Rants and Raves

Tips for Video Conferencing if you’re new to the WFH world

If you haven’t had to work from home before (or weren’t allowed to previously) you may be having a tough time of getting used to video conferencing. Here are some tips.

(I’ve listed these out in no order but I will likely edit this post and add or re-order the items below.)

Pre-requisites- I’m under the assumption you have a decent and stable internet connection. If you’re in the US, you likely don’t have it as good as our friends overseas with their fancy fiber connections, but it’s likely good enough. But if you have kids- you may want to limit their gaming/streaming during your work hours.


Test your software and hardware. I have just about every conferencing software installed and use all of them a lot. But even with that I have to test things. By this I mean, I try to: double-check my mic and audio (with and without the headphones). Then I double-check my video (I usually cover up my camera after each call, but I use it on a lot of calls).

Every conferencing software should have a way to test the setup or do a test call. Skype, Google Hangouts, Zoom, BlueJeans all do. You should also test-call a friend or yourself and find the mute button- see below


This is critical. If you’re not the host, you should be muted unless you’re being asked a question. Learn where the button is on the app’s control screen. Also you should know how to do this on your phone. This is critical – not just for you but for everyone else on the call.

This may seem minor, but it’s not. It’ll derail the call, even for minor reasons.

For example usually the video will focus on the speaker/presenter. But in some cases when a noise is detected, the “focus” will then display the “speaker”. It’s fine to un-mute to ask questions, etc. but mute yourself immediately afterwards. MUTE MUTE MUTE.

If you’re the presenter/host– find out if you can pre-mute everyone on a test call. You should be setting that up for massive calls and if not, you’ll need to do it on a call when you start (screenshot below)

Speaking of starting a call- Have an agenda each time in your email invitation. Item 1 should be “Reminder to be on mute if you’re not the presenter”. If it’s a recurring meeting the agenda item will eventually sink in.

Workspace– I’m going to skip this one for the most part (sit at a decent chair when you can instead of the sofa all day), but just do a quick double-check on what your space looks like behind you. You don’t want anything weird or embarrassing showing up on video.

Notes for Presenters (and Teachers)

See above about muting the attendees. I’d also recommend that you insist on having the attendees turn on their cameras. We don’t have to do this for work calls w/ customers- it’s optional- but for internal meetings we insist.

You can also set this up in the meeting settings before hand. Have a reminder in the meeting invite that the attendees will be expected to be on video. See screenshot of Zoom settings:

Another setting I’d recommend doing (for now) is possibly limiting the Audio to Computer Audio. I’d recommend this for 2 reasons.

  1. The conferencing companies are seeing high volume as more people work from home, BUT SO ARE THE PHONE COMPANIES. Because of this, people are skipping meetings “because they can’t dial in”. If they’re new to this, they may not realize they can be calling in over computer audio. If you don’t want to change the setting, that’s fine, but remind people in your meeting invitation that they may need to do so.
  2. There are some nuances about taking screenshots of attendees. If you’re the host of a mandatory meeting you can get the attendance list. But if you’re in a hurry and are looking at the attendee list, you may not know who owns that 510 number. I say this because the conferencing software will have you tie your phone # to an attendee id, but people skip this step all the time.

But this step is optional- it depends on your group- be sympathetic to those who may not have a good connection.

Zero Cool – ****

Another pulp romp. A dangerous dame in Spain. A doctor in over his head. Treasure and treachery…

Turns out this was written by Michael Crichton. I didn’t know Michael Crichton wrote pulp under a pseudonym. It doesn’t surprise me, but I didn’t know.

Decent fun.

Playing with the Brave Browser

I sometimes dabble with different things to try to learn about the technology behind it. An example- a long while back I bough crypto, not to try to get a Lamborghini (yeah, that’s a thing) but just to learn about it. Now that I think about it- I probably got my first crypto from Pridkett… but I’ll have to check. Of course instead of dabbling, I should actually learn a skill like how to write Python scripts, but …

One of the things I periodically look at is privacy-related items or tech. For example, I was playing with running PiHole on a NAS I have in the house (interesting findings, but maybe not enough to blog about). I also recently started looking at the Brave Browser.

I’ve had the browser installed for quite a while, but I always forget to use it. I like the idea behind it and was wondering if any of you use it. Do you tip any blog authors? (not looking for tips, but I am the kind to tip out or donate to sites) Do you have BAT plugins on your site if you run one- wether it’s a blog or a YouTube channel?

Of course, I have a promo link here in case you’re interested in learning more.

First Ride of 2020

I went on a nice ride yesterday. I wasn’t sure of where I was going, but I left the city and headed north to Mill Valley. I wound up heading up the hill to 4 Corners and then back through to SF and home.

It was a bit chilly (for me) but it was really nice out. I’m just glad to be out and riding outside. My mileage has been dropping steadily since going to my current job. I’m not blaming the job, but work commitments definitely play into the riding schedule.

There’s something to be said for just moving… just getting outside and seeing the sights and moving.


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Some snaps from today

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So Nude, So Dead – ***

So Nude, So DeadSo Nude, So Dead by Ed McBain
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Every time I finish a Hard Case Crime book I wonder how and when I got in to pulp. I guess it’s officially my guilty pleasure. I have a bunch of them on my e-reader and if I’m on the bus and can’t balance my paper book then I tend to churn through these. Can I recommend them all? Probably not- the women are usually props- sometimes they’re the main character but not all the time. And then there’s the race angle from the period. That said – jazz, drugs, murder, dames, revenge… what’s not to like with that?

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Closing out the 2019 Books

Radical Candor – ****

Had heard about this book for a while but when I got promoted a direct report recommended that I read it. There’s some decent advice in here.

So Good They Can’t Ignore You – ***

There were some interesting chapters and studies in there, but it felt like a really long blog post at times instead of a full book. I’m not sure why I get that vibe, but it stuck with me.

Slow Horses – ***

I enjoyed this quite a bit. The author has published more now, so there’s a series. I may try the second one soon.

My Struggle: Book 1 – ****

Ooof- pretty serious, but well written. I’m not sure I’ll read more in the series unless friends recommend particular volumes.

Anansi Boys – ****

Another enjoyable read. This may have been my first Gaiman novel to read (can that be right?).