The Geek’s Reading List – Week of August 9th 2013

The Geek’s Reading List – Week of August 9th 2013


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



Brian Piccioni

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1.        Hotter Weather Actually Makes Us Want to Kill Each Other

This is science at its best: a temperate climate makes for happy people. It sort of explains why Europe has been such a peaceful place for the past thousand years or so. Oh climate change – is there no evil you cannot cause?

“For this study, the researchers performed a meta-analysis of 60 studies, some of which contained data going back to 10,000 B.C. They found that as temperature increases one standard deviation from the mean — roughly equivalent to warming a U.S. county by 5 degrees Fahrenheit in a given month — the likelihood of interpersonal violence rises by 4 percent and that of intergroup conflict rises by 14 percent.”

2.        President Obama vetoes Samsung patent ban on iPhone 4 and select iPads

The hypocrisy just screams: Samsung’s patents were infringed and they sought legal remedy. The ITC found in their favor, and Obama overruled the ruling. He did not, apparently, find fit to overrule the damages award Apple in their action against Samsung, and he remains silent Microsoft’s patent trolling Android vendors. What use are the courts when lobbyists can overrule them?

“The Obama administration has stepped in today to veto an import ban Samsung won from the International Trade Commission to prevent the iPhone 4 and some iPads from coming into the US. The move marks the first time since 1987 that a President has interfered with an ITC order.”

3.        Simulating 1 second of real brain activity takes 40 minutes and 83K processors

The actual function of a neuron is not entirely understood and it may never be. After all a neuron isn’t a simple switch, it is a complete biochemical machine. We don’t even really know how a brain works, let alone how the mind works, which is a different thing altogether. Fundamentally, they have run a simplified model of how they think the brain works and it took 83,000 processors 40 minutes to run 1 second of that model. The singularity is near indeed.

“A team of Japanese and German researchers have carried out the largest-ever simulation of neural activity in the human brain, and the numbers are both amazing and humbling. The hardware necessary to simulate the activity of 1.73 billion nerve cells connected by 10.4 trillion synapses (just 1 percent of a brain’s total neural network) for 1 biological second: 82,944 processors on the K supercomputer and 1 petabyte of memory (24MB per syapse). That 1 second of biological time took 40 minutes, on one of the world’s most-powerful systems, to compute.”

4.        How to Ensure Your Router, Cameras, Printers, and Other Devices Aren’t Accessible on the Internet

No – this is not about NSA paranoia, just a good guide to of preventing your stuff from being hacked or compromised.

“Some people’s networked printers, cameras, routers, and other hardware devices are accessible from the Internet. There are even search engines designed to search such exposed devices. If your devices are secure, you won’t have to worry about this.”

5.        Crossbar takes on DRAM and flash storage with super fast, super long-lasting RRAM tech

Sure sounds interesting, although it is worth noting that novel memory technologies have a near zero chance of success in the market.

“Startup Crossbar emerged from stealth mode Monday to announce its version of RRAM (resistive random-access memory), a new type of memory that could be a successor to flash storage and DRAM.”

6.        Cablevision CEO on a Possible Sale and the Online Future of TV

I wrote a piece sometime in 1996 which predicted that Internet technologies were going to transform the broadcast model. This doesn’t mean that broadcasters will disappear, just that the ‘channel’ concept will disappear. Once that happens, and it will, cable TV as such will simply be broadband delivery.

“Discussing the future of TV, the 58-year-old said that “there could come a day” when Cablevision stops offering TV channels and offers broadband as its primary service. Dolan argued that the cable industry was living in a “bubble” with its focus on TV packages that people must pay for as offered.”

7.        IBM Creates Power Consortium to Take on Intel

One of the consequences of ever more complex chips is that the CPU simply becomes a small part of a large system on a chip. This freezes out architectures which cannot be licensed, so it is about time IBM came to the realization they have to license their cores. As to them “taking on Intel”, well, good luck with that: Power is a rounding error in the space and that is not likely to change.

“Big Blue will license its Power processors to other companies, enabling them to build their own servers, networking systems and storage appliances based on IBM’s architecture, company officials said Aug. 6. As part of the effort, IBM is working with the likes of Google and Nvidia to launch the OpenPower Consortium to help create a hardware and software ecosystem around the Power architecture as it looks to give organizations an alternative to Intel’s x86 chips in cloud computing and hyperscale data center environments.”

8.        Samsung mass produces industry’s first 3D NAND flash chips

Flash will eventually run its course, but 3D stacking offers the opportunity to extend memory densities for another few years. This approach will lead to very high density SSDs, however, the cost curve will probably be considerably less aggressive than that imposed by smaller device geometries.

“Samsung Electronics Monday said it is now mass producing chips that stack layers of data-storing silicon like a microscopic skyscraper, creating what will undeniably be the NAND flash technology for the immediate future. The move lets Samsung boast an industry first, three-dimensional (3D) Vertical NAND (V-NAND) flash memory that breaks through current 2D or planar NAND scaling limits.”

9.        How Much Will PRISM Cost the U.S. Cloud Computing Industry?

Companies are starting to realize that cloud computing has significant security ramifications (i.e. practically speaking there is no security). We wrote about this many times before the Snowden/NSA/Prism revelations – it is written into the US “Patriot” Act. Even so, this is not a US/NSA story are the article explains – and laws have nothing to do about it: spies (and hackers) so not obey the law. The cloud is useful for mundane things like electronic retailing. Use for anything which requires a shred of security is stupid.

“The United States has been the leader in providing cloud computing services not just domestically, but also abroad where it dominates every segment of the market. Recent revelations about the extent to which the NSA obtains electronic data from third-parties will likely have an immediate and lasting impact on the competitiveness of the U.S. cloud computing industry if foreign customers decide the risks of storing data with a U.S. company outweigh the benefits. Unless the White House or Congress acts soon, the U.S. cloud computing industry stands to lose $22 to $35 billion over the next three years.”

(PDF File)

10.   Strategy Analytics: Android Captures Record 80 Percent Share of Global Smartphone Shipments in Q2 2013

We were pretty confident as an open system (despite Microsoft’s patent trolling) Android would take over the mobile space. The challenge for Apple is that their shrinking market share makes it less and less likely they will command a premium price or that application developers will continue to zealously support their platform.

“According to the latest research from Strategy Analytics, global smartphone shipments grew 47 percent annually to reach 230 million units in the second quarter of 2013. Android captured a record 80 percent share all smartphone volumes worldwide, while Microsoft solidified its position in third place.”

11.   Edward Snowden’s Email Provider Shuts Down Amid Secret Court Battle

One can only surmise what is going on here, however, consider the comments by the company’s users who are, apparently, suffering as a result of the decision to shut down the service. This is a common problem for people who rely on a particular cloud or other service when it shuts down.

“A pro-privacy email service long used by NSA leaker Edward Snowden abruptly shut down today, blaming a secret U.S. court battle it has been fighting for six weeks — one that it seems to be losing so far. “I have been forced to make a difficult decision: to become complicit in crimes against the American people or walk away from nearly 10 years of hard work by shutting down Lavabit,”  owner Ladar Levison wrote in a statement. “After significant soul searching, I have decided to suspend operations.””

12.   Meshnet activists rebuilding the internet from scratch

I’ve been reading more and more about this ‘movement’. It makes a great deal of sense from a societal perspective, and technologically it could easily replace the standard Internet Service Provider (ISP) model. Unfortunately, to really take off it would need high powered unlicensed spectrum and access to wired infrastructure. There are powerful economic interests which would not want to see this happen.

“THE internet is neither neutral nor private, in case you were in any doubt. The US National Security Agency can reportedly collect nearly everything a user does on the net, while internet service providers (ISPs) move traffic according to business agreements, rather than what is best for its customers. So some people have decided to take matters into their own hands, and are building their own net from scratch.”

13.   Math Advances Raise the Prospect of an Internet Security Crisis

For the longest time RSA was the gold standard for encryption. The NSA (and the Russians) abandoned it, which implies they already solved the problem. the comments about Blackberry and Certicom are interesting …

“The encryption systems used to secure online bank accounts and keep critical communications private could be undone in just a few years, security researchers warned at the Black Hat conference in Las Vegas yesterday. Breakthroughs in math research made in the past six months could underpin practical, fast ways to decode encrypted data that’s considered unbreakable today.”

14.   Ultrabooks give SSD shipments a boost

Ultrabooks are fundamentally just higher priced laptops but they are not altogether that expensive. I am confident that SSD prices will continue to drop and will more or less completely displace hard disks in laptops within a year or two.

“Shipments of solid-state drives (SSDs) rocketed in this year’s first quarter and the technology is now becoming the storage of choice in thin and light laptops. SSD shipments totalled 11.5 million in the first quarter, growing from 6 million units shipped in the same quarter last year, said technology research firm IHS iSuppli in a new study.”

15.   Rogers, Bell and Telus launch campaign to combat rumoured Verizon takeover of Wind

If I were a shareholder in any of the telecom oligopoly I would have two concerns at this juncture: the first would be a collapse in profits if the market were to become competitive, and second because of the abject cluelessness being exhibited by the oligopoly in their response to a competitive threat. While protesting they are truly competitive they are transparently colluding against this threat and putting the government of Canada in the position of either bowing to their demands (with consequent political fallout) or hardening the government’s stance against their overall control of telecommunications in the country.

“The big three have also launched a sleek ‘Fair for Canada’ website that conveniently highlights online articles echoing their thoughts about the Canadian government’s current wireless industry competition policies. The goal of the site is obviously to inform the Canadian public that our government favours allowing giant U.S. corporations (mainly referring to the rumoured Verizon/Wind deal) to enter the Canadian market and allowing them to buy more spectrum than the competition.”

16.   Cameyo

This looks interesting but I am still trying to get my head around it. Be careful about the claims of ‘security’ – centralized systems are may be secure until they are no longer secure, then they are really no longer secure. This presentation seems to explain a fair bit, but I don’t understand their business model or how this might impact licensing.

17.   Why your burger should be grown in a lab

As a guy who grew up in the country, I know a lot more about where meat comes from than the average person – one of the most traumatic experiences in my life was working in a chicken farm. That’s why I prefer to kill what I eat: at least game has a life before death. People who are promoting this abomination of ‘lab grown meat’ probably go out of their way to buy (pretend) “organic” produce as well, probably because they are oblivious as to what it takes to grow what is essentially a tumor in a lab environment. I’ll stick with deer and moose.

“On Monday, three lucky diners nibbled a $325,000 burger — not in the name of luxury but in the name of science, animal rights and sustainability. The meat was grown in a lab. This in-vitro hamburger is “cultured” in many different ways: It’s the product of human ingenuity, it’s considerate of humans, animals and the planet, and it’s produced through growing cells.”

18.   Suneet Tuli plans to eradicate poverty in India with a £20 touchscreen computer

A heartwarming read but there is very little chance a tablet will eradicate a complex, multidimensional issue like poverty. That being said, the discussion of pricing offers additional insight as to the direction tablet prices is headed.

“The room contains the familiar elements of a classroom: a blackboard, posters of great inventors and a chart rewarding pupil performance with stars. But, placed between each pair of students, is something unusual in a resource-deprived, rural school in the developing world: a seven-inch capacitive touch-tablet computer.”

19.   Xerox scanners/photocopiers randomly alter numbers in scanned documents

A truly remarkable discovery and one which I am sure has class action lawyers smacking their chops in anticipation – who knew a ‘Xerox’ of something actually meant close approximation, possible wrong in the details?

“In this article I present in which way scanners / copiers of the Xerox WorkCentre Line randomly alter written numbers in pages that are scanned. This is not an OCR problem (as we switched off OCR on purpose), it is a lot worse – patches of the pixel data are randomly replaced in a very subtle and dangerous way: The scanned images look correct at first glance, even though numbers may actually be incorrect.”

20.   The Man Who Thinks He Never Has to Eat Again Is Probably Going to Be a Billionaire Soon

Vice TV, which is on HBO, is actually a great news program. It’s sort of what news used to be – actual journalists telling important stories. A lot of the other stuff produced by Vice is typical garbage and this article is a case in point. People like to eat things that taste good – only somebody who thought the automated feeding machine in Chaplain’s Modern Times was a good idea would think otherwise. Making nutritionally complete gruel is not hard and it won’t make anybody a billionaire.

“A few months ago we wrote about Soylent, an incredibly nutritious “food replacement” smoothie that Rob, a 24-year-old engineer, had been making and consuming as his only food source for almost five weeks. On one hand, it did look a bit like semen—but on the other, Rob claimed that by drinking it every day he’d never have to eat again. Given that starvation is a fairly major problem in the world at the moment and the planet’s population will likely surpass 9 billion by 2050, Rob’s invention seems like an important one.”

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