Categories
Asides

Back on focus with Ubuntu 20.04 Focal Fossa

After more than seven years I’m finally back to using Ubuntu Linux as my main OS. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed using Mac OS and Windows however nothing beats the feeling of using Linux. Free and open-source software has a special appeal for me. Hardcore Linux users would probably scoff at my choice of distro, I fully understand that and would not argue that Ubuntu is the best. It’s just that for my needs and level of proficiency, it’s perfect.

Ubuntu 20.04 Focal Fossa
Ubuntu 20.04 Focal Fossa running on my new Lenovo Ideapad S145 notebook

So the moment I got my new notebook yesterday, I set it up to dual-boot Windows 10 and Ubuntu 20.04 LTS Focal Fossa. It’s been a great and smooth experience so far. You can check out OMG Ubuntu’s round-up of what’s new with this latest release of Ubuntu or you can go ahead and get it from the official website. A review of both Focal Fossa and my new notebook would be posted next week.

Categories
Daily dose

How to boost your WiFi signal

You may have a fast internet connection at home, yet sometimes you’d experience your browsing slowing to a crawl, a movie you’re watching would buffer or worse a video call gets dropped because you’re in a corner of the house farthest from the WiFi router. Checking on your device it’s barely getting a signal. A minor issue that could be really frustrating.

Here are a few practical tips to improve your WiFi network. Practical in the sense that you’d be able to avoid spending on additional gear.

Location, location, location

WiFi routers are essentially radio transmitters so it works best in open spaces where there are fewer objects that block its signals. Concrete walls or even drywalls with electrical wires within could cause interference. The fewer objects between your device and the WiFi router the better.

Ideally if you can mount your WiFi router high on the wall or from the ceiling, the better. This is why in offices or public places you’d see WiFi routers hanging from the ceiling or high on the walls. Avoid placing it inside cabinets, behind books, or in the corner of a room.

Placing it near or at the top of the stairwell would help ensure its signals reach all floors of the house. Keep it away from other wireless devices like the base of your cordless phones to avoid interference.

Optimize your WiFi Router

Update the firmware of your WiFi router as device makers routinely provide updates that improve performance. If you’re unsure how to do this, either check its user manual or get in touch with your ISP if the device came with your internet service.

Make sure that the antennas are vertical to ensure good coverage. It also helps if the air ducts are free of dust and dirt so as to keep it from running too hot.

Almost all routers nowadays are dual-band, operating on both 5GHz and 2.4GHz. You can configure your router to use the same SSID or network name on both bands so that you’re devices would have alternative bands to connect to. Again, consult with your ISP for help in setting this up.

Get a WiFi repeater or extender

This tip requires spending a little extra as your house may be too big for just one WiFi router to provide sufficient coverage. There are plenty of choices available and as always, it’s best to check with your ISP first to know which ones would work best with your router.

Lastly, you can also check with your ISP if they offer newer routers that are have better coverage or performance at no additional charge to your existing service. Routers are so ubiquitous nowadays, it’s easy to forget that you’re still using an older model.

I hope you find these tips helpful and if you have a few of your own, please share them on the comments below or send it my way. I would love to hear from you.

Categories
Daily dose

Google Meet Now Free for Everyone

It was only a matter of time, as video conferencing service Zoom was catapulted to popularity as the COVID-19 pandemic has forced businesses and schools to work and study at home, that Google would try to get more users on its own video conferencing service Google Meet.

In a blog post, Google has announced that Google Meet will be available to anyone with a Gmail account for free. The video conferencing service used to be exclusive only to G Suite customers with no free access. All that will change in the coming weeks as the search giant will roll out free access in the coming weeks.

You can sign up here to be alerted once it’s available to you. It is also available as an app for Android and iOS and promises a more secure service – a jab at Zoom which has been under scrutiny for privacy and security issues. Hopefully, Google would be able to scale it fast enough to handle the increase in users and traffic.

Categories
Science

Remdesivir: cure for COVID-19? More studies needed

The race is on to find a cure for COVID-19 as the pandemic continues to wreak havoc on countries, shuttering economies, straining public health systems and taking many lives. As of this writing there are 2, 160, 207 confirmed cases with 146, 088 deaths worldwide.

The World Health Organization has taken the lead in a global “Solidarity trial” of at least four candidate drugs that could potentially cure the disease: Remdesivir; Lopinavir/Ritonavir; Lopinavir/Ritonavir with Interferon beta-1a; and Chloroquine or Hydroxychloroquine.

First to grab headlines was Hydroxychloroquine which US President Trump has mentioned on many of his earlier briefings to the press.

Remdesivir
Chemical structure of Remdesivir.

Now, attention has shifted to remdesivir which has shown promising results based on a few studies in the US. The drug is made by Gilead Sciences and was initially tested against Ebola but had little success. Multiple studies in animals showed the drug could both prevent and treat coronaviruses related to COVID-19, including SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) and MERS (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome).

The US NIH came out with a report that remdesivir prevented COVID-19 from progressing in rhesus macaque monkeys based on mild- to-moderate cases of the human disease.

Although the “solidarity trial” is unprecedented and groundbreaking as it has never been done before, experts are saying that more rigorous studies are needed as the urgency to find a cure may compromise the global effort.

Dr. Rahul Ganatra, director of Continuing Medical Education at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts has scrutinized a paper published in the New England Journal of Medicine on the use of remdesivir for patients with severe COVID-19. His initial appraisal is that the study was based on a population of small size – only 61 patients, there were missing data like the definition of what is “standard care”, and perhaps most importantly, it lacked a control group. To his mind, these threaten the promise of remdesivir being a cure for COVID-19. His conclusion: more well-designed trials like ones with control-groups are needed.

It is hoped that indeed researchers would bear in mind that a cure for COVID-19 would only be found through good science and that the goal is not only to be the first in finding it, rather finding a cure that really works.