Thursday, June 24, 2010

ParraPals empowers seniors with a disability has suggested that bloggers around the world use tomorrow to blog about empowering people with disabilities, and I thought what a good idea.
As you know,  Parramatta Computer Pals for Seniors prides itself on being fully "seniors friendly" and one way to do this is to make sure our members and visitors with a disability can use the club facilities.

To this end, we made sure we were located in wheelchair accessible premises - the Council Chambers Building - and you all know this, otherwise our president John Moxon (a wheelchair user for over 40 years now) couldn't participate.

We also understand about memory loss, confusion, anxiety and occasional seemingly odd behaviour due to strokes or other illnesses.  We have established policies and procedures to make sure our trainers and buddies can communicate and work easily with seniors who don't learn quickly or need to be reminded how to undertake certain activities or computer tasks.

We have resources to show students with vision loss alternative ways to use their computers and enlarge fonts in the various operating systems from XP to Windows 7.  We have copies of ASCCA's publication on Accessible features in Windows, and copies of a publication distributed by the former Royal Blind Society (now Vision Australia).

And just recently, we have purchased a portable wireless transmitter sound system called FrontRow to Go which was built especially for voice - it enables listeners to pick up consonants which they often miss.  We encourage all our trainers to use the system in the training room, and we also use it for our monthly meetings.  It's been a great success - worth every cent of the $2090 we paid for it.

Monday, June 14, 2010

A great start to the new financial year

It's great to see that already, 40 members have renewed their membership for the 2010-11 financial year and we expect many more to do so on Friday at our members meeting.

As you know, we (Margaret and John) have recently moved into a popular retirement village at Constitution Hill in Northmead, and we are still getting used to it.  It has certainly made a difference to me, with less work to do around the place, but we do miss our back yard at Winston Hills.  But we are gradually meeting more people, and what a nice bunch they are.  Very friendly.

Yesterday we letterboxed 409 residents - every household except those whose letterbox said "No junk mail".  Now we obviously don't think we are "junk mail" but we need to be unbiased sometimes, and respectful.

There are a number of our members who live at Constitution Hill, and other residents are, or have been, members of Castle Hill, Holroyd or Epping computer pals.  We are not trying to poach their members - they are good friends of ours.  And each club is different, running different courses with a different timetable.
 For instance Holroyd teaches Publisher, which we haven't attempted yet.  And Castle Hill  (The Hills) teaches Corel Draw, which we shall probably never teach.  At the moment, we teach open source graphics software - Google's Picasa 3.6, Microsoft's Movie Maker, and GIMP (open source software similar to Adobe's PhotoShop).  We don't teach PhotoShop simply because it is so expensive, and we are well aware of our members' limited income.

Our Digital Photography Special Interest Group is about to have its second field trip - tomorrow by ferry to Vivid Sydney.  Being winter, we don't expect it to be as popular as our March trip to Circular Quay, but we couldn't miss the opportunity afforded by this festival of light and sound.  We'll let you know how it goes.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Skills for a Mature Aged Workforce

Pete attended the first Skills for a Mature Aged Workforce training program run by ASCCA with assistance from Microsoft. There were 12 three hour sessions run by Diane Brentnall, Theresa Wilson and Sirkka Duncan, with guest speakers on job hunting and Centrelink.

The program is designed for mature age people intended to return to the work force. As well as giving skills in creating a CV, getting advice from a recruitment agency on job hunting and using the internet to find a job, it also covered an introduction to Windows 7 and MS Office 2007 including Word, Excel and Outlook.

Pete is happily retired but found the Windows 7 and Office 2007 components, which were the bulk of the course, very interesting and informative.

The instructors provided excellent notes. Future courses will have a maximum of 10 participants and the course is very hands on. It costs $125 but this is great value for 36 hours of training and Pete recommends it. For more information phone ASCCA on 9286 3871.

Cyber Security Forum

On 6th June Pete and Jon went to a free Cyber Security Forum organised by ASCCA as part of National Cyber Security Awareness Week. There were guest speakers from the Commonwealth Bank, the Australian Federal Police (AFP), and Microsoft, followed by questions from the audience.

The AFP speaker handed out a useful booklet called Protecting Yourself Online - What Everyone Needs to Know. It's published by the Australian Government and has simple tips on how to protect yourself online.
  • install security software and update it regularly
  • turn on automatic updates so all your software receives the latest fixes
  • set a strong password and change it at least twice a year
  • stop and think before you click on links or attachments
  • stop and think before you share any personal financial information - about you, your friends or family
  • know what your children are doing online - make sure they know how to stay safe and encourage them to report anything suspicious.

Pete is going to try to get more copies for interested members of our Club, and it's also available online at .

The Microsoft speaker emphasises that you should have the latest web browser software and download all the latest updates to protect yourself. He recommended going to .

The Commonwealth Bank speaker said the Commonwealth Bank Netbank website is very secure and has never been successfully attacked. He also recommended that you use strong passwords and be very careful where you go online to access personal financial information. He said make sure you cover your hand when entering your PIN into an ATM, and do not disclose your netbank password and PIN to anyone including your loved ones.

Another tip, in response to a question, was not to find software by doing a Google search; instead, go to a reputable download site such as or to review software, including freeware, and download safely.

It was a very interesting seminar with lots of lively questions and informative answers.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Visit to Peel SeniorNet, WA

Peter Grove and Deborah Martin were on holidays in the South West of WA recently. Dorothy from ASCCA gave us the address of Peel Seniornet Inc in Mandurah (south of Perth), which is a Seniors Computer group like Parramatta Computer Pals. Like us, they have a computer room and access to a meeting room - theirs is at Mandurah City Council Community Centre. It's a beautiful setting looking over a boardwalk to the water.

Their computer room was closed for refurbishment, but Peter and Deborah were lucky enough to arrive just as their Management Committee was about to start a meeting, and were able to meet and chat with the committee members. They said they had recently had a visit from Sirkka Duncan from ASCCA.

It was interesting to visit another Seniors Computer Club and something you might like to do next time you are on holidays interstate - you'll find them very welcoming and keen to compare notes on our respective clubs.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

How I got involved with Parramatta Computer Pals for Seniors

John and members at a members' monthly meeting

A few years back, in Seniors Week I think, I saw a stall that was promoting the formation of a computerpals club in Parramatta, so I completed forms and eventually went to the formation meeting of Parramatta ComputerPals for Seniors and joined on the day.

When Margaret learned that I was already into video and photo editing, she wanted me to be a trainer, but I said no, I'm too involved with the credit union movement but I'll help you and John in any other way.

Over the past two years I've done a number of courses. Courses that I really enjoyed were photo story by John Moxon and digital photo management by Jon Bayley, both are very computer literate and excellent trainers.

Next thing I was involved in helping John and Margaret move 6 or more computers from their home to our club rooms and , with the help of my son Graham, erect the projector screen. So I was involved!

Since then I have become a Buddy to Jon Bayley and I find this very satisfying, helping members learn the finer points of digital photo management and the great benefits of installing and using Picasa.

I really enjoy the friendships I have made in the club, and also enjoy the social times...monthly meetings with a guest speaker and morning tea ably supplied by the two Granville sisters (and others), as well as the school holiday club lunch at Parramatta Leagues Club that I attend with my wife Josie and grand-daughter Samara.

It was at a monthly club meeting that I first heard about Photobooks. At the time I was planning a slideshow of my wedding and honeymoon for our 50th Anniversary party - when I heard Linda Falgiatori from Creative Memories talk and show her Photobook I saw what I wanted - not a slideshow but a Photobook. I joined her class and made a wonderful photobook that I presented as a surprise to Josie at our 50th. Since then I have made about 10 photobooks, they are a great way to preserve family history in a way that will survive for many generations.

I thank Margaret, our Secretary and John, our President for helping to bring ComputerPals for Seniors to Parramatta..........

John Lee