179: Microsoft's New Cybersecurity Head Was Almost Amazon CEO, Cloudflare Speed Week, Square, Apple A15, Maui Nui Venison, Coal 1-2, and Lady Jane Grey

"I *want* to change my mind, but often I can't"

You never know what worse luck your bad luck has saved you from.

—Cormac McCarthy

🧠 I always try to see changing my mind because of better arguments/learning new facts as a victory, not a defeat.

I *want* to change my mind, but often I can't, because I’m not finding reasons strong enough to warrant it… But gotta keep looking!

To me the approach makes a big difference: Some people *want* to change their minds, but they can’t because they don’t reach the ‘activation energy’ required to do so, while others *don’t* want to change their minds, but are sometimes dragged into doing it when their pro-stasis defenses are overwhelmed.

Feels like the latter group will stay wrong more often, and for longer.

💾 Back in the Pleistocene era of edition #39, I highlighted something that Nvidia CEO Jensen Huang said in an interview:

Nvidia is an IP company because I'm pretty sure that TSMC makes the chips, and I'm pretty sure that what we delivered to them was effectively an e-mail after completion of a multibillion-dollar project.

I was thinking of this recently, and it made me wonder just how big the files must be for a full system-on-a-chip or GPU design that a company like Nvidia or Apple sends to TSMC.

The new A15 SoC in the iPhone 13 has 15bn+ transistors. The files with the high-precision lithography masks (multiple layers) and all the details… That must be pretty big, but I have no idea how big. Terabytes?

If anyone works in the field and knows, or has a good online source with this info, please let me know. Thank you.

🇪🇺 Hey Europe, any way you could update the GDPR so that not every website in the world has to have the pointless and annoying button with “I accept”?

I promise you, it’s not helping anyone or making anyone more aware of anything, it’s just a papercut for billions of people (yes, I know browser extensions exist to automatically hide those — but it’s stupid that we’ve gotten to this point to begin with, it’s like we’re back to the era of every website having a bunch of annoying popups).

🎞 Sometimes I think about how some GIFs are used on Twitter and some people may have seen them 1000 times, but they don’t know where they're originally from — to them it's just a meme — and at some point they're going to watch that film or TV show, and it's going to be quite the "aha!" moment when suddenly this thing that is burned into their brain happens in front of them, in context, so that they finally truly "get it". It must be pretty satisfying… I'm trying to remember if/when this happened for me. 🤔

💚 🥃 Update on the numbers, the road to making this project sustainable and win-win-win: 4.4% of total subscribers are paying supporters, and 95.6% of subs don’t contribute a cent.

I appreciate all of you. But know that if you do become a supporter, it does make a big difference. I know for lots of you it’s the hassle of the sign up process that holds you back, but it’s really easy, you can even use Apple Pay/Google Pay to autofill everything (just make sure you’re signed in on Substack, link at the top on website):

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Investing & Business

Microsoft's New Cybersecurity Head Was Almost Amazon CEO

Charlie Bell was one of the contenders for the CEO job at Amazon when Bezos rode in the sunset, and after the job went to Jassy he left the company. At the time I wondered what he would eventually do. I guess now we know:

Charlie Bell, who long reported to former Amazon Web Services chief Andy Jassy and oversaw the engineering teams working on AWS’s main software services, will become an executive vice president [for cybersecurity operations] reporting to Microsoft Chief Executive Officer Satya Nadella. 

Didn’t know Bell’s origin story:

After working on software for NASA’s space shuttle program early in his career, Bell joined Amazon in 1998 when the company acquired his e-commerce software startup.

⬛️ Square Deep Dive ⬛️

Friend-of-the-show (💎🐕) and supporter Mostly Borrowed Ideas wrote a great deeeeep dive into Square, Jack Dorsey’s bigger company:

It’s not a company I had ever really taken the time to learn about in much detail, so it was a very educational piece for me. I think it may be MBI’s best piece yet, which is a sign that he keeps getting better as an analyst.

I also love how MBI puts things into historical context and doesn’t just give a snapshot of the current state of the company.

even the cheapest credit card reader back in 2009 cost ~$950 but also was the size of a shoe that was clunky and far from intuitive. Small merchants were paying ~4% for their credit card services. [...]

Square did not have to promote the product as everything about the product itself was promotion. Square grew 10% every week for two years. This is remarkable because there were no network effects at play.

Another great source of info on the company’s origin is this 4-year-old Acquired episode on the Square IPO, by friends-of-the-show David (💚 🥃) & Ben:

Nobody’s Patient Anymore — Building Stuff Takes Time

Interview: Jack Muise of Maui Nui Venison, Hawaii Invasive Species Edition

This is a bit different, but I really enjoyed this podcast with Jake Muise, telling his story of creating a business that humanely hunts Axis deer in Hawaii, and invasive and very destructive species on the islands, and sells the meat online through Maui Nui Venison.

This may not seem like such an accomplishment, but trust me, the stories about the challenges involved in building this business, as well as the great intentions behind it (I love learning about Hawaii — such an interesting place) are worth a listen:

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Science & Technology

Cloudflare’s Speed Week, My Highlights

It’s always fun when Cloudflare has one of its special weeks where they announce a bunch of new stuff. It’s like internet-infrastructure-nerd-xmas, except it comes around multiple times a year.

Here’s some cool stuff I noted this week:

Just like Waze examines real data from real drivers to give you accurate, uncongested — and sometimes unorthodox — routes across town, Argo Smart Routing uses the timing data Cloudflare collects from each request to pick faster, more efficient routes across the Internet.

This Argo routing system, which I use through their WARP+ VPN, is getting a nice V2.0 upgrade for all users:

When it launched, Argo was entirely focused on the “middle mile,” speeding up connections from Cloudflare to our customers’ servers. Argo now delivers optimal routes from clients and users to Cloudflare, further reducing end-to-end latency while still providing the impressive edge to origin performance that Argo is known for. These last-mile improvements reduce end user round trip times by up to 40%. [...]

These benefits are not theoretical: enabling Argo Smart Routing shaves an average of 33% off HTTP time to first byte (TTFB).

They also came out with a neat Cloudflare for Images product that helps customers figure out how they could optimize image use on their website (to improve load times without sacrificing perceived quality). They have a new API that makes it very easy to upload source images and let the system do all the heavy lifting of creating variants that are optimized for various use cases (mobile, large screens, etc).

They can serve modern formats like AVIF, which are about 50% smaller compared to JPEG for the same quality, and have a pretty friendly pricing structure with no egress fees. Neat.

Another big announcement is that Cloudflare now has physical presence in 250 cities worldwide. 37 of the new cities are in mainland China, through a partnership with JD Cloud.


we have seen a 3.5x increase in external network capacity from the start of 2020 to now [...] and increased our long-haul internal backbone network by over 800% since the start of 2020. [...]

This has involved a lot of middleman-removal: rather than run fiber optics from our routers through a third-party network to an origin or user’s network, we’re running more and more Private Network Interconnects (PNIs) and, better yet, Cloudflare Network Interconnects (CNIs) to our customers.

Their capacity was already bonkers (they ran close to 20% of internet traffic, last I saw numbers), so now it’s just 🤯

I also thought that their tiered caching announcement was pretty cool. One of the original Cloudflare businesses is their content delivery network (CDN), and this makes it better:

Tiered Cache uses the size of our network to reduce requests to customer origins [severs] by dramatically increasing cache hit ratios. With data centers around the world, Cloudflare caches content very close to end users, but if a piece of content is not in cache, the Cloudflare edge data centers must contact the origin server to receive the cacheable content. This can be slow and places load on an origin server compared to serving directly from cache.

Tiered Cache works by dividing Cloudflare’s data centers into a hierarchy of lower-tiers and upper-tiers. If content is not cached in lower-tier data centers (generally the ones closest to a visitor), the lower-tier must ask an upper-tier to see if it has the content. If the upper-tier does not have it, only the upper-tier can ask the origin for content. This practice improves bandwidth efficiency by limiting the number of data centers that can ask the origin for content, reduces origin load, and makes websites more cost-effective to operate. [...]

Customers enabling Tiered Cache can achieve a 60% or greater reduction in their cache miss rate as compared to Cloudflare’s traditional CDN service.

Basically, rather than go check on your own server, using your bandwidth and resources, every time a local CDN POP doesn’t have the files, they’ll first check on other Cloudflare POPs (which can be pretty fast because it’s all on their own private network — remember ARGO?), and so it reduces your server bills by serving more customers from cache.

Cloudflare CEO Matthew Prince wrote a post about the genesis of Signed Exchanges tech, which were born because he was so freaked out by Google and Facebook making moves that could potentially badly hurt the open web:

The story starts with me pretty freaked out. In May 2015, Facebook had announced a new format for the web called Instant Articles. The format allowed publishers to package up their pages and serve them directly from Facebook's infrastructure. This was a threat to Google, so the company responded in October with Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP). [...]

We met with both Facebook and Google. Facebook's view of the world was entirely centered around their app, and didn't leave much room for partners. Google, on the other hand, was born out of the open web and still ultimately wanted to foster it. [...]

We built a number of products to extend the AMP ecosystem and make it more open. [...]

working with the AMP team at Google helped us better collaborate on ideas around Internet performance. Cloudflare's mission is to "help build a better Internet." It's not to "build a better Internet." The word "help" is essential and something I'll always correct if I hear someone leave it out. The Internet is inherently a collection of networks, and also a collection of work from a number of people and organizations. Innovation doesn't happen in a vacuum but is catalyzed by collaboration and open standards.

More details on Signed Exchanges here.

Finally, they did an update on their Workers edge compute platform and how performance has increased and compares to other serverless platforms:

It’s been a few years since we talked about how Cloudflare Workers compares to other serverless platforms when it comes to performance, so we decided it was time for an update. [...]

Today, Workers is 30% faster than it was three years ago at P90. And it is 210% faster than Lambda@Edge, and 298% faster than Lambda.

Oh, and also, we eliminated cold starts.

Would be curious to see it compared to Fastly’s Compute@Edge, but maybe they didn’t include it because that’s (still) not yet fully deployed..?

I think the biggest benefit of the Workers platform for Cloudflare at this point is that it seems to have increased the velocity at which they can build new product, and given them great low-latency compute capabilities to build all kinds of very useful stuff.

Eventually, customers may be the biggest users of Workers, but for now, it looks like Cloudflare is its own best customer (very Amazonian), and that’s not a bad thing because it *has* to make the product improve faster than it otherwise would (cf. Dogfooding).


Apple A15 CPU & GPU Benchmark Scores (iPhone 13)

On the GeekBench CPU/GPU test, the A15 in the iPhone 13 Pro performed 10% better single-core and ˜21% multi-core than the A14 in the iPhone Pro 12 for CPU, and 55% for GPU.

They also mentioned that the ML engine was about 44% faster (A14 was 11 trillion operations per second, A15 is 15.8 t/ops).

So clearly they put most of the gains on the ML/GPU side, which can probably be explained by the kind of features they built (advanced video effects).

Looks like a good year-on-year improvement to me, especially since no process change (still on TSMC 5nm). Not every year can be the A14.

Coal One / Two

“China is responsible for more than half of the world's coal consumption.”

“Since the 2015 Paris Agreement 76% of planned coal power plants have been scrapped.”

Via Max Rosner

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The Arts & History

‘The Execution of Lady Jane Grey’ (1833)

I had never seen this painting before seeing a video by Elizabeth Filips where she talks about why she likes it so much.

The painting portrays, erroneously in some regards, the moments preceding the death of Lady Jane Grey, who on 10 July 1553 was proclaimed Queen of England, only to be deposed nine days later and executed in 1554. Jane is sometimes referred to as the "Nine Days' Queen" due to the brevity of her reign.

She was 17 years old…

I find the painting by Paul Delaroche incredibly striking on its own, and it creates strong and complex emotions in me when I examine it (as a scene, and the details). I recommend this video about it:

This also led me to discover more paintings by Delaroche. Here’s another one I quite like: