The Internet of Things by Ira Wilsker


In the not too distant past, we communicated with each other with the spoken and written word, telephone, telegraph, and real paper “snail” mail complete with a postage stamp. Fast forward a few decades, and now, in terms of personal communication, we use satellite dependent cellular phones, e-mail, texting, video conferencing, social networking, and other forms of digital media. While generally very efficient in terms of time and energy, these new digital communications technologies have also made us somewhat lazy, something that countless others and I are guilty of. Just tonight, for example, I was grilling dinner on the backyard grill; my wife was doing school work in the bedroom on the opposite side of the house. Rather than shouting, or getting up from my patio chair to come into the house and verbally inform her of when dinner will be ready, I sent her a text message from my smart phone to hers; millions of dollars worth of technology were utilized to send just a few words about 20 yards in distance, telling her that dinner would be ready at about 5:30. Now the realists among you will admit to it – that you have done similar “lazy” forms of communication.

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May 10, 2015 – Windows 10 Insider Preview Update & Linux Distributions and Desktop Environments

Special Interest Groups (SIGs)

Topic: Microsoft Windows 10:

SIG_Computing Chairman Jeff Marraccini will discuss Microsoft’s upcoming Windows 10 and demonstrate the Windows 10 Technical Preview. Windows 10 is coming later this summer! SEMCO Members and guests will have an opportunity to see the most recent Technical Preview releases at our May 10, 2015 meeting and to discuss the pre-upgrade backup process, when, and how to upgrade. We will also discuss when it is best to just backup files and start over, particularly if you would like to jump from a hard drive to a solid state disk (SSD) at the time of the upgrade.

Microsoft is providing the Windows 10 upgrade for free for most users for the first year, as long as you have a valid Windows 7 or higher license!

Once Windows 10 is released in a few months we will revisit this and have a clinic to help with upgrade specifics. Stay in touch with SEMCO and become a member!

Jeff has been with Altair Engineering for 18 years in various IT roles, and currently manages a world-wide team taking care of computing, network, and related services for 2,200 staff across more than 40 sites. His team manages many computing clusters based on Linux distributions and Windows Server along with several storage back-ends. Jeff resides in Troy, Michigan and his LinkedIn site is

Also: Questions and Answers.
When: Sunday, May 10, 2015 at 1:30 P.M.
Where: Map to meetings at Altair Engineering

Topic: Linux Distributions and Desktop Environments:

Members of the group will discuss and demonstrate their favorite Linux distributions and desktop environments. All are welcome to come and/or bring in their computers and participate.

When: Sunday, May 10, 2015 at 4:00 P.M.
Where: Map to meetings at Altair Engineering

Free Wi-Fi available.


Free and Easy “Find My Phone” Services from Google by Ira Wilsker


Several weeks ago in this column I reviewed several Android and iPhone apps that can be used to possibly locate lost or stolen phones and tablets. While several of the apps were free, most were limited in capabilities unless a paid, usually nominal, subscription fee was paid. Now, Google, known for its innovation and services, recently (April 15) offered a pair of very simple and free ways to locate almost any lost or stolen Android device, totally for free. The Android user actually has an option from Google where the user can choose and install the free Goggle app “Android Device Manager” (last updated April 9), or can simply update the integral main Google app to the one dated April 15, 2015, or later.

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New Amazon Home Services Take On Angie’s List and Home Advisor by Ira Wilsker


You have probably seen the multitudes of TV commercials touting the paid online subscription service offering referrals for home improvement and maintenance services through Angie’s List, and its primary free competitor Home Advisor. Not to be outdone by competitors in the growing field of offering prescreened home services, in late March the powerhouse Amazon publically announced its aggressive entry into the field by offering the public its new Amazon Home Services (

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Another New, Powerful, Free Security Suite from Tencent by Ira Wilsker


I have been vehemently advocating for many years that all computer users (including MAC users) absolutely need a comprehensive security suite in order to protect them and their machines from the malware that has become endemic. While I have one of the top rated commercial (paid) comprehensive security suites on all of my computers and other smart devices, I am also cognizant that for a myriad of reasons, there are many who prefer one of the numerous decent security suites that are available for free. In past columns I have written about the very good free security products from Comodo, Avast, AVG, Outpost, and other purveyors, and now I am adding another free security suite to the list, Tencent PC Manager.

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Is Our National Security Under an Ever Increasing Cyber Threat? by Ira Wilsker


As many of you have seen firsthand, I have been doing a series of free presentations for local and national groups titled “Are We Under Cyber Attack?” With the constantly increasing volume of information that has indicated that we are indeed under an increasing level of cyber attack, it has been difficult for me to keep my presentation up-to-date without it becoming an excessively long presentation. Sadly, most of us are blissfully unaware of the degree and scope that our computer systems are being hacked and penetrated, with massive amounts of personal, technical, and other sensitive information being stolen. It is not just the massive theft of computer data that has been damaging our national security and economy, but the increasing number of cyber attacks that have threatened our critical infrastructure as well as jeopardized our collective personal safety.

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April 12, 2015 – LibreOffice & The GIMP

Special Interest Groups (SIGs)

Topic: LibreOffice Calc:

Kevin O’Brien will present LibreOffice Calc which is the spreadsheet program in the LibreOffice suite. Spreadsheets are the essential tool in business, and are credited with the rise of the personal computer when VisiCalc and Lotus 1-2-3 made a desktop PC nearly universal in companies. LibreOffice offers a very good spreadsheet component called Calc. As the name implies, it is primarily a tool for performing calculations, but it can do even more, and we will show you how to use the program effectively to build models, do “what-if ” analysis, and even more! Come and learn the techniques that will make you more productive with this program.

Kevin O’Brien is a Project Manager for Ford, and a LibreOffice fan. He is recording a series of tutorials on LibreOffice for Hacker Public Radio, and has presented on this topic at Ohio LinuxFest, Penguicon, Indiana LinuxFest, and local Linux user groups. He always prefers to use free software.

Also: Questions and Answers.

When: Sunday, April 12, 2015 at 1:30 P.M.
Where: Map to meetings at Altair Engineering

Topic: GIMP:

SIG-Linux Chairman Brian Brodsky will lead the fourth in a set of presentations on GIMP (GNU Image Manipulation Program). GIMP is an open source and freely distributed raster graphics editor used for many tasks including photo retouching and image creation. It is available on many platforms including Linux, BSD, Windows and Mac OS X. All are welcome.

When: Sunday, April 12, 2015 at 4:00 P.M.
Where: Map to meetings at Altair Engineering

Topic: Python:

We are learning Python using the book “Learning Python” by Mark Lutz. It is an O’Reilly book, but can also be purchased at Amazon

We are to read Chapter 6, “The Dynamic Typing Interlude” for the next meeting. If you have any questions contact Richard Jackson (see below). All are welcome to come.

Where: Richard Jackson’s home. Call Richard Jackson at 248-546-3694 for directions.
When: Saturday, March 21, 2015 at 2:00 P.M.

March 8, 2015 – Virtualization and Sandboxing using VirtualBox

Sway link:

Remember those adventure games with “save game” before something dangerous (or dinnertime!) and “restore game”?

Virtual Machines and sandboxes give you that capability for entire computers or applications! As long as you “take a snapshot” after you have the basics set up, you may instantly revert a virtual machine back to a safe state!

Oracle VirtualBox Manager - Snapshots browser
Oracle VirtualBox Manager – Snapshots browser

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