341: Microsoft Sprinkling AI Everywhere, Starlink, Meta M&A Troubles, Cloudflare, Germany Nuclear, Heat Pumps, and my Stable Diffusion Experiment
"If I knew how to knit, I could start an Etsy store with this!"
Some people drink from the fountain of knowledge, others just gargle. –Robert Anthony
🦀 It turns out that I really like the look of juvenile king crabs (I discovered this fact via a tweet by friend-of-the-show Tren Griffin (🦀), of course).
Check this out:
Beautiful, ain’t they?
Such interesting geometries. If you’ve ever heard of the Bouba/kiki effect, you know that these guys are definitely Kikis…
🥕🥦🧅🧑🏻🍳 Wanna make your cooked vegetables taste better at home? More like what you get at restaurants? I found this video by Ethan Chlebowski to be a great primer on the basic tips & techniques to crank up tastiness.
🚶🏻♂️ 🎒🧱 I got some bricks that I wrapped in duct tape to put in my backpack when I go rucking.
Cheap and easy way to get some fairly dense weight that isn’t so abrasive that it’d destroy the interior of the pack:
These 4 bricks add up to 20lbs.
That seems like a good starting point. I walked a few times with 20lbs of textbooks and it was light enough to not cause problems, but heavy enough to be felt over an hour of hiking.
🇺🇦🇷🇺 Here’s an interesting interview with Fiona Hill, a former U.S. National Security Council official specializing in Russian and European affairs:
She talks about Putin’s gameplan, psychology, and known tactics.
She also touches on how Elon Musk may have been used (Musk said he hadn’t spoken to Putin in 18 months, but the wording leaves ambiguity about getting a message relayed via an intermediary 🤔) as Putin has used others similarly in the past, and the crucial difference between a strategic standoff like the Cuban Missile Crisis and nuclear blackmail, etc.
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Microsoft integrating DALL-E 2 into its new Designer app, Bing, and Edge Browser 🤖🤖🤖
Microsoft announced a bunch of stuff in recent days, both at its Surface event and Ignite conference. You can see an 8-minute summary of the Surface event here.
There are lots of interesting things — including that Microsoft and Apple (🍎) are getting a bit closer with the integration of iCloud Photos into Windows and Xbox and the announcement that Apple Music and Apple TV apps for Windows — but the one that stood out to me was the integration of generative AI via APIs into a few products:
Microsoft is making a major investment in DALL-E 2, OpenAI’s AI-powered system that generates images from text, by bringing it to first-party apps and services. During its Ignite conference this week, Microsoft announced that it’s integrating DALL-E 2 with the newly announced Microsoft Designer app and Image Creator tool in Bing and Microsoft Edge. [...]
“Microsoft is the exclusive provider of cloud computing services to OpenAI and is OpenAI’s preferred partner for commercializing new AI technologies. We’ve started to do this through programs like the Azure OpenAI Service and GitHub Copilot, and we’ll continue to explore solutions that harness the power of AI and advanced natural language generation.” [...]
Seeking to bring OpenAI’s tech to an even wider audience, Microsoft is launching Designer, a Canva-like web app that can generate designs for presentations, posters, digital postcards, invitations, graphics and more to share on social media and other channels. [...] Once the Designer app is generally available, it’ll be included in Microsoft 365
While the current generative AI tools are relatively easy to use *for techies*, this kind of integration is truly bringing this tech to the masses (and I’m sure a lot more is coming from other players, big and small).
Soon, some random person is going to be designing a poster for their family reunion and use some incredibly complex ML model to generate some background image without even thinking about the trillions of calculations and tens of gigabytes of RAM used on some GPUs somewhere in the cloud for what appears to be a simple task.
Github Copilot coding-AI 🤓🤖🏿⌨️ 🖥
Another really cool use of AI at Microsoft is at Github, where Copilot acts as a kind of advanced auto-complete for computer code, helping programmers go faster, especially with repetitive and obvious/boilerplate parts of their code, while hopefully making fewer mistakes too.
GitHub CEO Thomas Dohmke recently told us that Copilot is now handling up to 40% of coding among programmers using the AI in the beta testing period over the past year.
Put another way, for every 100 lines of code, 40 are being written by the AI, with total project time cut by up to 55%.
Think about both the shortage of coders and how expensive they are. Anything that increases their productivity that much has *huge* value!
It’s not just about literally suggesting code, it’s also about not breaking the ‘flow state’ that can be achieved while coding by requiring coders to stop and go hunt for snippets of code elsewhere (on Stackoverflow or whatever) and then come back to what they were doing.
Reducing context switching has to be a gigantic gain for deep work quality and quantity.
And look at where things are going:
The GitHub CEO expects more of those Copilot code suggestions to be taken — in the next five years, up to 80%.
That would be just 🤯
Starlink Follow-up 📡 🛰🛰🛰🛰🛰🛰🛰🛰🛰
As a follow-up to some questions I had in edition #340, it looks like Elon Musk has answered part of it. He tweeted on Monday:
SpaceX has already withdrawn its request for funding To be precise, 25,300 terminals were sent to Ukraine, but, at present, only 10,630 are paying for service
I still wish he'd break down terminals that have been donated vs bought, as some may have been paid for but are getting free connectivity, and how much it costs them to provide the connectivity (I’d like to better understand the $400m figure they gave).
But it’s good to have some numbers.
Facebook Meta blocked from buying GIPHY ✋🛑 🇬🇧
Citing the risk of a substantial lessening of competition in social media and display advertising, the U.K.’s Competition and Markets Authority Meta must “sell GIPHY, in its entirety, to a suitable buyer.”
This pretty much means can't buy anything other than tiny bolt-ons at this point (you could argue Giphy was itself a bolt-on…).
Microsoft should probably pick up Giphy, just for the giggles. They may as well make a bid on Shopify too while at it (even if it likely won’t work because of the ownership structure)... ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
🇪🇺 🇩🇪 Optimistic Take on Europe Energy Crisis ⚡️🛢🔥🥶
It’s a nice change of pace to hear something tinged with hope about Europe’s energy situation:
I don’t know if Turnbull is correct, but he highlights some encouraging data-points.
I fear that the transformation he points out may happen too slowly to help this winter or the next, or that a few more bad surprises could make the situation much worse (a particularly cold winter, some attack/accident on LNG gas terminals in Europe or elsewhere, some other unforeseen crisis that compounds problems in Europe, etc).
h/t Modest Proposal (🧐)
⛅️ 🎂🎈🎁 Cloudflare Birthday Week announcements overview
Friend-of-the-show Peter Offringa (💿) has such a thorough recap of the gazillion things that Cloudflare announced (“Between GA Week and the following Birthday Week, Cloudflare delivered 56 separate announcements”) that I’ll just direct you to his post:
Here’s a taste:
While some worry that Cloudflare will never compete with the hyperscalers, I don’t think that is ultimately where Cloudflare’s disruption will focus. First, I think they will target the “seams” of the Internet, occupying the space between the hyperscalers. While hyperscaler strength lies in the immense capacity of their centralized infrastructure, Cloudflare plays on the edges, where distribution across many data centers in parallel and network bandwidth provide efficiencies.
Second, they are starting to leverage their capital investment in infrastructure to roll out new application, security and network services with pricing models that undercut incumbent offerings. Those vendors most vulnerable will be the ones who don’t have full control over their infrastructure. While building out their own network, software platform and global data center footprint has been costly for Cloudflare, they can now apply this investment surgically in product categories where they have excessive compute, storage and bandwidth. Because all Cloudflare services run on all data centers in parallel, resources can be re-used across many products, creating a multiplier effect.
🧪🔬 Liberty Labs 🧬 🔭
🇩🇪 Germany extends the life of its 3 remaining nuclear power plants ☢️ ☢️ ☢️ 🥳
After much wasted time and creating the problem in the first place:
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has asked the economy, environment and finance ministries to lay the legal framework to keep the country's three nuclear power plants operational until as late as April 15, 2023 [...]
The three plants have 4,300 megawatts (MW) of power capacity, contributing 6% to Germany's electricity production this year. (Source)
A good first step.
Now re-open as many of the recently closed ones as possible. You need energy now! This is clean, reliable, baseload energy that isn't dependent on other countries! It’ll directly reduce how much coal and gas you’re burning! ugh
I certainly hope that Mark Nelson (see our podcast together about nuclear power) is right when he says this:
For all those commenting "only until April 2023": No utility will decommission a nuclear plant knowing this kind of reversal is possible even with Greens still in government occupying key posts. They will not even mothball the plants. They'll just sit and wait for elections.
🥶↔🥵 Heat Pumps are having their moment in Europe 🌍
I posted a primer on why heat pumps are so cool back in edition #286, I encourage you to check it out if you’re not familiar with the tech.
Some recent stats out of Europe:
In Finland, where four in 10 homes already have heat pumps, sales jumped 80 percent in the first half of the year. In Norway, where 60 percent of homes are equipped, the growth was a more modest 11 percent.
In the Netherlands, Poland, Italy and Austria industry bodies or manufacturers all report a doubling of sales in the first half of the year compared with 2021.
In January, heat pumps accounted for 28 percent of applications for heat system subsidies under a Polish government scheme; by June that jumped to 60 percent.
In August, 148,000 Germans applied for a fresh round of government funding for heat pumps; there were 150,000 applications for all of last year. (Source)
Here’s Germany’s graph:
🎨 🎭 Liberty Studio 👩🎨 🎥
🎨🤖 Stable Diffusion’s Image-to-Image blowing my mind 🤯
Only the top-left image is a real photo. The rest I generated with Stable Diffusion.
To some, this may not seem like a big deal. Like, oh yeah, you made a bunch of images of knitted animals *with a computer*, whatever. (as if “with a computer” is a natural stopping point in trying to understand something)
But when you think about *how* a piece of software had to do this, there are some seriously high-level abstractions required to extract the style of the original image and not only replicate it, but transpose it to totally different animals while retaining a fairly realistic look and making each animal recognizably what they are in the knitted doll medium, while also being *cute*.
That last part isn’t trivial: Humans make lots of things that fail at being cute, it’s not so easy.
Even the floor and blurred background changes in ways that still keep the aesthetic and color palette.
Because of space limitations, I can only show you a small sample of what I made. I have dozens of them. Lots of cute foxes, elephants, mice, dogs, snakes, tigers, etc. I have one of Bill Murray!
If I knew how to knit, I could start an Etsy store with this!
Here is the original photo that I based the variants on. The artist goes under the name ‘_kiriki’ on Reddit.
Just noting: the source picture for the AI is an embroidery project, which in this case can look like knitting. Also, the creator stated (via the linked reddit page) that it took 40 to 50 hours to make. That's why a lot of stuff gets automated!
Love the Stable Diffusion pics you are creating. Speaking of Elon...Interesting fact - Elon was a founder of Open AI (2015). Pretty soon every news story will be connected to Elon. (shrug emoji). Peace, Lib!