Lifestyle


With the coronavirus crisis, teleconference is booming, but concerns are spreading!

10 April, 2020 08:00  EasyExpat EasyExpat

Video-call - freepik.com

While more than 80% of the world’s population is said to be on some kind of lockdown to help limit the spread of the coronavirus, video calls have become the easy of keeping contact with work colleagues, family members and friends.

Britsh TV Channel Sky News reported that according to Professor Sophie Scott, Director of the Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience at University College London, video calling has been proven to be just as good for your brain and happiness as being in the same space. She said:

"You get the same bang for your buck - you talk for as long, you are as happy and you laugh as much whether the face to face interaction is on a computer or it's actually happening in front of you."

There are several softwares and apps to enjoy video chats, but there is one that has been booming since the covid19 crise: Zoom! The video-conferencing platform went from 10 million daily users at the end of last year, to 200 million in March and became not only a chosen tool for remote workers but also for recreation. In the last month, there was a 535% rise in daily traffic to the Zoom.us download page, according to an analysis from the analytics firm SimilarWeb.

Security concerns

This rocket type growth as spread questions over security issues of conference call applications. A school in Norway has stopped using popular video conferencing service Whereby after a naked man apparently “guessed” the link to a video lesson. TechCrunch reported last year that malicious users could access and listen in to Zoom and Webex video meetings by cycling through different permutations of meeting IDs in bulk. The researchers said the flaw worked because many meetings were not protected by a passcode.

Although it is annoying on a private level, it could be disasters for Companies. Zoom is now the biggest player and therefore a great concern, but it should be noted that most of the apps providing video conferencing or video call features have also seen security-related issues in the past (including FaceTime, WhatsApp, Skype and Google). Fortunately it has since been patched. Zoom-bombing is the term used to described hackers infiltrating video meetings, often shouting racial slurs or threats (on March, 30th the FBI announced it was investigating increased cases). It takes advantage of the facility to access any Zoom meeting by a short number-based URL, such as https://us04web.zoom.us/j/123456789.

Zoom has been labelled a "security disaster" by some security analysts. Unlike some counterpart (such as WhatsApp), Zoom confirmed in a blogpost on Wednesday 1st April that end-to-end encryption was not currently possible on the platform.

A second criticized feature is attention tracking. If it's on, it reports to the host if a user clicks away from the Zoom window for 30 seconds. It allows the host (i.e. your boss for example) to monitor participants' computers. Another issue is the possibility to record meetings to the cloud, so a manager not even on the Zoom meeting could later review the full transcript of that call. In addition they use personal data in your login account to provide personalised ads and other stats related services. 

Other privacy issues have been listed in an article from the British newspaper The Guardian:

"In 2019, it was revealed Zoom had quietly installed a hidden web server on user devices that could allow the user to be added to a call without their permission. And a bug discovered this week would enable hackers to take over a Zoom user’s Mac, including tapping into the webcam and hacking the microphone."

Concerns have been ackowledged by the company, as CEO Eric Yuan said that the company was freezing any new features to the service for 90 days in order to concentrate on security and bug fixing.

Securing your Zoom meeting

Although it won't solve all issues, there are several tweaks you could use to increase the security of your video-call meeting.

  1. Don't use your Personal Meeting ID for the meeting. Instead, use a per-meeting ID, exclusive to a single meeting. Zoom's support page offers a video walk-through on how to generate a random meeting ID for extra security.
  2. Enable the "Waiting Room" feature so that you can see who is attempting to join the meeting before allowing them access.
  3. Disable other options, including the ability for others to Join Before Host. Then disable screen-sharing for nonhosts, and also the remote control function. Finally, disable all file transferring, annotations and the autosave feature for chats.

Zoom has recently released guidelines in order to prevent unwanted guests to enter meetings and increase security.

   


Best video call apps to use for work and socialising

06 April, 2020 12:34  EasyExpat EasyExpat

Couple waving during a video call - @Freepik.com

In a few hours, I have an "apero-time" with friends (a virtual apero, as it becomes the norm with the current corona virus lockdown). Earlier I spent 30 minutes on a video-conference meeting with colleagues at work, talking about the latest change in the delivery schedule of some projects.

Video call apps have become inevitable nowadays with the vast majority of the population in confinement and working from home. We list below some of the most popular best video conferencing tools that you could use.

Zoom

In a few months it has become the most popular application with a reported 200 million daily users in March, up 20 times from the end of last year. Is is free for up to 40 minutes (but often extend for more nowadays) but with unlimited meetings (which means you can resend a link immediately for another meeting) and allows you to start or join face-to-face video calls with up to 100 people. Probably one of the nicest feature is the possibility to see all participants in similar tiles (hilghlighting the person speaking), which is usefull as soon as you have more than 10 participants.

You have also more features for company meetings if you pay: the most expensive tier gets you meetings with up to 1,000 participants, but there are cheaper options.

However, with popularity come criticism, as Zoom has been labelled a "security disaster" by some security analysts, which could explain why many companies have preferred to use Skype or Webex. CEO Eric Yuan said that the company was freezing any new features to the service for 90 days in order to concentrate on security and bug fixing. The company has also published guidelines to improve security of video-meetings.

  • You can find the Zoom sign-up page here: Zoom

Webex

Owned by Cisco, Webex is well know from professionals and widely used by companies running video conferences and webinars.You can run webinares HD video and broadcast-quality audio for audiences up to 3,000 and virtual events for up to 100,000 participants with expertise from Cisco Webex Webcasting.

As for Zoom, their main competitor before the COVID19 crisis, they have a free version with 100 participants, unlimited time and audio call-in (in addition to existing VoIP capabilities, participants can just call a number for free in 52 countries). Problably surprised by the sudden success of Zoom (seen as a cheaper version before), they have tried to react in upgrading their free version (only up to 50 participants before, and up to40 min limit). Other prices range from £11.25/months to £22.50 for 200 participants and the possibility for international calls with another £29.75/month.

As a Cisco product, they really focus on business, providing Webex Teams collaboration features as well as video conferencing.

  • Sign up on Webex here: Webex

Skype

Skype has been around for a very long time (now owned by Microsoft). Many company have bought the professional version but it's also a great tool for personal use. Skype can be used on iOS, Android, Windows and Mac, and offers video and audio calling, as well as a messaging feature.

However it is limited if you want to use it for large group meeting as it supports up to 50 people on the same audio call. But it allowssome nice features as adding captions and subtitles.

If you buy a Phone subscription (Skype Credits), you can call phone numbers around the worl directly from your Skype software. For example you can call the United Kingdom ~500 mins for £10.00.

Google Hangout

The Google app offers high-definition video and audio meetings with up to 250 participants. An annoying feature however is the constant switch to the current person speaking on full screen and the other participants only visible in tiny boxes.

  • You can find the hangout page here: Hangout

FaceTime

Only for Apple users, FaceTime is a popular App on iPad, iPhone or Mac. You can reach the user with a phone number or Apple ID and it works on Wifi if you don't have data connection. You can organise a group FaceTime with up to 32 people at once since OS12 in 2018.

  • Download the app for iOS here: FaceTime

WhatsApp

The Facebook owned app has more than 2 billions users. You can use it both on iPhone or Android, as it works with a phone number. There is the possibility to use a desktop interface and a web interface, but this is limited to text messages then.

It has become very popular to make free phone calls (using Wifi) to anyone you are in contact with, wherever the person is. It is a great option for keeping in touch with family and friends worldwide.

With end-to-end encrypted, your messages and calls are secured so only you and the person you're communicating with can read or listen to them, and nobody in between, not even WhatsApp.

Houseparty

Houseparty is a video chat app owned by Fortnite developer Epic Games. Popular for aperitif and playing games,  Houseparty is a face to face social network. When you join the"house", your friends will be alerted and have the possibility to join too.The app is available for iOS, Android, MacOS and Chrome.

The app has seen massive growth in downloads since the start of March, according to data from Sensor Tower: it recorded 2m downloads worldwide in the last week of March, compared to 130,000 the same time in February.

Whereby

Whereby is a flexible tool providing you with video meetings in the browser – no downloads & no logins for guests. However the free version is limited to 4 participants per meeting.

Professional offers range from$9.99 to $59.99 for multiple users and up to 10 meeting rooms.

Marco Polo

This app dedicated to friends and family combines texting, social media and video chats - all in one private, easy to use app.The main difference with others is that it allows to send video messages to individuals or group chats, which the other parties can watch and respond to at their leisure.

Microsoft Teams

As advertised on their home page, the COVID19 crisis is an opportunity for Microsoft to promote their Office 365 tool to companies and schools around the world. They offer sign up for free for the entire school resquesting. Otherwise, Office 365 business plans that include Teams start at $5/user/month.

However for personal use they redirect to Skype (see above).

Information page: Microsoft Teams

Messengers

For Facebook addicte, you have the popular Messenger. It's primarily used for sending messages, but also includes a video chat option.

Jitsi

Jitsi is a multi-platform open-source video conferencing. It can be used for large multi-user video conference client and all tools are 100% free, open source, and WebRTC compatible. You can use their multi-user conference client, called Jitsi Meet, or build your own.

It's a fully encrypted video conference solution that you can use without creating an account and allows you to share desktops and share messages while you chat.

Depending on your needs (and the requirements from your company) choose the best app as we have now plenty of choice... just imagine a few seconds if the same crisis would have happened 20 years ago...

   


Being expat gave me opportunity and made me unique

10 May, 2016 10:30  EasyExpat EasyExpat

Morning Show with Claudia: Radio mic

Claudia is an American who moved with her Cypriot husband and two young children to Cyprus eight years ago. Her MBA in Corporate Finance did little for her on the island nation, so she reached deep and got imaginative. With a bit of ingenuity and dumb luck, she dusted off her experience as an actress and landed her dream job as a Radio Show personality.  (More)

   


Looking to Expatriate? Go Thai

27 July, 2015 08:00  EasyExpat EasyExpat

 

Looking to Expatriate? Go Thai

When a time for a big change comes and the seeking for a new place to start a new life in starts, people just sit and stare at the globe, wondering where to go. The globe doesn’t have any answers, but we do.  (More)

   


A Tourists Guide to Holland

28 October, 2014 13:17  Erin Erin

We've had the opportunity to host many excellent guest posts on our services site, Expat-Quotes. We are posting some of the best here on the last tuesday of every month. While these tips pertain to an expat's experience in the Netherlands, his tips can help you be a successful visitor to any country. 

Netherlands Tourist Guide At the start of spring, armies of confused looking tourists clutching maps suddenly appear on every street corner of Holland like members of a badly organised invasion. If they are not busy interrogating the locals for hotel directions, tourists keep themselves occupied by trying to put money through the card slot of the ticket machines at central station or by asking several times if a tram is going to the destination which is clearly written upon it in very large letters.

 (More)

   


Same language, different ball-game

25 February, 2014 10:16  Erin Erin

Canadian American

Before moving to Canada the only consideration I gave to language was with regard to accent; I remembered hearing somewhere that Canadians had a softer accent than their neighbors across the border and I was relieved; easing in gently sounded like a good plan. I was coming from England so it wasn’t as though I was going to be unintelligible to anyone – or so I thought.

You say tomayto, I say tomahto

I ran into problems on day two. I was staying in a hotel with my husband while we looked for rental accommodation. I had a tiny cut on my finger that kept catching on things so, on my way out to dinner one evening, I asked at reception for a plaster. The young woman at the desk shot me a blank look and shifted uncomfortably in her chair before giving a little cough and asking if I'd like an elastic band.

 (More)

   


7 Winter Drinks & How to Make them Abroad

18 December, 2013 09:45  Erin Erin

Certain smells, sights and tastes can evoke strong emotional responses and these sensations can be further heightened during the holidays. The smell of a fresh cut Christmas tree, the sight of all of your family in one place, or the taste of your favorite winter drink can all spark feelings of homesickness.

While many experiences are difficult to recreate abroad, some things are obtainable. We are sharing seven favorite winter drinks from around the world to warm you up - mind, body and soul.

GlühweinGlühwein mug

This ubiquitous German Christmas market drink does its best to warm the drinker as they peruse the many, many Christmas markets in every German city. A mulled wine, it is served hot in market-specific mugs that can be kept for the price of the deposit.

Generally composed of red wine, traditionally port and claret, it is seasoned with various spices and is drunk as soon as the weather grows cold till the end of winter.

 (More)

   


What's your Stage in the Expat Journey?

13 November, 2013 10:19  Erin Erin

A new post on our service site, Expat-Quotes, identifies the different stages of expat integration. The post, "Where are you in the Expatriate Journey?", lays out the stages:

Pre-departure: I am really doing this? Expat journey

Honeymoon: Vacations never felt like this

Culture Shock: Is this really happening?

Transformation: Finding your groove

Integration: A whole new reality

 (More)

   


Expat Tips on Cross-Cultural Relationships

10 July, 2013 12:01  Erin Erin

couple dock sunset Moving to a new country can open you up to a world of new opportunities - and new people. If you are on the hunt for love, thoughts of moving abroad can elicit images of exotic lovers, paradise locals, and spicy romances. Expat origin stories often involve falling in love with a local, or even moving around the world for love.

As fairy tale magical as these "How we met" stories can seem, the honeymoon period can be short in an intercultural relationship. Frustrations with a different culture can manifest within the relationship, and misunderstandings can multiple - especially when another language is involved. Relationships are no fairy tale - they're hard work!

 (More)

   


Expats Connect: Skype & Other Services

09 January, 2013 15:35  Erin Erin

Man using skype© Monkey Business - Fotolia.comThe sing song do de doo of skype is familiar to many of us. It's easy to see the attraction for the over 663 million registered users. Being apart from loved ones is always difficult and a simple phone call can make all the difference. You can use it for local calls or to connect with friends and family across the world. Whether it is during the holidays or just for a chat, connecting with our world is becoming easier than ever.

Skype Services

Skype offers the ability to instant message, send files, conference calls, voice mail, and video chat with other users through the internet. Services online are free, with the ability to make phone calls to non-users or mobile phones and land lines usually only costing pennies. Registered users of Skype are identified by a unique Skype Name, and may be listed in the Skype directory.

 (More)

   


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