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Sydney Harbour

Hello and Welcome,

Meetings This Week

Friday Forum - Friday, 8 Jan - 9:30 am (10:00 am meeting start) - noon

We have cancelled this meeting until further notice.

Communications - Friday, 8 Jan - 1:00 pm - 3:00 pm

We have cancelled this meeting until further notice.

Meetings Next Week

Programming - Tuesday, 12 Jan - 5:30 pm (6:00 pm meeting start) - 8:00 pm

Hi Team,

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

See the Progsig Meeting Reports:


The next meeting is on Tuesday 12th January 2021, at 6 pm.


— Steve OBrien

Web Design - Saturday, 16 Jan - 1:30 pm (2:00 pm meeting start) - 4:00 pm

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

— Steve South

Current & Upcoming Meetings:

1 2021/01/02 — 14:00-17:00 — 02 Jan, Sat — Penrith Group
2 2021/01/08 — 09:30-12:30 — 08 Jan, Fri — Friday Forum, L1 Woolley Room
3 2021/01/08 — 12:30-15:30 — 08 Jan, Fri — Communications, L1 Woolley Room
4 2021/01/12 — 17:30-20:30 — 12 Jan, Tue — Programming, L1 Woolley Room
5 2021/01/16 — 13:30-16:30 — 16 Jan, Sat — Web Design, L1 Woolley Room
6 2021/01/19 — 09:30-12:30 — 19 Jan, Tue — Tuesday Group, L1 Woolley Room


Tech News:

How to Fix: Change the Edge New Tab Page to Google.

See the Infopackets article by Dennis Faas on December 25, 2020, at 02:12 pm EST.

Infopackets Reader Gilles J. writes:

"Dear Dennis,

I recently upgraded to Windows 10 and started using the new Edge browser. As you mentioned in a previous article, the new Edge is essentially Google's Chrome browser, but the interface is slightly different. All is good; however, I'm not too fond of Edge because the new tab page won't let me redirect to Google. Instead, it displays a bunch of pages I've visited. I'm not interested in seeing that. Any idea of how to change the Edge new tab page to Google? I also want to change the Edge default search engine to Google. Many thanks!"

My response:

The new Microsoft Edge doesn't make it easy to change the new tab page to the Google search engine. However, there is an extension called "New Tab Redirect" that will do the job. Changing the default search engine to Google is relatively easy to do.

Below I'll explain how.

Change the Edge New Tab Page to Google.

The new Edge tabs are customisable, but Microsoft wants you to use their search engine (Bing) no matter how you customise it. To override this behaviour, you can install "New Tab Redirect", which allows you to specify Google as its default page for every new tab.

To do so:

  • Launch Edge if you haven't already.
  • Click the three horizontal dots near the top right of the Edge window, then click "Extensions".
  • Near the very bottom left of the screen, enable the option that says "Allow extensions from other stores".
  • Visit the 'New Tab Redirect' page via the Chrome Web Store, then click the "Add to Chrome" button on the screen. Click "Add extension" button to confirm.
  • Edge will warn you that "To help protect your browser settings, Microsoft Edge has turned off New Tab Redirect". You will need to re-enable it; close the warning window, click the three horizontal dots near the top again, then click "Extensions". The "New Tab Redirect" will be listed; enable it.
  • The "New Tab Redirect" welcome window will now appear. Click the "Set options" link near the top of the screen.
  • The "New Tab Redirect Options" screen will appear; under the "Redirect URL" heading, type in "https://www.google.com" and click the save button.
  • Press CTRL + T on the keyboard to open a new tab. The Google search engine page should be displayed.

Change the Edge Default Search Engine to Google.

In Firefox, there is a "Search" input field in the browser which redirects your search query to your search engine of choice. In Chrome and the new Edge, the search field is not present — however, the web address bar also doubles as a search input field (so long as you don't enter a web address).

Microsoft's Bing is the default search engine in Edge. If you want to make Google the default search engine for the web address bar, do the following:

  • Launch Edge if you haven't already.
  • Click the three horizontal dots near the top right of the Edge window, then click "Extensions".
  • Near the top left of the screen, locate the "Search Settings" heading and type in: "address bar" (no quotes).
  • Locate the heading "Address bar and search" and click it.
  • The "Search results / Search result match: Address bar and search" page will appear; locate the heading "Manage search engines" near the very bottom and click it.
  • The "Address bar and search / Manage search engines" page will appear; locate "Google" near the bottom and click the three horizontal dots, and then select "Make default".
  • Type in "test" into the web address bar; it should redirect you to Google and search for the word "test".

I hope that helps!

Read more »

Google rejects news media code, says it is 'unworkable'.

See the iTWire article by Sam Varghese Friday, 18 December 2020 12:38 pm.

Search giant Google has rejected the Australian news media code introduced into Parliament on 9 December, saying it "remains unworkable, but there is a way forward".

In a blog post issued on Thursday, Melanie Silva, Google vice-president for Australia and New Zealand, did not say what the company would do if the code passed as it was (after it was scrutinised by a parliamentary panel next year, 2021).

She said the code, officially known as News Media and Digital Platforms Mandatory Bargaining Code, had "serious problems that need to be worked through".

Silva said the code was not workable because it forced "Google to pay to show links in an unprecedented intervention that would fundamentally break how search engines work".

She said no website or search engine paid to connect people to other websites and claimed this would unravel a vital principle of the open Internet.

A second objection that Silva raised was that the code required that Google provide publishers with special treatment. The reference was to the 14-day notice period of changes to algorithms that Google has to give publishers.

Finally, she again objected to the arbitration model, something which her employer opposed from the start.

Instead, Silva proposed that Google pay publishers through the company's own News Showcase. "This program, designed to drive traffic, lift subscriptions, and generate revenue for publishers, remains on hold in Australia until we can be sure that the final Code is workable," she said.

The initiative was announced by Sundar Pichai, the head of Alphabet, the parent company of Google, on 2 October.

Silva also wanted the arbitration model changed "to one that's standard and fair".

"The current model still isn't based in commercial reality," she claimed. "Ultimately, by imposing final-offer arbitration with biased criteria, it encourages publishers to go to arbitration rather than reaching an agreement".

She objected to the algorithm notification period, saying it "could be amended to require only reasonable notice about significant actionable changes".

Silva also rehashed many other arguments she has put forward in the past about how Google doesn't use news or publish it, but only links to it, and that news sites choose whether they wanted to appear in search results.

"In addition to the US$1 billion we invest in Google's Australian operations annually, our search advertising and other platforms generate more than AU$35 billion in business benefits for more than one million Australian businesses," she claimed.

"During COVID-19, we've helped more than 1.3 million Australian businesses stay connected with their customers".

"We also contribute through taxes. In the 2019 calendar year, Google Australia paid $59 million of corporate income taxes on a $134 million pre-tax profit. And we support 117,000 jobs in Australia, including 1800 jobs within Google and 116,200 across the wider economy".

Read more »

How an obscure British PC maker invented ARM and changed the world

Referred by Jeff Garland: See the Ars Technica article by JASON TORCHINSKY | 12/21/2020, 1:00 am.

Let's be honest: 2020 sucks. So much of this year has been a relentless slog of bad news and tragic events that it's been hard to keep up. Yet most of us have kept up, and the way most of us do so is with the small handheld computers we carry with us at all times. At least in America, we still call these by the hilariously reductive name "phones".

We can all use a feel-good underdog story right now, and luckily our doomscrolling 2020 selves don't have to look very far. That's because those same phones, and so much of our digital existence, run on the same thing: the ARM family of CPUs. And with Apple's release of a whole new line of Macs based on their new M1 CPU — an ARM-based processor — and with those machines getting fantastic reviews, it's an excellent time to remind everyone of the strange and unlikely source of these world-controlling chips.

If you were writing reality as a screenplay, and, for some inexplicable reason, you had to specify what the most common central processing unit used in most phones, game consoles, ATMs, and other innumerable devices was, you'd likely pick one from one of the major manufacturers, like Intel. That state of affairs would make sense and fit in with the world as people understand it; some industry stalwart market dominance would raise no eyebrows or any other bits of hair on anyone.

But what if, instead, you decided to make those CPUs all hail from a barely-known company from a country usually not the first to come to mind as a global leader in high-tech innovations (well, not since, say, the 1800s)? And what if that CPU owed its existence, at least indirectly, to an educational TV show? Chances are the producers would tell you to dial this script back a bit; come on, take this seriously, already.

And yet, somehow, that's how reality is.

In the beginning, there was the TV.

The ARM processor, the bit of silicon that controls over 130 billion devices worldwide without which modernity would effectively come to a crashing halt, has an extraordinary origin story. Its journey is peppered with bits of seemingly bad luck that ended up providing crucial opportunities, unexpected technical benefits that would prove pivotal, and a start in some devices that would be considered abject failures.

But everything indeed did sort of get set in motion by a TV show — a 1982 BBC program called The Computer Programme. This TV Show was an attempt by the BBC to educate Britons about just what the hell all these new fancy machines that looked like crappy typewriters connected to your telly did.

The show was part of a larger Computer Literacy Project started by the British government and the BBC to fears that the UK was profoundly and alarmingly unprepared for the new revolution in personal computing in America. Unlike most TV shows, the BBC wanted to feature a computer on the show that would be used to explain fundamental computing concepts and teach a bit of BASIC programming. The ideas included graphics and sound, connecting to Teletext networks, speech synthesis, and even rudimentary AI. As a result, the computer needed for the show would have to be pretty good — in fact, the producers' demands were initially so high that nothing on the market satisfied the BBC's aspirations.

So, the BBC put out a call to the UK's young computer industry, which was then dominated by Sinclair, a company that made its fortune in calculators and tiny televisions. Ultimately, it was a much smaller upstart company that got the lucrative contract: Acorn Computers.

An Acorn blooms

Acorn was a Cambridge-based firm that started in 1979 after developing computer systems designed initially to run fruit machines — we call them slot machines, turning them into small hobbyist computer systems based on 6502 processors. That was the same CPU family used in the Apple II, Atari 2600, and Commodore 64 computers, among many others. This CPU's design will become important later, so, you know, don't forget about it.

Acorn had developed a home computer called the Atom. When the BBC opportunity arose, they started plans for the Atom's successor to be developed into what would become the BBC Micro.

Many years later, the ARM origin story remains worth telling because it's so wonderfully improbable; it's such a strange, unplanned sequence of events from unlikely sources. Even though it is dominant globally, ARM's humble beginnings make it feel like less of an unfeeling behemoth of industry than, say, the Intel/AMD near-biopoly [ duopoly? — Ed. ] feels.

It's nice to take a moment and reflect: because the British felt they were being left behind by the computer revolution, they decided to make TV shows about computers. To do that, they needed a computer, so an underdog British company came up with a good one. And when that little company needed to build a faster CPU, because Intel couldn't be bothered to answer their calls, they made their own. This in-house CPU just so happened not to use much power or make much heat, which got Apple's attention, who used it to power what most people consider to be its biggest failure. From there, of course, the company went on to take over the world.

If I made that up, you'd say I was trying too hard to be quirky or that I'd seen too many Wes Anderson movies. But that's reality.

However… if reality is, in fact, a simulation, I bet it's powered by ARMs, too.

Read more »

Fun Facts:

Neil deGrasse Tyson On the End of 2020

See the 17m58s YouTube video by Neil deGrasse Tyson and Chuck Nice (his comedian friend) on 29 Dec 2020.

Shows Neil deGrasse Tyson talking about the end of the year, 2020.

Well, it's the end of the year, and Neil deGrasse Tyson has some thoughts. On our last StarTalk Explainer of 2020, Neil and comic co-host Chuck Nice look back on the year and explore some science you might not know that surrounds the holiday season.

Neill reflects on The Great Conjunction, the 'meeting' of Jupiter and Saturn in the night sky. We discuss why, in the northern hemisphere, this time of year has the shortest days. Then, Neil tells us why New Year's Eve is a 'time-zone charade'.

Find out why we have to move the South Pole every year on New Year's. Neil also tells us why he's upset about the inaccurate depictions of Santa's workshop. All that, plus, Neil reminds us to have a Merry Perihelion!

Spoiler Alert: The South Pole 'stick' has to be moved every year (with some ceremony for the dozen or so Scientists in current residence). The ice covering Antarctica is flowing like a glacier towards the sea.

Watch more »

Have you just paid your Electricity Bill?

Here's part of an email I received after paying my latest Bill:

My Bill is down a little, so my Elec Company asks if there are fewer in the household now.

It wonders why my Bill is down this quarter. Could it be that there are fewer people in the household now?


Imagine some households having just lost a loved one. Or that the teenagers are leaving the nest. How distressing this would sound!

Who wrote this?

I am appalled!

— Ed.

Meeting Location & Disclaimer

Bob Backstrom
~ Newsletter Editor ~

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