Hello there. It's nice to see you again.
You are staring at the screen, right now, reading this ultra interesting blog post.
Did you know that someone could be staring back?
There is no doubt that more and more of our customers are turning to laptops for their computing needs. Many people take issue with the integrated webcam and microphone that is on nearly every commercially produced laptop. We get several requests a month to physically remove the cameras and microphones from our laptop orders.
Why remove the webcam and microphone?
Well, let me give you the worst case scenario: strangers can access the feed from your camera and microphone, even turning them on when you are not aware. This practice, called 'ratting', is well documented on places like YouTube where videos are posted of people being secretly recorded on their own computer. These videos are frequently banned by YouTube as a violation of their Terms of Service, but they are posted with such frequency that finding a 'ratting' video is a pretty simple search.
Some may scoff and point out that access like this requires the user to grant root or administrator access to the program 'ratters' use. But Trojan infections of computers of all types are very frequent. In fact I recently had to clear out a root kit on a family member's computer that was installed via a trojan, which anti-viruses have an easier time detecting AFTER install.
We can be as cautious as possible but remember this:
We have to be right EVERY time but the hacker/cracker/virus/trojan has to be right only ONCE.
How do I remove the webcam? Well there are a number of techniques out there for mitigating the risk of webcams and microphones. Can I steer you clear of one popularly proposed solution?
Do not take a drill motor and drill out the webcam from the bezel. That is a horrible idea.
Not recommeded for use with your next Puget System.
A better idea? Buy your next laptop from Puget Systems. We can do a complete microphone and webcam removal, done the right way, by our experienced technicians. I have posted some links on the right side of this article to our most popular line of laptops. Check them out, save a quote and let our Puget sales staff help you make a great choice for your next computer.
Get Skype so you can talk for free over computer
If your friends have computers, you can all use Skype to talk for free. You can even do video calls for free if you have webcams. Otherwise you need a microphone and speakers to use it as a "speaker phone" or get a headset. Or get a webcam with a built-in microphone, you can use that as a mic/speakerphone too without using the video.
You can even make regular calls to phones on Skype for 2.3 cents a minute or pay like $30/year for unlimited domestic calling out. If you are near a computer enough, that might be enough to cushion your 1000 minutes/month. Use the cell when you aren't near a computer.
Skype is FREE for computer to computer use
Just go to Skype.com and download the app, then sign up for an account. That allows you to make free computer to computer calls - to someone else with Skype. I use it all the time to make video calls to a friend a few states away, for hours, all for free.
I have a webcam with a microphone, and the audio quality is fantastic, far better than a regular phone. But you can get a bluetooth headset (I have a crappy one that came free with my cell phone that I tried and it works but I'd never use it).
To use Skype for regular phone calling, you have to add on two services: SkypeIn where you can buy a telephone number ($38 a year, I just got a number) and SkypeOut, which is $28(?)a a year I think, I don't have that but it lets you call out to any phone unlimited domestic long distance