60: My Thoughts on Seed/Leech Ratio, Why Apple is Crushing Intel & AMD at Their Own Game, The Silicon Cold War & SMIC, Stripe S-1, Amazon Podcasts & AWS Industrial Monitoring, and Gilmore Girls

"Earned Media is Best Media"

Responsibility is a unique concept... You may share it with others, but your portion is not diminished. You may delegate it, but it is still with you... If responsibility is rightfully yours, no evasion, or ignorance or passing the blame can shift the burden to someone else. Unless you can point your finger at the man who is responsible when something goes wrong, then you have never had anyone really responsible.

—Admiral Hyman G. Rickover

There’s a discussion near the end of this interview of Daniel Gross by Patrick O’Shaughnessy where Daniel makes an analogy that I really like.

It aligns with something I already believed, but — I love when this happens — it makes it clearer and compresses the idea into a smaller form that I know I’ll be able to remember and use more easily. When an idea is more available to mind, you use it more often, in the same way that when friction is reduced for a product or service, people use it more.

Daniel’s analogy is based on the BitTorrent protocol.

If you’re not familiar, the basic idea is that it’s a peer-to-peer way to send and receive large files. The files are split into many smaller chunks, and peers on the network will exchange different chunks until they have all of them, at which point they become seeds who just send chunks.

The biggest innovation was that everybody acts as both a downloader and an uploader, so the bandwidth burden is shared among the nodes in the network, versus the more expensive “broadcast” model that dominated before, where one node (or a group of mirrored servers) had to serve everybody else.

Of course, I’m familiar with it because I used to download perfectly legal Linux ISO files. Anyways…

BitTorrent clients typically give you info about your seed/leech ratio.

Some users are leeches on the system and will take a lot of bandwidth on the download side, but they’ll upload very little, either because they cap their upload rate and/or leave right after they finish rather than stick around to “seed” the file for a while. It’s the freeloader problem (f.ex. if you download 1 gigabyte but upload 5, you’d have a great ratio, but if you download 1 gigabyte and upload only 0.01, you are a despicable leech).

This applies to other areas of life. Some people will constantly be looking for something in their interactions with you, while others are just “seeding” and contributing without expecting much, if anything, in return.

Leeches are draining to deal with, and while they think they’re getting the better end of the bargain by trying to constantly maximize what they take from others while contributing as little as possible, my experience has been that contributing without expectations tends to be more fun and lead to better results.

Life is mostly an iterated game. People figure out who the leeches are, try to avoid them, and warn others about them. I’d much rather be part of a large network of seeders that all help each other and share the plentiful bounty of life than to be a parasite who leaves behind annoyed people and burned bridges.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a monk who’s beyond any needs and desires. I’ve got bills to pay. I’m just saying that I’d rather keep that upload ratio as high as possible whenever I can.

Investing & Business

=====Stripe Stripe Stripe=====

Ben Thompson has a good post about Stripe’s strategy, and their latest product, Stripe Treasury:

It sounds like they’re not about to go public anything soon, either through IPO or SPAC:

I would like nothing more than to see an S-1 from Stripe, but it sounds like it’s not coming anytime soon (and I can state with a high degree of confidence that Stripe will not be doing a SPAC with any of its rumored suitors)

And if you’re a sub, there’s also a treat, an interview with John Collison:

Interview: Dennis Lynch of Counterpoint Global

I wasn't familiar with Dennis Lynch going in, or with Counterpoint Global (part of Morgan Stanley), but came out thinking he’s a clear thinker who seems to have a good approach and answers I agreed with on most questions.

This isn’t a fireworks interview, it won’t blow your mind, but I still found it worthwhile. Sometimes you just have to soak up a bit of that “solid investor” vibe.

As far as I could tell, after fighting with Morgan Stanley’s terrible website for a few minutes, the track record of most of the funds seems good (with recent performance being very good).

I found it funny that he mentions ‘The Art of Learning’ by Josh Waitzkin at the end, as I was just telling a friend about it a few days ago (context was he was watching ‘Queen's Gambit’, and I mentioned ‘Searching for Bobby Fischer’, which is about Waitzkin’s experience as a chess prodigy).

Match: Earned Media is Best Media

It’s an ad, but I’m posting it here as content, so you know Match did a good job:

h/t Jerry Capital

Lance Uggla on IHS Markit + S&P Global

[In 2003] He launched the company from a barn in a small city north of London called St. Albans. [...]

Mr. Uggla said he wasn’t looking to sell his company, but S&P Global chief executive Doug Petersen reached out this fall and together they talked about the future. Financial data have become extremely valuable, propelling deals such as Thomson Reuters’s sale of a majority stake in its financial data arm to Blackstone in 2018. A year later, London Stock Exchange Group bought the business, known as Refinitiv, for US$27-billion.

For many years, Mr. Uggla said, financial hardware was as important as data. Bloomberg LP, for instance, had proprietary terminals that largely organized publicly available information. But today, all anyone needs is an internet connection and from there they can buy access to whatever data they want.

In this world, the more data a company acquires, the more it can cross-sell to existing clients. “Scale is very valuable,” he added. (Source)

The Silicon Cold War

The Department of Defense designated a total of four companies as being either owned or controlled by the People’s Liberation Army.

  • Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corp. [SMIC]

  • China National Offshore Oil Corp.

  • China Construction Technology Co. Ltd.

  • China International Engineering Consulting Corp.

SMIC is the largest Chinese foundry and the country’s national champion when it comes to trying to become more self-sufficient when it comes to semiconductors. As far as I can tell, their latest node is 14 nm FinFET. Source.

Amazon 👀 Podcast Assets

Amazon.com Inc is in exclusive talks to purchase podcast startup Wondery [...]

The talks value Wondery over $300 million, the people said. Wondery’s last funding round, in June 2019, valued the company at $100 million, The Wall Street Journal reported. The company is on track to increase revenue to more than $40 million this year, according one person familiar with the matter, with about 75% of that coming from advertising and the rest from licensing to TV, subscription services like Audible and Stitcher Premium, and Wondery’s own premium subscription service, which launched this summer. [...]

Gimlet Media, a maker of narrative podcasts, was acquired by Spotify Technology SA in 2019 for more than $200 million. New York Times Co. in July said it would acquire Serial Productions, maker of the hit podcast “Serial,” in a deal that could be worth as much as $50 million depending on milestones and performance metrics, The Wall Street Journal reported. (Source)

So does this mean that Spotify will increasingly have another huge gorilla sitting at the table when they try to bid on audio assets, making prices generally more expensive for them, when they are able to win?

Seems like Amazon has a few avenues to directly distribute this: Amazon Music, Audible, and through Alexa. Question is, is this something they give to Prime members, as one more thing in the bundle to reduce churn and make it a bit more attractive to sign up in the first place? Sounds about right to me.

The word of the day is: Orthogonal.

AWS Going into Industrial Sensors/Monitoring

Launched by Amazon’s cloud arm AWS, the new machine learning-based services include hardware to monitor the health of heavy machinery, and computer vision capable of detecting whether workers are complying with social distancing.

Amazon said it had created a two-inch, low-cost sensor — Monitron — that can be attached to equipment to monitor abnormal vibrations or temperatures and predict future faults.

AWS Panorama, meanwhile, is a service that uses computer vision to analyse footage gathered by cameras within facilities, automatically detecting safety and compliance issues such as workers not wearing PPE or vehicles being driven in unauthorised areas. (Source)

Being its own best 1st customer, Amazon said it had already installed “1,000 Monitron sensors at its fulfilment centres near the German city of Mönchengladbach”. It certainly helps to be able to dogfood that stuff.

Science & Technology

Why Apple’s M1 Crushes Intel & AMD at Their Own Game

You really thought we were done with this?

In real world test after test, the M1 Macs are not merely inching past top of the line Intel Macs, they are destroying them. In disbelief people have started asking how on earth this is possible? [...]

Basically the M1 is one whole computer onto a chip. The M1 contains CPU, Graphical Processing Unit (GPU), memory, input and output controllers and many more things making up a whole computer. This is what we call a System on a Chip (SoC). [...]

Apple’s Not So Secret Heterogenous Computing Strategy

Instead of adding ever more general purpose CPU cores, Apple has followed another strategy: They have started adding ever more specialized chips doing a few specialized tasks. The benefit of this is that specialized chips tend to be able to perform their tasks significantly faster using much less electric current than a general purpose CPU core. [...]

  • Central Processing Unit (CPU) — The “brains” of the SoC. Runs most of the code of the operating system and your apps.

  • Graphics Processing Unit (GPU) — Handles graphics-related tasks, such as visualizing an app’s user interface and 2D/3D gaming.

  • Image Processing Unit (ISP) — Can be used to speed up common tasks done by image processing applications.

  • Digital Signal Processor (DSP) — Handles more mathematically intensive functions than a CPU. Includes decompressing music files.

  • Neural Processing Unit (NPU) — Used in high-end smartphones to accelerate machine learning (AI) tasks. These include voice recognition and camera processing.

  • Video encoder/decoder — Handles the power-efficient conversion of video files and formats.

  • Secure Enclave — Encryption, authentication and security.

  • Unified memory — Allows the CPU, GPU and other cores to quickly exchange information.

Ok, I have to start skipping more stuff or it won’t fit here. Here’s a few more highlights:

In the new SoC world you don’t assemble physical components from different vendors. Instead you assemble IP (intellectual property) from different vendors. You buy the design for graphics cards, CPUs, modems, IO controllers and other things from different vendors and use that to design a SoC in-house. Then you get a foundry to manufacture this.

Basically, once you are putting all these components on the same die, you don’t want to be buying finished parts from different vendors, you just want the blueprints for each part, you then stitch them together and have someone like TSMC ‘print’ the whole collage.

It’s harder for Intel and AMD to create these SoCs because they don’t have IP for everything that goes into it, and even if they license it, the PC OEMs and hyperscalers that buy their stuff don’t all need the same things, so there’s a proliferation of SKUs. Apple, on the other hand, has much more control over its products, so it can design SoCs that fit exactly its needs.

The fast general purpose CPU cores on the M1, called Firestorm [...] beats most Intel cores and almost beats the fastest AMD Ryzen cores. Conventional wisdom said that was not going to happen. [...]

the core idea of making a fast CPU is really about [:]

  1. Perform more instructions in a sequence faster.

  2. Perform lots of instructions in parallel.

Back in the 80s, it was easy. Just increase the clock frequency and the instructions would finish faster. [...]

However today increasing the clock frequency is next to impossible. That is the whole “End of Moore’s Law” that people have been harping on for over a decade now.

Thus it is really about executing as many instructions as possible in parallel. [...]

It is the superior Out-of-Order execution which is making the Firestorm cores on the M1 kick ass and take names. It is in fact much stronger than anything from Intel or AMD. Likely stronger than from anybody else in the mainstream market. [...]

The biggest baddest Intel and AMD microprocessor cores have 4 decoders, which means they can decode 4 instructions in parallel spitting out micro-ops.

But Apple has a crazy 8 decoders. Not only that but the ROB is something like 3x larger. You can basically hold 3x as many instructions. No other mainstream chip maker has that many decoders in their CPUs.

The author then goes into why this is hard to implement for Intel & AMD (because of difference between CISC and RISC architectures), that’s a little deeper than I need to go here, I think. But if you’re a nerd, check it out.

Here’s some 🔥:

the newest AMD CPU cores, the ones called Zen3 are slightly faster than Firestorm cores. But here is the kicker, that only happens because the Zen3 cores are clocked at 5 GHz. Firestorm cores are clocked at 3.2 GHz. The Zen3 is just barely squeezing past Firestorm despite having almost 60% higher clock frequency.

What Apple has shipped so far are the low-end computers in their lineup. The Macbook Air is an ultra-light portable without a fan. The Macbook Pro they shipped is the 2-port, low-end MBP. The other Macbook Pros are more powerful and will likely have higher clock-speeds and possible more cores. And the Mac Mini is their lowest-end desktop.

So it doesn’t take a crystal ball to predict that when Apple comes out with its ARM versions of their higher-end computers, the competition will be ground to fine dust.

I can’t wait to see what they’ll put into an iMac Pro or Mac Pro with tons of thermal headroom and no battery limitations… Imagine a M1 variant with 16, 24, or 32 cores (instead of the 8 that they have now) clocked at 4-5ghz…

That thing would probably create a singularity when booted up.

Source. h/t Mule

Make Your Heart Healthier (what else is more important?)

None of your long-term goals matter too much if you fail at this one, right?

I really enjoyed this conversation between Docs James O’Keefe and Peter Attia:

The “too much exercise” part isn’t really a realistic risk for me, as I’m more on the other end of the spectrum, and I have to kick my own ass to move more, but they discuss a lot of interesting stuff about heart health, prevention, diet, benefits from various types of exercises, the 101 on various nutriments (magnesium, potassium, calcium, sodium, and collagen, EPA and DHA, curcumin), SGLT2 inhibitors, GLP-1 agonists, a bit on metformin, etc.

The discussion near the very end about Omega 3 is very interesting and highlights something I see so much. People will say that X ‘doesn’t work’ because they saw the headline of some study, but when you actually go look at the methodology, they gave a super small dose and the study isn’t saying what people claim it says (oh, you did your vitamin D study with 500 UIs, that’s cute).

Good stuff. Don’t worry if you don’t understand all of it, I bet you’ll still learn a bunch (see the intro of edition #59 for my view on that).

‘Google will let users submit Street View imagery’

This is a good use of crowd-sourcing. Now that phones have good enough spatial awareness and good enough cameras, no need to rely as much on vehicles with a big 360-degree camera rig on the roof:

Google Maps is getting a new update that lets you create Street View photos using just a phone. Android users with ARCore-compatible devices can now capture imagery and publish it to Google Street View in certain areas. Google is allowing submissions initially in Toronto, New York, Austin, Nigeria, Indonesia, and Costa Rica. More regions will support this feature soon, and Google will use this user-generated content when it doesn’t have its own Street View imagery available. (Source)

It probably won’t make much of a difference in most places, but for remote areas or smaller trails and backroads, it could be really useful.

The Arts & History

Yes, I’m a fan of Gilmore Girls (don’t judge before you’ve tried it)

One of my most-enjoyed-shows is ‘Gilmore Girls’ (2000-2007).

I just love the characters and dialogue, and how nobody’s trying to kill anyone or blow up the town, but the conflicts and stresses of normal life can feel just as big, and the stakes feel as high as on many other shows.

It’s just well-written, with a good sense of humor, and I’ve always had a soft-spot for hyper-verbal, hyper-literate characters that know every old movie and obscure band reference and drop them off casually in convos, and it doesn’t matter if the viewer doesn’t catch all of them (The Simpsons were often like this too, at their peak, with references to Kubrick and Orson Welles and such).

Anyway, I’m not necessarily trying to sell it to you, it’s probably not for most people reading this, though I hope a few give it a try and discover something they may never have tried otherwise and really enjoy it. (if you do try, commit to at least 3-4 episodes, though — like many shows, it takes a little time before they find their rhythm, and the scripts/dialogues do become more elaborate over time)

The reason I thought of this show is this piece celebrating its 20th anniversary. Some highlights:

“Gilmore” was daunting at first for the performers, who had to memorize scripts that were 20 pages longer than the average hourlong series. To make matters tougher, Sherman-Palladino insisted that performers deliver the lines exactly as written. “This was a show where if you changed one word, they would cut,” Truesdale said.

“The feedback was, ‘That was great. Could we do it again, just a little bit faster?’” said Agena, who played Rory’s best friend Lane. [...] When they looked at him, befuddled, he would explain: “Speed it up. You’ve just got to speed it up,” he said. [...]

The dialogue, according to Babbit, was too fast to allow for traditional editing: “It would be like watching a Ping-Pong match,” she said. Instead, the show preferred to stick two characters in the frame and let them talk it out, with scenes filling five or 10 pages of script, instead of the customary page and a quarter. [...]

Scott Patterson, who played the diner owner Luke, Lorelai’s will-they-or-won’t-they love interest, said he and Graham both quickly realized they had to quit smoking if they wanted to survive. “She needed her wind, and I needed my wind,” he said.

I guess I’m just a fan of wordy stuff. May be why I enjoy stuff like The Barenaked Ladies and Grand Budapest Hotel… 🤔

Popular culture was the lifeblood of the series, and Rory and Lorelai’s conversations, speckled with rapid-fire allusions to bad television shows and great books and distant historical epochs, were the joyous center of the show, offering fans a utopian fantasy of familial love grounded in the deep appreciation of “Cop Rock.” A single episode might reference Nikolai Gogol, “The Brady Bunch Variety Hour,” the punk band Agnostic Front, the Velvet Underground collaborator Nico, “Fiddler on the Roof,” David Hockney, and the Franco-Prussian War.

And yes, I agree that Lauren Graham should’ve gotten at least one — if not multiple —Emmys over the show’s run. RIP Edward Herrmann.

And the show’s creator, Amy Sherman-Palladino, did a great job with the first season of ‘The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel’ (2017, Amazon Prime Video). I can’t say the same for season two, where I stopped watching… But S1 is lots of fun and worth watching, IMO.