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Breaking the internet, easy video conferencing apps

Tech Talk

 

April 25, 2020

Greg Cunningham

Breaking the internet

With more than 100 million people globally working from home, school closures forcing online classes and just generally staying home instead of meeting face-to-face, internet traffic over broadband and mobile wireless is at an all-time high.

The strong point of the world's internet capability is in the main connections – the undersea cables and the continent-spanning fiber optic backbones. Call it the "information superhighway" if you must, but there are plenty of lanes, and there's not much traffic.

The actual weakest link on the internet is what's known as the "last mile." Our local Internet Service Providers (ISPs) like AT&T, Spectrum, Race, etc., are like residential roads leading off the superhighway. Now that we're all at home trying to work, or go to school, or video chat with friends, how are the residential internet roads doing?

In the last two weeks of March, the use of Zoom (a suddenly popular video conferencing app) has increased by 400 percent. Microsoft Teams (another video conferencing collaboration app) has grown from 32 million active daily users to 44 million.

In the last week of March, Verizon reported peak hour usage increased 75 percent for gaming, 34 percent for virtual private networking (secure connection to work), 20 percent for web traffic and 12 percent for video streaming (Netflix and the others). Internet usage for Virgin Media and Vodafone in the UK and Europe has more than doubled during late March.

To help with network traffic, Netflix and YouTube and other video streaming companies are reducing video quality. Local ISPs have increased some network capabilities, increased speeds where possible, and suspended data caps.

Companies tracking the health of the internet have seen some slowdowns in both broadband mobile wireless networks, but no crashes yet.

Easy video conferencing apps

Speaking of video conferencing...if you're a computer or smartphone power user, you're probably okay with video conferencing apps like Skype, Discord, Telegram and the rest. But if you (or someone you know) is looking for an easy to use video chat app that might already be on your phone or computer, here we go.

FaceTime

If you have an Apple product (iPhone, iPad, iMac or MacBook), you already have one of the easiest to use video calling apps around. At least, it's easy if you want to talk to other Apple product users. Make sure video calls happen over Wi-Fi to minimize and reduce your data usage.

Facebook Messenger Lite

The Messenger feature is standard on Facebook, but now it has a little brother, Messenger Lite. Some features are missing in the Lite version to make it easier to open a video call with one of your contacts, and you don't need a Facebook account to use Messenger Lite. It works on Apple and Android mobile devices and is available in your app store or Google Play. While there isn't a Windows or macOS version, you can still use the web-based Messenger client on those platforms.

WhatsApp

Also free, and also from Facebook, is WhatsApp. Privacy is a big deal for WhatsApp. All messages and calls are encrypted, so they're private between the users on the call or message. But don't worry about the encryption, WhatsApp has a simple interface, and you can call other WhatsApp users or any contacts stored on your device. For free. Android, iOS, PC, and Mac versions are available.

Working from home, trying to get into the company's web site

• Enter password

o That password is incorrect

• Enter password

o That password is incorrect

• Enter password

o That password is incorrect

• Reset password

o Your new password cannot be the same as your old password

Do you have a computer or technology question? Greg Cunningham has been providing Tehachapi with on-site PC and network services since 2007. Email Greg at [email protected]

 
 

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