UK judge sentences man to prison via Skype on iPhone

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iPhone with gavel.
A world first?
Photo: Tingey Injury Law Firm/Cult of Mac

A judge in Carlisle, England, on Tuesday sentenced a man to prison using the Skype app on iPhone.

It is believed to be the first time in history that an iPhone was used to hand down a sentence. Crown Court judge Nicholas Barker was using a laptop for the video call, but technical difficulties forced him to resort to a smartphone.

Mozilla rates the video-calling apps; praises FaceTime for ‘holy grail’ of encryption

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A Group FaceTime call on the Mac.
FaceTime isn't perfect, but it's pretty great for encryption.
Photo: Apple

Video-calling apps are booming right now, but which ones can you trust when it comes to security? A Mozilla report published Tuesday assesses all the major platforms, noting which apps do and do not pass the privacy-conscious foundation’s minimum security standards.

The big takeaway? Most of the top video conferencing apps, FaceTime included, are actually impressively secure. But there are a few outliers.

How to swap out your boring apartment for a novelty backdrop in Skype

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skype-logo
No more cluttered apartment backdrop for you. Unless you choose it.
Photo: Skype

Let’s face it: The novelty of video calls has kind of worn off by this point in lockdown. What once seemed like the “video phone” of sci-fi dreams is now a way-too-frequent reality. But Skype has taken efforts to freshen things up by allowing users to swap out backgrounds for their calls.

Want to pretend you’re being massively irresponsible by appearing to call from a crowded beach? Want to swap out your cluttered apartment for a picture of an upscale mansion that will make your boss wonder if they’re paying you too much? Now you can. Here’s how.

5 ways to look great on a video call

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Lighting? Check. Clothes? Maybe. Teeth? Absolutely! Flattering angle? Nope. Use these videoconferencing tips to look your best on calls.
Lighting? Check. Clothes? Maybe. Teeth? Absolutely! Flattering angle? Nope.
Photo: Austin Distel/Unsplash

Whether you’re working from home, hanging out with friends on group FaceTime, or attending events remotely, you’re probably using video calling a lot more than you ever have before. While you probably make the effort to present yourself well in real-life meatspace, on Skype, Zoom or FaceTime, I bet you look terrible.

Fear not. Today we’ll see five ways to make sure you look great on a video call.

Give your videoconferencing calls killer audio quality

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Not every videoconference audio setup has to be as janky as this.
Not every videoconference audio setup has to be as janky as this.
Photo: Charlie Sorrel/Cult of Mac

You’ve probably made more video calls in the last few weeks than you’ve made in the previous few years combined. And if they were on your iPhone or iPad, then they probably sounded great. But what if you’re using a Mac, with its prehistoric mics1?

No worries. Through the magic of technology, you can use a better mic with your Mac’s Skype or FaceTime. (As a bonus, it also might make you feel more comfortable during videoconferences.)

5 Zoom alternatives to keep you connected during COVID-19 crisis

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Zoom definitely isn't your only option for videoconferencing. Check out these Zoom alternatives, including Houseparty.
Zoom definitely isn't your only option for videoconferencing.
Photo: Life on Air

Zoom might be the best video-conferencing app, but that’s a bit like saying Facebook is the best social network. It might be true 1, but that doesn’t mean you won’t feel dirty if you use it. Despite a seemingly never-ending stream of privacy violations, security holes and utter disregard for its customers, Zoom is still being used as the de facto standard video conferencing and broadcasting tool during the COVID-19 crisis.

We’ve already seen the problems with Zoom. And we’ve also shown you how to protect yourself if you choose to use Zoom despite the company’s many privacy missteps. (Zoom pledged to do better this week.) But what about other services you could rely on during the coronavirus shutdown? Read on. We have five great Zoom alternatives you can use.

Using Zoom? Take these steps to protect your privacy [Updated]

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yoga class zoom
Zoom lets you keep attending your local yoga class, but at what cost?
Photo: Anupam Mahapatra/Unsplash

Video-conferencing tool Zoom is seeing a surge in use during the coronavirus pandemic, due to people being stuck at home and unable to meet in meatspace groups. I’ve read about people using Zoom to drop in on yoga and pilates classes, as well as for more usual business-related activities.

ConnectionOpen is like Skype for musicians

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ConnectionOpen Marshall amp and guitar player
ConnectionOpen lets musicians collaborate over the internet.
Photo: Daniel Chekalov/Unsplash

If you sit in front of an iPad typing up Apple-related how-tos all day long, then working from home is no problem. In fact, it’s simply the next step up from “working from bed.” But for some professions, like musicians, working from home is difficult if not impossible. You might have a home studio, but you still need to get the band together to record them.

Or do you? ConnectionOpen is an app that lets musicians play together over the internet. The wild thing is, it’s a standard plugin for Logic, Ableton, Pro Tools and other audio-editing apps. And now, it’s also available for the iPad.

Skype brings new screen sharing feature to Android and iOS

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Skype screen sharing
Screen sharing can be useful for all kinds of things.
Photo: Microsoft

Skype’s new screen sharing feature is now officially available on Android and iOS.

The update makes it possible to share a view of your device’s screen over a Skype video call — and to see someone else’s. It’s great for collaborating with colleagues or helping friends troubleshoot a problem.