2021 Newsletter: 87/121 — PreviousNext — (Attach.)

Sydney Harbour

Hello and Welcome,

New Date Set for Our 2020/21 AGM

Regarding the continued lockdown due to COVID and in discussion with our group's committee, it has been decided to defer our AGM until Tuesday, 23 November 2021.

— Ron Ferguson

SMSA Closure and Future Hire

Dear Hirers,

I hope you have all been keeping well over the past few weeks.

In adherence with the current Greater Sydney Lockdown and Stay-at-Home orders, we regretfully confirm that the Sydney Mechanics' School of Arts will remain closed until further notice.

All events and Venue Hire due to take place during September have been cancelled. Please get in touch if you would like to discuss rescheduling your event.

We are now heading towards November and December when your groups are usually making plans to celebrate the end of the year together. Right now, those plans are uncertain, but we remain hopeful and will do all we can to accommodate these events. I will continue to communicate with you on our reopening and any regulations in connection to that.

Looking forward, we have opened our 2022 bookings early so that you can plan for next year. Please get in touch if you'd like to start making tentative bookings. Our current Venue Hire rates will remain unchanged until 31 December 2022.

SMSA staff continue to work from home during the lockdown, and I can still be contacted via email or on 02 9262 7300 from Monday - Thursday.

The SMSA encourages everyone to regularly check the list of hotspot locations and alerts on the NSW Health website and follow their advice.

I appreciate your continued patience and cooperation while we navigate the current circumstances. We look forward to welcoming you back to the SMSA post lockdown.

Kind Regards,

Kylie Campbell
Venue & Building Services Coordinator

Meetings This Week

Programming - Tuesday, 14 Sep - 5:30 pm (6:00 pm meeting start) - 8:00 pm

Hi Team,

We will be running this meeting using Jitsi; details later by email.

See the Progsig Meeting Reports:


The next meeting is on Tuesday 14th September 2021, at 6 pm.


— Steve OBrien

Web Design - Saturday, 18 Sep - 1:30 pm (2:00 pm meeting start) - 4:00 pm

Hi Everyone,

Our Web Design group is Saturday the 18th of September at 2 pm. This month it's all about colour or color depending on who is using it. I have found some great resources to help plan a colour scheme and develop gradients for backgrounds and other uses. We can also look at some of the free alternatives to the Adobe suite of programs.

Meeting Details:

Topic: SPCTUG Web Design Meeting

Time: Sep 18, 2021, 14:00 pm Canberra, Melbourne, Sydney

Join Zoom Meeting


Meeting ID: 896 0191 6230

Passcode: webdesign

— Steve South

Web Design Group

Meetings Next Week

Tuesday Group - Tuesday, 21 Sep - 9:30 am (10:00 am meeting start) - noon

We'll have the usual Q&A and other discussions. [ SMSA CLOSED, see above. ]

Digital Photography - Friday, 24 Sep - 9:30 am (10:00 am meeting start) - noon

We will be running this meeting using Zoom; details later by email.

— John Lucke

Schedule of Current & Upcoming Meetings ‡

64 2021/09/04 — 14:00-17:00 — 04 Sep, Sat — Penrith Group, Penrith City Library
65 2021/09/10 — 10:00-12:30 — 10 Sep, Fri — Friday Forum, L1 Carmichael Room Cancelled
67 2021/09/14 — 17:30-20:30 — 14 Sep, Tue — Programming via Jitsi
68 2021/09/18 — 13:30-16:30 — 18 Sep, Sat — Web Design via Zoom
69 2021/09/21 — 09:30-12:30 — 21 Sep, Tue — Tuesday Group, L1 Woolley Room Cancelled
70 2021/09/24 — 09:30-12:30 — 24 Sep, Fri — Digital Photography via Zoom
71 2021/09/28 — 17:30-20:30 — 28 Sep, Tue — MAIN Meeting via Zoom

‡ As decided after assessing the Members' wishes (resumption of face-to-face meetings) via the latest Online Survey.

Tech News:

Apple's 'California Streaming' event is expected to launch iPhone 13, Sept 14 in the US, Sept 15 in Australia.

See the iTWire article by Alex Zaharov-Reutt | Wednesday, 08 September 2021 11:19 am.

The "Designed in California, Assembled in China" desires of Apple fans worldwide, who are dreaming of Apple's new iPhone 13 range of smartphones, along with the A15 processor and more, will be satiated on September 14, at 10 am Pacific Time, which is 3 am AEST on Wednesday, September 15 for Australia.

Every year at around this time, the long-awaited next versions of Apple's market-leading iPhones are released, with what are invariably the world's fastest CPUs and GPUs, with varying levels of evolutionary and revolutionary new features and benefits.

Some of those features will have been leaked for months, and despite Apple's attempts to double down on secrecy, secrets always seem to leak out, and in 2021, that's no exception.

Hopefully, Apple has indeed managed to keep some new capabilities under wraps, but what is expected is the A15 CPU, which presumably won't be yet upgraded to the M1 processor. However, who knows when it comes to Apple?

Then there's a smaller notch, which will mark the first time the notch has become smaller since it first arrived on the iPhone X. Then we're expecting that notch to have improved Face ID detection that can still securely identify you, even if you have a mask on or foggy glasses.

There will be an improved camera. For the iPhone 13 non-pro models, the camera lenses are meant to be on an angle rather than a straight line, continuing Apple's methodology of making its camera setup unmissably Apple. Hence, people KNOW you have an iPhone and not some Android clone phone. A faster 5G chip from Qualcomm is also expected, with mmWave 5G now available in many more places worldwide, including Australia.

A bigger battery is expected in all iPhone 13 models, and rumours of wireless reverse charging continue. Apparently, there will be no under-screen Touch ID sensor, but the screen is expected to offer 120Hz refresh rates for smoother scrolling at the expense of battery life. Still, the 120Hz is also likely to be intelligent as it is on iPad Pros. A 1TB capacity is rumoured, but sadly, no one has said a word about the long-awaited Apple Pencil capability for the new iPhones.

Some think Apple might not call the next-gen iPhones "iPhone 13" because of superstitions that 13 is an unlucky number so that it might be the 12s or just the iPhone 2021 edition. Eschewing 13 would presumably also rule out 14 due to Chinese superstitions that the number 4 has the same sound as the word "death" in Mandarin and Cantonese. Still, Apple did launch the iPhone 4 and 4S, so we only think Apple is super, not superstitious.

Apple has also released iOS and iPadOS 15 to beta users, and I can say both of these operating systems are truly fantastic, with excellent upgrades to the existing iOS and iPadOS. They'll be must-upgrades when they launch, and the iPhone 6S and above is compatible!

Apple is also expected to launch the Apple Watch Series 7 with watchOS 8, with a new Apple Watch that has flat sides like the iPhone 12 and iPad Air and Pros, and a larger 45mm screen instead of the 44mm screen on the bigger model, and a 41mm screen instead of 40mm on the smaller model. This would mean the possibility of more complications and, naturally, a larger screen to use.

So… new Apple products are on the way! And there are more products on the way, rumoured to come in at least one more Apple event this year. We're still waiting for AirPods 3, which might be launched next week, and then new MacBooks, be they Airs, Pros or more, with what is expected to be svelte new designs, with either an M1X or M2 processor. So get ready because what will be California Streaming dreams for Apple fans could well be California nightmares for all of Apple's competitors!

Read More »

Microsoft hit by 20th zero-day attack this year, no patch for flaw yet

See the iTWire article by Sam Varghese | Wednesday, 08 September 2021 09:45 am.

Microsoft has revealed details of another zero-day attack on its Office software, releasing an advisory before issuing a patch for the flaw.

"Microsoft is investigating reports of a remote code execution vulnerability in MSHTML that affects Microsoft Windows," the company said in the advisory issued on Tuesday US time.

"Microsoft is aware of targeted attacks that attempt to exploit this vulnerability by using specially-crafted Microsoft Office documents."

Veteran security reporter Ryan Naraine said of 62 zero-days this year, 20 had targeted Microsoft's products. "This is the 62nd confirmed zero-day attack documented so far in 2021," he wrote. "According to data tracked by SecurityWeek, 20 of the 62 zero-days targeted code from Microsoft."

The advisory said: "An attacker could craft a malicious ActiveX control to be used by a Microsoft Office document that hosts the browser rendering engine. The attacker would then have to convince the user to open the malicious document.

"Users whose accounts are configured to have fewer user rights on the system could be less impacted than users who operate with administrative user rights."

The default account on any Windows installation always has full admin rights as this is how the system is set up.

The advisory continued: "Microsoft Defender Antivirus and Microsoft Defender for Endpoint both provide detection and protection for the known vulnerability. Customers should keep anti-malware products up to date.

"Customers who utilise automatic updates do not need to take additional action. Enterprise customers who manage updates should select the detection build 1.349.22.0 or newer and deploy it across their environments. Microsoft Defender for Endpoint alerts will be displayed as: 'Suspicious Cpl File Execution'."

Microsoft said that there was no patch available at the moment to fix the issue, adding, "Upon completion of this investigation, Microsoft will take the appropriate action to help protect our customers. This may include providing a security update through our monthly release process or providing an out-of-cycle security update, depending on customer needs."

As mitigation, the company said: "Disabling the installation of all ActiveX controls in Internet Explorer mitigates this attack. This can be accomplished for all sites by updating the registry. Previously-installed ActiveX controls will continue to run, but do not expose this vulnerability."

Additional mitigation, it said, was that "by default, Microsoft Office opens documents from the Internet in Protected View or Application Guard for Office, both of which prevent the current attack."

But as British infosec expert Kevin Beaumont pointed out in a tweet: "To contextualise this, Protected View also protects against macros.. which are the single biggest source of malware in the security industry, as 'Enable Content' in the UI disables it.

"Application Guard for Office is an E5 only feature and isn't used to open docs by default."

Read More »

Fun Facts:

CSIRO team to represent Australia at world robotics competition

See the iTWire article by Staff Writer | Friday, 10 September 2021 10:45 am.

Robotics Challenge

A Brisbane-based team of robotics experts from the CSIRO will represent Australia and the Southern Hemisphere at the grand final of the world's leading robotics competition in the United States this month.

Though based in Australia for the competition, CSIRO's Australian team members will appear at the event via telepresence, while US-based representatives and partners Emesent and Georgia Tech will be on the ground.

The DARPA Subterranean Final Challenge will take place from 21-23 September GMT 4:00 am.

The competition winner will receive $US2 million to conduct further research and development, with second place awarded $US1 million and third $US500,000.

CSIRO's Data61 placed fourth in the previous challenge to secure their place in this grand final.

Experts worldwide have spent the past three years pushing the boundaries of autonomous robotic technology to map, navigate and search environments as part of the Subterranean Challenge, run by the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).

With teams eliminated from the competition each year, only eight remain to contest the 2021 grand final.

CSIRO group leader Dr Navinda Kottege said they were thrilled to be one of the final eight competing teams.

"In the world of robotics, these challenges are like our Olympics," Dr Kottege said.

"To the best of our knowledge, this is the first time any Australian team has made it to a DARPA Challenge final, and we're very proud to showcase Australia's capabilities in this area on the world stage."

The six autonomous robots from CSIRO's Data61 will need to locate and report back on items and environmental conditions throughout three underground courses built inside the Louisville Mega Cavern in Louisville, Kentucky.

The challenges are designed to simulate real-world scenarios. They involve locating models representing lost or injured humans, backpacks, or phones, and variable conditions such as pockets of gas. Points are awarded for correctly identifying and finding items, mapping the terrain, and maintaining autonomy and communications throughout.

Dr Farid Kendoul is CTO and co-founder of Emesent, a CSIRO spinout and DARPA Challenge partner that worked closely with CSIRO to develop two autonomous drones that will explore, map and report back on the course.

"Having a fleet of driving, walking and flying robots that are achieving complex missions autonomously and collaboratively is a major technological milestone and an important step towards using autonomous systems for saving lives and helping people," Dr Kendoul said.

Professor Ronald Arkin is Director of the Mobile Robot Laboratory at the Georgia Institute of Technology, which helped design the team's multi-robot task allocation system, enabling robots in the field to collaboratively decide who is best placed to perform a particular task.

"This partnership unites the strengths of field robotics and perception already present in Aus with our experience in AI planning, multi-robot teams, and previous work with DARPA to form a solid and highly competitive effort to win the Challenge," Professor Arkin said.

The team's tracked robots were purchased from the Australian robotics company BIA5. All robots were equipped with hardware designed and developed by CSIRO's Data61, including integrated perception technology for highly accurate mapping, localisation, object detection, multi-bot navigation, Bluetooth and Wi-Fi detection and more.

Read More »

Meeting Location & Disclaimer

Bob Backstrom
~ Newsletter Editor ~

Information for Members and Visitors:

Link to — Sydney PC & Technology User Group
All Meetings, unless explicitly stated above, are held on the
1st Floor, Sydney Mechanics' School of Arts, 280 Pitt Street, Sydney.
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