Inexpensive Technology to Improve Your Video Calls

Or ‘Is it worth $10 to get a stable Zoom call?’

Ethernet Cable
I know it’s not sexy, but it’s reliable. . .

What if I told you there was one simple thing you could do to minimize dropped or garbled video calls?

You know what I’m talking about. Now that you’re working from home, video conferencing is happening all the time. Everything seems fine until you’re in the middle of the call and suddenly it sounds like you’re at a Daft Punk concert. Or you’re in the middle of a discussion and  suddenly you just aren’t on the call anymore.

The problem could be your Wi-Fi. Even if you have a strong signal from your router, Wi-Fi is not the most stable connection. You could be getting sudden interference from other electronics in your house or your neighbor’s house. Or someone else on your network is uploading or downloading a huge file over the same Wi-Fi network.

I’ve found simple solutions tend to work best. So my simple, inexpensive solution is this: plug your computer into an ethernet cable. I know. I know it hurts. We bought laptops because we don’t want to be tied to a single location. But you shouldn’t be walking around on a video call, and if you’re leading it, you really don’t want to get dropped.

Set up your spot for video calls near your router so you can just run an ethernet cable to one of the ports on the back of the router  when you do video calls. My work desk has an ethernet cable right next to my laptop’s power cable. So, if I’m working in that spot, I charge my computer’s batter and use the ethernet at the same time.

Why Does this Matter?

Since Wi-Fi is cordless, it uses certain radio frequencies. If your router and your neighbor’s router are both on the same frequency, it’s kind of like two people yelling at the same bartender in a busy nightclub. The server is getting confused. They’re not sure who to be listening to and it takes longer for you and the other customer to place your order because you have to repeat yourselves over and over.

By plugging your computer directly into your router, it’s like you’re placing your order directly with their ordering system, and they just have to hand you your drink. It’s more reliable and less likely to have an error because your voice didn’t carry or the guy next to you is shouting over your order.

What if You’re Already Plugged-in?

If you are already using an ethernet cable, and you’re still getting garbled or dropped calls, your router is underpowered or is several years old and will need to be replaced.

 A few years ago, I hadn’t thought about how old our router was getting when we moved into a new house. At the same time, we added about 5 devices to our network because our kids got their own phones and laptops and suddenly everything online got slow.

Simply replacing the router with a mid-grade home router took our bandwidth speeds from less than 1 MB/s to over 10 MB/s and we had no issues from then on.

If you’re making important calls from your computer and having reliability problems, make sure you’re using the most stable connection for your computer. Get an ethernet cable.

The Price of Exuberance

Or: How My Ego Broke My Body

Yes, I’m trying to stand up straight. No, that’s not normal.

I Know Better

A few days ago, I made a distinct error in judgment. I got excited during a workout and did more than I should have. I’m human, I was having fun, and I should have skipped that last set.

To set the stage, I’ve been running regularly for over a year, in which time I’ve lost over 20 pounds and dropped to approximately 20% body fat. My body feels better than it has in a long time, and I was ready to re-introduce barbell work.

Wednesday of last week, I chose to skip my 4+ mile run and do a functional strength workout incorporating deadlifts, kettlebell swings, and jump rope. And it was glorious. Not that I set any personal bests or  did anything remarkable other than I did string together more double-unders than I expected to accomplish.

I ran on Thursday. It was a good run, and provided the things I’ve come to need from runs: the requirement to focus on the mental  challenge of running on uneven ground and the mental exhaustion that allows the negative voices in my brain to fall asleep for a while.

At Least . . . I Should Know Better

And then Friday happened. Olympic lifts are highly technical movements, and I understand the dangers of doing too much too soon. My planned workout was to do 5 sets of 5 reps of clean & jerks at 65 pounds. I felt this weight was light enough I would be able to just focus on my form and would be able to easily finish the workout without problems.

My body started sending me hints my plan was unreasonable sometime near the beginning of the third round. The muscles were more tired than I expected, but nowhere near failure.

By the end of the fourth round, my body told me it was tired, and I remember thinking, “I should be happy with this. Just put the weights away and call it a day.” But my ego and brain swindled me into thinking, “It’ll be fine. Don’t just give up because you’re a little tired. The first four sets were fine…you’ll be fine.”

So I put on one of my “pump up” songs, rested a little longer, let the music get my adrenaline start flowing, stepped up to the barbell . . . I’m not sure if I pulled too hard from the ground or caught the bar too far forward, but I dumped the bar and knew something wasn’t right.

Face Challenges with Optimism

post-lift selfie July 3, 2020
The pain hasn’t really set in yet . . . but it was there.

I instantly recognized the feeling and knew my back was in trouble. My optimism made me think it wouldn’t be too bad. But it took 4 days before I recovered enough to stand in front of the mirror to take the picture at the top of this post. It’s not as obvious in this photo, but I spent most of the weekend with my left shoulder about 3 inches lower than my right.

This is the formula for many workout injuries I’ve heard: excitement to resume being active, overconfidence in your own ability, and pushing through the signals your body sends.

Did I Screw Up?

If I had been working with a personal trainer, they would have accepted too much responsibility for this injury. Since I was on my own, reacquainting myself with movements I’ve done before, no one can take any of the responsibility from me.

It’s my fault I injured myself. I let my ego be too strong. And the price I paid was high: I’m closing in on 5 days and I can barely walk a half mile without discomfort.

When you get excited to face a challenge, remember: your brain and your ego can write checks your body can’t cash. In a state of exuberance, our judgment gets clouded and we need to be more careful about the decisions we make.

Sometimes the hardest thing is stopping. Whether it’s one more jump, one more singletrack, or one more mile running. Don’t take yourself out of the game. That price is hard to pay.