The COVID app and low fi tech.

At present, NZ is still functionally in lockdown, and we don’t have apps out there mandated by the state. There is speculation that we will be required to have such before we go to a lower level of lockdown, but (typically for Wellington) they are building their own platform and this takes time. The administration in Australia is more pragmatic and took a product used elsewhere and after some rebranding set it live.

The other day Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison came out with yet another rather vague and open-ended chat about possibly easing some of the harsh corona restrictions in place. Again, it was all about ‘maybe this, at some point that, we might consider this, we might do that…’ Um, such tenuous and open-ended ‘promises’ are not very reassuring.

And even worse was when he said that an “early mark” to ease Covid-19 restrictions in the days ahead will depend on the uptake of the tracing app: “Of those that remain outstanding, there was one that Australians can do something about, and that is downloading the COVIDSafe app. This is a critical issue for National Cabinet when it comes to making decisions next Friday about how restrictions can be eased.”

Hmm, once again, it was so very kind and gracious of the government to tell us they MIGHT at some point give us a few freedoms back. Specifically, ScoMo is telling us we can have some freedoms back if we download the app. As such, it is perfectly clear that we are NOT talking about freedom of choice here. We are NOT talking about a voluntary take up. Instead, we are talking blackmail: do what we say, or else!

The issue is what to do with it. Many of us have smartphones — I have two, one tied into my employer’s network and one that is not, for good reasons. I’m pretty sure the employer will ensure that any app is on their phone.

But I can leave it at home.

Look, it’s very simple: don’t take your smartphone out with you.I don’t most of the time. Even better, don’t have a smartphone. Because they’re the opposite of smart. My old Blackberry works just fine. Pulls the chicks too.

You don’t need that powerful a phone. You don’t need that powerful a computer for most things. There are two things I need computing power for — photo processing and statistics — and the second of those I could do on a Pi 4. Heck, my work computer, now at home, was made in 2013. Smarter businesses are starting to wise up.

A minor but interesting consequence seems to be an increased interest in PC alternatives — whether because of lack of supply or simply because businesses and consumers have had to respond to changing circumstances with limited budgets.

For example, the Raspberry Pi Foundation has noted that sales have rocketed during the coronavirus crisis, which it puts down to people buying the tiny computers to end battles over the single home PC during lockdown. The lastest Raspberry Pi might be diminutive, but it’s powerful enough to take on the role of budget computer if need be. Chromebooks, which are slightly easier to work with if you don’t have the technical skills to play with a Pi, have also been selling well.

And it’s not only harassed parents looking for extra PCs that have been getting creative. Here at ZDNet we’ve also written about how councils have been digging old laptops out of storage, putting Linux on them or otherwise lightening the operating system load, and sending them out to allow staff to work from home.

An old or lower-spec device is good enough for many employees, especially if your teams only need to access cloud-based tools and/or virtual desktop services. It’s been pointed out that without the option of using a wide range of cloud computing services businesses would be in even more trouble. The same could be say about ageing hardware that has been pressed back into service.

None of this means the PC is obsolete — it’s still the business workhorse, and it’s what I’m typing on right now, just that it’s not the only option. And it’s far too early to tell how this will play out in future. What’s very likely is that many of those staff who are now working from home will be there for some time to come; and even after the crisis has passed, remote working will be a bigger part of our lives than ever before.

Many organisations — budgets permitting, in what are likely to be tough times ahead — will be looking to re-equip those home workers with better hardware. But some may look at the slimmed-down devices they are using and decide that the days of the one-size-fits-all computing device have now passed.

ZD Net

Well, yeah. An old Android or IOS phone can’t run these apps. This is a good thing. It would be a lot cheaper to connect a raspberry pi4 (4 GB model is 200 odd with a case and power supply) to a network switch and then to a NAS than build another desktop when my home machine — which is about the same vintage as the work laptop — dies. I can leave the desktops to the PC master race.

Lo fi was a music movement that used old, somewhat obsolete tech such as four track tape recording and kept things simple. It is the equivalent of using a fifty buck soviet camera and hundred dollar lens (I’ve gone digital, but if you want to do that, go to Lomography and get a refurbished Kiev 60).

If you need to carry a phone, use something that the government can’t connect their software to. Subvert the tyrants. It is good for you. A classic Nokia 3110 does all you need.

One thought on “The COVID app and low fi tech.

  1. In the end, I have installed Jetpack. Got some emails that people cannot comment: have cut the number of antispam tools down and lets see if this works.

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