Festive Zoom and Teams Backgrounds

Time to get into the festive spirit with one month until Christmas Day with these festive background for Zoom or Teams. As some of you are still probably working from home.

Right click the images to download the images.

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Photo by Ian Schneider on Unsplash
Image by Vincent Ciro from Pixabay
Image by Yevhen Buzuk from Pixabay
Image by Reijo Telaranta from Pixabay
Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay




Image by bluartpapelaria from Pixabay
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Mobile telephony

Thinking that would never catch on….

I actually remember seeing this when it was broadcast.

Michael Rodd makes a call with an experimental cordless mobile phone.  It’s 1979 and time for the telephone to go mobile. In this report from a longer programme, Michael Rodd examines a British prototype for a cordless telephone that allows the user to make calls from anywhere. Also included at the end of this item is a rather nice out-take as Rodd also experiences the first mobile wrong number.

Of course we don’t really use our phones as phones these days, the mini computer we have in our pockets is now used for way more than just making calls.

Hot, hot, hot…

Mojave

I recently upgraded my MacBook Pro to Mojave 10.14 mainly as Outlook had stopped working properly, and I needed to upgrade the Mac OS X so that I could install the latest version. Generally no real issues except one.

In the past when I shut the lid of the MacBook Pro it would sleep and when I opened the lid it would wake.

However on a couple of occasions now I have noticed as I reached into my rucksack that my MacBook was hot, really hot. 

What appears to be happening is that the MacBook is not going to sleep when the lid is shut. It keeps “working” and as it shut (and in a bag) it just gets warmer and warmer. The fans kick in, but even then it can’t cool down properly (with the lid shut and in a bag).

Of course I don’t think this can be good for it, so will need to check if the MacBook is in fact asleep or shut it down properly before putting it in the bag.

Typical

So there I was leaving Bristol after an evening out and Waze was sending me out of Bristol via Princes Street Bridge. As I turned onto Princes Street the warning lights went on and the barriers came down!

Princes Street Bridge

I had to wait.

Even though I know the way home to Weston-super-Mare from Bristol, I sometimes use Waze to get me out of Bristol, as it knows where there is traffic and it also gives me an idea of what time I will arrive home. 

Waze sent me down the M5 this time, the motorway southbound was quite clear, northbound it was a different picture with a ten mile tailback. Looked like there had been an accident on the Twickenham Viaduct, but the queue of traffic went back to the junction with Weston-super-Mare.

It’s not just about the tech, we also need to think differently

Zoom
Photo by Chris Montgomery on Unsplash

Over the last 18 months virtually all of my meetings have been on Teams or Zoom, or once on Google Meet. I can probably count the number of in-person meetings I have had on the fingers on one hand.

As with most people’s experiences, the experience hasn’t been excellent or even good, it’s either been okay or awful.

Over the next twelve months, I am still expecting that most of my meetings will still be on Teams or Zoom.

So how could we make things better?

The BBC published this article: Can better tech make video meetings less excruciating?

On most video conference calls, only one person gets to speak at a time. It’s a deliberate, designed feature of platforms such as Zoom. But as Susan D Blum’s linguistic anthropology class found out, it makes having a natural conversation practically impossible.

Though the technology can be a limiting factor with this, part of the problem is we are trying to replicate what we do in-person and do it online using a tool such as Zoom. The reality is that the nuances of what made the in-person experience so effective are lost when we translate to digital and we also don take advantage of the affordances that digital can bring.

So technological solutions are only part of the solution, the other key aspect is transformation.

There is some aspects of understanding why you need the meeting in the first place.

Meeting
Image by Ronald Carreño from Pixabay

Even though all my meetings these days are online meetings I found this article by Atlassian on making meetings better, useful and interesting.

Running effective meetings isn’t simply a matter of doing the obvious things like sharing the agenda and starting on time. While those things are important, they’re just table stakes. The real key to running a great meeting is organizing and running them with a human touch – not like some corporate management automaton.

They have a useful flow chart as well.

When it comes to meetings the article also says

Meetings should never be held for the sole purpose of sharing information – that’s what email, chat, and company intranets are for.

The fact that many video meetings are excruciating or awful, maybe that before the in-person meetings were equally excruciating or awful, but we didn’t recognise this and the tech has exacerbated the problem.

So before looking for technological solutions to meetings, start reflecting on why you are having a meeting in the first place.

      • What are the objectives of having the meeting?
      • Do you actually need a live face to face online meeting?
      • Could you meet the objectives in a different way?

A simple example, you need to review some content or a document. You could do this in asynchronous live online meeting, but this isn’t always very efficient. Online can exacerbate those inefficiencies and make for a less useful and rewarding experience.

An alternative approach could be to undertake an asynchronous review of the meeting, using comments and collaboration on a shared document. It would take “longer” than a meeting, you might need a week or a few days, but people could choose as and when to engage with the process.

meeting
Image by StartupStockPhotos from Pixabay

One kind of meeting I attend a lot are catch-up meetings, where we go around the “room” and provide an update on what we are doing and is happening.

I refer to Atlassian again: Meetings should never be held for the sole purpose of sharing information – that’s what email, chat, and company intranets are for.

So post your updates on Teams, Yammer or the intranet.

One of the reasons why we don’t do that, is because people don’t read the stuff they are sent, don’t engage with collaborative processes, or ignore company intranets and tools such as Yammer. As a result we have meetings, which we know people will attend.

The perspective we can solve engagement issues by having meetings, and so we need to improve the online meetings, misses the key problem, which is the lack of engagement. This is a leadership and management challenge not just about improving online meetings.

People have a personal responsibility to engage with corporate communication, give them choice, make it easier, but to think you solve it by having a meeting, is a similar thinking that people read all their e-mail.

Could write more, but I have to go to a meeting!

Managing your holiday e-mail

letters
Image by Gerhard G. from Pixabay

I really like this presentation from Zak Mensah about how to deal with e-mail when going away.

Email is like the daily newspaper – every day past its print day its usefulness fades until two weeks later nobody cares.

I agree very much of what Zak says in his presentation. I certainly put in an informative out of the office and put all e-mail received whilst on holiday to a folder to be dealt with as and when.

Solving the Sorry PowerPoint can’t read ^0 error

So there I was opening a PowerPoint file from my OneDrive folder when I got this error message: Sorry, PowerPoint can’t read ^0.

What was happening? Well first some background.

My iMac’s fusion drive had failed, I had it replaced and then reinstalled OS X before using the migration assistant to restore my iMac files, applications and preferences.

Well there I was thinking everything had gone so well. I had virtually no data loss, so was pleased I had managed to get things sorted. However I was annoyed when opening a PowerPoint file from my OneDrive folder I got an error message.

I got this error message: PowerPoint found a problem with content in <file name>. PowerPoint can attempt to repair the presentation. If you trust the source of this presentation, click Repair.

The word trust made me think that this was a permissions issue rather than corruption.

I clicked Repair and then this message appeared: Sorry, PowerPoint can’t read ^0.

I wasn’t sure what was going on.

As part of my back up back in April I had backed up the files from the OneDrive folder onto my external hard drive. I hadn’t updated it since, as far as I was concerned I didn’t need to back up the OneDrive folder as it was already backed up in the cloud.

Going through the OneDrive files I realised that virtually all the files I had created or edited since the back up weren’t working and “needed repair”. I was as you might imagine rather annoyed. What was worse was the files had also synced across the cloud and my laptop.

I did some Google searching for a solution, and to be honest it wasn’t too much help. I did try and reset OneDrive but this didn’t work.

I was convinced that this was a permissions issue rather than file corruption or data loss. The file sizes looked fine for example.

In the end though I did come up with a solution.

In Finder right click the file and select Version History.

Note that this option is only available for files on OneDrive.

As you can see I had two versions of the file with the same date and timestamp.

This reinforced my opinion that this was a permissions issue.

Right click the three dots.

Then select Restore (or Download).

This then creates a new version, which will open.

The file can now be opened normally.

I’ve not worked out how to do this for multiple files, so am having to do it for each file that doesn’t open.

This process also works on Windows computers as well.

This has demonstrated that despite having an online cloud and a physical backup there was still the potential for data loss after a hard drive failure.

 

Where’s my fusion drive?

A week ago my iMac’s fusion drive failed. Despite trying to fix it myself through software the reality was that it was looking very much like a hardware failure. I booked it into the Apple Store for a repair.

Less than a week later I got a call from the Apple Store saying it was fixed and I could come and pick it up. Having driven up to the store and come home, I got my iMac out of the car and set it up. I switched on my iMac. 

The Apple Store had replaced the failing hard drive, but that was it. They had left it pretty much, from an OS X perspective as I had left it with them. The SSD was still visible, but at least now I could see the 3TB physical drive. I had to reset the fusion drive. Luckily I knew how to do this via Terminal and the diskutil resetfusion command.

I did think that this was poor, as the last time the drive failed they had reset the fusion drive and installed OS X onto the iMac. 

Having reset the fusion drive, I then set about formatting the drive and installing OS X. Decided to bite the bullet and install Big Sur, knowing full well that I had applications that I liked that I wouldn’t be able to use. Key for me was Fireworks, but I did have Photoshop which I could use instead..

Installing Big Sur didn’t take long.

Then I used the migration assistant to start moving files from the external hard drive to the iMac. This took much longer than I thought it would.

Finally after many hours it looked like my iMac was back. iMac

Getting it repaired

Well after the failure (again) of the Fusion Drive in my iMac I took it to the Genius Bar of my local Apple Store. They confirmed my diagnosis that the Fusion Drive had failed.

I had a few options.

I could replace the SATA HDD myself with another SATA HDD, which I did consider. I could replace the broken SATA HDD with a new SDD drive.

I could get someone else to do that.

However upon consideration, taking a 2014 iMac apart isn’t a simple job and would require replacing the adhesive for the glass LCD panel. So wasn’t sure I wanted to go down the road. Also the cost of a 2TB or 3TB SDD was quite expensive, though buying a 3TB HDD myself would be cheaper than what Apple was proposing to charge.

I did consider before taking it to Apple to get someone else to do this, but they would charge £84 first just to diagnose the problem, so would then charge (like Apple) for labour on top, as well as the replacement HDD cost.

What the Apple Store was proposing wasn’t excessive and so decided to go down that road.

So now they have my iMac for a week, well hopefully less time than that.

Fusion drive fails again

Back in April I had a few problems with the Fusion Drive on my 2014 iMac. So much so that I had to copy the data off the iMac onto an external drive and then reformat the drive and reinstall OS X.

Having got back to where I had been before the drive failed I was happy with going back to work on the iMac. However I was suspicious that the drive might fail again. I kept regular backups of files and photos, but I did have an expectation that the drive might fail again.

On Saturday it did just that. I was using the iMac to sort out some train tickets and other tickets when it just froze. Nothing was working, so I switched it off at the back and when I switched it back on I was rather downhearted, but not really surprised, to see the prohibitory symbol.

I booted into Recovery mode (hold down the Command and R keys when turning on and release once you see the Apple logo or a spinning globe). I ran disk utility which confirmed the Fusion Drive had failed. The SDD was working fine, but the (mechanical) hard drive had failed. A Fusion Drive us made up of an SDD drive and a standard hard disk drive combined to look like a single drive under OS X.

Luckily I hadn’t lost any data, but wasn’t sure what to do next.

I did reformat the SDD and installed OS X onto that (and even upgraded to Big Sur). The speed was very impressive and to be honest part of me did think about leaving it like this. However this wasn’t a practical long term solution as the iMac would just randomly reboot for no reason. Certainly couldn’t use the iMac for anything productive.

I did look into fixing the iMac myself, but in the end booked it into the Cribbs Causeway Apple Store Genius Bar for an appointment. The 2014 iMac counts as vintage technology (as it is just under their seven year limit) and isn’t quite obsolete, yet!