NWA-PCUG Newsletter Article, August 2002
The President's Column
by Dale Oliver, President
(click to email author)

July 2002 Meeting Recap - IrfanView:
I think I am starting to sound like a broken record (or scratched CD, to be more contemporary) but we had yet another superb presentation this past month. Grant Wales presented, and if you missed it, you really missed something. Grant did a very good job of balancing general information about photo and graphical file manipulation with some specific information regarding IrfanView software features. He even managed to pull a rabbit out of his hat when the A/V guy showed up with the projector a half hour late.

IrfanView (http://www.irfanview.com) is the software program that can be downloaded and used for FREE. The software can open more file formats than I knew existed, and it can even view and manipulate digital videos, play sounds, create slideshows, and must have about a million other features that I don't even know about yet. Not to mention the additional plug-ins available for it. All in all, I was very impressed with the software and with Grant's knowledge of this subject.

Grant has spent a lot of time creating online tutorials and references for those of us interested in manipulating graphics files and photos on our personal computers. You can read all about the topics he has written up at http://www.geocities.com/george20032. You can read the individual topics online in HTML, or download the documents to your computer in MS Word DOC format.

Meeting Schedule:
Several prospective club members and current club members (myself included) have a difficult time giving up what basically amounts to a full weekend day per month for our club meetings, partially due to the meeting time being in the middle of a weekend day. In an effort to be fair to everyone, we are CONSIDERING the option of moving the club meeting time, provided the majority of members wish to do so and can agree on a more convenient time.

Some of the options proposed include Saturday mornings or weekday evenings.

NO decisions or assumptions have been made yet. The club board would like to solicit input from members at this coming (August) meeting. Please be sure to attend the meeting to make your voice heard. We will also e-mail members to request their input in case members are unable to attend in person. If there is a particular time or day that will work best for you, be sure to e-mail me at d_oliver@swbell.net and let me know your thoughts.

Make a Difference!
We have been able to enjoy some memorable presentations this year, and many of them have been given by people in our club who are not professional public speakers or computer professionals by vocation. They are simply members who have volunteered to share what they know with us. Grant Wales, Pat McAlister, Don Boudeman, David Hinds, Joe Schork and Ed Maxey come to mind immediately. Our newest member, Ken Hreha, will be presenting to us during the October and November meetings.

Other members have shared their experiences with us via newsletter articles. Those who come to mind from recent published articles include Pat McAlister, Don Boudeman, John Clark, Thornton Jacobs, David Hinds, Betty Davis, Charles Blanchard, and Bill Shook (last, but certainly not least) to name a few.

It only takes a handful of people who donate an hour or two per month to help our club survive and prosper. I am asking YOU to volunteer for some small activity in order to give back to the club a small fraction of what you have received. Volunteer to write a newsletter article, give an informal presentation about something you have learned about computers, or volunteer for a board position (which typically only requires an hour or two per month at most-who on earth can't afford such a pittance of time, for goodness sake?).

Thank you in advance for volunteering to do your small (but necessary) part, and giving something back to OUR club to make it even better!

Linux vs Windows:
As Microsoft's operating systems and software products continue to ship with more and more bugs, and consume more processing power and drive space than ever before, people are starting to take a hard look at the alternatives. When the pain of sticking with a company's products exceeds the pain required to cut your losses and switch to something else, new de facto standards are naturally created in the marketplace. Many people are starting to become discouraged enough with Microsoft products and business practices that we could be close to that point again.

We can all recall what happens to computer software companies who lose sight of the customer-regardless of how much that company appears to dominate the market at the time. Remember the precipitous plunges of Ashton-Tate, Lotus Development, WordStar, WordPerfect, Borland, Novell, SyBase, and many others that all seemed to be unsinkable monopolies at the time?

New member Ken Hreha will be presenting the pros and cons of Linux vs. Windows during our October meeting, and then a follow-on presentation discussing the pros and cons of Star Office/Open Office and Microsoft Office during the November meeting. I don't know about you, but I certainly plan to be front-and-center with pen and paper handy at those meetings. Be sure to read Ken's teaser article in this issue of the newsletter.

Upcoming Presentations:
In the meantime, we will continue the popular thread of digital photography and image manipulation. Our August meeting will be a show- and-tell about digital photography, and our own Joe Schork will discuss some of the neat features of Paint Shop Pro software at our September meeting. Be sure to mark your calendars...I for one am looking forward to hearing about these excellent topics!

Ken's Teaser
New member, Ken Hreha, advised the group of a powerful new Office Suite, which also happens to be "free". (Free of cost, as well as free of "strings" !)

Open Office 1.0 is a suite of office type programs including a powerful Word Processor, Spreadsheet, Math Editor, Presentation Graphics, Vector Drawing Program, and Page Publisher. The program is the "free" version of Sun Microsystems's recently released "Star Office 6.0". The applications in OpenOffice all read and write Microsoft Office files, such as Word / Excel / and PowerPoint. The only difference between this program and the $69.00 Star Office version 6, is that OpenOffice does not include handy 462 page User's Manual, the relational data base, massive clip-art library and numerous templates found in the retail version.

Check it out at: http://www.openoffice.org

Anyone can freely download OpenOffice for Windows, or Linux, or even Solaris at this easy to use site. (Approximately 72 megs !) Ken says that he'll burn it onto a CD and bring a couple copies to the next meeting for our software library.

A word of caution: the default settings for this program are all metric ! Including the paper, which defaults to the European A4 size, instead of the commonly used 8-1/2 X 11. Check it out.

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