Issue 825

Wednesday, 27th February 2019

In This Issue


Amazon's Australian warehouse sucks for workers, just like their American ones

The ABC has done a bit of digging and found out that Amazon's Australian warehouse in the Melbourne suburb of Dandenong is a cesspool of brutal workplace conditions, just like the ones overseas. There's the same count-down timer that grossly underestimates the amount of time it takes to retrieve an item, the same labor hire workforce paid a pittance for their back breaking work, told less than 24 hours in advance when to come in and the same reluctance to let outsiders visit or talk to workers unchaperoned. What shits me the most is Amazon's passive aggressive performance management - sure, workers can knock off for a piss any time they need, but if you do it hurts your average pick rate, so management crawls out from their lair and asks why. If your pick rate isn't high enough, you're not given any more shifts and effectively sacked.

The FTC is opening a Technology Task Force to monitoring competition in the tech industry

The USA's Federal Trade Commission's Bureau of Competition has said it's going to launch a Technology Task Force, "dedicated to monitoring competition in U.S. technology markets, investigating any potential anticompetitive conduct in those markets, and taking enforcement actions when warranted". The force will include 17 attorneys and support staff who will have "unique expertise in complex product and service markets and ecosystems, including markets for online advertising, social networking, mobile operating systems and apps, and platform businesses. The task force will also include a Technology Fellow, who will provide important technical assistance and expertise to support the task force’s investigations". Considering the heft of the FAAMG gang (almost US$3t in market cap), keeping a lid on any business practices that don't allow fair competition sounds smart to me.

USB 3.2 is the latest USB spec, complete with new and confusing nomenclature

USB 3.2 is now a thing. The USB-IF announced it at MWC today and the main feature is that it brings 20Gb/s speeds over a single USB Type-C plug. Controllers using this high speed USB 3.2 will come mid-2019 for desktop PCs, but peripherals using USB 3.2 probably won't arrive until 2020. You'll be able to use existing USB-C cables to get those sweet 20Gb/s speeds (if the cable you've got now actually works in the first place). Things get weird with the naming structure of USB 3.2 though - USB 3.0 and 3.1 no longer exist, they've been wiped from the USB-IF vocab. All USB 3 devices are now USB 3.2. What was USB 3.0 (5Gb/s) is now USB 3.2 Gen 1 (or SuperSpeed USB) and USB 3.1 (10Gb/s) is now USB 3.2 Gen 2 (aka SuperSpeed USB 10Gbps). This new fancy 20Gb/s USB is USB 3.2 Gen 2x2 or SuperSpeed USB 20Gbps. Very normal naming structure.

Vocus reckons they can't turn a buck selling NBN services, gonna focus on 5G

Australia's fourth largest telco, Vocus (disclaimer: I used to own Vocus shares but sold them all at a loss about a year ago, fucken ratbags), is going to ease off selling residential NBN services to concentrate on fixed wireless and fibre backhaul. According to iTnews, "the company said there was "no profit margin" to be had on consumer NBN services "after costs to migrate, acquire and serve, together with backhaul and other admin and operational costs." The consumer NBN business was "cashflow negative" once the cost of modems and backhaul agreements were taken into account". Vocus's Dodo and iPrimus brands will live on, but they're not aggressively pursuing customers. They're keen on 5G though, as they've got heaps of fibre backhaul that can sit on the end of a few 5G towers in areas where the NBN sucks.

Mozilla claims Australian IT workers are an "insider threat" thanks to Assistance & Access law

In a submission to the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security's inquiry into the Assistance and Access Bill, Mozilla (the developers of Firefox, and other things, but mostly Firefox) said that "it is easy to imagine how Australian authorities could abuse their powers and the penalties of this law to coerce an employee of a DCP to compromise the security of the systems and products they develop or maintain" and that "this potential would force Designated Communication Providers to treat Australia-based employees as potential insider threats, introducing another vector for compromise that could undermine trust in critical products and incentivising companies to move critical roles to other localities". I love being an insider threat and attack vector thanks to my government's pants pissing style of law making.

Not News, But Still Cool

Former NBN CEO explains in detail why he reckons the NBN sucks

Michael Quigley, the first CEO of NBN, has spilled his guts all over the latest issue of The Monthly. It's a long post, full of sad anecdotes about how the NBN was constantly shit on while he was in charge, but this one regarding a meeting NBN hosted with editors of News Limited newspapers was striking - "News Limited's position regarding the NBN seemed to be one of principle. Never mind that the private sector would never build an NBN, or that the current market structure was flawed, or that government had a successful history of fixed-line infrastructure building. The view from News Limited's side of the table was that the government just shouldn't be building this sort of public infrastructure". After reading Mike's story, it feels to me like the poor feeble nerds at NBN stood no chance against all the bullies in the Parliament, in the bureaucracy and the media. Shame on us.

Lenovo's ThinkVision M14 is a portable USB-C powered display for dual screens on the go

I didn't spot this in Lenovo's Thinkpad refresh a few days ago, but they added a 14", 1080p, battery powered portable LCD monitor that plugs in and charges over USB-C to their line-up. The ThinkVision M14 is ~560g and 4.6mm thick, so it'll slide in to pretty much any laptop bag to make a dual display setup for the road. The battery resides in a weighted flip out foot that also has a USB hub and can pass though power to the laptop with a USB-C charger. Dunno what the quality is like, but the concept is pretty interesting. I wonder if you could plug in two of these to make a triple monitor setup? That would be cool as hell. The ThinkVision M14 goes on sale in May and will cost US$249.

Cheap Yamaha soundbar, Nokia 8110, Vodafone pre-paid SIM, Xiaomi powerbank, iTunes gift cards

That's it, see ya tomorrow!

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