Start up: fibre’s horsemeat moment, AMD in new Apples?, Sony’s troubled cameras, Xiaomi sales slow, and more

A discredited voice recognition system was used in scores of secret court cases which are now being disputed. Photo by Lotus Carroll on Flickr.

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A selection of 10 links for you. But is that 10 in base 10? I’m charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

Quality woes a challenge for Tesla’s high-volume car » WSJ

Mike Ramsey:

»Anne Carter had her Tesla Motors Inc. Model X sport-utility vehicle for a few days before the $138,000 electric vehicle suffered a mechanical malfunction.

On a recent morning, the car’s falcon-wing doors wouldn’t open as she prepared to drive her children’s carpool to school. “It’s a bummer; you spent all this money…and the doors won’t open,” she said in an interview while waiting for the Model X to be picked up for repairs. She expected some issues, but feels embarrassed that friends might think: “Look at the Carters—they spent all this money and the doors don’t work.”

During a very critical time for the pioneering electric-car maker, its well-to-do customers are confronting not only problems with the Model X’s rear doors but other issues, including a seat latch the company has recalled.

«

Making cars seems to be really pretty difficult.
link to this extract

 


Nvidia creates a 15bn-transistor chip for deep learning » VentureBeat

Dean Takahashi:

»Nvidia chief executive Jen-Hsun Huang announced that the company has created a new chip, the Tesla P100, with 15 billion transistors for deep-learning computing. It’s the biggest chip ever made, Huang said.

Huang made the announcement during his keynote at the GPUTech conference in San Jose, California. He unveiled the chip after he said that deep-learning artificial intelligence chips have already become the company’s fastest-growing business.

“We are changing so many things in one project,” Huang said. “The Tesla P100 has five miracles.”

Nvidia previously launched its Tesla M4 and Tesla M40 deep-learning chips, and those chips are selling fast. Now the Tesla P100 is in volume production today, Huang said.

“We decided to go all-in on A.I.,” Huang said. “This is the largest FinFET chip that has ever been done.”

«

Maybe Intel could focus on GPUs instead of CPUs? Seems to be where the business is heading.
link to this extract

 


AMD Radeon 400 series ‘Polaris’ GPUs land major Apple design wins » WCCF Tech

Khalid Moammer:

»From what we’ve been hearing Polaris is no exception. In fact our sources have confirmed that the major OEM design win that we had reported on last year is indeed for Apple.

The Sunnyvale, California based chip maker secured wins for both of its upcoming Radeon 400 series 14nm FinFET graphics chips, Polaris 10 and Polaris 11. Previously known as “Ellesmere” and “Baffin”, both of which are Arctic Islands. The chips have since been renamed to Polaris 10 and 11 respectively, in line with AMD’s newly adopted Astronomy based architectural code naming scheme which Koduri had instated after the Radeon Technologies Group was established last year.

The Polaris 10 and 11 chips will go into new desktops and notebooks from Apple, which the company plans to bring to market later this year. And although these Apple design wins may not be significant volume contributors they are very profitable.

«

That’s going to make for an interesting WWDC in June, then. These Radeon GPUs would be capable of VR work, apparently.
link to this extract

 


Two thirds ‘misled’ by fibre broadband advertising, experts compare situation to horsemeat scandal » Cable.co.uk

»Research by Cable.co.uk has revealed that two thirds of fibre broadband customers on BT’s Openreach network – which services around 80% of the UK’s total broadband customer base – are unaware their so-called ‘fibre’ service arrives at their home through a standard copper telephone line.

This is important, because the speeds available over copper reduce drastically over distance, severely limiting both current speeds and future upgradability.

Experts, speaking to Cable.co.uk, labeled the way the term ‘fibre broadband’ is widely used in the UK ‘misleading’ and compared the situation to the horsemeat scandal.

This comes just days after the Broadband Infrastructure Group (BIG), a cross-party group of MPs led by Grant Shapps, demanded an end to what it described as a “mis-selling” scandal potentially bigger than PPI and Volkswagen’s emissions tests.

«

link to this extract

 


On the road to recap » Above the Crowd

Noted venture capitalist Bill Gurley:

»While not obvious on the surface, there has been a fundamental sea-change in the investment community that has made the incremental Unicorn investment a substantially more dangerous and complicated practice. All Unicorn participants — founders, company employees, venture investors and their limited partners (LPs) — are seeing their fortunes put at risk from the very nature of the Unicorn phenomenon itself. The pressures of lofty paper valuations, massive burn rates (and the subsequent need for more cash), and unprecedented low levels of IPOs and M&A, have created a complex and unique circumstance which many Unicorn CEOs and investors are ill-prepared to navigate…

…Perhaps the seminal bubble-popping event was John Carreyrou’s October 16th investigative analysis of Theranos in the Wall Street Journal. John was the first to uncover that just because a company can raise money from a handful of investors at a very high price, it does not guarantee (i) everything is going well at the company, or (ii) those shares are permanently worth the last round valuation. Ironically, Carreyou is not a Silicon Valley-focused reporter, and the success of the piece served as a wake-up call for other journalists who may have been struck by Unicorn fever. Next came Rolfe Winkler’s deep dive “Highly Valued Startup Zenefits Runs Into Turbulence.” We should expect more of these in the future.

«

Every VC I watch on Twitter has gone bananas about this post, which warns that “the game has changed”. Meanwhile, notable that the two articles Gurley points to were in the paywalled Wall Street Journal.
link to this extract

 


Sony disposal beckons » Bloomberg Gadfly

Tim Culpan:

»In a surprise announcement, Sony cut a further 59.6bn yen [£372m, $533m] from the value of the devices unit, citing camera modules as the culprit, wiping a net 30bn yen from full-year operating income:

»

“Due to a decrease in projected future demand, Sony has revised its Mid-Range Plan for the camera module business in the Devices segment from the period beginning with the fiscal year ending March 31, 2017.”

«

How the star performer morphed into one of Sony’s biggest drags can’t be fully explained by external factors. For sure, the global mobile market is slowing, but smartphones are still posting growth, especially at the high end, as consumers are prepared to pay more for quality components such as cameras. Declines in the PC and digital still camera markets can’t account for the sudden reversal in fortunes, either: That’s been a theme for a few years.

That leaves internal factors. If this truly is a macro problem, then the sudden writedown bears a whiff of incompetence. If, on the other hand, Sony lost a key client, that says something about its ability to retain big customers, or its dependence on too few.

«

Feels like it must have lost a key client in the smartphone space. But who, and to which rival?
link to this extract

 


Secretive legal committee buries ruling against Theresa May » Politics.co.uk

Ian Dunt:

»The case also saw Dr Harrison, an expert in voice recognition, dismantle the claims about fraud – and their ability to test for fraud – made by the Home Office and ETS, the firm who ran the test. What he said was equally applicable to all the other cases where people had been wrongly accused of fraud. The evidence the Home Office relied on was identical in all cases, so knocking it down for one should knock it down for all.

But it won’t, because the reporting committee is refusing to report it. The decision means that the case cannot be cited, except under very strict and laborious conditions, in other appeals. It means many thousands of people who have been unjustly deported will not even know of its existence. The decision makes the ruling against Theresa May legally useless. It’s as if it never happened. The reporting committee has taken a damning judgement against the home secretary and buried it.

«

Dunt only refers in passing to the voice recognition stuff. ETS apparently had a contract with the UK government to find impersonation – but it “decided not to renew the contract” after the BBC exposed evidence of fraud at two of UK-based centres using the software. ETS blamed “dishonest activities of third-party contractors”. It seems the expert witness blamed ETS.
link to this extract

 


Postscript: Bill Campbell, 1940-2016 » The New Yorker

Ken Auletta looks back on Campbell’s life as a mentor and advisor, which includes this fascinating tidbit:

»Google relied on Campbell to sort out tempests caused by imperial engineers burdened by oversized egos that prevented them from collaborating. This happened with Andy Rubin, the entrepreneur who created Android and built it into a resounding Google success. The Android team under Rubin was massive. But, as I learned through numerous interviews while writing a book about the company and in later conversations with Google executives, Rubin tended to trust only members of his élite team, and fought with other top executives, including such original Google employees as Salar Kamangar, who supervised YouTube, and Alan Eustace, the head of engineering. The weekly meetings of senior Google executives were filled with tension and discord. Executives became so dispirited by what they saw as Rubin’s dominance that they threatened to quit. Campbell advised Larry Page to make a choice, and to the relief of senior executives Page chose to remove Rubin. Campbell had earlier warned Page that Marissa Mayer, the talented engineer who went on to become the CEO of Yahoo, had a similar my-way-or-the-highway approach, which also led to her demotion to a position where she no longer reported to the CEO. Campbell knew that a lack of empathy often translated into an inability to listen.

«

Campbell had an outstanding ability to listen, as Auletta shows. Clearly he will be sorely missed.
link to this extract

 


Opera now has a totally free and unlimited built-in VPN » Gizmodo

Jamie Condliffe:

»The new feature is available in the latest developer version of the Opera browser for Windows or OS X. You just go to Settings on Windows or Preferences on a Mac, then toggle the VPN on in the Privacy & Security section. Bingo, you’re browsing over a virtual private network and you mask your IP address to dodge firewalls so that you can view content that you’re unable to from your current country or office. As well as all the other responsible things that a VPN can help you with.

«

“Virtual locations” only in the US, Germany and Australia at first. Which means this will become the “Netflix browser”, until Netflix blocks the Opera VPN IPs.

Even so, I have to wonder: what’s the catch? How does Opera benefit from this? Running VPNs isn’t free, or trouble-free. Am I the only person who has this reaction when free stuff is proffered?
link to this extract

 


Xiaomi sees sales shrink in Q1 2016 » Tech In Asia

Erik Crouch:

»Xiaomi sold 14.8m smartphones globally in the first quarter of 2016, a notable decline from 17.5m in the last quarter of 2015.

The new figure comes from research by IHS Technology, and the Q4 number from Strategy Analytics. Tech in Asia reached out to Xiaomi about these numbers, and the company declined to comment.

The number shows that Xiaomi’s slowing growth in 2015 is turning into its worst nightmare in 2016: falling sales.

Xiaomi sold 70 million smartphones last year.

These aren’t official Xiaomi statistics, and reports compiled by research firms are best treated as estimates. But even providing for a hefty margin of error – and keeping in mind that Xiaomi has said it wants to move away from “goals such as smartphone sales” and isn’t likely to publish Q1 stats – the figures show a company that will need to improve its numbers if it aims to grow its smartphone department at all this year.

«

Sequential quarter comparisons (especially from 4Q to 1Q) are rarely meaningful, but the year-on-year comparison is still down: Xiaomi shipped 15.3m in Q1 2015, from the figures I have.
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Errata, corrigenda and ai no corrida: none notified.

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