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* Posts by Tim Worstal

557 posts • joined 12 Feb 2008

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HP, Microsoft prove it again: Big Business doesn't create jobs

Tim Worstal
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Re: Jobs?

" I keep hearing number that 50% of people work in very small businesses."

I don't have a graph but that could be right. I'd actually expect it to be higher than 50% in small business.

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Tim Worstal
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You're correct there. I still like the "pissing in the soup" story about setting up your own low cost competition.

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Tim Worstal
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Re: Good article, but...

It's actually just because I am grossly prejudiced.

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Native Americans KILLED AND ATE DUMBO, say archaeologists

Tim Worstal
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They also ate the North American horse to extinction. The ones the Indians rode (as in all the movies) were escapees from the Spanish settlements.

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'iPhone 6' survives FRENZIED STABBING. Truly, it is the JESUS Phone

Tim Worstal
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Re: On sapphire...

"As far as I know, adding something would only compromise the properties, so we're talking pure alumina, as pure as you can get."

Quite correct. Standard alumina, for making Al metal, is 99.0 to 99.7 % Al2O3. Certain higher grade Al s (ie, say for packaging chips in I think) at 99.9, 99.99% Al purity will start from an Al2O3 at 99.9 or 99.99 % purity.

Sapphire manufacturing usually starts with a 99.9% alumina for low grade material, 99.99 % and 99.995% are well known in use and there's a few people starting with 99.999%.

The higher purities become very expensive. Mostly because they're simply not produced at scale (a few hundred tonnes a year maybe, as against tens of millions of tonnes of alumina more generally).

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Tim Worstal
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Re: Tim Worstal

What?

But, but, the mere idea that anyone wouldn't have believed me/us is so absurd as to make this comment superfluous! Borderline apostasy in fact, bringing the Church of Reg into disrepute by even positing the possibility of error!

Nurse, my pills please and a nap.

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El Reg is looking for a new London sub-editor

Tim Worstal
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Re: Sir

FT Alphaville hired some people recently. £35 -£40k was the general impression I got of the offer.

Although you might have meant full time rather than Financial Times....

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Tim Worstal
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Re: Sir

Journalism pays rather less than most of the computer industry. Without going into details of what El Reg pays (I only know my freelance rate which is just fine, thank you) a reporter on a local paper might be on £20k a year, last I saw at the Guardian for a section editor (Fashion, Books, that sort of thing) was about £40k and a star columnist like Polly is on £110k or so. Moonbat is on perhaps £40k.

Mail pays more than the broadsheets.

But don't forget, all except that local paper stuff is London wages. Discount by 30% or more to get out of London wages.

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Creepy battery-operated TEDDY BEAR SEX TOY. Sadly, this is for real

Tim Worstal
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How bizarre

Yesterday (no, really, 'tis true this) I was discussing with a sex toy designer what gaps there might be in the market. And neither of us managed to come up with a teddy bear that performs cunnilingus as the answer.

Amazingly enough.....

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You're inventing the wrong sort of tech for bad people who want to buy it. Stop it at once

Tim Worstal
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Re: I'll take your quote and raise you...

The fishermen story:

http://www.economist.com/node/9149142

"This more efficient market benefited everyone. Fishermen's profits rose by 8% on average and consumer prices fell by 4% on average. Higher profits meant the phones typically paid for themselves within two months. And the benefits are enduring, rather than one-off. All of this, says Mr Jensen, shows the importance of the free flow of information to ensure that markets work efficiently. “Information makes markets work, and markets improve welfare,” he concludes."

What happened when sardine fishermen off Kerala got mobile phones.

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Tim Worstal
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Re: "Men have become the tools of their tools" Henry David Thoreau

"However, the writer clearly leans to the right of the political spectrum."

Depends what you call "right". It's true that I sometimes foam at the mouth when explaining the joys of free markets. But I'm absolutely uninterested in those traditionally conservative concerns about what other people put into their bodies (either interesting substances or parts of other people's bodies in whatever combination).

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Tim Worstal
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Try this search

"the impact of mobile phones on economic growth in developing countries"

Second result in Google is a Deloitte paper that looks at 2G to 3G replacement and that's 0.15% on GDP per 10% of population. I've not read the whole paper (it's beer time where I am) but I would expect that it will link back to the original research on 2G.

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Today's get-rich-quick scheme: Build your own bank

Tim Worstal
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Perhaps I should also mention

That I know Matt Ridley. He's had a banking licence in the past so.....ah, no, that won't work, will it?

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Bloke squeezes Apple's boules, predicts millions of iPhone 6s, iWatches

Tim Worstal
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My word, how amazing

"which are making boules way bigger than anyone expected."

I'm sure someone or other pointed this out. Oh yes, last year:

"As the sapphire is made in ever fatter ingots, the price per kg will come down. Currently, at least with the pieces I've seen, it's about the shape and size of the sort of candle you might put on a dinner table. In the coming years we all expect it to get wider and wider, as silicon has done, fattening to the girth of a fat candle carried in the church parade all the way up to the "elephant's tampon girth" of current silicon ingots. We would also expect production costs to come down as they have with silicon: perhaps not a 10x reduction, but no one can see why a 3x or 4x wouldn't be achievable."

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EU probe into Apple's taxes: It's NOT to do with double-Dutch-Irish anything sandwiches

Tim Worstal
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Re: Ireland is not even the middle man

What Ireland gets is the income tax on the people being employed to do all of this. They think that's a good enough deal.

Obviously, other people can weigh in on whether that is a good deal or not but that's the way that the Irish state thinks about it.

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Tim Worstal
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Re: Selling apple kit is a loss leader, almost

That's roughly what I thought but I wanted to hear it from within the industry to be sure.

So thanks.

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Tim Worstal
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Re: So is this similar to what Starbucks do?

This one has always amused me.

Starbucks paid that Swiss subsidiary the original price of the coffee plus 20%. The actual cost of coffee beans is trivial. Perhaps 5 p of the retail price of a latte, something of that sort of order. So they certainly weren't moving much profit to Switzerland. And even when you add that back in (and all the other stuff) to the UK accounts, Starbucks were *still* making a loss.

But what's much more fun is that if Starbucks didn't pay some margin to Switzerland then that would be illegal. Because of these transfer pricing rules again. The Swiss subsidiary must sell to the UK one at something close to free market prices, as if the two companies were not related. So which broker of coffee beans does not add some margin to cover its costs? What should that margin be? 20% over cost price seems fair enough. So would 30 or 10%.

But a margin of 0% would very definitely be not an arms length transaction price and thus illegal.

So in this particular instance everyone's shouting at Starbucks for the manner in which they obeyed tax law.

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Apple's Irish tax lair to be probed by European Commission

Tim Worstal
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Re: Really simple way of dealing with this....

It's illegal to tax royalties flowing from one EU corporation to another.

No, really, EU law does say that.

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Piketty thinks the 1% should cough up 80%. Discuss

Tim Worstal
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Re: data source

OECD's probably the right place. Certainly it is for income inequality. They do much better with the US for example than the World Bank (or, amusingly, the CIA Handbook) does.

On wealth inequality one of our problems in this entire debate is that there's no agreed to be correct data set. That's half of what the argument over Piketty is all about.

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Tim Worstal
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Re: Simple Question

Fair enough. If we look at government consumption (NHS, schools, defence, courts, prisons etc) then 20% of GDP is still just a little too small.

....I think so, at least....

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Tim Worstal
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Re: Simple Question

" If say, all of one's income above the tax-free base rate was taxed at, say, 20%, would this be enough to fund government?"

No, not nearly enough. All incomes do, by definition, equal GDP (everything eventually becomes someone's income. Might be rent, profits, interest, straight income, but everything is, in one way of measuring it, an income to someone).

And currently government takes 45 or so percent of GDP. So, if we have just the one simple tax it would have to be 45% of everyone's incomes with no allowance at all.

That really is how large government is.

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Tim Worstal
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Re: Some well made points

"in the case of both state education and the NHS, the economic input of those benefits is equal for every member of society. "

Indeed. But that changes the wealth ratio.

Back a while one report said that the wealth ratio (90/10) was 100 to 1 in the UK. Top 10% families had £800k of wealth, bottom 10% £8k.

Now add in the welfare state. The under market tenancy, the state old age pension (deliberately excluded from those figures), the system of social insurance itself (the existence of unemployment pay has some option and capital value to all). Sure, OK, let's say this is all worth £100k to all (just a made up number). Our wealth ratio is now £900k to £108k. Or, by eyeball, more like 10:1 than the original 100:1. Keep going with state supplied services (health and education) and it falls again.

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How about printing your electricity?

Tim Worstal
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umm, no

dropped a zero. 60 cents in materials costs. We want 2 kW at any one time for the average household: call it 5 for peak?

I must have something wrong here, it can't be a $120 materials cost for a household sized SOFC.

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Tim Worstal
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Hmm

Doing some (probably wrong) envelope back of stuff I get to around $6 for the materials cost of a 25 W SOFC with this method. And that's using scandium as well.

Which is really pretty cheap.....

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Tim Worstal
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Bring it on!

I've long argued that SOFCs are going to become blindingly cheap. Admittedly, I'm very biased on this. The very finest material to use is scandia/yttria stabilised zirconia (9 mole % Sc, 2 mole % Y for those keeping score at home) and, as regular readers around here will know, I supply scandium to peeps.

And if you can just print them out on ink jets then there's really not going to be anything very expensive about them. And given these thicknesses they're achieving the materials cost will be pretty low too.

And here's the thing about making these cells cheap. If you can do the same with solar cells (I would be willing to wager a price in a decade of 10 to 20 cents a W, as opposed to 80 cents to a $ now) then you've got the building blocks of a hydrogen economy. Sure, it's wasteful to electrolyse water with the solar power, then run it back through the cell. But if it's all cheap enough then that doesn't matter: you've now transformed unreliably available renewables into on demand power.

Which does rather solve that climate change problem, doesn't it?

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Tesla's TOP SECRET gigafactories: Lithium to power world's vehicles? Let's do the sums

Tim Worstal
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Re: Extracting almost everything?

Things are rather moving that way. Slowly, but they are. I know of a process (two different ones actually) to bolt onto the Bayer one for alumina. First take the Fe out of the red mud, then the silica, then in what remains the Ti is of sufficient concentration to be worth extracting, and from the remains of that the Ge, Ga, rare earths all look economically extractable.

But the mining industry is very wary indeed of anything that requires more than a couple of steps or target metals to be economic. Simply because too many people have gone bust trying to make such processes work.

For Cu, often do extract Au and Ag, yes. But also Te from the slimes in the cathode tanks as well.

And with Sn, the Ta and Nb end up in the slags, those are then processed for those. Ge and In tend to come from the wastes of zinc processing. And so on. So it is done but really only when there's no other convenient source.

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Tim Worstal
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Re: Reworking

There's all sorts of stuff in those wastes. At least one company has investigated extracting the tantalum (it's definitely there, maybe not economic at present) and I had a quick look at the scandium. Certainly possible to extract it, didn't take it far enough to check if economic.

If your Dad's still in contact with the people at that research plant I'd love to have a chat with them actually.

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Tim Worstal
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Re: I'll admit to being hugely biased here - @ Tim Worstal

Fuel cells are being used. Bloom Energy sells them for example, Apple installs them at their data farms.

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Tim Worstal
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Ga....

We extract Ga from the Bayer Process tanks in the bauxite to alumina industry. One estimate is that there's some 8,000 tonnes pa Ga that passes through such tanks, most don't have the right doohicky to extract it. Globally we use 400 tonnes Ga a year.

Probably some margin in that.

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Tim Worstal
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I'll admit to being hugely biased here

I'm a fan of the other type of fuel cells, solid oxide one. Like Bloom uses (and my bias is that they're the major user of the metal, scandium, that I deal with in my day job).

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You know all those resources we're about to run out of? No, we aren't

Tim Worstal
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Re: I would argue the situation was even worse

"Why bother building gallows?"

Quite, that's for the long drop painless method. The short drop tap dancing on air method takes longer, is more painful, and only requires a beam to throw the rope over. Economy and efficiency in one move.....

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Tim Worstal
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Re: Either my maths is wrong, or Tim's is

8 k tonnes of Ga......there's hundreds of millions of tonnes of bauxite that pass through these same plants. Mebbe, just under 100 millon tonnes on reflection.

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Tim Worstal
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Re: Not quite

"However, we have now surveyed the entire planet "

Apologies, but no, we haven't. We really, really, have not. This is my industry and we are nowhere near having done that as yet. Hell, we've not even surveyed Yorkshire properly yet.

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Tim Worstal
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Re: Ahem.

"Sadly not working at the BBC it would seem"

Indeed not: the BBC can't afford me.

Which is slightly weird I know, given the river of cash they have. The BEEB pays vast amounts for stars, horrendous amounts for bureaucrats, but very much lower than the free market for standard work. Odd, but true.

Perhaps that should be the other way around. I can't afford to work for the BEEB.

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Tim Worstal
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Re: Ahem.

El Reg isn't really the place for that. There's a definite desire for "flavour" here. And, if I'm honest, I'm probably not the writer for a "fair and balanced" piece. Given that I know....no, not am convinced, but know....that those who tell me that everything is just about to run out are ignorant.

As an example, there was a recent report from the Royal Society. As scientific as science can get. In the economic discussion of resources (I assume Sir Partha Dsagupta) there was no problem. The moment we got to the environmental/ecologic section (I assume Paul Ehrlich and Jonathan Porrit) everything that the earlier part of the report had said was entirely ignored. As if they hadn't even read it. They simply assumed the opposite of what Dasgupta had said.

No, in such circumstances I am not the right guy for the impartial article.

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Tim Worstal
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Re: Great Article.

The reserves one is I think very recent indeed. Might not be available yet even.

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Tim Worstal
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Not quite

"So over time, we spend more and more energy extracting the same amount of minerals, and more and more energy and minerals extracting the same amount of energy."

This isn't true though. I agree that logically it should be. But we didn't first survey the entire world and then decide to mine the cheapest deposits. All much more random than that. For tin, for example, we mined Cornwall first, then the Krusny Hory (where I am now) which are both high energy requirement hard rock deposits. It's only in recent decades that we've been mining the alluvial deposits in Indonesia which are so low energy that you can (quite literally) pick up the tin ore and separate it from the beach sand with a vacuum cleaner electric motor.

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Tim Worstal
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I divide recycling into three types

There's profitable recycling: that's great, the profit is the evidence that value is being added. I once recycled nuclear fuel tubes into MAG alloy wheels for buy racers for example. Made enough to buy a house outright. That sort of thing (and thus melting down old cars to make new ones, collecting copper scrap etc) is just great.

We can recycle absolutely anything if we expend enough energy on it. We could turn old tower blocks back into virgin Portland cement if we wanted to. But that would be insane. Better to go dig up more Portland and put the rubble into that nice new hole we've got.

And there's a middle group, where the recycling itself isn't profitable, but there's some other concern that makes it so. I'm involved in cleaning up a radioactive dump for example. Not worth it for the metals that can be extracted/recycled. But everyone would rather not have thorium laden dust blowing around and if it's got to be cleaned up then why not extract/recycle to defray costs?

What worries me about "recycling" rather than recycling itself is that people claim that we're running out of things, when we're not, and therefore argue that we've got to do a lot more of that second, wasteful, type of work. Got no problems at all with the first sort, indeed make my living some years doing it. And the third type is fine as well, as long as we look carefully at those other reasons. But, as above, the wrong reasons can mean that we get pushed into doing the third type, the type that makes us all poorer.

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Tim Worstal
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Ahem.

"What has happened to the good science journalists?"

I can give you a clue.

"I agree it is a great article"

*smug smile*

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Watch a bank-raiding ZeuS bot command post get owned in 60 seconds

Tim Worstal
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hmm.

The real use of this will be by other criminals. Bugger the idea of trying to infect computers with your version of Zeus. Why not take over all the botnets that already have control and then just siphon the cash away from the first set of criminals to yourself.

Might need to invest a bit in personal security at the same time mind.....

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Vladimir Putin says internet is a 'CIA project'

Tim Worstal
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Re: Correlation

" It had us going in an infinite loop around the city of Bath. "

iPhones are not required for this. That's how Bath is designed.

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EU: Let's cost financial traders $400m a day, because EVIL BANKERS. Right?

Tim Worstal
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Re: Try harder

"But the HFT algorithms are bringing very, very little information -- they are just arbitrage machines."

Yes, they are, and we like arbitrage. It's how Ricardo's Iron Law of One Price functions. A very desirable thing to have in an economy too.

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Discovery time for 200m WONDER MATERIALS shaved from 4 MILLENNIA... to 4 years

Tim Worstal
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Amazingly

One known metal glass combination, a scandium/yttrium one, would make, in theory at least, the world's finest golf driver.

Materials cost, before manufacturing, would be around $1,000 for it though.

yours,

El Reg's friendly neighbourhood rare earths spiv.

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No, we're not in an IT 'stockapoclyse' – boom (and bust) is exactly what tech world needs

Tim Worstal
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Re: Progress requires stupidity

"Progress requires stupidity "

I like that, I like that a lot. I shall have to start using it myself. Sorry, but given that you've got yourself as an AC here no credit can or will be given.

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Mt Gox's 'transaction malleability' claim rubbished by researchers

Tim Worstal
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That paper goes on to make a very interesting point. A further very interesting one rather.

The vast majority of malleability attacks, or attempts at them, came *after* MtGox announced its troubles. That is, were driven by people hearing about it and seeing if it would work.

The total number of malleability attacks *before* the MtGox announcement wasn't large enough to have been responsible for the losses at MtGox. Yes, all such attacks everywhere on all exchanges were smaller than the reported losses at MtGox.

Which is really a rather interesting finding....

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Hey, Michael Lewis: Stop DEMONISING Wall Street’s SUPERHUMAN high-speed trading

Tim Worstal
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Re: HFT adding value ?

"abusive naked shorting"

Could you define this? Is naked shorting abusive? Or is there some special kind of naked shorting which is abusive?

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Tim Worstal
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Re: Why do we have stock markets?

"1) The transaction tax - 0.5% should be invisible to a long-term investor"

Well, yes, lovely. Except my one and only (as yet) peer reviewed paper is on exactly this. And the problem is that it isn't. Even the EU itself, when working through the implications of an FTT, said that it would raise the cost of capital to companies. And the IFS, when looking at the same thing, said that it would reduce pension returns.

The assertion just is not true....,.

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Tim Worstal
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Re: But why ?

The difference between the spread on a unit trust and the spread on a stock is, umm, the difference between buying a unit trust and buying a stock. The latter has always been much smaller.

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Tim Worstal
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Re: hmmm.

""one, two, three, four, click, what do you mean its gone?" syndrome that was discussed."

Didn't see that part of it, sorry. NYT isn't playing nicely with me at present.

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Tim Worstal
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Re: But why ?

"It makes someone some money, sure. Presumably it costs someone else that money. There's no value added, is there ?"

Since I wrote this, early this morning, I've seen an interesting piece of news.

So, who loses here? Well, the people who used to get those spreads of 0,.2% of the order size and now don't as the spread is down to 0.002%. Investors win as they pay a smaller spread, the HFT houses win as they make profits from HFT (which are smaller than the old market maker profits from the 0,.2% spread) so it must be those old fashioned market makers who lose. And on that subject, Goldnam Sachs is reported as selling a stock market making company for $30 million. A company in bought in 2000 for $6 billion. So, one of the people losing from HFT is Goldman Sachs.

Shame, eh?

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