HERE’S LOOKING AT YOU, KID

The world has gone wild for virtual meetings and Zoom video conferencing is gaining competitors fast. The train is leaving the station.

A new Zoom competitor, RingCentral, a leading business communications company, is coming out with a new version in April. Recently, we tried another Zoom alternative — the free UberConference.com, which has nothing to do with Uber, the ride-hailing company.

Joy’s women’s club recently chose UberConference for their meetings for two reasons. First, participants don’t have to download anything. Second, some people are annoyed by Zoom’s privacy policy. Zoom collects your phone numbers, email addresses, Facebook profiles, info about your use of Zoom and the device and networks you’re using. They also get info from third parties who know things about you. And they gather info about anything you upload to your Zoom meetings. UberConference doesn’t appear to collect anything besides your name, billing address and physical address (if you’re a pro user), but their legal page is dense.

For us, the privacy issue wouldn’t be enough of a reason to prefer UberConference over Zoom. Companies collect data to bring us relevant ads. But UberConference may lead to fewer technical snafus. In one of our Zoom meetings, the first 45 minutes was wasted by tech talk. For example, one woman said she couldn’t see her own face though everyone else could see her. When it couldn’t be fixed, she kept bringing it up until Joy said “Let’s move on.”

Uberconference works best in the Chrome web browser. Or you can download their app. With the app we had no problem. But if you’re using it in Chrome, you have to click on the icon of a lock, next to the web address, and click next to the word “Camera” to change it from “Block” to “Allow.” Several people didn’t do this, so we saw a map of their location instead of their face. Bob says sometimes this is an improvement.

Disturbing

Our friend Barbara decided that the “do not disturb” function on her iPhone didn’t work for her. She was missing calls from her doctors. But she couldn’t get it to turn off.

Here’s how to fix that. First, be sure “Do Not Disturb” is turned off in “Settings.” If it is, and you’re still not getting calls, turn your phone off and on again. If that doesn’t work, reset your phone. On an iPhone, go to “Settings.” Under the “General” tab, tap “reset,” then “reset all settings.” You won’t lose data. On an Android phone, look for “Backup and Reset.” If you see an option to “reset settings,” take it. Don’t choose “reset phone” unless you want a factory reset that wipes out all your data. Alternatively, you could add your doctors to your contacts list and turn on the “Do Not Disturb” setting that allows all contacts in.

Good Ol’ What’s-Her-Name

If you’re tired of Alexa answering you when you haven’t asked her anything, consider changing her name. You have three choices.

Your choices are “Echo,” “Computer” or “Amazon.” To change her name to one of these say, “Alexa, change the wake word.” For us, those last two would wake her up when we least expected it, since we often talk about Amazon and computers. On the other hand, if you only use the free app version of Alexa on your phone or tablet, this won’t be a problem. She doesn’t wake up until you tap the communications icon.

Fun Podcasts

The Smithsonian’s website, si.edu/podcasts, includes some interesting radio shows you can play on your computer, phone or tablet. Some include video as well as audio and some are for iPhone/iPad only. Here are a few that interested us:

  • “AirSpace Podcast” from Smithsonian’s Air and Space Museum: We tuned in as they were talking about tardigrades, also called water bears or moss piglets. These are tiny creatures roughly one hundredth of an inch in size. There are over 1,000 known species. One was recently discovered in a Silicon Valley parking lot. They’re hard to spot and harder to kill. Though discovered in 1773, scientists found out in 2016 that they can live for 30 years without food. They can even survive the vacuum in space, after drying out their bodies and rolling into balls. NASA says we may have left some behind when we landed on the moon, so we can’t get too excited if we find these critters there unless they’re in a part of the moon we haven’t visited. One of our probes was deliberately crashed into Saturn to avoid contaminating one of the moons under observation.
  • Pocohontas

    National Portrait Gallery podcasts include one called “Pondering Pocahontas.” They weren’t talking about Elizabeth Warren. The real Pocahontas died at age 22  and is portrayed in a National Portrait Gallery painting in elegant clothing suitable for her meeting with the Queen of England. Bob isn’t as interested in this stuff as Joy is.

  • Archives of American Art.” We listened to some interviews with men and women who helped reclaim art looted by the Nazis.
  • Tapestry of the Times” has music to fit themes. We listened to a podcast about saying goodbye to old jobs, sweethearts, families and childhood homes. The host shares liner notes about the singers, such as Woody Guthrie.

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