* Posts by Sproggit

6 posts • joined 8 Jul 2012

So what the BLINKING BONKERS has gone wrong in the eurozone?


On German Economics Between the Wars


You wrote, "It should be said here that they don't think that inflation produces Nazis, no. Because the great German inflation was actually in 1921 to 24 and that didn't bring Adolf Hitler to power at all."

I'm not an economist, but I do remember being told [by a history teacher, which of course does not make it true] that one of the primary factors in the Germany economic turmoil in the early 1920s was in large part due to the somewhat unreasonable restitution burden placed on Germany by the Allies at the end of the First World War. I'm not sufficiently familiar with the economic trends of the time, but I believe that whilst the reparations might have looked like a firm and somewhat punitive response in fair economic conditions, they became untenable as the pan-European situation worsened as time progressed into the early 20s.

Further, whilst I would be very happy for someone to provide more details and correct me if I am wrong, I also understand that one of the reasons for the present Greek financial crisis could easily be described as Germany's own fault. Specifically, this is the fact that, at the time that Greece joined the Euro as one of the "first trenche" of countries to do so, they had in fact failed to meet the criteria for economic convergence as set down by the Bundesbank [um, sorry, ECB]. Because Germany [um, sorry, the Bundesbank... no, wait, the ECB] wanted the Euro to be successful, they turned a blind eye to the massive hole in Greek tax receipts. [The same was true, to a greater or lesser extent, to Portugal, Italy and Spain]. As a result, the Euro accepted into their midst not one but four economies that each carried significant fiscal risk. As if that wasn't enough, what then followed [to varying degrees] were economies [and Britain under Gordon Brown's Chancellorship was the same] that spent far more than they earned, and borrowed to cover the shortfall, relishing the availability of cheap money thanks to falling interest rates.

Except of course the credit has to run out at some point, but the issue for the Eurozone was that the wreck happened at the same time for many countries around the world, leaving them no ability to work around the problem.

But the "root causes" of the Greek situation can be summarised with two simple observations:-

1. At the time that Greece was admitted to the Eurozone it failed to meet the convergence criteria and therefore was nothing more than a problem stored up for the future;

2. At the time that Greece was admitted, the oversight of the convergence process was handled by German banking regulators [since of course the ECB is basically the Bundesbank with a new logo over the door, and run entirely along German banking lines].

This last point is relevant given that Germany runs her economy in a way that is in harmony with ECB policy; Greece does not. Unless or until Greece is willing to run her national economy like Germany, this friction/tension/trouble will remain in the Eurozone. It is a philosophical challenge as much as an economic one.

Oh, one more thought...

If the Eurozone and the ECB doesn't get their act together and sort this out pronto, then other EU economies will start to fall perilously close to the trouble that Greece are in now. And just wait for what *could* happen if France gets into difficulty. Not because their economy is weak: it isn't. But because such a *huge* percentage of France's economy is reliant entirely upon the state, whilst Germany has a smaller state machine and more activity in the private sector. Trouble in France could potentially see the Euro fall apart completely...

p.s. Not an economist, or a historian, don't have a clue what I'm talking about. ;)


That shot you heard? SSLv3 is now DEAD


If only there was a way to shame companies into upgrading their security promptly.

Bank of Scotland online, for example, is still using TLS1.0 [not exactly the same as SSLv3, but not far enough removed to be considered significantly more secure] for all it's banking activity.

What are they thinking?

If you try and email their support line, you get an auto-reply which begins, "Thank you for alerting us to the suspicious e-mail you have received."


How can one of the big national banks (part of Lloyds Group these days) have the temerity to operate like this?


SpaceX touts latest gear: new module, rocket demo


Program Costs

I think Kharkov makes some interesting points about the cost of the U.S. space program, but in large part I suspect they miss the truth of it. American space exploration was launched by Kennedy with two aims in mind. One was as a means of demonstrating the 'superiority' of Capitalism on the world stage - the chief protagonist being the U.S.S.R. at the time. The other was as a means of boosting the US economy. In economic terms, the 1950s had largely been about the US shifting back from a war economy (and recovering from the costs). Kennedy's plan was simple - pour vast amounts of public funds into the space program at the top (via NASA) and then ensure that it trickled out into the broader economy by allowing NASA to award contracts. This wasn't quite a "cost no object" approach, but remember that NASA had a sponsor (Kennedy) who was very keen to demonstrate American technical prowess with a moon landing. So the start of the space program was done on a "just make it happen" budget.

The second aspect to this is to think about contemporary capability at the time: materials science was pathetically ignorant in comparison with what we've learned since. More, one of the major challenges in getting the moon program started was the development of an avionics computer capable of adjusting the vectored thrust of the launch vehicle 50 times a second. With today's technology, our reaction to that would be "Pfft!" (too easy) - back then they had to develop that capability from scratch.

Since the 1950s mankind has learned that a space program isn't merely "science fiction" but that it has a broad range of commercial benefits, including better communications, SatNav, (satellite dish) entertainment and even R&D. Operating in space has become a legitimate commercial goal.

When you combine these two major factors (the pressure to be commercially viable and the *massive* advances in the relevant sciences) it stands to reason that we should be able to start today and develop a program that is massively cheaper than NASA's original 1950s offering.

However, despite all of the above, I do think that what we're witnessing today is special - but for different reasons. If we compare not just the design but the entire mindset behind Rutan's SpaceShip One, for instance, the articulated tail section is not just engineering genius, it's a very elegant solution to the deceleration/re-entry problem... If we look at Musk's idea to allow the "spent" first stage of a rocket to retain just enough fuel to safely land itself... Then it's becoming clear that we've moved beyond the occasionally wasteful "just enough to work" mentality of the "public sector" space program of the 1950s, and are now looking at a commercially viable future.


Haswell micro: Intel’s Next Unit of Computing desktop PC



It looks as though Intel are leaving the best of their kit for others (Apple) to debut. When you look at the best of what's been announced (i.e. Haswell with Iris Pro 5200 graphics) then the only vendor selling actual kit is Apple with the Macbook (inc Air/Pro) ranges that include Retina Display.

Hopefully 2014 will see availability spread to other manufacturers. When it does, this particular offering will be consigned to the parts bin. Personally, I'd wait for something like a 16Gb, i5, 5200-based Intense, from fit-pc.com. That would be entirely passively cooled (completely silent) and have two digital monitor output ports - likely HDMI and DisplayPort. The 5200 GPU has the bandwidth to comfortably support a pair of 1920x1200 monitors (or a single 2560x1600) and we'll likely also see something with decent optical output.

This gets us close to an ideal configuration for, say a web developer, with one screen for a browser and one for an IDE, with decent sound output and no noisy fans. I can live in hope, I suppose...


Tesla's Elon Musk v The New York Times, Round 2


The Balance Of Evidence

This second round of claim and counter-claim brings some useful additional data to the table. Fortunately, we can ignore most of it, as stated here, as a bit of "he said, she said". What we can't do, however, is ignore the facts.

Our NYT journalist, in their article, made very clear mention of the fact that they used cruise control in order to preserve battery life. If you look at the analysis data provided by Tesla, it is impossible to spot any period of the test drive during which cruise control was active - the vehicle speed is just a series of irregular spikes, even when on a sustained run. Point 1 to Tesla...

Where our NYT journo did get specific about aspects of the journey - for example he was very clear and precise in terms of reporting different vehicle speeds, taken from the dashboard of a car on which the speed is very, very easy to read. The data from the trace - and this is clearly visible - reports very different speeds. Point 2 to Tesla...

Our journalist is also very specific about the timing of charges during the journey. Once again, the Tesla trace data reports this very differently. It is important to note with this point that whilst in his latest response our journo replies with the answer that he was doing what the people from Tesla told him to do... or that he stopped charging when the range indicator said the vehicle had enough charge... Thinking about that, it almost makes sense on the surface. However, if you gave me a car capable of 40mpg for a test drive, and I put 2 gallons of fuel in the tank for a 50 mile drive, I think you'd agree that in reasonable conditions it would get me there. But if I drove around at 6000rpm in 1st gear, chances are it would not. So the response that "I stopped charging when the guage said I should get there..." is a little specious if the unfinished remainder of the sentence is, "... and then drove like a plonker to ensure I wouldn't." Point 3 to Tesla.

Final thought. Whilst I'd concede that Musk's rebuttal is a bit heavy on the righteous indignation, it is very clearly supported by graphically presented, factual data, captured from the actual vehicle performing the actual test drive. I notice with keen interest that whilst the journalist is very heavy on responses, at not one point does he respond with: "Your data is wrong." That speaks volumes.

[ Oh, FWIW, I'd consider myself a complete petrolhead and have zero interest EVs... but in this case it looks like a journalist being caught out trying to make up a salacious story and being caught in the act... ]


Review: Samsung Chromebox


And The Target Was?

Lots of interesting comments already made and I agree with the assessments of the review and comments that question the point of this product. Maybe we all got it wrong by considering it to be aimed at consumers? Suppose it was aimed at Apple instead - a device that was intended to try and compete with the latest incarnation of the Mac Mini, but one which was critically compromised by the choice of OS, limited thanks to Samsung's partnership with Googe over Android?

As others have posted, there is no shortage of viable (and much better) alternatives out there.

Quite a few people mention the Acer Revo PC. I had one of these, but just replaced mine with the Shuttle X35. The advantages of the latter are:

Faster Processor

Completely silent fanless design

More powerful on-board graphics extends display capability to 1920x1200 pixels

Add an SSD and you've got a seriously quick, fully featured machine capable of stand-alone operation.

I partnered mine with Ubuntu 12.04 (works fine with Mint, too) and I get accelerated graphics courtesy of an Intel driver, snappy response and ultra-low power consumption.

Yes, I must concede that it costs more than the Samsung - especially if you opt for a decent SSD - but it's so worth it.

This Samsung mess has just got to be prompted by the desire to poke Apple in the eye, as opposed to real consumer demand...