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Top Stories for the Week of May 1, 2019

  • Episode 606
  • May 1, 2019

Here are the stories we're following for the week of Wednesday May 1, 2019


Ubuntu 14.04 LTS has reached its end of life, five years after it was first released.

Ubuntu 14.04 LTS has reached its end of life, five years after it was first released.

When a piece of software reaches End of Life, most commonly called "EOL", this marks the end of all support. And as of this past Tuesday, there will be no further security updates, package updates, or maintenance updates to Ubuntu 14.04 LTS for desktop or server users.

Since 2012 , each long-term support release (LTS) of Ubuntu is backed by 5 years of on-going support, security patches, and critical fixes.

The benefit of getting on-going band-aids, bug solutions, and core packages is one of the reasons Ubuntu LTS releases are the preferred choice for millions of users. But even so, that support is finite.

Although support for Ubuntu 14.04 ended April 30 the OS itself will continue to work without any major issues. Third-party repositories can even continue to provide packages for the release (though few will).

Canonical advise that users of Ubuntu 14.04 LTS upgrade to an actively supported version of Ubuntu as soon as possible.

Source: www.omgubuntu.co.uk

Sent to us by: Roy W. Nash


Amazon's AI automatically tracks and fires warehouse workers who it determines to be unproductive.

Amazon's AI automatically tracks and fires warehouse workers who it determines to be unproductive.

Amazon’s fulfillment centers are the engine of the company — massive warehouses where workers track, pack, sort, and shuffle each order before sending it on its way to the buyer’s door.

Critics say those fulfillment center workers face strenuous conditions: workers are pressed to “make rate,” with some packing hundreds of boxes per hour, and losing their job if they don’t move fast enough.

Documents obtained by The Verge show those productivity firings are far more common than outsiders realize. In a signed letter last year, an attorney representing Amazon said the company fired “hundreds” of employees at a single facility between August of 2017 and September 2018 for failing to meet productivity quotas. A spokesperson for the company said that, over that time, roughly 300 full-time associates were terminated for inefficiency.

The number represents a substantial portion of the facility’s workers: a spokesperson said the named fulfillment center in Baltimore includes about 2,500 full-time employees today. Assuming a steady rate, that would mean Amazon was firing more than 10 percent of its staff annually, solely for productivity reasons. The numbers are even more staggering in North America as a whole. Amazon operates more than 75 fulfillment centers with more than 125,000 full-time employees, suggesting thousands lose their jobs with the company annually for failing to move packages quickly enough.

The documents also show a deeply automated tracking and termination process. “Amazon’s system tracks the rates of each individual associate’s productivity,” according to the letter, “and automatically generates any warnings or terminations regarding quality or productivity without input from supervisors.” Although Amazon says supervisors are able to override the process.

Critics see the system as a machine that only sees numbers, not people.

The system goes so far as to track “time off task,” which the company abbreviates as TOT. If workers break from scanning packages for too long, the system automatically generates warnings and, eventually, the employee can be fired.

Amazon says retraining is part of the process to get workers up to standards and that it only changes rates when more than 75 percent of workers at a facility are meeting goals. The bottom 5 percent of workers are placed on a training plan, according to the company. An appeal system is also part of the termination process.

Workers have, at times, pushed back against the company’s productivity requirements. Last year, East African immigrant workers at a Minnesota facility organized protests against the company, saying they didn’t have sufficient break time, including for prayer.

In response, Amazon has continued to tout the benefits of working for the company, pointing to their hourly pay rates and policies like parental leave. But the documents make clear that some workers, failing to meet productivity standards, won’t reap the benefits of a job at all.

Source: www.theverge.com

Sent to us by: Robbie Ferguson


Nintendo's hybrid Switch console now stands at 34.74 million units, which surpasses the sales of the incredibly popular N64.

Nintendo's hybrid Switch console now stands at 34.74 million units, which surpasses the sales of the incredibly popular N64.

Nintendo's lastest financial earnings results are now available, giving us a look at the company's hardware and software sales for the past fiscal year. Not only did Nintendo's recent spate of Switch exclusives sell an impressive number of copies, the Switch console itself has also hit a new sales milestone.

During the fiscal year ended March 31, Nintendo moved 16.95 million Switch consoles. While that fell just short of the company's revised plan to sell 17 million units during the fiscal year, it did represent a 12.7% year-on-year increase. Moreover, it brought the system's global sales thus far up to 34.74 million, surpassing the lifetime sales of the Nintendo 64, which stands at 32.93 million.

The Switch has been an impressive rebound for Nintendo after the poor performance of the company's previous home console, the Wii U, which sold just 13.56 million units over its lifetime. The Switch on the other hand, has been selling well since launching back in March 2017, managing to outsell its predecessor in just 10 months. However, it remains to be seen whether or not it'll match the company's best-selling home console, the Wii, which stands at 101.63 million.

Source: www.gamespot.com

Sent to us by: Robbie Ferguson


Elon Musk has revealed his Neuralink startup is close to announcing the first brain-machine interface to connect humans and computers.

Elon Musk has revealed his Neuralink startup is close to announcing the first brain-machine interface to connect humans and computers.

The entrepreneur took to Twitter to tell followers the technology would be “coming soon” – though he failed to provide details.

Neuralink was set up in 2016 with the ambitious goal of developing hardware to enhance the human brain, however, little about how this will work has been made public.

The startup’s website, which is advertising vacancies for 11 different jobs, describes the futuristic technology as an “ultra-high bandwidth” connection between the human brain and computers.

Mr Musk has frequently claimed the rapid rise of artificial intelligence poses an existential risk to humanity. Such an interface, he says, is essential if humans are to compete with such technology in the future.

Speaking last year on The Joe Rogan Experience podcast, Mr Musk said Neuralink’s technology would allow humans to “effectively merge with AI”.

A paper published in Nature Nanotechnology in 2015 described a concept for this connection, explaining how a flexible circuit could be injected into a living brain. Charles Lieber, who co-authored the study said, "We’re trying to blur the distinction between electronic circuits and neural circuits. We have to walk before we can run, but we think we can really revolutionise our ability to interface with the brain."

Despite the technology’s potential to augment the human brain, experts have warned that brain-computer interfaces risk being hijacked by rogue artificial intelligence. They warn that such a scenario could lead to AI controlling the thoughts, decisions and emotions of a person using a brain-computer link.

Source: www.independent.co.uk

Sent to us by: Robbie Ferguson


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