At Home with Tech

It’s time to maximize the potential of all your gadgets.

Category: Tech Fixes

How to Save your iPhone when It Runs out of Storage

Don’t panic! Take these steps when you see that your iPhone’s storage is almost full.

I once pondered why anyone would ever need an iPhone with 512GB of storage. Now, three years later, I know that answer. My 256GB iPhone is packed, and I want more space. Sure, my media files can (and do) live in any number of clouds or hard drives, but of course there’s a cost with maintaining that solution.

If you’re in the same situation and considering upgrading to a device with 512GB or a whopping terabyte of storage, you probably should look at the other side of the same equation and ask yourself why do you really need to carry around that much data on your smartphone.

Let me answer that one… You don’t.

I don’t. (That said, my next iPhone will have more storage. But honestly, that’s a band-aid solution.)

The real problem and solution has to do with media management.

This is not about having enough space to maintain your media library on your smartphone. It’s about not having enough time over the years to thin out the files you don’t need. You wake up one day to realize you’ve got tens of thousands of disorganized photos and hundreds of home videos dancing about.

They’re clogging up your phone, and the irony is many of them are throwaways, minor variants of better versions. You just never found the time to go back and delete them.

iPhone Storage Almost Full
You can ignore this reality for only so long. Eventually, your device will force you to respond. You have to go through all of your media files and hack away at them.

I’ll go out on a limb and say that nobody really needs tens of thousands of photos to represent their day-to-day lives. So it’s time to roll up your sleeves and put on your media management hat.

The Good News
In the process, you might come across some unexpected fast lanes to free up space.

To do that, first review your iPhone’s storage report:

  • Click on iPhone Storage in Settings.

You’ll see a graph illustrating what types of files are sucking up your phone’s memory. You might spot a category that can be easily cleaned up. I did…

Delete All of your Downloaded Podcasts!
I found that I had 40GB in old downloaded podcasts that I could quickly eliminate. (That was a huge surprise.) I hadn’t realized when I started ‘following’ certain podcasts a couple years back that all of the new episodes would continue to download, regardless whether I ever listened to another one.

40GB gone! Whoa!

So, if you’re a podcast listener, you should definitely check that category.

And don’t forget to change the settings to stop your iPhone from automatically downloading new podcast episodes.

  • Go to the Podcasts Settings on your iPhone
  • Turn off Automatic Downloads: Enable When Following

Your iPhone’s storage report also offers a few quick and easy methods to free up memory, such as offloading unused apps. So don’t miss those opportunities.

But sooner or later you’ll need to face all of those photos and videos. It’s time to do the hard work.

Reversing Course Takes Time
You’ve slowly brought yourself to this precipice. And it may feel like death from a thousand nicks. It’s overwhelming.

So give yourself some time to dig out. Five minutes a day can do wonders. As long as you’re deleting more media files each day than your creating, you’ve found the right path.

Take control. Your smartphone will thank you.

How to Hear Zoom Audio when Screen Mirroring to your TV

If you use a MacBook laptop and Apple TV, there’s one important setting to change if you want to hear your Zoom audio on your HDTV.

The Zoom app is mostly designed to be used on smartphones and computer screens as an interactive experience. But with Zoom having grown as a performance/presentation platform, sometimes it’s preferable to watch Zoom as a one-way experience. Then, it’s more enjoyable if you can experience it on your big-screen TV.

So how exactly do you get your Zoom feed to show up there? There are multiple ways to do it, but the gateway to my older (non-smart) HDTV is via my little (but mighty) Apple TV box.

Once I’m screen sharing in the Apple ecosystem to my Apple TV, it’s immediately available on my HDTV.

Apple makes screen mirroring (AirPlay) to its devices a snap. But getting Zoom’s audio to stream to your HDTV can be more tricky. Here are the ways to do it.

Use an iPhone and Zoom App
As long as you first activate screen mirroring from your iPhone to your Apple TV before joining your Zoom, you’ll be fine.

On your iPhone’s Control Center (open by swiping down from top-right corner of your screen), you’ll see the two layered rectangles icon for screen mirroring.

  • Tap it and select your Apple TV
  • Then join your Zoom presentation

Both video and audio will follow to your TV.

Use a MacBook’s Web Browser or Zoom App
Turn on Screen Mirroring via the Control Center icon on your laptop’s Menu Bar. Then choose the Apple TV.

Or a faster way to share your screen is just click on the Screen Mirroring icon on the Menu Bar. But you’ve first got to make sure that icon shows up on the top right. Here’s how to activate it.

  • Go to ‘System Preferences’
  • Click on ‘Screen Mirroring’ on the left panel
  • Click ‘Dock and Menu Bar’
  • Click Show in Menu Bar… ‘always’ (as opposed to ‘when active’)


Then proceed to your Zoom presentation.

What Happened to the Audio?
But I’ve found that one big problem can crop up when screen mirroring Zoom from my wife’s MacBook Air to our Apple TV…

The Zoom video projects fine onto the TV screen, but the audio doesn’t naturally follow. The Zoom audio remains tethered to the laptop’s speakers.

To fix that frustrating problem, there’s one additional step you’ve got to take.

Change your Zoom Audio Settings
By default, the Zoom audio output is the laptop’s speakers, even if you’re mirroring your screen. (Zoom doesn’t know that you’re practicing screen-mirroring magic.)

You’ve got to go into your Zoom settings and manually change the audio output to your Apple TV. Only then will the Zoom audio follow from your computer to your Apple TV.

In the Zoom app:

  • Click on ‘Home’
  • Click the Settings gear icon on the right
  • Click on ‘Audio’
  • Click on ‘Speaker’ drop down
  • Select ‘Apple TV’

And to be sure you’ve got it right, click on ‘Test Speaker’ and you should hear a happy melody coming from your TV’s speakers.

And voilà!

Turn Up the Volume
Zoom has proven to be a really powerful app over these past couple of years during the pandemic. But you’ve got to make sure the audio settings are right.

Once you do, you can finally sit back and enjoy the Zoom show on your TV!

Why It may be Time to Upgrade your Webcam

If you still look like a shadow of your true self in Zoom meetings, you should consider using a more powerful camera.

It’s fair to say we’ll be needing our webcams, well… forever. If video conference meetings from home weren’t already part of our daily lives before the pandemic, well, now they certainly are. And no matter what the future holds, virtual meetings are here to stay.

We’ve had two years to figure out how to set up a decent Zoom shot. If you’re still not happy with it, the problem may be your computer’s mediocre webcam. If so, it’s time to upgrade and buy a dedicated external USB camera for your computer.

Can Another Camera You Own do the Job?
But before you start shopping for a new webcam, make sure you don’t already own another device that you can repurpose such as a camcorder or DSLR-style camera.

You just need to make sure that your higher-end camera can offer a ‘clean’ video output via a HDMI connector. Then you’ll need a HDMI to USB converter like the ‘Cam Link 4K’ to integrate the video feed into your computer.

My New Lumix GH5 II
Recently, I bought myself a Panasonic Lumix GH5 II
with a Panasonic 12-35 mm/f2.8 II lens.
(“Why Barrett, you shouldn’t have!”)

And of course, I immediately wanted to jack this Micro Four Thirds, mirrorless camera into my iMac to see what would happen.

Sure, using a higher-end camera with a serious lens as a basic webcam is way overkill, but it works just fine. And the look is beautiful. In fact, it’s ridiculous.

The webcam on my iMac is perfectly adequate, but when I changed over to my GH5 II, the visual difference was dramatic.

Don’t Buy More than You Need
Now, I’m not saying you should run out and spend ten times the cost of a typical webcam to upgrade your Zoom look.

But if you’ve already got a more powerful camera that can also be used as a webcam, then why not? (Previously, I had been repurposing my old GoPro as a webcam via my Cam Link 4K.)

Your Desk will get Messy
Now here comes the big disclaimer…

Yes, integrating a ‘real’ camera into your desktop computer or laptop will creating an amazing image, but functionally, the process is not elegant. You’ve got to put a tripod on your desk and position it right next to your computer screen, so you’re not looking too far off camera when you take a peek at the other folks in your Zoom window.

Then, you’ve got the HDMI and power cables coiling in front of your screen to contend with. It’s a mess. (You start to feel like a battery person trapped in “The Matrix,” even though the cables aren’t actually coming out of your body.)

Even attaching a tiny new webcam to your laptop involves an extra cable and a webcam mount, and it takes a couple more steps every time you prepare for a video conference. Plus, you’ve got to adjust your webcam and test your shot to make sure you’re framed correctly.

That’s takes work… sometimes a lot of work. One might say it’s an absurd effort. And for what?

Nothing beats the ease of simply clicking on ‘join’ and letting your integrated webcam do its job. Whatever your viewers see, they see. If you’re only partially in the shot, that’s better than nothing, right?

What’s so bad with that approach? (And if you really feel that way, please continue taking your blue pills. Your next Zoom meeting in the Matrix is in ten minutes!)

Can You See Me Now?
Frankensteining any camera into your computer is a bit messy… sometimes very messy. But the good news is it’s not really that complicated.

Do you still make an effort to put on a nice shirt for your Zoom meetings, and have you spent more than a few minutes trying to adjust the lighting on your face? Are you still unsatisfied with your shot?

If so, then you’re a prime candidate to consider upgrading your webcam. (And if you’re already in the market for a nice camera to handle your photography and video projects, you can free two birds with one key, like I did.)

I expect you will not be disappointed with your decision to improve your Zoom look. It’s actually a great New Year’s resolution, and one that you’ll continue reaping benefits from throughout the entire year!

%d bloggers like this: