Checking your U.K. NHS COVID-19 App is working on iOS / iPhone (or Android)

Like a good responsible citizen I downloaded the app when it first became available in the Autumn. I set it to have contact tracing on and in the app the green glowing logo looked just fine! It told me “Your app is active and scanning” – Jolly good!


It was only when a contact mentioned they had a “match” that I began to realise the app had never been working properly. When I asked them what they meant by “match”, it turned out they didn’t mean a notification from the app itself telling them they had had a contact requiring isolation. Their app itself hadn’t told them anything.

Continue reading “Checking your U.K. NHS COVID-19 App is working on iOS / iPhone (or Android)”

Load Balancing for Education – Getting Started

During the COVID-19 situation I have been doing some consultancy for schools and colleges looking for a bit of help to support the sudden change to remote schooling and teaching. The range of IT infrastructure varies widely and it’s certainly pushed me out of my comfort zone exploring vendors and solutions I’ve not explored before.

In a large further education or community college there is usually already a reasonable degree of server infrastructure in use (Exchange, Sharepoint) and often some cloud-based applications (typically Microsoft 365). The IT teams in such institutions are typically small and multi-skilled often driven by a single system administrator who does most roles from architecture, software patches, crawling under desks to change cables and providing support to reset student or teacher logins. Continue reading “Load Balancing for Education – Getting Started”

Selecting Unified Communications (Video Calling) Solutions for Privacy – a battle with Dutch

Many nice things (mostly cheese) come from the Netherlands – PDF data privacy documents are not one of them!

The COVID-19 situation has seen a lot of new users to UC products. Whilst “civilian” users often rate products on consumer features e.g. how many video users you can see, is it free, how easy is it to use. Those in enterprise as ever continue to need to evaluate the overall quality of the vendors development process (bug history/track record, testing regime, stability) but also the fundamental security and data compliance architectures.

For those with high value IP/government data, there are usually audit requirements which scrutiny of the geographical routing of data, what data is stored and who can access it. With a rush to online learning many higher education schools/universities rushed to certain low cost offerings and are now experience complications – whilst it’s probably fine for a lecturer in medieval poetry or business marketing to teach students and have a staff meeting on some systems, for Tier1 universities involved in government and industrial research many simply will not meet the auditing and regulatory requirements of such collaborations. Continue reading “Selecting Unified Communications (Video Calling) Solutions for Privacy – a battle with Dutch”

Low Cost End-Points for Remote Education / Lightweight Homeworking

annie-spratt-ZsWaYLImZFs-unsplashWith COVID-19 many parents and educators have faced challenges with providing laptops or devices for students to use to access online resources and lessons. Even wealthier parents, well-resourced have faced challenges with scenarios such as 3 children all needing a device and both parents perhaps working remotely; with so much demand lead times on laptops have been long so even the best resourced parents have struggled to buy extra laptops or similar, with lower cost clam shell devices targeted at education such as Chromebooks often in short supply. At the other end of the wealth divide educators have been struggling to provide resources to the most disadvantaged families, budgets to provide laptops or WiFi to students on pupil premium and free school meal schemes generally were never designed to cope with such demand. There is a government scheme in the UK that will guarantee laptop and WiFi provision for the most disadvantaged although the lead times mean some orders may not reach students until June and although quite generous the scheme doesn’t cover many.

Continue reading “Low Cost End-Points for Remote Education / Lightweight Homeworking”

Are GCSE Syllabus Changes Needed Before The Next Pandemic?

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While classrooms are empty should the curriculum be rewritten to equip children better for pandemics in the future?

GCSEs are the standard qualification usually taken at 16 by UK students, historically the age at which you could leave school. Often there are two levels of exam available – Higher and Foundation Level, with higher achieving students on the Higher track I volunteer in a school with GCSE maths students on the Foundation level.

A lot of the information from the press and government press briefings and datasets is conflicting or very detailed/scientific and in the future we may want to consider if changes to core educational syllabuses should be made to raise the level of public health information, give kids the skills to evaluate the information and also practical skills that could have solved problems of education going remote or online. Also pandemics are interesting and now relevant, so perhaps we might want to dial down the ubiquitous Tudors, Romeo and Juliet or Alkali Flame Tests.

Continue reading “Are GCSE Syllabus Changes Needed Before The Next Pandemic?”

Things to know to get started – Recording and Editing Videos or Screen Graphics

For demos, promotional videos, user support calls and assessing graphical performance....

Updated 26/05/2020 to add info on Green Screens, lighting, headsets and a few more products plus some specific hints for teachers looking to record lessons

Rob Beekmans recording a video using his DIY Lightboard – details below

How to Record Graphics?

There are lots of scenarios where it is useful to record graphics:

  • To make a support call – a quick video can save a tonne of words and confusion
  • To assess performance and quality
  • To make instructional videos to demonstrate configurations and set-up steps
  • To make promotional videos just showing off the pretty responsive graphics

With the advice from colleagues in the VFX, Cloud/VDI and CAD/AEC/CAE industries we’ve put together a few suggestions including many for the budget conscious of solutions you might want to explore. The products are listed in absolutely no meaningful order with no implied rating. It’s a product space with a lot of competition and many of the products recommended were new to especially me. However, in a space with 1000s of products some personal recommendation helped me limit my search. Continue reading “Things to know to get started – Recording and Editing Videos or Screen Graphics”

More USA IoT security regulation on its way

There’s a nice article on CNET with updates on proposed US legislation which would require basic security standards for any IoT devices that the federal government uses. Note, this does not propose to cover consumers or the general market simply mandate standards that suppliers and manufacturers would have to meet if they want to sell to the USA government. Apparently it is likely to borrow heavily from California’s SB 327 legislation.

The Californian legislation has nice specific elements such as mandating that device makers have to include specific security features such as removing default passwords and requiring users to generate their own passwords before allowing device access. However, this is functionality so basic for security that you appreciate how vulnerable the domestic market currently is to attacks at the moment.

Has stealing data from an employer become socially acceptable?

bostonHas Silicon Valley hacked our souls?

This week I was a little depressed to read a corporate marketing blog from Citrix in which an employee highlighted the need for a security product via a personal anecdote of how he’d left a previous employer for a competitor and had stolen a lot of customer data by downloading it on to an external hard-drive. Continue reading “Has stealing data from an employer become socially acceptable?”

Product Releases – Soft is OK but don’t be Squidgy

business hand pushing product quality on virtual screenWhat is a soft product launch?

Wikipedia has a definition of a soft product launch – here; which says: “A soft launch is the release of a website, hotel, or other Product (business) or service to a limited audience. Soft-launching is a method for gathering data on a product’s usage and acceptance in the marketplace, before making it generally available as a hard launch or grand opening. Companies may choose a soft launch to test the viability of a product or to fine-tune a product before implementing a larger marketing effort.” Continue reading “Product Releases – Soft is OK but don’t be Squidgy”

Freelancers: Couriering laptops safely and why separating client hardware from your clean underwear supply is a good thing…

From an article I published on LinkedIn:

Sending Laptops by courier. As a freelancer in the UK, I’m increasingly finding clients prefer to issue me with a laptop they have configured, dedicated to just their work, which means I’m always having to triple check if I have the right laptops with me and I’ve got to buy a new laptop bag as the current one has split as a result of optimistically cramming three in it when probably designed for one – oops!

BUT it also means I’m frequently sending/collecting laptops to/from base by motorcycle courier (some don’t trust postal couriers) or FedEx/DHL etc. This process puts some legal obligations on the sender, sometimes me and sometimes the company/organisation and there are a few things to be aware of.
Continue reading “Freelancers: Couriering laptops safely and why separating client hardware from your clean underwear supply is a good thing…”

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