FOXTROT/ALFA: Boeing 787 Reboots, The Internet Archive Hates Authors, Amazon Fires Worker over Coronavirus Protests

Hello everyone and welcome back to a fresh issue of FOXTROT/ALFA. Today is Thursday, 2 April 2020 and I’m picking up this newsletter with issue 92. Sorry for leaving you hanging there for a while, but this whole situation we’re all in right now absolutely trashed my planning there for a few weeks. And to be honest, I also needed a minor reboot of my mindset when it comes to this newsletter.

I think it isn’t realistic to exclude the coronavirus stories anymore. So brace for impact! I will still try to only report stories that I think are actually important (or funny enough to warrant inclusion). But there will certainly be stuff that’s COVID-19 related in there. I hope that’s OK with you.

So, with all the apologies and disclaimers out of the way, let’s have a look what’s happening in the crazy tech world out there today.

Chrome Security Updates

The Chrome developers at Google have pushed an update to the browser that fixes 8 security vulnerabilities. Google isn’t providing much information, but we do know that three vulnerabilities (CVE-2020-6450, CVE-2020-6451, CVE-2020-6452) are rated as a high risk.

VMware vSphere to Patch All Software Running in a VM

VMware’s vSphere 7, which is now available, can update the drivers and firmware of hosts along with itself. Later, the company plans to give users the ability to also automatically update all of the other software running within a VM.

vSphere 7 can therefore non-disruptively update itself and ensure that hosts run your preferred software and firmware. “This release is focused on our own software, and drivers, firmware and so on. The next step will be workload level. Software inside the VM – that will happen as part of our roadmap.”

Which will be rather handy, especially if VMware can make workload-level changes while a VM is dormant.

Boeing 787 Must Be Rebooted Every 51 Days

Airplanes having to be rebooted sporadically so as not to crash isn’t exactly something new. We’ve seen this problem in the past. But now Boeing is at it again.

The US Federal Aviation Administration has ordered Boeing 787 operators to switch their aircraft off and on every 51 days to prevent what it called “several potentially catastrophic failure scenarios” – including the crashing of onboard network switches.

The airworthiness directive, due to be enforced from later this month, orders airlines to power-cycle their B787s before the aircraft reaches the specified days of continuous power-on operation. The power cycling is needed to prevent stale data from populating the aircraft’s systems, a problem that has occurred on different 787 systems in the past.

It doesn’t seem to be a completely fatal problem, it sounds like.

Solving the problem is simple: power the aircraft down completely before reaching 51 days. It is usual for commercial airliners to spend weeks or more continuously powered on as crews change at airports, or ground power is plugged in overnight while cleaners and maintainers do their thing.

Airline pilots were sanguine about the implications of the failures when El Reg asked a handful about the directive. One told us: “Loss of airspeed data combined with engine instrument malfunctions isn’t unheard of,” adding that there wasn’t really enough information in the doc to decide whether or not the described failure would be truly catastrophic. Besides, he said, the backup speed and attitude instruments are – for obvious reasons – completely separate from the main displays.

Another mused that loss of engine indications would make it harder to adopt the fallback drill of setting a known pitch and engine power setting that guarantees safe straight-and-level flight while the pilots consult checklists and manuals to find a fix. A third commented, tongue firmly in cheek: “Anything like that with the aircraft is unhealthy!”

The real question here is whether Boeing will ever again get out of the negative headlines.

Imagine you’re livelihood is writing books and you depend on that income. Now imagine the Internet Archive just makes all of your works available for free without even asking you and without paying you a dime. Because, these days, apparently all the rules are out the window. Because emergency!!!

The Internet Archive has defended its decision to make its collection of 1.4 million books readily available online, despite most of them still being in copyright, by arguing that public libraries are currently closed.

It’s perhaps not surprising that people are happy about being provided free access to a million-plus of books but gratitude is short supply from those who wrote and published the books in the first place.

“The Authors Guild is appalled by the Internet Archive’s (IA) announcement that it is now making millions of in-copyright books freely available online without restriction on its Open Library site under the guise of a National Emergency Library,” it said in a statement, noting that it “has no rights whatsoever to these books, much less to give them away indiscriminately without consent of the publisher or author.”

A response from the Association of American Publishers (AAP) was even more caustic: “It is the height of hypocrisy that the Internet Archive is choosing this moment - when lives, livelihoods and the economy are all in jeopardy - to make a cynical play to undermine copyright, and all the scientific, creative, and economic opportunity that it supports.”

I really like the Internet Archive and the valuable services it provides. But this is atrocious. And no, CORONAVIRUS!!!! is not an excuse. You’re being dickbags.

Amazon Retaliates Against Worker for Coronavirus Protests

Amazon has fired a worker who led a protest for better COVID-19 protections for …wait for it… ignoring social distancing rules in doing so. Uh-huh. Sure.

On Monday, Amazon fired Chris Smalls, a worker at its Staten Island, New York, warehouse, who had organized a protest demanding more protection for workers amid the coronavirus outbreak. Smalls, in a statement, said, “Amazon would rather fire workers than face up to its total failure to do what it should to keep us, our families, and our communities safe. I am outraged and disappointed but I am not shocked. As usual, Amazon would rather sweep a problem under the rug than act to keep workers and working communities safe.”

Amazon spokesperson Kristen Kish denied the firing had anything to do with protected labor activity. “We did not terminate Mr Smalls employment for organizing a 15-person protest,” she said in an emailed statement. “We terminated his employment for putting the health and safety of others at risk and violations of his terms of his employment.” Kish said Smalls had received multiple warnings for violating social distancing guidelines and had been asked to remain home with pay for two weeks because he had been in the proximity of another worker confirmed to have COVID-19. By ignoring that instruction and coming on-site, she said, he was putting colleagues at risk.

Coronavirus Gives Us Today …an Extension of Shitty TLS

The coronavirus panic is now also delaying the phase-out of the broken TLS 1.0 and 1.1 protocols. Is there anything you can’t justify with this shit?

Microsoft has blinked once again and delayed disabling TLS 1.0 and 1.1 by default in its browsers until the latter part of 2020. The move is in recognition of the fact that in the light of current events, administrators have their hands a little full dealing with a surge of remote working and a team likely not running at full capacity.

Also Noteworthy

Some other things I’ve been reading:

Well, that’s all of the madness for today. See you again tomorrow, my friends!

This is an archived issue of my daily newsletter FOXTROT/ALFA. You can find more information about it, including how to subscribe via email, on this page.