2020 Newsletter: 14/89 — PreviousNext — (Attach.)

Sydney Harbour

Hello and Welcome,

A great COVID-19 backgrounder:

The Coronavirus story

For an authoritative backgrounder for the Coronavirus (now called SARS-CoV-2), see the Ars Technica article.

“This new coronavirus — dubbed SARS-CoV-2 — is unquestionably dangerous. It causes a disease called COVID-19, which can be deadly, particularly for older people and those with underlying health conditions. While the death rate among infected people is unclear, even some current low estimates are seven-fold higher than the estimate for seasonal influenza.”

It was mentioned by Steve Gibson in the Links section of his recent Podcast of Security Now.

Steve has just suffered a week of "flu-like" symptoms which may or may not mean that he's had the COVID-19 disease.


Meeting Today:

Web Design - Saturday Mar 21st - 1:30 pm (2:00 pm meeting start) - 4:00 pm

[ Meeting cancelled. ]

Hi All

Just advising that the SMSA has announced a total shut down of its facilities in Pitt Street, Sydney until 1 April 2020.

Therefore your meeting for 21 March 2020 has been cancelled.


Ronald Ferguson,

Meetings This Week:

AGM + Main Meeting - Tuesday Mar 24th - 5:30 pm (6:00 pm meeting start) - 8:00 pm

[ Both meetings cancelled until further notice. ]

Meeting Next Week:

Penrith Group - Saturday Apr 4th - 2:00 pm - 5:00 pm

[ Check with the Penrith organisers, otherwise meeting cancelled until further notice. ]

Current & Upcoming — NOW ALL CANCELLED — Meetings:

15 2020/03/07 — 14:00-17:00 — 07 Mar, Saturday — Penrith Group
16 2020/03/10 — 17:30-20:30 — 10 Mar, Tuesday — Programming SIG, L1 Woolley Room
17 2020/03/13 — 09:30-12:30 — 13 Mar, Friday — Friday Forum, L1 Woolley Room
18 2020/03/13 — 12:30-15:30 — 13 Mar, Friday — Communications, L1 Woolley Room
19 2020/03/17 — 09:30-12:30 — 17 Mar, Tuesday — Tuesday Forum, L1 Woolley Room
20 2020/03/21 — 13:30-16:30 — 21 Mar, Saturday — Web Design, L1 Woolley Room
21 2020/03/24 — 17:30-20:30 — 24 Mar, Tuesday — AGM + Main Meeting, L1 Carmichael Room

23 2020/04/04 — 14:00-17:00 — 04 Apr, Saturday — Penrith Group


Tech News:

“A guide to working from home for employers”:

See the iTWire article by David Heath | Monday, 16 March 2020 19:45.

Some useful hints for surviving the virus scare as you abandon the office as a safe place to work.

In the coming days and weeks, it is becoming very obvious that a significant proportion of the workforce will be asked (forced?) to undertake their duties from home. This will necessitate some forward thinking in order to make the operation as seamless as possible.

Please be aware. This is not exhaustive advice — iTWire does not know the details of your business or its computing infrastructure. You should treat this as a useful starting position and adapt it to your needs. What is discussed here is an amalgam of common sense, various reports across the Internet, and also material from the Australian Signals Directorate.

First, we will deal with the major points that will apply to employers and how they can facilitate the process. There will be a second report discussing the needs and requirements for employees.

There are two fundamental components to a telecommuting / remote working strategy. The technical infrastructure and the 'rules of engagement.'

Every organisation MUST develop a robust 'work from home' policy and surrounding rules / procedures. This ought to include these major points:

  • A definition of 'work from home.' This should be flexible enough to describe the needs, habits and situation of pretty-well every employee required to undertake this activity. Consider including this definition in the job description of every employee.
  • An acceptance that work output is more important than work hours — staff members may have children or elderly in the house who may need intermittent attention. As long as the expected work is completed, the total hours and time of day are not important. Micro-managing cannot possibly work!
  • OH&S. For the duration of any 'work from home,' the home must be considered to be an extension of the workplace. This means that any incidents directly work-related should be subject to WorkCover (whatever the name of the agency is in your location) and dealt with by them. This also means that, just like your normal workplace, there are a number of ergonomic and safety requirements that should at least be considered. Most homes have smoke detectors — these should be checked.
  • Further, since no organisation would be able to visit every home for safety checking, it would be wise to develop a simple checklist for each employee to use as a basis for broad compliance. Such questions as safe exit strategies in the case of emergencies, sufficiently comfortable workstations etc. ought to be included. In addition, a simple education module (perhaps a PPT presentation) could be used as evidence that workers have received suitable training. Some have also suggested that a simple video conference tool might be used for the facilities manager to view the intended working location and how the space will be utilised. Based on the review, employees may be encouraged to obtain better furniture (perhaps via salary sacrifice) or even collect their current office chair to take home for the duration. Perhaps also take additional monitors, keyboards and so on from their normal desk to replicate the full working environment as much as possible.
  • There must be a robust communication structure in place as this will have to take the place of formal conversations, meetings, casual chats etc. Skype, Microsoft Teams, Slack, Trello (and others) can easily support this. Most businesses ought to have at least one of these in place already, although additional licencing and configuration may be required.
  • Probably one of the most difficult aspects is security of workplace 'secrets.' Most workplaces are relatively secure and obviously the greater the 'secret' the better the systems are for securing information — locked safes etc. However, when used at home, these secrets are more difficult to protect. Each organisation will have to decide for itself, but the simplest solution is probably a blanket ban on holding hard copies of secrets.
  • Enhance the education for staff on their ability to manage their time and resources without the close attention of managers and technical staff. Surely you trust them, but there's nothing like a few good hints.

More generally, now (right now!) would be a great time to review all aspects of your business continuity planning along with broad advice to all team members regarding public statements and unauthorised communications outside of the corporate umbrella.

Further advice is also available at SANS.

Who is SANS?

The SANS Institute ( SysAdmin, Audit, Network and Security ) was established in 1989 as a cooperative research and education organization. SANS is the most trusted and, by far, the largest provider of cybersecurity training and certification for government and commercial-institution professionals worldwide. Please visit www.sans.org for more information.

Tomorrow, some guidance for employees. Please, any suggestions, additional contributions or comments gratefully accepted in the iTWire article feedback section. (I'm sure I've forgotten something!).

Read more »

“A guide to working from home for employees”:

See the iTWire article by David Heath | Tuesday, 17 March 2020 00:36.

Some useful hints for surviving the virus scare as you abandon the office as a safe place to work.

Yesterday's article took a very 'business' view of the whole work from home scenario. Today, we will take a more personal view and offer a few strategies. For many people, the only "work from home" they ever did was to cover for an appointment (plumber, sick child etc.) and an actual working from home stint will be entirely foreign.

Further, the majority of people are extroverts — they need interaction with others, so there is a lot to compensate for when they're the only person to talk to. Some people are strongly self-driven, others prefer a team culture — typically we chose jobs and workplaces that match our preferences. If you need that contact, schedule regular 'shoot the breeze' sessions with similar co-workers over a mid-morning coffee or similar, or get out of the house to run errands or simply sit in the park for some sun and a random chat with a stranger.

So, with all that in mind, here's a plan.

Create a dedicated workspace. Unless you live in a tiny apartment, the end of the dining table won't do! You want to replicate your desk in the office as much as possible with all the equipment you would normally use. If possible, give yourself a tranquil view through a window and try to ensure you won't be disturbed by other family members (as much as possible with a spouse also stuck at home and children unable to attend school!). Hopefully, you won't be able to see the television, even if you can hear 'Days of our Lives' in perpetual binge-watch mode. Noise-cancelling headphones are a great idea, perhaps your employer might buy them for you.

Further, treat this area as your office. Don't use it for other, personal, tasks. When you walk into this area, you are an office worker at work. When you leave, you're back at home.

Don't feel tempted to work in your nightwear. Stick to the rituals you would normally follow if you were still working at the office. Get up at the same time, shower, get dressed, have breakfast etc. The only advantage is that you can skip the commute and save all that time for personal use. By doing this, not only are you mentally getting into work mode, but you'll look (and sound) professional when on the phone or in video conference calls. Also, everyone else in the house will recognise that you are in 'work mode.'

This also means that if you have to go to a face-to-face meeting (that might be rare!), you're ready to leave the house in minutes.

You will want to take the same kinds of breaks that you might have when in the office — perhaps you're used to taking a quick visit to a local coffee shop for a mid-morning or afternoon break or a brisk lunch-time walk. It is important to keep taking the same breaks, although the coffee shop might not be quite the same great idea it used to be.

When you take a break, do something useful around the house — empty the dishwasher, sweep the floors or similar. After sitting at your desk for an hour or two, you could use 15 minutes of physical exercise.

Despite the amount of time spent at one's office desk, most observers suggest that the average person only has around five or six productive hours in the work-day, the rest is filler — chatting, making yet another coffee in the lunch room, dealing with personal emails on one's phone etc.

With that in mind, you should attempt to schedule six hours of in-depth work each day, allowing additional time for the 'fluff' that fills out your office day.

Whether you have six one-hour blocks, four 90-minutes blocks or just three two-hour blocks is entirely up to you, but whatever you decide, stick with it — building a routine is important. If necessary, create a daily timetable and possibly set alarms on your phone to keep track. Remember, this could last for a few weeks, and possibly much longer.

Overall, make sure you get the work done, but also pay attention to your personal health — both physical and mental. Find time for human interaction with co-workers and even with strangers.

Read more »

Fun Facts:

“Fold a Rectangle into a Pentagon and find its area”:

Here is a 4 cm × 16 cm rectangle. Fold it so that C -> A across the line MN.

A rectangle, 4 cm x 16 cm
Start with a 4 × 16 cm rectangle. Then fold C -> A.

Hint 1: Prove that triangles ABM and AD'N are congruent. Check parallel lines and use ASA (angle, side, angle).

Hint 2: Let length AN = x, then length ND' is 16 - x, since these two lengths add to 16 cm. Use Pythagoras to find x. This lets you get the area of triangle AD'N.

Find the area of pentagon ABMND'
Find the area of the pentagon ABMND'.

Find twice the area of the central shaded triangle by subtracting the two triangles AD'N and ABM from the original rectangle size, which is 64 square cm.

And finally add the triangles AD'N and ABM to the shaded triangle to get the answer to the area of the pentagon.

If stuck, see the YouTube video by Presh Talwalkar.

— Ed.

Bob Backstrom
~ Newsletter Editor ~

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