162: Cloudflare Impact Week, XPEL's Next 100-Bagger Idea, Apple Wearables, S&P Global, Cybersecurity for Critical Infrastructure, Microsoft's No/Low-Code, and Zelda

"Nostalgia for alternative timelines is a real thing, I guess"

Our freedom to doubt was born out of a struggle against authority in the early days of science.

It was a very deep and strong struggle: permit us to question - to doubt - to not be sure. I think that it is important that we do not forget this struggle and thus perhaps lose what we have gained.

Richard P. Feynman

🛀1 My wife and I have two kids. Two boys, 3 (👦🏼) and 7 (👦🏻). We won’t have more kids, but once in a while, I wish I could meet whoever would’ve been #3 (in a different timeline). Or even #4 or #5, why not?.

I wonder how they would’ve been, what they would’ve done with their lives…

Nostalgia for alternative timelines is a real thing, I guess ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

🤔 🛳 ⚓️ I wonder how many people still believe that the Titanic is the biggest ship ever built, or even somehow competitive with modern ships.

Not that I’m blaming anyone — there’s no shame in not knowing things, just in not wanting to learn, or in not looking things up when you’re curious.

This post by Tim urban gives an idea of the scales of the Titanic vs a modern ship.

🚛💥 Once in a while, I gotta be the old-man-screaming-at-cloud and complain about noise, but it’s a real issue. Quality of life would be so much higher in cities without diesel trucks.

I was walking in the city a few days ago, and every time a truck passed by I couldn’t hear my podcast through my headphones, and they were already set to like 75-80% of max just to cut through the ambient city noise.

I tried to use my new decibel-meter app to measure how loud it got as one passed by, but of course, right after I decided to do that, trucks stopped using my street…

Various references have diesel trucks in the 90 decibel range at 50-150ft (but if you’re on the sidewalk, they pass much closer than that).

Even if city folks say they don’t mind, got used to it, etc, I’d bet that there’s a mental-health cost to all this noise pollution. We haven’t evolved to be in constantly noisy environment and have loud noises pop around us all the time.

Quality-of-life in cities is going to improve so much when big trucks go electric. I’m just surprised that there hasn’t been more noise-reduction efforts before, either through regulatory pressure and just plain old R&D, because it’s not like we don’t know how to address this problem or it’s physically impossible. It just hasn’t been a priority, and has barely gotten better over decades.

I guess things that are invisible don’t get as much attention (like CO2).

🍔 🏊‍♀️ We often talk about how the internet increases the speed of disinformation spreading. We don't often talk about the speed at which rumours and urban legends are being corrected.

Growing up, I kept hearing how you can’t go swimming for 30-60 minutes after eating… but if we had had Google back then, we could've looked it up very quickly instead of this incorrect meme sticking around for years (yes, memes existed even before people called them that — Richard Dawkins coined the term in 1976, so it’s been around a while, and once again, everything new is old and vice versa).

🚲 So that’s how packs of bikes sleep at night. Nature is so clever, evolving mechanisms to avoid predators when in their most vulnerable state. Reminds me of bats.

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Investing & Business

XPEL’s next product line…

One word, kid: Self-healing-hardwood-floor-coating.

Cloudflare Impact Week, Highlights Edition

Bunch of announcements this week by Cloudflare, under the theme of Impact Week, which covers stuff that broadly falls under ESG.

My highlights:

This is pretty cool. Basically, about 5% of internet traffic is “good” bots, like search engine crawlers or Archive.org making copies of pages, that kind of stuff. But these bots often will re-crawl pages that haven’t changed since their last visit, which is wasteful.

Cloudflare has been working with the operators of these bots for a while and created a system that allows them to signal to bot owners when a page has changed and needs to be re-crawled (since so much of the internet goes through Cloudflare’s CDNs and DDoS protection and such, they have a great up-to-date view over vast amounts of websites).

This has a many benefits, like reducing load on sites, improving performance for human users, reducing costs, and lowering the environmental impact by saving some electricity on all the infrastructure involved.

On top of that, by signalling to the crawlers when a site has changed, they’ll get crawled faster than via periodic crawling, so search engine indexes will also be fresher and more accurate. Everybody wins! (yay 🎉)

Next we have:

Because of the theme of the week, they look at this one from the angle of energy-efficiency (which is a real benefit), but this is also very much about lowering costs (both energy costs, and because ARM chips can be cheaper per unit of performance than x86 chips).

we started testing our first Arm CPUs all the way back in November 2017. It’s only recently, however, that the quantum of energy efficiency improvement from Arm has become clear. Our first Arm CPU was deployed in production earlier this month — July 2021.

Our most recently deployed generation of edge servers, Gen X, used AMD Rome CPUs. Compared with that, the newest Arm based CPUs process an incredible 57% more Internet requests per watt. While AMD has a sequel, Milan (and which Cloudflare will also be deploying), it doesn’t achieve the same degree of energy efficiency that the Arm processor does — managing only 39% more requests per watt than Rome CPUs in our existing fleet. As Arm based CPUs become more widely deployed, and our software is further optimized to take advantage of the Arm architecture, we expect further improvements in the energy efficiency of Arm servers.

57% is pretty huge, and while the new AMD chips are great, the newest ARM chips will also improve… Cloudflare doesn’t mention what ARM cores they’re using — if someone has that info, please let me know (Muji 💾, you know that one?).

Then we have energy efficiency & renewables:

we're committing to be carbon neutral by 2022. We already extensively use renewable energy to power our global network, but we're going to expand that usage to cover 100% of our energy use. But we're going a step further. We're going to look back over the 11 years since Cloudflare launched and purchase offsets to zero out all of Cloudflare's historical carbon output from powering our global network. It's not enough that we have less impact than others, we want to make sure Cloudflare since our beginning has been a net positive for the planet.

They even created a new feature for their Workers edge computing platform where you can specify that some jobs should only be run in datacenters that are 100% powered by clean energy (this is mostly for scheduled cron jobs where latency is less important).

S&P Global's Segments (Q2 ‘21) 📊

When your least profitable biz has 35.4% operation margins.

What a collection of businesses…

Microsoft’s Low-Code/No-Code is on 🔥

Nadella during the Q2 call (I know, fiscal Q4, whatever, I’m a calendar guy):

The number of organizations using Power Apps has more than doubled year over year. […]

All-up, Power Platform revenue increased 83 percent over the past year.

If AirPods & Apple Watch were a company…

I mean, we’ve all heard this a bunch, and it’s kind of a flawed premise to imagine as a standalone company because of the ecosystem effects, but I still think that as long as you keep this caveat in mind and don’t push things farther than they should go, it’s a good way to get an idea of the scale of things.

‘National Security Memorandum on Improving Cybersecurity for Critical Infrastructure Control Systems’

The White House sure is taking cyber-security seriously these days (nice change of pace).

Through DHS and NIST, they’re establishing some new “cybersecurity performance goals [and standards] for critical infrastructure”, and they’re creating a new acronym-initiative, the Industrial Control System Cybersecurity (ICS), to interface with industry to get this done.

The Initiative began in mid-April with an Electricity Subsector pilot, and already over 150 electricity utilities representing almost 90 million residential customers are either deploying or have agreed to deploy control system cybersecurity technologies. The action plan for natural gas pipelines is underway, and additional initiatives for other sectors will follow later this year. (Source)

This should definitely good for the usual suspects who provide the picks & shovels of the zero trust security paradigm (Okta, Crowdstrike, ZScaler, Cloudflare, Palo Alto Networks, SentinelOne, etc).

To get up-to-speed on what Zero Trust is, check out this great piece by friend-of-the-show and official cultural ambassador Muji (💾):

Good News Corner, Baby Amari Ananta Edition 👶

Really happy to learn that friend-of-the-show Fahd Ananta and his partner now have a beautiful baby boy to enlarge their hearts and keep them awake at night! 🥳 🥰

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Science & Technology

I had no idea about Soviet whale-pirates (!?)

The graph above shows the historical population of blue whales over time.

I found this comment on Reddit particularly interesting in giving context to what had been going on:

For anybody wondering why "intentional kills" were still happening after whaling was outlawed, this was the infamous "pirate whaling" era of the USSR, revealed only in the 90s in a talk given by a Russian at an international meeting, a quiet low-key talk that left the whole audience (of marine mammalogists) stunned and that is still talked about today. Till that talk nobody could figure out why the blues weren't recovering and why southern humpbacks had collapsed.

There are several ways to continue whaling despite the whaling ban: lodge an objection (Norway, sometimes Iceland); leave the IWC (Iceland); qualify for approval for small-scale aboriginal harvest by native ethnic groups (USA, Canada, some others); pretend it's for science (Japan); or, simply continue whaling but lie about it. The Soviet Union took the last path, on an industrial scale that dwarfs all other whaling of the mid 20th century.

Check out these bonkers incentives:

IIRC, the Soviet pirate whaling overharvest was driven by a quota system in which the Soviets had a secret whaling quota, and, if a Soviet ship captain exceeded the year's quota of whale kills, he was given a raise and the quota was raised the following year; next year he had to exceed the new quota to get another raise; and if he ever failed to meet quota in a given year, he was fired. Obviously this system is almost guaranteed to result in overharvest & population crash. (Population size & ability to withstand quota was never assessed.)

Dismally wretched.

Peter Attia & Tim Ferriss, Pre-Mezcal Podcast Edition

I really enjoyed this interview (or rather, conversation) between Peter Attia and Tim Ferriss.

They kind of just do a 360 of what Peter is finding interesting these days, and go fairly deep explaining some really interesting stuff, including how to interpret scientific studies and avoid being misled by the almost-always-wrong media headlines.

It’s mostly bio-medical and health stuff, but trust me, even if you don’t understand all the terms and aren’t familiar with all the molecules, there’s a lot of really interesting stuff discussed here in a no-BS way.

And if you liked this and want more, I highly recommend Attia’s podcast generally.

Primer on Ransomware 💻 👾

This type of cyberattack is more and more in the spotlight lately, and if you don’t know much about the space but would like to learn, this primer podcast is a good place to start:

Intel Touts Big Names for Foundry Business (Amazon, Qualcomm)

Intel Corp said on Monday its factories will start building Qualcomm chips [...]

Amazon.com will be another new customer for the foundry chip business [...]

Intel said on Monday it expects to regain its lead by 2025 (Source)

What remains to be seen is how much volume these customers put through Intel vs TSMC/Samsung/GF, and how well Intel’s customer-service fares compared to the main alternatives with a long history of serving third-parties.

As for 2025, I’ll believe it when I see it.

Update: Looks like Intel was trying to do some spinning, probably to create a halo effect and attract more customers, but according to Dylan Patel, Amazon is only looking to do packaging with Intel, and Qualcomm has no real plans yet and is just evaluating things.

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The Arts & History

🎶 🔥 The Legend of Zelda 🛡🗡 🔺

I’m really digging this album of instrumental metal covers of the music from The Legend of Zelda (not just the first game, but a few of the early ones).

It may not mean much to you if you haven’t played the game — though I think that it’s still excellent music even without the nostalgia angle — but if you have, and you’ve had these melodies stuck in your head for decades, it’s very satisfying.

Convenient links:

h/t to reader Doug Ott

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Reminder that this is my marker for “shower thoughts”.