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[News] Bizarre Zoom conversations amuse the Internet

With social distancing, many formerly in-person meetings are now held on Zoom and other video conferencing services. As a result, obscure meetings and other unusual happenings can sometimes take the spotlight.

One such occasion was a recent parish council meeting in Handforth, Cheshire that got out of hand before it had really even started. The goings-on struck a chord with a number of people, not least of whom is Andrew Lloyd Webber, who crafted a song in tribute to one of the participants in that meeting, Jackie Weaver. 

In other wacky Zoom news, everyone is talking about the Texas lawyer who appeared in a court case on Zoom as a cat. Rod Ponton was using his secretary’s computer, and little did he know that someone had turned on a filter that altered his appearance. As he noted on CNN, Ponton hoped everyone could have “a little chuckle at his expense.” Given that just the original YouTube video from the 394th District Court of Texas has had over 5 million views since February 9, we suspect a great many people have appreciated the mishap.

If you’re looking to adopt the cat persona, you may be out of luck. According to the BBC, the filter uses software called “Live Cam Avatar” that was preinstalled on Dell laptops many years ago. However, Zoom has its own filters, and you can download Snapchat app “Snap Camera” to add even more options.

Our recommendation: if you use filters, be sure to turn them off before appearing in front of a judge. 

In other news

  • Hackers try to poison drinking water. Hackers gained access to the computers of a water treatment plant in Oldsmar, Florida, a town of 15,000 just outside Tampa. They attempted to change the amount of sodium hydroxide added to the water from a small amount (used to alter the pH to make the water less corrosive) to an amount drastically larger that could have had terrible consequences. Fortunately, a plant worker noticed the alteration and was able to adjust things before anything could affect the town’s drinking water supply.
  • Favicons as tracking devices? Gizmodo reports that researchers have been able to alter favicons (the miniature logo that websites use in browser tabs) to assign tracking codes to site visitors. Gizmodo notes that such codes could be harder to detect or remove if users wish not to have their website traffic tracked by unknown third-parties. Researchers recommend that all browsers consider updating the way they cache favicon information to prevent these activities in the future.
  • What if tech companies could start their own towns? The Nevada governor supports legislation that would allow tech companies to create autonomous “Innovation Zones” with their own governments. The companies would gain the ability to impose taxes, create school districts, and more. Mic reports that the legislation, currently in draft form, would encourage tech firms to come to Nevada to take advantage of what would be an incredibly corporate-friendly policy. 
  • Update Chrome immediately. Google released a new update to the Chrome browser on February 5. It patches a critical zero-day vulnerability that may be connected to a hack coming out of North Korea. If you haven’t already updated Chrome in the past week, Gizmodo recommends you do it now. To check if a new version is available, go to the Chrome menu > About Google Chrome.

Tip of the week

Last week we reported that the Google Chrome extension The Great Suspender had been pulled due to malware concerns. Reddit users explained a (tedious) method of recapturing those links, while fellow writer Michelle Nickolaisen and ZDNet have suggested some alternatives.

If you try any of these options (or already use one), we would love to hear your feedback in the comments. 

  • The Great Discarder Suspend tabs to reduce chrome memory usage. Uses chrome’s native tab discarding.
  • Tabs Outliner -Suspend tabs to reduce chrome memory usage. Uses chrome’s native tab discarding.
  • Session Buddy – Manage Browser Tabs and Bookmarks with Ease
  • Tab Wrangler – Automatically closes inactive tabs and makes it easy to get them back
  • One Tab – Save up to 95% memory and reduce tab clutter
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Jackie Dana avatar

Jackie Dana

Jackie has been writing since childhood. As the Namecheap blog’s content manager and regular contributor, she loves bringing helpful information about technology and business to our customers. In her free time, she enjoys drinking copious amounts of black tea, writing novels, and wrangling a gang of four-legged miscreants. More articles written by Jackie.

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