Tuesday, 23rd February, 2021

[Day 344]

It was quite a dull day today but the weather was quite mild so Meg and I walked down to collect our newspapers as usual. There I discussed with our newsagent the fact that we both owned Apple Macs and he told me that he had, at one stage, owned one of the very earliest MACs which he had actually given away. If you look on the web, you can see that vintage MACs are now a collector’s item and can be worth up to $1,000 each – or perhaps even more for a really early, vintage model. My newsagent told me that he thought that the MAC he had given away might now be worth thousands of dollars.

Having picked up our newspapers, we made our way to the park and there we coincided with our Birmingham University friend. We had a chuckle about colleagues that we had both experienced in the past who had proved to be irksome to us. I recalled one particular colleague who upon my return from the Complutense University in Madrid teaching Information Technology (in Spanish) to public administration students, informed me that he was ‘proud’ he could only speak English and no other language. Although we were a friendly and non-argumentative department, I did rather ‘express my displeasure at his attitude’ (and this is putting it mildly). But to put things into context, I only had one or two matters of really serious dispute in the whole of a teaching career and, in general, worked with a very amiable and professional set of colleagues in the two universities in which I worked.

Out of an idle curiosity, I thought I would look at the comparative merits and prices of hard disk drives (HDDs), solid state devices (SSDs) and memory cards in variety. Whilst I browsed for various items on Amazon and noted some prices, navigated away and then navigated back again, I noticed that one items I had been looking at had jumped from £80 to £100 in the space of a few seconds. I think this is an Amazon ‘ploy’ ultimately to extract a degree of profit as they might work on the principle that if you want something urgently you may be willing to pay a premium price for it. Anyway, I have come to no firm conclusions on this subject except that in my researches to examine which medium has the best storage properties, baked clay tablets that have lasted for thousands of years may have something to be said for them. But given the speed at which technology is advancing, can one be sure that the media one is using today will still be readable by a future generation in, say, 10-15 year’s time? The solution, I have discovered, is to think about a backup strategy rather than storage devices. A good backup strategy is to think of the 3-2-1 rule i.e. ‘The 3-2-1 backup rule is an easy-to-remember acronym for a common approach to keeping your data safe in almost any failure scenario. The rule is: keep at least three (3) copies of your data, and store two (2) backup copies on different storage media, with one (1) of them located offsite.’ So I will continue to have thoughts and ruminations about all of this.

In the late afternoon, I caught up with my emails only to discover that a Hampshire friend was suggesting we Skype in 20 minutes time. Then I discovered there was an ominous ‘question mark’ over the Skype desktop icon which suggests that the newly updated operating system could not use the out-of-date application in my computer. So I quickly deleted it and then managed to reinstall a more up-to-date version which fortunately worked like a dream. So I Skyped my friend and we had an entertaining few minutes before we FaceTimed some of our other Bromsgrove friends as we have a regular arrangement each Tuesday afternoon. So all in all, about an hour and a half of non-stop ‘chatting’ via video technology.

There is an interesting political ‘brew’ developing this evening. The Tory party has firmly set its face against anything that sounds like a ‘vaccine passport’ which may well be demanded by airlines, other holiday destinations and so on. But civil liberties organisations are alarmed about the project. “Vaccine passports would create the backbone of an oppressive digital ID system and could easily lead to a health apartheid that’s incompatible with a free and democratic country,” says Silkie Carlo, director of Big Brother Watch. “Digital IDs would lead to sensitive records spanning medical, work, travel, and biometric data about each and every one of us being held at the fingertips of authorities and state bureaucrats.” Nonetheless, the idea is gaining a degree of traction and the government may well be approaching a volte-face on this issue. Already some of the technological and ethical issues are being explored within government and something akin to the old yellow card, more formally known as the International Certificate of Vaccination may well emerge. I can firmly predict, however, that the government will call it anything but ensure that the old ‘passport’ is never actually used!