Is that a reference to Death Star? A terror weapon built by an evil empire which blew itself apart due to a fundamental design flaw? It's certainly a bold choice of name.
1034 posts • joined 6 Jul 2017
It's a mea culpa, I was being too light on detail, the actual site is a subdomain, https://contact-tracing.phe.gov.uk/ (plain phe.gov.uk doesn't appear to exist, www.phe.gov.uk is a redirect to a www.gov.uk page, but they seem not to have got the certificates right for anyone specifically requesting https://www.phe.gov.uk)
I saw on TV in the last week, ministers and advisers have been asked twice how we'll know it's a genuine call. And twice they've said more or less the same thing, that it'll be obvious you're talking to a professional. Sorry, UK_GOV but that IS NOT HOW SECURITY WORKS!!
This is so poor. There's actually a process, they're meant to refer you to the contact tracing site (in fact, it's meant to be the preferred route for providing the details), which you can confirm from gov.uk guidance (domain is phe.gov.uk). If even the people at the podium don't know this then what hope do the rest of the country have?
Wow, I missed that. My eyes just skimmed and saw 128GB, because at this price, why wouldn't it be? Well, I suppose it's one way to get rid of 128MB sticks that no sane person would buy.
(A relative of a friend is into this nonsense. Not the specific 5G covid stuff, but the general "5G malaise", and I'm sure would argue it weakens the immune system too for the tie-in. The usual line is, "I want to see evidence it doesn't cause harm." A mathematics PhD, not sciences obviously, somewhat disappointing.)
They wont necessarily be on full pay, the advice is that employees should work from home if possible. If not employers have the option to put you on sick leave or offer to let you take your annual leave allowance, all you actually have to be paid if you can't work remotely is statutory sick pay.
There is apparently a process now, outlined somewhere on gov.uk and in a BBC explainer, you should be directed to log on to the test and trace website, https://www.gov.uk/guidance/nhs-test-and-trace-how-it-works includes the usual "we will never ask you for" list. Not that anybody will have actually seen this, so definitely open season for scammers.
Their data use policy is... interesting. https://contact-tracing.phe.gov.uk/help/privacy-notice details of those testing positive will be held for 20 years. Purposes of use, sketchy. Basis of processing is public interest and official authority, so no consent required.
Here are the purposes of use:
* enable patients with COVID-19 to provide the details of people they have been in close contact with and who may have been infected with coronarvirus
* manage the process of tracing these contacts to find out if they have any COVID-19 symptoms and if so, to provide advice on how to seek help
* help monitor the numbers of people infected with COVID-19 and the numbers of contacts who have been traced
I'm not an epidemiologist, but I think they probably need to get contacts traced in less than 20 years.
Even offering to test before a week is up would be an improvement, cut most people's isolation time in half (you do have to wait for enough virus to develop to be detectable). And they should give thought to providing antibody tests for those people too, we don't know yet whether you can catch it a second time, or for how long you might be immune, but that data must be starting to come in and would deal with the repeated isolation issue.
Some work on the different strategies for combining tracing with testing of contacts https://cmmid.github.io/topics/covid19/tracing-network-local.html
Reducing the severity of isolation would improve compliance. Right now in other countries that have this they are finding people don't give many contacts. Why? One reason is their employers have told them not to so their workforce don't all end up isolating. They've also created a perverse incentive where if I think I might get coronavirus I'm better trying to catch it before anyone else does, so I'm only isolating for half the time.
Well, yes, though I wouldn't jeer based on those two points. 40% is 40%, we're talking about probabilities of people's uptake, so there's no reason to believe it wouldn't scale if Iceland had more people of a similar type (though one reason for this high degree of health research engagement in Iceland is the small population). Most European countries have a high proportion of people living in a metropolitan area, the UK's may be higher than Iceland (I got >79% off the first hit on Google, https://www.theguardian.com/news/datablog/2009/aug/18/percentage-population-living-cities though it might not be like-for-like), although I don't really see why that would make a difference.
However, Iceland's population is younger and they're a pretty tech-ed up country. And estimates are we need about 60% uptake overall for the app to be useful so, not encouraging was the point I was making.
Sometimes this might be your only option though, particularly if capturing startup messages. I guess some hypervisors will have logging features for this stuff, but desktops don't, and sometimes a video is handy for catching very fast scrolling text. At one point I found the high speed camera in my phone useful to check whether a very hard to see fan was actually running or not.
Italo Calvino, Cosmicomics, Without Colours, http://www.ruanyifeng.com/calvino/2007/07/ch_5_without_colors.html
(A small number of the Cosmicomics stories are collected as "The Distance of the Moon", for the outrageous price of £1 https://www.hive.co.uk/Product/Italo-Calvino/The-Distance-of-the-Moon/21523008 or here's the whole lot https://www.hive.co.uk/Product/Italo-Calvino/The-Complete-Cosmicomics/11397953 )
Except the NHS app links in adware libraries:
"For example, the apps, which are supposed to be pro-privacy, use Google Analytics and the Firebase Analytics framework, configured in a way to allow personalized web advertisements."
Yes, there's a central DB in these 'decentralised' models, the difference is that DB is not holding information that can be linked back to users to make the connections, it is not a database of sensitive or personal data. Instead the tokens that have been generated by a device belonging to somebody who has been found to have the virus are submitted and made available. These cannot be tied back to the original user through the central database, however other devices are able to check whether they have received that ID from a device they encountered. It's quite a neat solution.
"This article has corrections..." worth looking up Tom Nichols's later thoughts on it and the correction they submitted to PNAS https://blogs.warwick.ac.uk/nichols/entry/bibliometrics_of_cluster/ https://blogs.warwick.ac.uk/nichols/entry/errata_for_cluster/ When you dig into the paper the truth is: 1. it's not really about a software error, they found one, but the real problem is about default choices for analyses and common practice. 2. actually the defaults for the package that originated the method being looked at are okay (could be better), the worst cases are with home-brew type choices and people tweaking to get a 'better' result.
Whenever I've come across PNAS articles I've noticed a tendency to push the more headline-grabbing aspects of the work, sometimes at the cost of accuracy (not just in this particular area). This is not a criticism of any of the authors on that paper though, Nichols does excellent stuff, the method they're describing is a good one and we need these reminders about statistical techniques every so often.
Ah, a thumb down. Is something I said incorrect?
If you doubt that this is an active area of research, here's the MICCAI 2019 programme. Take a flick through the poster sessions https://www.miccai2019.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/10/MICCAI-Programme-Book-for-web-1.pdf any session you like.
If you disagree about function approximation with neural nets, meet the universal approximation theorem. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Universal_approximation_theorem
Maybe someone simply dislikes one of the above and would rather shoot the messenger?
Or, if instead you think that I'm wrong to at times be sceptical of what these methods put out, then I agree that anyone who thinks humans are always a gold standard has been watering down their gold. Sometimes we're not even as good as pigeons, https://science.sciencemag.org/content/218/4574/804 However a lot of the time robustness is not really considered and validations frequently quite narrow in focus. What to do when things fail, or how learning methods interact with other analyses (especially when proposed for pre-processing) is often not clear. Of course, people generally have to follow the grant money, and that's where it is right now.
It's actually a very active area of research. One large application area is site harmonisation; different scanners and manufacturers produce images that look different. To make analysis easier (my area is research, but people also want to use this stuff for diagnostics) you'd want them to look the same. It's quite possible to train something like a generative adversarial model to produce synthetic images that effectively have the scanner variations regressed out while leaving the image detail. People also try to do this for imputation of missing data or remove artefacts from images (such as motion blur and ringing in MRI). Classical techniques like deconvolution can do the same thing in theory, and methods like deep neural nets effectively approximate arbitrary functions, so why not?
A lot of work goes into validation on unseen data sets, however I do usually remain a bit sceptical. I think people often forget you can't put information back into images that has been lost or washed out by noise. You're basically smearing uncertainty around at that point, and possibly into modes that don't look like uncertainty.
Interesting fact about typhoid Mary, her speciality dish was ice-cream and cold peaches. If it had been steaming hot apple pie maybe she wouldn't have killed anyone, https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/diseases/typhoid
Generally when cooking meat you assume it's contaminated with something, this is why you use separate knives and chopping boards and wash your hands. It's also why you can get away with eating beef rare, the outside that's come in contact with things is seared, but hamburgers need to be cooked thoroughly (the mincing process exposes much more surface), and steak tartare is infamous for this reason. (Parasites are still a worry, which is why you don't see rare pork.)
Before accusing others of lying, it's worth checking whether you might, in fact, be wrong. For example, hospital admissions in England for covid have been dropping. It's hard to miss if you live in the UK, as they include the graph it in every daily briefing on tv (5pm most days, except it seems the pm doesn't want to play second fiddle to PowerPoint), but here it is for the perennially lazy : https://www.cebm.net/covid-19/covid-19-uk-hospital-admissions/
This is not the same as new covid cases. As mentioned that is being partly buoyed by increased testing. Though having looked at the new case charts and testing charts side by side I'm not convinced it explains everything and suspect that the spread in care homes (where deaths have lagged the hospital deaths a bit) also plays a part.
My take away was they're being used for the back-end of the system, which is usually where the intelligence is in most apps. Given the show about open-sourcing the app itself I imagine there are some people currently hoping this doesn't get too much attention in case more people put two and two together. (But who are we kidding?)
Actually, it doesn't assume all of those things, it only aims to get enough of them to have an effect. E.g. one phone to one person, yes there are people with multiple phones, but how many people have a main personal phone that they don't normally have with them? The proportion of people that don't have phones is a larger problem, but again you don't need everyone. There's some disagreement over how effective app based tracing can be, for example https://www.medrxiv.org/content/10.1101/2020.04.23.20077024v1 (pre-print, but the authors are established epidemiologists who have previously run a large contact tracing app experiment), but as part of a battery of measures it's useful.
Because no one thing is a panacea. Masks? Proper filtering masks when used correctly will reduce your risk of getting the virus, these are in short supply worldwide, our health service still doesn't have enough. The good old headscarf or pants over the head will reduce the chance you infect someone else if you cough or sneeze, not greatly reduce your chance of catching it. They're not the miraculous protection some people in supermarkets seem to think, especially for a virus spread largely by contact, they're just one more tweak to the reproduction rate, maybe useful, provided the false sense of security and tendency to touch the face don't outweigh the benefits, but not a sole solution either.
Interesting clip on the radio news this morning, Israeli agencies more normally tasked with monitoring Palestinians are now being tasked with tracking Israelis for covid prevention. Some Israelis are objecting to being 'treated like terrorists' (their words, not mine). Might encourage some thoughtful reflection later, probably wont.
0) What is the data use policy and consent being collected? Because the best case of the software audit is finding it upholds that, but you still have to ask what is going to be done with it.
Right now many people seem to be of the view that they'd be willing to compromise their privacy temporarily to help stop the spread of coronavirus. That's probably a reasonable and responsible choice. It would be quite wrong to take advantage of that altruism by conning them into accepting permanent retention of their data, or quietly continuing to track those who forget to remove the app after the crisis is over, or collecting more data for other purposes than is needed for coronavirus.
The obvious down side to that is that most people pay absolutely no attention and many apps ask for everything they can get their hands on. And the example here is a pretty glaring one, an app that has bluetooth permission on your locked phone being able to exfilitrate data. A malicious app maker could quite easily have written their own contact tracing app at any point if that feature was available to any app, it's precisely why the manufacturers lock it down.
I'm always entertained that the more you spend on a keyboard, the more idiosyncratic it gets. Keys light up different colours? No thanks. With a programmable light sequence? I'll be fine without. Multi-coloured keycaps? Bit 80s retro. No key tray, so keys inexplicably stand above the board? It's a pass. No numpad? Maybe for a laptop.
By coincidence (and partly after having to stare at my home keyboard for longer than is healthy over recent weeks), I finally got around to thoroughly cleaning the keyboard that came with my 1999/2000 eMachines desktop. For, ah, the first time. This was a low end brand, and yet, mechanical keys all still clacking nicely, seemingly dye-infused keycaps (so no worries soaking them in soapy water and giving them a rub-down), every key (including spacebar) came off and went back on nicely. I can't imagine it was a particularly expensive example when it was made. https://drive.google.com/file/d/1QDcKzuU-HeiZyY55kS_PbGvvojTdHSnn/view?usp=sharing is the after-cleaning shot with the keys going back on... I'm not sharing the before shot!
Or sigh and install it in the full knowledge that they'll find some way to make it permanent later (or "voluntary" but essential for everyday life in some way) and that as an individual whether you choose to install it not or not will make very little difference either to the course of the pandemic or the gradual erosion of freedom.
By the time this is actually available hopefully they will have better testing. I've also seen tiers of exposure proposed, again playing on the average rates and the principle that people who've been in each other's company for an hour are more likely to have transmitted it than people who passed in the street.
That said, if they're proposing to massively increase the number of people self-isolating (as this would extend to those who were asymptomatic), are instructed to self-isolate rather than do so voluntarily (some powers in the coronavirus 2020 act * depend on being instructed to isolate or believing the person to be infectious) and have a central system where conceivably this information could then be shared to the police to enforce isolation, then it really is essential that there is a plan for supporting people isolating.
And of course promising a gradual scope creep may not help public trust when public trust is what you really need.
* as distinct from the The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) Regulations 2020 which are the ones about not gathering in groups, only being out for certain reasons etc.
Yes, Perl I still find better for general glue programming, largely because of its string handling, it's built for executing things and interpreting the output, no other language really is. Despite its reputation it's possible to write clean and readable Perl, you just have to avoid the temptation to use its implicit tricks too much.
On the other hand, Python library support is excellent, and it makes prototyping a lot easier than compiled languages; if I want to get an image and Fourier transform it in C I need quite a bit of boilerplate to use functions and structures from two libraries and then probably do some format munging to shovel from one to the other. In Python the slightly larger set of built in types and standardisation on numpy for numerical work makes it trivial, and if you know how to make good use of the underlying compiled libraries (e.g. numpy's tensor products) you can write things that compete with compiled code for speed (been meaning to look at Cython, but numpy is sufficiently good that it's not been worth it yet). It's not going to take over from C for really high performance stuff, all those handy types come with a cost, but sometimes development and prototyping time are more important (and I suspect to really be efficient it's worth taking the time to write the bits that need to be fast as C and wrap them up in python for the convenience).
I actually like the // and / combination, since it clarifies the operation expected (compare what happens in Python 2 when what you think is a floating point division unexpectedly becomes integer). It is a pain to retrofit, but that partly illustrates why it's useful.
That's a rather strange one actually, since the most obvious numerical change (integer division promoted to float) seems intended more to produce the results non-programmers expect. (One of the fixes I've had to make to python2 code is going through and finding the divisions that are meant to be round-down-integer, a simple find and replace isn't going to be able to tell them apart from real number division, at least a general function change you can usually find the affected calls.)
Quite a lot of these things will now run in a browser, though I've found chrome/chromium works better than firefox (I suppose they're all developing for that). Jitsi and the gotomeeting people I posted above being examples, no need to install another binary. Of course you might not be able to use a tropical island background, but I think that might be an up-side.
International travel, especially immigration, is something people do infrequently. Going to the bar or the hairdresser is something people do frequently, to sit in the same seat three other people have sat in in the past hour, close to others for long periods of time (and in the case of dentists they have to stare right down your throat, and then the next person's, and the next person's... something few flight attendants do). Coronavirus is already widely spread in the USA, people flying in for whatever reason can be asked to isolate (haven't they suspended most flights anyway). People going around behaving as they were before this broke out and pretending nothing is going on will spread it far far more.
It's funny I suppose. Some people like to pretend they'd be great in a war, but when we find out people are dying and the way to stop it is to hunker down for a while, they go to pieces. What most of the world is doing, right now, that's discipline and determination.
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