Start Up No.1529: chip shortage to last to 2023?, Google Earth shows climate change, NFT sales go crazy, new iMacs next week?, and more


Cannabis is legal in multiple American states. Could having some help you in your workout? Let’s see! CC-licensed photo by Ivan Radic on Flickr.

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A selection of 10 links for you. Use them wisely. I’m @charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

Intel, Nvidia, TSMC execs agree: chip shortage could last into 2023 • Ars Technica

Sam Machkovech:

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How many years will the ongoing chip shortage affect technology firms across the world? This week, multiple tech executives offered their own dismal estimates as part of their usual public financial disclosures, with the worst one coming in at “a couple of years.”

That nasty estimate comes from Intel CEO Pat Gelsinger, who offered that vague timeframe to The Washington Post in an interview on Tuesday. He clarified that was an estimate for how long it would take the company to “build capacity” to potentially address supply shortages. The conversation came as Intel offered to step up for two supply chains particularly pinched by the silicon drought: medical supplies and in-car computer systems.

…TSMC chief executive C.C. Wei offered a similarly dire estimate to investors on Thursday, saying that the Taiwan-based company hoped to “offer more capacity” for meeting retail and manufacturing demand “in 2023.” TSMC, coincidentally, is moving forward with a manufacturing plant of its own in Arizona, which Bloomberg claims could cost “up to $12bn,” despite the company clarifying that it intends to prioritize research, development, and production in its home nation.

Graphics card and SoC producer Nvidia joined the grim estimate club this week, though Nvidia has a more optimistic belief that it will emerge with “sufficient supply to support sequential growth beyond [fiscal] Q1 [2022],” according to CFO Colette Kress. Until then, “we expect demand to continue to exceed supply for much of this year,” she added.

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The trouble with the stop-start process is that it’s so hard to avoid overshoot, either in supply or demand – the time delay in the feedback loop from sales to production means any disturbance creates shockwaves that echo on.
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A 23-year-old coder kept QAnon and the far right online when no one else would • Bloomberg

William Turton and Joshua Brustein:

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Although small, the operation serves clients including the Daily Stormer, one of America’s most notorious online destinations for overt neo-Nazis, and 8kun, the message board at the center of the QAnon movement, whose adherents were heavily involved in the violence at the Capitol on Jan. 6.

[23-year-old Nick] Lim exists in a singularly odd corner of the business world. He says he’s not an extremist, just an entrepreneur with a maximalist view of free speech. “There needs to be a me, right?” he says, while eating pho at a Vietnamese restaurant near his headquarters. “Once you get to the point where you look at whether content is safe or unsafe, as soon as you do that, you’ve opened a can of worms.” At best, his apolitical framing comes across as naive; at worst, as preposterous gaslighting. In interviews with Bloomberg Businessweek early in 2020, Lim said he didn’t really know what QAnon was and had no opinion about Donald Trump.

…Voices from across the U.S. political spectrum have registered concerns about companies setting up litmus tests to ban groups from the internet. That said, the voices Lim supports tend to come from the same general neighborhood. He sought out Andrew Anglin, who runs the Daily Stormer, to offer the neo-Nazi free tech support. He says his largest customer is 8kun, and he has a personal relationship with Ron Watkins, the site’s former administrator and one of its key leaders since its inception.

Lim argues that the real political crisis facing the U.S. is not extremist violence but erosion of the First Amendment. He says that restrictions on online speech have already brought the U.S. to the verge of communist tyranny, that “we are one foot away from 1984.” After a moment, though, he offers a sizable qualifier: “I never actually read the book, so I don’t know all the themes of the book. But I have heard the concepts, and I’ve seen some things, and I thought, ‘Whoa! That’s sketchy as f—.’ ”

VanwaTech’s headquarters is a squat, one-story house in a sidewalkless subdivision that’s just over the state line from Portland, Ore. Lim inherited the place from his grandparents, according to state records. While he regularly talks about VanwaTech as a growing enterprise with a dedicated staff, he seems to be the only one around who’s working at the company. He rents rooms on the cheap to friends from high school who help keep the party going. The crew has nicknamed the house Vansterdam.

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He’s clearly just a single nutcase with no clear rationale, but these days that’s all you need to keep a lot of hate onlne.
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Facebook has beefed up its ‘oversight board’, but any new powers are illusory • The Guardian

Emily Bell:

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“I’ve been told directly by leadership that I should ignore these cases because if they are impactful, we’ll eventually receive PR flak over it and motivate a change,” noted [former Facebook data scientist Sophie] Zhang at the time. “The assumption is that if a case does not receive media attention, it poses no societal risk … What is our responsibility when societal risk diverges from PR risk?”

Within these sentences lies an explanation of how Facebook is slowly and somewhat painfully re-engineering itself, and in doing so forging a template for new media gatekeeping which is not a million miles away from old media gatekeeping. Facebook has found itself repeatedly responding to a press cycle it dominates far more than it would like.

At least some of this shift can be credited to Britain’s former deputy prime minister Nick Clegg, who is now Facebook’s head of global communications. This involves a mitigation strategy that looks very familiar to anyone with a background in British journalism: one seemingly focused on the creation of a circle of trusted journalists (and non-journalists) who are drip-fed access, with favoured sources given off-the-record briefings; meanwhile, pressure is applied and access restricted to editors and journalists who disappoint.

And if you cannot beat the media, you can now at least be the media. In March, Clegg wrote an enormously long piece advancing Facebook’s PR talking points: namely that it is human behaviour, not platform design, that causes political division. To prove it, he cites numerous studies without mentioning that a number come from academics and institutions that have received either Facebook funding or privileged access to Facebook data in the past.

The post was not published on the Facebook news blog, or in a Facebook post, but on a separate platform entirely, Medium. But despite such efforts, Clegg’s separation from the platform, like the Oversight Board’s independence, is illusory. However, it demonstrates a new truth for Facebook: the company is tackling the impact problem first, because its design problem is unsolvable.

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Missing California hiker found after mystery photo reveals location • SFGate

Katie Dowd:

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A mystery photo and a geography enthusiast helped locate a missing California hiker who is now safely back home.

Rene Compean of Palmdale was on a hike Monday near Mount Waterman, a popular ski destination in the San Gabriel Mountains in Southern California. While the 45-year-old was on his outdoor adventure, he snapped a picture. It showed him from the knees down, dangling his bare legs from a precipice with a canyon below and slopes in the distance. Compean texted the shot to a friend. And then, he went off the map.

He was reported missing at 6 p.m. by a friend, who received one last text from Compean saying he was worried he was lost and his cell phone battery was running low. The photo was turned over to investigators at the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department who posted it to social media, asking if anyone recognized the spot in the photograph.

Benjamin Kuo saw the message and thought he might be able to help. As a satellite image aficionado, he was already familiar with tracking California wildfires in remote areas.

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The photo doesn’t offer much to go on, which makes Kuo’s success all the more impressive. Though, as a suggestion, if you think you’re lost and you’re going to send a photo, perhaps screenshot your location on your map app and send that?
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I got high to see if weed would help me work out • Vice

Casey Johnston:

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Now, weed after working out is an unequivocal recommend: It makes you hungry, thirsty, and relaxed; eating, drinking water, and sleeping are incredible for recovery. But the first (reasonable) question, that the letter-writer didn’t ask but we should nonetheless address, might be “Isn’t getting high to work out at best just a waste of perfectly good weed?” How is weed, a peaceful and chill substance, not fundamentally opposed to working out, a task that requires energy and initiative?

Well, first, people who like weed find that it can make working out a better experience. A 2019 Nature survey found that about 70% of 600 cannabis users said cannabis made working out more enjoyable. Eight out of 10 cannabis users use weed before or after working out, and that it “helps them enjoy exercise more” (people who used weed worked out more for more time overall than people who didn’t) and improves their recovery.

…One big reason I wanted to try weed before working out was that I get really in my head about what an overwhelming and lengthy task working out is and all the various ways I might not do it as well as I want to. I wondered if weed might help me get over that hump of trying to bargain my way out of each individual workout, and even, as some of the people above are saying, make the more chore-like parts of it more fun. A list from The Cut suggests that weed is actually a nice pairing with lots of mundane activities: going to the grocery store, personal finance, extracting ingrown pubic hairs, as well as doing hot yoga and gymnastics (!).

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A funny yet educational read. Her running experiment is quite something.
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A grey single-pixel ‘work’ sells for $1.3m at Sotheby’s maiden NFT sale • The Art Newspaper

Kabir Jhala:

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Yesterday, Sotheby’s achieved $16.8m for the sale of a collection of JPGs that were created within the last fortnight. That this figure seems comparatively paltry says a lot about the current, topsy-turvy state of the art market.

Within a week of Christie’s $69.3m Beeple NFT sale, Sotheby’s announced it had enlisted the digital artist and “omniscient designer/developer/wizard” Pak to collaborate on a collection of works known as The Fungible Collection, details of which were then teased out over the next week.

The sale, which ran from 12 to 14 April and was hosted on NFT platform Niftygateway, was broadly divided into two parts. The first consisted of more traditional NFT drops (something of a contradiction in terms) in which two standalone works, both one-off editions, were offered up to online bidders. The first The Switch brought in 10 bids upon its release on 12 April, but after climbing to $1.4m, received no further offers after the first day and was sold to @damien.

The second, The Pixel—which is literally a single grey pixel—made $1.3m, following a last-minute bidding war that extended its sale by an hour. It went to the digital art collector Eric Young who tweeted that The Pixel had “occupied a great deal of [his] mind over the past few days”.

The sale’s second part was less straightforward. Alongside the standalone works, Pak also dropped a series of “open edition” cube works. They were initially released at a price of one cube costing $500 and ranged up to a 1,000-cube work for $500,000. Corresponding NFTs would then be issued depending on how many cubes the bidder had purchased.

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And they have The Pixel right there on the page. Absolutely indistinguishable from any other copy of The Pixel. Who knows which is “the one”? Nobody. This whole thing is nonsense for people with too much money, but I remember when art didn’t also consume enough energy to light a city.
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Google Earth’s historical 3D time lapses show the ravages of climate change • The Verge

Jay Peters:

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Google Earth is getting a new 3D time-lapse feature that lets you observe how Earth has changed from 1984 to 2020, allowing you to see just how much the devastating effects of climate change have already shaped the geography of the planet.

“It’s best for a landscape view of our world,” Rebecca Moore, director of Google Earth, Google Earth Engine, and Google Earth Outreach, said in a call with reporters this week. “It’s not about zooming in. It’s about zooming out. It’s about taking the big step back. We need to see how our only home is doing.”

The feature (which Google calls “Timelapse,” one word) will be available in Google Earth starting Thursday. To access it, launch Google Earth and then click or tap on the Voyager tab (which has an icon that looks like a ship’s wheel). You can search for a place of interest or check out one of Google’s five “guided tours” about forest change, urban growth, warming temperatures, mining and renewable energy sources, and “the Earth’s fragile beauty.”

To get an idea of what the feature lets you see, check out this time lapse GIF of the changing shores of Cape Cod, Massachusetts, from Google:

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You can launch it directly here. For best effect, do a direct comparison back and forth between 1984 and 2020.
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This Apple ‘Spring Loaded’ invite theory is kinda blowing our minds • Macworld

Michael Simon:

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It wouldn’t be an Apple event without a little friendly sleuthing, and the Spring Loaded invite is no exception. But unlike the usual shot-in-the dark wild guesses, there’s one that caught our attention this time.

We’re not sure it actually means anything, but people more conspiratorially minded than us have noticed that if you rotate and resize the squiggly drawing of the rainbow Apple logo on the invitation, it looks a lot like the cursive “hello” that appeared in the original Mac advertisement. We didn’t really believe it until we overlaid the two images on top of each other, and as you can see below, they match up quite well. Even the leaf fits on the top half of the “H”. 

Considering there are rumors of new iMacs arriving soon, consider our curiosity piqued.

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Somewhere an Apple graphic designer who thought that it would look quite fun to use the “llo” from the original Mac “Hello” campaign to look like a spring, because it’s a spring event, is laughing uproariously.
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US Treasury provides missing link: Manafort’s partner gave campaign polling data to Kremlin in 2016 • Just Security

Justin Hendrix:

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The U.S. Treasury Department said Thursday that Konstantin Kilimnik, an associate and ex-employee of Paul Manafort, “provided the Russian Intelligence Services with sensitive information on polling and campaign strategy,” during the 2016 election, an apparently definitive statement that neither Special Counsel Robert Mueller nor the Senate Intelligence Committee investigation made in their final reports. 

“This is new public information that connects the provision of internal Trump campaign data to Russian intelligence,” Andrew Weissmann, who led the prosecution of Manafort for the Special Counsel, told Just Security on Thursday. 

The eye-catching statement was included in an announcement of new sanctions related to Russian interference in U.S. elections. The Biden administration took a number of steps Thursday to punish Russia, not only for election interference, but also the SolarWinds cyberattack, its ongoing occupation of Crimea, and human rights abuses. 

Kilimnik was one of 16 individuals the Treasury Department announced it was sanctioning for attempting to influence the 2020 U.S. presidential election at the direction of the Kremlin. The Treasury Department is also imposing new sanctions on 16 entities, including several Russian disinformation outlets. 

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This is the collusion that was denied and denied and denied by the Trump campaign. The Mueller report never made the final connection – passing the data to the Kremlin.
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Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile kill RCS plans • Light Reading

Mike Dano:

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The biggest wireless network operators in the US announced in 2019 that they would jointly launch a Rich Communications Services (RCS) messaging app sometime in 2020.

Under the auspices of their new Cross Carrier Messaging Initiative (CCMI), the companies said in late 2019 they would use vendor Synchronoss Technologies to handle the technological logistics of the effort. And in May 2020, Synchronoss said “we continue to believe the RCS-based advanced messaging service will be launched by the CCMI joint venture in 2020.”

But it was not to be.

“While we’re not at liberty to speak on behalf of CCMI and no launch date for the service has been formally announced, Synchronoss is continuing to move forward with preparations and look forward to helping bring RCS-based messaging to US subscribers,” the company said in response to questions from Light Reading.

Verizon was a bit more blunt: “The owners of the Cross Carrier Messaging Initiative decided to end the joint venture effort. However, the owners remain committed to enhancing the messaging experience for customers including growing the availability of RCS,” the operator said in a statement to Light Reading.

The development really comes as no surprise.

“The [RCS] market has been impossibly slow for a decade now,” analyst Lynnette Luna of GlobalData told Light Reading. Luna wrote a report on RCS in the US in June 2020 and has not seen a reason to update it yet.

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RCS, if you’d forgotten, is the SMS 2.0 (or WhatsApp-Lite) which would at least be better than SMS. The trouble for the carriers (and Google, which has been pushing RCS hard to Android) is that there’s no particular revenue in it for them, and Apple – which has 40% or more of the smartphone market in the US – doesn’t support it.

It might happen on Android, but it’s not going to be cross-platform. So the carriers don’t care.
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Errata, corrigenda and ai no corrida: none notified

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