Start Up: EPA vs the future, will Tesla go bust?, Russia’s bots like guns, sayonara Windows!, and more

Apple switched from PowerPR (a RISC architecture) in 2005 to Intel. Is it going to switch back again for the Mac? Photo by Adam Schilling on Flickr

»You can sign up to receive each day’s Start Up post by email (arriving at about 0800GMT each weekday). You’ll need to click a confirmation link, so no spam.«

A selection of 13 links for you. I do hope you behaved while I was away.. I’m @charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

Calling car pollution standards ‘too high,’ EPA sets up fight with California • NY Times

Hiroko Tabuchi:


Scott Pruitt, the EPA [Environmental Protection Agency] administrator, signaled that he aimed to make California fall in line. The Obama administration, he said, “made assumptions about the standards that didn’t comport with reality, and set the standards too high.” California’s history of setting its own emissions rules “doesn’t mean that one state can dictate standards for the rest of the country,” Mr. Pruitt said.

A rollback of the rules, which are designed to cut back on emissions of greenhouse gases, would reverse one of the single biggest steps any government has taken to tackle climate change. California has said it will stick with the tougher, Obama-era regulations, a decision that could effectively split the United States into two auto markets: one requiring cars to be more efficient and less polluting than the other.

California has long possessed the unique authority under the 1970 Clean Air Act to write its own air pollution rules. Traditionally, a dozen other states follow California’s air pollution rules and together they represent one-third of the nation’s auto market. That puts California in an extraordinary position to stage a regulatory revolt, with much of the country’s car market in tow.

State officials indicated they would fight the Trump administration. “This is a politically motivated effort to weaken clean vehicle standards,” said Mary Nichols, California’s top air pollution regulator. California, she said, “will vigorously defend the existing clean vehicle standards.”

Xavier Becerra, the state’s attorney general, said the state was “ready to file suit.”

Adopted in 2012, the standards up for revision would have required automakers to nearly double the average fuel economy of new cars and trucks, to 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025. If fully implemented, the rules would have cut oil consumption by about 12 billion barrels over the lifetime of all the cars affected by the regulations and reduced carbon dioxide pollution by about six billion tons.


I’ve spent the past week in the US (hello!) in California (hello!) and I’ve been fascinated by the subtle inefficiencies in lots of things, from supermarkets to car washes. (I’ll write about it presently.) An administration that isn’t trying to make things more efficient is cutting its citizens’ throats in the long and medium term.

But with Pruitt at the EPA, that isn’t surprising.
link to this extract

Apple plans to use its own chips in Macs from 2020, replacing Intel • Bloomberg

Mark Gurman and Ian King:


The shift would also allow Cupertino, California-based Apple to more quickly bring new features to all of its products and stand out from the competition. Using its own main chips would make Apple the only major PC maker to use its own processors. Dell Technologies Inc., HP Inc., Lenovo Group Ltd., and Asustek Computer Inc. use Intel chips.

By using its own chips, Apple would be able to more tightly integrate new hardware and software, potentially resulting in systems with better battery life – similar to iPads, which use Apple chips.

While the transition to Apple chips in hardware is planned to begin as early as 2020, the changes to the software side will begin even before that. Apple’s iPhones and iPads with custom chips use the iOS operating system, while Mac computers with Intel chips run on a different system called macOS. Apple has slowly been integrating user-facing features over the past several years, and more recently starting sharing lower-level features like a new file management system.

As part of the larger initiative to make Macs work more like iPhones, Apple is working on a new software platform, internally dubbed Marzipan, for release as early as this year that would allow users to run iPhone and iPad apps on Macs, Bloomberg News reported last year.

The company has also previously released Macs with ARM-based co-processors, which run an iOS-like operating system, for specific functions like security. The latest MacBook Pro and iMac Pro include the co-processors. Apple plans to add that chip to a new version of its Mac Pro, to be released by next year, and new Mac laptops this year, according to a person familiar with the matter.


The processing penalty for emulating Intel on ARM would be considerable, so Apple must either be looking at getting people to recompile (in XCode) or some other twiddly magic. The lack of named sources actually makes this seem more likely to me; they’ll be people who must not explain the how, when or why. But the why is obvious: get away from Intel’s timetable and pricing, use Apple’s huge power in chip design. Also essential reading: Nick Wingfield’s Twitter thread on how he had the scoop and Steve Jobs tried to steer him away from it.
link to this extract

“Tesla is on the verge of bankruptcy” – Vilas Capital • Seeking Alpha

Vilas Capital staff:


I think Tesla is going to crash in the next 3-6 months, partially due to their incompetence in making and delivering the Model 3, partially due to falling demand for the Model S and X, partially due to the extreme valuation, partially due to their horrendous finances that will imminently require a huge capital raise, partially due to a likely downgrade of their credit rating by Moody’s from B- to CCC (default likely) which should scare their parts suppliers into requiring cash on delivery (a death knell), partially due to the market’s recent falling appetite for risk, and partially due to our suspicions of fraudulent accounting activities, evidenced by 85 SEC letters/investigations and two top finance people leaving in the last month. We are doubtful that they can raise a meaningful sum in the face of these material issues. If the fall happened quickly, it could add substantially to the Fund ( 30 to 50%), in part due to our purchase of put options. Tesla, without any doubt, is on the verge of bankruptcy.

As a reality check, Tesla is worth twice as much as Ford yet Ford made 6 million cars last year at a $7.6 billion profit while Tesla made 100,000 cars at a $2bn loss. Further, Ford has $12bn in cash held for “a rainy day” while Tesla will likely run out of money in the next 3 months. I have never seen anything so absurd in my career.


A few caveats here: Vilas Capital’s biggest holding is shorted Tesla stock (it’s betting in a big way its value will plummet), so this is an entirely self-interested opinion on their part. On the other hand, Tesla has missed its production targets for the Model 3, and it isn’t clear how it’s going to ramp up to meet them. Watch this space.
link to this extract

An update on last week’s accident •Tesla

The Tesla Team:


In the moments before the collision, which occurred at 9:27 a.m. on Friday, March 23rd, Autopilot was engaged with the adaptive cruise control follow-distance set to minimum. The driver had received several visual and one audible hands-on warning earlier in the drive and the driver’s hands were not detected on the wheel for six seconds prior to the collision. The driver had about five seconds and 150 meters of unobstructed view of the concrete divider with the crushed crash attenuator, but the vehicle logs show that no action was taken.

The reason this crash was so severe is because the crash attenuator, a highway safety barrier which is designed to reduce the impact into a concrete lane divider, had been crushed in a prior accident without being replaced. We have never seen this level of damage to a Model X in any other crash.

Over a year ago, our first iteration of Autopilot was found by the US government to reduce crash rates by as much as 40%. Internal data confirms that recent updates to Autopilot have improved system reliability.

In the US, there is one automotive fatality every 86 million miles across all vehicles from all manufacturers. For Tesla, there is one fatality, including known pedestrian fatalities, every 320 million miles in vehicles equipped with Autopilot hardware. If you are driving a Tesla equipped with Autopilot hardware, you are 3.7 times less likely to be involved in a fatal accident.


This isn’t much comfort if you *are* involved in a fatal accident. Given how few Teslas there are (comparatively), they have had now had two fatal crashes with Autopilot. That doesn’t sound like a good statistic.

I bet that the driver’s thoughts were “oh, I’m sure the Autopilot has seen that it’s headed for the crash barrier and will avoid it.” Because what Tesla’s blogpost doesn’t say is how often those warning sounds typically go off during the course of journeys. Only happened once? Bad judgement by the driver. Happens a lot? Tesla’s fault.
link to this extract

Russian bots are tweeting their support of embattled Fox News host Laura Ingraham • Washington Post

Amanda Erickson:


Russian-linked Twitter accounts have rallied around the conservative talk-show host, who has come under fire for attacking the young survivors of the Parkland, Fla., school shooting. According to the website Hamilton 68, which tracks the spread of Russian propaganda on Twitter, the hashtag #IstandwithLaura jumped 2,800% in 48 hours this weekend. On Saturday night, it was the top trending hashtag among Russian campaigners.

The website, which tracks 1,500 “political propaganda bots,” found that @ingrahamangle, @davidhogg111 and @foxnews were among the top six Twitter handles tweeted by Russia-linked accounts this weekend. “David Hogg” and “Laura Ingraham” were the top two-word phrases being shared.

Wading into controversy is a key strategy for Russian propaganda bots, which seize on divisive issues online to sow discord in the United States. Since the Feb. 14 Parkland shooting, which claimed 17 lives, Russian bots have flooded Twitter with false information about the massacre.


If you want more, see Josh Russell’s tweets – he is the one looking at this stuff.

Raises the question: he can find this stuff so easily, why isn’t Twitter zapping them faster?
link to this extract

Microsoft is ready for a world beyond Windows • The Verge

Tom Warren:


Windows isn’t dead, but it’s clearly not as important to Microsoft anymore and it will play a very different role in the company’s future. Microsoft needs to follow and provide cloud services and apps to people on the platforms they’re using. The company has seen great success with Office 365 and apps like Outlook for mobile, and Microsoft expects that two-thirds of its Office users will have moved to its subscription cloud service by next year.

Windows is being adapted for new devices and scenarios, but it’s not the core of Microsoft’s business anymore and hasn’t been for years. Nadella says “the future of Windows is bright,” but in the same sentence he says Microsoft will “more deeply” connect Windows to its Microsoft 365 offering. Microsoft 365 lets companies purchase Office and Windows together in a single subscription.

Consumers don’t care about Windows anymore, and I’ve long argued Microsoft should drop its insistence of branding everything with it. Consumers are no longer interested in purchasing devices for the familiarity or compatibility of Windows, and it’s hard to even list 10 desktop apps I really need on a daily basis. A big exception to this is gaming, but Microsoft hasn’t innovated enough on gaming PCs to really foster that. Gaming PCs simply run Windows because it’s the platform to deliver those games, and we’re starting to see how mobile operating systems are rapidly catching up. Thanks to the web and Chrome, it’s easy to imagine a future where services matter far more than the operating system they run on.

Now that Microsoft has moved the fundamental core of Windows over to the cloud team, it’s easy to see the long-term future of Windows being a cloud subscription service for the people who really need to use it, rather than love using it. Bill Gates figured out how to put a computer on every desk and in every home, and now the company is ready to grow and tackle the future. It’s not the old and trusted Windows operating system that will get Microsoft there.


Ben Thompson argues at Stratechery that it was Steve Ballmer’s insistence on Windows above all that meant the company fell behind the curve in AI and cloud efforts; but Nadella has refocussed that. (Microsoft was too late to mobile to ever succeed, but Ballmer prolonged the pain – and cost – by buying Nokia.)

This is a terrific article, well worth your time reading in full. The Stratechery one too (it’s free).
link to this extract

Growth at any cost: top Facebook executive defended data collection in 2016 memo — and warned that Facebook could get people killed • Buzzfeed

Ryan XXXX:


On June 18, 2016, one of Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s most trusted lieutenants circulated an extraordinary memo weighing the costs of the company’s relentless quest for growth.

“We connect people. Period. That’s why all the work we do in growth is justified. All the questionable contact importing practices. All the subtle language that helps people stay searchable by friends. All of the work we do to bring more communication in. The work we will likely have to do in China some day. All of it,” VP Andrew “Boz” Bosworth wrote.

“So we connect more people,” he wrote in another section of the memo. “That can be bad if they make it negative. Maybe it costs someone a life by exposing someone to bullies.

“Maybe someone dies in a terrorist attack coordinated on our tools.”

The explosive internal memo is titled “The Ugly,” and has not been previously circulated outside the Silicon Valley social media giant.

The Bosworth memo reveals the extent to which Facebook’s leadership understood the physical and social risks the platform’s products carried — even as the company downplayed those risks in public. It suggests that senior executives had deep qualms about conduct that they are now seeking to defend.


I think it shows that Bosworth had a handle on the reality of building a giant social network, and that people aren’t all nice. (Gamergate, from 2014, demonstrated that to anyone who was half-awake.) The reality too though was that Facebook has been relentlessly focussed on growth and retention. Bosworth saw this. He’s been getting a lot of heat for it – not entirely fairly. The company’s public face might have denied it, but he saw it for what it was.
link to this extract

New York passes bill to restrict guns for domestic abusers • The Hill

John Bowden -:


New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (Democrat) on Saturday announced the passage of legislation that would strip all firearms from New Yorkers convicted of domestic violence, updating a previous law that prohibited abusers from owning handguns.

In a press release on the governor’s website, Cuomo said the law, which passed the state Assembly by 85-32 and Senate by 41-19 this week, will make the state “safer and stronger.”

“New York is once again leading the way to prevent gun violence, and with this common sense reform, break the inextricable link between gun violence and domestic violence,” Cuomo said.

The law forces convicted domestic abusers to turn in rifles, shotguns, and any other firearms they were not previously prohibited from owning under a law passed after the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, that barred abusers from owning pistols or revolvers.

In his press release, Cuomo faulted the federal government for not doing more to protect citizens from gun violence.


One to watch for the effects on deaths by gun in the state. Domestic abuse is a key indicator for whether someone will kill with a gun.
link to this extract

Introducing DNS resolver, (not a joke) • Cloudflare

Olafur Gudmundsson:


Our goals with the public resolver are simple: Cloudflare wants to operate the fastest public resolver on the planet while raising the standard of privacy protections for users. To make the Internet faster, we are already building data centers all over the globe to reduce the distance (i.e. latency) from users to content. Eventually we want everyone to be within 10 milliseconds of at least one of our locations.

In March alone, we enabled thirty-one new data centers globally (Istanbul, Reykjavík, Riyadh, Macau, Baghdad, Houston, Indianapolis, Montgomery, Pittsburgh, Sacramento, Mexico City, Tel Aviv, Durban, Port Louis, Cebu City, Edinburgh, Riga, Tallinn, Vilnius, Calgary, Saskatoon, Winnipeg, Jacksonville, Memphis, Tallahassee, Bogotá, Luxembourg City, Chișinău) and just like every other city in our network, new sites run DNS Resolver, on day one!

Our fast and highly distributed network is built to serve any protocol and we are currently the fastest authoritative DNS provider on the Internet, a capability enjoyed by over seven million Internet properties. Plus, we already provide an anycast service to two of the thirteen root nameservers. The next logical step was to provide faster recursive DNS service for users. Our recursor can take advantage of the authoritative servers that are co-located with us, resulting in faster lookups for all domain names.

While DNSSEC ensures integrity of data between a resolver and an authoritative server, it does not protect the privacy of the “last mile” towards you. DNS resolver,, supports both emerging DNS privacy standards – DNS-over-TLS, and DNS-over-HTTPS, which both provide last mile encryption to keep your DNS queries private and free from tampering.


Launched on Sunday April 1, because there are 4 1s in the address, and 4/1 is 1 April in the US (they’d have had to do it on Jan 4 in the UK, but anyway), which meant some weren’t sure if it wasn’t a joke.

They’re presently claiming to be the fastest DNS resolver on the planet, even faster than Google’s; will watch to see how that holds up if there’s enough consumer adoption.
link to this extract

CRISPR could enable quick, reliable medical tests • MIT Technology Review


You’ve heard of CRISPR as a way to edit or delete genes. Now, two leading biologists say it could also be used to detect cancer or viruses.

What it did: Jennifer Doudna’s team at the University of California, Berkeley used a CRISPR-based test to accurately detect DNA from cancer-causing strains of human papilloma virus in human cells. Meanwhile, Feng Zhang’s lab at the Broad Institute used CRISPR to find tumor DNA in blood samples from lung cancer patients, as well as Zika and dengue virus.

How it works: The researchers attached a signaling molecule to CRISPR. When the CRISPR system finds the DNA it’s looking for, it cuts it up the genetic material around it and releases the signaling molecule, indicating that it’s found foreign DNA.


Inventive. CRISPR is going to have long-term subtle effects on our lives.
link to this extract

ICO quality: development & trading • Medium

Sherwin Dowlat:


This is a high level look above a market cap of $50m only, as an initial attempt to improve on the reporting we have seen to date on percentage failed ICO’s. We will continue to develop our research in this area and produce a more in-depth study in coming months.

We break down ICO’s into groups, with the following definitions:
• Scam (pre-trading): Any project that expressed availability of ICO investment (through a website publishing, ANN thread, or social media posting with a contribution address), did not have/had no intention of fulfilling project development duties with the funds, and/or was deemed by the community (message boards, website or other online information) to be a scam.
• Failed (pre-trading): Succeeded to raise funding but did not complete the entire process and was abandoned, and/or refunded investors as a result of insufficient funding (missed soft cap).
• Gone Dead (pre-trading): Succeeded to raise funding and completed the process, however was not listed on exchanges for trading and has not had a code contribution in Github on a rolling three-month basis from that point in time.
• Dwindling (trading): Succeeded to raise funding and completed the process, and was listed on an exchange, however had one or less of the following success criteria: deployment (in test/beta, at minimum) of a chain/distributed ledger (in the case of a base-layer protocol) or product/platform (in the case of an app/utility token), had a transparent project roadmap posted on their website, and had Github code contribution activity in a surrounding three-month period (“Success Criteria”).
• Promising (trading): Two of the above Success Criteria.
• Successful (trading): All of the above Success Criteria.

On the basis of the above classification, we found that approximately 81% of ICO’s were Scams, ~6% Failed, ~5% had Gone Dead, and ~8% went on to trade on a exchange.


Of that 8%, most are dwindling. Hey ho.
link to this extract

New smart home device tracker forecasts solid growth for connected devices • IDC


In 2017, 433.1m smart home devices were shipped worldwide, growing 27.6% from the previous year. Looking ahead, IDC anticipates a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 18.5% as the market balloons to 939.7m devices shipped in 2022. Within the smart home market, the smart speaker category, which includes devices like the Amazon Echo and Google Home, will remain the fastest growing category throughout the forecast.

Meanwhile, shipments for most other categories, with the exception of video entertainment products, will experience a double-digit CAGR during the same period.

“The smart home market is still in its infancy but we’re already seeing some significant changes in consumers’ and vendors’ approach,” said Jitesh Ubrani senior research analyst for IDC Mobile Device Trackers. “There’s less of a focus on having a central hub and apps as the center of the interface as hardware makers race to create interoperability with smart assistants like Alexa, Siri, or Google Assistant. On the other hand, consumers, while still somewhat hesitant to anthropomorphize smart assistants, are beginning to expect a more natural user interface to the myriad of smart home devices.”

“While it’s still early days for the smart home market – and the wider consumer IoT ecosystem in general – we expect to see considerable growth over the next few years, especially as consumers become more aware of and increasingly interact with smart assistant platforms like Amazon’s Alexa and Google Assistant,” said Adam Wright senior research analyst for IDC’s Consumer IoT Program. “Whether in the form of a smart speaker or embedded in a thermostat, fridge, TV, or any other device, smart assistants are quickly becoming the cornerstone of consumer IoT by enhancing the accessibility, use, and functionality of connected devices, which will noticeably boost adoption rates in the near future.”


link to this extract

Have I Been Pwned is now partnering with 1Password • Troy Hunt

Troy Hunt is teaming up to make his database of passwords found from breaches link up with 1Password’s password-handling system:


Throughout the life of HIBP, I’ve held onto the mantra that it must help people do good things in the wake of bad events. What pleases me most about partnering with 1Password is that the relationship furthers that objective; people going and getting themselves the very password manager that I’ve used myself for so many years is the single best security advice I could give, and this makes that a whole lot easier for those that have never given it any thought before. And it is a partnership too rather than just a one-way relationship where their name appears on HIBP; even just yesterday they blogged about including Pwned Passwords searches in the desktop app:

What I love about this model with 1Password is that it only contributes to the user experience, it takes nothing away from it. I do hope it’s well-received and that this post sufficiently explains why I felt this was the right fit at the right time.


Password management has long ago passed into the horrendous place where you either have a system (which can be cracked), or you keep using the same password (which is calamitous), or you have a password manager.
link to this extract

Errata, corrigenda and ai no corrida: none notified.