2021 Newsletter: 26/121 — PreviousNext — (Attach.)

Sydney Harbour

Hello and Welcome,

Resuming Face-To-Face Club Meetings

The Club Committee held a meeting in the evening of 12 March 2021, and it was decided that face to face meetings would resume for our Club starting in April 2021.

Also, it was noticed that the SMSA advised in its latest newsletter that it has recommenced its face to face meetings in March 2021.

Further, as most of our members are over 70 years, they will be included in the first phase of the vaccination rollout for COVID, commencing very soon.

Our Club's planned Main Meeting on 23 March 2021 will still be held as a virtual ZOOM meeting.

The Committee will monitor attendances at the scheduled meetings from April onwards to ensure that the room bookings with the SMSA are effectively utilised.

Also, it is intended to hold an Annual General Meeting for the Club in May 2021. Further advice on this matter will be provided later.


Ron Ferguson,

Member Survey on Face-To-Face Meetings.

You are invited to reply to a survey that asks you which meetings you would be likely to attend in April 2021.

That includes the MAIN Meeting, Programming, Friday Forum, Communications, Tuesday Group, Web Design and Digital Photo Group.

And finally, if NO to all of these, will you return in May?

Steve South

Meetings This Week

Main Meeting - Tuesday, 23 Mar - Time: TBA

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

— Alex Zaharov-Reutt

Digital Photography - Friday, 26 Mar - 9:30 am (10:00 am meeting start) - noon

We will be running this meeting using Zoom; details below:

The Sydney PC User Group is inviting you to a scheduled Zoom meeting.

Topic: Digital Photography

Time: Friday, Mar 26, 2021, 10:00 am Canberra, Melbourne, Sydney.

Join the Zoom Meeting at:


Meeting ID: 870 0431 0706
Passcode: 908091

Meeting topics include:

  • How effective are Home-security cameras?

  • An introduction to Paint.Net and some fun with Layers.

  • Choose a photo of "your young self" and email it by Mar 24 to johnlucke12@­gmail.com for reminiscing and comment.

  • Q & A Forum.

  • Then it's over to you for general discussion.

Hoping to see you there.

— John Lucke

Meetings Next Week


Current & Upcoming Virtual Meetings

17 2021/03/09 — 17:30-20:30 — 09 Mar, Tue — Programming, via Jitsi
21 2021/03/20 — 13:30-16:30 — 20 Mar, Sat — Web Design, via Zoom
22 2021/03/23 — 17:30-20:30 — 23 Mar, Tue — MAIN Meeting, via Zoom
23 2021/03/26 — 09:30-12:30 — 26 Mar, Fri — Digital Photography, via Zoom


Tech News:

Amazon to open a distribution centre in Western Sydney.

See the NSW Govt News article 30 June 2020.

Amazon will open a new advanced storage and distribution centre in Western Sydney, creating more than 2000 jobs.

Amazon Centre, Western Sydney

Located in Kemps Creek near the Western Sydney Aerotropolis, the 200,000 square metre facility is expected to be the largest fulfilment centre built in Australia. It will have the ability to operate 24/7.

The centre will incorporate Amazon's latest robotics systems, the first time they will have been deployed in the southern hemisphere.

Amazon will aim to be delivering packages to NSW residents by Christmas 2021.

Premier Gladys Berejiklian said Amazon's commitment reflected the NSW Government's focus on innovation and technology to create jobs.

"This important commitment by one of the world's leading multinationals highlights Western Sydney's growing stature as a strong investment destination," Ms Berejiklian said.

Minister for Jobs, Investment, Tourism and Western Sydney Stuart Ayres said Amazon's decision was a vote of confidence in the NSW economy.

"The project will contribute to local workforce development and provide skilled employment in areas like robotics, logistics and supply chain," Mr Ayres said.

"It will also help build our local e-commerce sector, giving small and medium-sized businesses access to Amazon's packing, shipping, customer service and returns capabilities, along with easier access to millions of customers across Australia and the world."

Read More »

Privacy Study On Web Browsers With Surprising Results.

See the 5m55s YouTube video by censiCLICK, 30 Nov 2020.

A study on privacy in the major web browsers Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, Apple Safari, Brave Browser, Microsoft Edge and Yandex Browser [ a popular browser in Russia — Ed. ] published by Prof. Leith of the Trinity College Dublin in 2020 resulted in a, in my opinion, surprising winner. The study did not focus on tracking by third parties but data exchange with the browser manufacturer's back-end servers. Some browsers went as far as collecting hardware IDs, while others made no connections at all. Check out the video on which web browsers are trustworthy platforms, which aren't by default and change that.

Read the original 15-page PDF report giving all the details.

Abstract — We measure the connections to back-end servers made by six browsers: Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, Apple Safari, Brave Browser, Microsoft Edge and Yandex Browser during normal web browsing. We aim to assess the privacy risks associated with this back-end data exchange. We find that the browsers split into three distinct groups from this privacy perspective. In the first (most private) group lies Brave, in the second Chrome, Firefox and Safari and the third (least private) group lie Edge and Yandex.

[ Ed. ] You're, no doubt, familiar with the predictive text feature giving you a different suggested search list on every keystroke you enter. Ever wonder how browsers do that? It's contacting their "home base" on every single character you type.

Talk about constant tracking!

Watch More »

Critics Blast Google's Aim to Replace Browser Cookie with 'FLoC'.

See the ThreatPost article by Elizabeth Montalbano | March 5, 2021, | 12:24 pm.

EFF worries that Google's 'privacy-first' vision for the future may pose new privacy risks.

This month Google begins a public test of a technology that will eventually replace browser cookies to boost Chrome browser user privacy. However, critics say the switch is a half-measure and does not adequately protect Chrome users' web movements.

The Google solution — called Federated Learning of Cohorts (FLoC) — is promoted as a way to put people's privacy-first by limiting the capability of third parties to track their activity across the web using Cookies.

How Does Federated Learning of Cohorts Protect Privacy?

The as-yet unproven technology allows browsers to group people together by their interests. It gives them more anonymity yet still provides appropriate targeted advertising, which remains at the core of its interest in outfitting its Chrome browser with FLoC. Google's stance is that it will balance the need to preserve people's privacy by preventing individual tracking by giving advertisers and publishers the relevant info they need to recognize their target audience.

However, FLoC also raises new questions of who should have the ultimate power when it comes to accessing private information about people's online browsing habits, which privacy advocates think should ultimately be a far more egalitarian affair. The digital privacy group, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), has even gone so far as to call FLoC a "terrible idea" in a blog post published Wednesday by staff technologist Benett Cyphers.

Why EFF is Critical of FLoC.

Others worry that FLoC is just Google attempting to dress up what ostensibly is at its core, another, albeit potentially less intrusive, way to track people's behaviour. It will suit its targeted advertising agenda to ensure the company will continue to drive the market.

"Google has announced that its tests show promising signs that FLoC is working," wrote Malwarebytes Labs security research Pieter Arntz in a blog post published in January. "Is this a milestone on the road to more privacy, or just better-concealed tracking technology?"

That's the central question that will become even more relevant than ever now that FloC is reaching a broader audience, given Google Chrome's strong position in the browser market and the company's overall influence in the tech sector in general.

How FLoC Delivers a 'Privacy First' Experience.

Google, naturally, is leading with its concern for privacy in its messaging and promotion of FloC. Stressing the technology is a community effort that aims to include and balance everyone's interests using the web, either for profit or not.

The company last year announced its intent to remove support for third-party cookies and work on a better solution via a two-year plan that included a Privacy Sandbox. The collaboration and partnership on the mission with industry leaders, publishers and marketers — would both "protect anonymity while still delivering results for advertisers and publishers," David Temkin, Google's director of product management, ads privacy and trust, wrote in a blog post published Wednesday.


Potential for New Privacy Risks with FLoC.

But not everyone is as enthusiastic about FLoC's potential to take tracking out of browsers. The EFF's Cyphers argued that by eliminating one way of tracking user activity, it's introducing other, potentially more intrusive methods for third parties to observe what people are doing online.

"The core design involves sharing new information with advertisers," he wrote. "Unsurprisingly, this also creates new privacy risks."

Cyphers cited fingerprinting, or the practice of gathering many discrete pieces of information from a user's browser to create a unique, stable identifier for that browser, as one emerging privacy threat.

Read More »

Microsoft is testing its own IFTTT clone within Windows.

Referred by Jeff Garland: See the PCWorld article by Mark Hachman Senior Editor, PCWorld | MAR 17, 2021 1:28 pm PDT.

Microsoft's Power Platform is an entire suite of Microsoft applications of which you are probably unaware. Think of it as a framework for developing apps for people who can't develop apps. And now, one of the applications, Power Automate Desktop, may be headed to Windows as a sort of superpowered macro tool.

Power Automate Desktop will now be part of the Windows Accessories folder, accessible from the Start menu. Power Automate Desktop also arrives as Microsoft does a little tidying up in the Windows interface, eliminating apps that it's given up on, such as Paint3D and 3D Viewer.

So what is Power Automate Desktop? It's easiest to think of it as a supercharged macro program, combining what Microsoft calls "robotic process automation" with AI smarts. The tool is designed to eliminate "busy work" by acting like a macro — taking information from one field, adding it to another, and so on. Power Automate Desktop works across various applications — launching them, recording and then repeating repetitive actions that you can replay whenever you like. This tool is part of the "low code/no-code" philosophy the company has embraced over the past few years in Microsoft-speak.

[ IFTTT means "IF This, Then That" — Ed. ]

Read More »

Fun Facts:

Explore Our Stellar Universe with NASA's Astronomy Picture of the Day Site.

See the ReviewGeek article by SUZANNE HUMPHRIES | @yeah_books | MAR 14, 2021, 8:00 am EDT | 1 min read.

Globular Cluster

It's always a wondrous experience to look up at the night sky and gaze at the beautiful constellations, but the naked eye can only see so much. However, with the help of NASA, astronomers, astrophotographers, and other scientific contributors, you can view the sights of our universe directly on the Astronomy Picture of the Day website.

To be clear, this is not a new thing. The exciting website was founded in 1995 by friends Robert J. Nemiroff and Jerry T. Bonnell. The two are both professional astronomers and were once even office-mates at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Centre. Across the top of the homepage, it says, "Discover the cosmos! Each day a different image or photograph of our fascinating universe is featured, along with a brief explanation written by a professional astronomer." The site is the largest collection of annotated astronomy images on the internet.

The site is also available — as a mirror site — in dozens of other countries and languages, making it easier for everyone to enjoy the images every day. Of course, the site has companion mobile apps for iOS and Android so that you can get your astronomy fix on the go.

Only the current day's image is actively displayed on the site, but a quick visit to the archive [ from 2015 — Ed. ] will take you to a list of all past images listed by date, starting with the most recent. Likewise, you can also go to the site's index and view pictures by topic, like Space Stations, Binary Stars, Dark Matter, Jupiter's Moons, Messier Objects, or Quasars and Active Galactic Nuclei.

The site itself is pretty simple and straightforward and keeps the focus on the thousands of beautiful images it's posted over the decades, like the Pleiades: The Seven Sisters Star Cluster, NGC 1499: The California Nebula, Stars over an Erupting Volcano, Galaxies in the River, The Magnificent Horsehead Nebula, and the Ghost Aurora over Canada. Every image is high resolution as well. Clicking on any image will open a larger and higher-resolution version in a new tab, which you can spend hours examining.

And if you're a backyard astronomer yourself, you can submit your own stellar images to the site via the Submissions page.

Read More »

Churchill, Canada Has A Special "Jail" Just For What?

Jail for Polar Bears

Answer: Polar Bears

The very northern town of Churchill, Manitoba, Canada has, by any measure, a polar bear problem. Referred to as the world's polar bear capital, Churchill struggled for years to deal with polar bears descending on the town in search of easy calories found in trash cans and dumpsters. When attempts to secure trash proved futile, and the bears became increasingly bolder in their adventures into town, they came up with a plan: turn an old military building into a polar bear jail.

The jail isn't the bears' final destination, mind you, but more like a drunk tank for out of control bears. First, they sedate the bears with a tranquillizer gun to capture them. Then they take them to the bear jail. The bears are put on a "snow and water" only diet to stop them from returning to town searching for food. After thirty days, the bears are transported far away from Churchill and released.

— Ed.

Meeting Location & Disclaimer

Bob Backstrom
~ Newsletter Editor ~

Information for Members and Visitors:

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All Meetings, unless explicitly stated above, are held on the
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