Who wins, who loses

❝ Camera sales are continuing to fall off a cliff. And will continue to do so as the capabilities of camera phones keep increasing. [Today] Apple…announced a three-camera iPhone 11 —just like Google, Huawei, Samsung and every other phone maker. In 2020, Apple’s iPhone is likely to have cameras with the ability to see how far things are thanks to a new “time of flight” sensor. This will essentially give the phone super sight, and thus, the phones will be great for augmented reality and make computer vision even more powerful…

❝ Apple isn’t the only one who is imagining such cameras on their devices. Phone makers are spending billions of dollars on their camera capabilities because — as Xiaomi co-founder and CEO Lei Jun said in an internal document — “camera functions have become a decisive factor for smartphone purchases among many consumers.” The company set up a separate division and gave it a lot of resources to compete in the market. Why not? It is up against giants, who keep throwing up bigger and better devices…

❝ A lot of traditionalists dismiss my arguments, but in reality, if a generation or two is growing up on a steady diet of cameras-on-phones and consuming visual data on digital screens, they will have little use for special cameras… I also argue that Apple, Samsung, Google, Huawei are outspending the traditional camera makers exponentially. That is why we will continue to see massive gains in computational photography and camera-phone technologies versus traditional cameras.

Aside from being one of the smartest writers on the technology block…and a helluva photographer in his own right…Om Malik comprehends time and learning, experience and practice, as motive factors in the course of culture. RTFA.

Is your Motor Vehicle Dept selling your information?

❝ Long wait lines and forgetting proper documentation apparently aren’t the only concerns when applying for a new license or vehicle registration at your local department of motor vehicles. Vice.com’s Motherboard team recently obtained a number of financial documents revealing that the DMVs in several states are making extra cash by selling personal records to third-parties, sometimes unlawfully…

❝ Better yet, there are others buying up the info as well. Motherboard found that credit reporting agencies like Experian buy the data in bulk…

❝ In apparent neutered responses to Motherboard’s inquiries, several DMVs told the outlet that they do not sell any incredibly sensitive information, such as social security numbers or driver license photographs. But they do sell information such as a driver’s name and address, along with their residency zip code, phone number, email address, and even their date of birth.

Almost makes a profiteering creep like the fake president seem normal. If you also miss the days when fascists made the trains run on time.

EU afraid to name USA as tax haven

❝ It sounded like a historical moment was in the offing. For the first time, Europe’s finance ministers were seriously planning on publicly denouncing tax havens by presenting a black list of countries that lure companies through tax-saving schemes. French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said the countries on the list were “not doing enough to fight tax evasion.” Fellow Frenchman Pierre Moscovici, the European Union’s commissioner for economic and monetary affairs, called for vigorous sanctions…

❝ Internal documents from the European Council working group responsible for the issue suggest that the United States ignored a late June deadline to avoid being included on the list. DER SPIEGEL has seen the (“EU restricted”) internal documents…

❝ One reason for the Europeans’ restraint could be the growing economic conflicts with the Trump administration. The U.S. president is assiduously threatening to apply punitive tariffs on car imports from the EU, and he is particularly angry at the French, who recently and unilaterally introduced a digital tax on large internet companies. Trump sees it as a hostile act against U.S. internet giants like Amazon and Google.

“Neutral” Europeans prove to be as chickenshit about taxing the wealthy as “loyalist” Republicans and a helluva lot of “centrist” Democrats.

Facebook wants to manage your wifi network for you

❝ Back in 2017, Facebook rolled out the “Find Wi-Fi” feature globally, a feature that lists the nearby Wi-Fi networks that Page owners shared with Facebook. Two years later, Facebook is working to expand this feature from being a list of nearby Wi-Fi networks to a service that manages the Wi-Fi connections on the device.

❝ Facebook needs more geolocation data to hyper-target advertising and information — but mostly advertising — and know even more personal information about you. Of course, it can also learn what services you use and when you use them with this connection manager. They have learned well from their big brother, Google. Sigh!

Which is why I have such a negative attitude towards Facebook and Google. They are exclusively profit-driven creatures. Loyal only to the ethos, motivations of 19th Century capitalism. Given the profit structure of high tech, it’s unneeded. Apple [and others] have proven that.

Wind power now cheaper than NatGas


Click to enlargeNREL

❝ This week, the US Department of Energy released a report that looks back on the state of wind power in the US by running the numbers on 2018. The analysis shows that wind hardware prices are dropping, even as new turbine designs are increasing the typical power generated by each turbine. As a result, recent wind farms have gotten so cheap that you can build and operate them for less than the expected cost of buying fuel for an equivalent natural gas plant…

❝ Overall, that brings the US’ installed capacity up to nearly 100GW. That leaves only China ahead of the US, although the gap is substantial with China having more than double the US’ installed capacity. It still leaves wind supplying only 6.5 percent of the US’ total electricity in 2018, though, which places it behind a dozen other countries. Four of them—Denmark, Germany, Ireland, and Portugal—get over 20 percent of their total electric needs supplied by wind, with Denmark at over 40 percent.

❝ That figure is notable, as having over 30 percent of your power supplied by an intermittent source is a challenge for many existing grids. But there are a number of states that have now cleared the 30 percent threshold: Kansas, Iowa, and Oklahoma, with the two Dakotas not far behind. The Southwest Power Pool, which serves two of those states plus wind giant Texas, is currently getting a quarter of its electricity from wind…

So while wind remains a small factor in the total electricity market in the US, there are parts of the country where it’s a major factor in the generating mix. And, given the prices, those parts are likely to expand.

So-called cultural lag is a joke when American politics is called into play. We still function by 19th Century standards of knowledge, support, guidance and, especially, profit. If coal was still as profitable as plentiful, Congress wouldn’t care if we all died of Black Lung disease as long as the money kept rolling in. Creeps like Trump and McConnell would have even fatter wallets.

Workers at Shell plant told attend Trump rally or lose a day’s pay

❝ Workers at the Pennsylvania petrochemical plant where President Donald Trump spoke Tuesday were told that if they didn’t attend the event, they either had to use paid time off or receive no pay for the day

The instructions to the workers came in a memo, a copy of which was obtained by CNN’s Polo Sandoval from a congressional source. That source was given the memo by a person in Beaver County, Pennsylvania — the site of the plant.

❝ Shell spokesman Curtis Smith confirmed workers were told they would also miss out on some overtime pay if they skipped the event.

❝ The Tuesday Trump speech was an official White House event — not a speech sponsored by the reelection campaign. Trump told the audience at the plant Tuesday that they should oust their union leaders if they declined to support him.

You can tell by the corporate hacks’ who really love the politics of our fake president. Working-class supporters are simply ignorant – or simple-minded. The corporations who benefit from his sleaze know who’s buttering the crumpets for their tea party.

Boom Times for Doomsday Bunkers

❝ In his pitch to potential buyers, Larry Hall touts his condominium’s high ceilings and spacious living rooms. Then there are the swimming pool, saunas and movie theater. But what really sets the development apart, in his view, is its ability to survive the apocalypse.

Mr. Hall has converted a former military nuclear missile vault into a luxury condominium built 15 stories into the Earth’s crust. He is a leader among a new group of real estate developers investing in the nation’s central prairies and Western foothills: doomsday capitalists.

❝ Americans have, for generations, prepared themselves for society’s collapse. They built fallout shelters during the Cold War and basement supply caches ahead of Y2K. But in recent years, personalized disaster prep has grown into a multimillion-dollar business, fueled by a seemingly endless stream of new and revamped threats, from climate change to terrorism, cyberattacks and civil unrest.

❝ Bunker builders and brokers have emerged as key players in this field. And they see the interior of the country, with its wide-open spaces, as a prime place to build. Aiding them is history. During the Cold War, the military spent billions of dollars constructing nuclear warheads and hiding them in underground lairs around the nation, often in Kansas, Nebraska, Oklahoma and New Mexico. Those hideaways, emptied of their bombs, are now on the market and enterprising civilians are buying them (relatively) cheap and flipping the properties. Eager customers abound.

Good thing I really wish to stay retired. It is so easy to sell to stupid and scared…and well off. Can’t be a more “American” market than Doomsday real estate.