Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Elon Musk: Threat or Menace Part 4

The previous post in this series, Elon Musk: Threat or Menace Part 3, was based on the impressively detailed reporting from a team at the Washington Post on the crash that killed Jeremy Banner in The final 11 seconds of a fatal Tesla Autopilot crash. The team's subsequent equally detailed Tesla worker killed in fiery crash may be first ‘Full Self-Driving’ fatality triggered this comment which concluded:
It seems the driver thought that it was OK to drive home with a blood alcohol level of 0.26 because he believed Musk's hype that Fake Self Driving would handle it despite having to repeatedly override it on the way out.
Now, the team's Faiz Siddiqui and Trisha Thadani are out with In 2018 crash, Tesla’s Autopilot just followed the lane lines. Below the fold I look into what it reveals about Autopilot.

Friday, April 12, 2024

Decentralized Systems Aren't

Below the fold is the text of a talk I gave to Berkeley's Information Systems Seminar exploring the history of attempts to build decentralized systems and why so many of them end up centralized.

Tuesday, April 9, 2024

The Little Garden

Below the fold is the story of how I got a full-time Internet connection at my apartment 32 years ago next month, and the incredible success of my first ISP.

The reason I'm now able to tell this story is that Tom Jennings, the moving spirit behind the ISP has two posts describing the history of The Little Garden, which was the name the ISP had adopted (from a Chinese restaurant in Palo Alto) when I joined it in May 1993. Tom's perspective from the ISP's point of view contrasts with my perspective — that of a fairly early customer enhanced by information via e-mail from John Gilmore and Tim Pozar, who were both involved far earlier than I.

Tuesday, April 2, 2024

The Left Curve

Muyao Shen explains the concept of the Left Curve in The Big Winners of This Crypto Bull Market Are the `Left Curves’:
There is a surprising amount of respect for people who appear to know nothing about the industry. They’re known as the “left curves.”

The nickname comes from a popular meme in crypto that shows a bell curve with investors on the left who know nothing, or very little, and those in the fat middle of the curve who know something about crypto. On the right are investors who seemingly know everything.
Below the fold I look at the left side of the curve

Tuesday, March 19, 2024

More On Pig Butchering

Thankfully, pig butchering scams are getting attention. Three weeks after I posted Tracing The Pig Butchers, John M. Griffin and Kevin Mei posted How Do Crypto Flows Finance Slavery? The Economics of Pig Butchering:
Through blockchain addresses used by ‘‘pig butchering’’ victims, we trace crypto flows and uncover methods commonly used by scammers to obfuscate their activities, including multiple transactions, swapping between cryptocurrencies through DeFi smart contracts, and bridging across blockchains. The perpetrators interact freely with major crypto exchanges, sending over 104,000 small potential inducement payments to build trust with victims. Funds exit the crypto network in large quantities, mostly in Tether, through less transparent but large exchanges—Binance, Huobi, and OKX. These criminal enterprises pay approximately 87 basis points in transaction fees and appear to have recently moved at least $75.3 billion into suspicious exchange deposit accounts, including $15.2 billion from exchanges commonly used by U.S. investors. Our findings highlight how the ‘‘reputable’’ crypto industry provides the common gateways and exit points for massive amounts of criminal capital flows. We hope these findings will help shed light on and ultimately stop these heinous crimes.
Griffin & Wei Fig. 9
Their Figure 9 shows the flow of funds over time into the scammer's wallets at exchanges. This is how they estimated the $75.3B; their extremely conservative estimate is $35.1B, and their liberal estimate is $237.6B. Note the huge ~$45B increase from January 2021 to January 2023, partly driven by the cryptocurrency boom, and the slowing until January 2024. Presumably the ETF pump will accelerate the rate.

Below the fold, some commentary on this and other recent developments.

Tuesday, March 12, 2024

Petabit Optical Media?

Sabine Hossenfelder does the good Dr. Pangloss proud in her report on A 3D nanoscale optical disk memory with petabit capacity by Miao Zhao et al. Their abstract claims that:
we increase the capacity of [optical data storage] to the petabit level by extending the planar recording architecture to three dimensions with hundreds of layers, meanwhile breaking the optical diffraction limit barrier of the recorded spots. We develop an optical recording medium based on a photoresist film doped with aggregation-induced emission dye, which can be optically stimulated by femtosecond laser beams. This film is highly transparent and uniform, and the aggregation-induced emission phenomenon provides the storage mechanism. It can also be inhibited by another deactivating beam, resulting in a recording spot with a super-resolution scale. This technology makes it possible to achieve exabit-level storage by stacking nanoscale disks into arrays, which is essential in big data centres with limited space.
Below the fold I discuss this technology.

Tuesday, March 5, 2024

Microsoft's Archival Storage Research

2016 Media Shipments

Exabytes Revenue $/GB
Hard Disk693$26.8B$0.039
LTO Tape40$0.65B$0.016
Six years ago I wrote Archival Media: Not a Good Business and included this table. The argument went as follows:
  • The value that can be extracted from data decays rapidly with time.
  • Thus companies would rather invest in current than archival data.
  • Thus archival media and systems are a niche market.
  • Thus archival media and systems lack the manufacturing volume to drive down prices.
  • Thus although quasi-immortal media have low opex (running cost), they have high capex (purchase cost).
  • Especially now interest rates are non-zero, the high capex makes the net present value of their lifetime cost high.
  • Archival media compete with legacy generic media, which have mass-market volumes and have already amortized their R&D, so have low capex but higher opex through their shorter service lives.
  • Because they have much higher volumes and thus much more R&D, generic media have much higher Kryder rates, meaning that although they need to be replaced over time, each new unit at approximately equal cost replaces several old units, reducing opex.
  • Especially now interest rates are non-zero, the net present value of the lower capex but higher opex is likely very competitive.
Below the fold I look into why, despite this, Microsoft has been pouring money into archival system R&D for about a decade.