* Posts by Len

827 posts • joined 26 Jan 2009

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Google tells Apple to 'fix text messaging' in bid to promote RCS protocol

Len

Re: XMPP

Agreed, but I believe that is a level lower. WhatsApp started out using XMPP (and may still do, just in a Signal-based encryption wrapper). iMessage still is XMPP as far as I'm aware. Same for Facebook Messenger. Most messaging systems just grab XMPP as the starting point and then build upon and around that.

It's the interoperability where the challenge lies. Having twelve walled gardens all use XMPP doesn't help interoperability one bit.

As usual, the tech bit is the easy bit, the economics is the hard part. The success of SMS was that operators could charge for its use. That gave them an economic incentive to support it, nay, actively promote it. Imagine there were some open standard based around XMPP for interoperable messaging. Demand side will not be the driver as most people don't care, they just want to chat with Jane about Love Island, even if it goes via a server in China owned by the state. Supply side will not be the driver if there is no way to at the very least offset the cost and preferably even make a profit.

Len

RCS seems to be a mess

I remember seeing this thread two months ago and realising why Apple hasn’t implemented RCS yet. The standard might need some more work before it’s ready for the big time.

GitHub courts controversy by suspending Tornado Cash developers and reneging on cookie commitments

Len

Re: emoji

If I'm not mistaken the American legal concept of Freedom of Speech (the European legal concept of Freedom of Expression works differently) is to regulate the relationship between an individual and the state, it doesn't not apply to companies. You can get fired from your corporate job if your boss doesn't like your speech.

In this case GitHub does not have a duty to host your code whereas it has a duty to follow local laws around sanctioned entities. I'm typically hardly a defender of GitHub but in this case I don't see how else they could have responded (perhaps they could have left the contributors' accounts active with a warning to not put Tornado Cash code back).

GitLab versus The Zombie Repos: An old plot needs a new twist

Len
Meh

Unfortunate timing

The timing of this has been disastrous for GitLab. This happens just when groups such as the Software Freedom Conservancy were making inroads with their Give up GitHub campaign on the back of GitHub giving away other people’s open source code as part of its CoPilot feature.

That GiveUpGitHub move seems to have caught on, judging from noises around the #GiveUpGitHub hashtag on Twitter and Mastodon and alternative services such as Hostea and Codeberg are reporting a lot of interest.

Of course the most pure open source advocates would still have been suspicious of GitLab but if they had played their cards right GitLab could have been a refuge for many people leaving GitHub but slightly hesitant of moving to smaller forges such as Hostea or Codeberg.

That doesn’t solve GitLab’s Freemium economics problem, of course, though perhaps an influx of paying projects on the back of the GitHub exodus could have changed it for the better.

Microsoft thinks there are people on 2G networks who want to use Outlook

Len
Headmaster

Re: "the best Outlook experience"

Hardware is usually ridiculously overpowered and relatively cheap. Development time is very expensive. A lot of effort going into optimisation doesn't make commercial sense.

Eutelsat and OneWeb to join forces across orbits in $3.4b merger

Len

Re: RoI

Apparently the UK government said (when the initial details of the deal started coming out) that their investment had made $100 million profit. Since then the share price of Eutelsat has taken a big hit (Eutelsat's old shareholders are not that excited about their healthy, profit making, dividend paying company suddenly taking a huge punt with buying such a speculative company as OneWeb) so that profit has vanished.

However, if I were the UK government I would hold on to the shares as I expect them to slowly recover.

Len

It is indeed a takeover. OneWeb has been looking for more money for a while, even after the UK government investment, and they seem to have found it in Eutelsat.

That shouldn't hinder any coverage. When ARM was sold to the Japanese in September 2016, a few months after the controversial referendum, it was hailed as "A sign of confidence in Britain that a Japanese company was investing in the UK!".

Len
Holmes

Re: Compatibility?

It's indeed quite unlikely that the sats are already compatible. Though perhaps they could do something with combining it in the consumer equipment.

The benefits of GEO are its massive footprint, a single satellite can cover half a continent. The downsides of GEO for internet are the latencies because the sats are so far away.

The benefits of LEO are the low latencies because they are quite close to earth. The downsides of LEO are the enormous amounts of sats needed for decent coverage. Apparently OneWeb has a roadmap for 648 LEO sats at this stage.

I remember they used to pull stunts such as sending the uplink (and thus the request) from consumer to server over a copper cable to keep the latency low and then send the download over the GEO sat because of its enormous (for the time) bandwidth.

If Eutelsat consumer premises equipment can receive from the GEO sats but send to the LEO sats you might be able to pull something similar off. You could have fast, low latency, internet in your remote Alpine hut.

India's Internet Association ends crypto advocacy to do something more productive

Len
Holmes

Russian capital flight

It is unclear why the Kremlin and its masters are Putin the boot in to crypto. Pundits have suggested read-only techno-rubles could be an instrument that might help Moscow evade the many sanctions imposed because of its illegal invasion of Ukraine.

Russia is suffering from tremendous 'capital flight' at the moment as Russians with some money try to get their Rubles out of the country and into Dollars or Euros. Moscow is actively pursuing capital controls to stem this.

Cryptocurrencies work quite well for shifting large amounts across borders if legal routes are limited. I suspect the Kremlin decided that the downside of capital flight is greater than the upside of sanction busting. They could be right.

Bosch to pour $3 billion into European chip fabs and research

Len
Thumb Up

Re: Finally

Agreed. What many people don't understand is that these plans are not expected to produce a European GPU or mobile CPU manufacturer. They are expected to support the existing and future European manufacturing giants in anything from planes, trains, cars and helicopters to medical equipment, rockets, power tools and kitchen appliances.

Many of those sectors have been hard hit by recent supply chain issues and to prevent being that dependent on Asian manufacturing plants ever again they prefer production within, let's say, a 1000 KM radius. When it comes to supply chain risks, even a Chinese company manufacturing in Italy is better than an Italian company manufacturing in Asia.

Most of those industries are perfectly happy with anything under 100nm and prioritise reliability over cutting edge.

US must adopt USB-C charging standard like EU, senators urge

Len
Happy

Don't worry, that's where the Brussels Effect comes in. Device manufacturers prefer to make as few different models as possible to reach as many markets as possible so models in the US will just get USB-C around the same time, regardless of whether American law requires it.

The only manufacturers that might be evading this are the ones that don't plan to sell any devices in the EU anyway. But for them mass production, harmonised production processes, and economies of scale will probably make USB-C the cheapest or simplest option.

The same thing happened with the 2009 EU push to stop using proprietary phone chargers. It only officially applies in the EU but you'll struggle to find proprietary phones chargers anywhere nowadays as the impact was global.

Atos, UK government reach settlement on $1 billion Met Office supercomputer dispute

Len

Re: Weather Forecasting

I found more details on the resolution improvements.

The new supercomputer capacity will enable a number of important changes for the ECMWF’s operations, including crucial progress towards its goal of improving the horizontal resolution of its forecast from 18km to 10km and increasing the number of vertical resolution layers from 91 to 137. The ECMWF also has an ambitious goal of a 5km ensemble forecast set for 2025.

ECMWF Opens Bologna Datacenter in Preparation for Atos Supercomputer

Len

Re: Weather Forecasting

Yes, they'll probably supplement it with weather monitoring stations but, from what I understand, most of the data is from satellites these days. And satellite resolution has improved enormously.

Len
Happy

Re: Weather Forecasting

Here is an interesting piece on how Americans living in hurricane prone areas started using the ECMWF forecasts years ago. Ars Technica: 'The European forecast model already kicking America’s butt just Improved'.

For most of us, myself included, probably the most important thing to get out of a a weather forecast is knowing whether to take a coat because it may rain on the way back. If, however, you're in shipping or aviation you want to look a bit further ahead. If you work in agriculture knowing if it's going to rain next week can be the difference between a wasted crop and a bumper harvest. If you're in a potential path of a hurricane it can be a matter of life and death.

What I understand from analysis is that the gains in meteorological accuracy the last three decades have been huge, particularly for a few days out. And old man looking at the sky might be able to tell you it's going to rain overnight, he definitely can't tell you if it's going to rain next week.

A lot of the computing power of the ECMWF has moved from Reading in the UK to Bologna in Italy and once their new supercomputer is fully operational some of the expected improvements are in the two to four weeks range. Predicting the likelihood of a storm in a certain area four weeks before it happens! One of the ways this is achieved is a higher resolution using much smaller 'tiles' and therefore much more data to work with.

UK government still trying to get Arm to IPO in London

Len
Happy

Re: Notice...

What would a business model of a RISC-V company look like? This is not a snarky comment, I'm genuinely interested.

ARM made it's money out of developing an architecture and then licensing that out to tech companies with deep pockets. It owns both the architecture IP as the IP to its reference designs and everyone (bar three or so companies) just license a reference design off ARM to use in their kit.

If some new company stood up and build something around RISC-V they wouldn't own the architecture IP as that's public. Would they then have to compete in creating the best reference designs and license that to others? Would they have to go into building own fabs?

Lenovo opens doors on first in-house European factory

Len
Thumb Up

Re: Tables have turned

It makes perfect sense from a Chinese perspective. Hungary is a 'High Income' country and wages are much higher than in China (GDP per Capita at PPP in Hungary is almost double that of China). However, we've seen with the recent supply chain disruptions that being a bit cheaper isn't worth much if you can't get your stock into the supply chain at all.

The reason many American and Asian companies have started to open factories in Europe recently is because they want to be closer to the people or companies buying their products. We're talking about roughly half a billion of the richest consumers in the world and some of the world's biggest manufacturing bases (four of the ten biggest manufacturing superpowers are in Europe) that are sourcing parts. Sourcing parts closer to home is all the rage at the moment and Chinese companies will need to follow if they care about their bottom line.

Safari is crippling the mobile market, and we never even noticed

Len
Happy

Webkit development is speeding up again

Interestingly, Apple seems to have re-prioritised Webkit development recently. Apple have hired Jen Simmons (formerly at Mozilla and also a member of the CSS working group at W3C) to work with developers and she has reached out to the community to report their annoyances, bug reports, suggested improvements etc.

That was a couple of months ago and since then I've seen a lot of back and forth about various bits where Webkit is/was behind or sloppy. If you are a developer that needs to waste time finding ways around Webkit issues that work well on other major browsers, it helps to make sure she knows about them.

Apple introduced the concept of the Safari Technology Preview (essentially alfa/beta versions of Safari with code that will eventually make it to normal Safari) a few years ago but lately they have seen a lot more change than usual. Also, the final versions of Safari seem to make bigger strides than they used to.

I suspect that Apple saw the writing on the wall and at least wanted to remove the accusation that it's deliberately slow with developing Webkit.

FreeBSD 13.1 is out for everything from PowerPC to x86-64

Len
Happy

Personally I’ve never tried FreeBSD as desktop OS, it’s server only for me. But, if it helps, the FreeBSD forum is more or less dedicated to people who want to use FreeBSD as a desktop OS for daily use.

FreeBSD developers have their own places where they gather, server admins another. Desktop users have the forum.

Also, considering TrueNAS is built on FreeBSD and can be installed on commodity hardware, their forum is sometimes a good place to look for troubleshooting hardware compatibility issues.

Len

About the word 'distro'

The word distro as used in the Linux world is not entirely applicable to the BSD space.

With Linux there are a bunch of people working on a kernel and only on a kernel. Completely separate companies and teams then take that kernel, take stuff from other companies and projects, develop some stuff themselves and pack it all neatly together as a distro. That distro is then a full OS.

That separation doesn't exist with FreeBSD. The same people that work on the kernel also work on the rest of the base OS. FreeBSD is a whole OS, not just a kernel. Imagine if Linus Torvalds and team would create their own distro on top of the kernel and release it themselves. This is some times considered one of the benefits of the BSDs versus the various Linux distros as everything fits together much better because it was all designed by the same people with the same goal. Not everyone would notice this (straight away or ever) but I suppose the deeper you dig into the workings of FreeBSD vs a Linux distro the more you'd notice.

Len
Headmaster

Re: Question

MacOS is not BSD, it’s mainly userland that was originally lifted from BSD. That means that superficially the interfaces show some resemblance (to people like me who use FreeBSD on the server and macOS on the desktop) and both are POSIX compliant.

Under the hood, however, BSD and macOS are wildly different. The kernel is different (the XNU Kernel in macOS is hybrid whereas the FreeBSD kernel is monolithic), the whole hardware layer is different (unfortunately, otherwise macOS drivers could be used on BSD) and many newer developments were developed separately in macOS and BSD. You could not take a FreeBSD binary and run it on macOS, though it would probably be a lot easier to recompile a FreeBSD application for macOS than it would be for Windows.

Probably most famously copied from FreeBSD is the network stack. Nearly every OS (including Windows) was at some point heavily leaning on the TCP/IP network code from the BSDs as they were the first to have serious IPv4+IPv6 dual stack network support. That was the result of the KAME project and the code was released under a BSD license in 2006 so world+dog could include with just an attribution.

Elon Musk says Twitter buy 'cannot move forward' until spam stats spat settled

Len
Holmes

Re: Less than 5%!!

Musk claims that Twitter uses a sample size of a hundred accounts. Twitter claims that it's quite a bit more complex than that. It's hard to assess as an outsider as Twitter has the benefit of having lots of backend data to use in its analysis.

For instance, without access to backend data it's hard to know whether an account is active or not. There will be quite a few accounts of people who log in daily and follow topics and hashtags, DM with other users, click on ads etc. (and are therefore considered 'monetizable' by Twitter) but that rarely post themselves. To outsiders those accounts look dead, Twitter knows they are not.

Similarly there might be accounts that look perfectly normal to us but where Twitter knows the account is part of a batch of accounts that are harmless but that they know all come from the same IP address at a university research lab and so might not be actual 'monetizable' users.

Also, there should be a lot more consideration for the fact that the set of 'non-monetizeable' accounts are not homogenous at all. For instance, El Reg has a Twitter account. It has over 100,000 followers so clearly many people believe the account adds value to their experience on Twitter. That means that accounts like that add value to Twitter as a company too. Yet, it makes no sense to consider these types of accounts as 'monetizable' as the people/teams operating such an account will not respond to ads. Twitter will not include them in their count of 'Monetizable Monthly Active Users' but will, at least internally, not lump them together with spam accounts, political bots etc.

All in all this means that Twitter has the ability to do much more accurate analysis than any outsider ever has. Whether Twitter Inc. are truthful in their statements or not is a separate matter but analysis by outsiders, which can be very interesting and insightful, will likely always suffer from a greater inaccuracy than Twitter's internal data.

Lawyers say changes to UK data law will make life harder for international businesses

Len
Unhappy

Re: And nothing much will change for 95% of companies

The biggest problems will be for the many UK tech services companies. If you are a data analytics company and some of your customers have users all over the EU, your company will need to meet the legal requirements of the GDPR before they can give you access to some of their user data. Same if you run an online payroll system, office and collaboration tools, business process outsourcing etc. etc.

It will likely pan out as a classic case of the Brussels effect, UK companies doing international business will still have to adhere to GDPR standards. Only UK companies that target the UK alone because it's legally too much hassle to go international (betting firms? pension tools? some fintechs?) have the luxury of a single regulatory environment with reduced data protection. It will be very interesting to see what this will do the SaaS sector in the UK.

Enterprise-strength FreeBSD-based TrueNAS releases v13.0

Len
Thumb Up

Giving back to the FLOSS community

"Over the decades, it's employed many notable Unix luminaries..."
You can say that again, they currently have one of the key OpenZFS developers (Ryan Moeller, "freqlabs") on the payroll. It's a great way to give back to the community and make sure that all your company's itches are being scratched at the same time. More companies should do that.

Mozilla browser Firefox hits the big 100

Len
Holmes

Re: A well worn story.

I think the (perceived) lack of response to what a group of very vocal users want can't really be the cause of a smaller market share. Most of those vocal requests are those of power users (like me) who are always a minority.

If you want Firefox to be successful (as in having enough of a user base that web developers take FF compatibility into account) then you need to do what large amounts of users seem to want. If Chrome is by far the most popular browser among the masses it makes no sense to purposefully make a browser that doesn't look and feel like Chrome. That way irrelevance lies. And for the good of the web I think it's important to have a major alternative browser that's not attached to a big corporation with some times dubious motives. If you don't care about having a mainstream browser (that web developers take into account) then there's always Konqueror or Vivaldi.

Furthermore, there is a tension between responding to user feedback and progress. We all know the (likely apocryphal) quote by Henry Ford “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.” Part of the success of Steve Jobs period at Apple was creating a culture of innovation that created products that people didn't know they wanted until they saw it. We're people really asking for iPods? I doubt it. But it did become one of the most successful pieces of consumer electronics (and fashion accessory?) ever.

On Safari for iOS the URL bar recently moved to the bottom of the screen. Did I ever think that that would work much better? Absolutely not. Would I want it to move back to the top? Absolutely not because it works so much better.

I have seen so many UI changes since I started using a browser called Phoenix that would be renamed to Firebird and then renamed to Firefox. Every time swathes of people complain, some with valid arguments relating to efficient user of screen real estate, many just because they had trouble getting used to change.

Remember when people complained about this new ‘Tabs on top’ design? It’s hard to imagine now because ‘Tabs on top’ replaced one of the most moronic people-hating UX flaws where the tabs seem to not be related to what they were displaying at all. There will be extensions that can replicate the old behaviour for luddites but trust me, those extensions usually die out when it turns out too few people really care long enough about the old behaviour. Just for fun, install Firefox 2, Firefox 4 and Firefox 35 and see how much you hate them because so many things in hindsight just didn’t make sense (for instance, why on earth was some many screen real estate taken up by browser controls instead of the actual web site?).

The power of Firefox should be that it’s not a tool for corporate surveillance like Chrome is. That doesn’t mean that it can’t take UX cues from Chrome. The Chrome team will likely have more data on user behaviour and UX than any other browsers maker ever will, there’s no harm in copying some of those research findings.

Is looking too much like Chrome the cause of Firefox losing users? I think not. I think this argument often greatly undermined when you see comments such as "I'm moving to Chrome because Firefox has become too much like Chrome"

Is Mozilla immune to making decisions that were stupid (some times in hindsight)? Absolutely not. Is Firefox without flaws? Absolutely not. Is the fact that Firefox has dropped from 500 million users to 200 million users down to being too much like Chrome or not listening to every single (some times conflicting) user request? Absolutely not.

Len

Re: Firefox is dead

Don't forget that percentages only tell half of the story. The total internet population has exploded in the mean time. A 50% share of 1 billion internet users is 500 million, a 15% share of 4 billion internet users is 600 million. A browser could drop from 50% to a 15% share while only increasing its user base.

At its peak usage Firefox had about 500 million users, now it has about 200 million. The absolute decline is much smaller than it appears.

Elon Musk set to buy Twitter in $44b deal, promises stuff

Len
Meh

King Leopold II of Belgium personally owned Congo (it wasn’t a Belgian colony but a personal possession of the King) and that has through time, up until today, been considered the richest country in the world when it comes to natural assets. That’s also their major problem. It has the mother of all ‘Resource curses’.

Twitter faces existential threat from world's richest techbro

Len

I’m sorry but I have to disagree. If Twitter was only ‘a rancid, fetid swamp inhabited by predators and parasites, and fed with a continuous stream of sewage and effluent from the Big $ interests surrounding it’ then it would be easy. Just delete your account and never go back.

The problem is that it’s also amazing in certain corners. I’m not an archeologist as mentioned in the article but I’m sure eminent archeologists have very useful disclosures and debates on Twitter that us mere-mortals can listen to and learn from, if we wanted.

I’m some times active on Twitter because in my area it just so happens that 90% of the experts are on Twitter and it’s a great way to read swift and well-thought through analysis of recent developments. Straight from the horse’s mouth without a journalist in between who may not fully understand the matter or needs to dumb it down for their general audience.

If you stay away from popular culture and politics (seriously, 99% of people have an opinion that is not worthy of being heard by anyone else) then Twitter can be amazing.

I now only dip into Twitter when there is a relevant development and I want to gauge expert opinion. I occasionally stick around for a week or so but invariably get very depressed about the state of the world. I have largely switched from Twitter to Mastodon and follow a bunch of the same media on there. On the whole Mastodon is a much nicer experience than Twitter but the big problem is that most of the valuable experts are not on Mastodon. So, even though it’s technically at least as good as (if not better than) Twitter, it lacks some of the value that Twitter has. And until a major exodus from Twitter to Mastodon (perhaps with a bit of help from Musk) I suspect it will remain that way.

Huawei reportedly furloughs Russian staff and stops taking orders

Len
Headmaster

Russia is a small market, probably not worth the risk

I've said it before, let's not forget that Russia is a small market. It might have an enormous land mass (the largest country in the world, covering over 17,125,192 km2, and encompassing more than one-eighth of Earth's inhabited land area, according to Wikipedia), it has only 145 million inhabitants.

Its economy is slightly larger than that of Spain but the Russian people are 70% poorer than the Spanish people. There is only one EU country with a poorer population than Russia and that is Bulgaria. Moreover, these economic figures are from before some of the harshest economic sanctions the world has ever seen. The Russian economy never really recovered from the sanctions post the annexation of Crimea and those were peanuts compared with the current sanctions. The ruble currency is being propped up artificially but they can't keep that up for much longer and every time the capital controls are eased slightly we see signs of capital flight. Russia is suffering a big brain drain at the moment as educated people are leaving the country to Turkey, Armenia and Georgia.

Regardless of how much the Chinese government wants to maintain a relationship with Russia on a political level, as a Chinese company it is playing with fire to keep doing business with such a small, and submerging, market if the risk is losing custom in the richest parts of the world, Europe and North America.

Elon Musk buys 9.2% of Twitter, sends share price to the Moon

Len
Happy

Re: I hope he does take it over

The admin of one of the largest Mastodon servers (the decentralised alternative to Twitter, also some times dubbed "Twitter without the Nazis") said yesterday that he noticed that "Sign-ups really picked up" after the news that Musk has joined the Twitter board.

A quick look at the cumulative Mastodon user count suggests sign-ups per hour are now more than double where they were a week ago so the data seems to support that statement.

Will Chinese giants defy US sanctions on Russia? We asked a ZTE whistleblower

Len
Headmaster

Re: Why not?

Those Chinese companies can, of course, keep trading with Russia.

There is a downside, though, and that is how these sanctions work. The US and EU have imposed sanctions and they essentially say that any company that doesn't stick to those sanctions cannot trade with them. Considering the US and EU are the most advanced markets in the world that consist of the world's largest chunk of the wealthiest people, for many companies it means a big impact if you lose them as your market.

An additional complication is that many Chinese products contain technologies or components from the US or EU, giving them additional leverage.

The bigger the economic power the more potential for declaring effective sanctions. That is also why sanctions by, let's say, Australia or Zambia don't really make a dent and so don't get talked about as much as those from the big ones.

Len

Re: I don't think many Chinese companies will defy the sanctions

A serious chunk of the Russian Federation is in Asia but most of its population and economy is in Europe and I don't see that change any time soon.

Len
Holmes

Re: I don't think many Chinese companies will defy the sanctions

How those company defaults are going to pan out will be quite interesting. It’s indeed not a normal situation so the fallout is quite unpredictable at the moment. The biggest hit will probably be for a few major US banks that were counter party to these loans.

Interestingly the loan repayment on sovereign debt that the Russian government had to make two weeks ago was an entirely New York affair. The Russian govt owed the money to Goldman Sachs but Russian government reserves were held by Citibank. Citibank had to get an approval for the funds to be transferred from Citi to GS and that is was happened in the end. The bill was paid but the money never left New York.

I am by no means an expert on this but I believe there are some interesting precedents with Argentinian defaults and successful (if very lengthy) recovery of money through various international courts. I can imagine that, would the Russian government decide to nationalise certain assets, lawyers for the debtors would argue that a debt is now owed by the Russian government and would try to claim against the billions of dollars and euros that Russia holds in foreign banks.

A similar thing might happen with the $10bn worth of leased planes that Russia has now effectively stolen. Those planes can’t fly Internationally any more for risk of being impounded and with sums like that, the lawyers for the leasing companies will have a lot of way to go before it becomes uneconomical to attempt compensation.

As for energy. It’s definitely a temporary major headache. Let’s, however, not exaggerate the hold that “Russia and China” would have. First of all, China is a major net importer of energy (Australia got rich by selling coal to China) so they have no role in disrupting global markets and likely also no desire, China’s most valuable markets are Europe and North America. Secondly, Russia is a big player in the oil space but that still only constitutes about 12.5% of global oil sales. Many other countries sell oil and gas too, and in large quantities.

I think what we will see is that, for a decade or so, some countries will have to deal with other regimes to buy oil that they may have been less keen to work with in other times. Venezuela, many of the Gulf states, some North African countries.

And that is just oil. Six of the ten biggest electricity exporters in the world are European. Two out of ten biggest gas exporters in the world are European.

All in all this will spur an enormous extra incentive, now with added economic benefits due to high wholesale prices, into alternative energy forms. I have a client in the hydrogen space (hydrogen is not really a source of energy but definitely a growing store of energy) who are already seeing (within three weeks!) that countries that had hydrogen ambitions have suddenly opened up the spending taps to accelerate reducing dependence on Russia. High fossil fuel prices always improve the return on investment of renewables projects.

As for solar panels and wind turbines. I am not aware of Russia playing any serious role in those areas. China does to some extent but they will not stop selling to their biggest markets to appease a dictator in one of their client states.

I think, on the whole, the energy shake up caused by the invasion will cause an awkward decade for some countries. In the medium term I think Russia has shot itself in the foot, however, as I don’t see the Chinese willing (or able) to pay the Russians for energy as much as the Europeans used to do. And I don't see European countries coming back to buy fossil fuels from Russia in a decade or so. That trade is dead for good.

My main area of concern is other minerals and metals. Russia has quite a bit of commodities that have become more important and I suspect that is going to turn out a bigger headache than energy. Watch that space.

Len
Holmes

I don't think many Chinese companies will defy the sanctions

I don't think many Chinese companies will defy the sanctions. Sure, there is an economic incentive to keep selling to Russia but let's not forget that the market is small.

We often see the size of the Russian economy compared to Italy but that is nonsense. Before the sanctions the Italian economy was almost 25% larger than the Russian economy. A more accurate comparison is Spain. The Russian economy was slightly bigger than Spain's but the Russian population is about 70% poorer than Spain's. In a list of 50 European countries ranked by GDP per Capita (PPP) Russia held the 40th place, sandwiched between Croatia and Bulgaria. The Russian Federation had officially fallen from a high income country to a middle income country a few years ago. And this was all before the introduction of probably the harshest economic sanctions ever agreed.

We're likely going to see a massive rise in unemployment in Russia now many foreign companies have left and many Russian companies are expected to default on their foreign loans. This will directly impact the purchasing power of the Russian consumer and Russian companies looking for suppliers. I seriously doubt many Chinese company will risk becoming the next Huawei (who ultimately got done for breaking the sanctions against Iran through a 'front store' company called Skycom) by selling into a relatively small and poor market.

The Chinese government may be slightly favourable to Russia, I don't expect many Chinese companies will.

OVHcloud datacenter 'lacked' automatic fire extinguishers, electrical cutoff

Len
Headmaster

Re: Strasbourg, France

I always have to count backwards through the wars until the Franco-Prussian war to remember which country the Alsace is in currently. :-)

Fun fact, because it is located at the border between two great European powers that were often at war with each other, Strasbourg has become a symbol for European peace. When the European Coal and Steel Community was formed in 1951, with the express intent to tie the French and German coal and steel industries together to make another war practically impossible, Strasbourg was chosen as the seat of its Assembly. A city that is culturally both German and French.

Many reforms later the ECSC has become EU and the Assembly has become the European Parliament. That's also the reason that formally the main seat of the European Parliament is in Strasbourg while, for obvious and practical reasons, it actually mainly meets in Brussels.

Strasbourg is also the seat of the European Court of Human Rights, an institution of the Council of Europe (you know, the one Russia was kicked out of two weeks ago), that interprets the European Convention on Human Rights (you know, the one a number of British Conservative MPs want to get rid of). The Council of Europe, the European Convention on Human Rights and the European Court of Human Rights are all direct results of WWII that had ended only a few years prior.

Strasbourg is therefore steeped in history and symbolism.

Len
Headmaster

The funny thing is, steel is actually not preferred in many fire risk situation. The problem is that it melts after X length exposure at Y temperature and then suddenly collapses entirely. It can also warp quite easily long before it melts.

That is the reason in modern buildings steel beams, columns, joists, lintels etc. are often sprayed with a fire retardant cement-like coating sprayed on to encapsulate them.

That is also the reason many fire doors are deliberately made of solid wood, they can hold the fire off for a surprisingly long period. A wooden door maintains its structural integrity in the unburnt half even when the other half has completely perished.

Intel to spend €17bn on chip mega-factory in Germany

Len
Headmaster

Re: No ASML or Imec

The Plateau de Saclay where all this is based is a geographical feature, a sort of hemicycle plateau that straddles the south of Paris. Considering we're not just talking about a single university campus but also all the spin-offs, companies and laboratories that have chosen that location for the talent, other companies that in turn have chosen that location because their customers or suppliers are there etc. (the text book cluster effect) it makes sense to talk about it in a wider sense.

Similarly we don't speak of Santa Clara but of Silicon Valley and in the UK we often to say 'Silicon Fen' instead of Cambridge because the cluster is not limited to one location within the city of Cambridge.

Len

Re: as long as it is not next to Tesla Berlin

Yes, different states. And I know first hand that Saxony-Anhalt is extremely keen to attract foreign companies and willing to spend big bucks to overcome any obstacles a company might have.

If you’re looking for a place to establish your business in Germany and you’re not too set on a location, definitely put them on the short list. Plenty of space too.

So yes, that will likely have played a part.

Len

Erm, the UK has seen tremendous amounts of investment in financial services, agriculture, professional services and automotive coming its way during our EU membership.

Len

No ASML or Imec

It’s interesting that neither the Netherlands nor Belgium have featured in these plans, despite Intel CEO Gelsinger stating that:

Europe has two jewels. One is ASML, the most advanced lithography, and the other is imec, the most advanced semiconductor research in the world.

I don’t think they could ever have been in the running for a fab but they could have been a location for R&D. I guess they couldn’t compete with Paris-Saclay, they boast 155,000 researchers and R&D technicians and 65,000 students.

Len
Happy

Re: as long as it is not next to Tesla Berlin

The new site is going to be roughly equidistant between Volkswagen's biggest plant and Tesla's new plant. I don't think that is a coincidence.

It is remarkable, however, that Intel didn't choose to go to Silicon Saxony, Germany's main semiconductor cluster. I think that's because they wanted to be close to customers, not competitors. See my earlier point about being near customers.

Len

It's looks quite clear to me that Intel chose its sites near major manufacturing clusters (or in the case of Ireland, next to an existing site). Businesses (and politicians) have decided that supply chains need to be literally shorter so European manufacturing is less dependent on supply chains that stretch all the way to Asia. Building your fabs within a few hundred kilometres of your customers makes perfect sense.

Manufacturing is not considered sexy in the UK and had been the bastard stepchild of UK policy long before Brexit. Obviously Brexit hasn't helped and the bastard stepchild status has been confirmed again with folies such as creating additional red tape in the form of the UKCA certification fiasco and reams and reams of new customs declarations.

Unfortunately, one of the remaining giant manufacturing sectors, automotive, is impacted quite a bit by Bexit too and the question is how well it can recover post pandemic. It's looking dire at the moment.

That sort of rules out the UK for a fab. Now, Intel's R&D centre is going to the computing centre of excellence around the Université Paris-Saclay and an argument could be had that Cambridge could have been in the running for that. It appears, however, that the UK was ruled out years ago and that was reiterated last October.

Biden issues Executive Order to tame digital currencies

Len
Headmaster

The case for using the blockchain for currency (if you want to call it that because the existing cryptocurrencies tend to act quite poorly as useable currency, they’re more like a commodity) does exist.

It’s usually not the ones that you hear crypto-bros talk about. Crypto-bros come in two flavours, they’re either clueless and are unknowingly doing the dirty work for someone who is not clueless, or they’re lying to you about their true motives and goals. Either way, don't pay too much attention to what they say.

I can’t be arsed right now to go into a full description of the pros and cons of Bitcoin, Ethereum, Dogecoin etc. etc. Perhaps another day. Besides, this article is mainly about something entirely different, a Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC).

A CBDC is essentially a form of digital money like we already have. Most people barely carry coins and notes anymore, it usually sits digitally in a bank account. Like a digital IOU from a private company to give you the equivalent value in coins and notes if you ask for it. Those coins and notes, in turn, are an IOU from the Central Bank that has created the coins and notes, to give you the equivalent value in something else. Think: gold or something. This is so theoretical that it barely matters what they would really give you in return.

There is something funny happening in the above paragraph. A public institution like the Central Bank makes the money for the people but it actually has no real relationship with the people. Except for oversight of course, Central Banks are usually operating within boundaries set by a democratically elected body such as a parliament or government. But that is as close as you and me get to a Central Bank. In real life we tend to rely on private banks instead.

Our employers don't give our salary to us at the end of the month, they send it to a private bank of our choosing who will keep it for us and displays their IOUs to us in the form of a balance in a banking app. We rely on private banks to be truthful about what they keep for us and to always be there when we need access to our own money.

That system with its curious split between public and private banking has worked well for over a century until the Global Financial Crisis of 2008. That's when it suddenly became clear that even private banks that are worth billions could suddenly collapse because of a lack of trust. When it suddenly became hard for everyone to assess value of things, the actual value of things could magically disappear. Safety funds had to pay out, people lost chunks of their savings (haircuts) or their entire house (foreclosure), Governments had to step in to save 'systemic' banks. The super brains went looking for ways to better weather a similar storm in the future. Some of them think they have found it in CBDCs.

One of the things that a Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC) can do is, for the first time ever, create a direct relationship between a member of the public and the public bank. It is explicitly not meant as a replacement for private banks, it's meant as an additional bank account that you and me can hold with a Central Bank. There may or may not be some benefits to having that separate account in normal times. It's in times of crisis, however, that it suddenly becomes vital. Central Banks don't go bankrupt like private banks do. Let's say there's a major crisis (financial crisis, a war, a pandemic) and a government decides it wants to give money to everyone (whether 'helicopter money', 'stimulus checks' or whatever form) then putting it straight into people's account at the Central Bank is much easier and safer (putting helicopter money in a bank that might be about to collapse doesn't help the government or the individual) than using private banks.

Why do this on the blockchain? Because having a permanently immutable ledger does some times have benefits. And a better designed blockchain with this specific goal in mind can prevent the negatives of most money-on-the-blockchain (deflationary, high energy use, cumbersome, expensive) projects.

Anyway, if this piques anyone's interest, I'd start with what the Bank of International Settlements (an industry association of Central Banks, if you will) has published about it. BIS: Central bank cryptocurrencies. The ECB has published some interesting stuff about a digital euro and China has already launched one: China’s digital yuan is a warning to the world.

Len
Headmaster

Re: over a decade trying to get inflation up from its perilously low level

Good question, and a reasonable one to ask.

One of the biggest fears of most macro economists is deflation. That's when money increases in value over time. That seems nice at first sight, you get something (value) for nothing (waiting another day).

The big problem is that it causes a large economic collapse as most trade from micro to macro would grind to a halt. Why buy something today if you can hold off until tomorrow when you'll get more for the same money? If you thought the lockdowns were bad for shops, wait till you see deflation. That causes havoc for all sorts of things, from basic food supply to advanced manufacturing supply chains.

Skirting around that zero percent inflation is therefore sailing very close to the wind. The slightest disturbance can throw an economy into deflationary territory. And, importantly, stopping inflation that is too high (the current ideal is typically 'just under 2% per year') is a walk in the park compared to stopping deflation. Once you're in a deflationary spiral it's extremely hard to get out of. In modern times you might consider abandoning a currency altogether and switch to someone else's currency (just like the USD and EUR are used as secondary currency in some economies).

There is also another benefit of inflation. It's inherently democratic (not in the strictly political definition but more in the sense of equitable). Inflation favours the people who have little over the people who have a lot. Debts are slowly erased and people with (lots of) money are incentivised to invest their money instead of lazily leaning back and letting the passing of time increase their wealth. Deflation makes the 'haves' get richer while the 'have nots' get ever more indebted to the 'haves'. Inflation does the opposite.

Len
Mushroom

That hyperinflation can occur is absolutely true. But the last time that happened to a serious currency is a century ago. If anything, the super brains (ever tried reading one of these? My head usually comes close to exploding after a few paragraphs) that discuss and set monetary policy have spent over a decade trying to get inflation up from its perilously low level. To no avail. It took a pandemic to get it above the coveted 2% a year. The definition of hyperinflation requires something in the range of 50% a month.

More interestingly, many cryptocurrencies suffer from a severe risk of deflation (and if you had to choose, you’d always prefer hyperinflation over even the lowest level of deflation) because the people who designed them either never read a single economics book or (if they had and took the warnings from economics text books as a manual for destruction) prefer to see the world burn and everyone being perpetually indebted to a small elite.

There are arguments for using the blockchain for finance but inflation isn’t one of them.

Len

Re: Bitcoin Equals Freedom

Bitcoin is essentially controlled by the owners of so called "stable coins". They often "print" money out of thin air by shady accounting and falsely claiming they have received real money in return for Bitcoin. A hundred or so people globally who together set the price of Bitcoin by fiddling with the numbers.

That the Bitcoin algorithm and past ledger are immutable does not act as a safeguard against 'wash trading' or artificial valuations. In fact, the complete lack of oversight makes it much easier. It's like time travel to the 19th century but taking a 21st century printing press with you.

Len

Re: Yes and no

Pseudonymous, and that is surprisingly dangerous for users of cryptocurrencies. That is because at the same time it is fully transparent and each and every transaction and even individual 'coin' can be traced.

That means that it can be unknown right now who is the owner of wallet XYZ that everyone can peer into, that is not necessarily always the case for ever. If, at some point, the owner of a specific wallet is identified (for instance because they are a celeb who publicly buys, sells or auctions something on the blockchain) then all past activity in that wallet is instantly attributable for everyone.

In the case of celebs that is perhaps interesting for gutter journalism, but in the case of law enforcement going after criminals that is very interesting. No more need for court orders or convincing uncooperative banks to disclose information. Some small understaffed police team in Uruguay might arrest someone locally who was paid in cryptocurrency by someone on the other side of the planet. They can now trace that money back years and years sitting behind a computer screen in Uruguay. No need to convince a Russian/Vietnamese/Ghanaian court that you want access to someone's bank account. You already have it, transactions going back a decade perhaps.

One of the most striking things about the arrest of the couple that is accused of laundering billions from a past Bitcoin hack is that so many years later, every single detail of each and every one of their transactions was still publicly available. To police investigators but also to me.

European nations battle to bag some of Intel's billions

Len
Headmaster

Re: Italy makes quite a bit of sense for a semiconductor fab

I don’t think Intel's fab location strategy is about semiconductor knowledge or prowess.

Intel CEO Pat Gelsinger has said “Europe has two jewels. One is ASML, the most advanced lithography, and the other is IMEC, the most advanced semiconductor research in the world.” I would, however, be surprised if Intel were to choose the Netherlands (AMSL) or Belgium (IMEC) for a plant. I get the impression Intel is not looking for fabs near suppliers (be that material or knowledge) but near customers.

Hence Intel hasn’t chosen Germany’s semiconductor knowledge cluster dubbed “Silicon Saxony” near Dresden but opted for building a fab in Magdeburg. Magdeburg is roughly equidistant between Volkswagen’s biggest factory and Tesla’s new factory. That may or may not be a coincidence but it does give me the impression that it’s not knowledge clusters they’re looking for.

If Intel were to come to the UK, and I believe they ruled that out years ago, I suspect it wouldn’t be around knowledge cluster Cambridge (ARM, Raspberry PI) but rather around a manufacturing cluster (West Midlands?).

Len
Headmaster

Italy makes quite a bit of sense for a semiconductor fab

Italy, meanwhile, to some may not be a natural choice to establish a semiconductor fab, yet Intel is in the midst of a $5.4bn acquisition of Tower Semiconductor, which has factories in Italy, America, and Japan.

I wouldn’t say Italy is such a strange location for a semiconductor production facility. Italy is a global top-ten manufacturing and exporting powerhouse with its biggest export category (around 18% of total export value) being ‘computers and machines’ (and no, those are not just Arduinos). That is three times as much as the export of their entire car industry.

Germany and Italy are probably the biggest suppliers of machinery to China’s manufacturing sector (it’s no surprise that some of the first cases of coronavirus were in northern Italy as there is high volume constant travel between China and Italy for this particular reason). My mother in law owns a factory in West Africa and whenever she’s in Europe to visit us in London she also tags on a trip to Germany and Italy to visit suppliers of machinery.

Then there is the huge car manufacturing business, being home to the world's second largest helicopter manufacturer, not insignificant train manufacturing and a sizeable defense industry.

Italy is quite a big player in large/supercomputing too. As of last year Bologna is the home of the supercomputer of the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF) when that facility had to leave Reading in the UK. Stock market operator EuroNext is moving their huge datacentre operations from Basildon near London to Bergamo near Milan. Italy is home to a number of globally competitive supercomputers, most notably the Marconi-100 and the Leonardo and hosts a bunch of computing nodes for CERN's Worldwide LHC Computing Grid.

And, last but not least, Italy has a big aerospace sector, the fourth biggest in Europe and seventh biggest in the world. Europe’s second biggest rocket (after the Ariane by ArianeSpace) is the Vega (Vettore Europeo di Generazione Avanzata) made by Avio.

That means that if you’re producing chips for customers that want to keep their supply lines literally short then Northern Italy is definitely one of the top locations in Europe.

Users complain of missing data in UK wills search service

Len

Re: Special characters

Because dictionary attacks don’t only use a dictionary of existing words, they often also contain lists of common or known (because they were uncovered in earlier breaches) passwords. They probably even try those first before they try a normal dictionary.

Construction starts on another Asia-Europe undersea cable

Len
Go

Re: Many cables, one canal.

Agreed, although I doubt the cable runs through the actual canal as that would be tempting fate.

I would like to see a cable from Ireland to Japan via the northern route of Barents Sea and the Bering Strait. A sort of 'hedging your geographical bets' route.

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