61: Google Angry at IAC, Japan to Ban Gasoline Cars, Slideware-as-a-Service, Qualcomm's New Dragon, Apple M1, Singapore & Lab-Grown Meat, Bob Dylan & Syd Barrett

"I don’t know how it’ll manifest in the future"

"We're even wrong about which mistakes we're making." —Carl Winfeld

I’m looking forward to the electric vehicle future in part because it’ll make one of my pet peeves go away.

It annoys me to see people idle their engines for no reason. I’m wired like that, I hate waste. I’ve tried to let it go, because there’s nothing I can do, and sometimes I succeed, but I haven’t reached the Zen Level where I can fully ignore it…

I understand if it’s -25 celsius (you don’t have to convert it to Fahrenheit to know it’s cold) and young children are involved, or whatever, but I constantly see people idling their engine interminably, unnecessarily polluting the air and wasting non-renewable resources, for no discernible reason.

It’s warm outside and they’re waiting for a spouse, sitting in their SUV in the grocery store parking lot, scrolling on their phone… with the engine running for 35 minutes. They’re dropping their kids off at school, spending 5-10 minutes talking to them on the sidewalk, helping them with backpacks, saying goodbye, etc… with the engine running.

Why?

Is it false beliefs about how it burns more fuel to start an engine than to let it run and how it’ll wear out your starter? How many decades for that stuff to finally go away?

I guess it’ll take EVs…

This is the automotive version of “science moves forward one funeral at a time.”

✥ I wonder how big the temporal blast radius of the pandemic will be when it comes to mental health. Things won't just go back to normal as soon as the virus has been crushed...

I’ve found the past 9 months difficult, and I probably have a lower set point than average for social contacts. I can see the effects most clearly on my wife (who’s probably reading this 😘🦁), and on my oldest son. The youngest one has no idea — he’s 2.5yo, so basically, as far back as he can remember, things have been like this.

But I try to keep it in perspective: I can’t imagine how much more difficult it is for those who have lost a job and/or lost one or many loved ones and/or are going through a breakup, etc. Some are going through all that, while taking care of young kids 24/7 in a 500sq/ft condo on the 13th floor, without a yard… Some are taking care of sick parents, of disabled kids, can’t get away from an abusive spouse, are recent immigrants with no local friends or family and a language/culture barrier, etc. Ugh.

I’ve become aware of just how many couples are separating lately, and you can never know if the pandemic has just brought forward the inevitable for some that were already having problems, or if some may have done fine without this interminable heightened period full of various stressors.

When I talk about mental health, I don’t just mean the most visible problems, like severe depression. Many that will never seek outside help may still take a while to process through the anger, frustration, anxiety, isolation, stress, feeling of loss, etc, that they’ve gone through.

I don’t know how it’ll manifest in the future, but it deserves recognition, support, and empathy.


Investing & Business

‘Japan plans to ban sales of new gasoline cars by 2030’

Speaking of EVs:

Japan will soon join the growing list of countries set to ban sales of new gasoline-engine cars. The new policy, which should be announced as soon as next week, would ban sales by the mid-2030s, encouraging instead the use of electric or hybrid cars across the country to lower the country’s carbon emissions. [...]

Japan has already committed to being carbon neutral by 2050, in line with the Paris Agreement on climate change, but questions remain on how it will accomplish this. (Source)

Observatory of Economic Complexity (OEC) Data Viz

Cool site with a bunch of ways to visualize economic data at the country and, for some, even the state/province level. Source. h/t Jordan Schneider (check out his ChinaTalk)

Slideware-as-a-Service

I've never seen a PowerPoint [where things don’t work]. But when you put things into practice, things don't work, right? So slideware, I think, is a big part of the industry, unfortunately.

—George Kurtz, on Crowdstrike Q3 earnings call

Google is Angry at IAC (Grrrr)

Google is deciding whether to impose severe penalties on the online conglomerate IAC/InterActive Corp. over what the search giant concluded were deceptive marketing practices [...]

Google, which determined that IAC misled users about its browser extensions, could go as far as banning those products from its Chrome browser. IAC, under Chairman Barry Diller, is pushing back, saying such a move would devastate a key part of its business. [...]

IAC’s dozens of browser extensions, which Google documents show have been installed by Chrome users more than 150 million times, accounted for $291 million in IAC revenue last year. The extensions change users’ Chrome home pages to versions of MyWay, the IAC-owned search engine.

Google’s investigators found that IAC’s browser extensions often promise functions they don’t deliver and steer users toward extra ads [...] Of special concern in the audit were ads that IAC ran against search terms such as “how to vote,” “vote by mail” and “voter fraud.” Users who clicked on the ads didn’t get voting-related information, the audit found. Instead, their browser home pages were reset to MyWay, and the separate, IAC-owned Ask.com toolbar was installed on those users’ browsers, the audit found. The audit found that IAC continued to run such ads even after Google told the company to stop. (Source)

Pretty shady stuff.

Interview: Muji on Snowflake ❄️ and Data Analytics

Muji is one of the most thoughtful people writing about infrastructure software (you can find most of his stuff at HHHYPERGROWTH — good branding, no? — another good one is Peter Offringa at Software Stack Investing). He’s also a funny dude on Twitter, if you traffic in dad jokes like I do.

I enjoyed this podcast interview with James Wang (I’m not sure the exact date when it was recorded, but they mention that it was the IPO week for Snowflake):

They discuss Snowflake, Databricks, Cloudera, and Alteryx, among others. There’s also a mention of Segment, which was soon afterwards acquired by Twilio (I wrote a bit about Segment in edition #38).

Interview: Tren Griffin (one word: Enthusiasm)

Fun interview by Jim O’Shaughnessy. If there’s only one thing you take away from this, it should probably be Tren’s enthusiasm for life and his curiosity (both attributes shared by Jim).

All the anecdotes from his business life and all the pieces of advice earned by trial-of-fire are great, but if you just emulate these two things, I think you’ll do very well over time. They’re foundational blocks on top of which all kinds of other good things are built, and without which, you definitely won’t get as far.

You can follow Tren Griffin on Twitter here.

You know you’ve made it when…


Science & Technology

From Humble Beginnings…

This is what it looked like by 1974, and here’s a logical map of the network by 1977.

This source estimates that there are now 4.66 billion people connected to the internet in 2020, but with multiple devices per people, the internet of things growing fast, and the millions of internet-connected servers in use by the hyperscalers and big companies and governments, the actual number of nodes on the network is no doubt much higher than the number of people on Earth and isn’t anywhere near finished growing.

Qualcomm Snapdragon 888

Specs have come out on the new dragon, and it does seem pretty snappy (*cringe*).

How do real journalist and analysts do it, with the puns? I mean, I’m not saying my dad jokes are funny, but they aren’t quite that painful, are they?

Anyway, Anandtech dives pretty deep. Some highlights:

Featuring the first ever implementation of a Cortex-X1 CPU core as its performance engine, new Cortex-A78 cores for efficiency, a massive +35% boost in GPU performance, a totally new DSP/NPU IP redesigned from the ground up, triple camera ISPs, integrated 5G modem, all manufactured on a new 5nm process node [...]

After being with TSMC for the 7nm generations of the Snapdragon 855 and Snapdragon 865, Qualcomm is now switching back to Samsung Foundry and their new 5LPE process node for the new Snapdragon 888. [...]

The new X1 core, based on Arm’s numbers, promised a +30% uplift in IPC over the last generation Cortex-A77 which was also deployed in the Snapdragon 865. Qualcomm advertises a 25% uplift over the Snapdragon 865, but that’s likely due to a few configuration differences on the part of the new Snapdragon 888 compared to Arm’s own internal figures.

If you’re wondering what IPC is above, it stands for instructions per cycle. The cycles are the clock speed (ie. 2ghz).

A processor with a higher number of IPC is basically more efficient, and can do more at equal clock speed vs a CPU with lower IPC.

Another way to think about it is that its instruction pipeline is wider, as opposed to longer like Intel’s Pentium 4 built on the Netburst architecture, which reached super high clock speeds (great for marketing!), but couldn’t do nearly as much work per hertz as AMD’s processors of the time.

The S888 continues to use a 1+3+4 CPU setup this generation, with the big difference being that instead of using the same CPU IP with a different physical implementation, the new 1+3 big cores are actually of different microarchitectures.

Apple’s A14 uses a 2 big + 4 small cores. Its Firestorm cores are so fast that they can get away with fewer of them (which isn’t a bad balance for mobile, where you more rarely will need to do massive parallel computing and sipping battery power is more important).

There’s a bunch more details here.

Apple’s Next Phase in M1 Rollout

Speaking of Apple, here’s a thinly sourced piece about what the higher-end Macs may get.

Note that most launches start at the high-end and then go downmarket (because early adopters/pros are willing to pay more, and when you’re early in the learning curve your production costs are higher). Apple has taken the opposite approach and started with its lower-end, high-volume products, and will then go up-market. They did this because they were able to leverage the mobile scale and R&D:

For its next generation chip targeting MacBook Pro and iMac models, Apple is working on designs with as many as 16 power cores and four efficiency cores, the people said.

While that component is in development, Apple could choose to first release variations with only eight or 12 of the high-performance cores enabled depending on production, they said. [...]

What they’re referring to here is an interesting quirk of multi-core wafers. When you fab a silicon wafer, there are often defects (more when production is first being ramped up).

On monolithic dies, you usually have to throw away the whole thing. But if you have a multi-core product and you’ve designed it in a way that you can segregate parts, you can select to turn off the damaged cores and sell the rest.

This may be why Nvidia’s data-center Ampere has 7 cores right now. They may be fabbing 8, but getting lower yields at first, and somewhere down the line they’ll start selling the 8-core models as yields improve (pure speculation on my part, could be totally wrong).

For higher-end desktop computers, planned for later in 2021 and a new half-sized Mac Pro planned to launch by 2022, Apple is testing a chip design with as many as 32 high-performance cores. (Source)

So basically, it could be anything between a bunch of cores and a crapload of cores. I guess we’ll see soon enough, but either way, this thing is already a monster with 4 Firestorm cores (this is what they call the performance cores — the low-power ones are Icestorm… Even internal codenames show good branding), so imagine what it would be with 16 or more.

‘Singapore issues first regulatory approval for lab-grown meat’

I’ve long thought that artificial meat (it still needs a good name… nothing to do with labs or test tubes. ‘Clean meat’ is better, but still not quite right…) was the future, and it’s just a question of ‘when’.

Glad to see this step forward. I wish progress was faster than it has been, because the current system of industrial meat production is pretty bad on multiple dimensions:

Singapore Food Agency has approved Eat Just’s cell-cultured chicken, making the country the first in the world to give its go-ahead to selling meat created in a lab.

The decision paves the way for Eat Just, which is best known for its plant-based egg substitute, to sell its lab-grown chicken as an ingredient in Singapore. And it will also likely draw more competitors to the Southeast Asian country and could prompt other countries to follow Singapore’s lead.

In the last decade, dozens of start-ups have sought to make cell-cultured meat both tasty and affordable with the end goal of persuading consumers to turn their backs on conventional meat. Similar to the makers of plant-based meat alternatives, start-ups such as Eat Just, Future Meat Technologies and the Bill Gates-backed Memphis Meats argue that their products are healthier for consumers and better for the environment. [...]

Cultured meat is made by putting stem cells from the fat or muscle of an animal into a culture medium that feeds the cells, allowing them to grow. The medium is then put into a bioreactor to support the cells’ growth. Tetrick compared the process to brewing beer, with a very different end product. (Source)

I kind of expect this new meat to follow a path similar to EVs. At first, more expensive and worse than regular meat. Then more expensive, but better. And eventually, less expensive and better (ie. when you can perfectly clone that perfect AAAA kobe steak cheaply, and make it full of omega 3s and vitamin C).

Lipid Capsule Used to Transport mRNA Vaccine

David S. Goodsell, who does “molecular art”, did this illustration of what the mRNA vaccine looks like:

Finished up the mRNA vaccine picture today. I have a few little things to clean up, then I'll post the big file.

The vaccine structure is highly idealized, with spike mRNA in magenta, lipids in blue, and PEG-lipid in green. The background is blood serum or lymph.

You can see high-rez versions of his work here. Source. h/t Eric Topol


The Arts & History

"Shine On You Crazy Diamond" on the street in Jerusalem

By the Breslev Brothers (Arye & Gil) at Zion Square, Jerusalem. Video from 2013.

(for those not familiar with Pink Floy, this is a mostly instrumental, spacey jam that the band composed in “tribute and remembrance to their former band member Syd Barrett, a founding member of Pink Floyd.”

Barrett was highly creative, but suffered from severe mental health issues, hence the “crazy diamond”. You can find the original on the album ‘Wish You Were Here’.

Barrett wrote most of Pink Floyd's early material. He was also an innovative guitarist, using extended techniques and exploring the musical and sonic possibilities of dissonance, distortion, feedback, the echo machine, tapes and other effects [...]

Barrett visited the members of Pink Floyd in 1975 during the recording sessions for Wish You Were Here. He attended the Abbey Road session unannounced, and watched the band working on the final mix of "Shine On You Crazy Diamond" — a song about him. By that time, the 29-year-old Barrett had become quite overweight, had shaved off all of his hair (including his eyebrows), and his former bandmates did not initially recognise him. Barrett spent part of the session brushing his teeth. Roger Waters asked him what he thought of the song and he said that it "sounds a bit old" (Source)

Photo of Barrett in 1975.

The Design of Soviet Control Rooms

After seeing the apparently very accurate reproduction of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in the HBO show, it made me curious to look at the original and others from the same era. If you’re similarly curious, there’s a bunch here.

‘Universal Music buys Bob Dylan’s music catalogue in 9-figure deal’

The deal, which spans six decades of hits such as “Blowin’ In The Wind,” and “The Times They Are a-Changin’,” valued the catalogue in the hundreds of millions. Universal, the world’s largest music label, called the deal the “most significant music publishing agreement this century”, but declined to disclose the price. [...]

Unlike many other big artists, Mr Dylan owned the publishing rights to his music, which was administered outside the US by Sony/ATV Publishing.

Source. h/t In Practise