Apple Updates 13” MacBook Pro; Uber Tech Tracks Masking; Amazon VP Quits-Criticizes Whistleblower Firings; Managers-Surveillance Software Tracking Slackers

Apple freshened the 13 inch MacBook Pro with the Magic Keyboard today, and a bump in performance. The notorious butterfly keys are gone, and scissor switch ones are in (back…basically.) The new MacBook Pro is available to order today, starting at $1299. Apple has doubled the base SSD storage across all configurations. 9to5mac.com says the 13-inch MacBook Pro can now be upgraded to tenth-generation quad-core Intel CPUs, and offers 16 GB RAM as standard on certain models for the first time. Apple says the new processors are up to 2.8x faster than what was previously offered in the 13-inch MacBook Pro. However, the $1299 and $1499 models still use the older 8th-gen CPUs. Orders are live, with delivery later this week.

Uber is not only requiring masks for both drivers and passengers in the US and other countries, but it is developing some tech to ensure that all are complying. If this seems a little Big Brother-like, you won’t to read the last item on this blog today! Anyway, engadget.com reports that Uber had already been supplying masks and disinfectant to drivers, but the COVID-19 pandemic has really whacked ride share business. Uber is hoping that mask confirmation software might build trust and bring some rider business back. They are facing laying off about 20% of the company soon if not. Lyft already let go of over 1000 employees.

An Amazon VP of over 5 years has quit, calling the firing of whistleblowers Chickensh*t. According to arstechnica.com, Tim Bray had supported the 2019 ‘Amazon Employees for Climate Justice.’ Two prominent leaders of that movement, Emily Cunningham and Maren Costa were fired. Bray wrote that he snapped after that. “VPs shouldn’t go publicly rogue, so I escalated through the proper channels and by the book.” But after doing that, Bray said, keeping his job “would have meant, in effect, signing off on actions I despised. So I resigned.” Bray had previously worked as a software engineer for Sun Microsystems and Google, and is one of the co-authors of the XML standard. While he acknowledges that ‘you don’t turn a supertanker on a dime,’ Bray opined that whistleblower firings are ‘poison.’

If you thought things were getting Orwellian, hold my beer. With all the working from home due to sheltering in place over the coronavirus, some firms are turning to surveillance software, to make sure employees are ‘really’ working from home. The Washington Post notes that among the early adaptors is a paper…the High Plains Journal, headquartered in Salina, Ks. Software can check to make sure cams and microphones are on and ‘at the ready’ so employees can take part in chat rooms and ‘water cooler talk.’ with spontaneous communication only a click away. Thousands of companies have already been using monitoring software on computers and company owned phones, but this is a step beyond…including three times daily check ins, virtual happy hours, game nights, and virtual chats. How far employees will let this go…especially if using their own computers…remains to be seen, but it is getting close to the view screens in every room and ‘Thought Police’ of 1984. Remote work software maker Basecamp opines that ‘What people crave is human connection. These are the crumbs of human connection.’ He seems to be pretty aware of the spyware aspect of it all, continuing “You don’t end up extracting better, deeper, more creative work by subjecting people to ever harsher measures of surveillance.” In fact, there is a new name for this area of software….’tattleware!’ Keystroke loggers and web logs are old hat, but having the boss be able to flip on your cam and mic and check on you is a whole new invasion of privacy. One wag suggested that maybe working naked would put a stop to this type of intrusion…or else launch a whole new area of legal actions!



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