Zoom (Revised)

As you know, the Governor of Maryland, in an effort to prevent the spread of COVID-19 has issued mandates that prevent us from using our Club House for any type of meeting for some period of time.  Your Board of Directors has reacted by purchasing a year's subscription to "Zoom", a computer service designed for those who wish to hold meetings, seminars and classes over the Internet. 

So far we have had great success with this product.  We've used it to hold 2 Board Meetings, 1 Membership Meeting, 3 Technician Classes, 1 General License Class, several Morse Code Classes, a couple of Wrecking Crew Meetings, a Rules Committee Meeting and a Boy Scout Radio Merit Badge presentation, all with no difficulty.  It worked perfectly. 

I now understand that Governor Hogan is in process of planning for the eventual reduction of restrictions as needed to stop the spread of COVID-19.  My understanding is that the first phase of this plan will begin sometime in May. 

It is my understanding that the timing of the various phases of this change will be set to coincide with certain reduction goals in the rate of new infections.  Those 500,000 test kits the Governor's wife bought from Korea appear to be key to the success of his program.  What I also am led to believe is that different restrictions will be appropriate for different parts of our population.  I understand retirement community visitations will not come till the final phase in the Governor's plan.  Meanwhile those who have be determined to have had the virus and recorvered, may be able to go back to work or school as needed.  The management of all this is going to be tricky so I wish the Governor the best of luck with what appears to be a solid plan. 

The Anne Arundel Radio Club, like the government, is therefore going to have to adapt to the varying needs of its members. Some have likely recovered from COVID-19 already, and some may be in the process of doing so.  Others may be in the most vulnerable category, and need to stay quarantined for some time to come.  What I am suggesting is that once we are able to have meetings in our club house again, we may want to adapt those meetings, so that some members can attend in person, while others attend via Zoom.  

I am hopeful we can get our VE Testing program back in operation as early as June or July, though I am sure we will have to adapt the process to protect those who need it.  So we have our work cut out for us in using technology to adapt ourselves so the Anne Arundel Radio Club can continue to be the all inclusive club it has always been.  I invite everyone to watch this website and your email inbox for changes as they happen.  Plus if you have a good idea in how we can adapt better, don't keep it to yourself.  This is your club.  Own it.   .   

Meanhwile for those who haven't tried using Zoom yet.  It's easy.  For meetings you should receive an invite of some sort, containing  1) the Meeting ID;  2) the password;  3) telephone numbers; and  4) a URL which will contain the Meeting ID and password.  You will need some or all of this information in order to login.

Zoom meetings may be viewed using a regular web browser, with or without the freely downloadable Chrome and Firefox extensions, or by using free Zoom software downloadable from http://zoom.us/download.  Zoom software is available for Mac and PC as well as Linux, and comes as an app for iPhone and Android devices (downloadable from the Apple App Store or Google Play).  Zoom's home page is http://zoom.us and there are many great tutorials on YouTube.  And if you need help, write to zoom@w3vpr.org.

You do not need a mic or cam to use Zoom, though they do enhance the experience.  Likewise you do not need a speaker on your PC.  The phone numbers in the invite can be used to listen to the meeting audio, and for asking questions.  If you have a speaker on your PC, you can use it, and ask questions by typing them using Zoom's built in chat function.  Of course if you use a smart phone or tablet, that device's speaker, mic and cam will all be available for your use. 

Let me add that you can use a free copy of the Zoom software to make one-on-one meetings possible.  Of course one of you must set up the meeting time and date, and arrange for the invite to be emailed to the other.  This also allows you to test your setup before any more important meetings take place.  Currently there is no time limit on these one-on-one meeting due to the COVID-19 outbreak.  However when that ends the time limit will be set to 40 minutes.

Finally if you need to test of your Zoom setup, we can likely accommodate you.  Please again send such requests to Eric Berman KC3GDV at zoom@w3vpr.org.   He is our official Zoom host, and sets up all meetings for us.  So if you need a meeting set up, you know who to call, and it's not Ghostbusters.  

 

Comments

There have been many warnings from IT security outlets and the FBI about Zoom lately. Not just flaws but privacy issues as well.

It is true the FBI is looking into incidents where Zoom sessions have been hijacked by those who wish to spout hate speece and annoy us with porn.  It is also true that Skype and Google Hangouts have had various security issues as well.  Heck, anyone with a powerful enough transmitter can hijack our repeater too. 

Strangely it is also true that have been many instances where cars have actually been stolen in my home town.  Yet I continue to park my car in my driveway.  I keep my driveway lit at night, and I lock my vehicle, just as I recommend everyone password their Zoom sessions, and send those passwords to invited guests only, rather than publishing them on a Google Calendar or web site. 

As I see it we have two choices.  We can protect ourselves as best we can, and move forward, or we can stand still for the next 3 or 4 months.  No one is making anyone use Zoom here.  Its optional.  The choice is yours. 

 

 

 

There have been more than just hijacking incidents but vulnerabilities that allowed MACs to be taken over including webcams and microphones through a webserver that Zoom installed on the user's device. And yes, the company said it fixed that but this is apparently not the first issue.

"The company said on Thursday it had issued a release to fix the Mac issue, but the number of security issues with Zoom in the past make it as bad as malicious software, said Arvind Narayanan, an associate computer science professor at Princeton University.

“Let’s make this simple,” he said. “Zoom is malware.”

- https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2020/apr/02/zoom-technology-secur...

.mil users and others have access to a hardened version of Zoom that does not have a lot of the privacy issues. I'm not sure if that is what the Naval Academy uses or not. I do know Elon Musk declared it persona non grata at SpaceX.

Yes, one can choose to take part or not, but I think they should go into it with their eyes open.

If there is one thing COVID-19 is teaching us, its that nothing is 100% safe.  Used to be you could go see your freinds.  Now you can't.  Life is not a question of no risk, it is a question of how much risk.  Just buying a PC or Mac an plugging it into the Interneet is risky.  But it's a manageable risk.   

Zoom just sent  me an update for the PC version which appears to fix some security issues, and give users an additional tool or two to fight hacking.   I guess the Mac version has more issues than the PC version from what the article you reference says.  In any case we don't have an alternative system to Zoom.  If someone hijacks my Zoom camera they will be bored to tears.  I doubt anyone wants to watch a 73 year old guy type emails. 

I also note that many Zoom users do not use passwords, making Zoom much less secure.  Many also publish infomation on which Meeting ID they are using for their subscribers, on places excessible to the general public. Again a bad idea that we don't subscribe to.. So at least we are not low hanging fruit.  

FYI the city of Bowie ran a town hall using Zoom last night.  The room limit was 100 and it filled quickly.  Apparently like the overwhelming number of Zoom Meetings it ran perfectly.  If we are hacked I can unplug my cam, and/or disconnect a session any time it 'gets out of hand'.  I won't claim Zoom is 100% safe, but neither is going to the grocery store, and Zoom won't kill me.. 

Plus I am not in any hurry to give up the only tool in my toolbox that keeps us able to hold classes and meetings online.  Especially since every time I've run it, it worked perfectly.  Regardless as I send out invites to the April 16th meeting I will include a warning about Zoom's security problems.  Then our members can decide for themselves. 

Some may want to avoid any and all security issues.  For those folks, opting out is a good idea.  They may miss a few meetings, but they would miss them regardless if we stop using Zoom.  Meanwhile we have votes that need taken, memberships to approve, and other business that needs doing.  I don't see grinding to a halt as a good alternative.  If you have an alternative, please let me know.     

The zoom session does allow for participation via a telephone call. 
This would facilitate an audio only experience level of the meeting, while at the same time keeping one's connected devices save from the afore mentioned securitiy risks.

For more information, please see the invitation already sent out to the e-mail list.

Tim Nagel KB3YQK was nice enough to provide us with these links for those interested in using Zoom, to download the browser extensions for Chrome and Firefox.  Please use these at your own risk.

chrome_extension.png                   firefox_add-on.png