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Technology

What’s the best tablet for video calling grandma?

Chris needs a tablet or video-calling device for his grandma’s Covid-19 isolation. What are the options?

I want to get my grandma a tablet for easy video calling. She is elderly and needs to self-isolate, and she is already quite isolated after the recent death of her husband. I am not sure which tablet or which program to use. She isn’t very computer literate.

This new Facebook thing looks good but I am sceptical of the brand. Chris

Video calling used to be a futuristic topic. Today, it is readily available on most devices except, oddly enough, smart TVs. If anything, there’s a plethora of services, and I haven’t tried most of them. The options include Zoom, WhatsApp, Facebook, FaceTime, Google Hangouts, Microsoft Teams, Skype and many more. Zoom is a business service but it works well and is clearly flavour of the month, with downloads up by 1,270%. Fake backgrounds are one of its winning features.

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What do I need to work from home due to coronavirus?

How best to set up a home office for the short or long term if you’re self-isolating

What do I need to work at home during the coronavirus outbreak? At this rate, we might all be working from home for a year! How will the broadband providers cope? Do we need a plan B? FranklySwiss

Everyone will need their own customised solution, but there are two things to think about. First, will you be working at home for two weeks or four months or possibly forever? I share the view that Covid-19 could cause a permanent shift towards home working.

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Which streaming stick should I buy for Disney+?

Adnan has an old smart TV and Now TV box, so needs something new to stream Disney+

My smart TV is old (Samsung, 2014) so I watch BBC iPlayer on my Now TV box (also old and discontinued). What is the best device for all the popular streaming services including the upcoming Disney+? To my knowledge, it is not yet confirmed if it will be available on my Roku-powered Now TV box. Adnan

You may be in luck, because Disney has just signed a deal with Sky. As a result, Disney+ will be available via Sky from its UK launch on 24 March, to be followed by Now TV in the coming months, says Sky. It’s not clear how many months that means. Perhaps Sky does not know. However, I’d assume it means some time this year, not next.

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How do I shrink the size of my phone videos?

Yanis’s Samsung Galaxy S10 shoots high-quality videos but they take up too much space

How can I compress videos so I don’t lose a lot of the quality? My phone, a Samsung Galaxy S10, makes really high quality videos but I would be satisfied if they looked like normal videos. Yanis

Videos take up a lot of space, and a lot of research goes into making them smaller. Other things being equal, a key factor is the size of the image, just as it is with still photographs. You can also reduce the file size by arbitrarily reducing the data rate or, for preference, by using a more efficient video compression system. The current favourite is MPEG-4/H.264/AVC (Advanced Video Coding), which is usually called MP4 for short. Technically, MP4 is the file container while H.264 is the codec that codes and decodes the video.

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