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Amazon shareholders sort out tech big’s prickliest issues after a turbulent yr amid the pandemic

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Protestors collect exterior Amazon’s 2019 shareholder assembly. (GeekWire Picture / Monica Nickelsburg)

Amazon has been on a wild experience over the past yr.

The Seattle retail and tech big’s earnings and inventory value have soared to report highs through the pandemic as the corporate employed an astounding 500,000 new staff final yr, elevated its already colossal warehouse capability by 50% and usurped Boeing as Washington state’s largest employer.

But Amazon has come beneath hearth throughout that very same interval over a heap of racial, gender, human rights, labor, environmental and financial points — and the corporate’s shareholders have taken discover.

At Wednesday’s shareholder assembly — sometimes hosted in Seattle however held virtually this yr — Amazon’s buyers will suggest greater than a dozen initiatives that advocates say are geared toward making the corporate a extra clear and conscientious company citizen.

Amazon’s board of administrators is preventing all the measures, saying the corporate is already adequately addressing the problems raised within the proposals.

The shareholder resolutions are non-binding, however they’re a manner for buyers to construct consensus round sure company insurance policies and strain an organization to take motion.

Comparable proposals, additionally opposed by Amazon’s board, have been put ahead throughout earlier Amazon shareholder conferences. Every of them failed.

Nonetheless, Amazon has by no means confronted a yr fairly like 2020.

Amazon workers collect at The Spheres on the corporate’s Seattle campus to voice assist for day off to vote. (GeekWire Picture / Taylor Soper)

Through the previous 18 months, shareholders word in this year’s proxy statement (resolutions begin on web page 23), the corporate has been besieged with allegations concerning the wellbeing of its warehouse staff, potential abuse of its facial recognition and surveillance expertise, antitrust issues, its therapy of girls and minority workers and extra.

Actually, shareholders have put forth a proposal this yr that might successfully power Jeff Bezos out of the corporate he based after he steps down as CEO on this yr’s third quarter.

Bezos plans to stay chairman of Amazon’s board after he departs the CEO’s workplace, however the proposal would require that the board be led by “an impartial director who has not beforehand served as an government officer of the corporate.”

Permitting board chairs who’ve additionally served as CEO “weakens an organization’s governance, which might hurt shareholder worth,” shareholders mentioned within the proxy assertion.

The shareholders behind the proposal level out that Amazon has been more and more at odds with its “key constituencies,” together with small companies, its warehouse staff and “communities through which it operates.”

Amazon mentioned it’s spent $11.5 billion on COVID-related measures, together with worker security, even constructing its personal COVID testing labs at a time when authorities testing efforts had been faltering. However lawmakers and employee advocates have been skeptical.

The corporate, in the meantime, has confronted allegations of excessive damage charges amongst its blue-collar workers.

Earlier this yr, Amazon mounted a vigorous – and profitable – marketing campaign to defeat a union vote at one in all its warehouses in Bessemer, Ala. The corporate’s techniques through the unionization vote are actually beneath assessment by federal officers.

Jennifer Bates, an Amazon warehouse worker in Bessemer, is predicted to name on Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos Wednesday to nominate one of many firm’s hourly staff on the corporate’s board of administrators, based on Oxfam, the social justice and antipoverty group.

In an announcement, Oxfam accused Amazon of continuous “dehumanizing working circumstances” in its logistics amenities, in addition to “anti-union actions.”

(Amazon Picture)

Past Bessemer, Amazon has been hit with a string of gender and racial discrimination lawsuits filed by its company workers, together with 5 fits that had been filed final week.

The corporate has acknowledged that Black and different minorities make up far too little of its management and has pledged to diversify its high ranks. Black workers, in the meantime, have accused the corporate of hiring them into company jobs under their talent stage and being gradual to advertise them.

As well as, Amazon Internet Companies and Amazon’s shopper merchandise arm are beset with skepticism over how the corporate’s expertise is getting used.

Amazon has, for now, banned gross sales of its facial recognition expertise to regulation enforcement businesses, but a coalition of shareholders are calling for audits of how authorities businesses, each right here within the U.S. and overseas, could also be abusing the expertise to violate civil and human rights.

Shareholders are additionally calling for larger scrutiny of how regulation enforcement businesses make use of Amazon’s camera-equipped Ring doorbell, which connects to a social community the place footage and messages will be shared between neighbors and authorities. Among the many issues is whether or not the product is getting used to disproportionately intention suspicion at folks of coloration.

Yet one more group of shareholders are asking Amazon to account for plastic packaging that will find yourself on the earth’s oceans.

“These controversies and working challenges could have resulted from Amazon’s fast progress, however they threaten to wreck our firm’s company popularity and monetary efficiency,” shareholders mentioned within the proxy assertion.

One group that received’t get a listening to at Wednesday’s shareholders assembly is Amazon Workers for Local weather Justice (AECJ), which has pressured Amazon previously to take extra aggressive measures to curb local weather change.

Jamie Kowalski, a former Amazon software program growth engineer who now leads AECJ, mentioned the group proposed a resolution calling on Amazon to account for what Kowalski referred to as “the racist affect” of its air pollution.

Kowalski mentioned Amazon’s warehouses are disproportionately situated in geographic areas the place minorities reside. Huge fleets of massive rigs hauling packages to and from these amenities every day contribute to poor air high quality in these neighborhoods, the group says.

Kowalski mentioned Amazon fought the inclusion of the proposed decision on this yr’s shareholder assembly and the Securities and Trade Fee dominated it out on a technicality.

“Clearly Amazon didn’t wish to see shareholders vote on this proposal so it’s not going to be on the proxy poll,” he mentioned.

AECJ made nationwide headlines over the previous yr after Amazon fired two of its leaders, Emily Cunningham and Maren Costa. The Nationwide Labor Relations Board earlier this yr dominated that Amazon illegally retaliated in opposition to the pair for his or her activism.

The Washington Post reported in January that Amazon additionally threatened to fireside Kowalski, who advised GeekWire he’s since left the corporate to consider what what’s subsequent for his profession.

In its proxy assertion, Amazon lists an extended roster of measures it’s taking to guard the surroundings, guarantee its expertise is used responsibly and equitably by governments and different clients and to make sure employee security.

These measures, the corporate mentioned, embody panels of specialists carefully monitoring how its facial recognition expertise and different merchandise are deployed, packages geared toward selling minority workers and even using machine studying to cut back using plastic packaging in transport supplies.

In the meantime, Amazon has all through the final yr introduced packages to cut back office accidents and make investments closely in renewable vitality.

The corporate has additionally touted its $15/hour beginning wage for logistics staff, which is greater than twice the federal minimal wage.

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PSA: Mining Chia on an SSD Will Completely Wreck It in No Time Flat

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When SSDs first started transport in shopper merchandise, there have been comprehensible issues about their longevity. Time, steadily enhancing manufacturing methods, and a few low-level OS enhancements have all contributed to solid-state storage’s popularity for sturdiness. With experiences praising SSDs as provisionally extra dependable than arduous drives even beneath heavy utilization, it’s straightforward to see how individuals may not see the brand new Chia cryptocurrency as a serious trigger for concern.

It’s. Chia is first plotted after which farmed, and whereas farming Chia takes little or no in the way in which of processing sources, plotting it should completely hammer an SSD.

It’s been years since we talked about write amplification, but it surely’s a difficulty that impacts all NAND flash storage. NAND is written in 4KB pages and erased in 256KB blocks. If 8KB of information must be changed out of a 256KB block, the drive might want to learn the unique 256KB block, replace it, write the brand new block to a unique location on the drive, after which erase the earlier block.

Write amplification has been an issue for NAND for the reason that starting and a substantial amount of work has gone into addressing these issues, however Chia represents one thing of a worst-case situation. Right here’s an excerpt from a latest Chia blog post:

Producing plot recordsdata is a course of known as plotting, which requires short-term space for storing, compute and reminiscence to create, kind, and compress the information into the ultimate file. This course of takes an estimated 256.6GB of short-term house, very generally saved on SSDs to hurry up the method, and roughly 1.3TiB of writes in the course of the creation.

The ultimate plot created by the method described above is simply 101.3GB. There seems to be an order of magnitude of distinction between the full quantity of drive writes required to create a Chia plot and the storage capability mentioned plot requires when accomplished.

Motherboard producers have gotten in on the motion, with one Chia-compliant board providing 32 SATA backplanes.

Right here’s what this boils right down to: A number of shopper SSDs are actually unhealthy decisions for mining Chia. TLC drives with SLC / MLC caches will not be really useful as a result of they provide poor efficiency. Low-end and midrange shopper drives will not be really useful, as a result of they don’t provide excessive sufficient endurance. It’s important to watch out through which SKUs you buy and enterprise and enterprise drives are extra extremely really useful normally.

Don’t purchase a QLC drive to mine Chia.

Optane would appear to be a near-perfect match for Chia, given its a lot greater endurance, however I can’t discover any data on whether or not individuals have tried deploying it in massive sufficient numbers to have some concept of what efficiency and endurance seem like beneath the 24/7 load Chia plotters are placing on their hardware. Possibly any individual will put a rig collectively utilizing it, as a lot out of curiosity as the rest.

Past that, ExtremeTech recommends customers not try and plot Chia on any SSD they aren’t snug with dropping, and to not purchase an SSD for the aim until you don’t thoughts throwing it away if it dies far more rapidly than anticipated. Chia plotting is a worst-case situation for SSD longevity and it needs to be handled as such.

One notice of fine information: To this point, Chia mining has had a a lot stronger affect on high-capacity arduous drive costs than on SSDs and smaller drives. Hopefully, this continues to be the case.

Now Learn:

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Microsoft adapts OpenAI’s GPT-Three pure language expertise to mechanically write code

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Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella introduces the brand new GPT-Three integration into Energy Apps in a recorded keynote tackle for the corporate’s digital Construct convention.

Microsoft unveiled new tools for automatically generating computer code and formulation on Tuesday morning, in a brand new adaptation of the GPT-Three natural-language expertise extra generally identified for replicating human language.

The aptitude, to be supplied as a part of Microsoft’s Power Platform, is among the fruits of the corporate’s partnership with OpenAI, the San Francisco-based synthetic intelligence firm behind GPT-Three. Microsoft invested $1 billion in OpenAI in 2019.

“The code writes itself,” stated Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, saying the information in a recorded keynote tackle to open the corporate’s Build developer conference.

The characteristic is named Power Apps Ideas. It’s a part of a broader push by Microsoft and different expertise corporations to make software program growth extra accessible to non-developers, often called low-code or no-code growth.

Microsoft fine-tuned GPT-Three to “leverage the mannequin’s current strengths in pure language enter to offer Energy Apps makers the power to explain logic similar to they’d to a good friend or co-worker, and find yourself with the suitable system for his or her app,” says Ryan Cunningham of the Energy Apps staff in a publish describing the way it works.

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Clearcover makes switching automobile insurance coverage an absolute breeze

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As you already know, digital transformation performs a vital position in disrupting conventional methods of doing enterprise. It additionally creates worth for corporations and clients alike. In spite of everything, many manufacturers would moderately make investments extra of their sources into delivering high quality services than cope with the inefficiencies typical of analog enterprise practices. A lot in the identical approach, clients take pleasure in buying important services as conveniently as conceivable at any time when potential. Customers right now, particularly the tech-savvy ones, know digital-only firm innovates relating to enterprise, making the prospect of saving time and cash real looking when going via the buying course of. 

One such digital-only firm making waves within the conventional automobile insurance coverage business is Clearcover. Clearcover sells automobile insurance coverage with higher protection at decrease costs—all whereas providing a handy digital person expertise from begin to end. 

At the moment obtainable in 16 states, with extra to come back sooner or later, Clearcover makes it potential to avoid wasting on a premium on your automobile insurance coverage in just a few minutes. And that is true for everybody, regardless of when you’re hoping to get coated for the primary time or need to make the swap to a unique plan in the course of your present time period (sure, that is potential!). All it’s good to do is enter some fundamental details about your self and reply some questions associated to what you are in search of in a coverage. In 5 fast steps, which solely take a couple of minutes to finish in complete, you are offered together with your value and may select to purchase it on the spot or maintain purchasing round.

All of meaning there is no must get on the telephone with a dealer or insurance coverage firm immediately because you do all the pieces on-line out of your favourite machine. In different phrases, looking for the very best value with Clearcover is a hassle-free expertise moderately than an all-day grind. So, in some ways, it is like Lemonade however on your experience.

Better of all, Clearcover has buyer financial savings testimonials, opinions, and surveys that illustrate the advantages present Clearcover clients have gained by making the swap to a automobile insurance coverage firm with a digital-first strategy. For example, Greta R. switched to Clearcover in June of 2020 and was in a position to drop her value by $474. Though not everyone seems to be assured to search out that degree of financial savings, it is nonetheless worthwhile for most individuals. That is very true for anybody who finds themselves audibly sighing each time they make a cost for his or her present coverage.

So, what have you ever obtained to lose? Head on over to Clearcover today and learn the way a lot you would save in the identical period of time it takes to brew and drink your morning cup of espresso or tea.

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