Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Palm Springs and our Online Show

After saying goodbye to Ron and Ruth in Southern California, we set our sites east. Our plan is to stay in Arizona this winter after first flying to Florida for a visit. These windmills are right along I-10 before getting to Palm Springs.

There's a Thousand Trails park in Palm Springs (actually Palm Desert) so that was our plan for a couple of days. That puts us in the park for our Sunday Internet show: What Does This Button Do? we figured the odds were good that we'd have sufficient Verizon bandwidth there. We are starting to plan our lives around having good Internet connection on Sundays!

Here's our site at the Thousand Trails Palm Springs park. It used to be a date farm, can you tell?

And, sure enough, the Verizon signal was good, and fast - so we were able to do a decent job with our show. Doing a LIVE show is stressful, so why do we do it? We already record tutorial videos on our website, and that's how we make our living - people pay for a membership so they can watch all the videos. So, why do we schedule these live sessions of tutorial videos when the quality will never be as good, and we get all stressed out about it? Well, three main reasons:

  1. Because we like to use new technology ourselves, and the appeal of using Google+ Hangouts on Air to deliver a worldwide broadcast that automatically is recorded as a Youtube video, is just irresistible to us. 
  2. Because scheduling a live show will make us do it! I sometimes go a couple months without making a new tutorial video when I have no deadlines! By then, we're way behind! This way, we force ourselves to learn about smartphones and tablets in depth enough to teach, and we keep up. Yeah right! Like that's even possible!
  3. Because we think it is a valuable resource for lots of people out there with smartphones and tablets. Just watching a weekly half hour show will teach them basics that they won't get anywhere else, and give them ideas of uses for their devices that they may not think about on their own. 

Here's the episode that we did while at Palm Springs: What Does This Button Do? #14 Our Beginner's lesson for this time was about doing your Updates on both Apple and Android devices. Apple iOS 8 had just been released. This was the first episode where we asked a guest to join us and talk about their favorite App. Robin Seaver from the Computer Club at Sun City Hilton Head did a great job. This may be the first episode where we started to relax and have some fun. That's what it's really about.

Pretty amazing that we can do this from an RV?!  Here's what Jim's "studio" looks like at the end of a show:

Ah ... and you might notice the wine glass at the left of the photo. There's champagne in that glass! Finishing a live show always makes us feel like celebrating! Even the ones where things went wrong ... then we celebrate that we survived and still want to do another!

Here's my "studio."

The hardest part is projecting the smartphones and tablets. We've used different techniques, here I'm using a "Document Camera"  see the iPad sitting on the table? and the projection of the iPad on my big monitor? The good part is that what the document camera sees is shown on my computer screen, so using Hangouts ability to share my screen works great for the show. The bad part is that it's hard to keep the smartphone or tablet in focus with the Document camera. It's very touch with lighting, and every time you change screens, the lighting is different. It's also just slow to focus - so moving my hand ends up looking blurry.
Other times we've used a third tablet (my Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1) as if it were another guest in the hangout - then we turn the camera to the rear-facing lens and put the device to be demonstrated within it's sight. I think this focuses faster, but it is so awkward to hold everything in place and work the demo.  I'm now thinking that a different stand for the tablet/camera might be good. I see one by Belkin that looks interesting. I don't even want to add up how much money (100s) we've spent on different devices trying to come up with the best presentation possible. We'll keep working on it!!
For anyone interested in learning more about how to work with Google+ Hangouts on Air, we learn thru belonging to a Hangout Mastery group.

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Friday, September 26, 2014

Jim’s turn to visit friends

Heading south from the Central Coast, Jim arranged to meet up with old high school friends in Carpinteria (by Santa Barbara), Los Angeles, and Carlsbad (by San Diego.) Gee, you’d think he went to high school in California! Nope – South New Jersey.
We found an Elks lodge in Santa Barbara to stay a couple nights. We drove down to Carpinteria early enough to make a stop at the beach before heading over to Bill and Mary’s house for dinner. What a beautiful beach! And, there is a State Park / RV park right on the beach. The website said maximum length was 35 feet, so we didn’t even think of staying there (we're 37), but we had to take a drive thru.  This is what a $70/night site looks like:

Here’s the main street of Carpinteria at the beach. Iconic California! and on a beautiful evening!

Then we took a walk on the beach.

This is one Panorama picture where I ran around behind Jim to his left, as he was panning left to right. Fun! I got the idea from this video: http://youtu.be/fTz4Nhgm_SQ

Then we had a delightful dinner with Bill Crowley (Jim’s high school buddy) and his wife Mary. He left New Jersey immediately after high school, found this area and has been here ever since. They both obviously love the area.

I was interested to learn that one of the biggest employers in Carpinteria is Lynda.com. I love Lynda.com. That website was the inspiration for our Geeks on Tour Tutorial Video/Membership website. I actually sent in an application to be one of their teachers once … never heard back. I kinda like how things turned out!

We headed south again, destination Carlsbad – near San Diego. It was just a minor detour to go thru San Dimas and see another high school friend of Jim’s – Halsey Bonnell. We could only stay a couple hours, but I was glad to meet this friendly, joyful guy! We might get to visit him again because he's just around the block from the Pomona fairgrounds where the FMCA rally will be next March.

Carlsbad is the home of Ron and Ruth Kennedy. Ron helped organize the last high school reunion back in Jersey and we attended. We also visited their home in 2007 – I know because I can look it up in this blog!  

Ruth is a very accomplished artist and we so enjoyed getting the “Art Tour” of their home!

I love this one where she makes the light emanate from the flower.

We went out to dinner one night, grilled outside another, and took advantage of their hot tub for a nice soak. All along we chatted, reminisced, and planned. It's so good to spend time with friends at their home and really get connected. We even got to meet their son and grandson. Here's a picture of their grandson, actually it's two pictures of him - one directly from the camera and another of the painting that Ruth did of him.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Pismo Beach and Roadtreks

Next on the calendar was the Roadtrek rally in Pismo Beach. We only had a 12 mile drive from the San Luis Obispo Elks lodge to the Pismo Coast Village RV park where the rally was being held. The first thing we noticed was the fact that the RV park was right ON the beach! Well, you had to walk over a sand dune – and then there was a little lake to walk around before the actual beach, but all we had to do was walk a few sites down from our RV and there was the path to the ocean. GORGEOUS.

Map of Pismo and our RV site as seen by Google Earth
Just walk down that path and over a small dune, and this is what you'll see:

But if you take a picture of it with a camera that doesn't have the HDR setting, this is what you'll get:

I SO love the HDR setting on my Samsung Galaxy S5! As you can see from the 2 pictures above, it makes a world of difference. It's one of the things we teach in our "What Does This Button Do?" weekly webcasts. If you want to watch, here's the direct link to Episode 6 and the spot where we start the HDR demo.

My friend Melinda has a sister named Nancy. Nancy has a dream of selling her house and living in a motorhome (crazy idea isn't it?!) but she wants a small motorhome ... a Roadtrek! So, they arranged to stay at the same RV park for a couple of days at the beginning of the rally. What a treat for me!
Nancy and Melinda at Pismo Beach

Melinda and I have seen lots of sunsets together, but it's been a looooong time - here she is asking "What does this button Do?" :-)

We gave a couple of seminars for the rally, and arranged to help lots of folks one-on-one while we were there.

Taking pictures at sunset time - Pismo Beach

Roadtreks ready for Happy Hour
They assigned us the spot right next to the tent where all the activities were located. That was GREAT. Forget something for our seminar? I can go home and get it and be back literally in 2 minutes. We put out a sign up sheet for people to stop by for one-on-one help with smartphone questions, and people were visiting in and out all day.

On the last night, they had dancing in the streets ... literally! The floor of the tent was dirt, so that wasn't comfortable for dancing. they moved it to the street, right in front of our house! Wish we could have that everywhere we go!
Here's a picture copied from their newsletter: look close and you can see me at the very right in front of our banner.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

San Luis Obispo

Of all the places we’ve visited in this country, there are only a few that we would be happy living year round. San Luis Obispo county is one of them. I actually did live here, in Morro Bay, back in 1980-83. We drove up to the street I used to live on and snapped a photo …

There’s a great campground right on the beach at Morro Strand, but they didn’t have a site big enough for us, so we found a friendly Elks Lodge right in San Luis Obispo. This worked out great because it was so close to my good friend, Liz. We were able to visit for a few dinners, and a few drives. One day we drove up to San Simeon – home of the stunning Hearst Castle which we visited another time we were here – see blog post.

This time we walked out on the pier at San Simeon in hopes of seeing some whales. We did see some spouts a ways out, but I didn’t catch a picture. It was a gorgeous day though, with good friends.

Racing with a flock of Pelicans along the Pacific coast
The picture above is Liz and me on the Pier at San Simeon. Hearst castle is on top of the hill in the background. All the land surrounding the castle is Hearst Ranch. Liz worked very hard for many years to preserve that land. She vows to write the story of that project one of these days, meanwhile, here's a website for the Hearst Ranch Conservation project.

While we were here, we gave a few seminars for local computer clubs. Cloud Computing for the SLO Bytes main meeting of their computer club, and an advanced Picasa class for the Digital Photo special interest group of that club.

Presenting our Cloud Computing seminar for the San Luis Obispo computer club - SLOBytes

Next, we went up to Paso Robles and presented our "Technology for Travelers" seminar.

I really what love the SLOBytes photography group wrote on their website about our special Advanced Picasa Presentation.

Then we had a few days off before the next work assignment. My friend, Melinda came down from where she lives in Reno to join us here on the coast. I am just in heaven being with two of my longest and dearest friends - both at once!

Melinda came down with her sister and they stayed in Melinda's truck camper at the Morro Strand park. So we got to hang out till sunset there.

We also visited an Apple Farm, which was just a short drive from where we were staying in SLO.  They told us they had 72 varieties of apples all total throughout the year. They offered tastes of the different varieties. Like a wine tasting!

And the ride back was gorgeous.

They sure could use some rain around here. They're in the worst drought in generations. No fires so far in this area though, and it is so beautiful.

Since we had a whole 10 days in San Luis Obispo, I also took some time to go smartphone shopping for Liz. She said she wanted to join the 21st century, but she also seemed to hold pretty tight to her simple, old, flip phone. So, I recommended she get a tablet as a way to learn about mobile devices without letting go of the familiar phone. We found that Verizon had a sale on the LG G-Pad for $100 w/2 yr contract. That means it has it's own Verizon internet connection - no WiFi required. Basically, it does everything a smartphone does, but it's bigger, and it doesn't do regular phone calls. I thought this tablet was so nice, I did a little video on it here: http://youtu.be/kn6hphFbH4I

Monday, September 01, 2014

Ancient Charms and ancient friends

Well, maybe not ancient, but Arynne and I have been friends since high school, and that was quite a while ago! We were roommates in college and left together in 1973 to travel. She ended up in California – I lived in Canada for a while, then followed her to California, where we were roommates again in Berkeley. While I continued the traveling life, she has made California her home. Currently she lives in a dream house right on the coast a little south of Santa Cruz. Check out this view:

Every night she gets to look at that. I can see why she doesn't want to leave the house. She's been an artist, jewelry maker, weaver, and costumer most all of her adult life, and she sells her wares at Rennaissance faires and on her website, Ancient Charms. Her latest pieces are inspired by the Steampunk genre. She puts clockwork pieces together and calls them Time Trinkets.
At the current Rennaissance Faire, her booth is knows as Ancient Amulets.
When we were here in 2004, I posted a picture of the weaving she made for me.

She made arrangements with a neighbor for us to park in their driveway. It was a bit tight, but we made it. It was great to be roommates again for a few days!

We went to a local farmers markets, visited the Monterey Aquarium, had a few dinners, and watched whales play in Monterey Bay.

We even did our weekly show #10 from her neighbors' driveway, and she sat in - even making a short appearance!

After leaving Arynne's, we drove a short distance to the Elk's lodge in Monterey. What a great location, right in the middle of Monterey.
Life is Good!