8 Questions to Ask When Starting Your Meetup Group



Meetup.com is a popular social networking site which makes it easy for people to organize groups in their local area.

As many hours as people now spend in front of their computers immersed in online forums such as Facebook and Twitter, sites such as Meetup.com and EventBrite actually focus on bringing people together in person and helping them find other like-minded people they might never have met otherwise. While local groups such as book clubs, sports teams and church groups existed long before the Internet, these sites provide a set of tools that make it much easier for the average person to bring a group of people together and continuously promote that group to other potential members. For people moving to another area or developing new interests, it’s easier to find new friends by looking up local groups they might like to join.

My Background

Several months after joining Meetup.com and making a few friends, I checked out a new meetup in neighboring Gainesville, Florida, Frontend Awesome, which focuses on programming technologies for websites and other user interfaces. Ocala had no active computer clubs at the time and I’d been thinking of ways to put together an organization of some kind for local I.T. experts, independent programmers and others in the field. That’s when I made the connection and decided to do it through a Meetup.

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HDMI to VGA: Using your VGA monitor on your HDMI laptop

Looks like the trusty old VGA interface is on its way out and while you’ll still see legacy systems and devices using this 25 year old standard for monitor connections, the newer laptops and computers are starting to pass on VGA connectors in favor of HDMI which, among its other benefits, allows for thinner devices. When I bought my new laptop computer, I never even thought to check if it had a VGA monitor port on it and, sure enough, it doesn’t. Instead, it has an Active HDMI port on the side. This wasn’t a problem until I tried connecting it to a projector during a meeting a few months ago and found out that projector’s HDMI interface didn’t work.

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Book Recommendation

I read Alan Alda’s first autobiography, Never Have Your Dog Stuffed and knew that he had come out with a sequel but hadn’t gotten around to it. Then I found the unabridged audio version at a book sale and snapped it up. I haven’t been disappointed.

5174XKtys4L._SL250_The first book ended with Alda’s near death on a mountaintop in Chile due to an life-threatening medical crisis. The second book, Things I Overheard While Talking to Myself, picks up where it left off and chronicles his search for meaning after surviving the crisis and recognizing he had gotten a second chance. He did this, in part, by going through some of his older writings, including the commencement addresses he’d written to deliver at his daughters’ college graduations and remembering the insights he “didn’t know he knew”. This was something that resonated with me because of the small amount of writing I’ve  done over the years and my own efforts to put some of my insights and lessons into words.

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Finally! Stop Facebook Videos from Playing Automatically …

A few months ago, Facebook introduced that “cool” new feature where videos your friends posted would automatically start playing as soon as you scrolled to them on your newsfeed. I don’t know why they thought this was a good idea or if it was part of their philosophy that people are incapable of choosing what they want to see without some kind of automation involved but they must have finally gotten enough complaints about it because there’s now a new feature that will stop it.

In your Settings panel (click the ∇ in the very top-right part of your FB page and choose “Settings”), click on Videos and then set the “Auto-Play Videos” setting to “Off”. That’s it! Now scroll through your news feed and verify that that videos are no longer automatically starting.

To disable auto-play on Facebook videos, select Videos on your Facebook Settings panel and set the "Auto-Play Videos" setting to "Off"

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How to Promote Your Message Online the Right Way

“Some people assume that all you have to do is post the links to as many sites as possible and let the web do its magic from there. It’s more than that. Each one of these sites and the many others people might use has its own rules, audience, limitations, and even its own behavior. In order to ensure that the items I promote reach as many people as possible and that the message is as effective as possible once it does reach them, the posting of the event on each site requires individual attention and tailoring specifically for that environment. This means attention to every detail of each posting and that takes time.”

You can read more in my latest article – Tuning the Megaphone – Getting Your Message Heard Online, available on OcalaITPros.com.


My Latest Coffee Hacks

I have a dim memory of not making very good coffee with my coffee maker. Fortunately, that’s no longer the case and I can honestly say that I make some of the best coffee I’ve ever tasted – far better than anything I can get at most restaurants or coffee houses. I’m partial to Seattle’s Best #3 coffee. It’s an inexpensive medium roast coffee that has a nice, smooth flavor.

I've found that adding a little unsweetened cocoa to the coffee grounds gives the coffee a nice, rich flavor.

I’ve found that adding a little unsweetened cocoa to the coffee grounds gives the coffee a nice, rich flavor.

An extra thing I do with most pots is to add a little something to the grounds as it’s brewing. I started with ground cinnamon, just a teaspoon or two to give the coffee a nice extra flavoring. With ground cinnamon, that’s the best way to add it since it doesn’t really dissolve even in hot coffee so letting the water drip through it instead did the trick.

My latest preference, however, has taken the coffee to a new level and that’s to add maybe a tablespoon of cocoa powder to the grounds. Just like some people add it to chili, I add it to my coffee grounds. It doesn’t really give the coffee a noticeable mocha flavor but it does give it a slightly richer flavor that works really well. I did it again this afternoon and I can honestly say it was more than coffee – it was a mugful of liquid joy

Five Reasons You Need to Understand Database Design

The word database is not one that you hear in everyday conversation. It’s one of those technical terms that’s used by business and I.T. people. It might evoke images of computers and long reports of names and numbers or indecipherable data. Some people might think of marketing or mailing lists. In fact, a database is simply any collection of data that’s organized so that it can be retrieved and used as needed. Usually, it refers specifically to data that has been stored within a computer system so that it can be quickly manipulated into reports. Databases take many forms but anytime a computer needs to present information of any kind, whether it be a store’s customer data or patient data at your doctor’s office, that data has to be retrieved from somewhere and it’s usually in a database of one kind or another.

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StarTech USB to VGA Review / Windows 8.1 Display Issue

A few months ago, I purchased the StarTech USB to VGA adapter for my system. I got tired of the single display and going with a USB adapter was a lot easier than modifying the computer itself to support two displays.

Going by the reviews on Amazon, I decided on the USB32VGAEH model which supports USB 3.0, VGA displays and includes a pass-through USB port. There are also models that will enable you to add a new DVI and HDMI display through a USB port.

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New Twitter Feed – One Thousand Choices


I keep trying to come up with new projects that have less to do with technology and more to do with just improving myself or coming up with great content. It’s not easy given how long I’ve been immersed in the tech world but I decided to start another one.

One Thousand Choices is my new Twitter feed where I will be posting inspirational thoughts and quotes to brighten your day and inspire you to take the next step on whatever path you’re choosing. I claim no special expertise other than my varied experience and willingness to attempt to pack as much positive feeling into 128 characters as possible.

So check it out and if you like what you see, follow me on Twitter! If you prefer the technical side of things, I still have my original Twitter feed at @ComeauAndrew and I run a feed for the Ocala I.T. Professionals networking group at @OcalaITPros.