23 March 2021

Hardware issues

 When I moved my office computer home, I needed some extra peripherals. If I was expected to do meetings, tutorials, and all such things at home, I needed a camera and a headset. And when I ended up doing all my work by voice, the headset became more important, of course. And generally, it all works.

It happened twice so far that my headset suddenly stopped working. Both times in the middle of the meeting! The first time, the person I was in the meeting with was happy to do all the talking. And I just mouthed my words of goodbye when we were done. The second time I just switched my phone.

The voice recognition software also sometimes crashes. It once did that when I sneezed into the microphone. I have learned to very quickly whip off the headset when I feel a sneeze coming up! It also sometimes happens when I am giving a command, realise while giving it that it's the wrong one, and then try to correct myself. It confuses the software. It makes sense that computers can't deal with it! But try to stop yourself. And sometimes it also just crashes without me having any idea of why.

One of those occurrences happened in a session with the students. That was very inconvenient! I could still talk to them, but I couldn't do anything with my computer anymore. In order to make things work again I would have to log out and back in again. But there was only some 15 minutes left on the session. And I know that the both the students and me pretty much had wall-to-wall teaching that day. I suggested we just call it quits! And nobody protested. So I said goodbye, hit control alt delete, and got the software starting again. Not how things should be, but the damage was limited!

That week things seemed to be all coming at the same time. That same day, my computer just refused to recognise my WebCam. I had to do a few sessions with the students without showing my face. I don't prefer it that way! I think it's less personal. And you can't gesture. I tried to convince my computer to collaborate with the camera again but to no avail. IT services suggested I just trade it in, so when I had to be on campus anyway for a Covid test I gave them back the old camera and received a new one.

The new WebCam

The next session I had, I plugged it in and started teaching. And for about half a minute that was fine. And then the sound cut out. Evidence suggested that this new camera, which has an inbuilt microphone, had overruled my headset. But then lost the ability to convey the sounds it picked up to the session the students were in. I had no idea why! But we dealt with it by unplugging the whole thing and just doing the session by sound alone again.

The next day there was a virtual open day. At least I could make everything work in Teams! Next week I'll see if I can make it work in Blackboard Collaborate as well, as this is the platform we use for teaching. I hope I can just show my face again!

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