MK and Bedford Mensa Brilliant 1st October 2011

Members and their guests from various locations in East Midlands attended the “IT without tears”, MK and Bedford’s Mensa Brilliant event.  We had three excellent speakers: first, Rosie Jefferson, Empress editor, talked about laying out material for a newsletter.  She illustrated this expertly by taking us through the steps for formatting a plain text article into the finished product, including enlarging the headings, enhancing the text, inserting photos and captions, and adding quotations in text boxes to fill any excess space.  Everyone agreed that the finished article looked much more eye-catching than the original, even though the actual content was the unchanged.

Next, Vince Lammas, a non-Mensan who had kindly agreed to participate, gave a demonstration of Excel charts and pivot tables.  He showed how charts could easily be created using the various wizards, and then formatted as desired.  He demonstrated the use of pivot tables to show information in two dimensions, and also showed us a neat trick of his own invention to achieve similar results by an alternative and more flexible route.  He also emphasised the principle of keeping original data in separate worksheets from charts and tables, to avoid the risk of accidentally corrupting the data.

Finally, Paul Scofield, a local Milton Keynes member, talked about data security.  He described the various approaches used by hackers to crack passwords, and gave us some techniques for increasing the security of our passwords.  He also explained the use of anti-virus and anti-spyware software, why it is necessary to have either a hardware or software firewall, or both, and how to secure our wireless networks.  We were all surprised to discover how simple and quick it can be for someone to discover key information from an unsecured PC or network.

Everyone seemed to find the workshop useful and went away having learned new information.  Despite a few last minute panics with different software versions, and laptop connectivity (all successfully resolved in time!), the event was very successful.  I am grateful to all three speakers, and to Chris Lonsbrough for his audio-visual expertise in setting up all the equipment.  I think we can safely say we did Mensa’s 65th birthday proud!

Jo Sidebottom