Tuesday, August 31, 2021

Fixed my Digital Camera With a Bicycle Pump

I sprayed air between the lens and body of the camera
Months ago, before Canberra's latest lock-down, I purchased a second hand Cannon Powershot S3 IS,  digital camera from Vinnies Dickson charity shop. It was a bargain at $30 (cost $799, new, 15 years ago). It just needed 4 AA batteries ($10 rechargeable) and a memory card ($5). 

At 6 megapixels, this camera is far lower resolution than my smart phone. But I normally have the phone set for 1 or 2 Megapixel photos anyway. 

It is much easier to take a photo with a camera, such as this, which has a viewfinder you can hold up to your eye, than with a smart phone, or a digital camera with a screen on the back. The camera also has a screen which swivels out and around, so you can take a close up at an odd angle.

The only problem was the camera would switch off every time I zoomed the lens out to the full extent. A web search sowed this was a very common problem. Suggestions ranged from the, not very useful "It appears a fault, you need to have it repaired", to the complicated "Here is how to disassemble the camera".  One tip was that there could be dust on the switch which detects when the zoom is fully extended. 

One video showed blasting the lens with an air-compressor. That seemed a little extreme, especially when the whole camera is shown sliding along from the air pressure. My own little air compressor, had no effect. But I found a bicycle pump, with the adapter for inflating an airbed worked fine. I extended the camera lens, and placed the nozzle between the lens and camera body, working all the way around, blowing in air. The zoom now works fine.

Saturday, August 28, 2021

Australia Needs Self-serve Quarantine Centers

Purpose built Quarantine Centers are being constructed in Australia. I suggest that these be, in the main, low tech, self serve facilities. This will increase the speed with which they can be built, lower the cost of construction and operation, provide lower risk of disease transmission, and be better for the welfare of the guests.

The Building 4.0 Cooperative Research Centre, has submitted an unsolicited high tech "Q_Smart" design for the Victorian quarantine center. This has some good ideas, but is more high tech than needed, The designers have shown a multi-story design, suited to limited land next to airports, as well as single story ones, where space allows. The designers criticize the current "conventional bricks and mortar, or mining camp, approach". However, I suggest this is misplaced. Rapid construction is a priority, and the prefabricated techniques used for mining camps are appropriate. Also mining camp accommodation must be robust, as it is intensively used, by a rapid turnover of guests, which also applies in a quarantine center. 

The use of high technology solutions is not a good approach for a quarantine center which is to be constructed rapidly and have only a limited lifetime. As an example, the airlocks, and UV light sterilization suggested for Q_Smart are not be needed, if there is sufficient space and natural ventilation. Touch-less entry to buildings will also not be needed, if guests each have their own door to their accommodation. The guest will be the only one to touch their door during their stay, and it will be cleaned by staff when vacated.

Containerised apartment module ready to be lifted into position at ANU
 Laurus Wing of ANU Ursula Hall
 under construction.
Photo by Tom Worthington CC BY 2009

The Q_Smart designers suggest stack-able building modules, built in a factory. This approach is already in use for buildings made in shipping container modules, such as ANU  Ursula Hall (2009). However, this approach requires more expensive construction techniques, than if buildings are single story, and where a flatpack approach can be taken. I a multistory building is needed, then pre-cut structural panels, as applied at ANU Fenner Hall, can be used.

Also while stairs can be quickly built, lifts require complex installation and maintenance by specialists. If a multi-story building is required, it can be built with an external open air stairway, and no lifts, but with ground floor accommodation reserved for those with limited mobility, as is the case for City Edge Canberra.

The designers suggest delivery of good direct to rooms, via dumb waiters. However, simple manual and electric dumb waiters, essentially smalls goods elevators, can only travel vertically. There would need to be one such waiter for each building. With a shaft connecting every apartment, this would pose a major cross-contamination risk. A far safer, simpler approach would be to provide guests with enough supplies of sheets, towels, personal hygiene products, and non-perishable food, for the duration of their stay, so there would be no need for regular deliveries. For occasional deliveries a simple, safe, low tech approach would be to place the delivery outside the guest's door, and then invite them to open the door a few minutes later, after any aerosols have dispersed in the open air.

While Q_Smart suggests the use of the Internet of Things, with smart devices deployed around the center for monitoring of systems and the guests, I suggest relying on the guests own smart phones. Just as QR codes have proved a success for checking people into venues, these can be used, with the gusts own phones, for monitoring movement in the center. This requires only low cost QR code signs, not a computerized network requiring installation and maintenance.

Tuesday, August 17, 2021

Canberrans Queuing Around the Block for a COVID-19 Test

COVID-19 Testing Queue in Canberra,
by Tom Worthington CC BY 17 August 2021
Came back from my bicycle ride yesterday (allowed under Canberra's lock-down rules) to find a line of people standing in the street outside my front door. First I thought it might be a Le Mans start for a car rally: but during a lock-down? Then I thought it might be a socially distanced protest: but against what? Then everyone moved one place to the right and I saw it was a queue snaking around the corner to the pathology lab, for COVID-19 tests. 

COVID-19 Marshall at Testing Queue in Canberra, 
by Tom Worthington CC BY 17 August 2021 
There was a marshal in a yellow vest going along the line checking details. It was very orderly and gone in an hour. The line was back this morning on a very cold winter's day. I was proud to see my fellow citizens responding to an emergency with quiet determination. It was also to see one of the local cafes was offering to deliver food and drink to those in the queue.

Monday, August 09, 2021

Vaccinated at Clinic on the Edge for Many Possible Futures

Today I had my second AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccination at the
Tom Worthington after vaccination at the Casey Medical Center in Canberra, CC BY 9 August 2021.
Casey Medical Center in Canberra. I arrived five minutes early and was immediately ushered in for my shot, so that even with the 15 minute period after I was out the door by my original booking time. This was a fast and efficient process. 

To to get to this suburb on the north western edge of Canberra, I had to drive past a major public vaccination center which is much closer to home. Unfortunately when I went to book 12 weeks ago for my first jab the federal and ACT web systems were not working well. As a result I booked at a private clinic, as that was the only place I could get the booking system to work for. As it was sop difficult to get an appointment, I decide not to change my booking for the second dose, which as made 12 weeks ago at the same time as the first (to make it simple I booked both the same day of the week at the same time).

The suburb of Casey reminds me of the dystopian future depicted in the  "Nosedive" episode of the Black Mirror science fiction TV series: rows of neat houses, all built at the same time from the same materials, in the same muted colors. The Casey Medical Center is made of corrugated steel panels and looks like a temporary building quickly erected for a pandemic emergency (or something prefabricated for Antarctica, or Mars). But it is comfortable enough inside.

We have had it easy so far, so get vaccinated now, in case things get worse, a lot worse

For those hesitating about vaccination, please consult your doctor, and if they okay it, go ahead ASAP. Australia has been able to use measures to control the virus under relatively benign national and international conditions, but that may not continue. Natural disasters may require medical and emergency staff currently handling the pandemic to be instead saving lives in floods or fires. Rescue and recovery will then take priority, with hospital beds not available for COVID-19 patients.

It is also possible the Australian Defence Force may be needed in its primary role and so personnel would not be available to aid the civil infrastructure. Also some civilian medical personnel and other specialists are military reserve personnel who would be called to duty, so not available for for pandemic duties.

In addition, there could be cyber attacks on our infrastructure which directly limit medical and vaccination facilities. These could interrupt power supplies long enough for vaccine stocks to be destroyed and stop distribution and booking.

Also it is possible that information warfare could be used to undermine confidence in the authorities and ferment civil unrest. This could see fake information used to discredit officials and the community against each other. This would reduce vaccination rates, and may also case people to stop social distancing, spreading the virus and even attacking the infrastructure used to keep them safe. 

One of Australia's major international customers may decide to limit purchases of Australian goods and services, limiting the nations's ability to pay for imports of essential medical supplies. 

Any or all of these could happen without warning at any time. While these may sound far fetched, would you have believed a warning about a pandemic 19 months ago? In 2009 the assignment I set my web students at the Australian National University was to design a pandemic web site for Australia. Some of my colleagues thought this a little odd: when would those skills ever be needed?