340: SpaceX Starlink & Ukraine, China Semiconductors Cataclysm, Meta's Sad Worlds, WW1 Shooter, Digital Cameras, and Nvidia's 12GB RTX 4080 Un-Launch
"the AI thinks I’m a long-haired redhead, but hey"
Read, every day, something no one else is reading. Think, every day, something no one else is thinking. It is bad for the mind to continually be part of unanimity.
—Gotthold E. Lessing
🖼 🎨🤖 I asked Stable Diffusion for a portrait.
Apparently, the AI thinks I’m a long-haired redhead, but hey, I’ll take it. I like the vibe:
🎧🎙📚 It’s always great when two friends-of-the-show get together and have a great conversation. Here’s David Senra on Jim O’Shaughnessy’s podcast:
🥶❄️🏃♂️👟☃️ Cold weather footwear acquired:
I liked my ‘minimalist’ Xero HFS so much, both for running and everyday wear, that I went all-in and got Terraflex II for cold-weather running (they’re water-resistant and have a more grip) and Alpine boots for everyday winter wear.
Definition of minimalist footwear: “providing minimal interference with the natural movement of the foot due to its high flexibility, low heel-to-toe drop, weight and stack height, and the absence of motion control and stability devices.”
Now, whenever I go back to ‘regular’ shoes, they feel heavy & stiff, and they deaden ground feel so much that it feels like a disconnect. They’re more like medical braces than basic feet protection.
Kinda crazy how perspective can change, because before trying this, I loved my New Balance 990v2 and wouldn’t have said there was much wrong with my shoes.
It’s a good reminder to keep trying new things because you never know what will stick. It’s the whole exploration vs exploitation balancing act…
💚 🥃 🍀 Big BIG thanks to the 3 new paid supporters who joined since Friday, M. (who went for 𝔼𝕩𝕥𝕣𝕒-𝔻𝕖𝕝𝕦𝕩𝕖, because why tf not, you may as well go for the very best!). Big thanks also to C. and C. — I truly appreciate it my friends! 🙂
Liberty’s Highlights is reader-supported. To support my work, consider becoming a paid supporter. 🍀
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📡 🛰🛰🛰🛰🛰🛰🛰🛰 🇺🇦 Elon Musk asks Pentagon to pay for Starlink in Ukraine 🛰🛰🛰🛰🛰🛰🛰🛰🛰🛰🛰🛰 [Updated]
Documents obtained by CNN show that last month Musk’s SpaceX sent a letter to the Pentagon saying it can no longer continue to fund the Starlink service as it has. The letter also requested that the Pentagon take over funding for Ukraine’s government and military use of Starlink, which SpaceX claims would cost more than $120 million for the rest of the year and could cost close to $400 million for the next 12 months.
“We are not in a position to further donate terminals to Ukraine, or fund the existing terminals for an indefinite period of time,” SpaceX’s director of government sales wrote to the Pentagon in the September letter.
First of all, it’s not unreasonable to want to be paid for equipment and services.
But the timing seems a bit suspect — right after Musk made some de facto very pro-Putin public comments… (to be clear, I don’t think he had bad intentions, but it was naive)
What I can’t help but wonder is, how are they doing the math to say that it’s that expensive for them? Once the satellites are in the air and the terminals on the ground, it seems to me like operating Starlink is mostly a fixed cost, and the marginal cost of providing connectivity to Ukraine should be relatively low..?
Where is that $400m figure coming from? What am I missing?
Is it that they’re supply-constrained on the manufacturing of terminals, so the ones that they send to Ukraine could go somewhere else that would generate more $, so they’re counting that as lost revenue?
They’ve certainly donated some equipment and connectivity, but (see below) it also seems like a lot of UKR terminals have been paid for by various other groups and individuals, so it’s not like *all* the terminals in Ukraine have been donated and are operating without paying connectivity fees.
Starlink said that they’re giving the highest-tier of service to all terminals in Ukraine, even those that aren’t signed up for the top plan. Are they using that fact to say that they’re “losing” $4,500/month (cost of the highest tier, vs $60/month in Ukraine for the regular tier) per terminal? Surely their actual costs aren’t that different between the two services and it’s mostly a way to segment pricing between consumers and commercial/enterprise users…
Meanwhile on the ground:
The letters come amid recent reports of wide-ranging Starlink outages as Ukrainian troops attempt to retake ground occupied by Russia in the eastern and southern parts of the country.
Sources familiar with the outages said they suddenly affected the entire frontline as it stood on September 30. “That has affected every effort of the Ukrainians to push past that front,” said one person familiar with the outages who spoke to CNN on condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive conversations. “Starlink is the main way units on the battlefield have to communicate.”
There was no warning to Ukrainian forces, a second person said, adding that now when Ukraine liberates an area a request has to be made for Starlink services to be turned on.
Back to who’s paying for the service (including Ukrainians paying for dozens of terminals with their own credit cards):
Though Musk has received widespread acclaim and thanks for responding to requests for Starlink service to Ukraine right as the war was starting, in reality, the vast majority of the 20,000 terminals have received full or partial funding from outside sources, including the US government, the UK and Poland, according to the SpaceX letter to the Pentagon. [...]
The largest single contributor of terminals, according to the newly obtained documents, is Poland with payment for almost 9,000 individual terminals.
The US has provided almost 1,700 terminals. Other contributors include the UK, NGOs and crowdfunding. (Source)
This thread by someone on the ground who is involved in fundraising for equipment talks about mostly seeing Starlinks that have been bought — not donated — and about paying the same price for terminals and monthly fees as anyone else in the EU.
Update: Just to make the above somewhat obsolete, on Saturday Elon Musk tweeted:
The hell with it … even though Starlink is still losing money & other companies are getting billions of taxpayer $, we’ll just keep funding Ukraine govt for free
Good for him, though it does make it sound like Starlink is paying for *all* of it. I wish he’d be clearer about how many units they’re paying for and what is financed by others…
🇨🇳 ‘China’s semiconductor manufacturing industry was reduced to zero overnight. Complete collapse’ 💣
What’s going on here is very important.
Friend-of-the-show Jordan Scheider (🇺🇸🇨🇳) brings some translated tweets by lidang 立党 about what just happened to the Chinese semiconductor industry because of the White House’s new restrictions on ‘US Persons’ working in China’s semiconductors industry. Some highlights:
Biden has forced all Americans working in China to pick between quitting their jobs and losing American citizenship. Every American executive and engineer working in China’s semiconductor manufacturing industry resigned yesterday, paralyzing Chinese manufacturing overnight. One round of sanctions from Biden did more damage than all four years of performative sanctioning under Trump. Although American semiconductor exporters had to apply for licenses during the Trump years, licenses were approved within a month. With the new Biden sanctions, all American suppliers of IP blocks, components, and services departed overnight —— thus cutting off all service [to China]. Long story short, every advanced node semiconductor company is currently facing comprehensive supply cut-off, resignations from all American staff, and immediate operations paralysis. This is what annihilation looks like: China’s semiconductor manufacturing industry was reduced to zero overnight. Complete collapse. No chance of survival. [Translation of the DMs in a screenshot: Person A: Everyone from Lam Research at Yangtze Memory left today, and on the 12th the AMAT folks will leave as well Person B: Yes. Not just Yangtze, but also HLMC, ICRD’s Jiading fab, Hefei’s CXMT DRAM fab All leaving Even Geehy in Hangzhou is pausing operations] [...] I will stress again: This round of sanctions means annihilation for China’s semiconductor industry. This is nothing like the 10+ rounds of performative sanctioning during the Trump years —— this is a serious act of industry-wide decapitation. Any Chinese company that survives is a company that hasn’t been fully sanctioned yet; Any fully sanctioned Chinese company is 100% doomed; there’s no possibility of survival. American citizens and permanent residents will predictably vote with their feet."
Jordan adds that he thinks this may be overstated and provides more context, but even if things aren’t as bad as described above, it still sounds like a *huge* deal…
It also makes me wonder if we’ll see an exodus of Chinese semi engineers to other countries. If you’ve been building very valuable expertise over years with some EDA tool or whatever, and all you want to do in life is work on cutting-edge chips, what do you do now? Some may work in R&D efforts to rebuild the tech tree with homegrown (or copied) tech, but others may just want to keep doing what they were doing.
Facebook Meta documents reveal Horizon Metaverse Usage 🥽
Meta initially set a goal of reaching 500,000 monthly active users for Horizon Worlds by the end of this year, but in recent weeks revised that figure to 280,000. The current tally is less than 200,000, the documents show.
Most visitors to Horizon generally don’t return to the app after the first month, and the user base has steadily declined since the spring, according to the documents, which include internal memos from employees. [...]
According to internal statistics, only 9% of worlds built by creators are ever visited by at least 50 people. Most are never visited at all.
“An empty world is a sad world,” said one document summarizing the company’s efforts to herd users toward venues where they would encounter others.
📸📉 Non-Phone Digital Cameras are Dying 💀
I have a Nikon DSLR that I almost never use because my iPhone 12 Pro takes good-enough photos in most situations *and* I always have it with me, unlike the big camera.
🧪🔬 Liberty Labs 🧬 🔭
🤖🗣📝 OpenAI’s Whisper AI Model for Audio Transcription & Translation, Part 2 (The Sequel)
Back in edition #335, I wrote about OpenAI’s new open-source model that does text transcription and translation of audio with a pretty high degree of accuracy even with lots of background noise or distorted low-quality audio.
The video above explains how the ML model works and shows what it can do in practice. I thought it was quite interesting, I hope you enjoy it too.
Nvidia ‘unlaunches’ the 12GB RTX 4080 GPU 😲
While I prefer companies that don’t make mistakes in the first place (good luck finding that…), second place 🥈 goes to companies that identify mistakes and correct them:
Unlaunching The 12GB 4080
The RTX 4080 12GB is a fantastic graphics card, but it’s not named right. Having two GPUs with the 4080 designation is confusing.
So, we’re pressing the “unlaunch” button on the 4080 12GB. The RTX 4080 16GB is amazing and on track to delight gamers everywhere on November 16th.
I mean, good for them to have the flexibility to do this. I know a lot of companies that would’ve dug in and never budged.
🎨 🎭 Liberty Studio 👩🎨 🎥
🎖🪖 New WW1 Shooter set in the Italian Alps 🏔
Not a setting and time period you see every day in the gaming world. I don’t have time to play these games, but I do enjoy having a look at videos like this.
What was your input for the AI? Do you just drop a bunch of text from your newsletter in there?
The comments about the Chinese semiconductor industry are abysmally uninformed about the industry.
China is already self sufficient and a major producer of the less than top tier chips. The only semiconductor manufacturing annihilated in China is the sector that relied on American and Euro advanced technology. That is a small percentage of the semiconductor industry and has no impact on key sections of industry.
Many of the U.S. citizens working in China are actually Chinese who came to America, studied, got visas and then naturalized. They were part of a government program supporting such students. They are Chinese, in origin, language, culture, thought and loyal to China. They would like nothing more than to particicipate in China's attempt to leapfrog to top level chip making.
Meanwhile, the American makers of top level chips just lost anywhere from twenty five to forty five per cent of their market depending on the company being studied. China was the largest consumer of such chips. No more. Now they are pulling out all stops with a massively financed program of import substitution.
Biden's program does little to accomplish what it wants but severely hampers American chip design industry at a time when financing is in short supply.