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Mac User Groups Are Freakin' Awesome

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Episode 64
July 21st, 2006

I just flew back from my Mid-Atlantic User Group and Apple Store Tour™ (and boy are my arms tired). But seriously, folks, I just spent 8 blissful days visiting Mac users in 4 states and the District of Columbia.

(For the handful of you who give a hoot, here's my itinerary):

This is one of my favorite weeks of the year. I get to spend almost all day every day with other people who like Macs as much as I do and it's a blast.

So this week my Rant and my Rave is on how much I enjoy visiting Mac User Groups and how much you're missing if you're not already a member of yours.

What's that you say? You don't know if you have a local User Group? If that's the case, you'd best visit Apple's Find a User Group. Tell it your zip code or state and it'll tell you where to find user groups in your neck of the woods. And if you don't know why you should join a Mac user group, visit Apple's Why Join A Group page. In a nutshell, you should get involved with your local user group because:

You'll meet people who like Macintosh computers, just like you. You'll learn things about your Mac and its software that you never knew before. Many groups give away valuable door prizes -- hardware and software (a.k.a. swag) -- at their meetings. You may be offered special "member-only" deals on software, books, and hardware. There are usually members of the opposite sex at user group meetings. Some of them are single and some of those are even attractive. You'll find consultants and trainers who know their stuff and don't charge an arm and a leg. Many groups offer a monthly newsletter, and most of them are excellent. 

But the thing I like best about Mac user groups is that I learn new stuff from their members. For example, Terry Wilson of the Princeton Macintosh Users' Group gave me a TightPod, which she invented to keep your laptop from getting banged up by the other gear in your bag. She calls it "stylish, light laptop protection," but I just call it "cool."


Photo courtesy of TightPod.
(Click the thumbnail for a larger image)

Figure 1: My Tiger-striped TightPod laptop cover.

TightPods are available in 74 different patterns with sizes to fit almost any laptop. My favorite is the one she laid on me, a faux fur tiger striped model as you see above. I carry my PowerBook in a backpack and its exterior does sometimes get scratched by other junk in my bag. I would have never known about this cool accessory if I hadn't visited PMUG last week. (TightPod. Around $25. http://www.tightpod.com.)

Someone at MLMUG pointed out that the MacBook Pro I was using (for an upcoming review) came with a bundled copy of Comic Life on it, which I hadn't noticed. The next time I had a few minutes I created a little comic that I e-mailed to my family back home.


Comic courtesy of Comic Life and me.
(Click the thumbnail for a larger image)

Figure 2: Geno's cheesesteak factory (top) $8.00; iSight camera with MacBook Pro attached (bottom left) $3,000; picture of me with a blue tongue from eating Italian ice (bottom right) Priceless.

Another PMUG member named Andor showed me his Mac biofeedback rig complete with sensors you clamp to your head, and his most amazing collection of vintage analog synthesizers as shown below.


Photo courtesy of me.
(Click the thumbnail for a larger image)

Figure 3: Andor's vintage synths. (The biofeedback Mac is behind me and can't be seen here.)

Along the way, someone (and I wish I could remember who) told me to check out a free program from Hog Bay Software called WriteRoom. I downloaded a copy that night and discovered a very cool no-frills word processor that eliminates all other Mac distractions by taking over the entire screen as shown below. 

AppleMark?
(Click the thumbnail for a larger image)

Figure 4: WriteRoom from Hog Bay Software is a very cool no-frills word processor that helps you focus on the writing task at hand.

That's not all I learned from user group members on my tour, but that's all I can remember at this time.

Take my word for it -- good Mac user groups, like the ones I visited last week, are a treasure. If you've got one nearby and you're not a member, you don't know what you're missing.

And that's all he wrote...

P.S. If you want to see more photos of my visit taken by MLMUG members Wolfgang Gunther, Bill Morlitz, and a few hackers of minimal importance (their words, not mine!), point your browsers to the photo gallery they put together.

Bob "Dr. Mac" LeVitus has been a Macintosh user for a long, long time and has written 49 computer books including Mac OS X Tiger For Dummies and GarageBand for Dummies. He also offers expert technical help and training to Mac users, in real time and at reasonable prices, via telephone, e-mail, and/or unique Internet-enabled remote control software. For more information on Bob and his services, visit www.boblevitus.com.

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