Earlier this year I took on a second job part-time, working as Systems and Software Architect at Everty.

Here's an interview with the founder and CEO Carola Jonas explaining why she started the company, and where it is headed.

I'm enjoying being part of that journey!

You might also spot a cameo from a certain new car of mine :)

I'd like to have a reasoned discussion about this please. Feel free to contribute any viewpoint.

Our kids aren't even back at school *this* week, because we wanted to have 14 days clear from the last round of easing restrictions to see what the statistics showed first. We were considering sending them back one day a week starting next week.

But that choice has now been taken away from us with the "good news" below from Gladys that schools go back full-time from next week.

There are plenty of comments about this on the article, mostly saying this is too soon, and mostly from protective mothers who are interestingly the ones most stretched with their children currently at home.

But what do you think? Are Liz and I being paranoid here? Should we just go with the flow?

It feels like our children are being used as guinea pigs, but I realise that is an emotional response.

Would love to hear from teacher friends, parents, and non-parents alike. Those directly affected, as well as anyone who isn't that may be banking on the economic flow-ons that are alleged will follow.

Please be nice. It's all we are trying to do as well.

Probably because I do IT stuff for a living, which includes IT Security, I've been asked by a few people will I be downloading the Australian Government's "CovidSafe" app?

This is an evolving topic, but I'd like to give a level-headed answer as of today. It might be different tomorrow.

First off, I'm not the sort of person that wants everything to return to "normal" urgently. Our planet is getting a well-deserved break from the worst ravages of humanity, and it would be great to take advantage of this time to make things better afterwards. So the argument that "just download the app already so I can go get my hair cut and play the pokies again" isn't really that compelling. I do watch on sadly at the personal impact on people's jobs, the arts scene, the cafe culture and our assumed freedom to roam. But I don't think downloading and installing an app that potentially takes away our liberties is worth it, until someone proves otherwise.

Contact tracing has been by all accounts EXCELLENT before this app. I'm still hunting for someone involved in this work actually asking for an app to fill some sort of gap in their capability, and describing what that gap might be. An actual epidemiologist says "This only complements, rather than replaces, the existing contact tracing process. All cases will still need to be interviewed. If only half the population have the app installed, then you would then expect roughly a quarter (0.5 x 0.5) of contacts to be detected by the app."

 

(Tech friends, this won't be a hyper-tech post. Go check out my Twitter if you want more details and sources).

So, there's three parts to this CovidSafe app:

  1. A terrible name. Just to make the point, the app is poorly named. Installing it won't make you safe from COVID-19. Poor marketing. but will make some people feel warm and fuzzy I imagine, which appears to be one of the key reasons for it being released
  2. A phone app that you download to your Android or Apple smartphone, assuming you have one and it is recent enough for the app to install. This software may (or may not) have the source code released soon so that we can be completely sure of what it does, but preliminary analysis shows that it seems fairly benign in day to day operation, at least until you elect to upload what it has captured to the backend server (see 3 below). The issue is that unless you do upload what this app captures to the backend server, the data on your phone is worthless. It doesn't help you, or contact tracers in any way.
  3. A backend server. This is the part that the government has been assuring us only the NSW Health officials have access to do, as it holds the output of everybody's apps.
    One issue is that it is hosted on Amazon Web Services, a generally excellent platform in wide use. But ultimately this backend software is running on physical servers that are not under your control. They aren't under NSW state government control. They aren't under Australian federal government control. There will be some staff working for Amazon (based in the US) who have sufficient administration rights to get to that data, and they are bound by United States laws, not Australian government promises.
    We have also heard no announcement of the source code for the backend being released, but it needs to be if we are to understand the end to end security of the system.

So, at this point I'll install the app when:

  • Someone who works in contact tracing can clearly articulate why it is needed. Note that being blackmailed into "thinking of the hard-working health workers" doesn't count, because as above this app "only complements, rather than replaces the existing contact tracing process".
  • Parties involved release source code for all components for review by independent researchers
  • The backend is moved to physical (and virtual) servers provided by a company bound by Australian laws and paying tax in Australia

As for the "but Facebook and Google already know everything about you anyway, so why not" argument:

  • These two companies are already working together to produce an app that does the same thing, but world wide. Given most of Australia's infection hasn't been through local community transmission but imported, wouldn't utilising that if you are comfortable with those companies tracking you be better anyway, rather than Australia building our own? They also do location-based app development stuff all the time, so are likely considerably more competent at it.
  • I try pretty hard to block that. You can disable much of this, and reduce or cease your use of those platforms

But like I opened with, who knows what tomorrow will bring.

Other great sources:

To preface this, we never expected to be doing this in the middle of a pandemic when so many people around us are out of work, unwell, or generally struggling. I'll post about that separately because we are also affected.

However the opportunity to get a second electric car that could travel further than our trusty Nissan LEAF presented itself, which we expected might actually happen around May or June. Imagine my surprise when the call came from Tesla delivery earlier this week saying they had matched my order to a car, and would I like to collect it this weekend?! With so much uncertainty it wasn't a straightforward decision to say yes, but after much soul-searching we decided to do so.

I remember saying to Liz when news of the first Roadster came out back in 2008 that I had just found my mid-life crisis car. Well here I am 12 years later, somewhat closer to mid-life and while it isn't a Roadster it's a far more practical Model 3. Pretty much the safest car on the planet, the absolute most efficient, one of the fastest (even this base model is faster than the WRX I once lusted after), and basically a computer on wheels that we can fill up for free from our home solar system then drive for around 380kms. For longer trips we can top up at the Superchargers appearing around the place while we have a break from the driving.

Unlike every other car manufacturer, there are no dealers (I ordered it online), it was handed over without anyone from Tesla present to maintain social distancing (they linked my phone to it and rang me to talk through opening it and setting it up), and new software is released constantly so the car gets better all the time - like adding auto-steering functionality, extra power and torque from the motor, improved safety features and even the ability to "summon" the car to me in the carpark if I get parked in. The cameras all around it have a "sentry" mode that records any carpark incidents when unattended for later handover to police - like this one.

Of course I woke up this morning and local wildlife had walked on it for an explore, so the real-world is still around us, but there's no denying the vision of Elon Musk and his desire to move the world to sustainable transportation. (and yes, his at times insanity).

(As is now customary, I must share my Tesla referral link. If you are considering buying one, do so via this link and we both get some free Supercharging!).

The kids went hunting for the engine, but there isn't one! Extra storage under the bonnet instead.

Other Teslas were waiting in the service center at Alexandria.

Back at home we are now a two-EV family.

The main street of our nearest town Picton is going underwater again currently, the second "1 in 200 year" flood since 2016.
 
Many shops took a year or two to re-open, and I like many others spent a day down helping strip soaked shops into skips, their devastated owners unable to fully comprehend the scale of their losses.
 
With our government doing very close to nothing to help slow down the changing climate (our state MP Nathaniel Smith MP has posted encouraging everyone to "pray for the rain to slow down", a month or so after various fellow conservative politicians were asking us to "pray for rain" to put out the bushfires), the most sensible suggestion I have seen thus far is to consider moving these shops to other nearby centers on higher grounds, like Thirlmere. Abandon at least parts of this historic town and become climate refugees on the outskirts of Sydney, as a pragmatic response to government inaction.
 
But tonight I'm worried about our friends and local shopkeepers in Picton who are anxiously watching the water rise.
 
(We have a few drips in our house, and the animals are pretty miserable but still undercover in the stables, so nothing compared to what's happening down the hill)

At a medical imaging place, and they asked me to review and then sign their updated "privacy agreement". This entitles them to share our records with, among other entities, any random offshore subcontractors they choose to engage with.

Politely declining, they wrote Declined on the agreement, and proceeded to inform me that even our referring doctor could then not access the images online.

Thinking this would mean we wouldn't have any images to show the doctor at the upcoming appointment, imagine my surprise when we were instead handed the hard copy images less than 3 minutes after they were taken.

Pro-tip: actually read privacy agreements, decline anything you aren't comfortable with, and you may end up getting even BETTER service than the default few hours we were told we'd have to wait for hard copies if accepting the agreement.