The Geek’s Reading List – Week of July 26th 2013

The Geek’s Reading List – Week of July 26th 2013

Hello

I am an independent analyst and consultant with 20 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. Of course, if you find any articles you think should be included, please send them on to me!

I blog at www.thegeeksreadinglist.com.

 

Sorry the quantity and quality of stories tech news is still pretty low this week.

 

Brian Piccioni

ps: Google has been sporadically flagging The Geek’s Reading List as spam/phishing. Until I resolve the problem, if you have a Gmail account and you don’t get the Geeks List when expected, please check your Spam folder and mark the list as ‘Not Spam’.

 

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1.        New Evidence About Why Windows Phone Is Doomed In America

Alas, the article doesn’t tell you why Windows Phone is doomed, but if you had any doubts you’d know it is doomed, and not just in the US – modern smart phones are platforms and Windows is one of the distant third players in the space, meaning they do not have critical mass. Microsoft watched this market develop despite having early entrant in the race and yet it still managed to blow it. To be kind, Windows is the CP/M of the mobile space.

“Yesterday, Nokia NOK -0.25% revealed it sold only 500,000 phones in North America during 2Q 2013, despite notably broad channel support from AT&T T +0.2%, Verizon, Walmart, Home Shopping Network, etc. This is 100’000 units below what Nokia sold a year earlier. That spring 2012 was supposed to be a particularly bad period for Nokia, since the company was limping along with an ancient Symbian range and some obsolete Windows Phone 7 models, just ahead of the big Windows Phone 8 debut.”

http://www.forbes.com/sites/terokuittinen/2013/07/19/new-evidence-about-why-windows-phone-is-doomed-in-america/

2.        Huawei: Put up or shut up

It is kinda funny fact that members of the US intelligence community continue to lament the national security issues purported to be associated with Chinese networking gear while NSA PRISM disclosures pretty much show that ALL US Internet traffic IS being monitored by the US intelligence community. I guess it isn’t the spying, but who is doing the spying which matters.

“”Someone says they got some proof of some sort of threat? Okay,” William Plummer said in the statement. “Then put up. Or shut up.” Earlier on Thursday, former CIA head Michael Hayden told The Australian Financial Review that he believes Huawei supplies information to the Chinese government. Although he isn’t certain of how much detail the company shares, he believes that it at least involves some foreign communication systems.”

http://www.china.org.cn/business/2013-07/19/content_29475168.htm

3.        Victory Lap for Ask Patents

Apparently there exists a crowd sourced patent review system which is trying to do the job the US Patent Office is supposed to do and can’t. This tells the story of how a patent filed by the world’s largest patent troll (Microsoft) was ‘killed’ but I suspect a follow up story will show that the lawyers would have resubmitted the document with slightly different wording and it will go through.

“There are a lot of people complaining about lousy software patents these days. I say, stop complaining, and start killing them. It took me about fifteen minutes to stop a crappy Microsoft patent from being approved. Got fifteen minutes? You can do it too.”

http://www.joelonsoftware.com/items/2013/07/22.html

4.        Did we all just witness Windows start to die?

I don’t agree with most of the article, but here it is. The important distinction is that tablets and smartphones are content consumption devices while PCs are content creation devices. Of course, prior to tablets you had to use a PC even if you only wanted to consume content, but that is not what is important. Microsoft elected to switch the PC OS over to one which was primarily useful for consuming content. It didn’t do a very good job at that, being late to the game, but it did manage to make its PC operating system much less useful for creating content. Unfortunately for Microsoft, there is no indication whatsoever they have grasped this simple fact.

“The idea of “the death of the PC” is just that — it’s an idea. It’s a hook that, if you believe in it (and I do), it can be quite informative about what seems to be happening to the PC industry, and the wider computer industry in which it sits. I don’t think the PC is dying in a literal sense. The PC is stonkingly good at the things that it does well. But I’m a technologist — I’ve been using PCs since I was twelve years old and I like the power and flexibility. Like most technologists, the PC bends to my will like I have a superpower.”

http://www.zdnet.com/did-we-all-just-witness-windows-start-to-die-7000018344/

5.        11,000-electrode reprogrammable chip takes brain-computer interfaces to a new level

This is more of a measurement tool than, say, a device to help people with a particular type of brain damage. Still, it is probably a very useful tool and interesting technology nonetheless.

“A group of researchers from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology has built a powerful new chip that can be rapidly adapted to changing conditions at its interface points. Furthermore, they have used their chip to show that the speed of communication between neurons is not independent from any computations a brain might be said to perform, but rather, it is an essential component of the computation itself.”

http://www.extremetech.com/extreme/161902-11000-electrode-reprogrammable-chip-takes-brain-computer-interfaces-to-a-new-level

6.        Snooping Fears: German Firms Race to Shield Secrets

I took a graduate level course in computer security in 1987 and my professor made it abundantly clear that any encryption standard should be assumed to have an NSA ‘back door’ and you should assume that, regardless, they have access to all of your data. It is interesting to see how businesses are, at least transiently, aware of this fact. I can confidently predict laws will be passed forbidding this sort of snooping and, equivalently, they will be ignored by the intelligence community.

“Stäudinger has spent years trying to enhance the security of Eirich’s data and communications. He kept telling colleagues to be careful when dealing with sensitive information. He installed extra security features on notebooks and smartphones before they were taken off company premises. Some of the firm’s 750 employees probably shook their heads at all this paranoia. But now, after the NSA revelations of whistleblower Edward Snowden, they all know that Stäudinger was right.”

http://www.spiegel.de/international/germany/german-firms-fear-industrial-espionage-after-snowden-leaks-a-912624.html#spLeserKommentare

7.        US tech firms losing business over PRISM: poll

If you are concerned about your data do not use cloud applications of any type because they can and will be hacked. If you are concerned about security in general, then avoiding service providers which cooperate with a government funded program is probably a good idea. And, at a minimum encrypt everything: not because they can’t crack it (usually the NSA has a backdoor), but at least it keeps the hackers out.

“Revelations about the US government’s vast data collection programs have already started hurting American technology firms, according to an industry survey released this week. The Cloud Security Alliance said 10 percent of its non-US members have cancelled a contract with a US-based cloud provider, and 56 percent said they were less likely to use an American company.”

http://phys.org/news/2013-07-tech-firms-business-prism-poll.html

8.        Chromecast – The easiest way to enjoy online video and music on your TV.

The interesting thing about the consumer electronics industry is that devices rarely work together cleanly, even if they come from the same vendor (consider the plethora of remotes you probably own, for example). I am intrigued by how Google claims this works on all HDTVs, and at $35 I am keen to give it a try. I would not be surprised if they license the technology to CE vendors in the event it becomes successful.

“With Chromecast, you can easily enjoy your favorite online entertainment on your HDTV—movies, TV shows, music, and more from Netflix, YouTube, Google Play, and Chrome. No more huddling around small screens and tiny speakers. Chromecast automatically updates to work with a growing number of apps.”

http://www.google.com/intl/en/chrome/devices/chromecast/#netflix

9.        Apple wobbles in China as rivals offer more, for less

It is great to be a premium brand while people are still clamoring for your products. Eventually the riff-raff come in to the market and they can’t afford the cachet. Besides which open platforms (which iOS is not) provide much greater flexibility to adapt themselves to the needs fo various market niches.

“A sharp drop in Apple Inc’s China revenue in April-June underscores the challenges it faces in its second-largest market as the technology gap with cheaper local rivals narrows and as Samsung Electronics keeps up a steady stream of new models across all price ranges.”

http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/07/24/us-apple-headwinds-idUSBRE96N04G20130724

10.   Feds want cars to talk to each other

This is an idea whose time has come and dedication of spectrum for the application makes complete sense – after all, in a country like Canada (with poor coverage and high mobile prices) mobile data would often not work and push drivers to penury. In any event, a modestly short range system could allow cars to communicate with each other and, for example, indicate to drivers that somebody up front has just hit the brakes, etc. Such a system could also communicate with roadside ‘base stations’ to keep authorities informed. Many lives would be saved.

“The U.S. National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is calling for motor vehicles to be equipped with “connected technology,” machine-to-machine communications tools that could help drivers avoid accidents. The NTSB issued the call in a report filed after an investigation into a collision between a Mack truck and a school bus at an intersection in New Jersey last year.”

http://www.computerworld.com/s/article/9241037/Feds_want_cars_to_talk_to_each_other

11.   3D TV autopsy: Did it finally die, or was it never alive to begin with?

I think I can answer the question as to why it never took off: it is, was, and always be annoying. 3D TV is not ‘3D’: it is stereoscopic, and provides a poor experience because real life simply never looks the way it looks on 3D TV. This may be passable for animation, but it simply will never work for live action.

“If you were shopping for a TV three years ago, you were probably bombarded with all kinds of talk about how cool 3D was and how it was the “next big thing” in TV viewing. Movies and sports would never be the same again, with characters and players popping out of screens and into your living room as if they were right in front of you. It’s now 2013, and 3D is but a footnote that barely measures up to smart TV features and the looming 4K Ultra HD resolution TVs. It all begs the question: Why didn’t 3D ever take off the way it was expected to?”

http://www.digitaltrends.com/home-theater/3d-tv-autopsy-did-it-finally-die-or-was-it-never-alive-to-begin-with/

12.   Texas man charged with running $60M Bitcoin Ponzi scheme

It will be interesting to follow this case: yes, it was clearly a Ponzi scheme, but is it illegal to construct such a scheme when the instruments (Bitcoin) do not represent anything other than people’s gullibility. I recall, from the Tulipomania, that a court decided it was not its place to decide games of chance.

“The Securities and Exchange Commission has charged a Texas man with running a Ponzi scheme in which he raised “at least” 700,000 Bitcoin, worth $4.5 million at the time and more than $60 million today.”

http://venturebeat.com/2013/07/23/texas-man-charged-with-running-60m-bitcoin-ponzi-scheme/

13.   Pentagon offers to share airwaves with industry, FCC seeks comment

The US defense establishment, which includes Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, National Guard, and probably a half dozen other more or less independent and redundant organizations, owns vast swathes of largely unused) radio spectrum in the US. It’s good to see they are letting a sliver of it go …

“The U.S. Defense Department is proposing to share some of its radio airwaves with the private sector, a nod to growing pressure from the wireless industry and the Obama administration for federal agencies to ease their control of valuable spectrum.”

http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/07/23/us-usa-defense-spectrum-idUSBRE96M0XF20130723

14.   How do smartphones reveal shoppers’ movements?

This sounds pretty pernicious, and it could be, however, the same result could be achieved through the use of cameras or human observers. I’d like somebody to explain to me how or why a WiFi device would broadcast where it has been (i.e. other stores). If this is true is sound like a flaw in the protocol.

“For several months Nordstrom tested a system that tracked the movements of people carrying Wi-Fi-enabled smartphones and other devices as they wandered through 17 of its stores or merely walked by.”

http://www.economist.com/blogs/economist-explains/2013/07/economist-explains-13?fsrc=rplinks

15.   Finding Cancer Cells in the Blood

Microfluidics allows you to do pretty cool things and I am pretty sure most blood cell counts are made using the technology. This is still early stages but it could lead to a universal blood test for whatever ails you.

“In the near future, oncologists may be using a finger-size plastic chip with tiny channels to extract a dozen or so cancer cells from a sample of a patient’s blood. Those cells, called circulating tumor cells, could then be screened for genetic disruptions that an oncologist could target with drugs best suited to attacking the tumor. Continued sampling would give doctors a way to monitor whether a treatment is working and decide whether to add or change a drug as the malady evolves.”

http://www.technologyreview.com/news/515891/finding-cancer-cells-in-the-blood/

16.   LibreOffice 4.1: a landmark for interoperability

Microsoft’s rapidly unraveling dominance of the PC has rested on two major products: Windows and Office. I have written enough about the debacle of Windows 8, and the company has not, as yet, attempted to impose its dysfunctional vision of the future on Office users. Nonetheless, Office hasn’t improved much in the past 5 years (10, actually), making it a sitting duck for open source developers and an increasingly viable candidate for replacement by LibreOffice.

“The Document Foundation announces LibreOffice 4.1, not only the best but also the most interoperable free office suite ever. LibreOffice 4.1 features a large number of improvements in the area of document compatibility, which increases the opportunities of sharing knowledge with users of proprietary software while retaining the original layout and contents.”

http://blog.documentfoundation.org/2013/07/25/libreoffice-4-1-interoperability/

17.   Replace Dropbox with BitTorrent Sync and a Raspberry Pi

This item is more about BitTorrent Sync than about Raspberry PI as the platform on which the software is running is not that important. So this is really a generic ‘how to’. Still the fact Raspberry Pi can do this is interesting. Note that the author stresses the fact you don’t need to store anything on hardware you don’t control, which is increasingly important to people post NSA PRISM revelations.

“BitTorrent Sync is a free utility that uses the bittorrent protocol to keep folders in sync across devices. It can be used with OS X, Windows, Android and Linux. It is not however open source, which might be a deal breaker for some. But if this isn’t too big a pill for you to swallow, with a little bit of work you can use btsync as a free syncing solution.”

http://jack.minardi.org/raspberry_pi/replace-dropbox-with-bittorrent-sync-and-a-raspberry-pi/

18.   A faster Internet — designed by computers?

This is a rather interesting application of artificial intelligence. If I understand, the system finds better solutions for computationally difficult problems, in this case congestion algorithms. One challenge might be the time it takes for the system to find an optimal algorithm for a given situation: too long and the answer may become moot. Still, with faster machines (and perhaps an AI system to optimize the IP algorithm generator) you might end up with a significant improvement to throughput and latency.

“At the annual conference of the Association for Computing Machinery’s Special Interest Group on Data Communication this summer, researchers from MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory and Center for Wireless Networks and Mobile Computing will present a computer system, dubbed Remy, that automatically generates TCP congestion-control algorithms. In the researchers’ simulations, algorithms produced by Remy significantly outperformed algorithms devised by human engineers.”

http://web.mit.edu/newsoffice/2013/a-faster-internet-designed-by-computers-0719.html

19.   Verizon entry would put rural markets at risk, BCE says

I heard about this while watching Bell owned CTV News and felt certain the issue would be covered by the Globe and Mail (which Bell retains a 15% ownership of), probably with follow up in the numerous other Bell and Rogers media assets. The thesis is laughable: ‘fair’ competition allows an oligopoly created by ham-handed, if not corrupt, regulation to demolish any other entrant. As for the plight of rural Canadians, it is interesting to reflect on the fate of WiMax spectrum, which was bought by the oligopoly, ‘parked’ and remains largely unused. Canadians outside of major cities, meanwhile can only dream of decent telecom services.

“BCE Inc. says it is likely to scale back efforts to bring advanced cellphone services to rural Canada if large foreign telecoms like Verizon Communications Inc. are allowed to enter the Canadian market under preferential rules.”

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/report-on-business/verizon-entry-would-put-rural-markets-at-risk-bce-says/article13445957/

20.   The Last Days of Big Law

This has nothing whatsoever to do with technology, but it is well written and interesting (though long). Folks in the capital markets who read it will have a sense of déjà vu, except, in that business, they are shedding the senior people in favor of far less expensive juniors. Clients, as yet, have not figured that part out.

“Of all the occupational golden ages to come and go in the twentieth century—for doctors, journalists, ad-men, autoworkers—none lasted longer, felt cushier, and was all in all more golden than the reign of the law partner.”

http://www.newrepublic.com/article/113941/big-law-firms-trouble-when-money-dries#

The Geek’s Reading List – Week of July 19th 2013

The Geek’s Reading List – Week of July 19th 2013

Hello

I am an independent analyst and consultant with 20 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. Of course, if you find any articles you think should be included, please send them on to me!

I blog at www.thegeeksreadinglist.com.

 

Sorry about the quality of stories tech news has been pretty thin this week.

 

Brian Piccioni

ps: Google has been sporadically flagging The Geek’s Reading List as spam/phishing. Until I resolve the problem, if you have a Gmail account and you don’t get the list when expected, please check your Spam folder and mark the list as ‘Not Spam’.

 

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http://qz.com/103705/forget-3d-printing-3d-subtraction-is-going-to-arrive-in-your-garage-first/

 

1.        Forget 3D printing—3D subtraction is going to arrive in your garage first

This is a rather cool gadget, and I like the approach. However, CNC routing has been around for a while and the problem is that the cost is still way too high for the small number of applications. I know because I’ve considered getting a CNC router for my home shop. The other this is, additive manufacturing allows you to do things you can’t do with a router, though, to be fair you can’t make a wooden door with additive manufacturing either.

“A funny thing happened on the way to our supposedly 3D-printed future: A simpler, older, but no less revolutionary technology made its way into every automated factory on earth, and now it’s coming to a garage near you. If you haven’t heard of it, it’s mostly because it has a completely unbankable name—CNC routing (or CNC milling.) Also, unlike the usurper technology 3D printing, which has only lately become popular, CNC milling has been around since MIT pioneered the technology starting in the 1950s.”

http://qz.com/103705/forget-3d-printing-3d-subtraction-is-going-to-arrive-in-your-garage-first/

2.        Has Intel Really Beaten ARM?

This sounds bad but it just reflects the deficiencies of benchmarking compared to ‘real world use’. Changes to benchmark occur all the time, and some are clearly optimized for certain platforms compared to others. The fact Intel comes close to ARM is probably what is significant.

“There has been a considerable amount of press around recent AnTuTu benchmark results and a recent ABI Research report claiming, “Intel apps processor [the Atom Z2580] outperforms Nvidia, Qualcomm, and Samsung.” (See Intel processor outperforms Nvidia, Qualcomm, Samsung ICs.)”

www.eetimes.com/author.asp?section_id=36&doc_id=1318857

3.        Eco-Blowback: Mutiny in the Land of Wind Turbines

The great thing about neo-environmentalism is that it generally involves solutions which impacts people and creatures far enough away that you don’t have to worry about them, at least politically. So you don’t set up heavily subsidized wind farms where there are actual people, just farmers. They can deal with all the noise, power lines, traffic, etc.. A while back I watched a cloud of bats surround a wind turbine’s spinning blades and I wondered how many of them survived the night. Then again, who cares about bats?

“Germany plans to build 60,000 new wind turbines — in forests, in the foothills of the Alps and even in protected environmental areas. But local residents are up in arms, costs are skyrocketing and Germany’s determination to phase out nuclear power is in danger.”

http://www.spiegel.de/international/germany/wind-energy-encounters-problems-and-resistance-in-germany-a-910816.html

4.        Can you picture yourself with a Nokia?

Yes, people take snapshots with cameras, and they’d prefer to take better snapshots, but, and the end of the day, the choice of phone is a system selection process and, well, Nokia smartphones run Windows. Oh, yeah, and the bit about “… the sharpest images possible by any digital camera” – that’s pretty much flat out BS: you are only as good as the lens, and a lens the size of an aspirin isn’t going to take good pictures.

“When you go to buy your next mobile phone, what will be the most important factor? The price, the operating system? Or will it be the camera? Troubled Finnish giant Nokia is betting on photography.”

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/nokia/10176887/Can-you-picture-yourself-with-a-Nokia.html

5.        NASA, Industry Test Additively Manufactured Rocket Engine Injector

This is not likely to result in 3D printers flying off the shelf, but it might make rocket motors a bit more affordable. Regardless, this article shows that 3D printing can make a significant improvement to manufacturing cost, etc., even in esoteric applications.

“This type of injector manufactured with traditional processes would take more than a year to make but with these new processes it can be produced in less than four months, with a 70 percent reduction in cost.”

http://www.nasa.gov/press/2013/july/nasa-industry-test-additively-manufactured-rocket-engine-injector/

6.        Detecting DNA in space

The theory of panspermia especially with respect to Earth and Mars, makes a lot of sense due to their relative proximity. However, discovering a different form of life and/or genetic code would actually have broader ramifications for theories regarding abiogenist. Mind you, there may be extant life forms on earth which are just that and which we simply don’t recognize, or haven’t found, as a result of where they might live.

“If there is life on Mars, it’s not too farfetched to believe that such Martian species may share genetic roots with life on Earth.”

http://web.mit.edu/newsoffice/2013/detecting-dna-in-space-0709.html

7.        Healing Wonders of Hydrogel

This sounds pretty impressive, and credible. It’s hard to believe they aren’t doing human trials already. After all, I can get in bandage business without too much difficulty. Perhaps they could call it a ‘natural remedy’ and simply bypass all regulation and oversight …

“Sitting in a petri dish, hydrogel resembles a tiny jellyfish you might come across during a vacation walk along the ocean’s edge. It’s transparent, colorless, and odorless. Smear it on third-degree burns in mice, however, and its true power is revealed: Within days, those wounds begin to heal. Three weeks later, recovery is so advanced that hair is sprouting on the surface of the rodents’ tender new skin.”

http://eng.jhu.edu/wse/magazine-summer-13/item/healing-wonders-of-hydrogel/

8.        Experimental Cancer Knife Improves Tumor Removal in Study

It’s not really the knife that’s the news it’s the mass spectrometer and computational aspects which are the big deal. It just goes to show how much depends on Moore’s Law. Mind you, it would be interesting to know the extent to which complete tumor removal impacts survival.

“The “iKnife” was 100 percent accurate in diagnosing the tissues in 91 patients, according to a study published today by doctors at Imperial College London in the journal Science Translational Medicine. It was at least as reliable as tissue testing, which takes 20 to 30 minutes. The device isn’t commercially available and requires further testing in large groups of patients, the doctors said.”

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-07-17/experimental-cancer-knife-improves-tumor-removal-in-study.html

9.        NASA Engineer Achieves Another Milestone in Emerging Nanotechnology

I’m not sure a “blacker black” has much application outside scientific applications, but the Atomic Layer Deposition technology likely does.

“A NASA engineer has achieved yet another milestone in his quest to advance an emerging super-black nanotechnology that promises to make spacecraft instruments more sensitive without enlarging their size.”

http://www.nasa.gov/content/goddard/nasa-engineer-achieves-another-milestone-in-emerging-nanotechnology/

10.   Hardly Anyone Is Buying ‘Smart Guns’

The use of a “smart guns” as a plot device in the latest Bond film Skyfall was good for a laugh but it is fundamentally a dumb idea. Yes, there are people, especially children, who are killed accidentally when some moron leaves a loaded, unlocked, gun out in the open, but morons who don’t know enough to not leave a loaded weapon around aren’t likely to buy a special gun. Because they are morons. And the rest of the people who kill people criminally are using their own guns. This is a stupid idea.

“The technology is here. So-called “smart guns” are being programmed to recognize a gun owner’s identity and lock up if the weapon ends up in the wrong hands. Entrepreneurs and engineers have been developing technology to make safer guns since the early ’90s, and by now we’ve got working prototypes of guns that read fingerprints, hand grips or even sensors embedded under the skin. But after 15 years of innovation, personalized guns still haven’t penetrated the marketplace.”

http://motherboard.vice.com/blog/hardly-anyone-is-buying-smart-guns

11.   Microsoft must embrace ‘grim option’ of Windows cannibalization

I have witnessed bad strategic decisions made in order to avoid cannibalizing own company sales, so it is a common failing in tech companies. I am not sure the rest of the analysis offered in the article makes much sense, however. You don’t just pull compelling hardware out of a hat, and it appears that the smartphone is plateauing as a technological item, much as the PC did 10 years ago.

“Microsoft must be ready to accept, as has Apple, that it’s better to cannibalize one’s own sales than to let others do it, a research analyst said today. “This is going to be a tough shift for Microsoft, to ask them to now accept that the world is a very different place than it used to be,” said Al Gillen of research firm IDC.”

http://www.computerworld.com/s/article/9240844/Microsoft_must_embrace_grim_option_of_Windows_cannibalization

12.   Russian mobile operators say ‘nyet!’ to Apple, ‘da!’ to Samsung

Russia is not a prototype for the world however you have to wonder if the reticence to kowtow to Apple’s demands might be more common as carriers realize iPhone is just another smartphone. After all, carriers are in the business of selling services, and the iPhone once attracted a unique clientele. As the market is now massively dominated by Android, the distinction of offering the latest iPhone just may not be worth the extra margin.

“VimpelCom, the last of the “Big Three” Russian mobile carriers to stock the iPhone in its stores, has reportedly discontinued the device, leaving all of Russia with just one retail supplier for Cupertinian kit. Russia is one of the world’s largest mobile markets, with over 230 million mobile subscribers, according to research firm GSMA Intelligence. The country’s three largest mobile carriers – MTS, MegaFon, and VimpelCom under its Beeline brand – together account for around 80 per cent of the market.”

http://www.theregister.co.uk/2013/07/17/russia_says_nyet_to_apple/

13.   George Osborne reveals 50% tax break for fracking firms

Britain has been well known for its bizarre solar panel subsidies (apparently, it is much sunnier in Britain than you know), so, perhaps they hope to offset that stupidity with even more subsidies, this time for fracking. I am sure the neo-environmentalist outcry will kill this over time. After all, fracking is bad, and that is all you need to know about it.

“Britain’s fledgling shale gas industry will get a major boost today as George Osborne cuts taxes on fracking profits to less than half the amount paid by conventional oil and gas producers. Under the Chancellor’s regime, shale gas producers will pay just 30 per cent tax on their profits, compared to the 62 per cent that the oil and gas industry has traditionally paid.”

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/george-osborne-reveals-50-tax-break-for-fracking-firms-8718711.html

14.   Small Alberta town gets massive 1,000 Mbps broadband boost

This might be the early stages of a trend. If you do the math, the project cost works out to around $1,500 per resident, which seems like a lot, but I be it was a lot more expensive to run any other city service including snow removal. This impact on business will provide an offset, and there is a good chance even employment will grow as a consequence. Small towns and rural areas are ignored by the oligopolists who have no regulatory obligation to offer service to anybody. As the cost of deployment drops, we might see these sorts of plans become commonplace.

“Ultrafast internet speeds that most Canadian city dwellers can only dream of will soon be available to all 8,500 residents in a rural Alberta community for as little as $57 a month, thanks to a project by the town’s non-profit economic development foundation.”

http://www.cbc.ca/news/technology/story/2013/07/17/technology-gigabit-internet-olds.html

15.   Hitting China’s Wall

I don’t usually waste much time reading economics pieces – even if they are written by a guy who won a make pretend Nobel Prize – but this one is timely. Something appears rotten in the state of China, and it is bound to affect the global economy. As for what comes next, well, http://www.creditwritedowns.com/2009/01/quote-of-the-day-john-kenneth-galbraith-the-bezzle.html.

“Yet the signs are now unmistakable: China is in big trouble. We’re not talking about some minor setback along the way, but something more fundamental. The country’s whole way of doing business, the economic system that has driven three decades of incredible growth, has reached its limits. You could say that the Chinese model is about to hit its Great Wall, and the only question now is just how bad the crash will be.”

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/07/19/opinion/krugman-hitting-chinas-wall.html?_r=0

16.   A Trillion Sensors Are on the Way

The Internet of Things is a pretty big deal, however, a lot of the impact will be in things people know little about. There are probably some significant opportunities for ‘big data’ type applications working on these IoT samples, once a unified standard is agreed upon.

“Intel, ARM, Cisco, and IBM are bandying around the concept of ~20 billion connected devices in the next five years. That’s a lot of chips, but just think about how many sensors might be in those devices and all around (even in) you and then the math gets crazy. SEMI.org and the MEMS Industry Group organized a keynote by Janusz Bryzek of Fairchild Semiconductor, who thinks we are looking at a trillion (yes trillion) sensors and MEMS as the big driver.”

http://www.eetimes.com/author.asp?section_id=36&doc_id=1318920&

17.   Peek Inside Tesla’s Robotic Factory

I admit to being baffled when this video made the rounds on the Internet this past week. I have to assume the commentators, etc., were people who don’t know what a modern factory looks like and/or never watch “How it is Made” on TV. In any event, making and assembling body panels has to be done this way, because there is very little margin in it. What the video displays is that Musk et als have taken up the reality distortion field once wielded so effectively by Steve Jobs.

“Tesla Motors has kicked off production of the gorgeous Model S into overdrive, cranking out some 400 cars a week on one of the world’s most advanced automotive production lines. Now, a major automaker in Detroit or Japan can churn out 400 cars a day, and in fact the Tesla Motors plant had a capacity of 6,000 cars a week when Toyota and General Motors ran the place. But Tesla’s numbers are impressive when you consider the Silicon Valley automaker started just a decade ago with a few engineers and mechanics shoving piecemeal components into a rolling chassis made by Lotus.”

http://www.wired.com/autopia/2013/07/tesla-plant-video/

18.   Samsung Flashes 1TB ‘SSDs for Everyone’

This is just another product announcement, really, but I’d like to make a couple points with it: 1TB is pretty much all anybody is going to need for mobile devices like laptops, so affordable SSDs at those capacities will sweep the market. Mind you, we don’t know the price yet, but I can hazard a guess Samsung sees sub $200 within 18 months. The second point is that the market will end up being dominated by the major Flash vendors who will transition to their own controllers, etc..

“What’s not to like about solid state drives? They are light, fast, require low power consumption, and easily accommodate different form factors. Samsung wants commercial and enterprise Relevant Products/Services users to remember those advantages as it sets out to become a formidable market leader in a fast-growth SSD marketplace.”

http://www.toptechnews.com/story.xhtml?story_id=103006Q1DZE6

19.   Cree launches LED street luminaire for challenging environmental requirements

Solid State lamps will substantially displace traditional lights over the next ten years or so. The interesting thing with street lamps is that the cost of replacing them every 2 to 3 years is a major expense for cities on account of labor costs. Longer lived LED street lamps means significant savings for towns, and it’s a ‘no-brainer’ to simply upgrade as the old ones fail. I am not convinced of the wisdom of a semiconductor company competing with its customers, however.

“LED chip, lamp and lighting fixture maker Cree Inc of Durham, NC, USA has introduced the XSP IP66 LED street luminaires, which are optimized for European and other global environmental requirements. Providing metropolitan and other municipal areas with a durable luminaire that protects critical electrical components from dust, water jets and other potentially damaging environmental factors, the XSP is claimed to be the first real alternative to high-pressure sodium (HPS) street lights with better payback, better performance and better price. Compared to its outdated predecessor, the XSP IP66 uses nearly 50% less energy and is designed to last more than three times longer.”

http://www.semiconductor-today.com/news_items/2013/JUL/CREE_150713.html

20.   Epi-wafer market to grow to $4 billion in 2020 as LED lighting zooms to $80 billion

Always take industry analyst forecasts and analysis with a huge grain of salt. Nonetheless, this is probably directionally right, though I would expect GaN/Si to progress faster due to cost pressures on LEDs. One thing to keep in mind is that the greatest advantage of LEDs – longevity – will result in a collapse in demand as the market approaches saturation.

“As LED lighting becomes an $80 billion industry, the market for the epitaxial wafers (epi-wafers) LEDs are made from will grow to $4 billion in 2020, according to Lux Research. The vast majority of these epi-wafers are gallium nitride (GaN)-on-sapphire today. GaN-on-silicon is the leading emerging technology with a strong economic allure – silicon is just one-eighth the cost of a sapphire substrate – but technical challenges will limit it to only a 10% market share in 2020. GaN-on-silicon carbide (SiC), championed by Cree, will grow to 18 percent market share.”

http://www.electroiq.com/articles/sst/2013/07/epi-wafer-market-to-grow-to-4-billion-in-2020-as-led-lighting-zooms-to-80-billion.html

 

The Geek’s Reading List – Week of July 12th 2013

The Geek’s Reading List – Week of July 12th 2013

Hello

I am an independent analyst and consultant with 20 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. Of course, if you find any articles you think should be included, please send them on to me!

I blog at www.thegeeksreadinglist.com.

 

Sorry about the quality of stories tech news has been pretty thin this week.

 

Brian Piccioni

ps: Google has been sporadically flagging The Geek’s Reading List as spam/phishing. Until I resolve the problem, if you have a Gmail account and you don’t get the list when expected, please check your Spam folder and mark the list as ‘Not Spam’.

 

Click to Subscribe

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1.        Not so quiet on the left-ern front

This is a rather amusing diatribe by Harvard man, no less. He is so right: the ‘right’ is attacked for anti-science positions on the environment, etc., while the ‘left’ promulgates all kinds of pseudo-scientific nonsense and woo.

“Type “the war on science” into Google. Hit enter. You’ve just received 1,320,000,000 results in 0.28 seconds and, unsurprisingly, “The Republican War on Science” is the top result. It’s a clichéd narrative, not to imply that it’s undeserved. But scroll down to the fifth entry and you’ll find, “The Canadian War on Science”. Canadians? Canada is typically regarded as a left-leaning nation, when measured against the American political spectrum. And left leaning parties are often viewed as embracing scientific discovery and research-based policies, right?”

http://www.hcs.harvard.edu/~policylab/2013/07/03/not-so-quiet-on-the-left-ern-front/

2.        THE INTERNET OF THINGS Shodan

Interesting on a few levels: the number of devices (given the popular view that the IoT is a non-starter) and the vulnerability of so many devices on that IoT. By the way, the number of devices is likely significantly understated as many are doubtless behind firewalls.

“When Dan Tentler wants to find something on the internet, he doesn’t use Google or Bing. Tentler, a freelance security consultant, is a road-less-traveled kind of guy. He likes to check out the internet’s alleyways and backroads. And for people like him him, there’s only one search engine. It’s called Shodan.”

http://www.wired.com/wiredenterprise/2013/07/shodan-search-engine/

3.        Apple does the impossible: gain market share against Android in the US

Who would have thought a couple years ago you would ever see a headline like this? Of course, it is most likely a ‘blip’ and little more given Apple’s lack of novelty nowadays.

“Just as we predicted, Apple’s deal with T-Mobile has turned things around for the iPhone maker. The deal, in which T-Mobile became the first major US carrier to offer unlocked iPhones at full price rather than subsidized through a two-year contract, has been a big hit with consumers, who made the iPhone the number one smartphone on T-Mobile in the three month period ending in May.”

http://qz.com/101609/apple-does-the-impossible-gain-market-share-against-android-in-the-us/

4.        Disruptions: How Driverless Cars Could Reshape Cities

I continue to believe that driverless cars will transform our economies over the next 50 years or so. This goes well beyond the idea of having a snooze while driving in to work, as this article suggests.

“By now, seeing one of Google’s experimental, driverless cars zipping down Silicon Valley’s Highway 101, or parking itself on a San Francisco street, is not all that unusual. Indeed, as automakers like Audi, Toyota and Mercedes-Benz make plans for self-driving vehicles, it is only a matter of time before such cars become a big part of the great American traffic jam. While driverless cars might still seem like science fiction outside the Valley, the people working and thinking about these technologies are starting to ask what these autos could mean for the city of the future. The short answer is “a lot.”

http://bits.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/07/07/disruptions-how-driverless-cars-could-reshape-cities/?smid=tw-share

5.        3D-printing with liquid metal at room temperature

Of course, the problem with making something of metal at room temperature is that it can just as easily be “unmade” (i.e. melt) at room temperature. Perhaps the technique could be applies to other more useful low melting temperature metals such as Wood’s metal.

“A new method for printing 3D structures and wires from liquid metal opens up possibilities for flexible and stretchable electronic connections.”

http://news.cnet.com/8301-17938_105-57592867-1/3d-printing-with-liquid-metal-at-room-temperature/

6.        5D optical memory in glass could record the last evidence of civilization

Interesting technology, but a really stupid angle – why record the “last evidence of civilization” on something nobody could read? Frankly, carving on stones would be more useful. Nonetheless, there is some truth to the fact that most ‘archival’ storage doesn’t last long, so, provided the costs to a reasonable level this could be big.

“Using nanostructured glass, scientists at the University of Southampton have, for the first time, experimentally demonstrated the recording and retrieval processes of five dimensional digital data by femtosecond laser writing. The storage allows unprecedented parameters including 360 TB/disc data capacity, thermal stability up to 1000°C and practically unlimited lifetime.”

http://phys.org/news/2013-07-5d-optical-memory-glass-evidence.html

7.        Movie Subtitle Site Raided by Copyright Industry Aided by Police

As near as I can figure, this ‘fan site’ consisted of people doing their own original subtitles (meaning no copyright violation) and, in any event, legal precedent apparently means it was entirely legal. Not that that stopped the police action. One more reason why you shouldn’t feel bad about piracy.

“The movie subtitle fansite undertexter.se has been raided by the police and copyright industry. This marks an escalation of the war against sharing culture and knowledge, as the site contained nothing but user-submitted translations of movie dialog. We are quickly coming to a two-tier justice system, where the copyright industry is right against single parents by definition, and that’s not taken very well.”

http://falkvinge.net/2013/07/10/fan-subtitle-site-raided-by-copyright-industry-aided-by-police/

8.        Apple guilty of ebook price fixing, rules federal court

The mantra was “Think Different” which, evidently, does not mean “think legal”. I’m sure a token settlement is in the works.

“After a trial and several settlements with other publishers, a federal judge has ruled that Apple conspired to raise the price of ebooks from major publishers, and a hearing for damages will be held later. Apple was originally accused of price fixing in 2012, along with five of the six major publishers. Several publishers quickly caved, and all had agreed to settlements by early 2013, leaving Apple the only company facing a trial. Now, Judge Denise Cote has found that “the Plaintiffs have shown not just by a preponderance of the evidence but through compelling direct and circumstantial evidence that Apple participated in and facilitated a horizontal price-fixing conspiracy.”

http://www.theverge.com/2013/7/10/4510338/apple-found-guilty-of-ebook-price-fixing

9.        Customer Success With Lower-Cost Hydrogen Production Systems Expands Market for Plug Power GenDrive Fuel Cells

I have no particular desire to plug Plug, however, the use of fuel cell powered forklifts makes a surprising amount of sense. Like most fuel cell applications, the challenge is always the production and transportation of hydrogen. Reformers are usually not very efficient at making hydrogen, and compression is not efficient at these small scales, but it seems the inherent benefits of fuel cell forklifts (and those are not ‘green’ in nature) offset those deficiencies.

“Plug Power Inc. (PLUG), a leader in providing clean, reliable energy solutions, today highlights that recent customer success with hydrogen production systems, called on-site reformers, allows GenDrive(R) fuel cells to provide cost-effective power for smaller forklift truck fleets. On-site reformer systems convert natural gas to hydrogen on customer premises, which decreases fuel infrastructure costs and makes hydrogen power more viable.”

http://finance.yahoo.com/news/customer-success-lower-cost-hydrogen-110000449.html

10.   Why I’d trust my files to Google or Microsoft

What a bizarre story – he seems to understand he is, essentially, making his data public, but he argues they won’t actually do so, presumably because the lawyers just kinda wrote that on a whim. Good thing people never keep private information on the web.

“Cloud storage should be all about peace of mind. With your files backed up online, you don’t need to worry about losing a hard drive or having your laptop stolen. Your photos and documents are safe. But wait, I hear you cry. Don’t you have to click ‘accept’ to terms and conditions used by cloud storage providers like Microsoft and Google? Terms that run into thousands of words and cover their rights to your files?”

http://conversation.which.co.uk/technology/cloud-storage-terms-conditions-google-drive-microsoft-skydrive/

11.   Nokia’s Lumia 1020 features 41 megapixel camera

Pixels sell cameras, but the number of pixels tells you nothing about picture quality except perhaps, that all else being equal, more is better. Unfortunately, all other things are not equal, and a poor quality, high pixel count sensor is much easier to make than a good quality, lower pixel count sensor. I don’t understand what Nokia hopes to accomplish here: if you want a camera, buy a decent camera.

“Nokia has unveiled a new handset with a 41 megapixel sensor which it claims can record “details never thought possible from a smartphone”. It says consumers will be able to zoom in and reframe their photos without worrying about the image quality suffering. Analysts who have tested the device said that it was “without doubt” the best smartphone camera on the market.”

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-23272758

12.   Google Chromebook Under $300 Defies PC Market With Growth

I’m sure that there are probably some segments of the PC market showing the same sort of growth. Given Microsoft’s brilliant efforts to drive customers away with Windows 8, it is not entirely surprizing that alternatives may seem attractive. I would not be surprised if Ubuntu Linux based laptops experience similar demand growth.

“Chromebooks have in just the past eight months snagged 20 percent to 25 percent of the U.S. market for laptops that cost less than $300, according to NPD Group Inc. The devices, which have a full keyboard and get regular software updates from Google, are the fastest-growing part of the PC industry based on price, NPD said.”

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-07-10/google-chromebook-under-300-defies-pc-market-with-growth.html

13.   Five consecutive quarters of sliding PC sales mark a new industry record

Longer replacement cycles, no software innovation, and, if that wasn’t enough, Microsoft’s bizarre OS strategy, means that PC buyers actually end up ahead by not buying a new machine, so declining sales are not surprizing. Not that a less self-destructive effort would make much of a difference, but -5% would be better than -11%.

“In case you weren’t totally sure that the PC manufacturing industry was on the decline, consider this: there have now been five quarters in a row of declining shipments of PCs, the “longest duration of decline in the PC market’s history,” according to new analysis from Gartner Research. In new data published on Wednesday, global shipments fell to 76 million units in the second quarter of 2013, down 10.9 percent from the same period in 2012. IDC, meanwhile, put the drop at 11.7 percent.”

http://arstechnica.com/business/2013/07/five-consecutive-quarters-of-sliding-pc-sales-mark-a-new-industry-record/

14.   Why public libraries should follow Chicago’s lead and build maker labs

Once upon a time schools did this sort of thing, but you can’t even learn basic woodworking at most high schools nowadays. This is probably a good idea, but bound to be expensive.

“…Chicago opened a maker lab in one of its public libraries today. Most maker spaces carry a membership fee of $50-200 a month or are located in an institution like a university, where you are required to be a student or staff member to access equipment. A free lab that is open to the public is a novel concept that will hopefully be a lot more common in the future.”

http://gigaom.com/2013/07/08/why-public-libraries-should-follow-chicagos-lead-and-build-maker-labs/

15.   The Customer Phone Companies Don’t Want

It is not entirely surprising that phone companies want to discontinue wireline services given the low penetration rates (only 25%, according to the article). What is interesting – though unaddressed – is what happens to the franchise rights of carriers which were originally obtained in exchange for promises of universal service.

“Robert Post misses his phone line. Post, 85, has a pacemaker that needs to be checked once a month by phone. But the copper wiring that once connected his home to the rest of the world is gone, and the phone company refuses to restore it.”

http://www.realcleartechnology.com/articles/2013/07/09/copper_phone_lines_are_dying_is_this_bad_584.html

16.   Nikon President Eyes Smartphone Users as Compact Sales Fall

Nikon wasn’t in the ‘point and shoot’ camera business until the emergence of digital photography. After all, ‘point and shoot’ was the domain of the Kodak Instamatic film cameras, and not the sort of thing a ‘real’ camera company would get involved with. The company does make good cameras in the segment, but if it is losing to smartphones it’s because those customers don’t care about the quality of their photographs (as many don’t). Fundamentally, the smartphone camera is the Instamatic of today.

“Nikon is looking at ways to tap smartphone growth as a slump in compact camera sales may lead to weaker-than-forecast earnings. Point-and-shoot camera sales across the industry dropped about a quarter in April and May from a year earlier, President Makoto Kimura said in a July 4 interview at Nikon’s Tokyo headquarters, citing third-party research. Smartphone shipments jumped 46 percent last year to 722 million units, according to Framingham, Massachusetts-based IDC Corp.”

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-07-07/nikon-president-eyes-smartphone-users-as-compact-sales-fall.html

17.   Enhanced yet affordable material for supercapacitors: Mass production of 3D mesoporous graphene nano-balls

Along with driverless cars, nanomaterials will likely transform the economy of this century. The challenge has always been manufacturing costs, and this looks like a breakthrough. The specifications look impressive, however, supercapacitors have many real uses beyond the hypothetical use in electric cars, due to the inherent self-discharge.

“Korean Researchers from Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology (UNIST) developed a new method to massively synthesize enhanced yet affordable materials for supercapacitors.”

http://phys.org/news/2013-07-material-supercapacitors-mass-production-3d.html

18.   PRISM fallout could cost US cloud industry billions, warns Europe’s digital chief

I warned about this many times over the past years. Nonetheless, a complete lack of real security pretty much defines cloud applications so they should only be used when scalable computing is needed, and never when confidential data of any type needs to be stored.

“US cloud providers could miss out on billions of Euros-worth of deals as a result of European concerns around US government surveillance programmes, the EU’s digital chief has warned. Revelations about the PRISM surveillance project, and other initiatives allowing the US government to access data held by American tech firms, could damage willingness by EU firms to host data with US cloud providers, said Neelie Kroes, the European Commissioner for Digital Agenda.”

http://www.zdnet.com/prism-fallout-could-cost-us-cloud-industry-billions-warns-europes-digital-chief-7000017712/

19.   To Make Hearing Aids Affordable, Firm Turns On Bluetooth

The funny thing about hearing aids is that the innards only cost a few dollars to make, and – let’s face it – besides the innards there isn’t much there. So the markup on hearing aids is on the order of thousands of percent, primarily because there is a heavily regulated distribution channel. As for ‘fitting’ well, chances are, people could figure out how to fiddle with the settings themselves, if they were allowed to.

“As many as 300 million people around the world need hearing aids. The vast majority of the 7 million people who get them annually are in the U.S. and Europe. One big reason is cost. On average, a set of hearing aids rings up a tab of about $4,000. Most insurance policies don’t cover them.”

http://www.npr.org/blogs/health/2013/07/02/197639536/to-make-hearing-aids-affordable-firm-turns-on-bluetooth

20.   App Store ‘full of zombies’ claim on Apple anniversary

To be fair to Apple, and I am rarely fair to Apple, they aren’t the only ones in this position. I recently downloaded an Android app (since deleted) which was the top rated in the category and had had less than 10,000 lifetime downloads. That was the ‘free’ version – not exactly a money maching.

“Apple’s App Store is populated by many “zombie” programs which get next-to-no downloads, new research suggests.  Figures seen by the BBC from tracking service Adeven indicate over two-thirds of apps in the store are barely ever installed by consumers. However Apple has said that 90% of all apps in the marketplace – which is marking its five-year anniversary – are downloaded at least once a month.”

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-23240971

The Geek’s Reading List – Week of July 5th 2013

The Geek’s Reading List – Week of July 5th 2013

Hello

I am an independent analyst and consultant with 20 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. Of course, if you find any articles you think should be included, please send them on to me!

I blog at www.thegeeksreadinglist.com.

 

 

 

Brian Piccioni

ps: Google has been sporadically flagging The Geek’s Reading List as spam/phishing. Until I resolve the problem, if you have a Gmail account and you don’t get the list when expected, please check your Spam folder and mark the list as ‘Not Spam’.

 

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1.        Norton Mobile Insight Discovers Facebook Privacy Leak

It sure is interesting to note that Facebook is gathering this information surreptitiously. Of course they would never think of violating your privacy, or selling that data, even though that is their business model.

“Of particular note, Mobile Insight automatically flagged the Facebook application for Android because it leaked the device phone number. The first time you launch the Facebook application, even before logging in, your phone number will be sent over the Internet to Facebook servers. You do not need to provide your phone number, log in, initiate a specific action, or even need a Facebook account for this to happen.”

http://www.symantec.com/connect/blogs/norton-mobile-insight-discovers-facebook-privacy-leak

2.        How Nokia makes money on a $20 phone

The developing world is a burgeoning market for low cost phones. The problem for Nokia is that there are no barriers to entry into the low end phone business and there are countless other companies who would be happy to make even less money off a $20 phone.

“Nokia’s ultra-low-cost handsets might not be as sexy as the latest iPhone or Samsung Galaxy. But they are a much-needed source of cash for the ailing Finnish company, as well as a staple of the telecom networks of the developing world. If you—like a good many of the people on earth—need a phone that’s water- and dust-resistant, can last a month on standby between charges, and only costs $20, Nokia’s new Nokia 105 is the way to go. And even at this price, reveal the industry analysts at IHS, Nokia is making money on the phone.”

http://qz.com/98979/how-nokia-makes-money-on-a-20-phone/

3.        Nokia Debuts $68 Mobile Phones Designed for Fast Internet Access

More of the same, actually, however, Nokia executives will soon learn that establishing a low-cost market segment is one thing, however, defending it is another. This only works if you control the supply on input and have low cost producer status – neither of which applies to Nokia.

“Smartphones may comprise a majority of mobile-phone shipments worldwide, but a sizeable number of handset users still prefer basic feature phones. Nokia catered to the latter market on Wednesday by debuting two 3G-capable feature phones — the 207 and 208 — that are specifically designed to provide users with quick Internet access.”

http://mashable.com/2013/07/04/nokia-68-mobile-phones-internet-access/

4.        Technical hurdles have been overcome for the first human head transplant

This is pretty interesting, but ghastly, especially if it doesn’t end up well: you’d have a sentient head on top of a useless body – pretty much a worst case scenario for me. Sometime ‘can’ doesn’t mean ‘should’.

“The technical hurdles have now been cleared thanks to cell engineering. As described in his paper, the keystone to successful spinal cord linkage is the possibility to fuse the severed axons in the cord by exploiting the power of membrane fusogens/sealants. Agents exist that can reconstitute the membranes of a cut axon and animal data have accrued since 1999 that restoration of axonal function is possible. One such molecule is poly-ethylene glycol (PEG), a widely used molecule with many applications from industrial manufacturing to medicine, including as an excipient in many pharmaceutical products. Another is chitosan, a polysaccharide used in medicine and other fields.”

http://nextbigfuture.com/2013/06/technical-hurdles-have-been-overcome.html

5.        World’s first telescopic contact lens gives you Superman-like vision

This looks like pretty interesting technology, though the ‘Superman-like vision’ bit is nonsense: having an extremely narrow field of vision/depth of field would not be a good thing compared to ‘normal’ vision – unless the alternative is near blindness.

“An international team of researchers have created the first telescopic contact lens; a contact lens that, when it’s equipped, gives you the power to zoom your vision almost three times. Yes, this is the first ever example of a bionic eye that effectively gives you Superman-like eagle-eye vision.”

http://www.extremetech.com/extreme/160052-worlds-first-telescopic-contact-lens-gives-you-superman-like-vision

6.        Unclean at Any Speed

This is a good overview of the net environmental impact of electric cars. I rather doubt the IEEE is in the pocket of ‘big oil’ though that accusation will no doubt service. For me, even setting aside questionable environmental benefit, the cost/benefit doesn’t cut it: batteries are too damned expensive, and likely to remain so, to make it economically viable.

“Last summer, California highway police pulled over pop star Justin Bieber as he sped through Los Angeles in an attempt to shake the paparazzi. He was driving a hybrid electric car—not just any hybrid, mind you, but a chrome-plated Fisker Karma, a US $100 000 plug-in hybrid sports sedan he’d received as an 18th-birthday gift from his manager, Scooter Braun, and fellow singer Usher. During an on-camera surprise presentation, Braun remarked, “We wanted to make sure, since you love cars, that when you are on the road you are always looking environmentally friendly, and we decided to get you a car that would make you stand out a little bit.” Mission accomplished.”

http://spectrum.ieee.org/energy/renewables/unclean-at-any-speed

7.        With BlackBerry reportedly hacked, is anything secure?

The comment that “There’s no reason to doubt that RIM is being honest when it confirms that there is no back door designed into its systems to allow decoding of user data streams” is absurd: that’s not how it works.

“Is anything secure anymore? The National Security Agency (NSA) leaks have produced a number of side effects. What we assumed was a safe form of communications is perhaps not so secure after all. The gold standard of secure mobile messaging, BlackBerry, may have been compromised!”

http://www.computerworld.com/s/article/9240475/With_BlackBerry_reportedly_hacked_is_anything_secure_?

8.        Best Days for Smartphone Stocks Have Passed

File this under “No Sh*t Sherlock” (yeah – some email servers block naughty language). This started happening about a year ago as reflected in these very pages. The sad fact is, every device has a sort of ‘utility limit’ determined by its nature and the limits of the human brain. PCs kept going for 25 years because as they became more capable software evolved to exhaust those capabilities. Smartphones have, due to their size, limited capabilities, so they saturated much quicker. Who knows – at this rate, maybe 6 months from now some top Wall Street analysts will figure this out.

“Samsung’s falling stock price over the past month – down over 14% – was just the latest example of a smartphone maker to see its once high-flying shares tumble. It may be the last of the majors to tank but its decline marks the beginning of a new era of slower gains for smartphone stocks.”

http://finance.yahoo.com/blogs/the-exchange/best-days-smartphone-stocks-passed-114506468.html

9.        GM Chevy Spark electric car’s price 38 percent less than sibling hybrid Volt’s

A range of 82 miles (probably half that in the real world) has some utility, but the real value here, from GM’s perspective, is the manufacture of ZEV (‘Zero’ Emissions Vehicle) credits. Interestingly, the sale of ZEVs to other manufacturers is the only reason Tesla is ‘profitable’, so it’ll be interesting to see how that goes as other car manufactures put more affordable vehicles on the road.

“The Chevrolet Spark all-electric subcompact car will cost U.S. buyers as much as 38 percent less than what it takes to buy its larger sibling, the hybrid Volt, General Motors Co said on Thursday. The 2014 Spark EV, which goes on sale next month in California and Oregon, will sell for as low as $19,995 after accounting for the full federal tax credit of $7,500, GM said. The larger Chevy Volt, which was introduced in the fall of 2010, sells for about $32,500 after the tax credit.”

http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/05/23/us-gm-sparkev-price-idUSBRE94M04W20130523

10.   Sony’s 4K Ultra HD Player Now Available for $699

I find the compatibility comment amusing: whatever the reason it shows that Sony hasn’t learned much from its long slide: they are releasing a product which would only appear to the subset of 4K TV buyers (already a small set) who are buying Sony 4K TVs.

“Early adopters of a 4K-enabled Sony TV can now purchase the company’s 4K Ultra HD media player, originally announced at CES in January. Available through Sony’s online store and retail locations now, the 4K set-top box comes preloaded with 10 4K films and video shorts, including The Amazing Spider-Man, Total Recall (2012), The Other Guys, and more. The box will cost $699 and comes with 2TBs of internal storage for 4K video downloads when Sony’s Video Unlimited 4K service launches later this year.

http://ca.ign.com/articles/2013/07/03/sonys-4k-ultra-hd-player-now-available-for-699

11.   Human liver tissue transplants in mice raise stem cell treatment hopes

I don’t understand the part about taking on 30% of the function of a normal liver function. If it takes months to grow tiny little mouse livers, I’d guess it’ll take years to grow a decent size adult human liver, unless they can somehow combine the ‘buds’.

“Scientists have made pieces of human liver from stem cells and, by transplanting them into mice, have shown they behave like healthy organs. Tiny clumps of liver tissue were hooked up to the animals’ blood supplies soon after the operations. They took on the normal jobs of the liver, such as clearing toxins from the blood.”

http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2013/jul/03/human-liver-stem-cell-treatment

12.   Who ate all the flash pie: Samsung, ‘course, but hang on… GOOGLE? (SSD Market Info)

It’s rather a pity that The Register finds it necessary to write idiotic headlines to otherwise good stories, but then again some websites (Business Insider) write idiotic headlines to iditic stories, which is even worse. In any event, some interesting facts and figures regarding the SSD market which continues to grow apace. The Google bit is irrelevant: when they find it advantageous they make their own commodity hardware. In any event, HDD is dead.

“Tech analyst Gartner has lifted the lid on its numbers for SSD shipments in 2012 and thanks to Stifel Nicolaus analyst Aaron Rakers, El Reg has some pie chart eye candy for you. First of all, it looks like the startups are catching up with the big vendors in some sectors, which is good news for competition. Also, Google is apparently an SSD player.* Yes, you read that correctly.”

http://www.theregister.co.uk/2013/07/03/great_gartner_flash_ship_numbers/

13.   ARMs Race: Licensing vs. Manufacturing In Mobile

Not a bad read, however, I turn the argument on its side: if you are an ARM licensee, you design the system and it that differentiation which can provide superior margins – or bankrupt you if you design the wrong system. Intel offers a turn-key solution, which determines most of the system attributes which matter and this lack of potential differentiation is why PC vendors have tiny margins. The thing is, Intel could offer limited core licensing for select components and manufacture them on its advanced process technology, and AMD should have done so years ago.

“Last week, we paid a visit to ARM’s headquarters in Cambridge, England and sat down with the company for multiple deep dives into its structure, processor architecture, and the future of its product design. The semiconductor market for mobile and hand-held devices has changed dramatically in the past six years and ARM has had to evolve along side it. This is the first in a series of articles designed to profile different aspects of the company and its competition with Intel.”

http://hothardware.com/Reviews/ARMs-Race-IP-Licensing-Vs-Chip-Manufacturing-In-The-Mobile-Era/

14.   Europe and Japan Aiming to Build 100Gbps Fibre Optic Internet

Some interesting research projects which may or may not bear fruit. These types of things are not intended for consumer use, but for the backbone, unless and until everybody has fiber to the home.

“The European Commission (EC) and Japan have announced the launch of six joint research projects, supported by £15.3m+ (€18m) in funding, that aim to build networks which are “5000 times faster than today’s average European broadband ISP speed (100Gbps compared to 19.7Mbps).”

http://www.ispreview.co.uk/index.php/2013/07/europe-and-japan-aiming-to-build-100gbps-fibre-optic-internet.html

15.   Android flaw allows hackers to surreptitiously modify apps

I do find it interesting that the researcher somehow finds the gumption to immediately leap to the defense of Google, presuming safeguards, etc., already exist, especially since Android apps do not require Google for installation.

“Researchers said they’ve uncovered a security vulnerability that could allow attackers to take full control of smartphones running Google’s Android mobile operating system.”

http://arstechnica.com/security/2013/07/android-flaw-allows-hackers-to-surreptitiously-modify-apps/

16.   Researchers build an all-optical transistor

Good basic research, but they have a long way to go before anything even remotely practical would arise out of this work. Besides have a switch is one thing, having a system (interconnects, memories, etc.) is another altogether.

“Optical computing — using light rather than electricity to perform calculations — could pay dividends for both conventional computers and quantum computers, largely hypothetical devices that could perform some types of computations exponentially faster than classical computers.”

http://www.mit.edu/newsoffice/2013/computing-with-light-0704.html

17.   Big Three cell phone providers take Canadians and regulator to federal court in attempt to delay 2 year contract change in Code of Conduct

Canada’s communications oligopoly are an interesting lot: they are so used to getting their way through political influence, lobbying, and, no doubt ‘other’ means they react like 2 years olds when they don’t get their way. This may not work as they hoped: there is an ember of realization among the political class that consumers are looking for something to be done and rumors ‘real’ competition might arrive via Verizon entering the Canadian market. Oligopolies tend to fare poorly when they lose their privileged status.

“Late last night OpenMedia.ca received this notice from our lawyers notifying us that Bell, Rogers, and Telus had filed a motion with the Federal Court of Appeals in an attempt to delay the June 2015 implementation of the CRTC’s new Code of Conduct for cell phone service in Canada. The court filing specifically mentions “members of the public” along with several public interest groups, including OpenMedia.ca, as respondents to the motion.”

http://openmedia.ca/news/court

18.   A Year of the Linux Desktop

You often hear about schools, businesses, or governments, adopting Linux but you rarely hear how it went. I suspect the major challenge in schools is always going to be the teachers as kids tend to adapt to new technology without hesitation.

“Around a year ago, a school in the southeast of England, Westcliff High School for Girls Academy (WHSG), began switching its student-facing computers to Linux, with KDE providing the desktop software. The school’s Network Manager, Malcolm Moore, contacted us at the time. Now, a year on, he got in touch again to let us know how he and the students find life in a world without Windows.”

http://dot.kde.org/2013/07/04/year-linux-desktop

19.   Mastercard and Visa Start Banning VPN Providers?

The Update July 4 at the bottom casts some doubt as to what exactly is going on here, however, it is credible that credit card companies would have been pressured to take on these services. After all, financial institutions loyalties do not lie with their customers and larger forces (i.e. Hollywood lawyers) may be at play. This won’t change anything, of course, because zero cost services will simply fill the void. There is lots of computing power out there and it is just a matter fo time before a Torrent-style distributed anonymizing system is developed, if it hasn’t already been.

“Following the introduction of restrictions against file-sharing services, Mastercard and Visa have reportedly started to take action against VPN providers. This week, Swedish payment provider Payson cut access to anonymizing services after being ordered to do so by the credit card companies. VPN provider iPredator is one of the affected customers and founder Peter Sunde says that they are considering legal action to get the service unblocked.”

http://torrentfreak.com/mastercard-and-visa-start-banning-vpn-providers-130703/

20.   Boxee Cloud DVR shutting down July 10th in wake of Samsung acquisition

Reason number 1,117 as to why you don’t want to rely on cloud services: a company can ‘change their business model’ and leave you plumb out of luck. For example, I have a ‘cloud-enabled’ thermostat and web-camera, and those things are just recyclables if the companies decide to stop supporting them. Will those companies even be around in 5 years? Will the thermostat company keep supporting a thermostat in 10 years after technology has shifted significantly? Of I knew that when I bought them: most people and businesses, not so much.

“Boxee has confirmed the acquisition on its own site, and states that while Boxee is working to ensure there will be only “minimal interruption” to current users, the beta Cloud DVR functionality of the Boxee TV will be turned off July 10th, and no existing recordings will be available after that date.”

http://www.theverge.com/2013/7/3/4492160/boxee-cloud-dvr-shutting-down-july-10th-in-wake-of-samsung-acquisition