Meet the Excel warriors saving the world from spreadsheet disaster – Wired UK
Research suggests more than 90 per cent of spreadsheets have errors, and half of spreadsheet models used in large businesses have “material defects”. Given some 750 million people use Excel globally, there are plenty of errors needing attention. One prominent researcher calls spreadsheets the dark matter of corporate IT. And that’s why people like Lyford-Smith have become defenders of the spreadsheet, mitigating the risks by fixing everyone else’s mistakes.
After a considerable false start, the long-awaited new NHS Covid-19 app is now available. Have you downloaded it yet? Even if take-up is as low as some are gloomily predicting, it could still be worthwhile.
Take-up of NHS contact-tracing app could be only 10% – The Guardian
Officials at the test and trace programme, however, believe there will be benefits even if few people adopt it. A recent study by the same data team at Oxford University, looking at the experience of Washington state in the US, found that if 15% used an app that notified them of exposure to an infected person, infections were reduced by 8% and deaths by 6%.
But even the best only got up to 40% take-up.
Everything you need to know about the NHS Covid-19 tracking app – Wired UK
The country with the highest download rate is Singapore, which was the first nation to introduce a contact tracing app. The TraceTogether system has been downloaded 2.4 million times as of September 9. This accounts for around 40 per cent of Singapore’s population. The country has also moved beyond the contact tracing apps by trialling a Bluetooth ’token,’ a wearable device, that people can use for contact tracing purposes.
So far, so good.
Google have published a list of all the .new links that we can use to get things done quicker. I knew about the doc.new and the sheet.new shortcuts, but there are hundreds here — from Adobe PDF converters and MS Office documents, to eBay, Medium and Github.
Why email loses out to popular apps in China – BBC Worklife
Zhong Ling, assistant professor of economics at the Cheung Kong Graduate School of Business, believes WeChat fits into the Chinese working culture. “WeChat, as a messaging platform, demands less formal working time than email,” she says. “This informality makes people more likely to respond instantaneously… the demand for [an] immediate response is motivated by the cultural and business environment in China.”
The future has always been uncertain, in an abstract you-never-know-what’s-round-the-corner kind of way. But these days, goodness me — the very near future has never been so completely uncertain, unknown, and unsettled. For instance, what will our workplaces be like, after all this?
The office is dead – Marker
“It’s not something I was even thinking about six weeks ago, but it’s definitely something I’ve been talking about now with my investors,” Haynie says. “Overall it’s a win-win.” This is just the tip of the iceberg. From startups and tech giants to more old-school Wall Street firms, businesses are rethinking the role of office space and whether they even need it. If, in the old world, an office was a form of corporate peacocking — a flashy location in some iconic building with a boutique-hotel level of design for clients, employees, customers, and investors— in the new world, it is becoming a very costly line item that could be reduced to the equivalent of a single flagship store.
Your boss is watching you: Work-from-home boom leads to more surveillance – NPR
Her employer has started using software called Time Doctor. It downloads videos of employees’ screens while they work. It also can enable a computer’s webcam to take a picture of the employee every 10 minutes. “If you’re idle for a few minutes, if you go to the bathroom or whatever, a pop-up will come up and it’ll say, ‘You have 60 seconds to start working again or we’re going to pause your time,’ ” the woman said.
Zoom fatigue is something the deaf community knows very well – Quartz
Posts about “Zoom fatigue” mention struggling with non-verbal cues. This frustration is relatable to how hard of hearing individuals have to accurately lipread, view sign language clearly, or get an unobstructed view of faces and body language. Others point out the stress in understanding what is said with choppy audio, time delays, or pixelated video. The deaf community encounters this difficulty in nearly every setting, like they’re piecing together a jigsaw puzzle.
WFH = working from home. An abbreviation I hadn’t heard of until recently. It seems we’re all at it. Well, not all of us.
The great Zoom divide: How working from home is a privilege – New Statesman
Supporting the WFH and self-isolating economy is an army of factory and warehouse workers who are now busier than ever. There is much awareness and respect, rightfully, for medical staff who are at the frontlines of fighting Covid-19 – but what about those on the industrial frontlines? Who is protecting them? How can we keep essential supplies and functions running without exposing these workers to health risks? Is that even possible?
Avoiding Coronavirus may be a luxury some workers can’t afford – New York Times
For many workers, being sick means choosing between staying home and getting paid. One-quarter of workers have no access to paid sick days, according to Labor Department data: two-thirds of the lowest earners but just 6 percent of the highest earners. Just a handful of states and local governments have passed sick leave laws. Only 60 percent of workers in service occupations can take paid time off when they are ill — and they are also more likely than white-collar workers to come in contact with other people’s bodies or food.
Stykka designs a temporary workstation so you’ll stay the f*** home – Design Milk
When Denmark ordered people to stay home, Stykka got creative knowing many people had to share workspaces at home with their families or had to use the dining table. They challenged themselves to use only cardboard, zip ties, and a laser cutter, and in less than 24 hours, they not only had a prototype but they were ready to ship the desks out. Once received, the desk takes less than 10 minutes to assemble.
Don’t mute, get a better headset – Matt Mullenweg
When you’re speaking to a muted room, it’s eerie and unnatural — you feel alone even if you can see other people’s faces. You lose all of those spontaneous reactions that keep a conversation flowing. If you ask someone a question, or they want to jump in, they have to wait to unmute. I also don’t love the “unmute to raise your hand” behavior, as it lends itself to meetings where people are just waiting their turn to speak instead of truly listening.
As population works from home, Walmart reports increased sales for tops but not pants – CBS News
Men’s fashion brand Suitsupply is getting in on both sides of the trend. The company recently posted a photo on Instagram of a model wearing a button-down, tie and blazer on top — and nothing but underwear on the bottom. “Working from home doesn’t mean compromising on style. Keep your look professional—from the waist up at least,” the brand wrote. Scrolling through the Instagram post leads to a picture that says, “Off-camera?” before featuring the same model, this time wearing a sweatshirt.
Zoom announces 90-day feature freeze to fix privacy and security issues – The Verge
Zoom has never shared user numbers before, but Yuan reveals that back in December the company had a maximum of 10 million daily users. “In March this year, we reached more than 200 million daily meeting participants, both free and paid,” says Yuan. That’s a huge increase that has seen people use Zoom for reasons nobody expected before the coronavirus pandemic.
Security and privacy implications of Zoom – Schneier on Security
In general, Zoom’s problems fall into three broad buckets: (1) bad privacy practices, (2) bad security practices, and (3) bad user configurations. […] Zoom is a security and privacy disaster, but until now had managed to avoid public accountability because it was relatively obscure. Now that it’s in the spotlight, it’s all coming out.
Automated tool can find 100 Zoom meeting IDs per hour – The Verge
In addition to being able to find around 100 meetings per hour, one instance of zWarDial can successfully determine a legitimate meeting ID 14 percent of the time, Lo told Krebs on Security. And as part of the nearly 2,400 upcoming or recurring Zoom meetings zWarDial found in a single day of scanning, the program extracted a meeting’s Zoom link, date and time, meeting organizer, and meeting topic, according to data Lo shared with Krebs on Security.
I first read this on my phone and now here I am, blogging about it on my tablet.
Why laptops could be facing the end of the line – The Conversation
Research shows that PC and laptop ownership, usage and importance have declined over the past three years, replaced largely by smartphones. A survey of internet users found just 15% thought their laptop was their most important device for accessing the internet, down from 30% in 2015, while 66% thought their smartphone was most important, up from 32%.
This has led some commentators to predict the slow death of the laptop because of young people’s preference for and greater familiarity with the devices in their pocket. But a survey by UK regulator Ofcom in 2017 also found there has also been a record rise in older people using smartphones and tablets.
How your laptop ruined your life – The Atlantic
As laptops have kept improving, and Wi-Fi has continued to reach ever further into the crevices of American life, however, the reality of laptops’ potential stopped looking quite so rosy. Instead of liberating white-collar and “knowledge” workers from their office, laptops turned many people’s whole life into an office. Smartphones might require you to read an after-hours email or check in on the office-communication platform Slack before you started your commute, but portable computers gave workers 24-hour access to the sophisticated, expensive applications—Salesforce CRM, Oracle ERP, Adobe Photoshop—that made their full range of duties possible.
Mobiles, mobiles, mobiles. They’re practically compulsory these days.
Desktop vs Mobile vs Tablet market share worldwide – StatCounter Global Stats
Mobile – 52.02%, Desktop – 45.29%, Tablet – 2.7%
But not all mobiles, though. Did you ever have a Blackberry, the one that perhaps started it all?
RIP Blackberry phones — you really f***ed us over, but that keyboard was great – The Outline
Blackberry phones died a slow death throughout the 2010s, as people migrated to newer phones with a wider selection of functions, apps, and so on. But the Blackberry’s rise was marked by the cultural shift that is, I think, the greatest anxiety of the smartphone era: the rapid upswing in how much time we spend on our damn phones.
When Barack Obama became president in 2008, he famously fought for (and won) the right to keep using his Blackberry (the phone would become the official device given out by large swathes of the federal government, including Congress). And years before reverting to a “dumb phone” became a thing for trendsetters like Anna Wintour, magazine writers tried the same stunt to lessen their Blackberry usage. One Daily Mail headline from 2006 warned of a “Blackberry addiction ‘similar to drugs,’” describing the kind of behavior we now readily associate with social media and phones more generally (“One key sign of a user being addicted is if they focus on their Blackberry ignoring those around them.”).
Another GlobalStats chart that caught my eye was this one, illustrating Chrome’s dominance over the other browsers.
Browser market share worldwide – StatCounter Global Stats
Chrome – 64.1%, Safari – 17.21%, Firefox – 4.7%, Samsung Internet – 3.33%, UC Browser – 2.61%, Opera – 2.26%
Here’s The Register’s take on that.
Why Firefox? Because not everybody is a web designer, silly – The Register
The problem with thinking that the web would be better with only one browser is that it raises the question – better for who? Better for web designers? Maybe, but that’s a statistically insignificant portion of the people on the web. Better for users? How?
But for those of us that are/were, here’s a look back at a simpler time.
Old CSS, new CSS – Fuzzy Notepad
Damn, I miss those days. There were no big walled gardens, no Twitter or Facebook. If you had anything to say to anyone, you had to put together your own website. It was amazing. No one knew what they were doing; I’d wager that the vast majority of web designers at the time were clueless hobbyist tweens (like me) all copying from other clueless hobbyist tweens. … Everyone who was cool and in the know used Internet Explorer 3, the most advanced browser, but some losers still used Netscape Navigator so you had to put a “Best in IE” animated GIF on your splash page too. […]
Sadly, that’s all gone now — paved over by homogenous timelines where anything that wasn’t made this week is old news and long forgotten. The web was supposed to make information eternal, but instead, so much of it became ephemeral. I miss when virtually everyone I knew had their own website. Having a Twitter and an Instagram as your entire online presence is a poor substitute.
Cyber attacks, like the one that left government workers in Alaska resorting to typewriters, seem increasingly common. But just how easy is it to set up such a scheme and hold organisations to ransom like that? In what reads like a cross between a heist movie and an episode of the IT Crowd, Drake Bennett from Bloomberg gives it a go.
I used dark web ransomware to sabotage my boss – Bloomberg
These days, prospective attackers don’t have to create their own ransomware; they can buy it. If they don’t really know how to use it, they can subscribe to services, complete with customer support, that will help coordinate attacks for them. … In the public imagination, hackers are Mephistophelian savants. But they don’t have to be, not with ransomware. “You could be Joe Schmo, just buying this stuff up,” says Christopher Elisan, director of intelligence at the cybersecurity firm Flashpoint, “and you could start a ransomware business out of it.”
You could even be a liberal-arts-educated writer with a primitive, cargo-cult understanding of how an iPhone or the internet work, who regularly finds himself at the elbow of his office’s tech-support whiz, asking, again, how to find the shared drive. In other words, you could be me. But could you really? I didn’t start out on this article planning to try my hand at ransomware. A few weeks in, though, it occurred to me that if someone like me could pull off a digital heist, it would function as a sort of hacking Turing test, proof that cybercrime had advanced to the point where software-aided ignorance would be indistinguishable from true skill. As a journalist, I’ve spent years writing about people who do things that I, if called upon, couldn’t do myself. Here was my chance to be the man in the arena.
Just be careful, OK?
- Danger of clicking email links & attachments – Sentinel Computers
- Don’t click on strange links: 6 tips to avoid phishing attacks – Forbes
- How to spot a link you shouldn’t click on – Gizmodo
- Why you can’t get infected just by opening an email (anymore) – How-To Geek
- Why just opening a spam email could open the door for fraudsters – Love Money
I wasn’t expecting much from this article, to be honest, with its click-baity headline—just filler about keyboard shortcuts and pinned tabs. But I was pleasantly surprised by how useful this create-your-own-search-engine tip was.
How to use Google Chrome like a pro – Wired UK
With a few tweaks you can also search your email or Google Drive directly from the search bar. To do this you have to create a new search engine in Chrome – it’s not as complex as it sounds. Right click in the Omnibox and select ‘edit search engines’. Scroll to ‘other search engines’ and click on add. Here you enter the name of the website you want to search, a keyword that you’ll type into Chrome’s Omnibox, and a URL. The URL should be the search result page of the service you’re setting the system up for.
I’ve just set up search engines for my gmail, calendar, onedrive and blog. Being able to quickly jump into those things directly from the search bar is quite addictive.
Here’s something else that intrigued me, though I’m not sure how much I’ll use it.
You can even use a blank tab as a one-off note taker – enter “data:text/html, <html contenteditable>” and you’ll get a quick notepad. The files won’t save, but it’s useful if you want to jot something down quickly.
That 10,000 year clock is being built in remote, mountainous west Texas, a location thought to be safe from whatever the future might have in store for us. Here’s news of another.
Microsoft apocalypse-proofs open source code in an Arctic cave – Bloomberg
This is the Arctic World Archive, the seed vault’s much less sexy cousin. Friedman unlocks the container door with a simple door key and, inside, deposits much of the world’s open source software code. Servers and flash drives aren’t durable enough for this purpose, so the data is encoded on what look like old-school movie reels, each weighing a few pounds and stored in a white plastic container about the size of a pizza box. It’s basically microfilm. With the help of a magnifying glass, you—or, say, a band of End Times survivors—can see the data, be it pictures, text, or lines of code.
What starts out as a quirky vanity project/photo op for the GitHub CEO becomes to be seen, at the very end of the article, and for him personally, as a timely precaution against a world “fundamentally weirder than it was 20 years ago”.
I thought coming across these articles recently (just two of many) was a little ironic, given current moves at work to migrate us away from the Microsoft ecosystem towards Google’s.
How can I remove Google from my life?
Google started by taking over the search engine market. It now dominates smartphone operating systems (Android), browsers (Chrome), web-based email (Gmail), online video (YouTube) and maps. It is also challenging in other areas with its own cloud platform, an online office suite, Chromebooks, Waze, Nest and so on. Google is far advanced in driverless cars (Waymo) and artificial intelligence (DeepMind). Resistance is futile. You will be assimilated.
Can I buy a phone that doesn’t use anything from Google or Apple?
Very easy. You can pick up a Nokia 105 (2017 edition) for about £15 or a dual-sim Nokia 106 (2018 edition) for about £16. These are only 2G phones but they have built-in FM radios, they can send texts, they are great for making phone calls and they are not based on Google or Apple technologies. A 3G or 4G phone would cost a bit more …
Of course, you may also want to do smartphone-type things such as email and web browsing. In that case, buy a GPD Pocket 2, GPD MicroPC, One Mix Yoga, One Mix 1S, One Mix 2S or similar just-about-pocketable computer running Microsoft Windows 10 on a 7in screen. (GeekBuying stocks several models and is taking reservations on the One Mix 1S.) Mini-laptops may look expensive but they are cheaper than high-end smartphones.
This answers your question but it is obviously not the solution you are looking for …
I remember someone once saying, ‘friends don’t let friends use SharePoint’, but I’ve got used to it now, I think, and like how it links with Flow and Forms and Outlook and all the rest of it. Somehow, that will all have to be on Google Sites and Google Drive now. And I’m really not looking forward to attempting to recreate all my Excel work in Sheets.
Well, OK, the new Sites builder (23:37 in the video above) looks good/idiot-proof, I guess. In theory. *sigh*
A team of US academics have published research, Dark Patterns at Scale: Findings from a Crawl of 11K Shopping Websites, which they believe shows the massive prevalence of sneaky user interface tricks designed to catch us out.
The seven deadly sins of the 2010s: No, not pride, sloth, etc. The seven UI ‘dark patterns’ that trick you into buying stuff
Dark patterns – user interfaces designed to deviously manipulate people into doing things – have become common enough on websites and in apps that almost two dozen providers have sprung up to supply behavior persuasion as a service.
And in some cases, these firms openly advertise deceptive marketing techniques, describing ways to generate fake product orders and social messages celebrating those fake orders.
These are their proposed categories of user-interface tricks.
Attempting to misrepresent user actions, or delay information that if made available to users, they would likely object to.
Imposing a deadline on a sale or deal, thereby accelerating user decision-making and purchases.
Using visuals, language, or emotion to steer users toward or away from making a particular choice.
Influencing users’ behavior by describing the experiences and behavior of other users.
Signalling that a product is likely to become unavailable, thereby increasing its desirability to users.
Making it easy for the user to get into one situation but hard to get out of it.
Forcing the user to do something tangential in order to complete their task.
‘Urgency’ and ‘scarcity’ sound like pretty standard advertising methods that we should be very used to by now, but some of those others are very dubious. Here are some screenshots from the research paper.
Fig. 3. Three types of the Sneaking category of dark patterns.
Fig. 5. Four types of the Misdirection category of dark patterns.
What can be done? Here’s one idea they discuss in the paper which I like the sound of.
Fig. 10. Mockup of a possible browser extension that can be developed using our data set. The extension flags instances of dark patterns with a red warning icon. By hovering over the icon, the user can learn more about the specific pattern.
It seems we’re not the only ones playing with that AI fake face website.
Experts: Spy used AI-generated face to connect with targets
“I’m convinced that it’s a fake face,” said Mario Klingemann, a German artist who has been experimenting for years with artificially generated portraits and says he has reviewed tens of thousands of such images. “It has all the hallmarks.”
Experts who reviewed the Jones profile’s LinkedIn activity say it’s typical of espionage efforts on the professional networking site, whose role as a global Rolodex has made it a powerful magnet for spies.
Yes, it’s obviously a fake. I mean, only a fool would fall for that, right?
“I’m probably the worst LinkedIn user in the history of LinkedIn,” said Winfree, the former deputy director of President Donald Trump’s domestic policy council, who confirmed connection with Jones on March 28.
Winfree, whose name came up last month in relation to one of the vacancies on the Federal Reserve Board of Governors, said he rarely logs on to LinkedIn and tends to just approve all the piled-up invites when he does.
“I literally accept every friend request that I get,” he said.
Lionel Fatton, who teaches East Asian affairs at Webster University in Geneva, said the fact that he didn’t know Jones did prompt a brief pause when he connected with her back in March.
“I remember hesitating,” he said. “And then I thought, ‘What’s the harm?’”
<sigh> It might not be the technology we need, but it’s the technology we deserve.
But fear not, help is at hand!
Adobe’s new AI tool automatically spots Photoshopped faces
The world is becoming increasingly anxious about the spread of fake videos and pictures, and Adobe — a name synonymous with edited imagery — says it shares those concerns. Today, it’s sharing new research in collaboration with scientists from UC Berkeley that uses machine learning to automatically detect when images of faces have been manipulated.
But as Benedict Evans points out in a recent newsletter,
Potentially useful but one suspect this is just an arms race, and of course the people anyone would want to trick with such images won’t be using the tool.
Technology, software, media — none of it stands still. Here’s something that’s been getting a lot of attention from the latest Apple updates.
The rise and fall of iTunes, Apple’s most hated app
The success of iTunes cannot be overstated; it outlived pretty much every other consumer-focused piece of software from its time (here’s to you, Winamp). Windows 10 users would search for iTunes so much in the Windows Store that Microsoft eventually convinced Apple to bring it to the store last year. Over the years, however, Apple’s original philosophy of providing a one-stop shop for all your media became iTunes’ greatest undoing by saddling the app with more and more baggage that’s eaten away at its usability. The world has moved on as ubiquitous connectivity, cloud storage, and streaming media became the norm. iTunes is still around as a legacy app for those who need it. But for everyone else, iTunes is now officially a thing of the past.
I’ve moved away from Apple things now, but back in the day iTunes was such a large part of it all for me, so it was nice to see a screenshot of the old version alongside its less familiar new look.
Winamp gets a mention there, which reminded me of this bookmark I’d kept from last year.
Winamp is coming back as an all-in-one music player
First released in 1997, Winamp was a popular freeware media player famous for its utilitarian music playback and its wealth of incredible community-made skins. It was acquired by AOL in 2002, then sold to Radionomy in 2014. The last time Winamp was updated was in 2013, so news that a revival is coming should be welcomed by longtime fans of the app.
Those were the days. We shouldn’t live in the past, though, should we? But before we say goodbye to all that, let me point you to this again.
OK, just one more trip down memory lane.
Winamp Skin Museum
The Winamp Skin Museum is an attempt to build a fast, searchable, and shareable, interface for the collection of Winamp Skins amassed on the Internet Archive.
A comprehensive list of what could be described as Google’s project failures.
Killed by Google – the Google graveyard & cemetery
Killed by Google is a Free and Open Source list of dead Google products, services, and devices. It serves to be a tribute and memorial of beloved products and services killed by Google.
We shouldn’t be afraid of failing, as that’s how we grow. I wouldn’t describe Google Reader as a failure, though. Still sorely missed.
How many of us spend all our working days with Microsoft Office products? It’s sobering to think that I’ve been staring at monitors full of Outlook emails, Word documents and Excel spreadsheets for more than 20 years now. Might that all be changing soon? We’ll see.
The new word processor wars: A fresh crop of productivity apps are trying to reinvent our workday
Nearly 30 years after Microsoft Office came on the scene, it’s in the DNA of just about every productivity app. Even if you use Google’s G Suite or Apple’s iWork, you’re still following the Microsoft model.
But that way of thinking about work has gotten a little dusty, and new apps offering a different approach to getting things done are popping up by the day. There’s a new war on over the way we work, and the old “office suite” is being reinvented around rapid-fire discussion threads, quick sharing and light, simple interfaces where all the work happens inside a single window.
Their informal, cartoony visuals and emphasis on
chatty messaging collaboration makes everything feel a little juvenile and jokey.
I wonder if my demographic is supposed to be represented on that Coda homepage by the grey-haired, casual-suit-no-tie coffee-drinker in the bottom right-hand corner. I’ve certainly never taken an ice-cream, a skateboard or a basketball to work, so I guess it must be, fist-bump-at-the-stacked-area-chart notwithstanding.
Where work gets done
By adding a couple of layers to the inner/outer loop analogy, I think we get a fuller picture of all the interactions that an individual may have within and outside of an organization. This model doesn’t capture all the apps in the Office 365 toolkit, but it should provide a fair representation. It also doesn’t perfectly provide a clear-cut answer to the question of what to use when. That’s okay in my book (or blog, as the case may be).
Here’s an interesting take on productivity and efficiency from Nikhil Sonnad at Quartz.
Forget easy-to-use design. Choose something hard instead
The new cult of simple software is making us less productive. Simple tools get in the way of our thinking by making assumptions about what we want to do, and by putting the ease of getting going ahead of optimizing productivity. By contrast, using a tool like Vim makes me more expressive. It reduces the friction between what’s in my head and what I can make happen on the computer. …
It is time to embrace the difficult tool. No more accepting Excel when learning R or Python would let us do better work; no more out-of-the-box flashcards instead of customized software like Anki. Let’s stop expecting software to do everything for us, and put our minds to work.
Yes, sometimes less is more. But sometimes more is more, too. I’ll pass over Vim, I think, but I’m very tempted to head back over to Udemy and give those Python courses another go.
Dutch Data Protection Authority accidentally leaked its employees’ data
“When it comes to data leaks, the same procedures apply to all parties, including us,” Gras added. Still, Gras insisted that the blunder in question was relatively mild and did not require any formal notification.
“A data breach must be reported if it leads to serious adverse consequences for the protection of personal data, or if there is a significant chance that this will happen,” she stated.
So it appears that the leak was too insignificant to necessitate reporting it to themselves.