It was our 35th anniversary (1984-2019) and there was a big cake on the snack table along with some Halloween candies. Raffle sales were brisk as there were two MacBook Pro’s in the raffle, along with three iTune gift cards. One of the MacBook Pros will go home with someone tonight; the other will go to a member who does not need to be at the meeting tonight. Two years ago, someone won both prizes, drawing the lucky ticket at the meeting and being picked in the random all-member drawing. Adding to the excitement was the MacNexus Annual Meeting which happens every October. The meeting started a little late as Ken allowed people to get their raffle tickets before everything started. Ken would be speaking about Amazon’s Alexa devices and other smart devices.
Ken noted that we had a great turnout as he started the formal part of the meeting. First up was the Annual Meeting. Ken called the meeting to order, said how the notice of the meeting was given to the members (via email), the secretary read the minutes from last years meeting, Karen Downs our treasurer for 27 years, gave the treasurers report. Ken noted that Karen will be stepping down as Treasurer. Lisa Goodwill will be taking over. Karen has processed for the club more than two million dollars in her time as treasurer. Bob White then announced the election results. There were 93 ballots cast (no paper ballots again this year) and Ken Spencer and Bob Ress got 93 votes for president and secretary respectively. Also elected were Mary Windschneider and Sheryl Souza as Directors at Large. Ken took a moment to thank the raffle guys, Thomas and Curtis, and the snack table volunteers for all their hard work. He noted that if MacNexus ever runs out of volunteers the club would be over. Ken asked if there was any old business, there was none, any new business, again there was none Ken asked for a motion to adjourn the meeting. Bob White moved, Karen Downs seconded, members voted aye and the 2019 Annual meeting was over. At 11 minutes or so it was not our quickest meeting (I think the record is 6 or 7 minutes) but, as always, the important business was covered and the election results were presented to the club.
We had one new member tonight, welcome to the club! In rumors, Apple may have a new iPad Pro models and a new 16” MacBook Pro coming. In Questions and Answers tonight, A member had created a document in Pages and, when closing it, she was asked if she wanted to lock or unlock the document. When she went to open it again, she was told she did not have permission to open the document. Ken had not heard of the problem and the member did not have the lock/unlock prompt come up again. Someone asked what is the best way to share between computers and iPhones/iPads when they were on different versions of the operating systems, using as an example a recipe from the Internet. Ken pointed out that for something like that you could save the bookmark for the recipe and that would be shared by all the devices. You can save the recipe to iCloud drive (which shows up under Files on the iPhone/iPad) or print the recipe choosing the save as PDF option. Pdf’s can be read by all of Apples devices. Another member said she uses Notes for something like this as Notes is another app shared between computers and iPhones.
Ken asked if people have upgraded to Catalina, the newest operating system for Macs. Only a few had. He does not recommend upgrading yet. Catalina does stop support for 32 bit programs, so one needs to be sure their critical apps are 64 bit. Ken noted that if you get prompted to update Reminders and you haven’t upgraded to Catalina, that Reminders aren’t compatible. A member asked what is a VPN and did they need one? Ken explained that VPN stands for Virtual Private Network. VPN gives you added security as you use the Internet. It allows you to connect to a remote server when you are overseas which, for example, allows you to stream Netflix. A VPN can give you extra security when using unknown or public WiFi services. Ken suggests using your cellular connection when it is available as it is a secure connection. Ken uses an app, 126.96.36.199, from Cloudflare which offers a faster and more secure connection by adding an option to your DNS service.
Just before the break, to give the volunteers more time to cut and plate the cake, Ken showed some of his pictures from a recent visit to the Mt. Whitney area, including stops at Mobius Rock, the Lone Pine (used in many movies) Cowboy Film Festival and Convict Lake. He had some great pictures all taken with his iPhone. Ken also showed a preview of his talk tonight with a slide showing the Amazon Echo, the Google Home and the Apple Home Pod. He then showed a fun video from the Ellen show with an Amazon Echo Dot in a Toyota. Then it was time for cake and more raffle tickets.
After the break, Ken did the volunteer raffle which Bob Studer won. He asked how many people had Alexa devices and then asked how many devices people had. There were quite a few people who have five or more Alexa enabled devices. The devices have a choice of activation words; Computer, Alexa, Amazon and Echo are the four allowed. Ken had an Echo Dot at the meeting from his house that used Computer. Computer and Amazon can be problematic if the device is near a TV as both words can be heard on TV shows and can cause the device to listen to what is said on the TV, leading to some unexpected results. You can control the volume of the devices with speakers with your voice. If you have multiple devices, you can group them so they play music all at the same time. The devices with speakers can play Amazon Music, Apple Music, Spotify and Audible audio books.
Amazon currently makes an Echo Dot, an Echo speaker, an Echo Plus (premium speaker), Echo Show with a screen among many others. They now have an Echo Studio with the best auto quality sound of the Echo speakers. Ken had a Dot rigged up at the front of the room and he could turn on a light just by saying “Computer turn on switch one.” Ken has rigged his house so he can open his garage door, turn his lights and ceiling fans on or off and see what his Ring doorbell (now owned by Amazon) views. He could do all that from the one device he had at the meeting. He demonstrated by turning on a camera he had in his master bedroom which showed his ceiling fan and using his voice to start then stop the fan.
Among the new products Amazon is releasing soon are Echo Flex — a plug in smart speaker (plugs directly into a wall outlet), Echo Loop — a smart ring with Alexa that connects to your phone, Echo Buds — like airpods but with Alexa and Echo Frames — eyeglass frames with Alexa which will connect to android phones. A company called Anker makes the Roav Viva, a Alexa enabled cigarette lighter plug with two USB ports which will play music through your cars bluetooth speaker connection. The Echo Show screen can display what a Ring doorbell sees as well as letting you play movies on it (it only has a 5” screen).(Ed. note: Now there are 8 and 10.5 inch versions of Show). Amazon also makes a microwave with Alexa built in which can be controlled by Echo devices. Amazon also makes a Smart Oven with will do the same things. Fire TV Cube brings Alexa voice control to your TV. An Echo Look is a camera with Alexa which will look at outfits you try on and show you how they look on you.
Ring is now owned by Amazon. About 1/2 the people in the meeting had a Ring doorbell. The Ring senses motion and can alert you when someone is at the door. They can become a part of a Ring Neighborhood by sharing videos of suspicious people with other Ring owners. The police can be given access to the Ring footage. There is a Ring Peephole, which mounts on the inside of our door and looks through the peephole. Ring makes a security system which you choose the parts you need to build your system for your house. It offers central station monitoring for only $10 per month which is cheaper than many other systems. It can alert you via an app and if you have cameras, you can view them with the app. Ring makes a stick up camera which is weatherproof so you can mount it outside. Amazon makes an Echo wall clock which you can tell to set a timer, which it shows on the clock face.
You can set up routines for Echo devices so that you can open the garage door and turn on lights with one command. Ken has chosen Echo devices because they work with the devices he has in his house or is planning to get for his house. Ken used the Echo Dot he brought to the meeting to choose the random number for the members raffle for the MacBook Pro. Ken then invited our new member tonight to draw the tickets for the iTune gift cards and the MacBook Pro. The three iTune gift cards were down all at once and our new member delivers the cards to each winner. Then the winning ticket was drawn for the MacBook Pro and Ken had us all stand then sit down as our ticket was eliminated. The MacBook Pro went to a very happy member sitting in the room behind me.
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