Zoom audio oddity

In a recent session, we encountered an as-yet unexplained problem with audio in a Zoom session.

The presenter used PowerPoint with embedded video clips. The audio in the clips could not be heard by many, perhaps most of the attendees. Audio from the presenter and other attendees was fine.

Although the Zoom version used by the presenter was a few months old (December 21, 2020 version 5.4.7 (59784.1220), there was no detectable pattern regarding who could hear the audio or not. Some with older and newer versions could not hear the audio, others could. Most people were using the Windows client. (Details may not be significant here.)

Unfortunately, there was no recording of the session.

So far, we’re exploring a few threads. None of these seem compelling, but we need to start somewhere.

  • The presenter was using an unencrypted session (for reasons yet to be determined).
  • The videos were both a series of pictures with an audio overlay and some downloaded, unedited YouTube clips.
  • Verifying that the presenter had the Share computer sound checked when screen sharing.

Update:

It works in practice, but not in theory.

We met with the presenter today. Audio from movies and YouTube was garbled and then nothing, video was jerky. Observers were on Windows and Mac. The presenter switched from his laptop to desktop. The desktop machine is a bit older. Don’t have the specs on either machine.

Audio and video worked fine on the desktop. We have something that works, even though we don’t have an explanation of why some attendees in the previous session could hear the audio, while others couldn’t.

I’ll take something that works over something that’s explainable any day.

“science is a social phenomenon”

An opinion piece in Scientific American, We Need Social Science, Not Just Medical Science, to Beat the Pandemic, reminds us that public health measures rely heavily on trust and community spirit. Science is necessarily incomplete because it’s continuously testing its findings against additional facts. Our general ability to adapt are much slower, often trailing the changes in scientific discovers by decades. For example, half of what we knew about hepatitis and liver disease 45 years ago has been superseded. Not knowing which half is obsolete can be deadly.

 

MacBooks and headphones

Apple discontinued the 3.5mm headphone jack and headphones in 2016, first changing to lighting ports and, soon, none at all.

Meanwhile, the new M1 MacBook has the aforementioned 3.5mm jack and one USB-C (MacBook Air) or two (MacBook Pro) port(s). Lucky, I kept an old set of headphones with a microphone in my briefcase. (Because of COVID, I haven’t gone any place where I needed to bring my briefcase in more than a year.)

One more instance that justifies my practice of throwing away little.

This

Found this on the floor.

If I throw it away, how soon will I realize that it was important.

If I don’t throw it away, will I ever need it?

Why Bernie Sanders needs to talk about race

The Supreme Court didn’t decide the election in 2000. Neither did Ralph Nader steal votes from the Democrats. Al Gore lost because he benched the best campaigner, Bill Clinton.

Gore was embarrassed by Clinton’s sexual misadventures and so didn’t have him campaign in traditional Democratic strongholds. The voter turnout was low enough in key states, such as Florida, that the race was close. It didn’t need to be close.

In a general election, Bernie Sanders or Hillary Clinton don’t have to win votes from Donald Trump, Scott Walker, or any of the core Republican candidates. They have to energize their disaffected constituencies – minorities and young people in particular. If  black voters aren’t excited about Bernie, they’re not going to switch to any Republican in any significant numbers; they’re going to stay home. If Hillary can’t engage young people, they’re not going to vote for Marco Rubio in any significant numbers; they’re going to stay home.

Sanders has charmed the white liberals and made the campaign for the 2016 nomination interesting. If he is the nominee (largely because Clinton stumbles), most of the Clinton supporters will have little trouble voting for him. That, however, isn’t enough to win the election. He needs enthusiasm in the black community. So far, as noted by Clive McFarland, he’s embarrassingly unprepared.

There are some moderate, undecided voters who will study each candidate and make a choice on election day. I wish that the election was about winning their hearts and minds. Sadly, though, their numbers won’t matter compared the bigger impact of each part energizing its natural constituency.

The election will be decide more by who doesn’t vote than by who does.

I was the egg man

For most of my early working life, I was a short-order cook.

The biggest technical advancement in my era was the addition of a microwave oven,  one of those big units with a label warning people with pacemakers to keep their distance.

If you haven’t already discovered it, eggs will explode inside a microwave. There are a few ways to make this not happen, but none that made cooking an egg faster or better than on a grill or in a pot of boiling water.

EggMaster in action

Nevertheless, gadget-makers continue to try to improve egg cooking. As this article from The Guardian shows, they’ve yet to make much progress. The device produces “…without warning, a flaccid, spongy log half jumps from the machine, writhing like an alien parasite in search of a host body.”

The article links to Amazon UK. American readers can find a similar product on Amazon in the good, old US of A.

Amazon: where children never grow old

We’ve been buying books on Amazon for a long time. Some of our earliest purchases were the Spot series of kids’ books.

spotWe bought these books when our grandkids were young. The youngest is now 10 and getting older by doubles every day.

Nevertheless, Amazon believes that children never get older and we will always need Spot books.

good.night.spotWould that it were so.

 

 

Worcester Chamber of Commerce seeks delay on paid sick day law

Although the Worcester Chamber of Commerce is adamant that businesses contact their representatives to delay implementation of the paid sick-leave law, they don’t post a link to the proposed regulations that must be reviewed or the public comment sessions.

Here’s what the Chamber has to say: Paid Sick Day Law Goes Into Effect July 1 – Chamber Seeks Member Assistance to Delay

It is extremely the important that we seek a delay in implementation. Please contact your legislators and ask them to support a delay.

The Chamber provides plenty of information about each representative, including email, phone, and mailing address.

Here’s the link to the Attorney General’s proposed regulations for Earned Sick Time and schedule for hearings.

I found my own workarounds

inboxWith its Inbox app, Google is making a big push to help/make us rethink how we handle our email.

For me, anyway, it’s not working.

Having used GMail for more than 10 years and with more than 100K messages in my archive, I’ve developed a set of filters and habits that work well (enough) and are hard to undo. At this writing, I have close to 300 filters that mung various newsletters, group messages, and others.

I also disabled the Tabs feature that came out a couple of years ago because it was working at cross purposes to my filters. I’m seeing too many folks who are missing important emails because Gmail is automatically moving things into those tabs.

What I like about Inbox

Swipe to mark-as-read or to snooze is pretty cool. It takes a while to decide how long to snooze an item, but a new scheme emerges quickly. It’s somewhat better than starring items, because it defers action until a time specific. With stars, messages can hang around for months.

What I miss

All this tapping and swiping feels like more work. Maybe it’ll get easier.

As far as I can tell, there’s no way to use the email to create a new calendar entry. Snoozing is not the same as adding a calendar entry.

For example, someone sends me an email about meeting. The message contains the date and time of the meeting along with a sketch of the agenda and other pertinent details. I can click on the date and time, which Gmail renders as hyperlinks, and create a new calendar item with for that time, using the email’s subject line as the appointment title. The Google calendar entry contains a link back to the email for details.

To be fair, the Gmail app on iOS doesn’t support this, either.

I’m my own problem

We gave up our landline phone five years ago and use our cellphones for all calls, as well as texting, email, social media, calendar, camera, games, etc.

Even so, when we come home, I still miss the answering machine that gathered messages while we were away.

I know that I’m relying on habits, reinforced by these filters, to keep email the way I like it.

I have friends who still grieve the loss of WordPerfect 5.1, with the beloved Reveal Codes feature. Others manage to keep the Eudora client limping along with paper clips and duct tape. When/if they have to use another email service, they regularly complain about the loss of productivity.

I’m on a path to become those people.

Email is the hub of my communication, but there are already pressures to change.

  • Most people under 30 don’t use email unless required to do so by work or some external force.
  • I belong to an organization that does its best coordination by way of group text messages.
  • Other messaging apps and services (some of which I use, many I don’t)
  • For many people, particularly older folks, email is so loaded with spam and junk that it’s stopped being a safe, useful, or fun place.

I don’t know if new email clients, such as those from Google, Microsoft, or Apple, will reverse that trend. I doubt it.

Just as social media supplanted newsgroups, listserv group messages, and the like, other services are replacing email for the one-to-one and one-to-many types of communications.

A key element to finding new solutions is the willingness to abandon what’s old and, gulp, what works. The new thing may not work as well as the old thing. It may force a change of work patterns.

Change comes hard to those who are heavily invested in familiar ways of working.

change.is.good

Creating memorable passwords

Just about every website requires a username and password if you want to do anything useful. Shopping online, using a web-based email service, participating in social networking: all require a username, such as your email address, and password.
There are too many to remember without writing them down, so we use the same password on multiple sites. That’s where the trouble begins.
The majors sites, banks, Facebook, Yahoo, Amazon, and Google, have solid security and account break-ins are rare. Smaller sites, however, may not do so well. For example, you’ve used
the same email and password for your account on Fubarbco.com and on Amazon.com. Someone breaks into Fubarbco. Using the email and password information they found on Fubarbco,they’ll attempt to log in to Amazon. Bingo.
Using standard password cracking tools, a password such as Aa123.yz will take five days to break. That’s pretty good.
So, here’s a way to create a password that you can remember, but that is impossible to guess and difficult to crack.
Put a punctuation mark and four or more numbers in the middle of the site’s name. You can use the same mark and set of number. That’s the only part that you need to remember.
For example, for Amazon, you do something like this:
Ama&2120zon
2120 is the street address on Michigan Avenue in Chicago, the former home of the Chess Records.
According to How Secure Is My Password http://howsecureismypassword.net, it will take about four thousand years to crack the password. You can then use Goo&2120gle for your Google account and so on.
Your password for Facebook would then be:
Fac&2120ebook
Use some number that is meaningful to you – a date such as 102704 or the ZIP code of Graceland, 38116 – but which is not readily associated with you, such as your birth year or ZIP code..
It doesn’t matter much where you insert the punctuation and numbers.
I should note that many people use LastPass http://lastpass.com, KeePass http://keepass.info, or other account storage services. They like them. I don’t. Your mileage may vary.
The primary goal in security – at home or online – is to make the intruder take more time and thus increase the likelihood that you can detect the intrusion.