By Malcolm and John Harding
With every thinking person doing the greatest degree of self-isolation that personal circumstances allow these days, ways of staying in contact with the outside world have become more important than ever before. Here are suggestions for keeping your communication tools and practices safe and reliable:
Physical damage is a bigger danger than usual, because repair or replacement is challenging, slow or sometimes impossible. Mobile devices, like tablets and laptops, tend to be shifted around the home as needed, and they are sometimes set down in precarious locations. Though tablets and phones are pretty robust, if you drop one on its charging port, that could be the end of it. Leave the teacup on another table. Special care is the order of the day.
Fraudulent scammers are working overtime. In addition to the usual phone calls and browser attacks, crooks have come up with some pandemic-related schemes, such as official-looking communications related to virus testing, employment opportunities and government-assistance programs. Suffice to say, everyone must be absolutely certain never to divulge personal or financial information if you are not 100-per-cent certain who is at the other end. Watch tvo.org/video/crooks-cybercrime-and-covid-19 for a thorough treatment of this subject.
Zoom has very suddenly become immensely popular with lots of us who had never heard of it a few weeks ago, and we were not surprised to hear that their security has been at times overwhelmed. For that reason, we would never say or display anything on Zoom that we wanted to keep confidential or that could be potentially embarrassing, just as we would never post such content on social networking sites, such as Facebook, or in an email. That being said, it does seem possible that some of the dire warnings about Zoom may have be overblown as some weaknesses have since been corrected. Here are two websites that we think could be helpful:
Availability of replacement equipment is a bigger issue than usual. As of this writing, most retail stores are offering curbside service, which involves an advance online purchase, then a visit to the parking lot or doorway of the store to have the item brought out to you. Patience in navigating the website is the biggest challenge; we have found the actual delivery at the store to be invariably cheerful and efficient.
Some equipment is in short supply. The explosion in online meetings has apparently gobbled up every single webcam in North America. Users of desktop computers with no built-in camera and microphone have found it next to impossible to update their equipment and have had to resort to tablets, smartphones or old laptops. Stock of equipment in general is limited, and you have to act quickly before the gem you have decided will be just right for you is sold out.
Smartphones are in heavier-than-usual service, and your usage may be nearing or exceeding the limits of your plan for data or voice. You may be tempted to contact your carrier about upgrading your plan, but you should first calculate the cost of overage for what will probably be just a few months versus the cost of a more expensive plan for a two-year contract.
Malcolm and John Harding, owners of Compu-Home, are still open and ready to assist you in any safe way they can with computers and technology-related issues. 613-731-5954 or info@compu-home.