As I write this it’s the last day of January in the year 2022. I mention that because I’ve been using Zoom, the video app, to both teach and socialize since the beginning of Covid back in March of 2020. That’s a long time ago and I think it is overdue that I write about my general set-up for that since it will eventually be lost to time. I like writing about the little things in everyday life that get lost to time. Mundane stuff gets more interesting as time passes and it becomes an exotic part of the forgotten past.

First of all I use my laptop for talking over zoom. It’s a ten year old Mac PowerBook. It’s from 2012 and is running Catalina OS. It’s so old that I can’t upgrade the OS anymore. I’ll have to get a new one eventually but I just bought a new Mac Mini last September so I can’t get a new laptop anytime soon.

I use the laptop because it’s more comfortable to work and chat from my drawing table than my desktop computer. My drawing table has a window behind it and my desktop computer faces a wall. I’l rather look out the window than at the wall.

I don’t place the laptop directly on the surface of the drawing table. The table has a cutting mat over its entire surface and I find the heat from the laptop warps the cutting mat. So I put a piece of wood (pine) about the size of the laptop on top of the drawing table and then put the laptop on the wood. That takes care of any warping.

My lighting is a little complicated and I developed it over time. If I’m on Zoom during the daytime the light coming through the window takes care of everything but it’s not always daylight. I already have two lamps clamped to my drawing table. My main light is a combo fluorescent ring and bulb lamp and the second is a fluorescent ring lamp (with a magnifier but that doesn’t come into play).

The combo lamp is on my left and I use it but I point it away from myself. I use it for indirect light on one side. The magnifier ring lamp is on my right and I point that one at myself. So I’m always lit from two sides. One directly and one indirectly.

The third light is a big LED tube light that’s on my ceiling. I used to turn this one off because it’s too bright and gives me a weird halo effect on screen. After a few weeks with it off I decided I needed it on to see well but wanted to block some of the halo lighting. I got an 11×17 inch piece of cardboard, tied a piece of string on the 11 inch side of it, and hung it from the end of the tube light closest to me. The cardboard manages to block most of the direct light and keeps the halo away.

I’ve written about my speakers woes before ( so I’ll keep it short. I have a triangular Bluetooth speaker that I used for a good long while before the Bluetooth gave up the ghost. But it does have an eighth inch jack on it too. So now it’s a wired speaker. I pug it right into the headphone jack on the laptop. By the way I put flags of yellow tape on the speaker wire so I can see it. After a couple times of accidentally walking into the wire that was my solution.

Back in 2014 (I looked it up. I wouldn’t have guessed it was so long ago) I bought a USB Blue Yeti microphone. It’s terrific. I’ve been using it for making my YouTube videos since then and I really like it. It picks up nice rich sound. I plug it in, it works well, and I don’t have to think about it. All my equipment should be as good as my Blue Yeti.

When teaching I usually have a graphics tablet hooked up to my laptop but I haven’t been fond of either of them that I’ve used. Back when I knew I’d have to be teaching on Zoom I bought a cheap ($65) Wacom tablet. It’s only about 4×5 inches and comes with a pen. It never worked to my satisfaction.

When I bought my new Mac Mini my old Wacom tablet (2004) would not work with it. Since a new one would cost about $600 I decided to try a cheaper $85 Huion tablet. I stuck with it for a few months on my Mac Mini before not being able to stand it. I replaced it with a Wacom I had from 2008 ( and moved the Huoin over to the laptop. It’s better than the 4×5 Wacom but still not great. I end up using the laptop touchpad the most.

I also set up a second monitor to my laptop when I teach. It’s actually an old 20 inch flat screen TV. I got it from my sister when she upgraded her TV. It’s not the best screen ever but it gets the job done. I usually move my Zoom windows over to that screen so they’re not in the way when I’m sharing my screen to show the students how to do something.

The last thing I hook up is an ethernet cable. My WiFi is pretty darn good and works about 98% of the time but just for safety I use the hard wire. Just a few feet from my drawing table, on which sits the laptop, is my old backup computer. It’s a Mac tower and it has an ethernet cable hooked up to it. I just have to reach around to the back of the computer, unplug the cable, move the wire a few feet, and plug it into the laptop.

If it was a real chore to move the ethernet cable I probably wouldn’t do it. I also use this same setup for my Friday night YouTube show and I usually don’t bother with the cable then and things go smoothly. I have plugged the cable in during the middle of the YouTube show a few time but that was when my Bluetooth speaker was dying and I thought it could have been bad WiFi messing up my sound.

That’s my Zoom teaching and socializing set-up. Before I go here is one last tip for you. Before staring a class restart your computer. That way any potential problems that need to be fixed with a restart are already taken care of. That ends today’s writing about the mundane things of everyday life. Now get back to your excitement.