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Here's a tip about wireless networking problems caused by microwave ovens and other devices:
The kitchen in the condo we moved into four years ago currently has two microwave ovens: a countertop model we brought with us and the combo range hood model that came with the condo. I can't wait for the one on the countertop to die, as it completely takes out the WiFi in the adjacent family room. I tried to convince my wife that it's dangerous to use, but she prefers it to the one over the stove. And I can't complain when she uses it, as I'll end up having to make dinner (again).

Stay home, stay well....
 


I can't wait for the one on the countertop to die, as it completely takes out the WiFi in the adjacent family room. I tried to convince my wife that it's dangerous to use, but she prefers it to the one over the stove.
Annoying, definitely. Dangerous? Probably not unless the door mechanism is damaged.

The amount of leakage necessary to interfere with Wi-Fi is far less than the amount that could actually be dangerous. But if you're concerned, you can buy a microwave leakage tester to measure the actual amount to make sure it is within legal limits.
US Food & Drug Administration said:
Microwave Oven Safety Standard
... A Federal standard (21 CFR 1030.10) limits the amount of microwaves that can leak from an oven throughout its lifetime to 5 milliwatts (mW) of microwave radiation per square centimeter at approximately 2 inches from the oven surface. This limit is far below the level known to harm people. Microwave energy also decreases dramatically as you move away from the source of radiation. A measurement made 20 inches from an oven would be approximately 1/100th of the value measured at 2 inches from the oven.
 


Not sure this is the issue, but it's something to check:

System Preferences > Network > Advanced > TCP/IP

Here, you can Renew DHCP Lease and type your DHCP Client ID.

See also:

System Preferences > Sharing > Computer Name

I've had problems in the past from cloning a system drive from one Mac to another, thereby duplicating Computer Name, network settings, etc. – they need to be different for the two different computers.
Ric, many thanks. I'm starting to suspect upstream problems with Comcast. Symptoms that I had ignored or not associated with the Zoom problem now look related: occasional hiccups using On Demand on the TV, audio dropouts using Facetime, intermittent freezes loading web pages.

All my router signal stats are in spec, but unless I could monitor them in real time, I'll never catch the glitch in progress. I tried Comcast's service "robot," which predictably said it would send a reset signal. It never came and the estimated wait time for a human tech was 258 minutes. No thanks. Instead I went around and checked all connections and rebooted everything. Still intermittent dropouts.
 



I'm starting to suspect upstream problems with Comcast. Symptoms that I had ignored or not associated with the Zoom problem now look related: occasional hiccups using On Demand on the TV, audio dropouts using Facetime, intermittent freezes loading web pages.
I'm wondering if this may be the Smart Packet Detection bug I blogged about all the way back in 2010.

If your router has a "security" setting that tries to detect and block packet-floods, try temporarily disabling it. Buggy or poorly thought-out algorithms can result in normal high-bandwidth activity (like streaming video or opening some web pages) getting blocked.

I found that on my router at the time, this feature was blocking floods of outbound TCP connections as well as inbound ones. So whenever I tell my web browser to open a folder full of bookmarks into multiple tabs (e.g. what I do every morning when I want to read my web-comics) or even opening a single web page that's got a lot of sub-objects, the router would see the flood of outbound connections and start dropping packets, making everything hang and act flaky. When I disabled the feature, the problem went away.
 



My work oddly migrated to Zoom instead of using the working-fine Google Hang Outs platform.

I am wondering what happened in the last 24 hours, as well. Yesterday, Zoom worked in browser-mode (no install required), but today all I get is: 403 Forbidden...

By the way, can install be for a single user only? I'd rather install Zoom, if I must, in an isolated account for that use only.
... not to mention my work place will be exerting mandatory pressure to use Zoom,
... so much for social distancing
;-(
 


Ric Ford

MacInTouch
I am wondering what happened in the last 24 hours, as well. Yesterday, Zoom worked in browser-mode (no install required), but today all I get is: 403 Forbidden...
Zoom's service is currently broken (i.e. it has nothing to do with your computer or your company).
Zoom said:
Zoom Status
Zoom will be placing the Web Client into maintenance mode and take this part of the service offline. This will also impact users utilizing Zoom’s Web SDK. This will have no impact on users utilizing Zoom’s desktop or mobile application.

We apologize for any inconvenience that this may cause.
Apr 3, 00:00 PDT
 


Zoom's service is currently broken (i.e. it has nothing to do with your computer or your company).
Ric, thanks! for that update, puts my mind at ease a bit, although I'm in hot water for missing a meeting...

By the way, in my opinion, there is something fishy about Zoom's install procedures. I created a new user account, then proceeded to install a Chrome web client extension, which I believe could be a way to isolate the platform to one user (although it still probably would not work anyway if the web-client was undergoing maintenance). The extension installs very swiftly, but then the install page proceeds to offering a big blue install button with some pretty small print of some undisclosed free optional installation.

In my book this is not-very-nice-ware ;-\

I guess I should add, perhaps this was not a Zoom procedure but a strategy at the Chrome extension web site... somebody paid to have their "optional" install posted on the page, perhaps?
 




Anybody here, who has installed Zoom, recall if there is a single-user option? Ironically, my admin colleagues (all the way up the chain, as it were) went rogue on their own and installed it, and have absolutely no recall on the process ... thinking "ooh, cool a new app, let's install it, cuz it's so much better than the thing we already use that works just fine."

Against the advice of the IT director. ;-|
(Zoom web client still under maintenance, by the way.)
Looks like peer pressure is more hazardous than mal- ...er, I mean bad-ware.
;-\
 


Ric Ford

MacInTouch
For what it's worth, Microsoft is touting Skype conferencing services free of charge:
Skype said:
Organize conference calls on Skype with one click | Skype

Easy video meetings with no sign ups or downloads

Generate your free unique link with one click, share it with participants and enjoy unlimited meetings with Skype. Full set of features at your disposal.
Your meeting link does not expire and can be used anytime.

Record you call and save it for later review
Focus and engage in your online meeting without any distractions. Record your call for later reviews and note taking. We store your recording for up to 30 days.

Blur your background before entering the call
On the go or just didn't have time to prepare for your video meeting, simply turn on the background blur feature and worry less.

Share your screen whenever necessary
Easily share presentations, work materials or designs in your conference call. Collaborate and review your work in the chat.
 


Ric Ford

MacInTouch
Webex is also touting free services (and discounts on paid services):
Cisco said:
Cisco Webex Plans and Pricing

Free features
  • Up to 100 participants in each meeting
    (Up from 50)
  • Meet as long as you want
    (Up from 40 min limit)
  • Call-in for audio
    (in addition to existing VoIP capabilities)
  • Unlimited number of meetings
  • Desktop, application, file & whiteboard sharing options
  • Video conferencing features
  • Webex Teams collaboration features
  • Mobile features
  • Security features
  • Online support
 



No web conferencing system is end-to-end encrypted if you are using a POTS line (a.k.a. analog phone service) to connect.
 


Ric Ford

MacInTouch
Signal is a secure, cross-platform communications system that offers encrypted voice calls, text messaging and group chat, video calls and the ability to send a photo, video or document.
 



Unbiased security review of Zoom:
My first two meetings using Zoom were "bombed" with racist comments (audio) and pornographic images (screen backgrounds that come to the fore when participant unmutes/talks). The meeting URLs were not public but were accessible on a site (at a large educational institution) that required AD credentials to log in. I supposed the URLs could have been shared from there. A post-meeting analysis suggested that the miscreants were using email addresses (like gmail) that were not in our AD domain. These miscreants left/rejoined the meetings multiple times. No need to respond with "Zoom best practices" as we have read through these various guides and have changed a number of settings (e.g. "only host can share screen", "require registration", "only authenticated users can join") and the problem has not recurred. I will say the settings are confusing and in so many places (on the web app, on the desktop, in meeting) that I am not sure what worked. Live and learn I guess but I hope our institution considers an alternative virtual meeting platform for the future.
 


Ric Ford

MacInTouch
Here's Apple's documentation about requirements for Group FaceTime, which is incompatible with many older Apple mobile devices:
Apple Support said:
Use Group FaceTime on your iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch
To use Group FaceTime video calls, you need iOS 12.1.4 or later, or iPadOS on one of these devices: iPhone 6s or later, iPad Pro or later, iPad Air 2 or later, iPad mini 4 or later, iPad (5th generation) or later, or iPod touch (7th generation). Earlier models of iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch that support iOS 12.1.4 can join Group FaceTime calls as audio participants.
 


The whole Zoom thing has been an irritating process. I initially was blocked from meetings when their web [server] was down for maintenance. During that period I decided to create an account, thinking that might allow access, not realizing that the main issue at the time was the downed web [server].

After the recent BleepingComputer revelations, I decided to delete my account, not that there was much in the way of private data – well, except for email, and the possibility of breaching my Zoom password. To cut to the chase, now it seems I cannot Zoom via the web browser client, even with the Chrome/Zoom extension installed, and Web service up and running.

I had to recreate my account in order to attend my last meeting. (I believe my text to my IT guy, and the boss, basically summarized as: Zoom is expletive deleted.)
 


Ric Ford

MacInTouch
BlueJeans, another web conferencing system, is being bought by Verizon:
CNBC said:
Verizon will buy video conferencing company BlueJeans
  • Verizon is buying the video conferencing platform BlueJeans as workers increasingly rely on web tools to connect during the coronavirus pandemic, the company announced Thursday.
  • The acquisition comes as many enterprise tools like Zoom, Slack and Microsoft Teams have seen an uptick in usage as more American regions have been instructed to stay at home to tamp down the spread of the virus.
  • In an interview with CNBC, Verizon CEO Hans Vestberg said he sees an opportunity to compete with existing video conferencing companies in Verizon's distribution platform and integration with its 5G network.
 


I'm a little surprised that no one has mentioned freeconferencecall.com as a personal web conferencing option. You may remember it from when it was a "free" audio conferencing service that made its money through a regulatory quirk by having users dial to particular rural phone exchanges. Basically, instead of paying a monthly subscription fee or usage fee, users would pay whatever their phone company's calling plan would charge for dialing that number.

Anyway, in the intervening years, they've added web conferencing and webinar features that are very competitive, and they have a business-oriented service called StartMeeting that can be quite affordable when compared to Zoom and other services, especially if you need extra storage for recordings or toll-free dial-in numbers. I've seen a few non-profit organizations using it, and I have been impressed with the features, although documentation is a little light.

I've also encountered join.me in my travels as a consultant and find that it works well. It's owned by LogMeIn, the same company that operates LastPass and GoToMeeting.
 


Ric Ford

MacInTouch
FYI, Doxy.me is a telemedicine platform someone I know has been using in a small clinic, and it's apparently HIPAA-compliant, among other features:
Doxy.me LLC said:
The Simple, Free, and Secure Telemedicine Solution
  • HIPAA, GDPR, PHIPA/PIPEDA, & HITECH compliant: We meet worldwide security requirements.
  • It’s really easy to use. No need to download software or apps, and patients don’t need to create accounts or remember passwords. Other telemedicine solutions often bundle scheduling, practice management, health records, or other features you don’t really need to provide telemdicine.
  • ... we offer a completely free version for those starting out with telemedicine, low-utilizers, or those who can’t afford it otherwise...
  • The Professional and Clinic plan have premium features that provide a superior telemedicine experience for you and your clients. Most who upgrade appreciate the added value gained from the premium features.
 


I am a gastroenterologist, been using doxy.me for at least three weeks. It works very well. The free version only allows you to send emails to patients with a link to connect. The paid version, which is about $25/month allows SMS messages, which is much easier. The quality of the connection depends on the recipient's phone, but I have found it to be very reliable. Not the way I want to practice medicine, but that's all we can do now.
 


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