As we begin a new year after surviving a very difficult 2020, your club is hard at work to improve the technology aspect of your lives. The number of members requesting support has increased, so we are adding resources to the First Level Support (FLS) team. We also have a new list of Recommended Software and Resources (PC & Mac) to help keep you safer online (you can read more about this in the FLS section below). We also plan to start monthly Zoom presentations on topics you have requested, like online security, password management and how to avoid ransomware attacks. We will record these presentations and make them available on our website. And we are embarking on a new educational effort that focuses on providing new ways to keep you informed and make it easier for you to learn and work with today’s technology.
The most important thing I want to address is membership renewal. For the first time in many years, the number of members we have at this point in January is fewer than in previous years. The number of Tellico Village owners has increased, the number of FLS requests has increased, yet TVCUC membership renewal has decreased. Perhaps the pandemic is to blame, or some members may have simply forgotten to renew their membership due to other concerns. We urge you to take a moment and renew your membership. Your $20 annual membership not only buys you peace of mind that you can call FLS anytime with your technology questions, but it also helps us continue the acclaimed efforts of our Technology Access Program (TAP). As a direct result of membership dues and corporate grants, last year TAP refurbished and provided 1,088 computers to 1,577 youth. Since the TAP program was created, they have refurbished 8,355 computers and served 12,460 youth! Many of these kids would not have a computer if not for you. Please renew your membership now to help us continue this valuable program, while at the same time assuring you have on-call FLS computer support whenever you need it.
Larry McJunkin, President
Technology Access Program
TAP continues to grow under the guidance of Warren Sanders and Vince Alline. Last year was a banner year for TAP, with systems refurbished and youths served exceeding our expectations and setting new records. During 2020, TAP refurbished and distributed 1,088 computers (mostly desktops) which served 1,577 youths, setting a new annual record. This puts the total number of computers refurbished by TAP at 8,355, serving a total of 12,460 youths!
Other on-going TAP efforts are six Linux laptops and 28 tablets being sent to Africa, with a need to send more to other destinations. TAP has forged a relationship with the Kiwanis Organization and is working with Covenant Health, Clayton Homes and Summit Medical in hopes to receive equipment these organizations may donate after they upgrade their computers in the future.
First Level Support
Many of the questions we are asked by members are about which software and other online solutions we recommend. Toward that end, we created a completely updated list of Recommended Software and Resources (PC & Mac) to help keep you safer online and to be more productive. While types of software are personal preferences, there are some applications and solutions you really need to install on your computer. The FLS and TAP groups have carefully evaluated several necessary options and we highly recommend them to you. In fact, these are the same applications and solutions we personally use on our own computers. Check out our list of recommendations.
In other FLS news, we are adding more members to our team and our goal is to respond to your technology support requests as quickly as possible. If you need technology support, call the FLS Team at (865) 408-8223 or you can submit an email support request by clicking here (then click NEXT after logging into TellicoLife).
Our newly appointed Education Committee Chair, Margie Krafft, is in the midst of “baptism by fire” as the club begins to shift focus to a more education-oriented organization. In addition to working on new educational resources we will add to our website, Margie is currently working on an article for which we have had many requests – How to Configure a New Windows PC. This in-depth tutorial will be posted on the Education page of our website later this month. If you have technology topics you’d like us to write about, send Margie an email.
Microsoft to Add ‘News and Interests’ Feature to Windows 10
Microsoft frequently brings new features and visual upgrades to the Windows operating system. The company is now testing a big change to the Windows 10 taskbar, as it plans to add a new widget to the taskbar. The new widget, according to reports, has been made available to testers already and it will allow Windows 10 users to access a feed of news, stocks, and weather information straight from the taskbar.
This new taskbar feature will pop out into a mini feed of content that can be personalized according to a user’s preference, including sports, news, headlines, and weather information. Microsoft is using its Microsoft News network to source news and content from more than 4,500 sources. The company has been curating this via its machine learning for the past few months and this feature will also learn a user’s behavior and show what news is relevant to them when they dismiss or like stories in the feed.
Microsoft is testing the new feature with its Windows Insiders and it will likely roll out to all users later this year. The new taskbar feature will also require Microsoft’s Chromium-based Edge browser to be installed on a PC. This also means that if users click any link, it will open in Edge. There will also be an option to disable this new taskbar feature, and Microsoft says that it will be an ad-free experience.
5G and Enhanced Connectivity
Faster and more reliable internet doesn’t just mean we can load webpages more quickly and spend less time waiting for videos to launch on YouTube. Each successive advance in mobile connectivity from 3G onwards has unlocked new use cases for the internet. 3G made web browsing and data-driven services useful on mobile devices, 4G led to the growth of streaming video and music platforms as bandwidths increased, and 5G, likewise, will open more doors in terms of what is possible.
5G means that services relying on advanced technologies, such as augmented reality and virtual reality, as well as cloud-based live platforms will become a viable proposition, anywhere at any time. They also threaten to make cable and fiber-based networks redundant, with their need for us to be tethered to a particular location. This means if you have 5G service with your mobile phone carrier, you will no longer need an Internet Service Provider (ISP), like Spectrum. This is another reason ISPs like Spectrum are rushing to get into the mobile phone carrier business.
In short, 5G and other advanced, high-speed networks make all the other trends in today’s technology available anywhere, any time. Your internet service will cost less with 5G, and it will be available anywhere you are by connecting your computer to your smartphone via a personal Hotspot. Imagine a road trip from New York to San Francisco and having high-speed internet service the entire trip.
The iPhone Accessory That Could Super-Charge Your Hearing
If you struggle to hear conversations in a bustling restaurant or busy supermarket, Noopl might just save you a fortune on hearing aids. This small iPhone accessory, launched at CES 2021, clips into the bottom of an iPhone. It has a three-mic array and beam steering, so that it can latch onto different speakers around a restaurant table, for example.
It uses the head tracking technology built into Apple’s AirPods Pro to detect which direction the user is facing. So, when you’re looking directly at someone, their conversation is amplified by up to 15 decibels, whilst the background noise is reduced, allowing you to hear the speaker clearly. As someone else starts to speak and your gaze is averted towards them, so is the audio feed, with a circular graphic on the iPhone’s display pointing in the direction of the person who’s speaking.
The primary use case is restaurants and supermarkets, with staff often wearing face masks that muffle their voices, making them harder to hear. Hospital rooms are another incredibly challenging situation. You can read more at https://noopl.com
Mac Special Interest Group
Hi, Karen Brown here – Thanks to all the Mac users who paid their 2021 TVCUC dues. We now number nearly 350 users in Tellico Village and represent more than 180 households. That, of course, is not all the Mac users in the Village, just the ones who belong to the TVCUC. If you have a Mac, but for some reason never indicated that when you paid your TVCUC dues, please send me an email to that effect. We have not held an in-person meeting since February 2020, but we are going to have a Zoom meeting on Friday, January 29 at 10 A.M. My understanding is that some of you are still in your pajamas at that time, but please join us anyway – just turn off your video! You should have received a “Zoom Invitation” with your regular monthly Mac SIG email.
There is lots of talk about the new Apple ARM chip, M1. The most recent issue of Macworld reviews the M1 Mac mini as “the Mac with the best ever bang for your buck” and PC Magazine says this about it. So, if you are considering a new Mac, think about a mini ($669/$869) + display or an M1 MacBook Air ($999/$1249), or maybe even the M1 MacBook Pro 13” ($1299/$1499). Me? I have plans to upgrade my iMac as soon as the newly redesigned iMacs come out with an M1 chip later this year. Larry McJunkin has already upgraded to an M1 MacBook Pro and is blown away by its performance.
The club closed the year with a minor $562 shortfall to budget. Membership dues were down 30%, as was grant income, most likely due to the pandemic. But TAP expenses were reduced by discontinuing the practice of buying new printers to give away with refurbished computer systems. As a result, our club’s financial position remains strong, with over 12 months spending reserves.