50: My Thoughts on Apple's ARM Macs & the M1, CCP vs China's Big Tech, EU Antitrust vs Amazon, Forgotten TikTok, Discord CEO Interview, and Lest We Forget

"David’s the dude."

Success and excellence aren’t the same. Success is often outside your control, but excellence isn’t. —paraphrasing Joe Paterno, I think

I hope you enjoyed 𝕊𝕡𝕖𝕔𝕚𝕒𝕝 𝔼𝕕𝕚𝕥𝕚𝕠𝕟 #𝟙 yesterday. David’s the dude.

I look forward to more 𝕊𝕡𝕖𝕔𝕚𝕒𝕝 𝔼𝕕𝕚𝕥𝕚𝕠𝕟𝕤 in the future, when time permits and if people are willing to talk to me (I’ve got a list of 20+ potential names).

I was initially expecting it would be a few months until the next one, maybe as a celebration for 3,000 subs in the club if we ever get there.

But yesterday, I had an idea that was too good to pass up and kind of timely, so you can probably expect something special in the coming weeks, if all goes well.

✿ 102 years ago today, WW1 ended after approx 15 to 22 million deaths (6 to 13 million civilians) and around 23 million wounded military personnel, for a total of around 40 million casualties.

These people were not black and white abstractions living in a grainy world, they were real people living their ordinary lives in our world, just like you and me. We shouldn’t just know these facts, we should also feel them, because that’s how humans really remember.

Peter Jackson’s documentary ‘They Shall Not Grow Old’ (2018) seems like a great way to remove some distance from the people and the events (I haven’t seen it yet, but it’s on the list). ✿

Investing & Business

Schrödinger's Market

It's impressive how the market can be both forward-looking and totally last minute at the same time. It's a like a type of quantum superposition...

TikTok: Is there anybody in there? Just nod if you can hear me… Is there anyone at home?

TikTok hasn’t heard from the Trump administration in weeks as it tries to figure out whether or not to proceed to sell a minority stake in itself to Oracle and Walmart. (Source)


I guess it would be fitting for TikTok if in the end the whole soap-opera saga had just been pointless entertainment...

I have young kids, I know how it is once they get bored with a toy.

CCP: Don’t You Forget You’re a Worker Ant

Ant Group, which was gearing up for the world’s biggest IPO, could see its valuation come crashing down after its public listing was suspended, experts said.

It comes as Beijing announced there will be proposed regulations on micro-lending — a move that could force Ant Group to hold more capital, and make the company look a bit more like a bank rather than a technology company, the experts told CNBC. [...]

Ant Group’s valuation could be slashed by over $150 billion after suspended IPO

Chinese regulator — the State Administration for Market Regulation — on Tuesday announced a set of draft rules aimed at curbing monopolistic behavior on internet platforms. [...]

shares of Alibaba listed in the city plunged 9.8% while Tencent dropped 7.39%. Smartphone maker Xiaomi also declined 8.18% and China’s biggest on-demand delivery services firm Meituan Dianping fell 9.67%. E-commerce giant JD.com also saw its stocks plummet 9.2%. [...]

The combined losses of the five tech heavyweights since their Monday’s close has contributed to more than $280 billion being wiped off in terms of market cap at the close of the trading day in Hong Kong (Source)

Turns Out, That Was an Important Detail to Leave Out…

EU Antitrust Goes After Amazon

after a year-long probe, the European Commission had reached the preliminary view that Amazon had breached EU competition rules by using non-public data that it gathers on sales on its website to inform its own-label products and services.

Separately, she said the EU had opened a second formal antitrust investigation into whether Amazon gave preferential treatment on its site to its own products, and those of sellers who paid extra for Amazon’s logistics and delivery services. [...]

legal experts raised doubts about the strength of the EU’s case. “The [EU’s charges] seem to be targeting a business model that is very common in retail and that has generally been a source of more, not less, competition,” said Alfonso Lamadrid, a lawyer with Garrigues in Brussels. “As the law stands in the EU, even dominant companies are not subject to a general duty of neutrality.”

He added: “To be on safe ground, the commission would need to show that Amazon is an indispensable channel for sellers, and that Amazon’s conduct would likely drive sellers out of the market. This might be challenging. It takes a confident enforcer to run a hard case like this one.” (Source)

Interview: Jason Citron, Founder and CEO of Discord

I enjoyed this interview by Patrick O’Shaughnessy, episode 4 of his great Founder’s Field Guide where he interviews founders and operators, rather than the people who invest money in them:

I liked this quote by Jason, near the end of the interview:

I don’t think you want to focus too much on competition.

This is a weird analogy, because I don’t play sports, but I remember learning this when I was a kid, that when you’re throwing a baseball, you need to look where you want to throw it. If you look somewhere else, you’re not going to get the ball where you want it to go.

I’ve also heard this in the context of driving. Don’t look at the wall, look at the road, because you’re going to go where you’re looking.

I think it’s human [nature] that you will go where you focus. If you focus on competition, you’re going to end up copying then, chasing things, instead of focusing on customers and their needs, where they want to go.

Interview: ‘Acquired’ with David Rosenthal and Ben Gilbert

I enjoyed this episode of Software Engineering Daily with the two co-hosts of the Acquired podcast (it’s from July 2020). It’s a good crossover episode and a good conversation about technology companies and acquisitions.

The transcript is here, if you prefer to read, but this falls more in the ‘entertaining & interesting conversation’ category and you probably won’t learn a ton of new facts and deep insights if you’ve been following the space.

SuperMugatu + Greenlight

In inside-baseball news, Tyro Partners, known as the home of Dan McMurtrie aka @SuperMugatu, has made a deal with Greenlight:

Greenlight Capital’s fund of hedge funds, called Greenlight Masters, has picked tiny Tyro Capital Management for its first seed investment in about five years. 

The deal has roughly doubled Tyro’s assets under management, adding $20 million in exchange for a portion of fees. Greenlight Masters has the option to add more than its original investment under the same “founders’ share class”-type terms, Tyro chief executive officer Dan McMurtie told Institutional Investor

Soon enough Dan & co will be too big to hang with us on FinTwit and share GIFs. He’ll make Youtube videos about how the economy works and print pamphlets of his principles, or however that works.

But seriously, congrats!

Science & Technology

Apple Unveils First Post-Intel Macs

Xmas came early. I love CPU geekery like this… I wrote some pre-reveal thoughts on ARM Macs edition #47, but now we know. Or at least, we know about 3 models, the new Macbook Air, Macbook Pro, and Mac Mini (?!!!).

First, I gotta say, I love that they paid respect to the Mini with a day 1 upgrade. This little guy often flies under the radar, but it’s been my living room media server workhorse for almost 15 years, and I’d be really sad if it was gone.

Back to the important stuff: They called it the M1, and it’s pretty spectacular. (You can watch the video of the event here).

Apple is a co-founder of ARM, so they have a perpetual architectural license. In their mobile devices, they use the ARM instruction set, but they design their own custom chips, unlike most of the industry that uses ARM’s licensed Cortex core designs.

So Apple did the same with the M1 and created a custom thing that takes advantage of the much bigger batteries/wall plugs and extra thermal headroom of the larger enclosures.

On the specs side, there’s still a bunch we don’t know (clock speeds were never mentioned), but we know it’s built on the brand new 5nm process from TSMC (Apple has basically bought their whole launch supply, so nobody else has it for now), it has 16 billion transistors (vs 11.8bn transistors in the A14 in the iPhone 12), and everything is on the same system on a chip (SoC):

They’ve got 8 CPU cores (I’ll come back to that), 8 GPU cores (each with 128 execution units), 16 “neural engine” cores for machine learning inference, and unified memory on the same chip, shared by the GPU and CPU (it’s more power-efficient and gives better performance that way — fewer bits to shuffle around and copy back and forth). Also a secure enclave (hardware security chip), and some I/O and encryption stuff that used to be in a separate T2 chips on recent Macs.

So basically, they tightly coupled everything inside the same silicon package.

For the CPU cores, they went with a heterogeneous design with 4-high-performance cores and 4-low-power cores, as I expected for laptops. We’ll see if use the same ratio in the iMacs and Mac Pros where sipping electrons matters less.

On performance: Apple claims that its M1 CPU cores are the "world’s fastest”, which I assume means in single-thread performance. This is impressive (if correct, and I expect it to be), to beat both Intel and AMD on their first in-house chip.

The M1 is both much faster and much more power-efficient than the Intel chips of the latest generation that it replaces. At 10-watts (the thermal envelope of a fanless MacBook Air), it either gives the same performance at about 25% of the power draw, or 2x the performance while still using a lot less power.

In fact, they’re so power-efficient that the new Macbook Air doesn’t use a fan. It’s totally silent (hallelujah!). But because the Mini and Macbook Pro have fans, they should be able to maintain top clock speeds on all the cores for longer — life is trade-offs.

On the New Macbook Air's CPU performance they claim 3.5x faster than with Intel and 5x faster graphics. Wow. It's almost like Moore's Law is back for a moment.

Anandtech has this great graph showing Intel’s top performers and Apple’s (which are all mobile chips on this graph, the M1 isn’t there yet). You can see Apple catching up fast and surpassing Intel in single-thread performance (of course a server chip with dozens of cores will be faster in multi-thread):

It’s a similar story for their integrated GPU vs the integrated graphics that Intel packages with its chips and that were previously used: “up to 2x the graphics speed. And M1 can match the peak performance of the PC chip while using just a third of the power.”

While the transition to ARM is going on, they’ll be shipping V2 of their Rosetta software. This does code translation so that software compiled for Intel x86 can run on the ARM M1.

VP of software at Apple Craig Federighi said: "The M1 is so fast that some apps and games run faster on rosetta [real-time translation app from x86 to ARM] than they did on Intel" 🔥🧯👩‍🚒🚒

But what’s interesting, and a differentiator from Intel, is that Apple is bringing its ‘Neural Engine’ over from the mobile side to the Mac. That’s a bunch of cores optimized to do machine-learning inference and some training, much faster and using less power than the CPU and GPU cores would otherwise use.

The M1’s neural engine has a “16‑core design capable of executing a massive 11 trillion operations per second.” So for example, using video editing or photo editing software, a bunch of the compute-intensive operations used by some filter or AI tools can be offloaded to this part of the chip and perform better while using less power. Another step in the AI/ML era.

So they unveiled a new Air, MBP, and Mac Mini. I won’t go over all the details, you can see them on Apple’s site, but I’ll highlight the ridiculously good battery life: 17 hours of wifi web browsing on the Pro and 15 on the Air, and 20 hours of video on the Pro and 18 on the Air. As someone said in the video, this is more hours than what I’m usually awake… And you get this 15-20 hours of battery life in laptops that weight 2.8 and 3.0 pounds. That’s bonkers.

Another big advantage of consolidating all their platforms on ARM is that they can now run iOS apps (the millions and millions of them) on Macs. This just made Macs more useful and more valuable. I also love the new security stuff with the M1, but I won’t go into details there (yet?)…

Finally, it’s neat that they either kept prices the same compared to Intel’s lineup, or reduced prices by $100 for the Mini. They obviously are saving a bunch of money by not paying Intel’s margin, though of course there are R&D costs to all this (a lot of them shared with iPhone/iPad SoC R&D, though), but generally it’s such a big upgrade that Macs are now a much better value than they were before.

Nintendo’s ‘Game Counselors’

A Game Counselor was an employee of Nintendo of America who was responsible for taking phone calls from customers who had trouble with certain games. This hotline lasted from 1987 to 2005. The Game Counselor line was a toll hotline [...]

Some Game Counselors would also write for Nintendo Power, giving insight to particular hard parts of games in a segment known as "Counselors' Corner". [...]

Becoming a Game Counselor was a highly selective process. Responding to a letter to a reader considering employment, Nintendo Power said that at the time of commissioning the hotline, 800 people made application for the job, of which 33 were ultimately awarded the title of Game Counselor.

It’s like the gaming Navy SEALs… 🔱 🕹

Source, via World of Engineering

Dreams do come true!

Good riddance to bad rubbish. I mashed that uninstall button so hard, I think I hurt my mouse... Flash would rank high on my list of crappy software.

The Arts & History

Dave Grohl vs Nandi the 10-Year-Old Girl

I saw this floating around on Twitter a few months ago. It’s just wholesome, feel-good stuff, and it’s cool to get more of the backstory in this NYT piece.

Dave Grohl, of Nirvana and Foot Fighters, doing drum duels with a 10-year-old English girl… What’s not to like?

Here’s Nandi’s Channel. I just love how much fun she’s having. We should all have more fun… and not just in a “well, if it happens it happens, leave it up to the universe” way, but actually focus on building that muscle that we lose when we stop being kids and make it happen. (Arnold voice: dooo iiiit!).

A Fine Line Between Worlds

Geometry and pespective are crucial to impressive results in photography. This picture of the Savyolovskaya subway station in Moscow splits the tunnel in two different worlds

Via Massimo

What happens if you look up a tree with a wide lens?

I had to find out... Looks kind of strange.