Reporter Takes Warehouse Job to Infiltrate the Online-Shipping Machine

  • What happens after you click BUY?
  • Human rights reporter Mac McClelland takes an in-depth look at the often “demoralizing and dehumanizing” work environment of online shipping facilities.
  • McClelland details the hiring process, training procedures, low wages, employee competition, warehouse culture, management techniques, the many reasons that can lead to being fired and much more.
  • “They need you to work as fast as possible to push out as much as they can as fast as they can,” writes McClelland for Mother Jones. “So they’re gonna give you goals, and then you know what? If you make those goals, they’re gonna increase the goals. But they’ll be yelling at you all the time. It’s like the military. They have to break you down so they can turn you into what they want you to be. So they’re going to tell you, ‘You’re not good enough, you’re not good enough, you’re not good enough,’ to make you work harder.”
  • “Don’t say, ‘This is the best I can do,'” she adds. “Say, ‘I’ll try,’ even if you know you can’t do it. Because if you say, ‘This is the best I can do,’ they’ll let you go. They hire and fire constantly, every day. You’ll see people dropping all around you. But don’t take it personally and break down or start crying when they yell at you.”

Would an x86 PlayStation 4 Mark a Significant Shift for the Console Industry?

  • Unconfirmed rumors suggest the next generation PlayStation will run an AMD x86 with an AMD “Southern Islands” GPU. Similarly, the next Xbox 360 may also run an AMD GPU.
  • While these chips are top performers, they do not represent a new state-of-the-art system as their predecessors did when they debuted six years ago.
  • This may disappoint gamers but game consoles are increasingly being used for viewing of streaming media, which does not require the highest performance. Xbox Live Gold subscribers, for example, actually spend more time viewing streaming video than playing games.
  • This approach also allows Sony and Microsoft to build less costly media consoles appealing to a larger market rather than expensive game units that sell below cost.
  • Further, developers will be more familiar with these PC architectures, encouraging faster game development.

At Age 60, Reports of Tape Death May Have Been Premature

  • In spite of larger and faster hard drives, digital tape has not gone away. In fact, next generation tape drives are capable of 525MB/sec and a price of $25/terabyte, which is less than one quarter the cost of a hard drive.
  • The Ultrium Linear Tape Open specification will ultimately have 32TB cartridges and 1.2GB/sec throughput.
  • LT0-5, which currently supports up to 3GB compressed data, and the Linear Tape File System (LTFS) together allow tape to handle demanding new applications, such as cloud storage, Big Data and streaming media. LTFS allows partitioning of the tape so one can quickly find the tape’s contents on partition 0 and locate the data on partition 1. This allows one to keep data in a near-line environment.
  • Tapes are increasingly being used by media companies to efficiently store master quality video. Paramount Pictures, Sony Pictures Entertainment, National Geographic, The New York Times and the NCAA are using Thought Equity, a cloud-based storage service whose system uses an LTO-5 tape library with LTFS to handle more than 10 petabytes of data.

Nuance Envisions Voice Recognition Technology Just About Everywhere

  • Nuance Communications has become a leader in voice technology. Already in use for Apple’s Siri, the company is developing voice technology to command televisions, cars, computers, and smart devices such as coffee makers, refrigerators, thermostats, alarm systems and appliances.
  • Nuance’s Dragon Go voice assistant app for Android and iPhone, which has been downloaded several million times, listens to voice commands regarding mobile entertainment, streaming media, social networking, and shopping.
  • It is actively working directly with websites like Spotify, Yelp, YouTube, AccuWeather, ESPN, Facebook, Fandango, LiveNation, Pandora, Twitter, Wikipedia and others. The app bypasses search engines like Google and Bing, which are both developing their own voice command systems.
  • Nuance is also working with major corporations to develop voice-enabled information systems. In healthcare, a Nuance system can scan dictated doctor’s notes for key information. US Airways has created “Wally,” a voice operated customer service that can anticipate and respond to requests for flight information.
  • LG will soon introduce a Dragon TV-enabled voice-command system that can find programs, make calls via Skype, shop on Amazon and even allow viewers to update their Facebook and Twitter accounts.

Will Apple iPhone Become a Must-Have Tool for Field Reporters?

  • Apple iPhones, which cost about one percent of a 1970s mini-cam, are being deployed by news organizations for field reporting.
  • Gannett, for example, has purchased over 1,000 iPhone 4S smartphones for its reporters and photographers, both at local TV stations and newspapers, which are collaborating on stories.
  • The iPhone was selected because there are a number of apps and accessories available including iMovie, Splice, Brightcove Mobile Upload, QIK, mCAM, Steadicam Smoothee, Camera Table Dolly, LiveAction Camera Grip, Kogeto Dot and Manfrotto Pro Monopod.
  • “During a recent Florida State-Duke basketball game, Gannett’s Tallahassee Democrat switched live between nine different video streams, highlighting on-court strategy with Telestrator-style graphics,” reports TVNewsCheck.
  • The iPad is also being deployed for news production both in the field and in the studio. Some of the more popular iPad apps being used include OradControl, VizReporter and Avid Studio.

Best Buy to Close 50 Big-Box Stores and Adopt Connected Store Format

  • Best Buy’s $1.7 billion loss for the last quarter of its fiscal year will lead it to close 50 “big-box” stores, cut 400 corporate jobs, and reduce infrastructure and non-product costs.
  • “The retail chain hadn’t named the stores in question, but expected these and other cost savings to cut $250 million in 2013 and $300 million just for retail by the 2015 target,” reports Electronista.
  • The company, however, is still moving ahead with 100 Best Buy Mobile stores, some 50 of which will open in China.
  • Best Buy notes that pressure from Internet sales and less focus on TV affected their results. It is responding by introducing a Connected Store concept where customers can get price comparisons via Web kiosks, staff will be trained in product integration and there will be instant checkout similar to an Apple Store.

Verizon CEO Pitches Cable Partnerships and Teases Mobile Video

  • Verizon is seeking a partnership with Comcast, Time Warner, Bright House Networks and Cox Communications. The $3.9 billion deal to buy spectrum licenses would also allow Verizon and the cable companies to sell each other’s products.
  • One such product would include a mobile TV service that could be offered by the end of the year.
  • Lowell McAdam, Verizon Communications CEO, is hoping to offer a mobile service where consumers could pick the content they want rather than paying for bundles of channels. McAdam says media companies have acknowledged the need to offer consumers more choice like an a la carte service.
  • Verizon is looking to have content providers pay for the amount of data consumed by streaming video.
  • “Critics have called the deals anti-competitive, charging that they signal a truce between longtime rivals,” reports the Wall Street Journal.

Opinion: Long-Time Android User Voices Frustration, Calls for Change

  • Jason Perlow, a technology editor at ZDNet and a long-time Android user, airs the platform’s dirty laundry.
  • While he praises the open source smartphone and tablet OS, the independence the users have and the variety of devices available — he suggests that issues regarding Android’s stability, the platform standardization and maintenance all combine for a frustrating experience.
  • “I’ve spent over two years as an Android user,” he writes. “The next time around, I’m going elsewhere unless substantial changes take place in how Google manages its ecosystem and OEM/Carrier partners.”
  • Google has failed to manage its ecosystem and the carriers who use it resulting in fragmentation and carrier bloatware, according to Perlow. If the issues persist, he says he will stop recommending Android and point people toward iOS and Windows Phone instead.

Cyberspace and Stage: Recreating Theater for the Connected Generation

  • New Paradise Laboratories, a Philadelphia-based theatrical company, is using social media to make its stories and characters available to the audience even before the show opens. This approach appeals directly to people who might not attend theaters but are active Internet users.
  • In their “Fatebook” production, NPL used Facebook, Twitter and Flickr to allow the audience to interact with the actors in character. The actual live show became the party where all the characters met.
  • In “Extremely Public Displays of Privacy,” one actor spent a year creating the character online that included pictures, songs and Facebook entries.
  • “What I loved the most was that I had a constant outlet for my creativity. I would follow my impulses. I was creating little pieces for my character,” explains actress Annie Enneking. “After the show closed, it felt like a little death.”
  • “In addition to molding the two characters’ lives online, the play also incorporated geo-location technology where a character guides you through a park,” reports Mashable. “Audience members could download a sound file for a 45-minute guided tour in a Philadelphia park. Online audiences can take a virtual walk online via YouTube. The third act completed the play with a real-time performance in Philadelphia where the theater is based.”

Will Online Film Viewing in the U.S. Surpass Physical Discs in 2012?

  • According to research firm IHS Screen Digest, online movie viewing will exceed viewing on DVDs and Blu-ray this year.
  • Legal online viewing is expected to grow from 1.4 billion movies last year to 3.4 billion this year. Meanwhile, viewing movies on physical discs will decline from 2.6 billion to 2.4 billion.
  • Streaming services from Netflix and Amazon represent 94 percent of paid online movie viewing.
  • “The report highlights the price disparity between online purchases and movies sold in retail shops,” reports Bloomberg. “Consumers paid an average of 51 cents for every movie consumed online, compared with $4.72 for physically purchased videos, IHS found.”
  • “We are looking at the beginning of the end of the age of movies on physical media like DVD and Blu-ray,” says Dan Cryan, IHS senior principal analyst. “But the transition is likely to take time: almost nine years after the launch of the iTunes Store, CDs are still a vital part of the music business.”

Privacy Changes: Do Users No Longer Trust Google with Their Data?

  • A recent Pew Internet study showed that 73 percent of search users agree that a search engine keeping track of their searches is an invasion of privacy.
  • Google’s effort to combine its privacy policy across its properties is clearly at odds with how comfortable its users feel about how they will use personal data.
  • Google recognizes that it needs to gather more information about us to remain relevant and provide us with ads we care about. But people do not want to use Google+ so it has sought out data on us in ways that cause us to wonder whether they are “becoming evil.”
  • “The only reason anyone uses the word evil about Google, is because Google asked us to,” comments Gizmodo. “When it said that it wasn’t evil, it immediately invited an argument.”
  • Google has violated its users’ trust. It tracked Safari users without their permission. It has begun promoting its own products in its search results. It has given increased importance to ads over search results.
  • “The case against Google is for the first time starting to outweigh the case for it,” ads the post.
  • In a related story from the Los Angeles Times, Google users are suing the company over the “deceptive” privacy changes: “The complaint was filed in the U.S. District Court in Manhattan by David Nisenbaum, Pedro Marti and Allison C. Weiss on behalf of Google and Android users who signed up for any Google user account from August 19, 2004, to February 29, 2012, and continued to use a Google account on or after March 1, 2012, when Google’s new privacy policy went into effect.”

Lumia Phones: Is Microsoft Strategy for Nokia a Certain Road to Death?

  • Nokia’s Windows Phone strategy is having disastrous results where in the UK its market share has dropped from 23 percent in September 2010 to 4.6 percent in February 2012. A survey of major European markets confirms the lack of interest in Nokia’s Windows phone.
  • As “Nokia is Microsoft’s last gasp in mobile,” the results put into question whether Microsoft’s mobile strategy can succeed. Reportedly, Microsoft was disliked by the carrier community and this was not helped by its acquisition of Skype. “There is no coming back for Microsoft, not with or without Nokia,” comments Communities Dominate Brands — a blog of the book by the same title.
  • Moreover, the retail channel is not supporting Nokia’s Lumia (Windows Phone) sales, preferring to sell Android instead.
  • Ironically, Nokia has more attractive phones including the N9, N950 and the 808 PureView (award-winner at the recent Mobile World Congress). But these are all based on the outmoded Symbian OS.
  • “The Microsoft strategy for Nokia is a certain road to death,” suggests the post. “The Lumia smartphones will doom Nokia. The Windows Phone OS is never going to be the third ecosystem. The sooner the Nokia Board see the facts, and make the right decision, the sooner Nokia can start onto the road to recovery.”

Photographer Hacks 1919 Camera to Canon DSLR with Impressive Results

  • What do you get when you hack a circa-1919 camera to a Canon 5D? You get some remarkable images that look like they are from another era.
  • Does this mean these old cameras and their lenses have another life?
  • “I’ve had this Piccolette Contessa-Nettel (1919) folding camera for ages. Its been a great piece of photo history sitting on my shelf. Was curious if it could make pictures again, so I hacked it onto my 5D. Here are the results,” writes photographer and filmmaker Jason Bognacki before his posting of images.
  • “I am a self confessed glass-a-holic,” says Bognacki. “I have been collecting and seeking out vintage, obscure, and trash lenses for a while now. I guess I’ve treated it as an optical education of sorts.”
  • Bognacki is expected to offer more details on his blog regarding how he connected the cameras, but offered Digital Trends a preview: ““M42-EOS mount + M42 Extension Tube + Hot Glue = The 5D View Camera. No lenses or cameras were injured in the process. The process is reversible.”
  • Update: No how-to details yet, but Bognacki’s blog now features some video shot using the older lens.

New Era of UGC: Switchcam Leverages Fan Vids to Share Concerts Online

  • Switchcam is a beta website that automates the creation of event videos. It aggregates smartphone videos of the same event that appear on Facebook, YouTube and other sites. Then, it synchronizes them so you can watch the event from multiple POVs.
  • The concept is especially interesting for live concerts where fans record the musicians playing and post the songs online.
  • You can watch the event from start to finish or jump to specific songs in a concert. Voting is used to select the best angles. You can also share individual songs.
  • This may prove to be a useful tool for fans, and also for musicians and bands looking to YouTube to promote their concerts.
  • Currently in beta, Switchcam is working with artists, CAA and LiveNation. The company plans to incorporate ads.
  • Check out the concerts currently posted at

Report Suggests More Than Half of All Web Traffic is Non-Human

  • Incapsula, a provider of cloud-based security, released a study of 1000 sites that shows only 49 percent of Web traffic comes from people who are browsing.
  • The rest of the traffic is “non-human,” comprised of: search engines — 20 percent, “spies” collecting competitive intelligence — 19 percent, hacking tools — 5 percent, scrapers — 5 percent, and spammers — 2 percent.
  • These “non-human” sources do not appear in analytics and can seriously impact website security and performance as they eat up so much bandwidth.
  • “Incapsula offers a service aimed at securing small and medium sized businesses,” notes ZDNet. “It has a global network of nine data centers that analyze all traffic to a customer’s site and blocking harmful exploits in real-time, while also speeding up page loading times through cached content closer to users.”