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  • Technology in a pandemic

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      • #2283344
        Tracey Capen
        AskWoody MVP

        COVID-19 By Susan Bradley We all have good years and bad, but 2020 has been rough on everyone. The pandemic has damaged world economies, caused untold[See the full post at: Technology in a pandemic]

        JUST A REMINDER: I’ll be watching this thread closely. I don’t want it to descend into political arguments. The focus here is on technology in the time of a pandemic. If your post is deleted it’s because I, personally, felt it was off-topic.

        5 users thanked author for this post.
      • #2283368
        MHCLV941
        AskWoody Plus

        Technology has already rewired our brains, and that extends to learning. This is an area where tech still needs quantum advancements — and we need them soon, not several years from now. It will require a major investment on the federal, state, and local levels.

        Your point is well taken but even if we had the perfect set of solutions in hand today, it would take much longer than “soon” to actually get them distributed to schools around the country.  The lengths to which the government is going to get a vaccine into people’s arms are easy by comparison.   It’s not only bankrolling several parallel research efforts, but it’s also going to buy hundreds of millions of doses some of them (not just one as I understand it) before they have actually proven effective and efficacious.

        By comparison, the very nature of technological solutions to “extend” learning will take longer because pharma started out with a pretty good idea of how to go about creating a vaccine and the testing period is, by comparison, much shorter.

        It’s possible to accelerate vaccine development by running parallel efforts,  shortening trial periods and, frankly, accepting more risk that one (or more) of the selected vaccines does not work as well as expected or causes more side effects.

        Learning technology starts much further away from solutions, starting with there being little idea of what might actually produce the desired outcome.  Indeed, there may well be contention as to what the desired outcome is.   Necessarily, testing the solutions will take longer because learning takes time and determining whether the lessons learned are actually internalized past the next quiz or test.

        In short, even in the most ideal environment, any real success in this area is several years out.  This doesn’t mean we should not get started – we should – this is a long term project, not one that will be finished “by the end the year”.

        3 users thanked author for this post.
      • #2283420
        woody
        Manager

        In related news, Google has extended work-from-home until mid-2021.

        To give employees the ability to plan ahead, we are extending our global voluntary work from home option through June 30, 2021 for roles that don’t need to be in the office,

        • #2283430
          Susan Bradley
          Manager

          Susan Bradley Patch Lady

          5 users thanked author for this post.
          • #2283435
            Microfix
            AskWoody MVP

            The sub title to the picture in that article is, well, open to interpretation.
            ZDNet
            Both MSFT and Google realise this pandemic is not going to go away in a hurry, shame some people in power think otherwise. (aka ostrich syndrome)

            W10, the itch you simply cannot scratch!
            Attachments:
            3 users thanked author for this post.
            • #2283464
              Ascaris
              AskWoody MVP

              They’re simply covering all of the bases. If it turns out better than expected, it’s still convenient for a lot of people to work at home, and to have them stop doing that and come back to the office instead is easily done. Either way, it’s a relatively cheap change to make compared to being caught unprepared. Outfits like MS and Google would be foolish not to have such a plan, even if the powers that be in each company were personally optimistic about the near future. Hope for the best, plan for the worst.

              Remember that the media thrives on “if it bleeds, it leads.” There are a lot of reasons for optimism, but they doesn’t motivate viewership or page hits the way fear does.

              Group "L" (KDE Neon Linux 5.21.5 User Edition)

      • #2283442
        OscarCP
        AskWoody Plus

        I have been self-isolating, because I am not exactly young anymore and the pandemic is not giving up, or even getting to be less of a problem with the summer heat, as many, scientists included, thought it might, earlier on in the spring, because that is what happens with the flu coronavirus.

        So I have continued to do my job from home and using email and videoconferencing a lot more than before this health problem started. I certainly appreciate the technology that enables one to do things this way.

        In particular, I have been using the online service Instacart, same as Susan, for my grocery shopping, and it does work very well: young people are employed by Instacart to shop for me and then they deliver the groceries to me at my place (so they get a job and I get to replenish my pantry) and I tip them at 15% of the price of the purchases. Once every ten days, that price plus tip and a couple of smaller service charges comes close to $200.

        A word of warning: I had been thinking that the prices were considerably higher than what I remembered for the same items when I was buying in person, and later have found, last time I shopped with them, that the amount charged for some things bought this way were a substantial percent higher than when I used to buy in person at the supermarket where Instacart gets them for me now (my local Giant’s). I did find out this, because, for whatever reason, I received, along with the groceries, one of those paper-strip receipts one gets from the check out cash register listing the supermarket charges. The prices of those items I had bought listed in that strip were, as I said, less than the prices shown online and, consequently, the corresponding charges in the bill I actually got to pay. I wonder if this is common practice in online shopping sites.

        I don’t really mind too much, because the alternative is doing one’s shopping in person, and this is a time when, if possible, I prefer to avoid doing that. Paying more is not a big issue for me, in this case. And the service is good.

        Windows 7 Professional, SP1, x64 Group W (ex B) & macOS Mojave + Linux (Mint)

        • This reply was modified 9 months, 2 weeks ago by OscarCP.
        1 user thanked author for this post.
        • #2283447
          Susan Bradley
          Manager

          In my area they aren’t a great deal higher.  At least not on the things I buy.  As you say, it’s worth it for not having to shop.  I also look at it that I’m making sure someone can earn extra money (or main money these days) during this time.

          Susan Bradley Patch Lady

          1 user thanked author for this post.
        • #2283462
          wavy
          AskWoody Plus

          I have been using the online service Instacart

          Instacart has a 10 to 30 something % markup and that was what i have been charged. Plus delivery charges plus tip. That is a BIG chunk of cash (credit ) for many. BIG!! I did the upgraded experience for IIRC ~$10 per month. Decided it was not worth it. I have gone shopping with my P100 respirator and a face shield until now. We are a bit better in NY and I sweat so much in this weather I can’t see smoo. So I am using my N95 w/o shield. I am thinking promptness (using the scanner tool in S&S ) reduces the entailed risk.

          🍻

          Just because you don't know where you are going doesn't mean any road will get you there.
          1 user thanked author for this post.
      • #2283491
        cyberSAR
        AskWoody Plus

        Working from home is great… until you can’t.

        Customer calls with an issue with his access point and needing a webcam setup for online meetings. Trip onsite is in order. Hear he has a sinus infection but getting better.

        I decided at last minute to do a hit and run. No troubleshooting, just replace access point with per-configured model, slap the cam in and also install a UPS for him. He’s out of the office so figure that’s good… until he shows up unannounced, coughing and hacking just as I’m finishing up.

        Yep, he tested positive this weekend, Covid and pneumonia. I’m now on day 6 of self-imposed quarantine. Fortunately I was in and out and cleaned up good afterwards. Happy I learned long ago to follow gut instincts. Just hope it was enough this time.

        8 users thanked author for this post.
      • #2283511
        geekdom
        AskWoody Plus

        Keep working systems functioning:

        • Don’t experiment.
        • Backup daily everything and system image, too.
        • Make sure you have updates you need.
        • Make sure you have spare hardware.
        • Keep paper copies and documents and addresses of where to mail them.
        • Don’t go gallivanting across internet to unsafe sites.
        • Find all your installation software and make sure it’s on an external device
        On Hiatus {with backup and coffee}
        offline▸ Win10Pro 2004.19041.572 x64 i3-3220 RAM8GB HDD Firefox83.0b3 WindowsDefender TRV=1909 WuMgr
        offline▸ Win10Pro 20H2.19042.685 x86 Atom N270 RAM2GB HDD WindowsDefender WuMgr GuineaPigVariant
        online▸ Win10Pro 20H2.19042.804 x64 i5-9400 RAM16GB HDD Firefox86.0 WindowsDefender TRV=20H2 WuMgr
        • This reply was modified 9 months, 2 weeks ago by geekdom.
        1 user thanked author for this post.
      • #2283686
        Noel Carboni
        AskWoody_MVP

        I have to carry an Android smart phone (for 2 factor authentication, reachability, work-related apps). It’s a high-end rugged, work-oriented model (Cat S61) but unfortunately the software has never been as solid as the hardware (some would say it is not bad, relatively speaking, but I’m very demanding). What am I talking about? Notifications are inconsistent, battery management gets out of sync with reality, some Apps put up persistent errors that can’t be eliminated, it needs rebooting every so often… I won’t go into more detail, but even though I don’t require that much of mine, I just want it to work. An Android phone is simply less than professional. As though it was programmed by kids with short attention spans.

        You might say I should get an iPhone (because, I dunno, I’m old and grumpy?). Apple is no better! I have several Apple devices in the household and they give plenty of trouble. Their hype of “it just works” is just SO much BS where the rubber meets the road. Reboot and suddenly things work again.

        By contrast, Windows on my desktop computers has for me, once initial (non-trivial) configuration has been done, been a fully professional, reliable system that I only ever have to set up once, never have to reboot (except for all these stupid Windows Updates), and it really does just work. I walk in here, and just use the system. For me, after the time of Vista there’s been a critical mass in Windows that just runs solidly, doesn’t lose data or give up when needed, and it’s always been possible to find a suite of good, professional applications that just don’t crash out or do stupid things.

        Note that I didn’t say Apps. Applications.

        Therein lies the difference, I think. An “App” is a toy, a hint at what could be, something not quite enough engineering has been put into – while an “Application” is serious, something that’s had quality engineering. Perhaps I’m overgeneralizing a bit to make a point, but the culture is different. The expectations really are different.

        By extension, a battery powered device that runs “Apps” is a toy. A real computer that runs “Applications” is something to get work done with. IMO this distinction is an elephant in the room nobody wants to acknowledge. Those who make “Apps” and have banked their future on “Apps” don’t want you to dwell on this. Why? “Apps” are easy and cheap to make. And worth every penny.

        It’s too bad that Microsoft did not choose to carry forward into mobile devices the discipline in computing that made its desktop Windows OS the stable platform it is that could really be built on. I’d have liked to have a phone and tablet I could rely on for serious work as much as my desktop Windows workstations. There is no technical reason it cannot be. Only a lack of discipline.

        -Noel

        P.S., I think it’s likely I’d have a similar opinion of Apps vs. Applications if I had built my career on high-end desktop Apple Mac Pros instead of PC workstations. The chief engineer at my little company has always been a high-end Mac fan and we have similar opinions and experiences, except he’s even older and grumpier than I am. 😉

        1 user thanked author for this post.
      • #2283689
        Noel Carboni
        AskWoody_MVP

        Susan brought up tech of various different types and I typed up a big post on some fundamental differences I perceive in that tech since having used it in pandemic WFH conditions myself. Post was simply deleted. Gee, thanks to whomever or whatever automated system didn’t think the 45 minutes I spent composing it was worth anything here.

        -Noel

        • #2283694
          PKCano
          Manager

          Sorry, it was caught in the filter (not intentionally deleted by anyone). I have restored it.

          3 users thanked author for this post.
        • #2283697
          woody
          Manager

          The filter gets triggered by multiple edits in a short time, and for other reasons that are inscrutable to me. Wish that it worked better, but it’s kept an enormous amount of garbage off the site.

          2 users thanked author for this post.
      • #2283844
        OscarCP
        AskWoody Plus

        Noel Carbony: ” Apple is no better! I have several Apple devices in the household and they give plenty of trouble. Their hype of “it just works” is just SO much BS where the rubber meets the road. Reboot and suddenly things work again.

        I am writing the following in an attempt to reassure those who read that comment and use Macs, particularly at this time.

        I wonder which version of macOS is he running on his Mac at home (I assume he has one, or perhaps he means something else by “devices”?) In my own Mac, I am running “Mojave” (the last-but-one version), and plan to move to “Catalina” (current version) after “Big Sur” is released. So my experience is limited to “Sierra” and, having skipped “High Sierra”, to “Mojave.”

        Contrary to Noel’s experience, I have not had anything that “gives plenty of trouble” happening with mine. I’ve only had a problem once, and it was with a security update to “Mojave” more than a year ago. That was easily resolved.

        One thing that might make a difference, is the applications one has installed in the Mac. I am pretty frugal in that respect. Noel might have many more than I do, because of his professional extra need to secure information from spying, and some of those security applications might cause conflict-bringing flakiness.

        Having given up, for  good, on Windows after Win 7’s EOL, these days I am using the Mac almost entirely for my communications with the external world while self-isolating: doing email, browsing, downloading diverse items, reading the news, checking my bank account, making online purchases and payments, and streaming movies and shows. No problems with any of that for the over three years since I got this Mac, so far. For most of those things I am using the fairly limited Apple software that came installed on the Mac.

        So, in conclusion: Mac home users might not have much to worry about, if they are careful about what they do online.

        Windows 7 Professional, SP1, x64 Group W (ex B) & macOS Mojave + Linux (Mint)

      • #2283856
        mcbsys
        AskWoody Plus

        Susan –

        Love the idea of bringing Wi-Fi to underserved areas, in this case on school buses. Any idea of the tech behind it? What’s the uplink? 4G? Satellite?

        Mark Berry

        • #2283867
          OscarCP
          AskWoody Plus

          Here is an article in the Washington Post about how MS is testing one way to bring WiFi connections to underserved places using buses as movable “hot spots.”

          https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/innovations/wp/2018/03/08/to-get-rural-kids-online-microsoft-wants-to-put-internet-access-on-school-buses/

          In case someone has a problem reading this article, here is an excerpt:

          Title “To get rural kids online, Microsoft wants to put Internet access on school buses. By Brian Fung.

          “Microsoft is looking to turn school buses into Internet-enabled hotspots in an experiment that’s aimed at helping students in rural Michigan do their homework.

          The company wants to use empty TV airwaves to beam high-speed Internet signals to buses in Hillman, Mich., as they travel to and from school, according to regulatory filings submitted Wednesday to the Federal Communications Commission.
          Partnering with a regional Internet provider to place broadband base stations along the bus routes, Microsoft said it plans to install special radio antennas on the buses that can communicate with the base stations over the empty gaps between TV channels. If approved, the project would become the company’s eighth pilot for the “TV white spaces” technology in as many months.

          There are numerous other articles available online from various companies offering to provide similar services enabling the use of school buses, as well as from school boards,  news sites and the Web sites of state governments. Most of these do not mention how the buses themselves are connected to the Internet, but emphasize the need to use the school buses in this way to help poor communities and those in isolated places to school their children at home, at least while schools remain closed. There are many that include opinions favorable to making this approach more permanent, beyond this public health emergency and not just for home-learning, as a step towards achieving more equality in the USA:

          https://www.al.com/news/2020/05/one-alabama-school-system-turned-buses-into-hotspots-to-bridge-the-digital-divide.html

          Windows 7 Professional, SP1, x64 Group W (ex B) & macOS Mojave + Linux (Mint)

          • #2283946
            wavy
            AskWoody Plus

            Does NOT sound too practical !! Who is gonna do homework on the bus??
            We need REAL universal broadband here in this country!!

            🍻

            Just because you don't know where you are going doesn't mean any road will get you there.
            • #2283967
              OscarCP
              AskWoody Plus

              Wavy: the article shows one way the buses can be connected to the Internet, besides using communication satellites; although those TV empty bands could be, in principle, retransmitted by the usual geostationary comsats, or the buses could be connected more directly through dedicated geostationary, as well as lower orbit “Internet satellites”):

              https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Satellite_Internet_access

              The article about the Alabama school district providing mobile school bus “hot spots”, same as all the others I have found when researching this, because I had my curiosity peaked by mcbsys question here ( #2283856 ), does not explain how this connection can be made. So the practicality of MS’ project is not relevant to my answer, which is about the technology behind “keeping in touch” during this difficult times this thread is about.

              Windows 7 Professional, SP1, x64 Group W (ex B) & macOS Mojave + Linux (Mint)

        • #2283986
          mcbsys
          AskWoody Plus

          Did a little googling on Fresno school bus Wi-Fi. Apparently they added that to their buses in 2016:

          https://www.fresnounified.org/news/stories/Pages/20160819-FresnoUnifiedOffersWiFi.aspx#.XyGUOyhKh3g

          I’m guessing they’re using Cradlepoint or similar 4G hotspots (which Google kindly showed me as an advertisement in the same search).

          The article Susan cited, and others, are about a short pilot program to park the buses and letting kids work outside nearby. This article equivocates:

          https://gvwire.com/2020/05/15/fusd-plans-to-roll-out-buses-as-wi-fi-hot-spots/

          …saying programs in other cities hadn’t been used much, and that in Fresno, “The district focused first on getting mobile hot spots into the hands of students who lacked Internet access, Henry said.” Which actually makes a lot of sense–giving/loaning 4G hotspots for use when needed vs. letting kids sit outside a bus for 3 hours a day.

          1 user thanked author for this post.
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