The Geek’s Reading List – Week of September 28th, 2012

The Geek’s Reading List – Week of September 28th, 2012

Hello

I offer a welcome back to my earlier readers and an introduction for my new ones. I am an independent analyst and consultant with 19 years of experience as a sell side technology analyst, and 13 years of prior experience as an electronics designer and software developer.

The purpose of the Geek’s Reading List is to draw attention to interesting articles I encounter from time to time. I hope that what I find interesting you will find interesting as well. These articles are not to be construed as investment advice, even though I may opine on the wisdom of the markets from time to time. That being said, it is absolutely important that investors understand the industry in which they are investing, along with the trends and developments within that industry. Therefore, I believe these comments may actually help investors with a longer time horizon.

Please feel free to pass this newsletter on. I am trying to reconstruct my distribution list so if you receive this newsletter and want to be added to the distribution list, send me an email at brian@thegeeksreadinglist.com.

I blog at www.thegeeksreadinglist.com.

 

Brian Piccioni

ps: next week’s Geeks List may be early or short as I am headed to Newfoundland to hunt moose. There will be no Geek’s List the week of October 5th.

 

1.        TI steering OMAP to embedded

TI makes a good point: because anybody can license ARM, and because, for whatever reasons, the main volume customers have decided to spin their own version of ARM applications processors, there isn’t much room for TI to sell its OMAP into that market. The embedded market is actually a sizeable one, so, if TI can pick its spots, it has a chance there. It’s worth noting that x86 is not freely licensable and a similar situation is unlikely to evolve with Intel.

“”If you look at the dynamics in that market, you look at it being dominated by a couple of players, you look at the fact that vertical integration has become a very significant factor in the marketplace, the truth is that it’s just a less attractive opportunity for us”.

http://eetimes.com/electronics-news/4397207/TI-steering-OMAP-toward-embedded

2.        Why IC market growth will expand despite economic and technology challenges

To my usual caveats about industry research not being worth the paper it’s printed on I add a quote from the great Sponge Bob Squarepants: “Good luck with that!” Since there are no large growth markets for ICs, I give low odds to the possibility revenue CAGR will somehow, rather magically, accelerate to 8%.

“But the firm still sees the IC market expanding its long-term growth rate over the next 10 years to an 8% CAGR, because it thinks IC average selling prices (ASPs) will offset that slowing unit growth. IC ASPs actually declined an average of -4% per year for the past decade and a half, but are seen swinging to an average of 1% growth/year from 2011-2021, for an 8% CAGR.”

http://www.electroiq.com/articles/sst/2012/september/why-ic-market-growth-will-expand-despite-economic-and-technology-challenges.html

3.        Here’s the Chip Apple Is Using to Stop You from Buying Cheap Cables

An exciting headline for sure , but it’s a pity there is no actual evidence to support it. The author’s comment “It has a mirror-finish shiny metal exterior with lasered numbers on it, it does not look like a generic black IC” suggests my cat Yoda knows more about semiconductors than he does. Yes, this is an active cable, yes it is possible Apple did this to further gouge its customers and control the market, however, there may also be valid engineering choices for the device, which may be easily reproducible. The device’s f            unction would be easily discerned by somebody with a logic analyser.

“Peter from Double Helix Cables found the obnoxious little chip while dissecting one of the new, official Lighting cables. Positioned between the cord’s USB contact and the power pin on the Lightning plug, the chip seems to be the key to keeping Lighting cables and adapters proprietary.”

http://gizmodo.com/5945889/some-third+party-adapters-might-not-work-with-your-new-iphone

4.        The Future of Computers: Goodbye Mouse and Keyboard, Hello Leap Motion

Interesting demonstration and I can immediately see applications in outdoor displays, CAD, and a few other things. I don’t play video games myself, but I can imagine there would be games where this would fit. I rather doubt it would be a replacement for a mouse or touchpad, however. Still – its cool.

“By now, many of us are aware of the Leap Motion, a small, $70 gesture control system that simply plugs into any computer and, apparently, just works. If you’ve seen the gesture interfaces in Minority Report, you know what it does. More importantly, if you’re familiar with the touch modality — and at this point, most of us are — the interface is entirely intuitive. It’s touch, except it happens in the space in front of the screen, so you don’t have to cover your window into your tech with all those unsightly smudges.”

http://pjmedia.com/lifestyle/2012/07/15/the-future-of-computers-goodbye-mouse-and-keyboard-hello-leap-motion/

5.        Hitachi unveils glass slivers that store data forever

This might have some potential in applications such as government archives. However, the low storage density (CD scale) means it is unlikely to become mainstream.

“Hitachi’s new technology stores data in binary form by creating dots inside a thin sheet of quartz glass, which can be read with an ordinary optical microscope.”

http://www.channelnewsasia.com/stories/afp_world_business/view/1227752/1/.html

6.        Smart meter data shared far and wide

This is truly a privacy nightmare, however, there is good chance the people signing up for the portal have no idea what the ramifications of that choice are. It looks like the portal is optional, and not part of the electricity company’s  operations.

“Customers with smart meters who sign up for Origin Energy’s online portal must consent to their data being shared with a string of third parties. The data is stored in Australia but shared with US company Tendril, which is described by Origin as a smart energy technology provider.”

http://www.theage.com.au/it-pro/government-it/smart-meter-data-shared-far-and-wide-20120922-26dvp.html

7.        How the Chinese Smartphone Market Shapes the Battle for Global Dominance

It is not surprising Chinese would find an open source, open platform a better choice than a closed one. We would image there are considerable security concerns associated with using a closed platform only available from a foreign company. I figured the chart might be interesting to some readers.

“The first chart above shows that while Apple has been steadily gaining Chinese market share over the past four years, Android’s market share has skyrocketed from under 20 percent in 2010 to over 75 percent in the first half of this year. The second chart shows how rapidly the market has grown since 2008. That year, 11 million total smartphones were shipped to China. Eighty million were shipped just in the first half of this year.”

http://www.technologyreview.com/photogallery/429300/how-the-chinese-smartphone-market-shapes-the/

8.        FORM 1: An affordable, professional 3D printer

I can’t do a Geek’s List without at least one “new 3D printer” story. This one has two! The Form 1 uses the same imaging technology as professional quality units and promises affordability. We’ll see if and when it hits the market.

“The results are amazing: the Form 1 can print layers as thin as 25 microns (0.001 in) with features as small as 300 microns (0.012 in) in a build volume of 125 x 125 x 165 mm (4.9 x 4.9 x 6.5 in). This means you can print complex geometries with the exquisite details and beautiful surface finish that will make your creations stand out.”

http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/formlabs/form-1-an-affordable-professional-3d-printer

http://formlabs.com/

9.        California’s first 3D printer retail store to sell $600 model

I don’t think we are seeing a wave of 3D printer stores sweeping the US, however, this article is somewhat more detailed than the one about the New York City opening, and, quite frankly, the location makes a lot more sense.

“But if you find yourself in Southern California (specifically, Pasadena) on Sunday, you can attend the opening of Deezmaker, the West Coast’s first 3D printer retail store, set to open on September 23, 2012 at 2pm. That will bring the grand total of 3D printer retail stores in America (and possibly the world) to two.”

http://arstechnica.com/business/2012/09/californias-first-3d-printer-retail-store-to-sell-600-model/

10.   Has Plant Life Reached Its Limits?

Funny, because the planet’s population has increased by 50% since 1982 and the standard of living and caloric intake of most people has actually increased over that period. Plus, vast tracks of land are used for growing low value hay and forage and a significant portion of corn production is chasing ethanol subsidies (which have a negative impact on greenhouse gases to boot). You’d think facts would speak louder than the simulations and environmentalist hysteria.

“After they crunched the numbers, combining the current monitoring system’s data with satellite observations dating back to 1982, they noticed that terrestrial plant growth, also known as net primary production, remained relatively constant. Over the course of three decades, the observed plant growth on dry land has been about 53.6 petagrams of carbon each year, Dr. Running writes in the article. This suggests that plants’ overall productivity — including the corn that humans grow and the trees people log for paper products — is changing little now, no matter how mankind tries to boost it, he said.”

http://green.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/09/20/has-plant-life-reached-its-limits

11.   Power plants are big energy hogs: Report

Wow. There must be a ‘stupid ideas about the environment’ convention going on this week. Setting aside the questionable conclusion that climate change will lead to drought, do these idiots know what happens to water after it turns to steam? Do they do understand that burning fossil fuels actually leads to the release of water which had been stuck in the ground for millions of years? How does this stuff get published?

“Don Roberts, who leads the renewable energy and clean technology investment team at CIBC, once put it this way: “If energy is scarce, water is scarcer.” Synapse Energy Economics, a research consultancy based on Cambridge, Mass., put out a report this week drawing attention to the thirst profile and water impacts of various forms of electricity generation — namely those based on coal, natural gas, nuclear, biomass, solar and wind.”

http://www.thestar.com/business/article/1260462–power-plants-are-big-energy-hogs-report

12.   Anti-GMO researchers used science publication to manipulate the press

Well, this is how you get garbage published: you take advantage of the fact that the media following science and environmental stories are entirely ignorant about science and use their inherent (and demonstrated) skills at taking dictation. It’s an appalling story – but contrast it with the one above on ‘Plant Life Limits’ – the reality is that ‘organic’ farming techniques are about half as productive as modern ones, so how many people would starve without herbicides, GMOs, etc?

“After getting a study published that raised questions about the safety of genetically modified food (GMOs), the researchers provided advanced copies to the press only if they signed an agreement that meant they could not consult outside experts. A live press conference and the first wave of press appeared before outside experts could weigh in—and many of them found the study to be seriously flawed.”

http://arstechnica.com/science/2012/09/anti-gmo-researchers-used-science-publication-to-manipulate-the-press/

 

 

The Geek’s Reading List – Week of September 21, 2012

The Geek’s Reading List – Week of September 21, 2012

Hello

I offer a welcome back to my earlier readers and an introduction for my new ones. I am an independent analyst and consultant with 19 years of experience as a sell side technology analyst, and 13 years of prior experience as an electronics designer and software developer.

The purpose of the Geek’s Reading List is to draw attention to interesting articles I encounter from time to time. I hope that what I find interesting you will find interesting as well. These articles are not to be construed as investment advice, even though I may opine on the wisdom of the markets from time to time. That being said, it is absolutely important that investors understand the industry in which they are investing, along with the trends and developments within that industry. Therefore, I believe these comments may actually help investors with a longer time horizon.

Please feel free to pass this newsletter on. I am trying to reconstruct my distribution list so if you receive this newsletter and want to be added to the distribution list, send me an email at brian@thegeeksreadinglist.com.

I blog at www.thegeeksreadinglist.com.

 

Brian Piccioni

ps: next week’s Geeks List may be early or short as I am headed to Newfoundland to hunt moose. There will be no Geek’s List the week of October 5th.

1.        The Linux-Proof Processor that Nobody Wants

Some thoughts on Intel’s “Clover Trail won’t support Linux” announcement and Intel’s position in the mobile space. I agree with some of the points, in particular the fact the x86 architecture is extremely dated. Due to the need for backwards compatibility this imposes a considerable amount of overhead (which works out to transistor count) on x86 processors. Of course, there are advantages, namely, backwards compatibility and an homogenous hardware environment which allows for a vast software library. These are not necessarily keys to success in the mobile arena.

“Clover Trail is said to include power-management that will make the Atom run longer under Windows. It had better, since Atom currently provides about 1/4 of the power efficiency of the ARM processors that run IOS and Android devces. The details of Clover Trail’s power management won’t be disclosed to Linux developers. Power management isn’t magic, though – there is no great secret about shutting down hardware that isn’t being used. Other CPU manufacturers, and Intel itself, will provide similar power management to Linux on later chips.”

http://perens.com/blog/2012/09/15/1/

2.        HP exec: We’re in the post-PC era? Ha!

I know people disagree with my opinion that tablets are a different kind of thing from PCs and, therefore, tablets are not replacing PCs any more than mobile phones replaced PCs. However, this is a laughable comment coming from an executive of a company which announced, then unannounced, that it was exiting the PC business. More recently, there have been rumors HP is considering getting back into the mobile space. This company acts as though it is manic depressive.

“HP printing and personal systems group executive vice president Todd Bradley said in an interview with PC World that the notion PCs are declining as tablets take over is plain nonsense.”

http://news.cnet.com/8301-1001_3-57516827-92/hp-exec-were-in-the-post-pc-era-ha/

3.        PCs used less than half of DRAM bits in Q2

I don’t lend much credence to industry research – iSupply or others – however this ‘feels’ more or less correct. More granularity on ‘Others’ would be nice, but that’ll probably cost you $5K for the full iSupply report.  What’s happened is the PC industry is more or less no longer growing, and, more significantly, demand for increased DRAM per PC has flatlined. There comes a time when enough is enough, as the hard disk industry will soon learn.

“The arrival of the post-PC era doesn’t mean that people will stop using personal computers, or even necessarily that the PC market will stop expanding. What the post-PC era does mean is that personal computers are not at the center of the technology universe anymore—and are seeing their hegemony over the electronics supply chain erode.”

http://eetimes.com/electronics-news/4396290/PCs-used-less-than-half-of-DRAM-bits-in-Q2

4.        Hard disk drives vs. solid-state drives: Are SSDs finally worth the money?

I am not entirely sure I support the test methodology because caches can do funny things depending upon how you test them. Also, an OS could cache the SSD without too much difficulty, and that would skew things a fair bit. Regardless the conclusion is something I can agree with. It is even more start when you are looking at a desktop with SSD as the ‘boot/program storage drive’ (making it write mostly) and a second large HDD (or RAID array) for data storage.

“Perhaps the single biggest change, though, is price. In 2009, SSDs cost around $3 per gigabyte. That meant a 120GB SSD cost you more than $300. If you were paying $700 for a laptop, it wasn’t reasonable to expect to pay almost half that for a new drive.”

http://www.computerworld.com/s/article/9230882/Hard_disk_drives_vs._solid_state_drives_Are_SSDs_finally_worth_the_money_

5.        Hardware is dead

A fun story, but I would not draw the same conclusions as the author seems to. Apple may sell iOS, but iOS is not, but all reports, that much better than Android, and Android is an open platform. If you don’t control the platform, you can’t get ‘rent’ from the software because any person with the requisite skills can sell the software, and what people use are the applications, not the OS. Migration of modern software across OSs is not that difficult. What can be challenging is supporting an heterogeneous hardware environment and it is hard to believe the $45 tablets are cross compatible, let alone well documented (or even documented). The only conclusion I can draw is that hyper profitability from tablets is going to prove fleeting.

I had heard that tablets in China had already reached low price points. You can buy a reasonable Android phone for $100 retail, and I wanted to see if I could find a $150 tablet. This consultant pointed me to a mall filled with hundreds of stalls selling nothing but tablets. I walked into the middle of the scrum to a random stall. I pointed to one of the devices on display and asked, “How much for this one?” 300 kuai. My Mandarin is a bit rusty, so I had to ask again. Slowly, the stall owner repeated renminbi 300 yuan ($45).

http://venturebeat.com/2012/09/15/hardware-is-dead/

6.        Cloud Computing Essential for Small Businesses

This ‘blog post’ is really ‘advertorial’ planted on Reddit. Many of the ‘pro-cloud’ points could actually be flipped around: is your data more secure when it is managed by a third party you have no control over and with a potential single point of failure.

“Besides offering users access-from-anywhere capabilities for their precious documents, the cloud is vital for a company’s financial health. Outages may be caused by a variety of ways, ranging from hackers to in-company human error, making data crises impossible to predict and detrimental to companies who aren’t prepared. Businesses lose an average of $5,000 per minute in an outage, equating to $300,000 per hour. And with indirect losses such as customer drop-off and damage to credibility accounting for nearly two-thirds of downtime cost, ensuring your business’ data is protected makes financial sense.”

http://blog.cx.com/business-tips/cloud-computing-essential-for-small-businesses/

7.        iPhone 5 Carries $199 BOM, Virtual Teardown Reveals

I figure this might be of some interest to those who track Apple. It is interesting to note that the cost difference between 16G and 64G is entirely in the Flash memory and results in a $200 difference in retail pricing. A MicroSD slot (about $1) would result in similar benefit and many Android owners are discovering.

“The new iPhone 5 carries a bill of materials (BOM) of $199.00 for the low-end model with 16Gbytes of NAND flash memory, according to a preliminary virtual teardown conducted by the IHS iSuppli Teardown Analysis Service. When the $8.00 manufacturing cost is added in, the cost to produce the iPhone 5 rises to $207.00. For the 32Gbyte version of the iPhone 5, the BOM cost increases to $209.00, while 64Gbyte version is estimated at $230.00, as presented in the table below.”

http://www.isuppli.com/Teardowns/News/Pages/iPhone5-Carries-$199-BOM-Virtual-Teardown-Reveals.aspx

8.        Vimeo ‘tip jar’ lets users pay creators for content

I figure this is how things will evolve, though I’d prefer the option of a prepaid card like the ones they sell at checkout counters because it is anonymous and you don’t have to deal with PayPal, Visa, or Mastercard.  The option of watching an advertisement to sponsor the work is also a viable option, especially if the sponsor can be matched by content or context with the video.

“The battle to monetise user generated content took another step forward today with the launch by Vimeo of a new “tip jar” feature. Available to anyone with a paid Vimeo account, it allows content creators to activate a button that will appear next to every video and allow viewers to donate anywhere from one to five hundred dollars by Credit Card or Paypal.”

http://www.wired.co.uk/news/archive/2012-09/20/vimeo-tips

9.        DIY lab equipment, courtesy of 3D printing

This is a perfect example of what 3D printers, in their current form are really good at: low volume production of otherwise expensive and hard to find products.

“With the prices of 3D printers dropping, laboratories at companies and universities have begun using them to build up research equipment. Even better, the printers themselves are often open source—meaning their designs are available and modifiable by end-users—and controlled by FOSS programs. Students in teaching-focused institutions can be involved in the process as well, providing hands-on instruction in design principles.”

http://arstechnica.com/science/2012/09/diy-lab-equipment-courtesy-of-3d-printing/

10.   First 3-D Printing Store Opens In U.S.

I am not entirely sure the store is a good idea. Exposing more people to 3D printing probably is good business sense, but a ‘traveling roadshow’ which visits malls or whatever mught be a better use of resources.

“MakerBot, the unofficial leader of the hobbyist 3-D printing movement, is putting the finishing touches on a consumer store located in the posh Manhattan neighborhood of NoHo.”

http://www.popsci.com/diy/article/2012-09/first-3-d-printing-store-opens-world-domination

11.   Makerbot Replicator 2

I wanted to put this announcement as a separate item because it looks like MakerBot is producing more polished and useable products. After all powder coated metal is bound to find more appeal to business users than plywood and the price is in line with a good quality laser printer or consumer PC from a few years ago. That being said, only certain things will fit into a cube 7.5” inches on a side. Still, many things will.

“There’s a new standard in desktop 3D printing. Our fourth generation machine isn’t just our best, it’s the best desktop 3D printer on the market. With a resolution capability of 100 microns and a massive 410 cubic inch build volume, the MakerBot Replicator™ 2 Desktop 3D Printer is the easiest, fastest, and most affordable tool for making professional quality models.”

https://store.makerbot.com/replicator2.html

12.   AskPatents.com: A Stack Exchange To Prevent Bad Patents

This is a good idea: crowdsourcing the search for prior-art regarding inventions. It’s not an overstatement to say many patent which are being issued nowadays are for things which shouldn’t be patented because they are trivial or exist in prior art. Of course, proving prior art can be tricky, especially if it existed pre-Internet.  The problem for this type of approach would probably be in attracting knowledgeable people to participate so they should add a rewards scheme.

“The second lucky break is that we have a very good Director at the USPTO right now, David Kappos. Mr. Kappos, who came from IBM, realized that this provision gave the public an opportunity to help patent examiners identify prior art. But it’s not enough just to allow prior art submissions… you have to find a way to get the public involved in looking through patent applications and trying to find prior art that could prevent bogus claims.”

http://blog.stackoverflow.com/2012/09/askpatents-com-a-stack-exchange-to-prevent-bad-patents/

13.   Warp Drive May Be More Feasible Than Thought, Scientists Say

Cool. Except the ‘exotic matter’ part, which makes it sound like ‘insert magic here’. At least they are thinking about it.

“An Alcubierre warp drive would involve a football-shape spacecraft attached to a large ring encircling it. This ring, potentially made of exotic matter, would cause space-time to warp around the starship, creating a region of contracted space in front of it and expanded space behind.”

http://news.yahoo.com/warp-drive-may-more-feasible-thought-scientists-161301109.html

 

14.   Why It’s Never Mattered That America’s Schools ‘Lag’ Behind Other Countries

I correctly figured this would be yet another article confounding correlation and causation and arriving at the desired conclusion. A significant reason is addressed later in the article: the capacity to attract the best and brightest from around the world. History has shown that that is a trend which can reverse as economic fortunes shift.  And I believe the US educational system only devolved into its current state relatively recently, well after those scions of industry and science went through it. Note the misspelling of ‘wrangles’ in the quote.

“We do know where some of our best talent comes from: other countries. In some ways, the United States steals its way to economic superiority: it rangles the world’s brightest minds to immigrate. The U.S. holds roughly 17% of the world’s International students, compared to 2nd-place Britain (~12%) and far more than education powerhouses, Korea, Switzerland, and Sweden (all below 5%). A quarter of CEOs in technology and science are foreign born and 76 percent hold key positions in engineering, technology, and management, according to Stanford researcher and TechCrunch contributor, Vivek Wadhwa.”

http://techcrunch.com/2012/09/16/why-its-never-mattered-that-americas-schools-lag-behind-other-countries/

15.   University Requires Students To Pay $180 For ‘Art History’ Text That Has No Photos Due To Copyright Problems

While students and their parents groan under the cost of tuition nobody seems to talk about textbooks. The prices have always been obscene but the market is now gamed such that used texts are no longer useable due to rapid edition changes, digital lock codes and so on. Of course the root of the problem lies with educators who don’t give a damn about textbook costs (some assign their own overpriced text) and governments which ignore the issue. One solution: provide incentive for the use of open source texts, and, in the case of pre-university education write and prepare you own. Seriously: how much has high school math changed in the past 70 years? Then, of course, there is the issue of how a copy of something which can’t be copyrighted somehow ends up copyrighted.

“Brent Ashley shares the absolutely crazy story of how his daughter, a student at OCAD University in Canada, is taking a class on “Global Visual and Material Culture: Prehistory to 1800” which has a textbook that is required for all students… which costs $180. Now, we all know that textbook prices are absolutely insane these days, but here’s where it gets crazier. The text — and, remember, this is an art textbook has no images because they couldn’t clear the copyrights.”

http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20120917/01060120399/university-requires-students-to-pay-180-art-history-text-that-has-no-photos-due-to-copyright-problems.shtml

16.   Existing Technologies Could Cut Vehicle Fuel Use in Half

No kidding: but the secret to significant improvements in fuel economy lies mostly in weight reduction, or smaller cars, not exotic technological solutions. This is a trick ‘alternate energy’ vehicle proponents have used for years to provide dazzling efficiency albeit in an ultra-lightweight vehicle. Then there is the matter of increased use of modern diesel engines, at least in North America. In any event, consumers are going to buy what they want and the auto industry will game whatever vote-getting schemes the government thinks up.

“Gasoline and diesel vehicles will continue to dominate the marketplace over the next two decades, making up more than 90 percent of the global fleet in 2030, said the firm. But with the right mix of policies, conventional vehicles can cut fuel consumption in half in the next 20 years.”

http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=existing-technologies-could-cut-vehicle-fuel-use-in-half

17.   Rohm, Aqua Fairy and Kyoto U announced Compact, high-power hydrogen fuel cell for release in spring 2013

There is probably a sizeable market for this type of thing, though I’m not sure powering seismometers near volcanoes is a growth market. For smartphones and other gadgets the question becomes the cost of the fuel cell device and, in particular, the cost of the fuel packets. If priced right (calcium hydride should be real cheap) they could sell a lot of these.

“This fuel cell generates electricity by producing hydrogen on the spot. This is achieved through a chemical reaction between calcium hydride sheets and water. From a sheet with volume of less than 3 cc, this fuel cell can generate 5 Whr of electricity. It can be used for many purposes, from charging a smartphone, to providing back-up power in emergencies.”

http://en.akihabaranews.com/118673/environment/rohm-aqua-fairy-and-kyoto-u-announced-compact-high-power-hydrogen-fuel-cell-for-release-in-spring-2013

18.   Quantum evolution

A surprisingly good and detailed write up some progress made in the field of quantum computing. It almost looks like the journalist actually knows what he is writing about, just like in the good old days when people covering science and technology actually understood science and technology. That being said it is worthwhile noting that only certain classes of computationally difficult problems would be best solved by quantum computing. Many of these will be in the domain of spies and thieves.

“By replacing selected silicon atoms with atoms of phosphorus, Morello and his colleague Andrew Dzurak have taken a step forward in a global race to build a computer using the weird laws that govern the physical world at the tiniest, quantum, scale.”

http://www.abc.net.au/science/articles/2012/09/20/3593847.htm

19.   Neil Young: Piracy Is ‘The New Radio,’ Way To Get Your Music Heard

These old comments got a lot of coverage over the past week, and, while I don’t completely agree with the loss/compression commentary (audiophiles can be really annoying) it shows that, for an old guy, he really gets it. Of course, it’s worth noting that the youth of today don’t listen to much radio, so the Internet, and ‘piracy’ is going to be the only way you are going ot get people to pay for your live performances.

“”It doesn’t affect me because I look at the internet as the new radio,” Young said in January. “I look at the radio as gone … Piracy is the new radio. That’s how music gets around … That’s the radio. If you really want to hear it, let’s make it available, let them hear it, let them hear the 95 percent of it.”

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/09/17/neil-young-piracy-is-the-new-radio_n_1889785.html?utm_hp_ref=entertainment

20.   Ultra-HD Video of Curiosity Rover’s Landing Is the Best Yet

“Extrapolating the original Mars Descent Imager (MARDI) camera’s low-res four frames-per-second video, Canning boosted it up to 30 frames per second and rendered the footage in 1080p. By adding hundreds of motion-tracking and adjustment points, he was able to create a smoother ride and show off the most interesting features of the Martian surface.”

http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2012/09/ultra-hd-curiosity-landing/

The video on YouTube.

http://youtu.be/Esj5juUzhpU

The Geek’s Reading List – Week of September 14, 2012

The Geek’s Reading List – Week of September 14, 2012

Hello

I offer a welcome back to my earlier readers and an introduction for my new ones. I am an independent analyst and consultant with 19 years of experience as a sell side technology analyst, and 13 years of prior experience as an electronics designer and software developer.

The purpose of the Geek’s Reading List is to draw attention to interesting articles I encounter from time to time. I hope that what I find interesting you will find interesting as well. These articles are not to be construed as investment advice, even though I may opine on the wisdom of the markets from time to time. That being said, it is absolutely important that investors understand the industry in which they are investing, along with the trends and developments within that industry. Therefore, I believe these comments may actually help investors with a longer time horizon.

Please feel free to pass this newsletter on. I am trying to reconstruct my distribution list so if you receive this newsletter and want to be added to the distribution list, send me an email at brian@thegeeksreadinglist.com.

I blog at www.thegeeksreadinglist.com.

 

Brian Piccioni

ps: sorry the list is a bit thin this week – most articles were recycled Apple PR garbage written by slack-jawed fanboyz and I can only take so much of that. Golly! It’s thin! Ugh.

1.        iPhone 5 Compared With Competitors

There was the usual hysterical coverage of the latest iYawn release that I could have done the whole Geek’s list on that topic alone. Unfortunately, most of the articles were more or least the usual puff pieces (the media, online and other, seem to believe they are merely marketing tools for Apple). The most controversial comment I heard on the news was that the ‘new’ connector can be installed upside down or right side up! This article is somewhat interesting, if only because it compares market leading devices. Of course the ‘price’ figures are nonsense, because these are subsidized prices.

“The iPhone 5 launches into a more challenging field of competitors than ever, and to give you some context about the iPhone 5 specifications compared with those of its chief competitors, we put the most important characteristics of each into this handy table.”

http://mashable.com/2012/09/12/iphone-5-compared/

2.        Young Adults and Teens Lead Growth Among Smartphone Owners

Some interesting facts and figures, though I guess it matters how you define ‘smartphone’. I happen to believe the smartphone market is rapidly maturing – Europe is probably not far behind the US, if it’s not ahead. Of course, not everybody owns a tablet, but you have to wonder where the tech sector is going to find growth in a replacement only smartphone market.

“Overall, young adults are leading the growth in smartphone ownership in the U.S., with 74 percent of 25-34 year olds now owning smartphones, up from 59 percent in July 2011. Interestingly, teenagers between 13 and 17 years old demonstrated the most dramatic increases in smartphone adoption, with the majority of American teens (58%) owning a smartphone, compared to roughly a third (36%) of teens saying they owned a smartphone just a year ago.”

http://blog.nielsen.com/nielsenwire/online_mobile/young-adults-and-teens-lead-growth-among-smartphone-owners/

3.        Google Fiber Splits Along Kansas City’s Digital Divide

This provides an interesting example of the digital divide. As schools, and, indeed, life in general, increasingly rely on the Internet, and as broadband access remains expensive, the long term impact on the poor is bound to be negative over the longer term. I would like to point out that, while broadband costs remain high, the costs of providing broadband services should be declining in the same way as PC price/performance points have. We can thank the regulatory environment for that dichotomy.

“Google has a map publicly tracking which neighborhoods meet the goal. As of Friday afternoon, Kansas City, Missouri, looks divided pretty much straight down the middle. On the western half of the city, nearly all neighborhoods have turned green, indicating they’ve met the goal. To the east, most are still yellow, meaning they haven’t met the goal. Right down the middle between the two halves runs Troost Avenue, the city’s historical socioeconomic and racial dividing line. Based on the map generated by the signup data, Google’s project is the latest to fall short of bridging that gap.”

http://www.wired.com/business/2012/09/google-fiber-digital-divide

4.        Intel’s Core i3 NUC mini-boards set to hit market in October, power up hobbyists and OEMs

I have to wonder how long the marketing genius who thought this up will remain employed. Intel architecture computers are great for general purpose computing not embedded applications. Things like RaspberryPi and Beagleboard are great for embedded computing but not so much as PC. This new product is egregiously expensive and doesn’t do much.

“Intel has finalized the specs of its Next Unit of Computing (NUC) board, and announced it’ll go on sale in October for less than $400 with a case and power supply.”

http://www.engadget.com/2012/09/13/intels-core-i3-nuc-mini-boards-set-to-hit-market-in-october-po/

5.        Southampton engineers a Raspberry Pi Supercomputer

The mystery for me is not that they built a ‘supercomputer’ (actually a cluster) but that they somehow managed to obtain 64 RaspberryPis! I’ve been waiting months!

“The whole system cost under £2,500 (excluding switches) and has a total of 64 processors and 1Tb of memory (16Gb SD cards for each Raspberry Pi). Professor Cox uses the free plug-in ‘Python Tools for Visual Studio’ to develop code for the Raspberry Pi.”

http://www.southampton.ac.uk/mediacentre/features/raspberry_pi_supercomputer.shtml

6.        Intel Confirms Decline of Server Giants HP, Dell, and IBM

An interesting piece, but just to clear up a few things, designing servers is not exactly rocket science nowadays (not like the good old days when I was a designer) and there is a good chance these things are sourced out of ODMs in either event. Furthermore, most all Intel, or high value added components, are ‘just in time’ because they sit in segregated inventory as Intel’s property until they are removed to be installed, minutes later, in the finished product.

“But just four years later, Bryant says, the landscape has completely changed. Today, she explains, eight server makers account for 75 percent of Intel’s server chip revenues, and at least one of those eight doesn’t even sell servers. It only makes servers for itself. “Google is something like number five on that list.””

http://www.wired.com/wiredenterprise/2012/09/29853/

7.        Intel and AMD Follow in Footsteps of Mysterious Google Switch

Not surprising that a purpose built networking technology would outperform general purpose technology. The choice for Intel and AMD is, do you go after a number of niches, albeit large ones, or hope to serve a broader market?

“The chipmakers are playing catch-up with their customers. The big data centers have been building their own switches and their own slimmed-down versions of the Ethernet network fabric for years, according to Andrew Feldman, manager of AMD’s Data Center Server Solutions group. He once sold networking gear to Google, back when he worked at a company called Force10 Networks. He says that over the past few years all of the big internet companies have been using specialized networking technology, or fabric.”

http://www.wired.com/wiredenterprise/2012/09/fabrics/

8.        IDF: Intel says Clover Trail will not work with Linux

The headline is not entirely accurate, but the fact remains that Intel is publicly stating that Intel will not support Linux on this particular variant of Atom. Presumably this speaks more for the deficiencies of Windows 8 than about the general direction of technology. After all, if an operating system needs special ‘hooks’ to manage power, and those ‘hooks’ are not available to a rival operating system, then you might say that Windows 8 s particularly power efficient. And I thought WinTel is long dead. Perhaps Intel is a bit concerned about Microsoft support for ARM.

“Intel has confirmed that it will not provide support for Linux on its Clover Trail Atom chip. Intel’s Clover Trail Atom processor can be seen in various nondescript laptops around IDF and the firm provided a lot of architectural details on the chip, confirming details such as dual-core and a number of power states. However Intel said Clover Trail “is a Windows 8 chip” and that “the chip cannot run Linux”.

http://www.theinquirer.net/inquirer/news/2205462/idf-intel-says-clover-trail-will-not-work-with-linux

9.        What will happen to AMD

I agree with most of the article, though I’d say AMD’s negative fortunes began to accelerate when it bought ATI, which was suicide by acquisition. To paraphrase an old war movie “for you the var is over!” I think the only Hail Mary available to AMD is hinted at in the final sentence: try to catch up with ARM by offering IP cores at a reasonable rate.

“The last year or so has shown that AMD is beaten and it knows it. Intel stole a march on the outfit with its Sandy Bridge range and while AMD was supposed to counter-punch with Bulldozer its technology really was not there.”

http://news.techeye.net/chips/what-will-happen-to-amd

10.   No Duty to Secure Wi-Fi from BitTorrent Pirates, Judge Rules

This makes perfect sense, and suggests that would-be pirates ensure they do not secure their Wi-Fi connection because they can always claim, even if files are on their computers, that they were placed there by hackers or malware. Furthermore, as the comments note, even secure Wi-Fi ain’t that secure.

“In her verdict Judge Phyllis Hamilton sided with the defendant. AF Holdings has not articulated any basis for imposing on Hatfield a legal duty to prevent the infringement of AF Holdings’ copyrighted works, and the court is aware of none.”

http://torrentfreak.com/no-duty-to-secure-wi-fi-from-bittorrent-pirates-judge-rules-120912/

11.   The Casio F91W Digital Watch: A Terrorist’s Best Friend?

I am hoping that this article is an example of the sort of silliness you see on the web from time to time. Not because I own this watch (I do own a very similar one) but because any digital watch with an alarm function can be made into a bomb and it’s easy to do. ‘Throwaway phones” are even easier, and, likely, a better bet.

“Back in 1995, Ramzi Yousef and Khalid Shaikh Mohammed tried to blow up the Pope in Manila[2]. Ramzi tried to make a bomb, accidentally set his hotel room on fire, and fled. In his recovered laptop there were instructions for how to use a Casio F91w as a bomb’s timing device.”

http://www.hodinkee.com/2010/5/11/the-casio-f91w-digital-watch-a-terrorists-best-friend.html

12.   Lilliputian Fuel Cell Gadget Charger Ready to Grow Up

There is a definite need for things like this in the modern, mobile world. I don’t like the idea of special cartridges but I can see the appeal from an investor perspective. The idea is you get to sell consumables, but the flaw in the reasoning is that the product only has merit if the consumables are available everywhere. A refillable option would make more sense since butane for lighters is available pretty much anywhere anyhow. A pity they don’t mention cost or expected availability.

“Called the USB Mobile Power System, the device can provide between 10 and 14 charges for smart phones. It’s about the size of a deck of cards and is fueled by replaceable cartridges filled with butane, or lighter fluid.”

http://www.technologyreview.com/view/429220/lilliputian-fuel-cell-gadget-charger-ready-to/

13.   Afternoon rain more likely over drier soils

The articles should probably be titled “Fundamental Assumption of Climate Models Incorrect”, but hey, I doubt such skepticism would have made it into Nature. The problem with computer models of any complexity is that they lack any predictive power. After all, if climate were deterministic given the state of knowledge, you’d only need one computer model as all the others would be redundant. And that computer model would, well, model the climate, which none actually do. It’s also worth noting that clouds have a considerable impact on the amount of sunlight reaching the earth and are also, apparently, implicated in precipitation.

“We find no evidence in our analysis of a positive feedback—that is, a preference for rain over wetter soils—at the spatial scale (50–100 kilometres) studied. In contrast, we find that a positive feedback of soil moisture on simulated precipitation does dominate in six state-of-the-art global weather and climate models—a difference that may contribute to excessive simulated droughts in large-scale models.”

http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/vaop/ncurrent/full/nature11377.html

14.   Organic food: no better for you, or the planet

Yes I know I am really cynical, but from the get go, ‘organic foods’ have a few things going against them, not the least of which is who really knows what is ‘organic’ and what is not. We use no pesticides or fertilizers in our 1 acre garden, but we probably would if our income depended on it because yields are much better with a bi of chemistry. Closely related to the question of purportedly organic foods is the ‘locavore’ trend: how does that work out if you have a local drought and you don’t have a distribution system in place?

“Organic crops seem to be no more nutritious than conventional ones, and are not necessarily great for the planet either.”

http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn22240-organic-food-no-better-for-you-or-the-planet.html

15.   Solar and wind energy may stabilise the power grid

This seems to be research on modeling and stress testing grids rather than the benefits of solar and wind energy as the headline suggests but I don’t want to buy the article to find out. Such modeling is bound to be a useful tool in grid design, though I’d suggest modeling a grid is easier than modeling human behavior. It is not surprising that some grid topologies are better than others, but I’d be suspicious about the headline claim because solar and wind generation is strongly regionally correlated which means you lose a lot of production all over the place all at once. Then it gets dark.

“In contrast, scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Dynamics and Self-Organization in Göttingen have now discovered in model simulations that consumers and decentralized generators may rather easily self-synchronise. Their results also indicate that a failure of an individual supply line in the decentralized grid less likely implies an outage in the network as a whole, and that care must be taken when adding new links: paradoxically, additional links can reduce the transmission capacity of the network as a whole.”

http://phys.org/news/2012-09-solar-energy-stabilise-power-grid.html

16.   Difference Engine: The PC all over again?

Having read the article I understand the title now, but at first I thought they were talking about Babbage’s ‘Difference Engine’. 3D printing will create some interesting challenges for patent and trademark protection. On the one hand if you are not manufacturing for resale there is no penalty with respect to patent infringement (royalties associated with no sale are exactly zero). On the other hand an exact representation of a patented or trademarked product may be argued to be necessarily placed in the public domain to describe what has been patented or trademarked.  That is, in fact, what a patent application does.

“In another instance, a couple of engineers at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh created the CAD files for printing a kit of plug-in parts that allow toy construction sets from different makers to be interconnected. The patents on the various toys involved had long since expired, but any copyright involved still had decades to run. The object was to send “a shot across the bow” of any company that might try to control how their physical designs were copied, remixed or improved upon in future. “We don’t want to see what happened in music and film play out in the area of shapes,” one of the engineers told Forbes magazine.”

http://www.economist.com/blogs/babbage/2012/09/3d-printing

17.   World’s first color film footage discovered in England

This is the second most interesting discovery out of the UK this week (the first being the possible discovery of the remains of Richard III).  Apparently, while the camera worked, the projector could not display the images so that nobody, not even the inventor, has even seen these moving images. I suspect somebody who is skilled with video editing software would be able to improve them further.

“Turner patented his three-color process in 1899 with the support of American entrepreneur Charles Urban, but died of a heart attack just four years later, at the age of 29. Urban went on to expand upon Turner’s process, and, in 1909, successfully launched the two-color Kinemacolor system. Prior to Harvey’s discovery, Urban’s Kinemacolor films were considered to be the world’s earliest natural color footage.”

http://mobile.theverge.com/2012/9/13/3325232/worlds-oldest-color-moving-images-discovery-uk

18.   Quantigraphic camera promises HDR eyesight from Father of AR

If you do any welding, as I do, this sort of thing would be a godsend: the arc is so bright reflection off your clothes can temporarily blind you (in fact, directly looking at the arc can literally blind you by sun burning your retina). Modern welding helmets are a bit more sophisticated than suggested below as they protect the eyes at all times, and switch from sunglasses to ‘very dark’ as soon as they detect an arc. The net result is you can never really see what you are doing, so this video is very, very, cool. I have been working on an idea for a much simpler (though probably not as effective) solution but I can’t figure out how to make a prototype without significant capital investment.

“Traditional welding helmets use a sheet of smoked glass for the eyepiece, cutting down on the dangerous glare from the welding process itself, but also reducing overall visibility. The HDRrchitecture system, instead, processes images coming from one or more cameras, rendering a Full HD, 30fps stream with the brighter elements stripped out but the core details retained, all in  real-time.”

http://www.slashgear.com/quantigraphic-camera-promises-hdr-eyesight-from-father-of-ar-12246941/

19.   Iron ‘blueberries’ may be sign of microbial life on Mars

For what it is worth, I am pretty confident microbial life exists today on Mars. After all, it exists everywhere on earth we care to look. Finding it on planet 5 light-minutes away is bound to be challenging. If and when they do find Martian life, the question will be whether it has a common ancestor with Earth-life.

“These were originally thought to have provided the first evidence of liquid water on Mars, but their existence may hold an even more profound implication. Now researchers from the University of Western Australia and University of Nebraska have found that such iron-oxide spheroids, when they appear on Earth, are formed by microbes.

http://www.lifescientist.com.au/article/436306/iron_blueberries_may_sign_microbial_life_mars/

20.   Water Droplet Computing Needs No Electricity

I really should have a section along the lines of “are people really this ignorant of technology?” Fluid or hydraulic computers have been around for a long, long time. Like, for example, automatic transmissions of cars. Scientific American had an article about it in 1962 (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fluidics ).

“The idea of turning water droplets into digital bits — the basic unit of data transfer — came from experiments at Aalto University in Finland. When researchers observed water droplets bouncing off one another like billiard balls on a water-repellent surface, they realized they could guide the water droplets along water-repellent tracks.”

http://www.innovationnewsdaily.com/1596-water-droplet-computing-electricity.html

 

The Geek’s Reading List – Week of September 7, 2012

The Geek’s Reading List – Week of September 7, 2012

Hello

I offer a welcome back to my earlier readers and an introduction for my new ones. I am an independent analyst and consultant with 19 years of experience as a sell side technology analyst, and 13 years of prior experience as an electronics designer and software developer.

The purpose of the Geek’s Reading List is to draw attention to interesting articles I encounter from time to time. I hope that what I find interesting you will find interesting as well. These articles are not to be construed as investment advice, even though I may opine on the wisdom of the markets from time to time. That being said, it is absolutely important that investors understand the industry in which they are investing, along with the trends and developments within that industry. Therefore, I believe these comments may actually help investors with a longer time horizon.

Please feel free to pass this newsletter on. I am trying to reconstruct my distribution list so if you receive this newsletter and want to be added to the distribution list, send me an email at brian@thegeeksreadinglist.com.

I blog at www.thegeeksreadinglist.com.

 

Brian Piccioni

 

1.        Intel cuts Q3 revenue outlook, cites weak demand

A $1 billion miss in the back to school quarter. Makes you wonder what the holiday season is going to look like. It is worth noting that the CPUs Intel makes are not the only things which go into PCs – DRAM, Flash, hard disks, and power components are also bound to be weak as well. Even the suggestion that this may be Windows 8 related is stupid: nobody defers a PC purchase for a new version of Windows anymore.

“Relative to the prior forecast, the company is seeing customers reducing inventory in the supply chain versus the normal growth in third-quarter inventory; softness in the enterprise PC market segment; and slowing emerging market demand. The data center business is meeting expectations.”

http://news.yahoo.com/intel-cuts-3q-revenue-outlook-softer-demand-122322710–finance.html?_esi=1

2.        SIA: July semiconductor sales inch up, unevenly

The SIA is starting to sound like a management team: focus on sequential figures when the year-over-year numbers don’t look encouraging. If you look at the long term growth chart (1996 – 2012) you see that sales more or less doubled over 18 years. That’s around a 4% CAGR with a lot of that growth occurring prior to 2000. Not a good sign for an industry with massive capital spending needs and modest free cash flow.

“Global semiconductor sales totaled $24.34B in July, a scant 0.2% increase from the prior month and down -1.9% from a year ago, as macroeconomic challenges weigh down demand particularly in Europe and the Americas, according to the latest monthly data from the Semiconductor Industry Association (SIA).”

http://www.electroiq.com/articles/sst/2012/september/sia-july-semiconductor-sales-inch-up-unevenly.html

3.        Ahead of the Bell: Audience shares plunge

I never heard of this company before but this announcement is an example of two of my rules of thumb for tech investment: never invest in derivative plays (own X because X sells to Y); and never invest in companies whose existence is dependent on a single customer.

“Audience sells processors and licenses intellectual property to Apple for use in the iPhone. Under its deal with Apple, Audience developed and licensed a new technology for use in the Apple devices, but Apple wasn’t required to use it. Audience said late Thursday that while it’s unlikely that Apple will use its technology in the new version of the iPhone expected to be released this fall, the iPhone 5, it still expects the technology to continue to be used in older versions of the phone.”

http://news.yahoo.com/ahead-bell-audience-shares-plunge-125040078–finance.html?_esi=1

4.        Intel Embraces Submerging Servers in Oil

What’s old is new again: I saw the Cray 3 which was immersed in a fluid cooling system: it was kind of spooky – the fluid was perfectly clear and moving at high speed so the cabling quivered as the system operated, like a throbbing brain. In any event, liquid cooling makes a lot of sense because liquids conduct heat much more efficiently than air. Of course, you have to find a compatible fluid so the electronics don’t corrode.

“Intel has just concluded a year-long test with immersion cooling equipment from Green Revolution Cooling, and affirmed that the technology is highly efficient and safe for servers. The testing, conducted at an Intel data center in New Mexico, may mark a turning point in market readiness for submerged servers, if recent experience with Intel’s embrace of emerging data center designs is any indication.”

http://www.datacenterknowledge.com/archives/2012/09/04/intel-explores-mineral-oil-cooling/

5.        Nokia Faked Its PureView Demo and Then Claimed They Never Said It Was Real

You really have to wonder what the marketing people were thinking on this one: we are living in 2012, not 1988, and people can figure this stuff out. The initial reaction to the demo was ‘awesome’ but that turned to outrage once the truth came out. Nokia has since apologized, which is what you do when you get caught, but the damage has been done.

“If the camera on the Lumia was that good, we wanted it. Badly. Immediately. But sadly, it was faked. Nokia isn’t showing off what the Lumia 920 can do—that video was shot with a big DSLR.”

http://gizmodo.com/5940784/nokia-faked-its-pureview-demo-and-then-claimed-they-never-said-it-was-real

6.        ‘Super Wi-Fi’ poised for growth in US, elsewhere

We’ll see how far this goes: unlicensed (or even licensed) WiMax had great promise which never really materialized. The existing ‘licensed’ mode made sense during the era of Marconi style single carrier analog transmission is hopelessly obsolete. Unfortunately, there is a lot of money tied up in those spectrum licenses so I don’t expect it to change soon.

http://phys.org/news/2012-09-super-wi-fi-poised-growth.html

7.        Kenya’s technology start-up scene is about to take off

What the Internet did to the Indian economy, it seems wireless technology may do to the economy of Africa. Communications can have a profound impact on GDP as goods can move more efficiently and pricing can reflect more information among the parties. We can only hope this is the start of a turnaround in Africa’s fortunes.

“In 2005, when Bitange Ndemo was appointed as permanent secretary to the ministry of information and communications technology (ICT), Kenya was a technological backwater. Access to the internet was available only through satellite connections and was wallet-sappingly expensive. In 2009 Mr Ndemo brought the first of four undersea internet cables to the Kenyan coast. Prices plummeted and bandwidth exploded. Just under 12m of the country’s roughly 40m people now use the internet, a number that has trebled since 2009.”

http://www.economist.com/node/21560912

8.        Amazon’s Bezos Launches New Kindles To Access Content Empire

Lots and lots of articles about Amazon’s product launches this week. The lower cost units are interesting, and hardware being hardware, likely reflect pricing trends in the tablet word in general rather than ‘design geniuses’ at Amazon. (Amazon almost certainly turned to ODMs for the products).

“A 7-inch version of the Kindle Fire HD, the successor to Amazon’s initial entry last year in the tablet Relevant Products/Services market, costs just $199 and will be available on Sept. 14. Its larger brother will cost $299 but consumers will have to wait until November. A deluxe Fire with 4G Relevant Products/Services, long-term evolution data Relevant Products/Services speed runs $499, the same as Apple’s 16-gigabyte iPad, but comes with 32 gigs of storage. The Kindle Fires are also equipped with front-facing cameras, like the iPad, for video Relevant Products/Services chatting.”

http://www.toptechnews.com/story.xhtml?story_id=013001H4EHFX

9.        Disruption Starts With A Foot In The Door: Amazon’s New Data Plan Is Limited But Potentially Revolutionary

One interesting aspect of the Amazon launch is the cheap data plan. Admittedly 250 mb is not very much, but it depends what you want to use the product for (that an awful lot of text). Of course, regardless of who is doing the selling, the wireless license holders will ultimately dictate terms and conditions favorable to themselves.

“Amazon has included mobile data before in its Kindles, but those were strictly for books (which don’t take up that much data). As they go further into the fully functional tablet world, this starts to become more interesting. That’s because mobile data continues to be something of a racket, with just a few national providers: Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile and Sprint (and there are limitations there).”

http://www.techdirt.com/blog/wireless/articles/20120906/12200520304/disruption-starts-with-foot-door-amazons-new-data-plan-is-limited-potentially-revolutionary.shtml

10.   E-book anti-trust settlement is approved

I can’t really figure out who the good guys are here: Apple and the publishers for conspiring to raise prices (getting them a tap on the wrist) or Amazon for its policies. Frankly I think e-book prices are outrageous: usually slightly less than the price of a paperback despite the fact there is no printing, distribution, return, or merchandizing costs. I figure an e-book is properly priced at the author’s royalty plus small fees to pay for editing and distribution (a total of around $3). Until then, there are alternatives to purchasing.

“Before the release of the iPad, Amazon’s (AMZN, Fortune 500) Kindle was the preeminent e-book reader on the market. Amazon forced publishers to sell most books at $9.99. According to the Department of Justice, booksellers were unnerved by the discounted e-book price structure Amazon launched in 2007. The publishers went to Apple in late 2009 to find a way to force Amazon to raise its prices. The iPad proved to be the perfect tool to accomplish that.”

http://money.cnn.com/2012/09/06/technology/ebook-settlement/index.html

11.   Updated services agreement allows Microsoft to integrate content across cloud properties

More fun and games in the whacky world of EULAs: I think this pretty much shows how secure cloud storage is – if Microsoft can scan your stuff to provide search results they are not just reading your mail but all your documents and spreadsheets as well. Not exactly what most businesses signed up for.

“This means, for example, that Microsoft can extract content from cloud-based services like Hotmail, SkyDrive, or Office.com, and use it to personalize a user’s Bing search results. The company alluded to this change in its email to users, explaining that such content usage would align “to the way we’re designing our cloud services to be highly integrated across many Microsoft products.”

http://www.theverge.com/2012/9/2/3285455/microsoft-updates-services-agreement-privacy-class-action-waiver#add-comment

12.   LG’s 84-inch 4K ultra high definition TV goes on sale in the US next month for $19,999

Flat panel manufacturers are struggling after they invested billions for plants to support the HD transition. I wish I could say UHDTV is next – it is not because there is no content and there will likely never be much content. However, don’t be surprised to see these sets retailing for $4 or $5,000 within a couple years as manufacturers struggle for differentiation.

“LG said it would release its 84-inch 4K (3,840 x 2,160, or four times the resolution of your current HDTV) UHDTV outside Korea this month and the company confirmed shipments would be on the way during an event at CEDIA 2012 before also announcing an MSRP of $19,999..”

http://www.engadget.com/2012/09/06/lg-84-inch-4k-uhdtv/

13.   Why I’m Cutting the Cord, and How Cable Can Get Me Back

Cord cutting is a an irreversible trend, but only available for those fortunate enough to have access to real broadband. If consumers had a choice extending beyond their cable provider or telephone company for broadband services the ‘cable’ world would be in a lot more trouble than it is right now. The fundamental problem with cable (or satellite for that matter) is that consumers rarely watch more than a dozen channels but end up paying for hundreds.

“But as time passed, the bill bulged. In July 2011, it jumped to $108 a month. In August 2011, it leapt again to $126. Another jump to $135 followed in January 2012, and the next month, it hit $145. My last bill, for the month of July, was $153. That’s a $59 increase in my monthly cost over the span of two years.”

http://www.wired.com/gadgetlab/2012/09/cord-cutters-why

14.   An integrated encyclopedia of DNA elements in the human genome

This is not an entirely surprising result as nature tends to conserve what it needs and gets rid of what it doesn’t. Junk DNA was essentially an admission of ignorance in how the genome actually functions. Still, this opens up significant new opportunities for medical research.

“The Encyclopedia of DNA Elements (ENCODE) project has systematically mapped regions of transcription, transcription factor association, chromatin structure and histone modification. These data enabled us to assign biochemical functions for 80% of the genome, in particular outside of the well-studied protein-coding regions.”

http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v489/n7414/full/nature11247.html

15.   Flat lens offers a perfect image

Another example of how nano-technology may be disruptive. The production of high quality lenses is expensive and challenging. There is a reason you pay hundreds or thousands of dollars for a good quality camera or lens. If this proves to be scalable and stable companies like Leica and Zeiss could end up going the way of Kodak.

“In the future we can potentially replace all the bulk components in the majority of optical systems with just flat surfaces,” says lead author Francesco Aieta, a visiting graduate student from the Università Politecnica delle Marche in Italy. “It certainly captures the imagination.”

https://www.seas.harvard.edu/news-events/press-releases/flat-lens-offers-perfect-image

16.   Tough gel stretches to 21 times its length, recoils, and heals itself

An interesting development in materials sciences, even though I don’t exactly understand what is going on. The video doesn’t work for me.

“Called a hydrogel, because its main ingredient is water, the new material is a hybrid of two weak gels that combine to create something much stronger. Not only can this new gel stretch to 21 times its original length, but it is also exceptionally tough, self-healing, and biocompatible—a valuable collection of attributes that opens up new opportunities in medicine and tissue engineering.”

http://www.seas.harvard.edu/news-events/press-releases/tough-gel-stretches-to-21-times-its-length

17.   Man Walks With Aid of Brain-Controlled Robotic Legs

This seems like an impressive development but they could have done a bit of work on the video – a bad camera angle and devoid of information content, it just shows a guy walking with stuff on his legs. Nonetheless I have great confidence the types of things will be commonplace within 20 years.

“A new brain-computer interface allows a person to walk using a pair of mechanical leg braces controlled by brain signals (above), as reported on arXiv. The device has only been tested on able-bodied people, and while it has limitations, it lays a foundation for helping people with paralysis walk again.”

http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2012/09/brain-controlled-robotic-legs/

18.   Stem cells bring back feeling for paralysed patients

One of my lab demonstrators had a saying: “a third of the mice supported the hypothesis, a third did not, and the other one ran away.” That being said, this early trial is encouraging and I can believe any improvement is significant if you have profound nerve damage. The source of the stem cells is a bit discomforting, however.

“None of the three felt any sensation below their nipples before the treatment. Six months after therapy, two of them had sensations of touch and heat between their chest and belly button. The third patient has not seen any change.”

http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn22235-stem-cells-bring-back-feeling-for-paralysed-patients.html

19.   Have Three Little Photons Broken Theoretical Physics?

I took some comfort in the conclusion that the universe was essentially integer (if Planck Time and Planck Length are the smallest time and distance, and the universe has a starting time and location, then every dimension can be represented by a whole integer, albeit a very big one.) Now these photons show up and change everything.

“So we then conclude that these photons were not dispersed. So if they were not dispersed, then the universe left them alone. So if the universe was made of Planck-scale quantum foam, according to some theories, it would not have left these photons alone. So those types of Planck-scale quantum foams don’t exist.”

http://www.space.com/17399-gamma-ray-photons-quantum-spacetime.html

20.   Paleocast Podcast

What can I say? A podcast about paleontology.

http://www.palaeocast.com/