Chip shortage excuse is getting old

Whether sales are rising or falling, automakers from the U.S. to China have found a catchall explanation: the global chip shortage. For the laggards, the excuse is getting old.

In the U.S., a shortfall of semiconductors has forced manufacturers to shift from making more cars to better ones. These vehicles are selling at a swift pace and have boosted margins. Sales are rising, too, albeit showing signs of slowing as inventories run low. Volkswagen AG reported its best first-half performance in the U.S. in almost half a century, while at General Motors Co., the figure increased by almost 40% over the same period…

The divergence in performance shows that some companies were able to rise to the challenges of the pandemic by remaining nimble and managing production effectively — traits that will become even more critical amid the transition to electric vehicles. Their competitors, still blaming crimped performance on the shortage, should be worried…

It’s hard to say when the chip shortage will abate. One thing is clear: The companies further along in readjusting to post-Covid life are likely to be the ones that can navigate the twists and turns on the road to next-generation cars. Those still blaming chips will likely be doing so for a while.

RTFA. Interesting to see who’s nimble, quick at switching available chips to models in greatest demand – or the manufacturers want to grow in market share.

iPhone is today’s Brownie camera

Another solid, thoroughly enjoyable article by Om Malik

…what both the Brownie and the iPhone accomplished went beyond technology. Separated by almost 100 years, they were decidedly utilitarian. The Brownie put photography in the hands of amateurs, and so has the iPhone.

They each contributed to the rise of the informal photograph in their respective eras. With the Brownie, people were taking the camera out to the beach, on cruise ships, and to other vacation destinations. Of course, the smartphone is even more portable. We are all carrying one now, and we have the ability to make pictures immediately wherever we are and share them almost simultaneously…

I own two lovely digital cameras. Slightly different eras, different form factors. I used them constantly to illustrate work on-and-offline for more than a few decades. I can’t recall the last time I took either of them with me for a walk of discovery, urban or otherwise. I take photos with my iPhone, just about every day. To what end, what purpose? Just read Om’s article.

Don’t let the sound of your own wheels drive you crazy!

DeAngelo accused of 13 murders, nearly 50 rapes

❝ Everyone’s DNA sequence is unique. But for those who wish to maintain their genetic privacy, it may not be unique enough.

A new study argues that more than half of Americans could be identified by name if all you had to start with was a sample of their DNA and a few basic facts, such as the region where they live and about how old they might be.

❝ One of them is the rise of direct-to-consumer genetic testing. Companies such as and 23andMe can sequence anyone’s DNA for about $100. All you have to do is provide a sample of saliva and drop it in the mail.

The other essential element is the proliferation of publicly searchable genealogy databases like GEDmatch. Anyone can upload a full genome to these sites and powerful computers will crunch through it, looking for stretches of matching DNA sequences that can be used to build out a family tree.

❝ So far, 72-year-old Joseph James DeAngelo is the most famous person to be identified this way. You may know him better as the suspected Golden State Killer, charged with 13 counts of murder and 13 counts of attempted kidnapping…Since then, at least 13 additional suspected criminals have been identified in the same way…

“When the police caught the Golden State Killer, that was a very good day for humanity,” Columbia University computer scientist Yaniv Erlich said. “The problem is that the very same strategy can be misused.”

I tire of timorous mice who whine about the potential misuse of scientific procedures as if they are automatically destined to be implemented by an evil government. The solution is to regulate governments before they can grow evil, crap governments run by fools, reactionary governments voted into office by the ignorant and fearful.

Want to protect our privacy? Quit electing pimps for corporations which profit from abusing privacy. Get off your rusty dusty and spend a little time and political energy working to guarantee privacy. That won’t come from a line or two of patented code; but, by keeping an eye on the human beings who profit from sleazy government.

Ford continues reducing water use – another 30% by 2015

Ford Focus Electric

There’s a surprising amount of water in pretty much everything – first-gen biofuels, anyone? – and Ford thinks it makes sense to get some of that precious liquid out of the process of making vehicles. Thirty percent, to be exact.

That’s the target that Ford recently set for global water reduction, per vehicle, by 2015. It’s just the latest in a reduction effort that has been going on since 2000, when the company started its Global Water Management Initiative. Ford claims it’s already reduced the water used per vehicle by 49 percent between that year and 2010. The 30 percent reduction target is going to be compared to the company’s 2009 levels.

How does the water get cut? By using something called Minimum Quantity Lubrication (MQL) machining (aka dry-machining) and by paying special attention to ways to treat and reuse “wastewater,” to cite two examples Ford offers. Dry-machining, “lubricates the cutting tool with a very small amount of oil sprayed directly on the tip in a finely atomized mist, instead of with a large quantity of coolant/water mixture.” The end result? Hundreds of thousands of gallons of water that don’t need to be sent through a Ford factory.

When looked at overall, Ford cut its water use by 62 percent between 2000 and 2010, which equals 10.5 billion gallons.

The amount of water used in conventional coolant/water mixtures is daunting. Though we all tremble over the task of diminishing our addiction to petroleum, our reliance upon water in industrial processes threatens individual and social water consumption at a truly scary rate.

I’m not so worried about running out of the former. Running out of water on this planet endangers even a sensibly reduced population.

Disclaimer: I own enough Ford shares to pay for a set of tyres – if I owned a Ford.

Coppers checking your seat belt – may not be using their own!

At least 42% of police officers killed in vehicle crashes over the past three decades were not wearing seat belts or other safety restraints, according to a federal review.

The study by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), which analyzed 733 crashes from 1980 through 2008, comes less than a week after a separate report found that fatal traffic incidents in 2010 were the leading cause of officer deaths for the 13th straight year…

Some officers resist wearing seat belts because the restraints slow their movement in and out of the cars, Floyd says. Others complain that the straps get tangled in utility and gun belts.

The memorial fund reported a 37% overall increase in line of duty deaths in 2010, reversing two consecutive years of decline. Included in that number, traffic-related fatalities jumped from 51 in 2009 to 73 in 2010…

Of the officers killed in vehicle crashes, 28% used some kind of restraint in the 1980s, according to the NHTSA report. Usage increased to 56% in the 1990s. But the report found that seat belt or other restraint use has recently declined to about 50%.

According to the NHTSA report, fatal vehicle accidents involving officers have been steadily rising, from 29% of the total fatalities in the 1980s to 50% or more in recent years.

In addition to the 42% who were not wearing restraints during the course of the review, the study found that seat-belt use could not be determined in nearly 13% of the fatalities, suggesting that non-compliance could be higher.

I sincerely hope that – instead of farting around with a couple more studies about why patrol officers aren’t wearing safety belts – money and time is spent on making certain they wear the damned belts.

It costs a good deal to train a police officer. It’s a dangerous enough job. Killing them off from stupidity and carelessness isn’t acceptable.

“Whatever” voted most irritating word in poll

Whatever you think about using grating words, at the end of the day it’s actually better not to say whatever, if you know what I mean.

For the second consecutive year “whatever’ topped a Marist poll as the most annoying word or phrase in the English language.

Nearly 39 percent of 1,020 Americans questioned in the survey deemed it the most irritating word, followed by “like” with 28 percent and the phrase “you know what I mean’ at 15 percent…

Mary Azzoli said words like “whatever” can be quite dismissive depending on how they are used.

“It’s the way they are delivered and inherent in that delivery is a meaning.


[And I know exactly who KB will think of]

Is California getting ready to ban big-screen TV’s?

150″ Panasonic “Life Wall”

The influential lobby group Consumer Electronics Assn. is fighting what appears to be a losing battle to dissuade California regulators from passing the nation’s first ban on energy-hungry big-screen televisions…

“Voluntary efforts are succeeding without regulations,” said Doug Johnson, the association’s senior director for technology policy. Too much government interference could hamstring industry innovation and prove expensive to manufacturers and consumers, he warned…

The association’s views weren’t shared by everyone in the TV business. Representatives of some TV makers, including top-seller Vizio Inc. of Irvine, said they would have little trouble complying with tighter state standards without substantially increasing prices…

“We would not propose TV efficiency standards if we thought there was any evidence in the record that they will hurt the economy,” said Commissioner Julia Levin, who has been in charge of the two-year rule-making procedure. “This will actually save consumers money and help the California economy grow and create new clean, sustainable jobs…”

California’s estimated 35 million TVs and related electronic devices account for about 10% of all household electricity consumption, the Energy Commission staff reported. But manufacturers quickly are coming up with new technologies that are making even 50-inch-screen models much more economical to operate.

New features, such as light-emitting diodes that consume tiny amounts of power, special reflective films and sensors that automatically adjust TV brightness to a room’s viewing conditions, are driving down electricity consumption, experts said.

I’m saving my pennies, now, waiting for LED-full backlit LCD’s to get down to affordable – for me. I’m not an early adopter on TV sets. But, the set I have in mind will use about 30% less electricity than the critter currently inhabiting the entertainment corner of our living room.

Oh, the Panasonic “Life Wall” up top? I could fit it into one end of the living room if I took out the woodburning stove. And I probably wouldn’t need the stove, anymore – after that.

Number of Internet users exceeds 1 billion in December

An Internet bar in Beijing
Daylife/AFP/Getty Images

Global Internet usage reached more than 1 billion unique visitors in December, with 41.3 percent in the Asia-Pacific region, according to a report released by ComScore.

The study looked at Internet users over the age of 15 who accessed the Net from their home or work computers. Europe grabbed the next largest slice of the global Internet audience, with 28 percent, followed by the United States, with an 18.4 percent slice. But Latin America, while comprising just 7.4 percent of the global Internet audience, is the region to watch, noted Jamie Gavin, a ComScore senior analyst.

“The U.S. is slowing down in its growth and momentum, but Latin America, with social networking and the mobile Internet, is expected to gain momentum over the next few years,” Gavin said…

A closer look at countries within the regions reveals that China accounted for the most Internet users worldwide, with a 17.8 share of unique visitors. The United States ranked second, with 16.2 percent, and Japan ranked a distant third, at 6 percent.

Keeps on rolling along.

Senate introduces “IP Reform Bill” further criminalizing file sharing

U.S. senators have floated a bill boosting copyright and trademark protection, legislation that would allow the attorney general to prosecute civil cases of infringement and one that allows for the forfeiture of hardware used to infringe.

OK. That’s the nice guy, jive newspaper description of crap legislation.

Most important, the measure, like the House version, creates an executive-level Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator, which would require Senate confirmation. The executive and its office would be charged with creating a nationwide plan to combat piracy and “report directly to the president and Congress regarding domestic international intellectual property enforcement programs.”

The bill encourages federal-state anti-piracy task forces, the training of other countries about IP enforcement and, among other things, institutes an FBI piracy unit

Someone send me a penny postcard when our elected hacks begin to care as much for individual rights, Fair Use, the opportunity for ordinary folks to use recorded material they bought – as they see fit. The owners of intellectual property – which rarely includes the creative artists – don’t have any natural right to be commercial barons.