as guinea pigs too.  He wanted to practice multi-user Hangouts on Air.  Chris and Cherie also partcipated.  Google+ Hangouts on Air opens up so many possibilities for group interaction online.  It’s like having your own TV studio and remote camera trucks.  AND, it’s quite easy.  IF you start it the exact right way – you must follow the recipe to the letter – or the cake falls flat!  Well, Jim was experimenting, and it didn’t work!  We spent nearly an hour trying to make it work.  Jim was in our ‘studio’ and I was a remote participant on my iPad that has it’s own cellular connection to AT&T.  This way I could stay connected with Jim’s hangout and actually walk over to each other participants RV and see what was happening on their screens!  I could even turn the camera around to focus on their screens and Jim could see what was going on.  He finally figured it out, we started all over again and it all worked great – but we had lost the will to chat by then!  Many lessons learned thanks to our team! (most important is to start the hangout as a profile, not a page)

Here’s another “Office” happy hour photo.  But this wasn’t happy hour – it was later, after Technomadia’s video chat with Curtis.  We watched the video live from our computers, then walked over to their coach afterwards with our wine to talk about technology!  I believe this picture shows when Curtis was online with remote team members and they had just discovered that the host servers for RVillage had gone down.  We had a good laugh over that one!  We weren’t laughing at them, we were laughing with them!  Fellow workers commiserating over our trials and tribulations with getting technology to do our bidding.


It was so fun to have “fellow workers” this week.  We learned a lot, and got a lot done.  We also had a lot of fun! 

Office fitness is important!  Here I am taking advantage of the company gym … Cherie’s hula hoop.


Here’s the amazing Saturday night office party!  All made possible by RVillage – how else would all these people traveling in RVs know when and where to show up?


note to self: I must post to the blog more often!  These epics take too long to write … and to read too!

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Escapade? or Geeks on Tour rally?

WOW!  That’s all I can say to sum it up.  That’s also just about all I can say … period.  We were teaching formal classes for 20 hours total this week.  Then we were teaching informally for many more.  These Escapees are a tech-savvy group and they really challenged us with great questions all week … we’re just about brain-dead!  People who came to our last class on Friday can attest to that as they had to listen carefully to make out what we said as we tripped over our tongues.  All totaled, we welcomed 73 new or renewing members to Geeks on Tour.  That’s definitely a record for us at a rally this size, there were 543 RVs here and roughly 1,100 attendees. 
A Big Thank You to the Escapees RV club for organizing such a great rally.  We felt like you did it just for us! And you made us feel like royalty.
We know there many other excellent seminars, and a lot of other fun stuff going on, but we saw very little of it.  We did attend a couple happy hours, the RVillage get together, and the “Ham-O-Rama” talent show.  Here’s a little video we made of Ham-O-Rama (prepare to be amazed!.)

imageWindows 8 Workshop

First came a hands-on, 6 hour class on Windows 8.  The people who came to the class saying, “I Hate Windows 8!” had all changed their tune by the end of the day.  We taught them how to make the tiled Start Screen more useable by customizing it, or to bypass it altogether and just use the old-fashioned desktop.  We taught them how to use the OneDrive folder on the computer to automatically backup and/or share files in the Cloud with OneDrive and their Microsoft account. We taught them how to Search, so they didn’t get frustrated by not finding stuff.  And, we taught them how to specify that they were using a “Metered” Internet connection.  That way, Windows 8 will refrain from doing all those big Uploads and Downloads when you’re using that connection.

Smartphone Workshops

imageNext came two half-day classes, the first on Android phones and tablets, and the second on iPhones and iPads.  These didn’t go as smoothly, but people told us they learned a lot.  A big problem was that we were in a metal building.  Have you heard the term Faraday cage?  That’s what you build (a metal enclosure) if you want to block all electromagnetic radiation, including most radio waves.  Guess what, cellular signal is radio waves.  It was really tough to teach cell phones with no cell signal!  Luckily, the WiFiRanger company was a sponsor of the Rally, and Kelly Hogan was onsite with lots of special equipment for receiving and rebroadcasting Wi-Fi connections.  We asked Kelly if he could do anything for us, and he was in our classroom quick as a flash with antennas, routers, and his special Internet connection to a local provider.
image Thank You!
and Kelly Hogan
for providing Internet Access
At the very least, our students learned how to connect to a Wi-Fi hotspot when cell signal is not available!  They also learned how to scan QR codes, turn their phone into a hotspot, customize their homescreens, use Google Maps, and use the camera app.  We had one couple (Pam and Kirk Wood) in our iPhone class who told us they learned more in this 3 hour class than in the 4 years they’ve owned their phones!  The iPhone class also had the added benefit of wisdom from our friends at who volunteered to help teach. 

The Geeky Tiki

When we weren’t teaching, we were in what Escapade calls the Marketplace.  Since we don’t have products to sell (just memberships), we don’t need much of a booth.  Jim made a portable Tiki bar a few years ago that he occasionally sets up outside the RV for happy hour.  Then we came up with the name “Geeky Tiki” and we decided that’s all we need for a booth.  We were set up next to our friends from TechnoRV, and they were a great help to sign people up for Geeks on Tour membership when we weren’t there. 

Also in the marketplace was a Verizon retailer who follows the RV rally circuit so they understand travelers’ needs.  I’ve been wanting a new phone for some time now, but I’m afraid of losing my unlimited data plan with Verizon.  These guys said they could keep my unlimited plan and sell me a Samsung Galaxy S5 (a GREAT new phone) for $200.  I gave it 2 minutes of thought, and handed them my credit card.  So, roughly 20 minutes before teaching our Smartphone seminar, I had a new phone that I didn’t know how to use! Smile  I guess I was going to the right seminar!
Man!  is it beautiful!  And light!  And fast!  And the battery lasts forever!  And it has a pedometer built in, no need for a fit-bit! And my unlimited contract is indeed still in tact.
We love presenting our seminars and nothing makes us happier than interested learners!  We enjoyed this week so much, I’ve written this blog post with enough detail that I hope our readers feel like they’ve been to the seminars as well.  Here ya go:

First day of Seminars:Technology for Travelers Seminar

We started the week of seminars with our “Technology for Travelers” This is an overview of everything we teach: How we Plan, Preserve, and Share our Travels using Technology.  You can download the seminar handout here.  We show our Blog and how easy it is to make one yourself, for free with  We share how we connect our computers to the Internet as we travel by making our phones into Wi-Fi hotspots.  Then we discussed what mapping programs we use to plan our travels and navigate along the way.  We showed one of our tutorial videos on planning a route using MS Streets and Trips.  S&T is just for Windows though, so we also demonstrated the web-based trip planning system called – we like this one because it calculates the date you will arrive at any given destination along your route.  Then we show how both Google Maps on our phones, Rand McNally on the dashboard GPS unit 7720, and CoPilot on the Nexus 7 tablet, help us navigate each day on the road.  And, that’s just the Plan part!  For Preserve – we’re mostly talking about preserving your travels with pictures and managing those pictures with Picasa.  We had to stop at one hour, but this seminar was scheduled to be repeated on the last day of the rally, and we had 2 hours on the schedule then!  Here’s a picture of our audience for this first seminar.

Smartphones and Tablets for Travelers

One of the first things we teach in our smartphone class is how to read a QR code.  That’s those funny looking square codes that are popping up everywhere.  You can even have a QR code that will play an online video.  That way we can put our videos right on the class handout!  You can download the seminar handout here.  We also give an overview of exactly what smartphones and tablets are.  With a show of hands, our audience was predominantly Android users, but iPhone/iPad was a close second.  They were also predominantly Verizon subscribers.  Here’s a picture of our gathering attendees for the smartphone seminar:

Second Day: Picasa and Picasa Web Albums (aka Google + Photos)

I racked my brain trying to figure out what we could skip in teaching our Picasa seminar because we only had an hour and we NEED an hour and a half.  We like to have two hours!  Picasa is a specialty of ours – we have an entire website,  I just couldn’t cut anything out, so we went really fast!  We took pictures of the audience, imported them to an Escapade folder on the computer using Picasa’s import tool.  Showed how to add captions, did a little editing, showed a video on how to rename folders and organize pictures, put the pictures we took into a collage, and uploaded that collage to Picasa Web Albums aka Google+ Photos where we could share it with you!  Whew!  Here’s the seminar handout for Picasa.

Every RVer Needs a Blog

This is one of the first seminars we ever presented back in 2005 … second only to Internet on the Road.  It has never been one of our most popular titles, but blogging has probably been the most important technology tool for our travels.  We’ve been keeping our blog since we first came up with the idea of fulltime RVing, and we’ve been using Blogger the whole time.  Our blog has become so important, I’ve taken advantage of a website called Blog2Print to get hard-bound books made. We had the books at the seminar for show and tell.  Then we started at the beginning with how to create a Blog.  We showed how to add pictures, make hyperlinks, and even how to embed a video into a blog post.  We were SO happy to have a good turnout for the blogging class since we truly do believe that Every RVer Needs a Blog!  Several people came up to us afterward and related that they’ve had their blogs for years now and they learned from Geeks on Tour!  I think we need to give them a graphic ‘badge’ to put on their blog that reads, “I Learned from Geeks on Tour.”  If this is you, please contact us and we’ll get it set up.  Here’s the seminar handout for the Blogger class.
The audience for our Blogging class:

Third Day: Google Maps

By the third day, our audiences usually are dwindling – there’s so much to do at these rallies.  But that was not the case this time.  Google Maps had our largest audience yet.  It was only after the rally was over that I thumbed thru our latest issue of the Escapees magazine and notice an article about Google Maps!  Then I noticed that Chris Guld was the author!  I had completely forgotten about that – I wonder if it explains our large crowd?  Anyway, Google Maps is getting cooler every day.  We showed how to research a location and see photos, and street view in addition to maps.  We showed how to manage the Directions feature of Google Maps and to print out those directions or re-route according to your desires.  Last, but not least, we showed how to make your own custom maps to preserve your travels, including routes, stops, photos, blog posts, and videos.  Google Maps puts it all together.  See the map of our 2013 travels for an example.  Feel free to download our Google Maps seminar handout .. just remember these are for personal use only.  Here’s our awesome audience for Google Maps. I had to use the Panorama mode on my new Samsung phone to get in the whole audience!

And, here’s one that Jim took from the other side:

Cloud Computing

Here’s the handout for Cloud Computing.  People are very confused about how to use Cloud Computing.  There’s a good reason for that!  It IS confusing.  We did our best to explain it, and our handout gives the specs for the major consumer cloud computing services: Dropbox, OneDrive, Google Drive, and iCloud.  On the one hand, “Cloud” simply means the Web, the Internet.  We used to call Blogger “Web-based” software, now it’s called “Cloud-based.”  The power of the Cloud is that it gives us device independence, we demonstrated how you can take a picture with your phone, that picture can go to the cloud, and then you can use your iPad to write a blog post and insert that same picture.  It doesn’t matter what device you’re using if your stuff is in the cloud.  We also demonstrated how using services like OneDrive or Dropbox can keep your files in the Cloud AND synchronize them with your computer.  The best of both worlds.  To demonstrate, we took a picture of the front row (including our longtime Geeks on Tour members Bill Osborne and David Cross) and let the audience watch as that picture appeared on our computer within seconds.  Dropbox automatically uploaded the picture to the Cloud, and then downloaded that same picture to my computer.  Now I can safely delete the picture from my phone to free up space.

The number one question we got over and over, “Does this feature use my cellular data?”  The answer was almost always Yes. It’s a great service, but you need to understand and control it so you don’t end up with a $500 Verizon bill unexpectedly!  Dropbox, for example has settings to tell it to only perform the uploads and downloads when your phone is connected to a Wi-Fi hotspot, not cellular.

Day Four: Technology for Travelers repeat/expanded

This was our last seminar, on the last day when everything was winding down.  We still had a great crowd and most of them had been in several of our seminars during the week, so they had lots of questions.  We had a full two and a half hours on the schedule for this one so we just answered questions, and more questions.  These people felt like our closest friends by this point, and we just had a good time!  We asked for a show of hands if anyone was seeing us for the first time in this seminar – only 3 raised their hands! 

We still made sure to cover some of the information that we didn’t get to the first time, including how to make a movie using MovieMaker – that’s how we made that Ham-O-Rama video at the beginning of this post.
Recently Updated
Thanks Connie Bradish for these photos!
If you’re interested in Geeks on Tour seminars for your group, please contact us.  If you’re interested in learning more on the topics we teach, sign up for our Free Newsletters. Or, better yet, Become a Member!  Geeks on Tour is 100% member supported – no advertising, no product sales or sponsorships, just teaching.

Thursday, May 08, 2014

FMCA INTO Rally, Lebanon TN

Here’s our site for the rally:


This was one of the smaller rallies … about 200 RVs I think.  We just had 2 seminars and our booth was in a building very close to the rig.  So, this was a laid back week.  We even went out to dinner with friends a couple of nights.  The weather was gorgeous, and the nightly entertainment was just across the street from where we were parked as well.  So, we just had a great time at this rally.

Here’s a picture of one of our seminars.  This is the one we call Technology for Travelers.  We give an overview of all the ways we think travelers can enhance their trips by using technology.  One of the first things we show is making a Blog to record and share your travels.


In our Picasa seminar we take some pictures and show how to put them together in a collage:


And, here’s a really rare sight … we had enough time to attend a bit of another seminar!  Here is Mike Neighbors, representing TechnoRV, and demonstrating how to use the Rand McNally RVND GPS system:



Here’s out booth with the Geeky Tiki!


On to the next rally … the Escapade in Goshen, IN.

Tuesday, May 06, 2014

Using photos from Google Plus Photos

I'm writing this post to go along with my Picasa Tip this week.  If you ever have a picture that turns into a plain white box, you might want to read the tip: Using Picasa for Blogger Pictures.

This Picture is in my Google Plus Photos Album called Devils Tower Album.  When you use the Insert Image button in Blogger, select the option for Picasa Web Albums and you'll see all your albums, whether they are old: Picasa Web Albums or new: Google Plus Photos.  Whatever you do ... don't delete the album from Google+ Photos, or this is what will happen:

This photo was taken on my android phone then shared on google plus. From blogger, on my iPad, I can add picture form 'picasa we albums', look in the 'photos from posts' album and put this pic in a blog post.