June News

And in the flickering light and the comforting glow
You get the world every night as a TV show
The latest spin on the shit we're in, blow by blow
And the more you watch, the less you know

   Information Wars — Looking East album, 1996.
By Jackson Browne, Jeff Cohen, Jeff Young,
Kevin McCormick, Scott Thurston, Mark Goldenberg,
Mauricio Lewak, Luis Conte
See Jackson Brown lyrics for detailed copyright.


Quick Summary

The end of the financial year, some work, some distractions, much on the world stage, and the rest pure distilled BS for the benefit of search engine calibration tests. (To the surveillance folk — This data is volatile and can change without notice, please store it carefully under the BS category). Lastly, thanks once again to the bankers and spinners for an entertaining month. Cheers — Albert.

Dragon

Unpainted welded frame

Welding
Unpainted frame

Painted welded frame

Welding
Painted frame

Civil work

Civil engineering
septic tank riser

Financial year end

Financial year-end done — One steak for the head honcho, one for the little grey bitch in reception, and one for Albert, the little dragon. Only the head honcho gets red wine though.


LED Lighting

We have been working on the control side with some rather ugly prototypes. Last month we bought LED lamps in a standard 12V down-lighter package as prices dropped sharply — an Osram 7W at 350 lm output, an Osram 5W at 290 lm output, plus 3W rebranded lamps at 200 lm output. The 7W unit becomes rather hot in a standard fitting, which might be unsafe in countries where the ambient is in excess of 35 °C. There were fittings designed for better heat dissipation plus a greater distance from any ceiling insulation. We feel these could be fitted with a temperature sensor or with a processor that has an internal temperature sensing diode to regulate the power if the temperature rises too fast or remains above some threshold.

We are far from any product or metal work, as other distractions (year end, metal work, civil engineering and courses) were better at eating up available time. Most of the low-power ARM devices we have used recently have PWM outputs and internal temperature sensors. The external switch is a little more tricky due to MOQs, but the software should be unaware of this.

LED lamp in standard downlighter fitting

LED lamp in a standard downlighter fitting.

If this is 7W, then we are in for some serious savings on our electricity bill in the very near future. This is being driven by DC, so we will look into PWM control next.

Silicon Labs acquires Energy Micro

Last month we mentioned our Energy Micro board adventures. A friend emailed a link with interesting news Silicon Labs to acquire Energy Micro,....", dated 7th June. The deal was $115 million in cash, plus $55 million in deferred and earned-out consideration. A lot of smart people in a startup that is generating revenue, now hopefully still able to keep innovating in a larger company. The video in the link is encouraging with how design will be maintained in Oslo, as well as the lack of looming retrenchments. Their potential market is huge, however, if European or American companies move away from manufacturing, then their success largely depends on whether the Asian companies adopt their products.

Sheet metal and weldments

I attended a two day Sheet Metal and Weldments course for the SolidWorks CAD package. Pretty intense and covered a lot of ground, so hopefully see some decent metalwork soon.

The MIG welding has progressed nicely, but we have yet to decide on any TIG welder. Many conflicting reports, so will investigate more before taking any plunge.


Year End

Another year older and our least favourite pastime — year-end in June. It is always a relief once the accounting is over — such a paperwork exercise with little real benefit for small businesses over a flat rate or minimal hassles.

How was the year? So far still in “startup mode” buying equipment and software, with a long-term outlook (or much faith and gambling). We paid our way, spending like drunken sailors trying to single-handedly save the economy from recession, then took out what was left, with little intention of paying more tax than Starbucks (in the UK).

The visions of the old “Scrooge McDuck and Beagle Boys” comic characters diving around in the money and gem vaults never materialised. (Sorry, no photos, but see Disney wiki if you grew up on ring-tones instead of comics).

We took some tips from the largest corporations sitting on piles of cash. Some with even more than our $100 billion (see further down where trade secrets are revealed).

$100 bilion under the pillow

Our $100 billion cash, shown above, is secured under a pillow, as the banks have been in the news for all the wrong reasons. It is surprisingly soothing and comforting to sleep on a pile of cash! No wonder there are so many wars to try and part people and their money (or oil, but not sure about sleeping in oil).

Guard dog in military uniform

Receptionist protects $100 billion cash, while pretending to be asleep. She is armed to the teeth, seen here in the latest military uniform to handle Adelaide winters, plus helping herself to the pillows. Luckily she does not know how to spend money yet.


Guard dog in military uniform

Intellectual property and company secrets incinerator guarded by the fearsome grey bitch in reception. With all her extra duties, she might demand a raise!

As part of our green policy and sustainability goals, the energy generated goes into heating the Winter Palace and staff members besides the little dragon — Albert has his own fire.


Increased security

Security personnel looking for Snowman
Security personnel looking for Snowman

Security personnel on the lookout. After the latest hopeful protector of American freedom and constitutional laws has gone into hiding, we gave one of our staff members, the little grey bitch in reception, an additional role. She is now tasked with looking for any espionage agents and intellectual property thieves, seen above guarding the window from cats during her transitional training course.

Like Teddy Snowman, the cats walk right past the window and ignore all growling. They seem to thrive on adventure. A little while back, when she chased a cat, the neighbour told my wife that the cat was fine, and much smarter than a dog. She may not be the brightest, however, she is a lot more vigilant than the intelligence employees stationed or deployed at Hong Kong airport. Possibly Teddy Snowman went through a different security queue to the one I was in last year, returning from the UK when the plane gets a little cleaning and refreshments before heading south to Sydney.

The other $100 billion company

Even the other company sitting on a legal pile of almost $140 billion cash was subject for a Congressional invitation to a “Please explain” session. As a precaution, we have given our security some real teeth around our pile of cash.

Tim Cook did well and said they had no Cayman Island bank accounts — something the powers-that-be might want to recall at the next G8 meeting when trying to claim moral ground in banking regulation or tax reforms. Looking at the video clip, hardly a gruelling by Senator Carl Levin, whom Tim Cook told that Apple would not be bringing back $100 billion to be taxed at 35%, or while the tax laws were so complex. His message was that he did not propose a zero percent rate, but to fix the tax system.

While they are about it, how about the patent system or just trim down on the number of “lawmakers”?


Tales from the Woods


The usual suspects

We used our super spying computers and data centres to scour the internet for interesting cases of business and justice “best practice”.

The bankers don't seem to let go, but why would they when nobody goes to jail? Accounting firms, the link between the tax department and your pocket, have joined the bankers on the world stage highlighting their dubious arts. Judges are impressed enough to let it go, but whatever you steal or do, do not state the obvious — all governments spy on their people.

Snowman would launch himself into the limelight ahead of all these other criminals and war stories by saying what was already known. If only the multiple spy agencies could have found the three ladies abducted in Ohio for ten years even though they had supposedly been reported. The interest shifting elsewhere was swift and will be drowned out by the Snowman goose chase. If our keepers cannot locate abductors or Weapons of Mass Turbation, at least shutdown the torrents of spam.

If not for money, men fall for the oldest trick in the book — a lovely woman. Even the former CIA director, retired General David Petraeus thought he could take a chance. Then there was the former IMF boss who resigned over a hotel incident. He could have used a bit of intelligence to find out if the guests reported at parties who found him attractive were paid to be there. Oh yes, and when the US president was meant to be visiting Columbia, the Secret Service agents tried to cheat some ladies out of their fees, resulting in 12 of them returning home. So much intelligence, so little displayed.

Enron not so bad after all

It seems that the Enron $100 billion collapse was not as bad a crime as first imagined, Ex-Enron boss Jeffrey Skilling's sentence cut to 14 years, a reduction of ten years! (BBC 21 June). Apparently the reduced sentence was conditional on no further appeals against the case.

Where are all those crooked auditors who evaporated when Arthur Andersen were caught? (Destroying documents amongst other things). They were fined $500,000 according to Enron auditor fined $500,000, from BBC, 16 Oct, 2002. The number of employees went from 85,000 to 3,000, even worse than the electronics companies. At least the assets plus desk and chair leases would be easier to unwind than assembly equipment.


Too big to fail, too big to jail

The bankers always seem to steal the limelight, but have given their accounting firms some welcome exposure.

“Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced that the Administration has reached an agreement with Deloitte Financial Advisory Services regarding the company's misconduct, violations of law, and lack of autonomy during its consulting work at Standard Chartered on anti-money laundering issues. Under the agreement, Deloitte agrees to a one-year, voluntary suspension from consulting work at financial institutions regulated by the New York State Department of Financial Services, will make a $10 million payment to the State of New York, and will implement a set of reforms designed to help address conflicts of interest in the consulting industry.”

See Cuomo Administration Reaches Reform Agreement With Deloitte Over Standard Chartered Consulting Flaws (18 June).

Also in the article, there was an interesting quote by the Superintendent of Financial Services,

“Today, we are taking an important step in helping ensure that consultants are independent voices — rather than beholden to the large institutions that pay their fees.”

This should be an interesting space to watch, because money always wins, and would an accounting firm honestly risk being replaced by another compliant company? Much like trying to change the Laws of Criminal Nature.

The $10 million fine is small compared to Standard Charter's $327 million for illegal transactions between 2001 and 2007 when they handled $139 trillion through the NY branch ($250 billion for hidden Iranian transactions). See CBC News — Business, Dec 10, 2012. For other ethical lapses, see Wikipedia's Standard Chartered entry. Under notable employees, John Major, who served as prime minister of the UK, worked in the Nigerian Standard Chartered branch in 1967.

We can all relax, as nobody has to go to jail for any of these oversights once apologies have been issued via media outlets.


Who has the best crooks?

Apparently, just one facet of HSBC's and Standard Chartered's money laundering operations were, respectively, over 100× and 40× the “staggering” Liberty Reserve amount as mentioned in Huffington Post, 30 May 2013 in an article titled — How Dare DOJ Insult HSBC's Crooks as Less ‘Professional’ Than Liberty Reserve's Crooks? Guess the banks did not like serious competition, otherwise how could $6 billion go unnoticed from all the surveillance and protection mechanisms in place to protect us from threats imagined and real — at the same time over the very networks that are being watched for activity other than the internet's supposed porn content?

G8 Summit

June is also famous for hosting the G8 summit, where politicians from around the globe line up to make statements about tax avoidance and banking reforms. (A little bit ironic really, as the club seems to have the biggest offenders). Also notable about the G8 club is the absence of China, the world's second biggest economy, or Brazil, the sixth.

New Australian Prime Minister

No, not another election yet, but another Et tu, Brutus? case of applying the knife. We don't know enough to comment but find the change of heart so close to an election as rather interesting.


Great Tax Deals

Apple has a very good deal in Ireland, where corporate tax is already only 12% — apparently paid no tax! Congratulations to their accountants in negotiating a 2% deal in the 1980s and interpreting the overly complex tax laws, not to mention the job opportunities at Apple. Without Apple, there would be more welfare. Hopefully, we will see some sense return and reasonable rates. Manufacturing countries in trouble at the moment seem to be those with high personal- and corporate tax rates, or maybe there is little incentive to hand over so much to governments who try to please everyone (the highest bidder mostly, but different groups at different times, particularly towards elections).

Starbucks PR Exercise

On a happier note, Starbucks paid £5 million tax, Starbucks Pays UK Corporation Tax For First Time Since 2008, where corporate tax is 23%, besides the 20% VAT. Almost £400 million on sales of coffee between 2009 and 2012, and still making losses due to royalty payments for branding!

A country so desperate for job opportunities that they allow large brands to eliminate local operators and pay no tax. What about the local voters who do pay taxes? Instead of complaining, people should just support local, but that and eliminating plastic packaging will never happen. The reports about Starbucks (Google and others) will quietly melt away. To the politicians, fix your broken tax laws; and to people who don't think it is fair, don't support them — it's that simple.

Save millions, make your own coffee

We make our own coffee in our palatial offices. According to our public relations department, only taken from sustainable plantations where slaves were paid something and given toilet breaks.

Palatial offices

Winter Palace Office setup with the Apple devices near the wood fire (behind us). Embedded stuff is freezing in the lab.

As for the coffee, it is a bit of an addiction like red wine. All we would comment on the prices of even coffee beans is that Australia must be the furthermost away from any coffee growers. Now just to work out how to tax deduct it.