Seventh and hopefully last week under COVID-19 lock-down in Austria (4th May)

General Situation

From 1st May the restrictions to access public space has been revoked. Stores, exception restaurants and hotels, are open again. Shopping malls opened on Saturday 2nd May. With all the shops back open, and people lining up before boutiques and storming the malls there is a fear of a second wave coming soon.

Number of infected and increase rate

Back at the office

On 4th May we are back at the office!

Back at the office
Back at office

Sixth week under reduced COVID-19 lock-down in Austria (26. April)

General Situation

Two weeks have passed sind the first restrictions were repealed. Home depots and shops smaller than 400m² were allowed to open up again. Thankfully this did not lead to an immediate second wave of infections. One reason may be that the total number of infected persons is very low. So there is only a very small propability to meet an infected person outside. Another reason may be the rule to wear a mask in shops and public transportation to protect others.

COVID-19 cases in Austria

Global Azure Bootcamp – “Corona Edition”

This weeks highlight was the Global Azure Bootcamp. At the dawn of COVID-19 the GAB was officially canceled with the option for local chapters to hold the GAB if possible. Soon GAB was shifted from local meeting to virtual presentations via Microsoft Teams. Again this year was full of good presentations. #GlobalAzure

Global Azure Bootcamp 2020
Global Azure Bootcamp 2020
Global Azure Bootcamp 2020 – Virtual Corona Edition from Home Office

Azure Cloud capabilities

When the COVID-19 pandemic was raising in europa an most countries announced lock-down rules, the cloud usage increased up to 700%. In this time, the azure regions West/North Europe and UK were at their limits. In particular we saw this when deploying a Dynamics 365 Finance / SCM Tier 2 which had to be moved to US-South. Now, after a few weeks it seams that cloud capabilities are normalizing. In contrast to the last weeks I could deploy a Windows VM and Ubuntu VM in West-Europe.

Windows VM deployment in Azure region West-Europe
Ubuntu VM deployment in azure region West-Europe
Windows Server 2016 and Ubuntu VM deployment in West-Europe succeeded

Contact Tracing Apps

An everlasting topic are the apps to fight the corona pandemy. After a month Accenture has released the source code for the Stopp-Corona app at Github. Since the first apps appeared, there was the discussion how these apps could be made interoperable. The euroepan PEPP-PT project first came up with an approach to make the national develop apps interoperable. The announcement of Apple and Google to implement a contact tracing API in their operating systems immediately killed PPEP-PT. The Austrian Stopp-Corona app is evaluation the use of Apple / Google API. The German government will use Apple / Google. ETH Zurich has also left PPEP-PT.

Weekly lock-down menu

Scrambled eggs, Bratwurst, Appfelschlangerl, Gemüsefleckerl, Kaiserschmarrn, Chicken filet with rice and vegetables, Vanilla pudding with chockolate, Spice meat in sauce, Schnitzel, Turkey rolls with ham and cheese.

Cooking in quarantine

Fifth week under COVID-19 reduced lock-down in Austria (20. April)

General Situation

Staring from 14. April shops with less than 400 m² were allowed to open up, not including restaurants or bars. Home supply and garden center were also alowed to open. Using masks is now mandatory not only for grocery stores, but for shopping and public transport.

COVID-19 infected and increase rate
App. 14.500 positive tested so far

The number of infections is stalling and the increase rate is stable under 5% for a long time now. The big question is how much will the infections increase the next days. With a median of 5 days plus weekend delay will see in the middle of next week. The plan is to allow sport activities like tennis, golf, etc. at 1st May and allow restaurants to open on 15. May, under the assumption that corona infections will not dramatically raise.

Remote Assist and Augmented Reality Apps

At work we are promoting remote assist apps like Dynamics 365 Remote Assist and Dynamics 365 Product Visualize for a long time. But from my experience for most people augmented reality was something between cool and useless but definitve not usefull or business enabler.

Remote Assist Tools
Training a remote assist app for griller mainteance (Summer 2019)

Now, with all the restrictions some folks start to understand that remote assiting tools can help them to operate their business, e.g. to provide technical support for customers from employees at their home office.

Office 365 and Teams retroperspective

More than a month has passed since the lock-down started. Thankfully we were already using remote and collaboration tools for a while now. We were using SharePoint almost 10 years from now. Long before Skype for Business and Teams was released we had Lync On-Premises but switched quickely to Skype and Teams.

In the last weeks the active Teams applications used became a little more diverse. Windows apps are still mostly used but mobile and web clients are also present. For example, I’m working with my private Laptop and have my own Office 365 Tenant, therefor I’m not using the Teams application from the company but preferr the web application.

Diverse Teams clients
Collaboration from different plattforms works seamless

Statistics show that chats are the most widely used way to communicate. One to one discussions are done via chats, like we’d talk to the colleagues at work. For what would be a meeting at work, calls are arranged to discuss a specific and very certain topic.

Teams chat increase
Chats substitute face to face talks

Microsoft once reported a 775 % increase in team usage sind the lock-down in most european countries. On a smaller grain size, we see a very similar increase in our usage. While Mail, SharePoint and Onedrive are not more affected than before, our Teams usage has increased by 540%.

540 % increase in Teams usage
540% increase on Teams usage at work

Apps and APIs

Some think tracing apps can help to reduce the spread of corona, by tracking contacts and informing endangered persons. At the beginning there was the proprietary Closed-Source Stopp Corona tracking app, promoted by the Red Cross and developed by Accenture. After a few weeks the PEPP-PT (Pan-European Privacy-Preserving Proximity-Tracing) approach was announced which should make apps from different venders interoperable. Last week Apple and Goolge announced to provide interoperatble APIs for the same purpose. Questions are (1) will Apple and Goole implement PEPP-PT standards or build their own proprietary solution (2) which one will the developers in europe choose? From my perspective it is not very likely that Apple and Google will give a damn about european data privacy concerns and flood the world with their solution.

Another very concerning development is that the Austrian State Printing House (Staatsdruckerei) is working an app called Restart.ID to proof a persons immunity status. The idea is to link a persons immunity state with the persons passport. This is practically the same surveillance and discrimination approach like authoritarian regimes like China have implemented. Only if you have the app installed, obeyed the rules and have a green marker you may pass the border, access the subway, etc.

COVID tracking app from china
Role model China, ID + tracking + immunity status in an app
https://edition.cnn.com/2020/04/15/asia/china-coronavirus-qr-code-intl-hnk/index.html (Online 19.4.2020)

I’d expect that these development will have a negative effect on the acceptance and backfire. An Austrian proprietary closed-source app like Stopp-Corona is somewhat excepted. An app based the US companies Apple and Google, which regulary parise themself on how much they know about their users and actively use this information to make profit will have much less acceptance. An app that links a persons ID, passport, medical history and vaccination state is in my oppinion not acceptable.

BTW: Climate crisis is still here

Warm weather and COVID-19 lock-down is bad combination. Last week Wolfsberg, Frantschach St. Gertraud, St. Andrä and St. Paul had to limit the usage of water. This week another district is running out of water. Neuhofen a.d. Krems announced that it running out of water, because peoples’ excessive use for swimming pools and car washing. It looks like we will not be able to go abroad this summer, and the climate crisis will came back with a blast this summer.

Repetitive cooking

After five weeks of cooking on my own, it’s time to repeat good recipies and improve others: Geschnetzeltes, Pork, Spagehtti, Noodle Gratin, Spicy meat with rice, Toast

Cooking

#stayhealthy

Forth week under COVID-19 lock-down in Austria (13. April)

General Situation

Four weeks under lock-down have passed. Numbers show that the curve of infected persons has flattend. Starting with 14. April some stores will be allowed to open again. This are good news, but in general it will still be forbidden to access public space, excpet for 1) work, 2) shopping, 3) helping others and 4) sport activities.

COVID-19 infected and increase rate
COVID-19 Infected and increase rate

Right now nobody knows how many people are really infected. This is because tests are generally only done when people report symptoms. People without or with less symptoms are not recognized. Therefore, a study was conducted where random people were tested. When the study was conducted app. 10.000 people were tested positive. The study suggested that based on the randoms, app. 28.000 were infected. These are good and bad new. Good news, Corona did not spread very much, the lock-down is working. Bad news, only a few numbers of people have been through the invection (0.3% of the population) and almost everyone and everywhere can and will get it as soon as the lock-down is lifted. It is said that 60% + of infections are required to gain population wide immunity, and with 0.3% we are miles away.

Will infections increase after lock-down?
Are we doomed for an eternal lock-down?

Stopp Corona App

The Corona app got an update this week. While in the first version a digital handshake had to be done manually, the app now can track other phones running the app. If the other device is within a few meters for a longer time (app. 15 minutes), both devices exchange eachothers ID. IMHO a very usefull feature because hardly anyone I know did initiale a manual handshake. The app uses Bluetooth and Ultrasonic via microphone to find other phones nearby. The manual handshake is still possible and the auto-handshake feature can be turned off. However, in the last weeks the app has been discussed in a very controversal way.

Suspicious Stopp Corona app
Two phones performing an automated hand shake

Although the app is promoted by the Red Cross, it is financed by Uniqa (insurance company) and developed by Accenture. While most people trust the Red Cross, many are sceptical about a private a insurance company and a consulting firm. The app is still not open source, although this is requested from many sides. Accenture only devlivers questionable excuses, like it is not documented well enough to put it open source.

Stopp Corona app not open source because not documented?
App is not Open Source because it is not well documented ?
https://www.roteskreuz.at/site/faq-app-stopp-corona/ (13.4)

Instead, they provide the source code to a limited number of experts which are allowed to look at the source code and draw conclusions. Even more suspicious is the fact that the Android version requires the rights to access the phones location if the automatic handshake feature is active. Accenture states that this is due to Android security architecture. Although the app can access the location they claim they don’t process or store it. As long as there is now way to build, deploy and compare the binaries with the official ones there is no way to tell what gets installed on the phone and if the source code provided to experts is really the one used to build the app.

Stopp Corona app wants access to location
Stopp Corona app wants to access the phones location as well

Also very disturbing is the fact that politicans thought about making the Stopp Corona app mandatory. After a intense discussion and reports in the media, it is now common sense to keep the app optional.

There are two additional topics regarding the Stopp Corona app. First, what about people without smart phone? The idea is to use Bluetooth beacons that can be attached to e.g. the keys. Question is, how do these people get notified when they have been in contact with a sick person? It reminds me of a dog tag and linked with a person related ID like the phone number it opens all doors for tracking and surveillance.

Local news paper explains Bluetooth beacon
https://www.krone.at/2133367 (13.4)

Second topic regarding the app is to implement the PEPP-PT standard and make it interoperable with apps from other countries. Right now borders are almost closed, but in the nearer future when we are allowed to travel there have to be compatible apps.

Azure Europe & UK

Azure regions Europe + UK are still at its limit. The configuration dialog of new VMs prompts a waring that the deployment may fail. It is recommended to use another region. This is not a big issue now, but hopefully our region will get more resources when businesses open again.

Azure region europe off limits, no new deployments
Deployment in Europe / UK region may fail

As much as I know, already depolyed services dont face downtimes or other troubles. With one exception, we are running all our customers Dyanmics 365 Finance / SCM instances in the european regions and did not face issues related with the currently higher utilization. Our Blockchain workbench and Blockchain Service instances are performing well.

Climate Crisis

While Corona crisis takes almost all space in the media, the climate crisis is still there. We had an unusal long lasting period of sunshine with temperatures up to 25 °C. This in combination with many people at home lead to the situation that Wolfsberg had to ration water supply. Washing cars, watering the lawn and filling up swimming pools is forbidden. A strang situation since we are in spring and summer is months away.

Climate crisis, water usage limited
Dramatic water situation in Wolfsberg (13.4)

Even more cooking

Spaghetti with pesto genovese, Geschnetzeltes (stripes of meat in creamy sauce), Tiramisu, Cordon Bleu, Toast with ham and cheese, Burger, another Kaiserschmarrn, Chocolate Pudding

Spaghetti, Geschnetzeltes, Tiramisu, Cordon Bleu, Toast, Burger, Kaiserschmarrn

Third week under COVID-19 lock-down in Austria (5. April )

General Situation

Three weeks have passed under lock-down and things have calmed downed, people are getting used to stay at home. Homeoffice, Home Schooling, etc. becomes more organized. Although many people (83%) accept the lock down in general, with these good weather conditions people tend to interpret the lock down a little bit too relaxed. But for thoses who get caught, getaways can become really expensive (up to 3600€). The police has announced that they will put additional effort to enforce the lock down including mountain police patrols and helicopters.

Good weather conditions
Good weather is bad for lock-down discipline

The number of infections is still on the raise but the rate is rather low. Under lock down the increase rate now has droped under 10% for many days. In addition masks are now mandatory for going shopping.

COVID-19 rate in Austria
Positive tested for Covid-19

Tracking is still a big issue and recently discussed in the media and politics. Google statistics show the effect of lock-down. Some politicans are discussing if the Red Cross’ Stop Corona App should be mandatory. Another idea is to automate the app’s handshake. Right now, a handshake with other app users has to be done manually. This isn’t done very often, especially with stranger e.g. at the super market. A future update may automate the handshake to track every people around you. Although a persons ID is anonymous, an automated tracking of everyone is not accepted by most people.

Azure Cloud and Business Applications

Last week the resources in the Azure Cloud region Europe were at its limit. The deployment of VMs in West/North europe often failed. This week we tried to deploy a Dynamics 365 Finance / SCM Tier2 environment. After days in status Queued we were adviced to place the environment in US South region.

Deploy Dynamics 365 Finance / SCM Tier2 environment in US-South Central

The highlight this week was the virutal launch event for Dynamics 365 and Power Platform april wave. Our company attended the event from our home offices while the speakers were presenting from their home offices.

From Home Office to Home Office: Business Applications Wave April’20 Launch Event

From all the new features coming to the Power Platform, I found the UI flow very interesting. In combination with an on-premises gateway, Power Automate (aka. Flow) can be used to interact with locally installed windows applications and websites. This is especially interesting to integrate legacy applications without an API. I’ve made a short Video how to use the UI Flows for web sites to get the actual Bitcoin / EUR rate and send it via Email.

UI Flow demo: Integrate a web site with Power Automate

More Cooking

Gemüsefleckerl, Fleischlaberl, Pudding, Apfelschlangerl, Fleckerlspeis

Stay home, stay safe

Second week under COVID-19 lock-down in Austria (28. March)

General Situation

The second week of lock-down has passed. The number of infections are growing, but the rate of new infections is decreasing. However, a small increase of large number is still a larger number and it is expected that we will see the peek in the next weeks. With a incubation time up to 10 or 14 days it looks like the lock down has a positive effect. The number of infections is only an approximation to reality, because only a small number of people are tested. The more tests, the more positive cases will be identifed. Thats why it was announced to use the number of people in hospital and in intensive care as more realisitc indicators.

Increasing number of infections, decreasing rate

The government is publishing actual data on regular basis: https://info.gesundheitsministerium.at/

Austrias Covid-19 dashboard

Remote-, Home-, Distance- Everything

In week 2 almost everything possible has been switched to digital and remote work. Many courses at Johannes Kepler Universtity have been switched to distance learning via video streams. Whenever I prefer presence courses because it’s hard to say concentrated for an hour watch video streams.

JKU Linz Moodle

Companies like SAP took the chance to offer free courses and certifications for students who now have time and stay at home. Not only SAP but many other companies use the forced timeout to gain new customers via free videos, tutorials, training, etc.

Free SAP course and certification

The Austrian Red Cross has developed a Stop Corona app to track social contacts. The app assings an anonymous number to the phone and you can do a handshake with other app users. If one person is tested positive on Covid-19 all other contacts get notified on their phone. The use of the app is (actually) optional. Other countries like chain also have tracking apps, but these apps are not anonymous and not optional.

Anonymous tracking app

Fight for Resources

The huge number of Microsoft Teams users (44 million now) forced Microsoft to increase the resources by x60 times. Microsoft also announced to reduce the functionallity of cloud services like Teams, SharePoint, Stream etc. There are also complaints that deploying new Azure resources in region West-Europe fails. I tried to deploy 2 servers (2 cores, 7 GB RAM) and indeed one deployment failed because no resources could be allocated.

No resources in Azure region West-Europe

More Cooking

I’ve used the time in lock-down to train my cooking skills. Fleischlaberl, Kaiserschamarrn, spinach, Apfelschlangerl, Noodle Gratin, Käsekreiner, Apple rings.

Cooking in Isolation

First week under COVID-19 lock-down in Austria (March 22nd)

General Situation

One week has passed since Austria was set under lock-down. When being outside (Work, Shopping Food, Taking a walk) at least 1m distance has to be kept between people, gathering in groups is not allowed. The Police is enforcing the rules with fines up to 3600€. Students, who party and potentially spread the virus can be expelled from university.

Severe consequences for students

Home Office

Our company is now running 100% from home office. It turned out that Teams is now the backbone for us. On monday some of us experienced problems in Teams. However, this is more than understandable when so many companies had to switch to home office and schools are also using Teams for distance learning. Microsoft reported they have now 44 million users on Teams. The usage of Teams also increased significantly in our company.

Teams usage increased during home office

While the cloud scales pretty good, the local internet connection at our office is relativly fixed. There are peeks during working hours because we still have some workloads on-prem but monitoring the traffic it seams we are pretty fine with the current bandwidth. Same goes for the sizing of our RDS host which can handle the remaining on-prem workload as well. The more you are cloud-based, the less you have to worry about on-prem bottlenecks.

Traffic monitorig for on-prem workloads

During the Corona crisis Microsoft, Google, Teamviewer and others offer their collaboration tools for free. To ensure there is enough bandwidth for home office (e.g. while the kids are streaming videos), Netflix announced (was asked) to reduced the quality of video streaming. The RTR announced that providers may omit net neutrality and reduced the bandwith for video streaming. Even more concerning is that A1 Telekom now gives anonymous(?) movement profiles of cell phones to the government and red cross.

There is also something good to take away from this crisis. It is a massive push for digital transformation because now companies are forced to embrace cloud services like Teams to stay operable. We already heard from cloud-sceptical customers that especially Teams is very welcome. Teams & Co is not only used to enable home office, but also to switch former face-to-face contacts with customers and suppliers to remote contact.

Now, that we the number of appointments and customer vistis have been significantly reduced we use some time for house keeping like patching servers, upgrading operating systems, etc. We were planning to take some exams to meet the Microsoft Competency requirements. Thomas Maurer published a good article about how to take an certification exam online. This is also a breathing time to work on our Blockchain research project and migrate applications from the Blockchain Workbench to the Blockchain Service in Azure.

Evaluating the Blockchain Service (Beta)

Home Office = Home Cooking

Home office means home cooking and I started to enjoy cooking a fresh meal every day like Schnitzel, Cevapcici, Chili, etc.

Mahlzeit