#Coronavirus #COVID19 Review of “Peanut Butter Sniff Test to Combat COVID-19”

A recent article explaining Professor Dana Small’s peanut butter sniff test was just released. The intent of the test is to check if you’ve lost your sense of smell which can be an indicator for possible COVID-19 infection. Loosing your sense of smell is subtle, people actually don’t really notice it.

Unfortunately due to how slow large organizations go, Professor Small will not get funding until September. But, in the meantime, I reached out to Professor Small and she indicated an alternative organization has a smell test online that we could use: https://smelltracker.org/.

Professor Dana Small is a Canadian researcher currently at the Yale School of Medicine. If anyone has further questions, reach out to her here.

Article Review: Mark Murphy “…Stop The Body-In-Seat Mentality”

The “body-in-seat” fallacy is one I’ve followed for well over a decade and COVID-19 may finally tip the scales. I’m talking about “… [The] insidious attitude permeating many companies; that when employees have their bodies-in-their-seats, it means they’re productive.”

Mark Murphy, the author of the article “When Your Employees Are Remote, You Have To Stop The Body-In-Seat Mentality“, puts this issue directly in the cross-hairs and explains exactly why it’s a problem.

“…[T]here’s much to be said for focusing on the results someone achieves rather than how long they sit in front of a computer. But when we’re operating with a body-in-seat mentality, we’re de facto telling people, ‘it’s not what you get done but how long you sit there that matters.'”

He further goes on to explain why top freelancers are more productive and how they do it. I highly recommend having a full read if productivity is of concern.

Body-In-Seat Mentality A Distraction

I often hear “yes but”. For many, it’s obvious that productivity and ability to work remotely all depends on the development level of the individual. The body-in-seat mentality is simply an inappropriate leadership response and distracts from addressing the needs of each individual.

And this is a problem best addressed separately from working remotely since it exists no matter what the setting. The Hersey-Blanchard model can shed some light on this and the leadership styles that need to be applied. The take-away though is that each individual needs varying levels of support and an organization needs to be able to supply this support. It’s important to note that the tools to address staff developmental support might change with remote work.

Body-In-Seat Mentality Blocking Productivity Gains

There is a large and growing body of research showing productivity gains with remote work. 

Reasearch by Adam Ozimek, chief economist at Upwork, shows that “32% of hiring managers say remote work has increased productivity“. Jory Mackay of RescueTime blog dives more into how exactly working remotely translates into productivity, which the reader can access here.

One issue exasperated by COVID-19 is technology issues.  Companies have not been ready to supply the technology and training required for staff to make the remote work switch. The NPR Podcast “The Indicator” speaks to Adam Ozimek about the future of work from home and you can listen to or read the transcript of the the episode here. The expectation though is that this is a temporary problem.

Preparing for Remote Working

Working remotely does not “just happen”. Preparing for it is critical. See my article “Preparing for Remote Working – During Coronavirus (covid-19) or Otherwise” for tips on where to start.

About the Author

Trevor Textor has worked in various roles requiring remote work since 1997. Since 2014 he’s been supporting small, medium and large businesses as a freelancer (contingent labor) with a “swiss-army knife”-like suite of skills. In addition to setting up policy, procedures and technology for himself and his partner he has also met this need with clients in enabling their remote work. Trevor has been quoted by Reader’s Digest, NBC News, Reviews.com and MarketWatch.com regarding setting up appropriate Internet and WiFi service for remote work. Ask Trevor if he can help: https://www.textor.ca/contactme/.

#Coronavirus #COVID19 Time To Hone Your Anti-Social Engineering Skills

#Coronavirus #COVID19 Time To Hone Your Anti-Social Engineering Skills

Phishing is at a high as Malicious Cyber Actors take advantage of the pandemic. Phishing is a type of social engineering and you can read more about the different types here:


Here’s a good post which includes an infographic on how to avoid the “Social Engineering Red Flags”:


USA CISA Cyber Security Alert on “COVID-19 Exploited by Malicious Cyber Actors” – which explains some of the current tactics (scroll down).


Why the Focus on Streaming Services During the Coronavirus (covid-19) Crisis

The internet cannot crash. Like a highway, it is built to handle separate discrete “vehicles”. The problem with the internet is that it will get congested and become slow. As my rural users say “This is worse than dial-up!!”. It can become so slow that you’ll move the mouse and wait 10 seconds for the screen to update where it went.

However, there is a tool to help manage congestion; it’s called “Quality of Service” (QoS) which can recognize and prioritize critical packets (e.g. critical vehicles like fire trucks and ambulances). QoS is usually only implemented on private networks but during a crisis, it could theoretically be enabled on the internet.

I use QoS at home to ensure my work computer gets priority to the house’s internet connection (the “last mile”). Here’s what it looks like to setup on my home router:


Let’s be honest though, streaming services are not “critical” and will not get QoS priority.  That is, no one is going to die, the economy will not suffer if someone’s television isn’t optimal. So this is the situation that video streaming is in:

Roughly 60% of internet traffic is video streaming which is why the focus is on reducing video quality which will reduce traffic loads.

How can video quality be reduced? Via compression, frames per second (fps) and/or resolution.  How much benefit is there from reducing this? Consider the “Standard Definition” digital equivalent is about 480p resolution. As portrayed in the bandwidth usage charts here,  Netflix bandwidth usage of 480p @ 23.976 fps versus 4K @ 59.940 fps is staggering! ~792 MB per hour vs ~7 GB per hour for a factor of over 7 times (700%)!

The impact may be annoying to some or some people might not even notice. I run all my video services at SD digital equivalent quality even pre-crisis because I don’t care and don’t really notice. I like that the videos load faster when they are smaller. Users may notice more so these differences on larger screens.

Compared to analog television, it doesn’t matter what the streaming services cut, it will still be better!

Preparing for Remote Working – During Coronavirus (covid-19) or Otherwise

As Telecom networks deal with “unprecedented” pressure it may feel like there isn’t much you can do to prepare yourself for working remotely. While that’s somewhat true, it isn’t entirely true. Here are some things you can likely do when preparing for remote working.

Preparing for Remote Working

  1. Plug directly into your internet service modem/router. If you think you don’t have a cable, try looking in your original computer/modem/router boxes if you still have them. They usually come with a cable and you may have collected some unwittingly over time.
  2. If online stores are still open, invest in a good router. I talk more about this in my article: “Forget a bandwidth upgrade! Try these 4 things to make the home internet experience better“. Consumer Reports came out with article echoing the things I’ve mentioned but better yet, they make product recommendations: https://www.consumerreports.org/home-office/work-from-home-covid-19-tech-that-will-make-it-easier/.
  3. If your router has a Quality of Service (QoS) feature, use it. Assign your work computer to the “highest” setting while making sure junior is watching TV on a lower QoS setting. Break out your router’s manual to find out if you can do this.
  4. Set any video, including video for a teleconference, to its lowest quality setting. Most video streaming services have a “download to device” feature which can make sure the device is not streaming while you’re trying to teleconference. Switching from HD to SD can save up to 25% of your bandwidth – article: “Netflix And YouTube Switch To SD To Ease Pressure On European Networks
  5. Think you’re ready for your work teleconference? Test your changes to see how well you did. The Cisco Spark WebEx Network Test measures all pieces of your internet service, like packet loss and jitter, to make sure you’re ready; it’s not just about bandwidth! (more below in the “More On Bandwidth Testing” section)
  6. While you might not need a webcam, you’re going to need a really good headset (again, if you can still order one online). I talk more about this in my “PMI-SAC Remote Working Tips” article. Don’t forget to mute if you’re not talking while on a teleconference!
  7. Make sure your workspace is ready:
    • Have a room with a door that can be closed and that is quiet. If you have young kids a lock that can be locked from either side is essential! (Assuming another adult is responsible for watching the kids)
    • If you’ll be doing video meetings, ensure the background behind you is tidy.
    • Have a proper desk and chair setup. Do your best to make it ergonomic.
  8. Wear something that makes you feel productive. For many people this means not wearing pajamas but if that’s not you, then you’re good!
  9. Keep consistent work hours as much as possible.
  10. Go outside at least once during the day; especially important for those who live in areas where vitamin D supplements are necessary.
  11. Exercise at least 30 minutes a day.
  12. Get used to thinking about what is the best way to communicate to your team members depending on your needs. For instance, if you need to discuss something right away and at length, instant messaging might not be the right forum. Know when to pick up the phone or start a teleconference.
  13. You’re going to have to develop your ability to pick up on tones people are using. You may have heard that if you lose one of your senses, another sense goes into “overdrive”. Well, the same with remote working. You don’t have the luxury of a physical presence. More on this subject and more via the article “These are the 7 reasons why working from home can make you a better communicator“.
  14. If you need 1-1 check-ins, schedule them. Don’t assume someone is going to stop by regularly; make that happen.

Wrapping Up on Preparing for Remote Working

I hope it’s clear that being good at working remotely doesn’t just happen. Preparing for remote working takes preparation and some skills development. Don’t beat yourself up though, it takes time. Try to make the changes gradually if you can.

Next Level Your Remote Work

Internet Nirvana

It bears repeating: Have a good internet connection. If somebody can’t hear you properly, there is something wrong with the upload path. If you can’t hear them, it’s the download path. Ask a techy friend to help you out if you can. The Internet can have a problem all the way through a path (point A to B). But in general, the problem could be your wiring, your equipment or the Internet Service Provider’s (ISP) wiring or equipment.

Here’s a few things to know before you start.

Definition of the terms using a road analogy:

Bandwidth is # of lanes on the road.

Latency is “how long does it take to get there”.

Jitter is “out of X number of trips, how consistent is the time it takes to get there? (latency)”.

When we drive we are usually concerned about the time it takes (latency) and stops (jitter, which might make the trip longer). It’s rare somebody says “It’d be great if I had a 10 lane highway instead of this 2 lane road”. Pretty crazy that we focus so much on bandwidth right?

Some alternative internet tests to make sure your internet connection is ok:

https://packetlosstest.com/ This site measures connection up to 3 min in length if troubleshooting your connection, includes packet loss and jitter with a jitter graph)

https://speed.cloudflare.com/  This site provides in-depth statistical analysis of download, upload and includes jitter.

Custom PC

A custom PC is pretty much as good as it gets. Having an “instant click” PC is pretty handy! Great hardware, software and an operating system you have complete control over. All at a reduced price and each single part warrantied.

If you’re thinking “I wouldn’t even know where to begin” it’s good to know that you can hire somebody to build it for you and you’ll still save a bundle. I recommend having a techy friend, if you’re lucky enough to know one, build a specification list for a custom PC. There are computer stores that will accept a parts list and build it for you (for less than $100). You get a PC like it’s off the shelf but with savings of 150-400% (1.5-4x less).

More Remote Working Articles

For more remote working suggestions see:

About the Author

Trevor Textor has worked in various roles requiring remote work since 1997. Since 2014 he’s been supporting small, medium and large businesses as a freelancer (contingent labor) with a “swiss-army knife”-like suite of skills. In addition to setting up policy, procedures and technology for himself and his partner he has also met this need with clients in enabling their remote work. Trevor has been quoted by Reader’s Digest, NBC News, Reviews.com and MarketWatch.com regarding setting up appropriate Internet and WiFi service for remote work. Ask Trevor if he can help: https://www.textor.ca/contactme/.

“52 things I learned in 2019” – A summary of a fantastically interesting list:

#9 Placebos are so effective that placebo placebos work: A pain cream with no active ingredients worked even when not used by the patient. Just owning the cream was enough to reduce pain. [Victoria Wai-lanYeung]
#27 Spotify pays by the song. Two three minute songs are twice as profitable as one six minute song. So songs are getting shorter. [Dan Kopf]
#41 Disco, a Japanese high tech manufacturing company, has introduced an internal billing and payment system, where every cost is charged back to workers. Renting a conference room costs $100. “People really cut back on useless meetings,” says one staffer. [Yuji Nakamura & Yuki Furukawa] -> Haha!!! Useless meetings are the harbinger of the apocalypse.
#33 According to WaterAid research, women spend 97 billion hours a year looking for a safe place to go to the loo. That equals 46 million working years, which is the same workforce as Germany, the fourth largest economy in the world. [Caroline Criado Perez via Tanya Gold]
#42 A man who bought the personalised number plate NULL has received over $12,000 of parking fines, because the system records ‘NULL’ when no numberplate has been recorded. [Jack Morse]
#29 Three million students at US schools don’t have the internet at home. [Michael Melia & co] -> Why Trevor is so passionate about internet delivery. Such a critical problem…
#3 Emojis are starting to appear in evidence in court cases, and lawyers are worried: “When emoji symbols are strung together, we don’t have a reliable way of interpreting their meaning.” (In 2017, an Israeli judge had to decide if one emoji-filled message constituted a verbal contract) [Eric Goldman]
#4 Harbinger customers are customers who buy products that tend to fail. They group together, forming harbinger zip codes. If households in those zip codes buy a product, it is likely to fail. If they back a political candidate, they are likely to lose the election. [Simester, Tucker & Yang]
#7 At least three private companies have fallen victim to ‘deep fake’ audio fraud. In each case, a computerised voice clone of the company CEO “called a senior financial officer to request an urgent money transfer.” [Kaveh Waddell, Jennifer A. Kingson]
#15 People hate asking sensitive questions. However, it turns out that people don’t hate being asked sensitive questions. So talking around difficult questions in research interviews is a waste of time and money. [Hart, VanEpps, Schweitzer]
#18 Mechanical devices to cheat your phone pedometer (for health insurance fraud or vanity) are now all over AliExpress. [Matthew Brennan]
#19 In 2017 Google and Facebook lost $100 million between them to one scammer who sent them fake invoices. [Jeff John Roberts] [found by TomBot*]
#20 Teenagers with acne get higher marks, are more likely to complete college and, if female, eventually get paid more than people without teenage acne. [Hugo M. Mialon & Erik T. Nesson]
#32 In 2018, the Nigerian government spent more on subsidies for petrol than on health, education, or defence. [Andrew S Nevin]
#36 At least half of the effort of most AI projects goes on data labelling, and that’s often done in rural Indian villages. [Anand Murali]
#44 Some blind people can understand speech that is almost three times faster than the fastest speech sighted people can understand. They can use speech synthesisers set at at 800 words per minute (conversational speech is 120–150 wpm). Research suggests that a section of the brain that normally responds to light is re-mapped in blind people to process sound. [Austin Hicks & R Douglas Fields]
#46 SDAM (Severely Deficient Autobiographical Memory) is a rare syndrome where otherwise healthy, high-functioning people are unable to remember events from their own life. There is also an exhausting syndrome called Highly Superior Autobiographical Memory, where people can remember precise details about every single day of their life. [Palumbo & Alain]
#50 Six reluctant Chinese hitmen who hired each other to carry out a murder went to jail when their outsourcing scheme collapsed. [Eric Cheung] – explained more in the Planet Money podcast “WHITWELL: So this one is a guy hired a hitman to kill somebody else. That hitman said, I’m not doing that. He gave half the money to somebody else. He said, I’m not doing that. He gave half the money to someone else. Went all the way down the chain. The last guy was getting paid so little money, he said, this isn’t worth my while to do it. He went back to the victim and told him what had happened and said, we should split the money. Instead, the victim called the police, and all six of them went to prison.”
#52 Asking ‘What questions do you have for me?’ can be dramatically more effective than ‘Any questions?’ at the end of a talk. (Many more good tips in this thread. [Jacqueline Antonovich]
And also covered by Planet Money podcast episode:

The “Fox for Fiver” Campaign

The Bank of Canada is changing the $5 bill and is asking whom Canadians think should be on the new bill. It has been suggested it be Terry Fox and I agree. Read more about the “Fox for Fiver” campaign here:


Canadians can support the campaign by submitting a nomination for Terry Fox here by March 11, 2020: