The Geek’s Reading List – Week of June 26th 2015

The Geek’s Reading List – Week of June 26th 2015

Hello,

I have been part of the technology industry for a third of a century now. For 13 years I was an electronics designer and software developer: I designed early generation PCs, mobile phones (including cell phones) and a number of embedded systems which are still in use today. I then became a sell-side research analyst for the next 20 years, where I was ranked the #1 tech analyst in Canada for six consecutive years, named one of the best in the world, and won a number of awards for stock-picking and estimating.

I started writing the Geek’s Reading List about 12 years ago. In addition to the company specific research notes I was publishing almost every day, it was a weekly list of articles I found interesting – usually provocative, new, and counter-consensus. The sorts of things I wasn’t seeing being written anywhere else.

They were not intended, at the time, to be taken as investment advice, nor should they today. That being said, investors need to understand crucial trends and developments in the industries in which they invest. Therefore, I believe these comments may actually help investors with a longer time horizon. Not to mention they might come in handy for consumers, CEOs, IT managers … or just about anybody, come to think of it. Technology isn’t just a niche area of interest to geeks these days: it impacts almost every part of our economy. I guess, in a way, we are all geeks now. Or at least need to act like it some of the time!

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. Or feel free to email me to discuss any of these topics in more depth: the sentence or two I write before each topic is usually only a fraction of my highly opinionated views on the subject!

This edition of the Geeks List, and all back issues, can be found at www.thegeeksreadinglist.com.

Brian Piccioni

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1) SSD Prices In A Free Fall

I predicted that flash memory would displace tape in video cameras and that Solid State Drives (SSDs) would displace Hard Disk Drives (HDDs) a number of years ago. The tape prediction now seems obvious (it wasn’t at the time) and there are many who remain skeptical about the end of HDDs (see the next article). This article predicts price parity on a per bit level, which might be a challenge, with retail HDDs at $50 to $90/TB and SSDs about 5 to 8x that, though even a cheap SSD will handily outperform the fastest HD in all respects. Therefore, broad abandonment of HDDs doesn’t require price parity, just getting close.

“By packing 32 or 64 times the capacity per die, 3D NAND will allow SSDs to increase capacity well beyond hard drive sizes. SanDisk, for example, plans 8 TB drives this year, and 16 TB drives in 2016. At the same time, vendors across the flash industry are able to back off two process node levels and obtain excellent die yields. The result of the density increase is clear: This year, SSDs will nearly catch up to HDD in capacity. Meanwhile, hard drives appear to be stuck at 10 TB capacity, and the technology to move beyond that size is going to be expensive once it’s perfected. HDD capacity curves already were flattening, and the next steps are likely to take some time. This all means that SSDs will surpass HDDs in capacity in 2016. There’s even serious talk of 30 TB solid-state drives in 2018.”

http://www.networkcomputing.com/storage/ssd-prices-in-a-free-fall/a/d-id/1320958

2) The rise of SSDs over hard drives, debunked

This article is a counterpoint to the above article and makes the case that HDDs will continue to be much cheaper than SSDs. Of course, a low end SSD is much faster, uses much less power, and is more reliable than even a high end HDD so you have to be careful with such comparisons since system cost and performance is the important metric. When I buy a new laptop, I immediately go to the computer store and buy an SSD to upgrade it. This gives me a significant lift in speed. I would always choose a laptop with a 500 GB SSD over the same machine with a 4TB HDD at the same price.

“In spite of a recent report to the contrary, solid-state drives (SSDs) will not surpass hard disk drives (HDDs) in either price or capacity any time soon, according to industry analysts. In fact, hard drives will remain the dominant mass storage device in laptops and desktops for years to come. For example, a data center-class HDD with 6TB of capacity sells for $185 today and will drop to about $165 by the end of the year — about 3 cents per gigabyte, according to market research firm Gartner. A 4TB HDD for a laptop sells for $95 to computer manufacturers or about 2 cents per gigabyte. And HDD prices are expected to continue to drop as areal platter density increases. Gartner predicts that over the next five years, HDD prices will drop to as low as 1 of a cent per gigabyte of capacity.”

http://www.computerworld.com/article/2939438/data-storage-solutions/the-rise-of-ssds-over-hard-drives-debunked.html

3) Tesla Battery Swap: CARB’s Bridge To Nowhere

This article looks at the absurdity of California’s Air Resources Board (CARB) Zero Emissions Vehicle (ZEV) credit and fairly obvious signs Tesla has been gaming that program. ZEVs are a subsidy which gets less wealthy people who can’t afford highly subsidized electric sports cars to subsidize electric sports cars for rich people. CARB’s lack of transparency on the issue suggests collusion or stupidity (with government you never know). Calls for an audit of the program are well founded, but likely to be fought tooth and nail since the results are unlikely to favor CARB or Tesla (see next article). Thanks to Alain Bélanger of Novacap for this article.

“Given that CARB’s public assessment of the battery swap credit program is so at odds with the facts, it’s clear that more transparency and oversight is needed. Indeed, given how little opportunity remains to clean up the battery swap credit mess before it sundowns, increasing transparency around the ZEV program may be the only viable response to Tesla’s credit gaming and CARB’s studied lack of action to end it. Staffers for California state representatives who asked not to be named tell Daily Kanban that they are currently looking into the options for a ZEV program audit in response to concerns raised about battery swap credits. Though it is almost certainly too late to prevent Tesla from earning untold millions for a technology it has no intention of making widely available, at least the citizens of California may still be able to gain some better understanding of this expertly-concealed boondoggle and precisely how much money it has diverted to Tesla.”

http://dailykanban.com/2015/06/tesla-battery-swap-carbs-bridge-to-nowhere/

4) Tesla knows how far you’ve driven

This article clearly shows how ineffective subsidies for EVs are: “570,000 tons of carbon emissions” (a figure which probably ignores the coal burned to provide the electricity) saved sounds like a lot, but it is a trifle. The going rate for a carbon credit is around $5/tonne, (http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2014-09-03/carbon-credits-give-664-benefits-per-ton-imperial-study-shows), so the total value of carbon “saved” is less than $3M, compared to hundreds of millions of subsidies to Tesla and its customers. In other words, government subsidies to allow wealthy people to buy EVs yield about 1% of the purported environmental benefit on the state simply buying carbon credits. Oh, another thing: as is typical with figures released for Tesla the 570,000 tons is also apparently vastly inflated: 1 billion miles works out to 420,000 tons of CO2 assuming average US fleet fuel economy (see http://www.epa.gov/cleanenergy/energy-resources/refs.html), which includes pickup trucks, SUVs, etc.. So the real (un-Teslaed) figures is closer to $2M of environmental benefit.

“It’s a big moment for Tesla: Altogether, the company’s Model S vehicles have traveled more than a billion miles. For some perspective, a billion miles is about as far as 4,200 trips to the moon. It also adds up to some 570,000 tons of saved carbon emissions, thanks to the Model S’s electric battery, Tesla says.”

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/the-switch/wp/2015/06/24/tesla-says-its-drivers-have-traveled-a-billion-miles-and-tesla-knows-how-many-miles-youve-driven/

5) New manufacturing approach slices lithium-ion battery cost in half

Another week, another major advance in battery technology. As is typical, it is what is not said regarding this amazing breakthrough is what matters: how does durability, charge time, and all the other numerous parameters compared to a standard off the shelf lithium ion battery? One other note: as the article glosses over, Professor Chiang also founded a previous revolutionary battery company, A123, which managed to burn through hundreds of millions of investor dollars – including public shareholder dollars – without actually delivering the promised revolution or even a tiny part thereof.

“An advanced manufacturing approach for lithium-ion batteries, developed by researchers at MIT and at a spinoff company called 24M, promises to significantly slash the cost of the most widely used type of rechargeable batteries while also improving their performance and making them easier to recycle. “We’ve reinvented the process,” says Yet-Ming Chiang, the Kyocera Professor of Ceramics at MIT and a co-founder of 24M (and previously a co-founder of battery company A123). The existing process for manufacturing lithium-ion batteries, he says, has hardly changed in the two decades since the technology was invented, and is inefficient, with more steps and components than are really needed.”

http://phys.org/news/2015-06-approach-slices-lithium-ion-battery.html

6) All hail Xiaomi, the slayer of tech giants

Sometime in 2000, while I was still following Nortel, I learned of Huawei, a Chinese competitor. Huawei’s strategy was simple: sell good stuff cheap. Of course, most everybody ignored the threat because they figured no self-respecting carrier would use Huawei equipment. Perhaps they were right, but enough carriers starting putting pricing pressure on the entire sector. It might not be an apt comparison, but Xiamoi is an increasingly important vendor in China, India, and emerging markets. Even if they never sell their products in North American or Europe, their success is bound to blunt developing world revenue growth for top tier vendors.

“Three years ago, nobody knew about Xiaomi, and most people probably won’t even like to know. It was like in a Fast & Furious movie; the speed at which Xiaomi overthrew nearly everybody and raced to the position of world’s third largest smartphone vendor within this short period. Bar veterans Samsung and Apple, the Chinese phone maker would have been crowned king of smartphones even as Xiaomi phones are legally available on sale in less than 1% of the earth’s countries, shockingly. That’s a huge lesson to everyone: when you introduce something different and appealing to everyone, you become a crowd favorite — at least in Xiaomi’s case. Interestingly, it’s not only the affordability of Xiaomi products that makes the brand sell very well. After all, thousands of Chinese start-ups offer even more affordable Android handsets but their popularity comes nowhere near the Apple of China, Xiaomi; or as we now call them, the Slayer Of Tech Giants. Xiaomi’s mojo lies in packaging.”

http://bestmobs.com/hail-xiaomi-slayer-tech-giants-25404/

7) Android on BlackBerry: More harm than good

BlackBerry reported yet another dismal quarter this week. As usual, most of the coverage of the company’s performance seemed bent on misdirection (ignore the bad, pay attention to the good, however little there might be). One rather bizarre rumor was that BlackBerry would introduce a handset based on Android. Superficially, this is probably not as bad an idea as their current strategy since people actually buy Android handsets, unlike BlackBerry handsets. Nevertheless, from a holistic perspective, it would be a very bad idea, not that that has ever stopped high tech companies in the past.

“With its latest smartphones, the BlackBerry Classic and BlackBerry Passport, continuing to attract no buyer interest, BlackBerry’s hardware business seems destined for the dustbin of history. Yet fans continue to hope for some Hail Mary move from the once-dominant mobile device maker. The latest straws for the BlackBerry faithful to grasp was a rumor last week reported by Reuters that BlackBerry might adopt Android for a new device to ship this fall. In response, BlackBerry’s PR staff issued what’s called a nondenial denial, saying it was committed to its current BlackBerry 10 OS but saying nothing about future plans that might involve Android. Nothing ruled in, nothing ruled out — the Android straws remain available for the grasping.”

http://www.infoworld.com/article/2935977/blackberry/android-on-blackberry-more-harm-than-good.html

8) WiFi Offloading To Skyrocket

Offloading data to WiFi makes a lot of sense, especially if you are offering unlimited plans. Of course, you have to have access to enough access points. This should be “seamless” as in the phone automatically registers to the hotspot, otherwise people aren’t likely to click through the permissions page as you have to do at Starbucks (though that is pretty pointless in any event). I wouldn’t worry about running out of WiFi spectrum since many modern phones can work off 5GHz, and WiFi itself continues to evolve and add bandwidth to the available frequencies.

“Cellular carriers will offload nearly 60% of mobile data traffic to WiFi networks over the next four years, according to a new study from Juniper Research. Carriers in North America and Western Europe will be responsible for over 75% of the global mobile data being offloaded in the next four years, Juniper said. The amount of smartphone and tablet data traffic on WiFi networks will will increase to more than 115,000 petabytes by 2019, compared to under 30,000 petabytes this year, representing almost a four-fold increase. WiFi offloading, also called carrier WiFi, has become pervasive as many big cellular carriers and ISPs have deployed large numbers of WiFi hotspots in cities using the existing infrastructure of their customers’ homes and businesses. This enables carriers to offload the saturated bandwidth on 3G and LTE networks.”

http://www.networkcomputing.com/wireless-infrastructure/wifi-offloading-to-skyrocket-/d/d-id/1321007

9) Graphene booms in factories but lacks a killer app

This article takes a rather skeptical look at graphene, a very promising material with many potential applications. Some of the criticism is valid: few actual applications of graphene have panned out, and most of the market is probably research driven. However, there is a bit of chicken and egg here: applications are limited for this staggeringly expensive material, and pricing won’t come down until demand drives improved production techniques. It is entirely unfair to compare the total amounts invested to date with a forecast market of $349 million by 2025: market forecasts are notoriously inaccurate even about the near term. A forecast 10 years hence for a material only discovered 11 years ago is not likely to be anywhere near correct. The real figure could be much less or a couple orders of magnitude more depending on how the technology evolves.

“The city of Manchester, UK, is gearing up for a graphene jamboree. Graphene Week 2015, which kicks off on 22 June, is sure to delight its more than 600 attendees with a conference and celebrations of the ‘wonder material’. Graphene’s commercial future, however, is much less certain. The atom-thin flakes of carbon are being produced in record volume and have found their way into a handful of eye-catching gizmos. But experts fret that graphene production far exceeds requirements, and that the material offers only marginal benefits over incumbent technologies in many of its target applications. “There’s a heck of a lot of production capacity and not much demand, because we just haven’t seen any compelling technologies coming through,” says Ross Kozarsky, a senior analyst at market-intelligence company Lux Research, who is based in San Francisco, California. This mirrors the trajectory of carbon nanotubes, which were once touted as transformative but have so far failed to make a significant commercial impact. “Graphene looks much closer to the next carbon nanotube than the next silicon,” says Kozarsky. In a 2014 report, Lux predicted that the global market for graphene would be worth US$349 million by 2025; by comparison, the University of Manchester estimates that graphene has already attracted $2.4 billion for research.”

http://www.nature.com/news/graphene-booms-in-factories-but-lacks-a-killer-app-1.17771

10) You’re being secretly tracked with facial recognition, even in church

I recall a movie about 10 years ago where, in a dystopian future, every billboard calls you out by name. This is looking increasingly unlikely as facial recognition evolves in the absence of meaningful regulation. Unfortunately, governments, which consist mainly of middle aged lawyers who fundamentally do not understand the Internet, let alone facial recognition, are not likely to act. As we have already seen, a lack of regulation leads to a complete an irreparable loss of privacy. Distopian indeed. Thanks to Avner Mandelman for this item.

“Instantly, when a person in your FaceFirst database steps into one of your stores, you are sent an email, text, or SMS alert that includes their picture and all biographical information of the known individual so you can take immediate and appropriate action,” says the Facefirst brochure. It doesn’t say what happens when that person isn’t you but is actually a doppelgänger with a bad reputation. Or how someone who doesn’t want to get greeted by name gets their face taken out of the database.”

http://fusion.net/story/154199/facial-recognition-no-rules/

11) China says hello to Mr. Roboto

Workers in the developed world lament a loss of jobs to automation (i.e. robots) and/or cheap labor. Interestingly, robots can be a “leveler” for a manufacturer since everybody has access to the same robots at more or less the same price. It is interesting that some Chinese manufacturers have decided it makes financial sense to increase the amount of automation in their factories as suggests they are dealing with wage inflation, quality issues, and a looming labor shortage associated with demographic shifts. Of course the robots in the picture look nothing like the one they’ll be using on the factory floor.

“An increasing number of Chinese factories are ditching human workers for machines as a robotic revolution gets underway in the world’s second-largest economy. In the past month, two companies in the southern province of Guangdong, a major manufacturing hub, have reported plans to fill their factory floors with robots. Evenwin Precision Technology is building a factory that will boast more than 1,000 industrial robots, China Daily reported in May. A maker of mobile phone components, Evenwin told the newspaper the move would reduce the number of frontline workers by at least 90 percent. Meanwhile, home appliance maker Midea recently replaced 14 workers on one of its major assembly line, according to a Caixin report last month. Soon, it plans to replace quality-control supervisors with robots too.”

http://www.cnbc.com/id/102768670

12) AI’s Next Frontier: Machines That Understand Language

The term Artificial Intelligence (AI) means different things to different people. For the most part, among experts, it does not mean sentient or self-aware machines, but machines which are able to process complex information and figure out its meaning. Understanding words is one thing but understanding language is a whole other challenge. I find it interesting they are using neural networks for the problem. This makes sense since our brains are neural networks. Most likely, they are actually simulating neural networks in software, which is computationally intensive. If the technique can be mastered and progress in memristors yields actual programmable neural networks as I believe it should, then natural language processing could become cheap and commonplace.

“With the help of neural networks—vast networks of machines that mimic the web of neurons in the human brain—Facebook can recognize your face. Google can recognize the words you bark into an Android phone. And Microsoft can translate your speech into another language. Now, the task is to teach online services to understand natural language, to grasp not just the meaning of words, but entire sentences and even paragraphs. At Facebook, artificial intelligence researchers recently demonstrated a system that can read a summary of The Lord of The Rings, then answer questions about the books. Using a neural networking algorithm called Word2Vec, Google is teaching its machines to better understand the relationship between words posted across the Internet—a way of boosting Google Now, a digital assistant that seeks to instantly serve up the information you need at any given moment. Yann LeCun, who oversees Facebook’s AI work, calls natural language processing “the next frontier.””

http://www.wired.com/2015/06/ais-next-frontier-machines-understand-language/

13) 3 Companies Using Drones to Improve Inspections

I would not exactly count the Royal Navy as a company, especially since the military rarely represents a paragon of common sense, however, this article provides three real world examples of the use of drones to cost effectively solve otherwise costly and sometimes even dangerous problems.

“Drones have much the subject of nearly relentless media speculation over the past year (or more). But while it’s easy to make bold predictions about the possibilities of widespread drone use, we wanted to highlight a few ways that these unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) are actually being used right now. One of most obvious benefits of drones is their ability to easily go where humans can’t. This could have far-reaching implications for service companies, which often need to inspect difficult to reach buildings and assets. Here are three organizations that recently started testing and employing drone inspectors: Allstate, The Royal Navy, Consumers Energy …”

http://technologyadvice.com/news/blog/companies-using-drones-for-inspections/

14) Here’s a Perfect Example of Why We Need More Consumer Drone Regulation

In contrast with the above item, consumer drones can cause problems. Of course, most drone operators are likely responsible, but there are many of them and the hobby is unregulated, so situations like this are not all that rare. As with drones flying near airports, little will happen until people are killed.

“In the last week, state and federal firefighters have fought more than 270 wildfires in California alone. One fire burned nearly 18,000 acres of land and cost more than $7 million to contain. Here’s the problem: firefighters are seeing more unauthorized consumer drones flying over active wildfires. Maybe the drone owners don’t know or maybe they don’t care, but temporary flight restrictions are placed over wildfire areas due to the aircraft used to help contain the fires. Aircraft is used during wildfires to knock down flames and survey the burn area. When drones are in that restricted airspace, they’re in the path of aircraft. “A couple times yesterday we noticed some drones in our airspace,” said Cal Fire’s Steve Kaufmann (watch the KSEE video below).“I can’t encourage the public enough that when we have a fire in the area, they really need to try to have restraint.””

http://www.roboticstrends.com/article/heres_a_perfect_example_of_why_we_need_more_consumer_drone_regulation

15) New FLIR One thermal camera for iOS and Android lets you ‘see’ in the dark

A few years ago a friend of mine spent a few thousand dollars for a FLIR thermal camera to do house inspections. I am sure his is much better than the FLIR One, but the way things go its probably a matter of time before the capabilities catch up. Thermal cameras have lots of real world applications though I don’t think they are the sort of thing a typical consumer would buy, despite the ability to spot zombies. Still, $249.99 is a pretty compelling price point.

“The company’s back with a second-generation FLIR One camera and this time it’ll work with more than just two iPhone models. It’s also cheaper at $249.99. The new FLIR One camera works with iPhones and iPads, and Android smartphones and tablets. The case-like design has been replaced by a smaller module that weighs a third as much and attaches directly to an iOS device’s Lightning port or an Android device’s Micro USB port. Unlike the first-gen model, the new FLIR One is more pocketable and easier to operate. It’s a massive improvement, for sure.”

http://mashable.com/2015/06/25/flir-one-second-generation-review/

16) Samsung’s ‘Safety Truck’ Features a Camera and Live View Display

This is an interesting idea, but it is more of a publicity stunt than a viable technology. The idea is quite simple: trucks have big trailers which block the view so put a huge display on the back of the truck and a camera on the front, so drivers behind the truck can see what is in front of the truck. The problem is that big displays are expensive and fragile (being made of glass and all) so they would not last very long before being damaged. What the article does show is the long term potential of Vehicle to Vehicle (V2V) communication and automated safety systems. In the future, the vehicle in front of you will detect oncoming traffic and the oncoming traffic will send out beacons, all of which will sound an alarm or prevent you from making an unsafe lane chance or pass maneuver. Thanks to my friend Allan Brown for this link.

“Samsung wants to help make roads safer by incorporating some camera technology into semi-trailer trucks. By adding a front camera and a giant rear “live view” display to the trucks, Samsung’s ‘Safety Truck’ project makes it easier for drivers to see “through” the trucks and know when it’s safe to pass. According to the statistics, an average of one person in Argentina dies every hour to a traffic accident, and many of those deaths are caused by reckless passing on the country’s two-lane roads. Samsung wants to use its technology to make this type of passing safer and easier for drivers — at least when following behind Samsung’s trucks. Each of Samsung’s Safety Trucks have a wireless front-facing camera installed on the grill, and on the backside of the truck is a giant four-screen display showing a live feed from the camera.”

http://petapixel.com/2015/06/20/samsungs-safety-truck-features-a-camera-and-live-view-display/

17) Windows 10 to be adopted by 73 per cent of IT pros

I always take surveys with a grain of salt, but it is worth noting that the abomination which is Windows 8 meant that IT departments looking to replace Windows XP had nowhere to go, except, perhaps, to the soon to be obsolete Windows 7. Microsoft’s free “upgrade to 10” program probably is not a major factor in the decision to upgrade since many companies are paying a subscription fee which includes the option to upgrade their OS, should they desire. I am hopeful Windows 10 will actually be a decent OS, and reviews are thus far favorable. If it is, there might be a surge in demand for PCs for a few quarters at least.

“A total of 73 per cent of IT professionals will deploy Windows 10 within the first two years, a new report by Spiceworks shows. The report, called “Windows 10: Will it Soar?” found that 96 per cent of IT decision-makers are interested in Windows 10, and 60 per cent of IT departments have tested or are actively testing the new operating system. The survey also found that 40 per cent of companies plan to begin rolling out Windows 10 within the first year and an additional 33 per cent expect to begin deploying Windows 10 within two years. Even though Windows 10 offers new features, such as Cortana or the new Edge browser, IT professionals are mostly interested in the system’s stability and simplification of everyday tasks. Sixty-four per cent of IT professionals said they were most interested in the return of the Start button, 55 per cent cited the free upgrade from Windows 7 and 8/8.1, and 51 per cent referenced enhanced security.”

http://www.itproportal.com/2015/06/25/windows-10-to-be-adopted-by-73-per-cent-of-it-pros/

Link to the PDF http://www.spiceworks.com/voit/reports/windows-10-will-it-soar/

18) New Mode of Transmission May Double Fiber Optic Capacity

This might be a significant advance. As near as I can figure, the idea is that with current techniques the distortion which is introduced as different carriers of light travel down the fiber is random. By deriving the carriers from the same laser source, that distortion becomes predictable and therefor can be corrected for, allowing for either longer reach or higher data rates. Unfortunately the article does not discuss the costs or complexities of this approach.

“Data signals traveling as laser pulses through an optical fiber are vulnerable to optical distortions resulting from interference among multiple signals of different wavelengths traveling down the same fiber. These nonlinear wave interactions mean that data signals can degrade over great distances unless they regularly get regenerated along the way — that is, converted to electrical signals, subjected to computer analysis to weed out any distortions, and then converted back to optical signals. This process not only slows data traffic, but also accounts for most of the cost of setting up new optical network infrastructure. Now UC-San Diego researchers say they may have discovered a way to easily get rid of these distortions, greatly reducing the need for constant and expensive signal regeneration. The research team told Science magazine this could lead to a two- to four-fold boost to either the amount of data a fiber can carry or the distance that signals travel before they need to be regenerated.”

http://spectrum.ieee.org/tech-talk/semiconductors/optoelectronics/new-mode-of-transmission-may-double-fiber-optic-capacity

19) China and Russia Almost Definitely Have the Snowden Docs

Last week the Sunday Times carried an article which essentially claimed the Russians and Chinese had somehow decrypted the (unpublished) document cache which Snowden claimed to have carefully encrypted. This allegedly led to compromised secret agents, etc.. This article argues, probably correctly, that Chinese and Russian spies already had the information. In fact they probably had full access to NSA files and were as angry at Snowden as the NSA was for compromising their sources. After all, the NSA was so sloppy with security a contractor like Snowden, who is not some sort of hacker genius, managed to download top secret files onto a USB drive. Snowden acted out of a sense of justice but there were (and are), no doubt, lots of NSA contractors who would do the same for cash.

“Last weekend, the Sunday Times published a front-page story (full text here), citing anonymous British sources claiming that both China and Russia have copies of the Snowden documents. It’s a terrible article, filled with factual inaccuracies and unsubstantiated claims about both Snowden’s actions and the damage caused by his disclosure, and others have thoroughly refuted the story. I want to focus on the actual question: Do countries like China and Russia have copies of the Snowden documents? I believe the answer is certainly yes, but that it’s almost certainly not Snowden’s fault.”

http://www.wired.com/2015/06/course-china-russia-snowden-documents/

20) What If Authors Were Paid Every Time Someone Turned a Page?

This potentially disturbing experiment. Amazon carries tremendous power in the book biz, and any move to change remuneration in the area could have a profound impact. It seems to be trying the idea out on self published authors, who likely have much less power than those who have a contract with a publisher. As the article suggests, such a payment scheme would likely lead authors to favor certain styles of writing over others in order to maximize their paychecks. It is also a system unlikely to favor sober analysis when writing non-fiction.

“Soon, the maker of the Kindle is going to flip the formula used for reimbursing some of the authors who depend on it for sales. Instead of paying these authors by the book, Amazon will soon start paying authors based on how many pages are read—not how many pages are downloaded, but how many pages are displayed on the screen long enough to be parsed. So much for the old publishing-industry cliche that it doesn’t matter how many people read your book, only how many buy it. For the many authors who publish directly through Amazon, the new model could warp the priorities of writing: A system with per-page payouts is a system that rewards cliffhangers and mysteries across all genres. It rewards anything that keeps people hooked, even if that means putting less of an emphasis on nuance and complexity.”

http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2015/06/amazon-publishing-authors-payment-writing/396269/

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