Every member of Washington Apple Pi should become familiar with the many different ways that the Pi has of serving its members. We are first of all a computer club. This means that most of what we do deals with computers. We are also a “Users Group” and accordingly “Users Helping users to Help Themselves” is a dominant theme.
More specifically, we are an Apple and Macintosh computer club, specializing in helping people get more out of their various models of Apple and Macintosh computers. Exactly what this means differs from member to member. Getting more out of their computers can mean higher productivity in the workplace. It can mean more fun playing games, or providing exciting playback of multimedia entertainment. It may entail research and learning via the Internet, and closer ties to friends and family through electronic correspondence. In some cases “getting more out of a machine” might mean resurrecting a dead computer. One often overlooked way of “getting more out of” is having experiences with other people in a community of members with common interests.
The Pi serves all of these needs and more, but finding particular sources of help and information is not necessarily simple. This article is an attempt to provide a Users’ Guide to orient newcomers and longtime members alike.
The one medium that puts the same information into the hands of every Pi member is our printed Journal. The Pi is unique in offering such a comprehensive publication to its members. Every other month the postman will put a Journal full of useful stuff into your mailbox. This magazine represents the creative efforts of many Pi members who contribute reviews of hardware and software, “How To” articles on a wide range of topics, news about the club, and information about our various educational and mercantile offerings.
The miracles of modern electronic communications allow our small nucleus of volunteer workers to make information widely available over the World Wide Web. The complete system of the Pi’s electronic communications services is usually referred to as the “TCS” or TeleCommunications System. The volunteers who operate it are known as the “TCS Crew.” They elect one of their own to represent them with the Pi Board of Directors. The place to start is on our home Web site at http://www.wap.org/. The picture below is a snapshot of the navigation menu that connects our high-level Web pages.
Figure 1 – Menus on the Pi Web site expand to show additional choices. In this case, clicking on “Tour the Pi” expands to show four different choices. Navigation at the top of the screen (only partially shown) takes you to the Home page, the Calendar, the Store, Webmail (reading your E-mail via a browser), the TCS, and a Search engine for the Pi site.
Each of the boxes expands to reveal other choices, as in the “Tour the Pi” example in Figure 1. I encourage you to explore the Pi site. You will find useful reference material, information on the history of the Pi, reprints of Journal articles, and occasional techie humor. The “Pi Community” menu reveals our various Special Interest Groups. Members can affiliate themselves with these groups to learn about various applications or simply to share experiences.
Every member of Washington Apple Pi has a username and password that provides access to our electronic offerings that are reserved for our members alone (aka the “Crown Jewels”). This information should be on the membership card you received when you joined or renewed. Your username and password are used to authenticate access to your Pi e-mail account (included as part of your membership), your dial-up Internet access (if you subscribe to the Pi’s Explorer service), your access to the TCS message Boards, and sundry other features.
To test this feature click on the “TCS Forums” button on the top navigation bar on the Pi Web site. This will bring up a screen, part of which looks like Figure 2 below. Enter your username into the “Name” box and your password into the password box, click on “sign in” and you are ready to go.
Figure 2 – Your Pi account name and password is the key to all Washington Apple Pi electronic services.
Once you’ve entered the TCS, the first screen you will see is a menu that allows you to enter one of four “Conferences”. Before you do that you should perhaps look at the “Help” and “Preferences” buttons. The “Pi Hotline Listing” link is also very valuable because it connects you to a list of people who are willing to provide a modest amount of telephone support to people who need it.
Whichever conference you select, you will be presented with a list of the topics that are currently under discussion. The most heavily used Conference is the one on “Computing”, and its topics provide a good sampling of the kinds of questions people ask and the kinds of answers they get.
Perhaps the most vital area on our Web site is the calendar of events and tutorials. Click on the Calendar button on the top line of the home page or set your Web browser to visit http://calendar.wap.org/. All of our meetings and tutorial classes are listed on this calendar. There are different views for year, month, day and event, much like Apple’s iCal (from which it was patterned.) The Pi’s programs are planned out months in advance, and each link provides access to the particulars for a given event. Take a look around and use the calendar to help you plan your participation in Pi events.
Every Tuesday evening starting at around 7 pm, Pi members can get help with their computers by bringing them to our clinic. The clinic workers are, like you, Pi members only with a little more experience; they can carry out simple tasks like memory upgrades, software installation, and odd bits of troubleshooting. The Pi asks for a donation to help with parts and to keep the lights and utilities on.
Send an e-mail to email@example.com. One of our front desk volunteers will answer it and try to point you in the right direction. To the extent that volunteer availability permits, we attempt to maintain office hours on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays from 10 am to 2 pm. Call 301-984-0300 for assistance. If you get the answering machine be sure to leave a message. Someone will return your call.