At Home with Tech

Figure out which consumer tech you need, the right gear to buy and how to use your new gadgets.

Category: Tech How To

How to Fix your Ceiling Shot Problem during Zoom Meetings

Using a tabletop tripod to elevate your webcam shot is a great way to help your Zoom viewers experience you eye to eye.

It’s been over a year since the Zoom revolution took over so many parts of our lives. The good news is many of us have mastered the basics of video production while video conferencing from home. But there’s one mistake I see plenty of people still struggling with. To be fair, it’s not entirely their fault. Some blame has to be shared with laptop manufacturers who insist on putting webcams down at the bottom of the laptop screen.

The Evil Ceiling Shot
The resulting problem is your webcam pointing up at your face with the ceiling as the background. The shot is incredibly unflattering. Who wants their viewers staring at their chin or peering up their nostrils?

The fix is not an easy one. You’ve got to find a way to bring your webcam up to a more level position with your eyes. That will create the balanced visual you need.

Stacking a few hardcover books under your laptop can help. If you’ve got a standing desk, it’s time to raise it up all the way. Anything you can do to elevate your webcam will reduce the evil ceiling shot.

You also might want to consider investing in a little more gear to improve the Zoom experience for both you and your viewers.

Time to Buy a Tabletop Tripod
To move your shot high enough to make your webcam parallel with your eyes, you may need to invest in a standalone webcam. And then, most critically, you absolutely have to perch that webcam on a tabletop tripod.

A good tripod that can fit on your desk will be your unsung hero to help create a great video shot for your next Zoom.

The trick is making sure the mini tripod is tall enough to meet your eyes.

There are plenty of inexpensive tabletop tripods out there for webcams and portable LED lights. The problem is many of them are too short, only coming up a few inches. You really need a mini tripod that telescopes up 15 inches or more.

And you should also make sure you don’t choose a model that will take over your desk. It needs to be compact.

In looking to improve my own desk setup with a new tabletop tripod, I found these options to consider:

  • Lume Cube Desktop Light Stand
    30” max height
    $34.95 on Amazon
    The tallest option if you need it, but it’s also more expensive.
  • OrangeMonkie Tripod50
    19.7” max height
    $44.99 on Amazon Prime
    I love this little tripod. Even though it’s the most expensive of the group, it’s a great value. Unfortunately it’s overkill, made for heavier gear. The design will also take up more space on your desk.
  • Neewer Photography Mini Table Top Stands (2)
    20” max height
    $19.99 on Amazon Prime
    The price is right, but you can’t tilt the mount.
  • Ulanzi MT-16 Tripod
    15” max height
    $22.95 on Amazon Prime
    Just tall enough. Comes with a standard 1/4” screw mount and a GoPro mount.

Ulanzi MT-16
So, I ended up going with the Ulanzi MT-16 tripod. It’s great to support my portable Genaray Powerbank 96 Pocket LED light. It’s also a perfect choice to hold up my GoPro when using it as a webcam.

Yes, GoPros can be repurposed as webcams. To do that trick, you just need an HDMI-out to USB 3.0-in adapter. That interface will connect your GoPro’s video feed to your computer. (I use the Elgato Cam Link 4K.) Once attached, your GoPro is ready to live stream.

Elevate your Zoom Game
Remember, to create your best video shot for your next Zoom, you have to bring your webcam up high enough to meet your eyes. And stacking books under your laptop can only take you so far.

A separate webcam on a desktop tripod can really elevate your Zoom game. (The same goes for portable LED lights. You want your soft light source hitting your face at eye level.)

Using a little tripod will make a big difference!

How to Add a Missing Person to a Group Text from your iPhone

Feeling left out because of that group text you weren’t on? Don’t worry. There’s an easy way to get you back into the chat. Here’s how.

Have you ever sent out a group text from your iPhone, only to realize moments later that you’ve forgotten somebody? Or how about receiving a group iMessage and noticing that a friend has been unintentionally left off. Is it possible to correct the error and add in the missing person to your ongoing chat?

It certainly is.

For those who may be rolling your eyes right now, please feel free to stretch your own boundaries and compose your next multi-dimensional group text to a parallel universe. However, if you tend to face more earthly-based technical conundrums, and you’re currently jostling your head to shake loose the answer just outside your consciousness, I certainly understand. (It’s how I spend a fair amount of time.)

So, I’ve got a refresher for you. At first glance, it may not seem that obvious, because the ‘Add Contact’ button is hidden.

Here’s how to uncover it:

It’s Buried in the Info Icon
In your iPhone’s Messages app, tap on the text that requires more people in your reply.

  • Then, tap on the face circles representing the existing group. Your action will open three more options to tap on: ‘audio,’ ‘FaceTime’ and ‘info.’
  • Tap ‘info’ on the top right.
  • You’ll then see the current list of people. On the bottom of the list, locate ‘+ Add Contact’ in an inviting blue color.
  • Tap ‘+Add Contact.’
  • Then, simply type the new name and tap ‘Done’ on the top right.

The Answer is Also in the Details
If you’re instead using the Messages app on a Mac computer to respond to a group text, it’s even easier to make the fix:

  • Select the message.
  • Click on the blue ‘Details’ on the top right.
  • Click on the blue ‘Add Member’ under the list of member names.
  • Then type in the new name to add into the chat.

Voilà!

Whoops
Group chats have become such a common part of our texting and email experience. It’s certainly an effective communications tool as long as ‘replying to all’ continues to convey relevant information to all.

And of course, you’ve got to make sure that ‘All’ is actually a complete list of the intended recipients. Replying to ‘Almost All’ can tend to create future problems.

As texting is often done on the fly, it’s always a good idea to double check your list of names.

Then, all will thank you.

How to Stop your Email from Suggesting an Old Address

Across the years, your library of email addresses inevitably changes. Take a second to help your computer’s email program clear out the past. Here’s how.

Wouldn’t it be nice if everybody had one email address assigned at birth, and that was it for life? How simple would that be? Then, you could easily keep track of all your contacts. No more old email addresses that don’t work. Of course, I know that’s an unrealistic suggestion (or at least a plot device for a science fiction story).

In reality, we need to pay attention to the never-ending task of updating our digital address books. It’s not like we never had to take a pen to the Rolodex when a friend moved to a different city in the analog days. But that felt less frequent than the seemingly constant tweaks required to maintain your data in today’s email-first society.

Many of us change email addresses periodically for any number of reasons (new job, new internet provider, new device, new name).

That’s life. We’ve all got to keep up across the years.

The Risks When Using Auto-Complete Email Suggestions
But even if you’ve been diligent and kept your Contacts app current, you may still have to contend with your email program’s flawless memory and the pesky problem of an old email-address suggestion.

That’s when you type a name into the “To” field of an email and sixteen address options drop down for you to choose from. (I exaggerate only slightly.)

Then, if you’re not careful, you can send off your email to a long-dead address.

Over time, this potential mistake can become a larger risk as you review an ever-growing list of auto-complete choices.

It makes sense to do a little digital spring cleaning.

Clear Out Old Email Addresses
I use Microsoft Outlook for Mac on my iMac. Removing an email suggestion takes just a few seconds.

  • Simply click on the little circled ‘x’ next to the bad email address. And then it simply disappears, ‘poof!’ That’s it.

If you’re working with a PC version of Outlook, you can also clear all entries from your ‘Auto-Complete List’ should you want to start fresh.

Whichever email program you use, it will be advantageous to perform a similar data review.

Help your Computer Let Go of your Past
This may fall under the category of obvious, but if you don’t take the moment to teach your computer where keep up, you’ll eventually feel the weight of old email suggestions slowing you down.

Make sure the email suggestions you’re offered are current. If not, it’s time to clear out the past. That will go a long way to help you stay present!

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