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COVID-19

Microsoft Redmond Campus Will Remain Closed Until September

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Everyone has been affected by COVID19 – even multi-billion dollar companies like Microsoft.

Businesses around the world have been closed for months for the safety of staff and customers due to the COVID19 pandemic. However, as the situation begins to calm down and more people are receiving vaccinations, businesses that survived lockdown are doing what they can to get back to normal. But, things still need to be done safely.

While Microsoft – creators and owners of the collaborative software Microsoft Teams – rely on in-person workplaces less than many companies, they are still eager to reopen their offices and campuses as soon as possible. They implemented a 6-stage reopening plan that involves working in-person more often as time goes on and stages advance, but progress has not been sticking to their schedule.

The original plan – drafted last fall – to reopen the Redmond campus in July has been delayed to September of this year. This came as a result of consulting with local health experts who advised the company that waiting to fully reopen would be safer for all parties. 

Instead, as of March 31st the campus is at “stage 4” – a soft reopening that encourages working from home but allows in-site working intermittently. They will slowly progress to “stage 5” in the next few months which will include more on-campus work. In the meantime, Microsoft will continue to allow some employees to work from home while those who are on campus must continue to follow all health and safety protocols to work towards the September 7th reopening.

In my 4+ years as a professional tech copywriter, I've written about everything from laptops & routers to the software that facilitates billions in online sales each day. If it relates to, connects to, or belongs on the Internet, I'm in. Equipped with my Associate's in Computer Science and a computer I assembled myself (no big deal), I write about all things hardware, software, gaming, and digital tech to keep you up-to-date on important news, releases, and tips & tricks.

COVID-19

India issues emergency order to remove tweets critical of COVID-19 handling

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In compliance with a request from the Indian government, which cited its Information Technology Act, Twitter has removed dozens of tweets critical of its handling of the recent COVID-19 surge. India has now set records for multiple days in a row with 300,000+ new cases added to the count every day since Wednesday — a grim milestone, no other country has reported 300,000 or more new COVID-19 cases in a single day.

Some of the tweets removed include those of high-profile public figures in India, such as Parliament member Revanth Reddy, West Bengal minister Moloy Ghatak, actor Vineet Kumar Singh, and filmmakers Vinod Kapri and Avinash Das.

Twitter released the following statement via email from an anonymous spokesperson:

“When we receive a valid legal request, we review it under both the Twitter Rules and local law… If the content violates Twitter’s rules, the content will be removed from the service. If it is determined to be illegal in a particular jurisdiction, but not in violation of the Twitter Rules, we may withhold access to the content in India only.”

The social media platform also confirmed that the account owners had been notified about the legal order concerning their tweets.

The law cited in the request for the tweet removal restricts the publication of material that the Indian government considers defamatory, or which could incite violence. One of the tweets that was restricted in India is still viewable outside of the country. Minister Moloy Ghatak tweeted Monday:

“India will never forgive PM @narendramodi for underplaying the corona situation in the country and letting so many people die due to mismanagement. At a time when India is going through a health crisis,PM chose to export millions of vaccine to other nations #ModiHataoDeshBachao” —@GhatakMoloy

Ghatak later tweeted another disapproving message about India’s COVID-19 response:

“While the PM of our country is busy doing politics the nation is burning. #WeCantBreathe” —@GhatakMoloy

It is unclear whether the latter was one of the tweets among the 21 tweets mentioned in the government request.

Less than 2 percent of India’s population has received a vaccine. The recent COVID-19 surge has shed a bright light on India’s underfunded healthcare system, which has been decimated by the sudden spike in cases. An oxygen shortage in the nation has also been said to have exacerbated the issue.

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COVID-19

PlayStation 5 Shortage Could Last Into Next Year

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The PlayStation 5 (and Xbox Series X|S) has been extremely difficult to get a hold of with units being sold out almost instantly since release. This has been due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on manufacturing. Sony can’t keep the new console in stock with most purchases happening only minutes after restocks for both the digital and standard versions. Scalpers have only worsened the problem with automated software to purchase the consoles instantly for resale at insanely inflated prices. Potential buyers have been on the lookout for restocks and more casual fans are just wondering when PS5s are going to be readily available for the public.

There’s some good news and some bad news. By most estimates, it’s looking like we won’t be seeing PS5s consistently in stock until next year, 2022. This is mostly due to one major part of almost all modern tech like phones, gaming systems, and GPUs: processing chips. According to the chairman of Foxconn, an electronics manufacturer, we probably won’t see this shortage end until the middle of 2022 as the world starts to recover from the Coronavirus pandemic. This has led to some heavy criticism of Sony for releasing the PS5s with too few units to go around, but they weren’t the only ones. Xbox is facing similar issues with its new console rollout. Graphics card prices have skyrocketed, even slightly older cards have spiked in cost. Sony, however, has a different outlook than Foxconn. 

The CEO of PlayStation, Jim Ryan, said that PS5s could end as early as late 2021 if everything goes right. Sony is working with their partners to try and get production back on track so players can get back into the game on next-gen consoles. Whether or not they can achieve this remains to be seen, but PlayStation and gamers alike are holding out hope, especially with another holiday season approaching later this year.

The launch of the PS5 was rocky, but it still became the fastest-selling console of all time. Now, Sony is trying to get their production back on track so everyone can get their hands on the PS5. The future of the new console is still relatively murky with PlayStation being more optimistic and Foxconn predicting a longer timeline than expected. We’ll get easily accessible PS5s at some point; it’s just a waiting game for now. 

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Business

Here’s why there’s a microchip shortage, and what it could mean for consumers.

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The growing problem of the international semiconductor microchip shortage has rippled throughout multiple industries since the start of the pandemic. It has driven up prices, and caused high-demand consumer electronics like the PS5 and iPhone 12 to be in short supply. 

It may even affect the used car industry in the coming months; some car factories have begun to shut down as they are unable to obtain the essential component, halting new car production for multiple manufacturers. Some estimates have shown the auto industry losing $60 billion in sales during the first half of this year, spelling certainty for a price hike in used cars.

Many have blamed the pandemic for the shortage due to factory closures and reduced worker capacities worldwide; pandemic also caused a spike in demand for personal computers due to the sudden work-from-home status quo, along with the demand for other consumer electronics as millions sought ways to combat the boredom of isolation. However, the pandemic’s impact on microchip supply may only be half the story.

Seemingly endless innovations in consumer electronics have prompted an increase in demand for the latest gadgets, which contain more complicated chips than ever before. All of the latest flagship phones, most of which were released in late 2020, come standard with 5G capabilities and powerful onboard computer processors. The newest generation of gaming consoles such as the PS5 and Xbox Series X also require far more processing power than their predecessors, necessitating complex semiconductor microchips.

President Trump’s trade war with China during his term in office may have also contributed to the shortage. Some analysts suspect that the Chinese phone producer Huawei Technologies may have begun stockpiling chips when Trump banned the sale of its phones in May 2019. The mounting problem was also recently exacerbated by a grounded container ship that blocked the Suez Canal for nearly a week, cutting off a supply of chips headed from Asia to Europe.

Global consumers can expect to continue seeing shortages of consumer electronics that require semiconductor chips, as well as a drastic decline in the availability of new cars — and thus, higher used car prices. According to basic macroeconomics, this multi-industry supply-and-demand phenomenon caused by the chip shortage may cause the prices of all of these products to rise; if the shortage continues for an extended period of time, the high prices could end up affecting other industries as well.

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