2020 Newsletter: 42/54 — PreviousNext — (Attach.)

Sydney Harbour

Hello and Welcome,

Meeting TODAY (Saturday, 15 August 2020):

Hi Everyone,

Our August Web Design meeting is this Saturday the 15th at 2 pm via Zoom.

Some of the group have been looking at an article by Una Kravets, Web Developer Advocate at Google titled "Ten modern layouts in one line of CSS". While the title appears to promise ten one-line layouts, the reality is a bit different. I took one of those "place-items: center" and tried to apply it to my Astro Photo page. Both the index page and the Astro Page have photos which don't perform as well as I would like in a responsive environment, so I gave place-items a run. We can have a look at the results:

Its "one-line" code may correct that.

As amateur web designers, we need information and MDN the Mozilla Developers document site is a "goto" source of the current knowledge on how a piece of code works. Mozilla has laid off over 250 staff, including most of the Developers site, so we will have a look at what the future holds for this excellent site.

John Lucke has found a site that examines the CSS of a website, and it tells you how to reduce its content by "cleaning it up". It's called PurifyCSS Online.

Here are the Zoom meeting details:

Topic: Sydney PCUserGroup's Zoom Meeting

Time: Aug 15, 2020, 02:00 pm Canberra, Melbourne, Sydney

Join the Zoom Meeting:


Meeting ID: 833 6486 7561

Passcode: Webdesign

See you all on Saturday,

Steve South

Meeting This Week:

Tuesday Forum - Tuesday, 18 Aug - 9:30 am (10:00 am meeting start) - noon

We have cancelled this meeting until further notice.

Meeting Next Week:

Main Meeting - Tuesday, 25 Aug - 10:30 am (11:00 am meeting start) - noon

We will be running this meeting using Zoom; details later by e-mail.

Current & Upcoming Meetings:
(Face-to-Face Meetings for August Cancelled)

53 2020/08/01 — 14:00-17:00 — 01 Aug, Saturday — Penrith Group
54 2020/08/11 — 17:30-20:30 — 11 Aug, Tuesday — Programming SIG, L1 Woolley + Lawson Rooms
55 2020/08/14 — 09:30-12:30 — 14 Aug, Friday — Friday Forum, LG Windeyer (+ ?) Rooms
56 2020/08/14 — 12:30-15:30 — 14 Aug, Friday — Communications, LG Windeyer (+ ?) Rooms
57 2020/08/15 — 13:30-16:30 — 15 Aug, Saturday — Web Design, L1 Woolley + Lawson Rooms
58 2020/08/18 — 09:30-12:30 — 18 Aug, Tuesday — Tuesday Forum, L1 Woolley + Lawson Rooms
59 2020/08/25 — 17:30-20:30 — 25 Aug, Tuesday — Main Meeting, L1 Carmichael + Dowling Rooms
60 2020/08/28 — 09:30-12:30 — 28 Aug, Friday — Digital Photography, L1 Woolley + Lawson Rooms [ Discontinued ]


Tech News:

“MS-DEFCON 2: Patch Tuesday's tomorrow. [ Well, 2020-08-11 — Ed. ] Pause auto-updating.”:

The weekly AskWoody PLUS Newsletter | ISSUE 17.31.1 | 2020-08-10.

By Woody Leonhard

August Windows and Office updates land tomorrow. Please take a few minutes right now to ensure they're deferred for at least a couple of weeks.

Every month, we see new bugs crop up in Microsoft's regular patches. And every month, unsuspecting Windows users get zapped. The number and the impact of problematic updates vary from batch to batch; you just never know what'll pop up — until someone's system reacts badly, and we hear about it in one of the forums. It's almost always safe to hold back — a patch that legitimately needs to be installed immediately is exceedingly rare.

So sit back and wait. Let's see what problems crop up.

Step-by-step details are available in Computerworld. If you need help or have any questions, hit us on the AskWoody Lounge.

— Woody Leonhard

“Will Windows transition to one update a year?”:

The weekly AskWoody PLUS Newsletter | ISSUE 17.31.0 | 2020-08-10.

By Woody Leonhard

Windows 10 upgrades have had a rocky past, with minimally useful new versions cropping up two — or even three! — times a year.

I assume that an exceedingly few Windows users want that much churn. The entire process has brought more smoke than light.

But it now looks like Microsoft will finally fall back to just one new "feature" release each year. Arguably, we're there already.

Raise your hand if you can remember the Windows versions that lasted two, four, six, or even more years.

Yeah, I'm an old guy, too. In case you're too young to recall, it's every release before Win10.

The demise of the tick-tock

Windows 10 rolled off the block five years ago with promises that it would be updated continuously, with new versions appearing three or so times a year. (This was the concept of Windows as a "service.") Then, someone at Microsoft who was a bit more astute than the rest slowed the upgrade process down to a more manageable twice a year.

More recently, that pace was further slowed to our current tick-tock, major-minor cadence — sorta. Even the most recent upgrades are not quite a simple tick-tock. Here's a brief history of Win10 releases:

  • Version 1507: the original — when it was released in July 2015, it didn't even have a version number. (I assume there were still "discussions" within Microsoft as to how future releases would be pegged.)
  • Version 1511: the November Update — it appeared just four months after 1507. It was more a big bug patch than an upgrade.
  • Version 1607: the Anniversary Update — it was released in August 2016, nine months after 1511.
  • Version 1703: the excessively hyped Creators Update — Microsoft delivered this release in April 2017 (eight months later).
  • Version 1709: the Fall Creators Update — this was Microsoft's last attempt at giving Win10 releases catchy names. It shipped in October 2017, six months after Version 1703, and launched the tick-tock era of upgrades.
  • Versions 1803, 1809, 1903, 1909, and 2004: each release appeared more or less six months after the preceding version.

Of course, these release dates were spurious for average Windows users, who might wait months for an upgrade to be offered on their PCs.

The award for the most disastrous rollout goes to Version 1809, released October 2018. When upgraders started losing data, Microsoft yanked the new OS — then rereleased it, yanked it again, and finally released a fully working version in mid-November. True to form, many Windows users did not see the final, final Win10 1809 until early 2019.

The six-month tick-tock pattern became far more apparent with Versions 1903 and 1909. I characterised the fall release as akin to a Win7 service pack: an update with under-the-hood fixes and almost no new features. In fact, to this day, both 19xx versions share the same update patches.

Microsoft's current plan is to send out the first feature release each year for the cannon fodder — er, masses — to test. It will then solidify interim fixes with the second, "fall," update. Again, this is a sort of service-pack approach — you get the main release, then a service pack six months later.

Those with Enterprise licenses get a bit of a snooze button. Most Win10 versions include support for 18 months, but Enterprise editions of the "fall" releases get patches for 30 months. In other words, pay the vig, and you get extended support on the "tock."

Where we're headed

It appears that this six-month upgrade cycle will persist through this year, with Win10 2004 designated the "major" update (though in truth, it has few new features) and the next release (code-name 20H2) acting as the "minor" update.

However, don't get too comfortable with this cadence; well-informed rumours say that we probably won't get a spring 21H1 — or if we do, it'll be stunted. Reportedly, the next real update for Win10 will come in late 2021.

In place of the "tick" release, the inside bet is that Microsoft will switch gears and release a stripped-down version of Windows in early 2021, commonly called Windows 10X. It would go head-to-head with the Google Chromebook.

I wrote about Windows 10X in "Windows 10X: Future fireworks or another dud?" — AskWoody Plus Newsletter 2020-02-24. The vision has changed quite a bit in the interim:

  • Windows 10X will initially ship on single-screen devices — not exclusively on dual-screen units as initially rumoured. (Microsoft has put dual-screen machines on the shelf for now.)
    This just in: Surface Duo out! — Ed.
  • Windows 10X won't support native Windows apps — likely a wrong decision. That's the same mistake that doomed Windows RT and Win10 in S mode. In theory, native Windows apps will appear on the 10X desktop but run in the Microsoft cloud. In other words, an Internet connection will be required.
  • Again, Windows 10X will be squarely targeted at the low-cost, low-maintenance Chromebook market.

Zac Bowden has more details at Windows Central.

By taking this approach, Microsoft could try to kill two birds with one Windows stone: the horrendous and universally decried churn in Win10 versions gets cut in half, and a new kind of Windows is allowed to rise to the forefront.

Will it work?

Colour me sceptical.

I have a hard time believing people will buy a Windows computer that doesn't run standard (i.e., local) Windows programs. It's an old refrain, but legacy apps remain the reason — and the only reason? — to stick with Windows.

If Microsoft creates a Windows-centric cloud service, how long will it be before Apple, Google, Samsung, Huawei, and others jump onto the bandwagon?

This much I know for sure: Microsoft has gotten away with rapid-fire and disruptive feature upgrades for far too long. Instead of emphasizing — even relishing in! — the churn, MS should return to the days of producing a dull, boring, but rock-solid operating system.

The last thing we need is more psychedelic lipstick on the pig.

— Woody Leonhard

“Aussie Broadband cuts deal to offer fibre services through OptiComm”:

See the iTWire article by Sam Varghese | Sunday, 09 August 2020 08:34.

Local NBN reseller Aussie Broadband has cut a deal with private fibre cable provider OptiComm to offer fibre-to-the-home services to the latter's customers.

OptiComm is the most significant private competitor to the NBN Co fibre cable network. It builds and operates fibre optic networks in mostly new or recently developed estates and has, so far, passed over 120,000 premises.

In April, Aussie Broadband announced it had started building a fibre network, with the company later saying that medium-sized and larger businesses would be able to order 10 Gbps connections.

The first phase of that network, which was said to be well underway in July, is a 20 km ring around the Melbourne CBD and Port Melbourne, connecting the data centres that Aussie Broadband uses and the Exhibition and Port Melbourne NBN points of interconnect.

In late May, Aussie Broadband began offering 1000 Mbps/50 Mbps "ultra-fast" NBN plans to its residential customers. More than 4800 customers have switched to these faster connections.

Aussie Broadband managing director Phillip Britt stated that the deal would help to increase his company's fibre footprint significantly.

"We are looking forward to working with OptiComm to deliver FttP services to existing and prospective residential customers. We believe this partnership will complement Aussie's existing fibre network expansion across Australia."

"The good news is that Aussie Broadband will now be available to customers in an OptiComm active area. Over the next few weeks, we'll be contacting residents to let them know about our excellent products and Australia-based tech support."

"We'll be offering the same unlimited plans across OptiComm and NBN. However, we won't be offering our 100 GB or 500 GB plans on OptiComm at this stage."

Britt said the pandemic had reinforced the need for Australians to have reliable, fast broadband connections.

"There's no denying that customer usage has changed since lockdown. People have become used to using their data for more things and on more devices. So, we're seeing a growing demand for high-speed internet connectivity amongst our customers," he said.

OptiComm chief executive Paul Cross said: "We're very excited to welcome a high-quality Internet provider like Aussie Broadband to our growing network. We hope that residents will enjoy the benefits that the company has to offer, including superfast connectivity and excellent customer service and technical support."

"The demand for data has never been stronger. We've seen our downstream network utilisation settle at 10% above its pre-COVID-19 level, with the upward trend continuing, particularly in Victoria."

"We're proud to partner with an Australian-owned company that, like us, is committed to bringing ultra-fast broadband to as many people as we can, as quickly as possible."

Read more »

Fun Facts:

“SpaceX reusable launch system development program”:

See the Wikipedia article describing their reusable rockets.

The SpaceX reusable launch system development program is a privately funded program to develop a set of new technologies for an orbital launch system that may be reused many times like the reusability of aircraft. SpaceX has been developing the technologies over several years to facilitate full and rapid reusability of space launch vehicles. The project's long-term objectives include returning a launch vehicle first stage to the launch site in minutes and returning a second stage to the launch pad following orbital realignment with the launch site and atmospheric reentry in up to 24 hours. SpaceX's long term goal is that both stages of their orbital launch vehicle will be designed to allow reuse a few hours after return.

The program was publicly announced in 2011. SpaceX first achieved a successful landing and recovery of a first stage in December 2015. The first re-flight of a landed first stage occurred in March 2017 with the second occurring in June 2017, that one only five months after the maiden flight of the booster. The third attempt occurred in October 2017 with the SES-11/EchoStar-105 mission. Second flights of refurbished first stages then became routine, with boosters having powered up to five missions as of March 2020.

The reusable launch system technology was developed and initially used for the first stage of Falcon 9. After stage separation, the booster flips around. An optional boostback burn is done to reverse its course. Then a reentry burn, controlling direction to arrive at the landing site. And finally a landing burn to effect the final low-altitude deceleration and touchdown.

SpaceX intended (from at least 2014) to develop technology to extend reusable flight hardware to second stages, a more challenging engineering problem because the vehicle is travelling at orbital velocity. Second stage reuse is considered paramount to Elon Musk's plans to enable the settlement of Mars. Initial concepts to make the second stage of Falcon 9 reusable have been abandoned.

As of 2020, SpaceX is developing Starship, a fully reusable two-stage vehicle, intended to support missions to the Moon and Mars, and eventually replace Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy for satellite delivery and human transport. Besides, it could be used for point-to-point transportation on Earth.

Read more »

“All this, courtesy of Elon Musk”:

See the Wikipedia article giving his life's details.

Elon Musk

Elon Reeve Musk FRS (born June 28, 1971) is an engineer, industrial designer, technology entrepreneur and philanthropist. He is the founder, CEO, CTO and chief designer of SpaceX; early investor, CEO and product architect of Tesla, Inc.; founder of The Boring Company; co-founder of Neuralink; and co-founder and initial co-chairman of OpenAI.

He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society (FRS) in 2018.

In 2018, he was ranked 25th on the Forbes list of The World's Most Powerful People and was ranked joint-first on the Forbes list of the Most Innovative Leaders of 2019. As of July 29, 2020, his net worth was estimated at $68 billion, and Forbes lists him as the 9th-richest person in the world. He is the longest-tenured CEO of any automotive manufacturer globally.

Elon Musk, founder of SpaceX

Elon Musk

Now THAT's a résumé! — Ed.

Read more »

“SpaceX video on YouTube”:

See the YouTube video showing the booster rockets landing.

The plan for booster rocket reuse:

Recovery trajectory

Here are two boosters landing almost simultaneously:

Two boosters landing together Twin boosters (2)

Of course, in the early testing phase, there was the odd landing failure:

The landing wasn't perfect

And how did they finally achieve success?

As they say:

  • 1 Experience and
  • 2 Ridiculously well-engineered rockets

But seriously, there are six steps to success:

  • 1 Thrust Vector Control — using movable engine thrust gimbals
  • 2 Cold Gas Thrusters — using compressed Nitrogen gas for fine-tuning rocket direction
  • 3 Re-Ignitable Engines — for several different slow-down manoeuvres on the return trip
  • 4 Inertial Navigation and Global Positioning Systems — for finding an accurate position of the booster rocket
  • 5 Deployable Landing Gear — for a stable landing
  • 6 Deployable Grid Fins — for ultra-high accuracy on the final approach to the landing pad

And, as you can see, the public loved it:

The Control room with the public outside

— A remarkable achievement — Ed.

Bob Backstrom
~ Newsletter Editor ~

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