Thursday, October 4, 2018

Looking after your most valued assets

Recently I underwent two lots of cataract surgery - one in each eye several months apart.

Cataract surgery involves removing the eye lenses and replacing them with artificial lenses. It's a simple, but remarkable surgery carried out by very skilled opthalmologists and results in better eyesight for those of us who need it.

Cataracts are essentially an older person's ailment caused by such things that include: "overexposure to sunlight, obesity, diabetes, smoking, aging, previous eye disorders or surgeries, high blood pressure, alcoholism, and prolonged use of corticosteroid medications." (HREF 1)

In my case, having lived in hot, dry climates for most of my adult life, exposure to sunshine probably played a large part in developing cataracts since I have never smoked and none of the other causes except aging, relate to me.

After I finished my second surgery, I asked the opthalmologist about sunglasses. He told me that everyone should begin wearing sunglasses at an early age and continue wearing them while outdoors.

I asked him which sunglasses were best and he said that you must have as a minimum, Category 3 sunglasses and all sunglasses must comply with Australian and New Zealand Standards. He said he wears Oakley brand sunglasses as he does a lot of bicycle riding and finds they don't slide down his nose.

I did some research with a number of sunglass manufacturers, several of which gave interesting technical details of their glasses and how they benefit you when wearing them.  Among them were Revo (HREF2) that has a comprehensive page full of information and Australian brand Mako (HREF3) that is popular with fishers because the polarisation enables easier sighting of fish in water.

I settled for a pair of Mako sunglasses seen in the photograph above and have been wearing them now for several weeks, including a 1,500 km (932 mile) trip to Central Australia. Mine are grey lenses (for golf, driving and cycling) and I love them.

Look after your eyes, you only have two of them and they are precious.

Robin

Monday, August 20, 2018

Are you Protecting your Data with a Virtual Private Network?

Recently the Australian Government (the government) decided to add another prong to its legislation to prevent Islamic terrorist attacks and to solve criminal offences.

From 1 July 2018 the government) mandated that ISPs must retain customers' data relating to internet, mobile phone, chat sessions etc and release it to government agencies or police departments on request.

That means that every telephone call, SMS or internet site you have interacted with has been recorded by your ISP and telecommunications providers and will be held for at least two years.

Now, because of the high level of use of encrypted data being used by terrorists and criminals using apps such as WhatsApp, the Australian Government is in the process of enacting legislation that will make it mandatory for providers to allow access to their decryption protocols.

Other governments are either following or have implemented such legislation.

Remember the case a few years back when Apple refused to provide decryption details for a person's iPhone to the Federal Bureau of Investigation? The iPhone had a software program that deleted all the phones data after a specific number of failed attempts to unlock it.

Well, the world has moved on since then which means either you leave your data available for government agencies to obtain and hackers to access, or you set up procedures to prevent it.

Apart from encryption and cipher use, firewalls and ant-virus software, supported by a Virtual Private Network is the way to go to secure your data.

What is a VPN?

 A VPN is a network within a network. VPN software sets up a "tunnel" within a network that allows users to transmit and receive data that is invisible to others. The image above depicts this.

When you use a VPN, your data from point A to point B is not only invisible to others, you are assigned an IP address (your computer's identification) that is different from yours and all the data you send between the two points is encrypted.

Even if someone did access your data, they will not be able to read it or determine your true IP address or location.

If you haven't yet got a VPN on your computer or mobile phone, I recommend you install one asap. They are easy to set up, relatively inexpensive considering the security they offer, protect you at public wifi spots, and the best VPN providers, like Surfshark, do NOT retain logs of your data.

Surfshark does not retain your data because its main servers are situated in a country where there are no data retention or access laws. Also, the standard of encryption used by Surfshark is leading edge, Military grade encryption. You can't get much better than that.

For about the price of a cup of coffee per month, Surfshark will provide your VPN for an unlimited number of devices protecting all your data transmissions.

If you agree that your data needs protecting, why not visit Surfshark and check out their product. They even have tutorials on how to use the software, although the interface is so simple you probably won't need to view them.

Robin

PS: Let me know in the comments whether your data is protected, if not, why not and if so, which VPN you are using



Sunday, July 15, 2018

Bullshit Jobs

I had to laugh. An article appeared in the "Weekend Australian" supplement magazine about "bullshit jobs". It was an extract from "Bullshit Jobs - A Theory" by David Graeber (Allen Lane Pub)

Graeber categorizes employees into "flunkies, goons, duct tapers, box tickers, and taskmasters." He spoke about those jobs where occupants don't seem, to outsiders, to do much of anything eg, HR consultants, communications co-ordinators, financial strategists, corporate lawyers, and middle managers who seem to spend their time staffing committees.

It reminded me of three things:

  1. The occasional quips I had made to my wife who was a registered nurse and midwife for 40 plus years
  2. HR and other middle management jobs I had held during my 51 years in the workforce
  3. The job titles of people that were ridiculously overspecified for what they did
Once every few years, simply to get a laugh, I'd ask my wife why she "doesn't get a real job" based on my claim that childbirth is a natural event that has been going on for millions of years and why would you need several years of university education to do the job. She always bit and assured me that it was far more complicated than I could imagine. I knew that was the truth, but it was always good to get a reaction when things were going quiet.

As a human resources specialist, I knew that people thought we sat on our hands warming our seats, only doing something when someone had to be retrenched or recruited.  Obviously, the author knew nothing about the multi-functional role of human resources staffs that includes:  recruitment, induction, training and development, performance management, occupational health and safety, worker's compensation, salary administration, interpretation of employment contracts and awards, succession planning, and HR planning and budgeting. 

As an employee within an Australian Government agency, you were also expected to do things not strictly within your role, like standing in for managers from other disciplines when they were on leave or otherwise absent; representing the agency at various fora.

So, as you would imagine, I disagreed with many of the author's suggestions. Even corporate lawyers do have a real job, all one has to do is watch the numerous series of "Suits" to see that.

During my various careers, I did come across people whose job title was absolutely ridiculous for what they did. For example, in the sales field (selling almost anything), staffs are given ridiculously grand titles to make them and their products seem better - something everyone needs.

There were the bank clerks whose offices were embellished with the title, "Accountant" although they held no actual accounting qualifications. The Lifesavers sweets sales representative called a "Sales Manager" along with several other colleagues all of whom had the same grand title.

Then there was the "Mortgage Enhancement Officer" whose role was to move your mortgage from another bank to theirs. 

I recall my dear father scolding me one day for laughing at a labourer digging a hole who had dirt all over him.  He correctly told me that if the job didn't need doing, nobody would be doing it, therefore his job (the labourer's) was as important as anyone else's (including my father's who was a mechanical and electrical engineer). Since then, I have always valued the work done by people.

My view is that if you feel your job is a bullshit job, that you aren't contributing anything to your organisation and society, then you need to move on. Find something else where you are contributing because at the end of the day, when you come home from work you want to know that you have made a difference.

Robin