Tag: work

Google X worked older staff member to collapse

Google X worked an older staff member so hard he finally collapsed and it laid him off.

According to Business Insider the employee was assigned to fieldwork for Project Wing, which is X’s program to create delivery drones for transporting consumer goods and emergency medicine.

While out in private ranch lands in the Central Valley in California one day, the employee succumbed to either a heart attack or a grand mal seizure because of the hot temperatures in the Central Valley, coupled with a gruelling work schedule of 10-12 hours a day and stress may have brought it on.

The Project Wing drone tester, who returned to work after two months’ leave, found himself demoted and sent back into a field gig before eventually being pushed out of the company.

According to Business Insider, some members of the Project Wing field team painted an alarming picture of hostile work conditions driven by engineers and managers back at headquarters who scheduled the group to conduct loads of tests, thereby producing loads of data, despite the long hours outdoors that such a schedule required.

To make matters worse all their demanding work and data was being ignored because their backgrounds in the military were allegedly viewed disdainfully by Google X.

London’s digital tech to grow

The next ten years could be a period of growth for London’s technology industry and create an additional $20 billion of economic activity and 46,000 new jobs by 2024,

Beancounters working for  promotional organisation London & Partners reckoned that over the next decade, London’s digital technology sector could grow by 5.1 percent.

But the bad news is that the growth will not mean Londoners will take the jobs. Instead Growth would be helped by proposed changes to immigration law that will give technology firms the right to bring in migrants on “exceptional talent” visas. It refers to Gross Value Added (GVA) and an average annual growth rate.

The extra 46,000 jobs would be nearly 30 percent more than the 155,600 currently employed.

Meanwhile South Mountain Economics said the broader tech/info sector in the British capital has agreed with the findings and said that London employed 382,000 workers in 2013, an increase of 11 percent since 2009.

Tech and information businesses in London, southeast and east England are growing faster than in California, South Mountain Economics said.

London is the world leader in financial technology employing more workers in the sector than New York City and San Francisco-Silicon Valley. There are an estimated 44,000 financial tech workers within 25 miles of London, it said, compared with 43,000 for New York and only 11,000 for San Francisco-Silicon Valley. 

14 year old boy dies at Asus partner plant

It is no secret that hiring minors and forcing migrants from rural areas to work obscenely long hours is standard procedure in many electronics companies based in mainland China, but the most recent human rights abuse is already starting to cause outrage for two reasons.

First, it involves Asustek, one of the biggest names in the tech industry. Secondly, it involves the death of a 14-year-old boy who was employed by an Asus partner in China. According to human rights organisation China Labor Watch, 14-year-old Liu Fuzong was employed by Yinchuan Electronic Company in Dongguan City. The company allegedly falsified its records and reported him as one Su Longda, an 18-year-old.

He reportedly worked at a factory which produces Asus motherboards. The company apparently produced some gear for Canon and Sony in the past. The standard shift was 12 hours, with a short break for lunch.

On May 21 Fuzong’s co-workers found him motionless in his bed and he was pronounced dead in a local hospital. Employees told the press that management simply did not care about the age of the employees. Regardless of age, the company demanded all employees to meet production targets. China Labor Watch says it witnessed about 80 other young workers “in the area” and some of them were under the age of 16.

Local authorities have launched a probe to get to the bottom of the scandal, but more often than not such investigations prove futile. What’s more, the management of the Asus manufacturer was willing to pay just a fraction of the compensation demanded by the boy’s family. In the that was just over $16,000. 

Asus did not reply to our request for comment at the time of publication.

Foxconn searches for more workers in deepest China

Electronics manufacturing powerhouses like Foxconn are having to open factories in inland China because of labour shortages at their usual industrial bases, including in the coastal Guandong area. 

Foxconn has claimed that the moves toward Sichuan province and central Henan are not for saving cash on wages, as the regions pay a similar amount to Guangdong, but because of labour shortages.

A Bloomberg analyst, Jitendra Waral, said that to keep finding workers, there is a trend to move in land. “As that drives wages higher, any cost benefits from inland labour are likely to continue shrinking,” Waral said.

A Foxconn spokesperson said a reason for moving inland is because of the labour surplus. Henan and SIchuan in particular have historically had the largest amount of migrant workers, which proves useful for manufacturing behemoths who rely on enormous amounts of staff.

In 2010, Bloomberg pointed out, Foxconn employed barely any people in Henan – but in the fourth quarter of last year the roster reached 300,000 people.

Workers are more likely to be found inland as that is where the vast majority of employees are from, so seducing them into factories is a tad easier if they’re closer. Rising wages inland, at 120 percent in six years, are also killing incentives for workers to up sticks and move to coastal manufacturing bases. In short, the manufacturers are heading to where the most workers are.

This, coupled with a decline in the working age population, means manufacturers are looking for ways to maximise their workforce but minimise the wages they will have to pay.

One answer for Foxconn has been talk of automation. The good thing about robots is they don’t strike or kill themselves, or complain about poor conditions.

Apple had a Windows worm

Apple has taken to delivering malware packages to Windows users who happen to be daft enough to run its clunky iTunes software.

It seems that the malware writers are starting to see the superior security of Apple as a really good way to get an open goal at tougher Windows software.

CNET  has done its best to play it down insisting that it is a low-threat malware package that will not affect the iOS or the MacOS platform.

However the malware is the kiss of death to those who manage the app in their iTunes accounts on Windows machines. This suggests that it was designed to bypass Windows security by piggy backing onto Apple’s system.

The malware is installed in the free “Instaquotes Quotes Cards for Instagram” app from the iTunes store. The software was defined as the “Worm.VB-900” malware.

Sophos described the malware as “Mal/CoiDung-A,” which is a worm written in visual basic that installs files within the Windows system directory. Vole’s Security Essentials instantly detects the executables as malware and deletes it.

This is not surprising as it seems rather elderly malware which is getting a new outing by using Apple’s iTunes as a delivery mechanism. It should be detectable, but many users may ignore warnings from their computers because they believe that Apple is very careful about allowing malware in its walled garden of delights.  

But it might also be a dry run for a more serious malware strike later on. After all if Windows users did download the malware it shows that Apple’s iTunes makes a good attack vector.

Apple has apparently removed the offending from the App Store, so it is no longer available for download either through iTunes or directly on an iOS device. 

Dell, Intel declare 9 to 5 on its deathbed

Tinbox supremo Dell teamed up with Intel to look at something they call the Evolving Workforce. Now they’ve released the results of the study, which aims to figure out how the world is going to use IT productively in the future. Questions they didn’t ask include: how long do you play Angry Birds on the bog during office hours?

Some of its findings include the UK, as usual, playing catch-up to the rest of the world.

Intel and Dell have concluded that employees would rather be measured by their output instead of time spent clocking in at the office. We wonder how strict Dell’s Bracknell office is with getting in on time. Anyway, the survey says staff, particularly in the UK, have a tough time finishing their work within office hours, especially enterprise employees. Education sector workers have it the worst.

Of the countries surveyed, emerging markets like China and Brazil are leading the charge in letting their employees download and use their own software. The UK is behind here, too, with only 37 percent of employees surveyed allowed to download tools to work the way they want to. 

It seems bosses in Britain take the like it or lump it approach when it comes to technology – despite young workers in the UK insisting that using their own devices increase productivity and happiness. Small to medium sized businesses are more likely to let their employees choose their own devices compared with large enterprise.

The public sector allows for least choice in the workplace, but we guess there are security concerns.

Public sector workers are also more paranoid. Of the 8,360-odd workers surveyed, it was revealed those in the public sector are likely to worry about their bosses monitoring their email – 45 percent thought it was a regular occurence. Their paranoia is justified, the UK’s Big Brother-esque culture has rubbed off and you’re more likely to have your words watched here than anywhere else in the world.

The whole survey, carried out by TNS Research, is available for all to see here.  

Apple keyboard wage-slaves go on strike in China

Contracted Chinese Apple and IBM workers are striking over terrible working conditions at a factory in Shenzhen. 

Working up to 120 hours of overtime each month in a dangerous environment just isn’t worth it, the staff argue, especially when you consider the mass lay-offs of older workers, zero benefits, and the verbal abuse they get from the management.

1,000 workers began a strike at Jingmo Electronics Corporation’s Shenzhen factory, reports China Labor Watch. It’s owned by Taiwanese Jinguan Computer Group, which mostly focuses on peripherals for multinationals that have included Apple, IBM and LG.

The chief instigator for the strike was enforced nightly overtime. Workers were having to work additional hours, from 6pm up until as late as 2am, along with their regular work hours of 7am-11.30 am, then 1-5pm. Some solace would be found among workers by letting them take shifts on Saturdays, but the factory has denied them this opportunity because they would be entitled to double wages.

The workers claim that the management is demanding too much from them. Leaving their posts, they moved towards National highway 107 to block it off in protest. Local authorities called up hundreds of police officers to keep an eye on the group, and among them were riot police, according to China Labor Watch.

China Labor Watch is urging factory clients, in particular Apple, to take the problem up with the company. Apple has 300 workers on the factory’s keyboard assembly line. 

China Labor Watch director Li Qiang said that the factory itself must change its brutal management system as workers become aware of their rights.

The strikes are part of a rising trend for workers in China who are growing weary of being treated poorly and paid a pittance. PC components suppliers are already worrying that provinces like Guangdong and Jilin are increasing minimum wages and forcing firms that rely on cheap labour out of pocket. 

Chip market analyst Malcolm Penn, of Future Horizons, told us earlier this year that low labour costs are a myth. “It goes from place to the next,” he said. “You bleed it dry and then it will occur somewhere else. When it is too expensive in China companies will go somewhere else, that is just the nature of economics.”

Manufacturers are trying to find a way around the headache of paying people money, and so companies like Pegatron and Foxconn are planning to increase automation in their plants. Making use of automation is a strange move for Foxconn boss Terry Gou, who has been quoted as saying “Hungry people have especially clear minds”.

Dell: Apple needs to open up its secret proprietary garden

Those famous allies, Intel and Dell, are working on a research project which they both hope will provide them with some more insight about where and how the workplace is evolving. The world has already seen a lot of changes in the last ten years alone, so what’s next?

TechEye had a chat with Bryan Jones, executive director of marketing for public and large enterprise at Dell EMEA, and Ian Jones, enterprise sales director at Intel. We’re told there is no relation.

Dell and Intel have commissioned a survey of 8,000 workers in independent fields related to IT who will feed back their findings to a panel of experts.  The Dell blog, here, outlines exactly what the report aims to achieve. The report isn’t finished yet, but there are seven key points which have got Dintel curious. 

 

Choice and change

At first glance, they’re dressed up in corporate speak, but both companies make tacit arguments about how the workplace is changing. First, the two want to figure out how to make crowdsourcing work in business. “Businesses are fascinated with the concept of crowdsourcing,” Bryan Jones tells us. “But how do they then take that and apply that to their business? I think it’s a perspective of a lot of business, they know what it is and they should be interested, but they’re struggling with here it fits in.” A Mechanical Turk is not only found on the Kingsland Road.

There are questions about how crowdsourcing fits in with the core of an IT department. “How do you build the right IT infrastructure to take advantage of these colonies of experts, as you bring them in?” Dell’s Jones asks. Then there is crowdsourcing as a service. Or more specifically, he says, “how do you break up a concept, or development into  something that you can take advantage of that crowdsourcing capability? You spend a lot of money on your experts, your really smart people who are there for the innovation, but how can you free up their resources and time so they don’t have to do the mundane stuff?” And that is what Intel and Dell want to figure out. 

To us, it seems that what Dell is implying is a working world in which, perhaps, it’s not neccessary for the executives and the lab workers to file the paperwork and reports that bog down otherwise important research. For example, there is a Finnish company called Microtask which pays multiple people to fill in the smallest details of a form, cross checking the answers and using software to understand the correct response. In the end you have a complete document, in a similar way that Google’s captcha project is digitising books while also providing security for websites and services.

Intel and Dell say another concept which has found itself under the looking glass is measuring worker productivity by output rather than hours. Is the nine-to-five job, which the world is so set in its way with, really necessary? “Do you need to go to the office, or can you get it done at the coffee shop, do you have to do it nine to five?” Dell’s Jones asks. “How do you evaluate employees on a like for like basis from an HR perspective?” The landscape is changing and we don’t need to be set in our ways. The output is what matters, not the timesheet. 

 

Devices in the workplace

TechEye recently talked to Good Technology, which has a new suite of products that IT managers can integrate to look at security on the app level. Any company which holds sensitive information is a potential customer, according to Good. The reason software like this is so crucial is because of the ebb and flow of new devices entering a working environment.

As Intel says, there is a change in adoption. According to Ian Jones: “Increasingly, what we’re seeing is the choice of the device is situational – as a professional, I know you’ve got a laptop, and a smartphone, and a tablet, and you will choose those depending on your circumstance at the time.” The same goes for other industries where the choice of devices varies, like in construction where rugged smartphones and tablets can be appropriate. “These devices are becoming more pervasive around the world,” Jones says.

And with these pervasive devices comes the prospect of a global network, connected at all times.

Could that ready availability and constant connectivity lead to more work-related stress – and not less of it? It depends how a company plans to look at it.

Bryan Jones agrees there are questions to be asked. “That’s part of what we’re trying to understand. This whole concept of the adoption of the devices, measuring output, not hours. I think there is a cultural set of challenges with being always on and always connected. You need downtime to recharge your batteries and be at your best. We think there is a balance that has to be struck.”

Intel’s Ian Jones tows a similar line: “Giving individuals the freedom to choose is a massive benefit for an IT director to bring to a community. If you had to get something finished on the Friday evening, you had to stay late. Now you have the choice to do it in a different way.”

But there “are pros and cons,” according to Dell. “We’re trying to get to how IT helps enable and address the challenges rather than make them worse.”

Jones says as the generational change becomes more clear, the latest technology as part of the package is arguably as important as the company car once was 20 years ago. 

“We’re spending a lot of time ‘on’,” said Dell’s Bryan Jones. “The shift in responsibility is moving away from the domain of the employer to this shared responsibility of employer and employee. You have to help yourself, and be willing to be involved and accountable for yourself in a way that frankly wasn’t there ten years ago.”

With the changes in IT, it’s clear that there needs to be a worldwide attitude change for companies to keep their head above the water. 

Of course, Dell’s Bryan Jones says that, as a company involved in and familiar with the consumerisation of IT, you want to be able to open up and embrace it. “But you can’t do it without having some level of control,” he says. “Otherwise you have security concerns, accountability concerns, compliance issues.” With that, the role of the IT manager needs a re-think, they must face up to how the changing face of technology fits  in and connects to the rest of the organisation. 

That is where the jack-of-all-trades future CIO comes in. CIOs will need to know more, be flexible and highly adaptable. “The CIO of the future is going to be the manager that has the internal stuff, all the way out to other stuff that is exclusively in the cloud and everything in between,” Dell’s Jones said. While the concepts “may be uncomfortable for today’s IT executive to address, you’re going to have to, to remain relevant and attract the right worker.”   

Jones says that people pick their technology and then find appropriate uses for it, too. Good Technology told us about American soldiers on the battlefields in Iraq where soldiers were using iPhones to navigate and communicate. Jones agrees that when technology can be manipulated and used to an advantage, in certain security-critical situations it’s very, very important to have the right infrastructure protection there. 

The soldier using an iPhone is a good example, Jones says: “If you think about the choice of the device, we see that a lot. That burden of making structure secure is something the IT manager is faced with, it has to be security at the app level, and making sure someone using the device is who they say they are.” That’s a significant change. The control is out of the hands of the employer. 

People are increasingly savvy with their own devices at home, which often offer a level of technology and usability a that blows the office computer out of the water.

TechEye asked about the difficulties in educating end users and the IT managers. As the generational gap shifts, so does the understanding of IT in the workplace. No example is as perfect as the public sector and, specifically, the NHS. The NHS is a huge organisation which also has offices around all of the United Kingdom. 

Although it is frowned upon, workers do bring their own devices to their jobs at the NHS. That’s good, and bad, according to Intel. At the very least it suggests a shift in thinking. 

“The NHS is a tough customer that we [Intel] have had experience with,” Ian Jones says. “People are starting to bring their own devices in, and using them, and goodness knows if they’re secure. On the other hand, there are tablet projects which are secured through a smart card scheme, so they are clearly at a level of progression on both fronts. They are arguably the toughest customer to address because they’re regional, trust by trust, but they – both managed and unmanaged – prove the change is happening there, and it’s going to happen in other places as well.”

Dell says there will be healthcare specific data in the report. What it wants to do is understand, and help other businesses understand – including in sensitive areas like healthcare, insurance, banking and the legal community – exactly how to handle their data. “How much of this can you put in the cloud, or should you put in the cloud,” in Bryan Jones’ words. “We’re trying to get some more insight into this in the next round of research.”

 

Locked-in, proprietary systems doomed? Dell thinks so

The future of the workforce will not be with a single vendor. Dell tells us: “They will not be proprietary and they will not be closed architectures. They will have to support multi vendor capabilities.”

What, then, about the famously walled-garden that Apple has built around itself? “That should include Apple,” according to Dell. “We look at solutions from Apple, HP, IBM, Oracle, and there has been a trend lately for closed architecture. We don’t think long term that ever wins the race.

We believe you have to be able to support all of that. What you’re essentially betting is that one provider is going to out-innovate the entire industry – the innovation will win out in the end.”

“It can’t be ONLY Apple, devices, it can’t be ONLY Apple applications,” Jones says. “The iPhone is being outshipped by Android, especially in emerging economies. And if you’re going to deliver in a global sense, we believe long term, open and affordable absolutely delivers.”

Malware writers wanted

The number of online advertisments for malware writers is on the increase, at least in Russia.

Security pundit Brian Krebs has noticed that there appears to be a skills shortage in the malware business, with shedloads of banner ads placed by criminal gangs looking for talented programmers to help make existing malware stealthier and more feature-rich.

Most of the jobs are for those skilled in devising custom “crypters,” programs designed to change the appearance of known malware so that it goes undetected by anti-virus software.

The money is not bad, considering where most of the cyber criminals are based. You get a basic salary of $2,000 per month in exchange for a “long-term partnership” creating crypters that include customer support.

You do not need previous experience, you get paid weekly and most of the gangs want long termers.

Some adverts are offering $5000 a month for creating custom crypters and providing customer support.

Another area where you can get good money is for developers who can perform “Web injects,” which are plug-ins for malware kits like the ZeuS and SpyEye trojans. They aim to inject custom content into a web browser when the victim looks at certain sites.

It is tricky coding good web injects because a poorly-designed one may alert the victim that the site has been played with.

Krebs said it’s interesting that the cyber gangs have worked out that they need to spend a lot of dosh on R&D and they are forming teams of developers.

Some of these might specialise in maintaining one component or function of the malware. 

Unemployment affecting access to computers on UK

A recent information request by a UK politician, Chris Ruane, revealed that the majority of UK households have computers, but that unemployment and low wages are still preventing many from gaining access to a PC.

The Director General of the Office of National Statistics revealed estimate figures of UK households with computers, based on an annual National Statistics Socio-Economic Classification survey of roughly 5,000 houses throughout the country.

Of 25.98 million households, 19.58 million have a computer, which means a rate of roughly 80 percent.

Larger employers and managers mostly had computers, 1.16 million out of 1.2 million. Higher professionals were similarly high, with 1.68 million out of 1.7 million. Lower ranking managers and professionals mostly had computers, but less than the others at 4.63 million out of 4.9 million.

As wages drop the number of households with computers also drops. Only 1.37 million of 1.52 million ntermediate working households had computers. Lower supervisory staff were at 1.53 million of 1.74 million. Semi routine workers were even lower at 1.64 million of 1.99 million and routine staff were 1.17 million of 1.47 million.

The long-term unemployed, including those who have never worked, tend not to have as much access to computers due to their financial difficulty. Of 510,000 only 330,000 unemployed households had a computer.

For those with no occupation stated, including those who are “economically inactive”, less than half had a computer, only 4.38 million of a total of nine million.

Most students have computers, 430,000 out of 470,000.

Economic difficulties have a clear impact on people’s access to modern technology, but without this access it makes it much more difficult for those people to improve their financial situation, given the dependence of modern work forces on basic and advanced computer skills.