Thursday, February 22, 2024


Apart from getting started in the midst of one of Silicon Valley's regular downturns, another great thing about the beginnings of Nvidia was that instead of insisting on the "minimum viable product" our VCs, Sutter Hill and Sequoia, gave us the time to develop a real architecture for a family of chips. It enabled us to get an amazing amount of functionality into a half-micron gate array; I/O virtualization, a DMA engine, a graphics processor that rendered curved surfaces directly, not by approximating them with triangles, a sound engine and support for game controllers. As I write, after a three decade-long history of bringing innovations to the market, Nvidia is America's third most valuable company.

I've written several times about how in pursuit of a quicker buck, VCs have largely discarded the slow process of building an IPO-ready company like Nvidia in favor of building one that will be acquired by one of the dominant monopolists. These VCs don't support innovation. Even if their acquisition-bound companies do innovate in their short lives, their innovations are rarely tested in the market after the acuisition.

Below the fold I discuss a new paper that presents a highly detailed look at the mechanisms the dominant companies use to neutralize the threats startups could pose to their dominance.

Tuesday, February 13, 2024

Clouds Over The Mines

In early December 2022 when I wrote skeptically about the economics of Bitcoin mining in Foolish Lenders the Bitcoin "price" was around $17K. It has now climbed 153% to around $43K and, below the fold, I am still posting skeptically about the economics of mining.

Thursday, February 8, 2024

Tracing The Pig Butchers

Chapter 18 of Zeke Faux's Number Go Up: Inside Crypto's Wild Rise and Staggering Fall is entitled "Pig Butchering". It starts when he receives a supposed wrong-number text from a "Vicky":
I showed my phone to my friend and explained that I was stringing Vicky along because I’d heard about a new kind of investment fraud that often started with a random text message. I had a hunch that this was why “Vicky” was texting me. The scam was called “pig butchering” because the scammers liked to build up the victim’s confidence with a pretend romantic relationship and made-up investment gains before stealing all their money in one fell swoop—like how hogs are fattened up before their slaughter.
This is a romance- and cryptocurrency-enabled version of the "Wee Forest Folk" scam we described in our 2003 SOSP paper.

Below the fold, I look into the details of pig-butchering scams, and how the tracing techniques I discussed in Criming On The Blockchain are being applied to identify the cryptocurrency companies facilitating it.

Thursday, February 1, 2024

The Stanford Digital Library Project

The Stanford Digital Library Project stated its goal thus:
The Stanford Integrated Digital Library Project will develop enabling technologies for an integrated “virtual” library to provide an array of new services and uniform access to networked information collections. The Integrated Digital Library will create a shared environment linking everything from personal information collections, to collections of conventional libraries, to large data collections shared by scientists.
Stanford librarians Vicky Reich and Rebecca Wesley provided the "library" input for the research.

Wayback Machine, 11/11/98
In particular Vicky explained citation indices, the concept behind Page Rank, to Larry Page and Sergey Brin. Andy Bechtolsheim was famously instrumental in persuading them to turn their demo of a Page Rank search engine into Google, the company. In his fascinating interview in the Computer History Museum's oral history collection, Andy explains why the idea of ranking pages by their inbound links was so important.

Below the fold I have taken the liberty of transcribing and cleaning up the relevant section of Andy's stream of conciousness, both because it is important history and because it exactly reflects the Andy I was privileged to know in the early days of Sun Microsystems.

Tuesday, January 30, 2024

Criming On The Blockchain

I apologize for the delay in posting but, as you will see, the post I was working on grew rather long.

It seems obvious that doing crimes and writing the receipts to an immutable public ledger is risky, but many criminals have been convinced that there is no risk because cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin are anonymous. Although there are cryptocurrencies with anonymous transactions, such as Monero and zCash, they are much more difficult to use and much less liquid than pseudonymous cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin. As many criminals have discovered, without an unrealistically intense focus on operational security (opsec), the identity behind the pseudonym can be revealed. An entire industry has evolved to do these revelations, tracing the flow of coins through their blockchains.

Below the fold I discuss the techniques and results of blockchain tracing, based on four main sources:

Thursday, January 18, 2024

A Lesson Learned

You know how backups work great until you really need them? Below the fold, a lesson learned from my recent example of this phenomenon.

Tuesday, January 9, 2024

Autonomous Vehicles: Trough of Disillusionment

Jeremykemp CC BY-SA 3.0, Link
This is the famous Gartner hype cycle and it certianly appears that autonomous vehicles are currently in the Trough of Disillusionment. Whether they will eventually soar up to the Plateau of Productivity is unknown, but for now it is clear even to practitioners that the hype bubble they have been riding for years has burst.

Below the fold I try to catch up with the flood of reporting on the autonomous vehicle winter triggered by the bursting of the bubble.