September News

London Brigde, Great Ocean Road

London Bridge, Port Campbell National Park from a plaque nearby — “On the evening of 15 January 1990 the main arch connecting London Bridge to the mainland cracked and fell into the sea. Fortunately no-one was injured. Two people marooned on the new island were rescued hours later by helicopter.”

 

Everybody wants to save the earth; nobody wants to help Mom do the dishes. pg 9 last paragraph, PJ O'Rourke, “All the trouble in the world”, 1994.

 

September news flashes showed the United Nations' leaders and young folk marching along NY streets protesting climate change; hopefully they shy away from 4×4 vehicles when they get a paid job and put their ideals into practice. If they avoid fossil fuels, there will be fewer reasons to meddle in far-off places and more time to spend playing games on their mobile phones, which hardly contribute to global warming. At least they were not seen to be unpatriotic and complain about the pending wargames.

Software Development

We toured Melbourne, the Great Ocean Road, and the Grampians at the end of August and beginning of September. Spring arrived a little late, but the countryside was green.

The little bit of software development was getting back into our web framework, trying to load up Apple's Swift development tools, and chipping away at the email pile. We have renewed the Apple Developer program for the next twelve months — Swift looks promising for interfacing to the Cocoa frameworks without Objective-C. Our Apple server is fairly old, so a new one is on the cards. Will it be ARM-64 based? That would be nice, but the fully loaded x86 based Mini Mac servers are around A$1600 with excellent compilers and debuggers.

 

We have opted for Adobe's Cloud based Photoshop. The Lightroom trial only ran on a case-insensitive file system, ruling out the Apple server, as we run a case sensitive journalised file system there. Photoshop runs on our Microsoft hardware, where we have moved our 200 GBytes of photos out of iPhoto and placed into directories that we can control. There are no duplicate photos, no cycle sapping face recognition, but unfortunately no location identification yet as in iPhoto. We will be upgrading some photographic equipment to include location (GPS built-in). Lightroom and Photoshop are about A$120 per year, which is a lot more reasonable than Adobe prices a few years back. Adobe has released “Ink and Slide” hardware in the US that works with newer iPads. It is unavailable in Australia. Our older iPad bails so often when viewing websites and YouTube that it may soon face a teardown.

Tales from the Woods

Walk about

For anyone wishing to do the Great Ocean Road, we recommend travelling from Melbourne to Port Fairly, as all the turn-offs for scenic views are easier to access from the left lane. Going north to south requires waiting in a single lane to cross on-coming traffic along some very winding roads, but at least there are not many freight trucks along this route.

 

At the end of August I took a trip to meet my mom in Melbourne after her flight from London, via Singapore. If you had a week or two to show someone around Australia, where would you go? We live in the beautiful Fleurieu Peninsula (McLaren Vale wine region) in South Australia, so after a week here, her next stop was with family in Brisbane. Other than Tasmania, it has to be the Great Ocean Road and Grampians. Melbourne was just an added bonus.

Melbourne pics

Going green at the office? Not yet. This remarkable display was in the convervatory in Fitzroy Gardens, Melbourne. Taken 2nd Sept.

This vertical plant wall was in the Melbourne Docklands, along Aurora Lane. I think it was south facing. Very impressive, taken 2nd Sept.

Where is the computer mouse? We revisited the Melbourne Museum to get a better picture, but failing to obey safety rules, it might have fallen through the large crack between the tape reader and the teletype. See our May 2012 News about this computer mouse so important for prior art. Sadly it has disappeared without trace. Perhaps safely stored away with other treasures by the restorers, or being held hostage by enemies of technology.

 

Great Ocean Road, Grampians

View towards Port Campbell, Twelve Aposples National Park along the Great Ocean Road.

Always a favourite — Port Fairy on the Moyne River.

A typical view from easily accessible lookouts — near Halls Gap, Grampians Conservation Reserve, taken towards Lake Bellfield.

 

Access restriction signs

Maits Rest Rainforest Walk, along the Great Ocean Road. Access is along well maintained paths and really worth the break.

A sign prohibiting wheelchairs along the Twelve Apostles National Park. You would have to be pretty determined or fit to disobey this sign before tumbling down many stairs! Getting back up would be just as interesting. Covering all bases by local council?

A few feet to the right of the “no wheelchair“ sign. Is this not obvious? No doubt seversal council tours of inspection, followed by lunch for all the exhausted after each project stage — deciding where to place the sign, awarding the tender, making sure it was erected correctly (at wheelchair height).

 


What else has been happening?

While we were away, other folk were making headlines. Here are some of our picks. It is not a case of no banks stealing or being fined this month, we're are a bit tired of them for now. Besides, we all know they dwarf the embedded hardware and software industry.


Submarines

According to The Drum (ABC News) Cheaper foreign subs will be a tough sell in South Australia, 9th September, 2014. We would love to see a portion of the work being done in Adelaide, as the fabrication industry will obviously benefit from improved capability.

An interesting Australian Parliament report outlined the costs and timeframes in Australia's future submarines, dated 24th May, 2012.

Spin-off from F35

TV advertisements of jobs and documentaries of CNC centres have been aired, courtesy of Lockeed Martin.

The most difficult part of F35 acquisition may be keeping the avionics software from falling over after even the smallest upgrade. Assembling a team with these skills outside of the USA or Europe would be very difficult, and certainly won't be useful to the 600 or so Coles employees to be outsourced in Coles planning to outsource IT: Report, Computerworld, 2nd Sep, 2014.

Centralised Processing Project

The Centralised Processing Project, Australian Government Department of Defense, 11th Sep, 2014, promises great savings — “The Defence Strategic Reform Program (SRP), which commenced in 2009, aims to deliver gross savings of $20b over ten years. Of this, $1.9b is to be delivered through Defence Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Reform.” The three shortlisted in 2012/2013 were Hewlett Packard, Lockeed Martin Australia and IBM. They were reduced to two with HP excluded in September, 2013. In May, 2014, Lockeed Martin Australia were announced the CP Project Preferred Tenderer.

Our take

The Queensland Health saga could not have helped IBM's cause, see IBM Sued Over $US1 Billion Project That Led To It Being Banned By Queensland, Business Insider Australia, 7th Dec, 2013. The custom project was initially supposed to cost AU$6 million and escalated to an out-of-control AU$1,2 billion. In 2007, IBM won the contract saying it would cost AU$6 million and then told Queensland that it would really cost AU$27 million. (The Queensland government was not without fault with massive scope creepage).

HP with the Autonomy disaster (see our May 2013 News, at the bottom under “Time to sell high-tech shares?”) and massive layoffs have done much to tarnish their image.

IBM's Federal Systems Company and Lockeed Martin have some common ground via Loral Corporation via their AAS project. There are many references to this, but my interest some decades ago related to visualising real-time behavour in complex systems. The software related journal article was by David Sims, Review finds requirements changes plague AAS project, in IEEE Software, volume 11, number 2, page 93, March 1994, with an abstract: The largest real-time network ever constructed is $1 billion over budget and more than two years late.

IBM to Sell Its Military Unit to Loral, 14th Dec, 1993, New York Times, “The new air-traffic control system, whose cost was estimated at $2.5 billion when it was planned in 1983, is now expected to cost more than $5 billion. But Mr Schwartz predicted that the Federal Systems technology would not only satisfy the FAA but also find markets abroad.”

British public servants with NERC explained their experiences with IBM, then Loral, then Lockeed Martin, documented in UK Parliamentary Business.

Do I have the necessary skills? No, certainly not, but the history of abandoning internal capability for promises from outside companies who clearly had little idea of the scope (just from the promised delivery dates), does not make for a happy ending.


Sport

Have we suddenly become sports fans? We have an interest in several sports, but this is similar to the bankers' spot — when the odds are too good to be true, or their fines dwarf the whole of the local electronics industry. The drugs in footy, the Australian Crime Commission, coaches fired for their team's poor performance — lessons have been learned, this will never happen again. Sounds like the software industry. Let's put it all into a nice powerpoint presentation and a case study for valuable management courses. This will be the last time ...

Zimbabwe beat Australia

The world's No. 1 suffered an embarrassing defeat. They last lost to Zimbabwe in 1983. See Australia suffer historic three-wicket loss to Zimbabwe in tri-series shock for more. The odds were over 1000 to 1. There was also a 50-1 odds for Zimbabwe beating Australia in the Twenty20 in 2007 when Australia lost, so perhaps there was no match fixing. See Taylor anchors Zimbabwe to historic win.

 

How did the ODI end? Australia fell from No.1 to 4 after South Africa beat Australia by six wickets in tri-series final, Sydney Morning Herald, 7th Sept, 2014.

Basket ball or case?

Angola beat Australia in Basketball ruling body FIBA launches investigation into Australia's loss to Angola at World Cup, ABC News, 9th September, 2014.


High Tech


Indian Mars Probe

A remarkable achievement at a fraction of the cost of what is being wasted on all manner of military spending at the moment by most nations. (A mere $74 million). When first announced, my immediate thoughts were that it was impossible, but they have indeed done well. See India's First Mars Probe Makes Historic Red Planet Arrival, Space.com, 23rd Sep, 2014. Two days later, photos were posted at India's First Mars Mission in Pictures (Gallery), so it has survived the critical early days.

Apple

Apple announced several new products on 9th September — the Apple Watch and iPhone 6. It looks like the the electronic wallet will soon become a reality. The iPhone 6 Plus has an incredible screen resolution. The chip is called the A8 (also 64-bit) which is their second generation 64-bit ARM chip, and shipping well before competitors. The collaboration between Apple and U2 resulted in a free download of the Songs of Innocence album on iTunes. In all, a big month for Apple. The ARM 64-bit on the desktop will have to wait a while. It does not look like we will be getting any 64-bit ARM desktop systems before year end anyway. Perhaps Apple will win that race as well.

Aussie Marc Newson has joined Apple's dream team in Apple recruits Australian designer Marc Newson, in BRW, 8th September, 2014. He is London-based, and has designed some beautiful watches.

ARM

ARM Supercharges MCU Market with High Performance Cortex-M7 Processor 24th Sep, 2014 on arm.com. At the beginning of September, they signed their 50th 64-bit ARMv8-A licensing agreement.

Qualcomm

Qualcomm Snapdragon 615 processor product brief describes the 64-bit octa A53 (two quad A53) device targeting mobile users. The Snapdragon 810 has a quad code A57 and a quad core A53 for 64-bit support.

Acquisitions

Swedish company Electrolux buys General Electric's appliances unit for $3.3bn, 8th September, on BBC.

Siemens to buy oil and gas company in Siemens buys US oil and gas firm Dresser-Rand in a $7,6 billion deal — BBC, 22nd Sep, 2014.

One we missed a while back, EZchip to Acquire Tilera, a Leader in High-Performance Multi-Core Processors, 1st July, 2014. “Under the terms of the agreement, EZchip will pay Tilera's stockholders up to $130 million in cash; of which $50 million is payable at closing and up to an additional $80 million is payable subject to the attainment of certain future performance milestones.” They get access to over 100 awarded and pending patents.

Imagination

Imagination introduces 64-bit MIPS device with general availability scheduled for December, 2014. See Embedded.com for the 2nd September announcement. The Imagination website is imgtec.com.

EE Times

A short extract from EE Times — Fairchild to close two manufacturing facilities, and Infineon to buy International Rectifier. EE Times.com at the end of August.

Automotive

GM recalls 220,000 cars over brake defectBBC business, 21st Sep, 2014.

Toyota are also in the news again, plus my Mitsubishi has had a recall which will be handled soon.

Microsoft

Microsoft cuts another 2,100 jobsBBC business, 18th Sep, 2014. 13,000 have already gone, mostly from Nokia. 747 jobs will go from the Seattle area. Microsoft will take a charge between $1,1bn and $1,6bn related to the cuts. That is a lot of people and a lot of money after paying so much to trash a mobile phone company. What will emerge from those skilled employees if they get together as competitors?

Microsoft pays £1,5 billion for Minecraft game makerBBC Newsround, 16th Sep, 2014. Microsoft promised it would maintain Minecraft across all existing platforms ...

Microsoft cancelled launch of Xbox One in ChinaBBC technology, 22nd Sep, 2014. In the same article, Microsoft is being investigated for violating Chinese anti-trust laws.

3D Printers

The mechanical CAD software market is being shaken up a bit this month.

Dremel have launched a 3D printer. The price on Amazon is $999. The website might change, plus there is a video on YouTube published Dremel's New 3D Printer, 17th Sep, 2014.

3D Printer Company Stratasys Acquires GrabCAD, 17th Sep, 2014, on Forbes. The all-cash deal was undisclosed, but estimated at $100 million. Prior to the acquisition, GrabCAD raised $13,6 million from investors. Stratasys acquired MakerBot for $403 million in 2013.

For higher-end 3D printers, have a look at (Alibre) with Geomegic software and CubeX 3D printers (3D Systems Geomagic). HP seems to be missing in action on this one, although they did make some promises a few years ago.

In SolidWorks videos for the 2015 release, the CEO shows how easy it will be to use the embedded 3D printer driver in Windows 8 to print to a 3D printer. Thankfully no CAM add-ons or post-processing per print vendor.

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

A month after turning 70, End of an Era: Larry Ellison Steps Down as Oracle's CEO, 18th Sep, 2014. He will still remain chairman of Oracle's board and take on the role of chief technology officer. Like or hate him, he certainly had a remarkable innings.

Not sure who the other Good are, we have already mentioned politics and wargames above, so this is a “Catch all” heading to increase our Google ratings beyond the wildest expectations of offers we have received so far from the sub-continent.

What? Another war? The war drum has been beating for months, and the US have formally entered another proxy war — US launches air strikes on Syria Islamic State militants, BBC.com, 23rd Sep, 2014. In the same article, the US has launched 190 airstrikes in Iraq since August. This has sucked all unquestioning allies into the conflict with the Australian news showing F18s taking off for duty in the Middle East. Unanswered questions of course would be, “Who is paying for this distant conflict, is it any of our business when similar death tolls are ignored in Gaza, why not hitch a ride on a US aircraft carrier (unless not carrier rated), who pays for the munitions, and when does it all stop?” Are Australian tax payers purchasing aircraft from the US to do their bidding? Hopefully the F35s on order remain in Australia to protect us from whatever threat was identified when the deals were struck.

After the war games, we look at how others are getting on.

Scotland is still part of the United Kingdom, much to “the City's delight”. Will they get what they thought was promised to them before the next UK election, or is this like the revolving door of the UK wanting to take a vote on the Eurozone?

Cartels again — Samsung, Infineon and Philips fined for chip cartel, Electronics Weekly, 4th September, 2014. Renesas was given immunity because it notified the Commission of the cartel. Fines were a paltry €138 million. Samsung received a 30% reduction for co-operating. Infineon will receive the largest fine. Philips remains responsible for the fines that pre-date the spin-off of NXP.

Business in China is not all about bribes, but GlaxoSmithKline may have missed that point. See GlaxoSmithKline fined $490m by China for bribery, BBC business, 19th Sep, 2014. Various GSK executives were given suspended jail sentences, with the former head also set to be deported. This has been ongoing for a while, and should help fund other investigations rather than disappearing into pockets.