A friend (thanks, Ted!) directed me to a nice science-based article that assigns some probabilities of risks of transmitting a disease like coronavirus. The author highlights two major scenarios:
- Warm body transmission: how far apart should you be from other people if you want to avoid transmission from another “warm body”
- Surface-based transmission: what precautions should you take when you go somewhere that others have passed through recently.
You won’t be surprised by the takeaways:
- 6 foot distancing is good
- wearing a mask is good
- washing hands is good
…but some of the discussion and details are interesting. View the full article at Medium.
Now that we’re computer conferencing all the time, I needed a better microphone, (My MacBook Pro’s built-in microphone doesn’t work well. The volume is too low – perhaps there’s something wrong.) I suspect many others would benefit from a better microphone, too. Not only do they give a better sound, but a microphone close to the mouth minimizes other nearby sounds.
So I went on a quest to find a better solution. I found a variety of options, and tested several. I put my notes here so I can remember:
- Bluetooth earpieces Any Bluetooth headset/earpiece that is advertised to work with your cellphone will probably work. They’re lightweight, have decent microphones, and boast a certain amount of noise cancellation. (Look for ones that can be paired to two devices, so you can use it with both your computer and your cell phone.) I own the Plantronics M70 – it works fine, and has 11-hour talk time (and when I don’t use it, the charge lasts for weeks). Apple AirPods or knock-offs should also work well, although I have not tested them.
- Earbuds with cables Apple EarPods (corded) ($15 with shipping from MacSales) or from Amazon work fine for videoconferencing.
- External microphone if you want to include multiple people on your end, or if you don’t want to be “cabled” to the computer… I own the Amazonbasics Desktop Microphone because it was highly-rated in a Wirecutter article. It works great.
- USB Audio In Since not all computers have a combined headphone and microphone jack, you can add a USB “sound card” to virtually any computer. I checked out the TROND External USB AudioAdapter Sound Card and it works fine with all the 1/8 inch (3.5mm) audio inputs.
- Gaming headsets These large (and heavy) headphones have a microphone on a stalk to pick up your voice. I own one, and it works just fine. But it’s obtrusive (viewers see those “cans” on my head) and not terribly comfortable. There are a zillion options: you can Google “gaming headset” to see the range.
- My favorite For years, I used a Plantronics headset with my cordless phone. It’s lightweight, has good sound, and it’s cheap ($20). But it has a 2.5mm plug – so I bought an adapter cable ($8). This plugs right into the headphone jack of my MacBook Pro (both headphone and microphone work perfectly). But if this doesn’t work on your computer, get the TROND adapter.
All this assumes your computer has either USB, Bluetooth, or 1/8 inch/3.5mm headphone inputs. (All modern computers do.) I’ve included links to Amazon, but most items are available from lots of places.
Let me know what you’re using for your videoconferencing pleasure – firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks!