Start Up No.1251: Apple ARM computer in 2021?, how coronavirus escaped China, an AR implosion, swim mousey swim!, and more


A man died in a rocket trying to disprove the Earth’s curvature. He could have seen it from sea level. CC-licensed photo by Martin Cathrae on Flickr.

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A selection of 8 links for you. Use them wisely. I’m @charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

Mac with Apple-designed Arm processor coming in first half of 2021 • MacRumors

Juli Clover:

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[Ming Chi] Kuo’s note indicates a new Mac with an Apple-designed chip won’t be released this year.

Apple is said to be moving to Arm-based chips in an effort to make Macs, iPhones, and iPads work together and run the same apps. Apple’s iPhones and iPads already use Arm-based chip technology, and there are custom Apple-created T2 chips in the iMac Pro and recent MacBook Pro, MacBook Air, Mac mini, and Mac Pro models.

Kuo’s detail about an upcoming Mac with an Apple-designed chip is a tidbit mentioned briefly in a note that suggests 5-nanometer chip architecture will be the “core technology” in Apple’s new products in the next 12 to 18 months:

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We expect that Apple’s new products in 12-18 months will adopt processors made by 5nm process, including the new 2H20 5G iPhone, new 2H20 iPad equipped with mini LED, and new 1H21 Mac equipped with the own-design processor. We think that iPhone 5G support, iPad ‘s adoption of innovative mid-size panel technology, and Mac’s first adoption of the own-design processor are all Apple’s critical product and technology strategies. Given that the processor is the core component of new products, we believe that Apple had increased 5nm-related investments after the epidemic outbreak. Further, Apple occupying more resources of related suppliers will hinder competitors’ developments.

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The new Mac with Apple-designed chip, the 2020 5G iPhone , and a high-end iPad with a mini LED display rumored for the second half of 2020 are said to use 5-nanometer chips. Chips built on a 5-nanometer node will be faster and more efficient than the A13 chips used in the most recent iPhones that are built on a 7-nanometer+ process.

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1) Do we guess it’s just going to be laptops?
2) Scissor-switch keyboard, right?
3) Wonder how the app emulation will work.
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Not selling the computer I want • Birchtree

Matt Birchler:

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I love my iPad Pro, and it’s what I use to get basically everything done in my personal life. That said, I like having a traditional desktop around because, well, I’m a nerd and there are some advanced things that I just can’t do on an iPad yet.

Up until this week, a 2012 Mac Mini was filling that role, and for a $600 computer it’s held up quite nicely in the following 8 years. But for the past year I’ve been thinking about replacing it because it’s just not cutting it for some tasks anymore. Yes, it can handle the large Photoshop files I throw at it, and it technically can edit and export 4k video, but it’s not particularly good at it either. It was time to upgrade, but I wasn’t sure to what, exactly.

To get an idea of my thinking, here are Apple’s line of Macs:

MacBook Air; MacBook Pro; Mac Mini; iMac; iMac Pro; Mac Pro.

The two MacBooks are immediately eliminated because I don’t want a laptop…I have an iPad. The iMac Pro and Mac Pro are also eliminated for cost reasons, so that left the iMac and Mac Mini.

The Mini was the direct upgrade, but frankly I wasn’t that excited about what I could get in my $1,000-ish price range. An 8th gen Intel chip with 8GB RAM and integrated graphics are pretty anaemic, and while I know I can upgrade to get some more power, that’s a lot of money, and I’m still buying two-generation-old Intel chips.

The iMac was another option, but the pricing just didn’t work for me. I could spend north of $2,000 and get something pretty beefy, but that wasn’t the budget (and even if I did put up the cash, the GPU options are rough). My budget allowed for the 21 inch 7th gen Intel chips, which was just not something I had any interest in.

This all brought me to an interesting realization: Apple doesn’t make a Mac for me anymore.

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This post ought to worry whoever is in charge of the Mac mini at Apple: that’s clearly where this sale was lost. (But probably wouldn’t come back with ARM chips. His iPad has that.)
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Snap acquires Daqri’s assets: inside a $300m startup flop • Protocol

Janko Roettgers:

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Everything went wrong for Daqri. The startup rode a wave of augmented reality hype and about $300m in funding to a series of half-baked products before failing spectacularly and shutting down last year.

One of Daqri’s last remnants was recently acquired by Snap: The company confirmed to Protocol that late last year it took on certain Daqri assets and about two-dozen employees, who now work in the company’s newly opened Vienna office under the leadership of former Daqri CTO Daniel Wagner. Snap didn’t disclose the purchase price, but the timing lines up with a $34 million acquisition disclosed in its annual report to shareholders.

In interviews, more than 10 former employees detailed Daqri’s demise. In its decade of existence, the company built a retro-futuristic augmented reality helmet with a hefty $15,000 price tag, used fancy videos to sell the world on visual computing, and acquired a series of other startups in offices around the globe, only to see it all slip away when its glossy AR dreams collided with reality. It’s a story that anyone working in the AR and VR space should take to heart, if only to avoid a similar downfall.

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I wonder if the folks at Magic Leap will pay attention. Daqri was a ten-year slow-motion crash. (Protocol, by the way, is a new online magazine. Roettgers is an impressive recruit.)
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EU Commission to staff: switch to Signal messaging app • POLITICO

Laurens Cerulus:

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Commission officials are already required to use encrypted emails to exchange sensitive, non-classified information, an official said. Classified documents fall under tighter security rules.

The use of Signal was mainly recommended for communications between staff and people outside the institution. The move to use the application shows that the Commission is working on improving its security policies.

Promoting the app, however, could antagonize the law enforcement community.

Officials in Brussels, Washington and other capitals have been putting strong pressure on Facebook and Apple to allow government agencies to access to encrypted messages; if these agencies refuse, legal requirements could be introduced that force firms to do just that.

American, British and Australian officials have published an open letter to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg in October, asking that he call off plans to encrypt the company’s messaging service. Dutch Minister for Justice and Security Ferd Grappehaus told POLITICO last April that the EU needs to look into legislation allowing governments to access encrypted data.

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Same encryption protocol as WhatsApp, but open source (and not owned by Facebook). The Conservative party has also switched to Signal, allegedly because you can get more than 255 people into a single group.
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Korea’s coronavirus spread puts an export hub at risk • WSJ

Mike Bird:

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The rapid spread of coronavirus in South Korea is bleak news for global manufacturers. China-style industrial shutdowns look increasingly likely in a country that punches above its weight—perhaps more than any other—in global supply chains.

On Sunday South Korean president Moon Jae-in raised the country’s virus alert to red after a surge in cases in the city of Daegu. A Samsung Electronics facility near the city has already closed after an employee was diagnosed with the disease. The Kospi stock index dropped nearly 4% Monday and the Korean won was down more than 1% against the U.S. dollar.

South Korea is a medium-size country, but a mammoth in trade. The country’s exports are equivalent to 44% of its GDP, second only to Germany among major advanced economies.

But even that understates its importance. Few of the country’s exported goods are finished products. Its overwhelming specialty is intermediate goods required by other manufacturers. Such goods make up around 55% of Germany’s exports, 62% of China’s—but 90% of South Korea’s. The country has a commanding position in electronics, dominating some categories of semiconductors and displays…

… So any industrial shutdowns designed to slow the spread of coronavirus will be felt immediately elsewhere. Companies that have spent the past three weeks scrambling to find alternatives to Chinese-made goods may now find themselves facing the same conundrum for South Korean parts.

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The domino effect is starting to kick in. South Korea has the largest number of cases outside China – and high population density.
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How one Singapore sales conference spread coronavirus around the world • WSJ

Niharika Mandhana and Feliz Solomon in Singapore and Eun-Young Jeong in Seoul:

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Last month, 109 people gathered in a Singapore hotel for an international sales conference held by a U.K.-based company that makes products to analyze gas.

When the attendees flew home, some unwittingly took the coronavirus with them.

The virus had a 10-day head start on health authorities who, after belatedly learning a 41-year-old Malaysian participant was infected, began a desperate effort to track the infection through countries including South Korea, England and France. Health investigators have found at least 20 people in six Asian and European countries who were sickened, some who attended the conference and others who came in contact with participants.

A globalized economy, one that’s far more integrated than in the early 2000s when the SARS virus broke out, is complicating the task of responding to epidemics.

After this one conference alone, 94 participants left Singapore, authorities determined. Some joined Lunar New Year dinners. Others went on vacation, one to an Alpine ski town. They had eaten, taken car rides and shared a roof with others who then boarded more planes to places the virus hadn’t yet reached.

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Cancelling MWC now looks like a really wise move. Fascinating detective piece. Is this how Italy became infected?
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Man wanting to prove Earth is flat dies in homemade rocket crash • ExtremeTech

Joel Hruska, in absolutely brutal form:

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Mad Mike wanted to build a steam-powered rocket to loft him high enough into the air to prove the Earth was flat, discounting the fact that, well, it isn’t, based on the combined scientific observations of everyone from Eratosthenes (276 BC – 195/194 BC) to the eyes-on observation of astronauts today. That’s not a problem for Flat-Earthers, because they generally either don’t believe in outer space or don’t believe we’ve traveled to it. The reason they don’t believe this is because the data coming back from NASA, the ESA, Russia, and any other nation capable of putting a satellite in orbit doesn’t support their theory that the Earth is flat.

When you explain that this is the literal definition of confirmation bias, you’ll get a lot of ranting about conspiracies and the importance of doing the science for yourself. While the idea of confirming the opinion of learned people over the past 2,000 years is appealing on some levels, the concept presupposes that the person doing the proving has a basic grasp of geometry, logic, and the scientific method. The fact that there are a handful of Flat-Earthers with a significant level of achieved education says more about how humans can be quite intelligent and still fall prey to remarkably stupid theories than it does about the accuracy of the flat Earth model.

Some people may feel I’m being a bit harsh. They are correct. I won’t even pretend otherwise. When you climb aboard a homemade rocket because you intend to prove long-established and objectively proven facts aren’t true, you are, at best, a moron. When you do it repeatedly and in complete rejection of observation and research conducted by thousands of people over millennia you are an arrogant moron who believes his own failure to understand the reasons why he’s wrong means those reasons are false. People have a right to be morons. They don’t have a right to be remembered as heroic or respected figures who defied the scientific status quo.

“‘I don’t believe in science,” said Hughes back in 2017. “I know about aerodynamics and fluid dynamics and how things move through the air, about the certain size of rocket nozzles, and thrust. But that’s not science, that’s just a formula. There’s no difference between science and science fiction.'”

In science fiction, Asgard beaming technology, Star Trek transporters, the Force, an Iron Man suit, a passing Voltron Lion, Moya, or the inexplicable appearance of Gully Foyle may save the day. In science, not having a parachute attached to a rocket means ballistic reentry, which means death..

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The failure was not so much going up in a rocket as not having a failsafe method of return. But given that the reason for going up was unutterably stupid (aided by the Science Channel wanting to film him), Darwin and Newton took their revenge.
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Depression researchers rethink popular mouse swim tests • Nature

Sara Reardon:

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Nearly every scientist who has used mice or rats to study depression is familiar with the forced-swim test. The animal is dropped into a tank of water while researchers watch to see how long it tries to stay afloat. In theory, a depressed rodent will give up more quickly than a happy one — an assumption that has guided decades of research on antidepressants and genetic modifications intended to induce depression in lab mice.

But mental-health researchers have become increasingly sceptical in recent years about whether the forced-swim test is a good model for depression in people. It is not clear whether mice stop swimming because they are despondent or because they have learnt that a lab technician will scoop them out of the tank when they stop moving. Factors such as water temperature also seem to affect the results.

“We don’t know what depression looks like in a mouse,” says Eric Nestler, a neuroscientist at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City.

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I came across this article (from July 2019) quite by chance, and was astonished. Apparently it’s a technique that was developed in the 1950s, and is still used, though not in the UK. (I tweeted about it, which then went viral. Some scientists did respond. They’re equivocal about it.) Replacements include functional MRI and examination of dead donors’ brain tissue, and also still doing it with mice but looking at their preferences around sugar.
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Errata, corrigenda and ai no corrida: none notified

1 thought on “Start Up No.1251: Apple ARM computer in 2021?, how coronavirus escaped China, an AR implosion, swim mousey swim!, and more

  1. To be fair to Mr Mad, there is another explanation, put out by his publicist after his death — that he knew the earth was round, but the flat earth stuff as the only way he could get attention — and so sponsorship — for his real passion, which was home made rocketry and general daredevilry. That sounds fairly credible to me: which would be an easier sell to the newsdesk?

    [And the mouse swimming test, which I thought *everybody* knew, has a fascinating loophole: they don’t actually let the mice drown. When they stop swimming, they are scooped out of the water. So any mouse that goes through the test twice is actually being tested on its ability to learn how to cut short a disagreeable experience.]

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