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

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


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

I blog at


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”.

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.”

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.”

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.”

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.”

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.”

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.”

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.”

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.”

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.”

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.”–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.”



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