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Summer heat won’t magically stop the coronavirus outbreak

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  • The novel coronavirus outbreak won’t slow down during the summer, the European CDC warns, unless social distancing measures are kept in place to reduce transmission risks.
  • The agency’s warning comes with support in the form of empirical evidence from regions of the world where warmer climates haven’t been able to reduce the number of cases.
  • Regions including Australia and Singapore, and US states including Florida and California, have reported more than 10,000 cases between them, even though all of them have warmer climates.
  • Visit BGR’s homepage for more stories.

If you’re expecting the summer heatwave to magically kill the novel coronavirus and significantly reduce the threat, then you should abandon that train of thought for the time being. There’s no evidence that the COVID-19 outbreak will slow down just because the weather is about to change. If anything, there’s plenty of proof that people who live in warmer climates, including California, Florida, Singapore, Australia, Africa, the Middle East, are just as likely to be infected as anybody else. The European Center for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) warns officially that seasonality will not affect the pandemic, and strong social distancing measures still need to be implemented to reduce the rate of transmission.

“The four coronaviruses that are endemic in human populations are responsible for 10–15% of common cold infections and display a marked winter seasonality in temperate climates, with a peak between December and April, but are hardly detected in the summer months,” the ECDC wrote in a new status report about the coronavirus outbreak in Europe (via Reuters). “The seasonality of coronaviruses might be driven, in part, by environmental conditions and host susceptibility, because coronaviruses are more stable under low and midrange relative humidity (20–50%) when the defense mechanisms of the airways are suppressed.”

The report continues, “However, based on preliminary analyses of the COVID-19 outbreak in China and other countries, high reproductive numbers were observed not only in dry and cold districts but also in tropical districts with high absolute humidity, such as in Guangxi and Singapore. There is no evidence to date that SARS-CoV-2 will display a marked winter seasonality, such as other human coronaviruses in the northern hemisphere, which emphasizes the importance of implementing intervention measures such as isolation of infected individuals, workplace distancing, and school closures.”

The agency said that the existing capacity for all intensive care beds will be exceeded in all of Europe by mid-April unless steps are taken to prevent the spread and increase capacity.

The report also upgraded the risk for the elderly and those with chronic diseases in the region from “high” to “very high.” At the same time, all other categories face a “moderate” danger from the outbreaks. The overall risk for countries remains “moderate” but could be “very high” in the absence of social distancing measures, the agency said.

Healthcare workers are more exposed to the novel coronavirus than the public, especially if they lack proper protective gear and protocols to deal with the local outbreaks. The ECDC cited statistics from China that say 10% of the reported infections were among medical personnel, above the 4% rate mentioned in other studies. Italy and Spain, the two countries that have been hit the hardest by the pandemic, reported infection rates of 9% and 13% respectively for healthcare workers.

Reports that preceded the ECDC’s newest update on the coronavirus pandemic proved that SARS-CoV-2 is contagious in summer settings. The best example is Tom Hanks’s case. He contracted the infection in Australia where it’s summer. At least 128 COVID-19 cases were reported in Australia at the time, precisely two weeks ago. Currently, Australia has almost 2,800 confirmed cases.

Singapore has 631 cases as of the time of this writing, while Florida and California registered nearly 2,000 and 3,200 cases, respectively.



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All these Apple TV+ originals are now free to watch as you quarantine

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  • Apple has made some of its most popular original content on Apple TV+ free to stream.
  • Some of the shows you can now watch for free on Apple TV+ include Dickinson, For All Mankind, Little America, and Servant. There are also free kids shows and a documentary.
  • Oprah also produced a show featuring a series of conversations with experts about COVID-19.
  • Visit BGR’s homepage for more stories.

One of the few things keeping me sane — and I am sure it’s true for many of you as well — is streaming untold hours of TV as I sit at home, quarantining myself from the world, for the 33rd consecutive day. No matter how long the novel coronavirus pandemic keeps us holed up inside, we aren’t going to run out of streaming shows and movies, and that list just got a little longer this week, as Apple is joining HBO and others in making its content free to watch.

As reported by Variety on Thursday, a wide range of Apple TV+ programming is now available for everyone to watch without a subscription. All you need to do is download the Apple TV app on a compatible device and find the Free for Everyone section. You can also watch the free episodes on your browser at tv.apple.com.

Here is all of the free content on Apple TV+ during the coronavirus pandemic, according to Variety:

Documentary

Original Series

Kids Shows

Apple TV+ didn’t make nearly as much of a splash at launch as Apple hoped it would, but in the months since, several of the platform’s original shows have gotten some positive buzz. Little America, produced by Kumail Nanjiani (known for Silicon Valley, The Big Sick, and soon to star in Marvel’s The Eternals), is one of those shows, telling a series of stories about immigrant life in the United States from the perspectives of different characters.

In addition to the content listed above, Oprah Winfrey has also shared a new show called Oprah Talks COVID-19, in which the talk show host, actress, and philanthropist “has remote conversations with experts and everyday people to provide insight, meaning, and tangible advice for the human spirit.” The first episode features Idris Elba, who was diagnosed with COVID-19 last month and has been very open about his recovery process.

If you were wondering whether or not Apple TV+ was worth the $4.99/month, and you haven’t had the chance to take advantage of the free year-long subscription that Apple includes with new iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, Apple TV, or Mac purchases, this is the perfect time to see what the service has to offer, even if The Morning Show — the flagship series from Apple TV+ — isn’t part of this Free for Everyone collection.



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Brit scientists snap highest ever resolution picture of the sun

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The University of Lancashire showed off the highest-ever resolution images of the sun and its atmosphere. (PA)

British researchers have collaborated with Nasa to capture the highest-ever resolution images of the sun.

The images, analysed by researchers at the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) and collaborators from Nasa’s Marshall Space Flight Centre, provide astronomers with a better understanding of the sun’s complex atmosphere.

Until now, certain parts of the Sun’s atmosphere had appeared dark or mostly empty.

However the new images have revealed it actually contains strands of hot electrified gases that are around 500km (311 miles) in width.

The ultra-sharp images were taken by Nasa’s High-Resolution Coronal Imager (Hi-C) telescope, carried into space on a sub-orbital rocket flight.

The telescope can pick out structures in the Sun’s atmosphere as small as 70km in size, or about 0.01% of its total size.

Photo supplied by University of Lancashire showing the highest-ever resolution images of the sun and its atmosphere. The images, analysed by researchers at the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) and collaborators from NASA???s Marshall Space Flight Centre, provide astronomers with a better understanding of the Sun???s complex atmosphere.

These images provide astronomers with a better understanding of the sun’s complex atmosphere. (PA)

Although what exactly is creating these strands remains unclear, scientific debate will now focus on why they are formed and how their presence helps us understand the eruption of solar flares and solar storms that could affect life on Earth.

Robert Walsh, professor of solar physics at UCLan, said the images provided an ‘ultra-high definition’ glimpse of the sun for the first time.

‘Until now, solar astronomers have effectively been viewing our closest star in ‘standard definition’, whereas the exceptional quality of the data provided by the Hi-C telescope allows us to survey a patch of the sun in ‘ultra-high definition’ for the first time,’ he said.

Photo supplied by University of Lancashire showing the highest-ever resolution images of the sun and its atmosphere. The images, analysed by researchers at the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) and collaborators from NASA???s Marshall Space Flight Centre, provide astronomers with a better understanding of the Sun???s complex atmosphere.

The ultra-sharp images were taken by Nasa’s High-Resolution Coronal Imager (Hi-C) telescope. (PA)

Tom Williams, a postdoctoral researcher at UCLan who worked on the Hi-C data, said the images would help provide a greater understanding of how the Earth and Sun related to each other.

‘This is a fascinating discovery that could better inform our understanding of the flow of energy through the layers of the Sun and eventually down to Earth itself,’ he said.

‘This is so important if we are to model and predict the behaviour of our life-giving star.’



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What Is Jitsi and Is it More Secure Than Zoom?

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Online conference apps help to maintain business and family connections when you can’t all appear in the same room. There is a wealth of video conferencing and video chat apps to choose from. However, if you’re talking about personal matters or discussing the details of a business contract, you need to know the service you’re using will protect your privacy.

Jitsi is an encrypted open-source video conferencing app you can use to protect your privacy. So, how does Jitsi compare to Zoom? Is Jitsi easy to use? Should you switch to Jitsi?

Let’s take a look.

What Is Jitsi?

Jitsi Meet is a secure video conferencing app you can use to chat with people from a web browser, Android, or iOS app.

The version included in the link is the web deployment of the Jitsi Meet software. Anyone can click the link, create a video call, and begin chatting. However, for the more technically minded, you can download and install the Jitsi Meet software to a private server, drastically increasing your privacy. For the majority of users, the regular Jitsi video web chat and smartphone apps are perfect.

Jitsi Meet supports up to 75 participants at the current time. However, for best results, the development team suggests limiting that number to a maximum of 35 participants otherwise, “the experience will suffer.”

You can work around this limitation using the integrated live-streaming option. Jitsi allows you to live-stream your video conference to an external streaming service, such as YouTube, to increase your number of viewers without negatively impacting on the video conferencing quality.

The Jitsi Meet web app and smartphone apps are incredibly simple to use. You don’t have to worry about having a username or signing up for the service. Type a name for your Jitsi video conferencing room, and press Go. Share the name of the room with your friends, family, or colleagues, and they can begin joining you.

Jitsi Meet Features

Jitsi comes with a substantial list of features, some of which are only available as premium tools in other video conferencing apps. Here are some of Jitsi’s features:

  • Screensharing and live chat
  • Dial-in option
  • Livestreaming
  • Blur my background (currently in beta)
  • Slack integration
  • Jitsi Meetings Google Chrome extension to integrate Google Calendar and Office 365 Calendar

Does Jitsi Use Encryption?

One of the most important Jitsi features is privacy. Jitsi uses hop-by-hop encryption to protect your video conference.

Hop-by-hop encryption means each stage of the video call is encrypted in part. Your video call to the server carries encryption. The server decrypts the video call, then re-encrypts it and forwards it to the video participants.

Hop-by-hop encryption isn’t perfect, by any means. It means that the server owner could eavesdrop on your conversation if they wish. The way around this is to host a Jitsi Meet server for total privacy. Of course, that isn’t possible for everyone. However, there are no indications that Jitsi’s owners, 8×8, are eavesdropping on private video conversations.

Still, the increase in privacy is significant, especially as the volume of video calling increases.

How to Use Jitsi for Video Calling

As mentioned above, Jitsi makes video calling a cinch. Here’s how you start a Jitsi Meet video call using the web app and smartphone apps.

Using the Jitsi Web App

jitsi web app dual screen

  1. First up, head to Jitsi Meet.
  2. In the white box, type your meeting room name. Then hit Go.
  3. When your meeting begins, select the white i icon in the bottom right corner. Add a secure password. Do this, or people can access your video chat.
  4. Press the copy to clipboard icon, then paste the meeting details to whoever you want to invite to your chat.

jitsi change password meeting room web app

That’s it. A Jitsi Meet chat is that straightforward to get up and running.

Using the Jitsi Android or iOS App

You need to download the Android or iOS app to follow this section. The images are taken from the Android app, but the iOS app is the same.

Download: Jitsi Meet for Android | iOS (Both Free)

  1. Open the Jitsi Meet Android or iOS app.
  2. Type your meeting room name, then select Create/Join.
  3. Tap the three-dot settings menu in the bottom right corner, then drag the settings panel upward to reveal more options.
  4. Select Add meeting password, then add your secure password. Do this, or people can access your video chat.
  5. From the same settings menu, select Invite someone. You can invite people from your contacts list, or share the meeting invitation on a different service.

There is one thing you should also note. The Jitsi meeting room doesn’t close automatically after the host leaves. No option appears to the host or other users to close the call, either.

Is Jitsi More Secure Than Zoom?

At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Zoom saw a drastic uptick in subscribers, rising from 10 million users to over 200 million users in just a few weeks. Suddenly, the eyes of the world were focusing on Zoom.

Unfortunately for Zoom, it wasn’t ready for the level of scrutiny that would follow. Privacy and security issues abound, and the management and development teams are left scrambling to fix a raft of issues.

Eric S. Yuan, chief executive of Zoom Video Communications, openly admits that the sudden stratospheric rise of Zoom caught the team napping. If not for the coronavirus, Zoom probably wouldn’t have taken such a deep delve into the security and privacy issue for some time.

But, what does that mean for Jitsi Meet? Is it truly more secure than Zoom?

Jitsi Meet has a few security and privacy measures that set it aside from Zoom. For once, Jitsi Meet is an open-source project, meaning anyone can download and vet the project. At the time of writing, there are no security warnings relating to Jitsi Meet sending data to external sources or leaking private information elsewhere.

The level of encryption is what most people want to know about. Jitsi Meet does not use end-to-end encryption (E2EE), like FaceTime, Signal, or WhatsApp. Because Jitsi Meet uses the WebRTC protocol, there is no way of implementing E2EE, at least not at the current time.

That doesn’t mean Jitsi Meet is insecure. Far from it. But there is a definite weak point in the privacy process, and that is the decryption and re-encryption of data on a Jitsi Meet server. The way around this is to install the Jitsi Meet software on a private server that you control, which means all of the data remains secure.

What’s the Best Video Conferencing App?

Many privacy advocates suggest using Jitsi Meet instead of Zoom or other video conferencing alternatives, including the Tor Project:

Other security researchers aren’t so sure, reasoning that although Jitsi Meet is open source, it still suffers from similar limitations to Zoom (as it uses similar protocols).

If you must use Zoom, check out these tips on how you can attempt to increase your security and privacy. But if you want a truly secure alternative, Signal allows fully encrypted video calling with a limited number of users.

Read the full article: What Is Jitsi and Is it More Secure Than Zoom?



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