Category Archives: Internet/computing

Word clouds… word art

Word clouds are an enter­taining way to play with words by making a graphic display of the words in a passage of text. The following word cloud is based on a list of the topics of all the courses at U3A plus descriptive words that list some of the types of course, such as ‘games’ and ‘computing’. The more numerous a word is in the text, the larger the word becomes.

This word cloud gives an attractive easy to read overview of the course coverage at U3A Adelaide.

There are lots of free word cloud gener­ators on the Web: this one is generated by https://www.wordclouds.com/. It is a simple process to make a word cloud. Simply copy the text from an article into the site and the word cloud is produced. The more numerous a word is in the text, the larger the word becomes. You can change many settings for shape, font, colour and so on the get the effect you want. Words like

This one is taken from a NYTimes story on Trump and conspiracy theories. You can get an idea of the content of the story from the most used words. Conjunctions and like words are ignored.

Email Safety

Following the startling high­jacking of Sue Garforth’s email account recently, many people are thinking about the safety of their own email. The following are some tips on how you can protect yourself. There is a lot of inform­a­tion on the web that goes into more detail. These days one’s email account is a critical service. So it is worth being careful. 
Some of the elements of good practice are:

1. Have a good password and only use it once. Everyone knows this, but it is difficult when one has so many passwords to keep track of. A good method to remember one or two most important passwords is to think of a sentence that is easy for you to remember and the password is the first letter of each word. For example: “In Athens we paid 3 $ for 9 loaves and 2 fish”. The password is: iAwp3$f9la2f. If you are prepared to invest some time to make the problem go away, get a password manager app. Best ones are Dashlane, LastPass and 1Password. 

2. Only use an email service that has two-step veri­fic­a­tion. This means that if you change your password or make any signi­ficant alter­a­tion to your email service, a number is sent to your phone or email that you enter to verify that you are the owner of the account. Sue had this facility and has regained access to her account. Yet to be determ­ined if it is safe though. 


I think that having a large and well known email provider is important. In case things go wrong, go to your email and look for the help functions to report what has happened. Large services like Gmail are very responsive to reports of fraud or hacking. 

If you have more ideas please make a Comment below.

Podcasts make you live longer

John Travers

This is an incon­tro­vert­ible fact: espe­cially if you are elderly. That is because podcasts listeners generally are listened on a phone while walking, exer­cising, gardening, painting so they keep fit and therefore live longer. A bonus is that podcasts generally engage the brain so the podcasee becomes smarter and able to have more inter­esting conver­sa­tions.

Apple Podcasts

A podcast is a series of audio record­ings that one can subscribe to on a podcast app on a phone. A new podcast appears on one’s phone as soon as it is published. It is in effect on-demand-radio. There are over a million podcast available. Podcasts are generally free and have become a major publishing industry because people like to listen to people’s stories and opinions. A spec­tac­ular example is the ABCs Richard Fidler Conversations. Nearly all Radio National is available on podcasts.

How do you get podcasts?

Google Podcasts
  1. Find the podcast app on your phone. You don’t have to listen on a phone, but they do have the advantage of being very portable. Connect your ear-buds.
  2. In the app, search for topics that interest you and Subscribe to those you want to try. You can try out as many as you like.
  3. Choose the option to only keep, say 2 episodes, so you don’t fill up your phone with old podcasts — audio files are large.
  4. They will auto­mat­ic­ally download at home via wireless as they become available. (Make sure your podcast app is set NOT to use mobile data otherwise it will download while out and about and eat up your mobile data.)
  5. Think of all the tasks you find tedious and consider listening to a distracting podcast while you are doing it.
  6. Consider getting cordless earbuds like Apple AirPods. They remove the annoying cords.

These are some of the podcasts that I listen to. You can find podcasts in whatever you are inter­ested in because people have found it a very cheap and effective way to get their message out.

If you enjoy podcasts you may find that listening to audio-books is also appealing. You can get free audio-books from Libby, the SA public library app.

Podcast can also be an effective insomnia aid. You can quietly listen, and can set the sleep timer to stop after a set time.

Reading, German, Movies, Books, Zooming along

Four courses just started with Zoom…

Tric Topsfield  The Pleasure of Reading

Our group has met twice using Zoom. The first time with only four parti­cipants went very well in terms of clear commu­nic­a­tion and good quality of sound. The small number obviously demands that each parti­cipant needs to be well prepared to contribute to the discus­sion in order for the meeting to proceed smoothly.

The second time with eleven parti­cipants provided more of a challenge with echoing causing diffi­culty with hearing for me as a hearing aid wearer but that seemed to vary with each person. I suspect I had the most diffi­culty and even so I managed well enough to enjoy the exper­i­ence. Feedback from members having their first Reading for Pleasure on Zoom was that the meeting went well. Conversation was engaging with every parti­cipant contrib­uting.

A further challenge is accessing scheduled books with restricted library services  so the order of books has had to be altered to meet this challenge. Meetings with Zoom will continue until we can all rejoice in seeing each other in actuality rather than on screen.

PS  A plus for me has been learning how to use a new IT commu­nic­a­tion skill which I may need to use in the future.

Renate Tonks German Advanced Conversation

Dace Darzins is the Tutor and I manage the class on Zoom. We have a Pro licence paid for by u3a so we can go for longer than the standard 40 min.

Unfortunately the group is quite small, maximum so far have been 8 parti­cipants, but this makes the group quite manage­able.  If the group were any larger I think we might struggle to have spon­tan­eous conver­sa­tions.

Each week we agree on a topic and each person has an oppor­tunity to express them­selves, which generates questions from the other parti­cipants.  We have found that a relaxed conver­sa­tional style session, as compared to a formal present­a­tion followed by discus­sion, works best when using Zoom.  Once everyone got used to giving one person at a time the floor and not inter­rupting the sessions now flow very smoothly.

I don’t believe that we need the white­board in Zoom as most people are taking their own notes and asking if they don’t under­stand something, whereby Dace will explain the meaning and spelling of words. 

Kay Bennetts Free to Air Film Club

We have just had our first session and it went very well indeed. The film was chosen from the enormous number available on SBS On Demand.

There were eight parti­cipants who engaged in lively discus­sion. Everyone felt that seeing each other all the time was very important in this time of social distan­cing, and that 8 was the perfect number to enable a natural relaxed conver­sa­tion.

Everyone is keen to continue and was impressed with how easy it is to have a conver­sa­tion in this manner. People like the fact that you can see everyone in the group all the time.

[Enrolments are still open for this group and for a number of the other new online courses.]

John Travers Book Club

I recently lead a book club discus­sion of twelve in Zoom and we asked each person to hold their hand up if they wanted to speak. This worked very well, better than a regular discus­sion, because we were all looking at each other and could see if someone had their hand up. The Chair simply said a name, and on the conver­sa­tion went. It was a more orderly conver­sa­tion than usual and more personal, surpris­ingly.

A short history of video meetings

How necessity drives innov­a­tion faster than tech­no­logy

by John Travers

In mid May our lives were turned slightly upside-down by the world pandemic. I started to set up a video meeting with a group of men I regularly meet with and someone suggested that Zoom was better than Skype. I did a quick look at reviews and found that Skype was similar and better known. A week later several other people mentioned Zoom so I thought I had better have a look at it. Within a week I was a regular Zoom user and since then have hosted or taken part in multiple meetings of our Old Men Group, my wife’s discus­sion group, my book club, my wife’s tennis group, a class I conducted on Apple Photos, and another on writing a blog. U3A’s next Board meeting will be via Zoom. Our grand­chil­dren are now spending their full school day online, in class. As one ruefully commented, “The teachers seem to think we have nothing else to do.”

As a long time promoter of tech­no­logy in education through by work and in retire­ment this is a quite amazing change. Have people suddenly decided that tech­no­logy is wonderful? Has the tech­no­logy suddenly got better? No to both questions. Necessity has pushed us forward, and don’t have an doubt that it is forward.

The members of my Old Men’s group and of my wife’s tennis group are not all tech­no­logy enthu­si­asts, but they have been presented with a choice: do you want to maintain face to face contact with your friends even though it might mean some tech­no­lo­gical discom­fort? The feedback has been over­whelm­ingly positive, not because everyone found it stress free, but it seems that all have found it a satis­fying exper­i­ence once they get over the initial awkward­ness. Our book club has met for years and had very good discus­sions — and long argu­ment­ative lunches. But last week’s meeting was generally thought to be one of our best discus­sions ever, via Zoom, and as a bonus, a couple of people who could not attend were sent an audio of the discus­sion. I missed the lunch, though.

“You can get a personal Zoom intro­duc­tion from Roger by enrolling in Come Zoom with Me.”

So, from this very short history I think that the lesson is that necessity, oppor­tunity and a bit of confid­ence take us forward. A consid­er­able propor­tion of U3A members have been using Skype or FaceTime to talk to their children and grand­chil­dren for some time. Many have in the last month taken the next step into group video meetings. Give it a go. Experiment with someone who can help. Humans like to talk and interact, and these tools help.

A number of classes at U3A are thriving with Zoom. U3A Board has agreed to pay for licences for the extended time version of Zoom for tutors who need it. There is a very simple guide to getting started in Learning Stories A Guide to Zoom, below on this blog, . There is a much more detailed guide by Roger Bills at Come Zoom with Me, in Course Notes. And more important, you can get a personal Zoom intro­duc­tion from Roger by enrolling in the course, Come Zoom with Me.

Milking the Internet

by Joelie Hancock Email

Two years ago I set myself the task of docu­menting all the insti­tutes we have had in South Australia. Institutes provided our communities, both suburban and rural, with a library, a reading-room and a meeting place — for enter­tain­ment, debate and instruc­tion. Originally from the UK in the 1820s, they were called Mechanics’ Institutes. We in South Australia had 440 of them — at least that’s how many I’ve located so far.

The internet has been invalu­able in locating them, finding out about them and their towns, and tracking down a photo of each. I’m confident it will even­tu­ally help me to make the inform­a­tion I’ve gathered available to others. 

Many of the sources I’ve used could well be useful for others in finding out about ancestors, people of interest, halls, schools, towns, organ­isa­tions such as Lodges, events, churches, War Memorials, and Libraries. Here are my sources:

Trove: ‘Newspapers Advanced Search’ in Trove gives me access to digitised versions of all Australian news­pa­pers up to 1959. I select South Australia, type in eg ‘Goolwa Institute’, if I want I select a decade, then look for items of interest, which I can then click to open.

From Trove

Mechanics’ Institutes of Victoria Inc: This organ­isa­tion has been dili­gently collecting materials and inform­a­tion about Victoria’s insti­tutes for decades and has led me to books, news­let­ters, helpful people, SA inform­a­tion, and even a confer­ence.

State Library of SA: The catalogue has books about towns that include inform­a­tion on Institutes, to photo­graphs of Institute buildings with inform­a­tion attached, and the South Australian Institutes Journal. I view the photos at home; and read the others in the library.

I am careful to check and record the inform­a­tion with each photo.

Local Library: Libraries SA Onecard catalogue online has turned up many histories of SA towns which I reserve online. Sometimes I can only read a selected book at a partic­ular library, but at least I know which to go for it.

State Records SA online has led me to records of all SA’s early Institutes as well as an index to the Institutes reported on in the Institute Association’s journal from 1900. To read the journals I need to reserve them online and read them at the Gepps Cross Research Centre.

Historical Societies and Councils: I Google the name of a town to locate a contact. My emailed questions have always received a reply – promptly and gener­ously. Of course I explain my interest and don’t ask for too much.

Monument Australia: monumentaustralia.org.au Currently it has 34,124 monuments recorded, with photos and inform­a­tion about Memorial Halls, which were often Institutes.

Wikipedia: for the location and brief descrip­tions of partic­ular towns and suburbs.

flickr: a site with photo­grapher contri­bu­tions. I Google eg, ‘Glossop Institute photo’ and up comes a stream of flickr photos to search through. Some flickr photo­graphers specialise in old SA buildings, and I now receive by email new photos from selected photo­graphers.   

Bridgewater Institute — Google Earth

Google Earth: Download the free app, type in an address, then manoeuvre the arrows to locate, then to get a good view of the building. You can then take a screen photo of a by holding (Mac) Command with Shift then tap 4 or (Windows) Windows key + Shift + S. You then shape the frame around the building by pulling the shape. Lift your right finger and the photo will appear on your screen. Take care to name and file it.

Sands and McDougall online for addresses of SA homes and busi­nesses, 1864–1899 and 1900–1973. Access through the State Library’s online resources: guides.slsa.sa.gov.au then select ‘Postal direct­ories and almanacs’. Searching the direct­ories takes time but can turn up some gems.

Local Government Association SA: lga.sa.gov.au SA Councils listed alpha­bet­ic­ally by Susan Marsden can sort out the many Council boundary changes up to 1936.

Flinders Ranges Research:

I came across this site by Googling ‘Georgetown History’. Similar requests will often bring up length histor­ical research of towns and buildings. Link

Exploring computer programs: Google your interest, eg, ‘Free websites’ and you’ll find many options. Explore these with your needs in mind eg, Includes footnotes, 440 entries. You need patience, so that’s a job for Ken, my husband.

John Travers: John is an invalu­able and patient resource for Adelaide U3A members and has a passion for commu­nic­a­tion tech­no­lo­gies.

I am sure there’s much more for me to discover and to learn. Do remember to thor­oughly record your sources – finding them again can be such a time waster.

Getting Started with Zoom

by John Travers

I first heard of Zoom on the 22nd of March, which we all know is a very long time ago. Since then I have found out that it is an internet phenomenon that has become the dominant video meeting service, crucial for family, friends and business commu­nic­a­tion during the Coronavirus crisis. I have hosted a dozen or so meetings of family and friends and it is very easy to use and very powerful. However this ease of use has led to some security weak­nesses and Zoom has now changed its rules to shut the door to many of the vandals and nuisances who live on the internet. It enables a host to schedule a meeting, send invit­a­tions by email and have the meeting in progress with everyone able to see and hear everyone else within five minutes.

A guide to getting connected.

How does one get started? First, download the Zoom App on your computer or tablet from zoom.us. It is a good idea to sign in and create an account but not essential to do so. Your Zoom identity is your emal. Without an account you cannot host a meeting. You actually don’t have to download the app in advance. Once you accept an invit­a­tion the app will download it auto­mat­ic­ally, but it is more efficient to to so in advance.

To initiate a meeting a host opens the app and clicks New Meeting usually to begin some pre-arranged time. Then the host clicks Invite, selects Email as the means of inviting , and adds the addresses of the invitees, just like any email.

When the meeting members Jill, receives her invit­a­tion she are asked to click the link at the top of the email. This opens her Zoom app, and in a minute or two she is asked to wait for the host to admit her. She is also asked to choose her audio input (Internet Audio) and she also switches her camera on.

Meanwhile, the host sees a notice that Jill is ready to to join the meeting clicks Accept. And the meeting can begin when all the invitees are onboard.

Computer Menu

The computer menu (above) and iPad menu (below) show the Mic and Camera on/off switches. If you don’t see the menu, move the mouse over the screen. The Gallery view is best, which shows all the parti­cipants side by side. The tablet menu is essen­tially the same, but at the top of the screen.

Computer Menu

A most valuable feature is that indi­viduals can share their desktop screen, so can show others in a meeting documents and images and point to and talk about these. Very powerful explaining and teaching.

Zoom Cheese & drinks

by Helen Bills

Our wine and cheese party last night via Zoom was great fun.

We are using Zoom to have virtual gath­er­ings with family and friends two or three days a week. You can also use Skype or FaceTime (Apple) in the same way.

In the interests of social distan­cing we exchanged cheese, half bottles of wine and cake via an esky at our front door so we both had the same food and wine and could discuss just as we would at a face to face gathering. No driving home required so the wine flowed freely, bubbles, white wine then red wine then stagger!
Roger and Helen Bills and their drinking pals.

The ZOOM app is free. If it’s 1 on 1 (which our party was) then time is unlimited, 3 — 100 parti­cipants you have 40 minutes.

I down­loaded the FREE app, ZOOM Cloud Meetings,  from the Apple App Store onto my mini iPad. Then I opened and followed the prompts. I’m sure there is an android equi­valent. You can also get an app on a computer, with a bigger screen.

If you use a laptop, put it on a few books so the camera doesn’t look up your nose!

There are a lot of tutorials on YouTube, but if you try it out with friends it is not hard to work out. A phone call can sort it out if necessary.

Do your friend a favour with just in time computer help

by John Travers

The current health crisis is making one thing very clear. If you have poor computer skills you are going to be at an increasing disad­vantage. The avail­ab­ility of the internet is one of the saving graces of the ‘stay at home’ rule. It allows us to keep informed, keep in touch with friends and family and go about our daily business. For example, Supermarkets are setting up large scale home delivery services aimed at the elderly and disabled people. These services depend on online ordering. 

I have been a computer nerd for a long time and in recent years have been taking classes for mainly elderly people in how to use the iPad and iPhone. My customers are a very diverse group. They all have the initi­ative to seek out help from a class. They are largely women. Men seem reluctant to seek help. Some are confident in them­selves and soak up new inform­a­tion. Many lack confid­ence in their own ability. Many say that getting help from their children and grand­chil­dren is frus­trating. The helpers, they say, are in a hurry and tend to take over and then disappear. I suspect that often the learner only seeks help when in a critical situation, so are frus­trated and angry. Not a good learning situation.

If you are reading this article you are probably quite good at using the internet, because you have found your way here. You no doubt have friends who have quite poor skills and who are left out of conver­sa­tions about getting inform­a­tion from the internet, finding enter­tain­ment and using tech­no­logy to keep in touch with family. I urge people to intervene to help friends who lack skills. This means gently prodding people to learn. Often people don’t know what is possible. 

The trouble with classes like mine is that they pack a lot of inform­a­tion into a session which can be over­whelming. The best learning is ‘just in time’ learning. When there is an immediate need and and oppor­tunity to have support. So if you find a friend who doesn’t know how to do something, it is doing them a real favour to intervene and test whether they are willing to learn and be there to provide it. Following up later is valuable because the learner has had a chance to try the skill by them­selves then get help if they ran into a problem. Just in time learning with follow-up  is powerful.