Building Amazon

Amazon Cloud Network Outage Sparks Outrage Amongst Customers

Amazon’s web services experienced a major outage — as well as other impairments — for over several hours Tuesday, leading to rippling effects in areas like streaming services, payment apps, and shipping. The outage primarily affected services in the eastern U.S., and sent the daily lives of millions spiraling.

Amazon’s network provides remote computing services to many companies, universities, and websites, the reason why so many frequently-used platforms and services were disrupted by Amazon’s technological issues.

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Among the Amazon products affected include Amazon Music, Kindle ebooks, voice assistant Alexa, and home security Ring. Bloomberg reported that many Ring users were frustrated due to having to redownload or reboot the Ring app before finding out about the shortage. Some users weren’t even able to get into their homes due to the app inaccessibility.

Video streaming such as Disney+ and Netflix experienced outages or slow speeds, as did other services like Robinhood, Ticketmaster, PUGB, and Slack. Delta and Southwest Airlines also saw problems with customers trying to book or change tickets, with Southwest switching over to West Coast servers.

Amazon sellers were unable to access Seller Central, while Amazon’s bread and butter, their delivery services, took heavy hits. Warehouse workers and delivery drivers were unable to access Amazon’s Flex app, preventing them from scanning packages and accessing delivery assignments and routes. NBC News noted the amount of warehouses and delivery stations that were impacted aren’t known.

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As the issues continued, many workers simply waited in break rooms or ended up being sent home for the day. The outage couldn’t have come at a worse time for Amazon, considering it’s in the middle of the holiday season, and the pressure is on for packages to arrive in a timely fashion. The potential backlogs created from this widespread incident could become more apparent in the coming weeks.

This incident is also giving many a new perspective on just how dependent their lives have become on the internet, as well as one company in particular. Speaking to the Associated Press, technologist and public data access activist Carl Malamud explained that the internet’s original goal of not being dependent on a singular factor has been undone by giants like Amazon.

“When we put everything in one place, be it Amazon’s cloud or Facebook’s monolith, we’re violating that fundamental principle. We saw that when Facebook became the instrument of a massive disinformation campaign, we just saw that today with the Amazon failure.”

Following multiple hours of the outage, Amazon reported they had mitigated the underlying issue that caused devices to be impaired, but were still working on a full recovery for additional services. Amazon has yet to comment further on the outage beyond giving repair updates on their status page.

Amazon Web Services is a major profit maker for the company. In the third quarter of 2021, AWS totaled $16.11 billion, up from 39% a year ago. It trumped the experts predictions of around $15.48 billion. AWS — which accounts for about 15% of Amazon’s total revenue — also leads the cloud infrastructure market with 41% of shares in 2020.

Streaming Services

The 5 Top Free Movie Streaming Services

There’s no question that streaming video technology has fundamentally changed the world of entertainment, as physical entertainment media has all but disappeared in favor of on-demand content delivered over the Internet in exchange for a monthly subscription fee. Subscriptions for these services can add up, however, particularly during a time when content is made exclusive to competing services like Hulu, Amazon Prime, and now Disney Plus, requiring pop culture aficionados to subscribe to multiple platforms to keep up with the most-talked-about stories of the moment. That being said, a tremendous amount of content can now also be found on free, legal, ad-supported services which provide valuable alternatives for those who don’t mind ads but want more out of their television-watching experience. While these platforms won’t host the most recent, blockbuster productions, they often include classics from the history of cinema, making them a valuable resource for fans of the storytelling medium.

Plex, for instance, has recently expanded its business to include free access to stream a wide selection of content. While Plex has long been well-known as a platform for streaming media hosted on one’s desktop computer or server to any number of other devices, the service now also grants access to a wide variety of classics such as Rain Man and The Terminator. Considering the fact that accessing these critically-acclaimed titles from the 20th century requires only that users sign up for an account, taking advantage of Plex can enable hours of entertainment without spending a dime.

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Another service, Crackle, offers a similarly impressive collection of titles and doesn’t even require users to make an account, though the option is available for those who wish to sync their watching history across multiple devices. In addition to classic titles, Crackle includes some recent movies as well, such as Captain Phillips and Whiplash as well as several popular TV shows. As the service is broadly compatible with a wide range of devices, requiring little more than a modern web browser to function, it’s likely worth checking out.

IMdB TV, a service owned by Amazon and previously called FreeDrive, makes for another worthy Netflix alternative. The platform gives access to a number of titles that may be difficult to find elsewhere, particularly for free, including David Fincher’s excellent The Social Network and classics like The Shining and Groundhog day. However, the service only works on Windows and Fire TV devices and requires users to create an IMdB account.

Though its library of content is not as impressive as others on this list, Tubi offers a polished and streamlined interface as well as access to thousands of movies and TV shows, which include critically-acclaimed selections like Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill Vol. 1 and Nightcrawler. Similarly, the Walmart-owned Vudu lets users stream a selection of titles, but also gives users the option of renting or buying films from the service directly for a small fee. While the platform’s selection of ad-supported content is understandably less than stellar, the option to rent or buy recent hits like Once Upon a Time in Hollywood makes Vudu an attractive option, particularly because the first rental on Vudu is only 99 cents.

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Lastly, Hoopla is a service that, in coordination with your local library, allows you to digitally “borrow” films as well as other media like music and eBooks using your library card. There are some obvious drawbacks to this service; not everyone has a library card, and not every public library works with Hoopla to enable access to content. That being said, Hoopla is the only service on this list not to serve ads, as the business is funded by library systems. Also, its selection of content is unique relative to other platforms, particularly when it comes to audiobooks and eBooks, which may in fact be the most valuable aspect of the service. Public libraries are an under-utilized free knowledge resource, but with services like Hoopla that enable easy and free access to library materials, that could soon change.

The variety of streaming media services, both free and paid, can be overwhelming, especially because navigating the enormous selection of (mostly mediocre) titles available on each platform can be tiring. That being said, free, legal access to media of all sorts via the Internet has never been greater, and many hidden gems await those who are willing to navigate various services and libraries.

Rolled Cannabis

How Cannabis and Religion Mix in California

The past several years have seen a remarkable surge in support for the legalization of cannabis throughout North America, with Canada having legalized the drug for recreational use, several US states doing the same, and legalization being considered in Mexico. Coinciding with the gradual process of legalization sweeping the continent, cultural attitudes surrounding marijuana have adapted, as a growing number of people support legalization and believe the drug’s harmful impact is minimal. As people have grown more comfortable with openly using marijuana in states where it is legal, cultures in these communities have integrated the drug into social events. A so-called cannabis cafe, where customers can openly purchase and smoke marijuana while enjoying a meal, recently opened in California with the support of celebrities including Miley Cyrus, Chris Rock and Sarah Silverman. Perhaps more surprisingly, though, cannabis has begun to be integrated with church services in California, creating a unique intersection between the psychoactive drug and religious service. 

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In Big Bear, California, roughly two dozen people regularly attend Jah Healing Church services, where joints are passed around as practitioners worship. One of the church’s founders, April Mancini, has said that she was inspired to combine the drug with religious practice after meeting a Rastafarian who ran the building as an unlicensed medical marijuana dispensary in 2013. While she was initially skeptical of the drug’s religious value, Mancini later studied the Bible for references to the drug, and believes that she found them. While Jah Healing Church generally follows the Christian tradition, it also incorporates teachings from other religions like Rastafarianism, Buddhism, and Judaism. In addition to holding services that include the consumption of marijuana, the church has begun a food pantry and clothing drives.

In order to continue operating, cannabis churches will have to prove in court that marijuana is used as a genuine religious sacrament, a feat which will undoubtedly prove difficult.

Several cannabis churches exist throughout the state, and their existence has led to legal challenges concerning how the government should treat these unique institutions. The controversy stems from the fact that people at these churches do not pay for marijuana directly, but instate donate money to the church in exchange for the drug. Some churches offer paid membership plans, and while they do not advertise themselves as marijuana dispensaries, they often appear on lists of dispensaries online. As such, these churches circumvent state regulations concerning the sale of marijuana, which requires dispensaries to register with the state for a license in order to sell the drug legally. According to a cannabis trade organization, nearly 3,000 unlicensed marijuana dispensaries exist in California, meaning that even though the drug is legal, the way in which it is often sold is technically illegal. The marijuana black market continues to thrive and even surpass the legal market in size and scale, and cannabis churches are widely considered to be part of this illegal market.

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California government officials have a perspective on cannabis churches that differs wildly from the view held by people associated with these institutions. Whereas church organizers view them as primarily centered around religious service, enhanced by cannabis use, officials like deputy city attorney for Redondo Beach Melanie Chavira see them just as dispensaries under a different name. Speaking with the New York Times, Chavira said of these churches, “it’s not donation based, the customers are not religious patrons, everyone’s just there to purchase marijuana.” As such, law enforcement throughout the state has taken various steps to shut down these churches, generating legal battles currently being fought in the courts. One central figure in this story is Matthew Pappas, a lawyer who has fought on behalf of marijuana use for years. Pappas argues that the religious conviction held by cannabis church attendees is genuine, and that the government has an obligation to protect the rights of people who incorporate cannabis use into their religious practice. Mr. Pappas is also a religious figure himself, as he started an organization called Sacramental Life Church, which works with several cannabis churches in the state including Jah Healing Church. In order to continue operating, however, cannabis churches will have to prove in court that marijuana is used as a genuine religious sacrament, a feat which will undoubtedly prove difficult.