Video Conferencing

and Remote Assistance

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Video Conferencing

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WARNING : Many of these programs are 'free'  but be assured that data is usually being 'mined' for advertising purposes. There would be a great fuss if any are giving away private details but YOU are likely to receive 'relevant' advertising based on your activities and it is possible that your contacts will, too !

For instance Messenger Rooms uses the same data collection policies as Facebook, which includes sharing your information with third parties.“Privacy settings on Facebook don’t protect data from Facebook, or its partners’ exploitation of the data,” says Rowenna Fielding, a privacy expert and head of individual rights and ethics at Protecture.


As I am quite deaf (using a cochlear implant for over 12 years) I was quite keen to research those Confrencing programs which would include 'Closed captioning',  sometimes called subtitles. (see cc somewhere on the screen) Although Skype has done this for some time I found that there was a time-lag before the text was displayed. I was also unable to increase th size of the font so had to uses glasses to see the text.

After much research I decided (in 2021) that Google Meet was the best of the bunch from this point of view. The free version also allows several people to join in, as do programs like Zoom.  The free version also has a time limit.

Googel Meet

Google Meet, displaying fours households (one in South Africa), with the name of the person speaking and and accurate and immediate text interpretation. Great !

Since the coronovirus lockdown there has been a demand for programs which enable people to work from home (including school lessons) or to enable people to keep in touch. Examples are now commonly seen on TV

The programs allow voice, video and text. Many allow several people to take part and often have subtitles for the hard of hearing.  Providing the calls are made between Wifi connections they are usually free (apart from the Wifi charge).  Some will also work through the mobile phone system, using whatever phone account you use.

Both or all parties need to use the same app. although they may use different equipment or operating systems (Windows/Apple/Google).  Some will make a charge for their enhanced versions. L.

With many of these apps a number appears below the app icon if there are any unread messages.You can text but most people will have a microphone and camera on or attached to your machine.:

Zoom.(this will invite you to download the app)  This is the  IN program to enable people to see and talk to numerous others.  A nice thing about it is that it can swap to the video of the speaker, just as they say something. Will work on most types of machines - tablets, phones and PCs. Video on adding Closed captions to Zoom (cc)

Viber  Currently our favourite for rapid text interchange plus photos and videos.  You can have your own family group and can invite people to it. Good for messages, photographs, videos, recordings. Free unless you want to use it as a cheap international telephone system.

Most of the following programs can be used on various type of hardware and can communicate with other type of hardware.  So, if you use Skype on a PC or Mac you can even communicate with people using a tiny Android pad, costing from 50.  The one exception is Apple's Facetime, for which you need an iPad, iPhone or other Apple product with a forward facing camera. The programs are Skype, Viber, Tango, Zoom, WhatsApp, Chime, Apple's Facetime, Google Meet, Ms Teams, Facebook Messenger (Download the Facebook Messenger app, select the “Not on Facebook?” option, and enter your phone number and name. That's it. You can upload and send photos, videos, start group chats, and use voice and video calling without ever having to sign up for a Facebook account

Apart from Facetime most can be downloaded onto any type of smart (wifi connected) communicating device. Surprisingly Whatsapp was not available on the latest iPad, even though I use it on a ten year old Windows 7 desktop.   

N.B Microsoft bought Skype from Ebay in 2011.  As it does all of what MSN/Live Messenger can do, Microsoft has  retired MSN/Live Messenger, transferring users to Skype. So ALL references to MSN Messenger on this page are now redundant, especially as many people now communicate (more publicly) with Twitter and Facebook or similar programs

Microsoft Teams.There is a free version of this multi screen program. But it is meant for Microsoft 365 users. So they can co-operate using Excel, Word, Powerpoint etc

SKYPE : The old favourite. Chat to people with text, video and sound (and captions).  Excellent if you are deaf. Has automatic sub titles. You can even record what is seen and said or record you own message. It is used with people who have the same set up, anywhere in the world, at no additional cost.  Just broadband. Even with a slow broadband there appears to be little delay in the speech or picture drop outs or feedback, using a webcam with internal microphone and separate speakers. So this really does score highly. There are 3 picture sizes from full screen to tiny.  With full screen there was no way to see and type text (And as a deaf person it is essential for me to have this displayed. Click the small screen icon bottom right.  But the picture would certainly help deaf people who lip read.
I have found that Skype is one of the best of all the messaging services I have tried. The sound quality is good, using speakers and there is no echo. I have even used the text portion of Skype while talking to someone on the telephone at the same time. If you get feedback (whistling) while on Skype, try using earphones or even a telephone at the same time.

Webcam using Skype with text or sound

Here is another example of using Skype.  In this case I am answering audibly but the other person is typing when I missed a few things due to my deafness


In this, more recent, example my daughter is chatting from South Africa, using an Apple computer. You can see us in the small picture below
Skype example

Skype keeps changing and improving.  Here is a later incarnation  

Latest Skype screen

Making a conference call with Skype.  Several people can be invited to a call, though I find it confusing.  But there are details found in Skype help at  In this respect I think Google's Hangouts add-on is better

So use a laptop, tablet or phone or for a PC get :

Do :

You can also take snapshots with Skype.  Go to Options at the top, then video.  If your camera is working OK you should see a picture of yourself and can take a snapshot. If you are in a call, move the cursor to the top of the screen, where you should see "take a snapshot" and "view in full screen". When you take a snap you are asked if you want to save it.  It appears in a gallery of snaps.  But where are they on the computer ?  I eventually tracked them down to (Yourname), appdata, roaming, skype, pictures.... but you may just find them in th Pictures folder.

N.B. To prevent unwanted contacts (including sex calls) I suggest that you click Tools, Options, Privacy Settings, Allow calls from.. only people in my contacts list. 

Don't underestimate the use of the internet for phone calls. There are two advantages for hard of hearing people.  First you will be able to hear calls via your speakers at a level of amplification set by yourself, so you can hear with BOTH ears and with hearing aids in place.  Secondly, Skype reckons their calls are better than via a standard telephones, which have a very narrow frequency range.  This means that high frequency sounds, such as the letters S and F at the beginning of words, are lost to the hard of hearing.  Skype technology gives a much wider range of frequency, which is why I was able to hear a conversation from folks in Australia better than I could a phone call from next door.  

Using the Internet for telephoning. It is now possible to buy equipment that connects to your Broadband Router and enables you to connect an ordinary telephone.  This makes it possible to use the Internet for phone calls even when the PC is not on.  But it is usual to connect via an Ethernet port rather than a USB port for this direct connect system. This is not required for the Skype type program, where one can either use a headset or even a USB telephone. 

Another service, which enables to get very cheap calls using the ordinary telephone can be found at o http://www.1899.comAfter a small connection charge many calls are free or very cheap.- even for mobiles. e.g. Thailand, Singapore, Hong Kong, Puerto Rico and USA calls ON A MOBILE are only 1p a minute, though if you call via a mobile you have to dial a number and wait to hear a follow on number first.  

However, I would stress that to get good audio/video conferencing you really both need to be on Broadband

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