Author Archives: amosbatto

The ecological challenges of Tesla’s Gigafactory and the Model 3

Many electric car advocates are heralding the advent of Tesla’s enormous battery factory, known as the “Gigafactory,” and its new Model 3 electric sedan as great advances for the environment.  What they are overlooking are the large quantities of energy and resources that are consumed in lithium-ion battery manufacturing and how these quantities might increase in the future as the production of electric vehicles (EVs) and battery storage ramps up.

Most of the credible life cycle assessment (LCA) studies for different lithium-ion chemistries find large large greenhouse gas emissions per kWh of battery. Here are the CO2-eq emissions per kWh with the battery chemistry listed in parentheses:
Hao et al. (2017): 110 kg (LFP), 104 kg (NMC), 97 kg (LMO)
Ellingsen et al. (2014): 170 kg (NMC)
Dunn et al. (2012): 40 kg (LMO)
Majeau-Bettez et al. (2011): 200 kg (NMC), 240 kg (LFP)
Ou et al (2010): 290 kg (NMC)
Zackrisson et al (2010): 440 kg (LFP)

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Bolivia invierte menos en energía renovable que otros países sudamericanos

Bolivia ha invertido menos en las energías renovables que los otros países sudamericanos en la última década, a pesar de que el articulo 379 de la constitución boliviana especifica que “el Estado desarrollará y promoverá la investigación y el uso de nuevas formas de producción de energías alternativas, compatibles con la conservación del ambiente.”

La gran mayoría de la electricidad de Bolivia viene de la quema de gas natural en termoeléctricas y este porcentaje ha crecido rápidamente durante la administración del MAS. La capacidad de las termoeléctricas bolivianas ha crecido de 958.39 megavatios al final del año 2006 a aproximadamente 1999 megavatios al final del 2016 (todavía no tenemos datos oficiales del Ministerio de Energía para el año pasado).  La administración del MAS sólo ha agregado 13 MW de energía solar, 27 MW de energía eólica,  60 MW de bioenergía y 12 MW de energía hidroeléctrica en la última década. En total, 112 MW de energía renovable fueron agradados en comparación a 1040 MW de energía sucia de combustibles fósiles. Continue reading

The global production of electronic devices over the last decade

Electronic devices increasingly dominate the way humanity interacts and creates, so understanding what is happening in the electronics industry as a whole is a key component to understanding humanity’s future. Whether most humans will be interacting through desktop PCs, wearable smart devices or processors embedded in buildings and cars in the future will have a big impact on human society and how it functions.

Software, networks, communication protocols, media and everything else which runs on electronics are increasingly redefining and becoming embedded in human culture. This phenomenon is not new. To take just one example, look at how the evolution of electronics has transformed human politics. The advent of the transistor radio allowed political leaders such as Roosevelt and Hitler to transmit their words directly into people’s homes so they became a personal presence in people’s lives. The advent of the color television made people intimately aware of the visual features of politicians, so a youthful, telegenic man like John F. Kennedy could win a televised debate. Statistical analysis and number crunching by computers and software models had transformed how political campaigns are waged and who is targeted by those campaigns. The rise of social media and billions of mobile devices made it possible for left-wing candidates such as Jeremy Corbin and Bernie Sanders to bypass the traditional media and appeal directly to their base, but it has also given voice to ultra-nationalism and bigotry on the right.

More overlooked is the fact that electronics is an enormous consumer of energy and resources. Despite the small size of its components, the fabrication and use of electronics has an alarming  impact on the environment, far beyond its its physical size. It is easy for humans to grasp the environmental significance of construction, transportation, agriculture or extractive industries, because buildings, automobiles, fields and mining pits are tangible, large in size and easy to visualize. It is not easy to visualize the movement of electrons through circuits or the generation of those electrons in distant power plants. As electronics becomes increasingly nanoscaled and its processing moves to remote server farms away from the public eye, it becomes easier to overlook the  impact of electronics on the environment.

In an effort to better grasp the scope of these impacts, both societal and environmental, it is necessary to first ask how much the global electronics industry is producing and what are the trends in its production. These basic questions are remarkably hard to answer, because most electronics firms do not release production numbers out of fear that they will negatively impact their stock prices or reveal too much information to their competitors. It is telling that the only significant maker of phones, tablets and PCs to consistently release its production numbers is Apple, which enjoys a protected niche where it controls its own hardware and software, so it is shielded from competition. The producers of game consoles used to release their production numbers, since the producers of games needed to know the potential market size of their games. Now, Sony and Microsoft only sporadicly release the total lifetime number of gaming consoles as part of an occasional press release, so production is impossible to track year to year or quarter to quarter.

Most of the production numbers in the electronics industry are compiled by market intelligence firms such as International Data Corporation, Gartner, IHS, etc., which are loathe to release too much to the public. Instead, they release just enough information to garner headlines in tech news sites and to convince people to fork over thousands of dollars for market reports, whose details they are legally forbidden to share. What is publicly released provides little historical context, since the press releases generally only focuses on one quarter or year and its growth rate compared to the previous time period. Stringing together a whole series of these press releases, it may be possible to construct an idea of change over time, but the market intelligence firms often change their definitions of what is being counted and delete old press releases from their web sites.

Trying to piece together the puzzle with publicly accessible information can be a very frustrating task. The rivalry of Gartner and IDC to be the premiere intelligence firm for PCs, smartphones and tablets leads them to consistently publish the number of units shipped every quarter, but other sectors of the electronics industry only merit an occasional press every couple years. Often these press releases contain a growth rate or an expected product number, without providing a single datum of historical production. Nonetheless, there is often enough to piece together a sequence over time with some interpolation and educated guesses.

The overwhelming trend of the electronics industry since its inception has been growth based on a smaller and often cheaper form-factor displacing most of the market for the previous form-factor. Hulking mainframes were displaced by mini-computers and terminals in the late 60s and early 70s. Those in turn were displaced by personal computers and networks in the late 70s and early 80s. In

On those personal computers, the bulky RS-232, DB-25 and VGA ports were replaced by smaller FireWire, USB, DisplayPort, HDMI and Thunderbolt ports, which in turn are now being replaced by even smaller micro-USB, micro-HDMI, Lightning and finally USB Type C ports, which threatens to replace them all.  replaced by smaller and DisplayPortand ISA slots were replaced by the Bulky bulky parallel ports were replaced by smaller Firewire andTreplaced mainframes in the late 60s and personal coe mputers replaces Given these problems, here is

 

 

from twhich are loathe to release it  to   information publicly available, compared to the  Unfortunately, most of what is known about the global electron out  out the global production understand I started to compile to understand how

in build will have a big  has How many devices are being  Since The global production of advanced electronic devices dropped in 2016 for the first time since the economic downturn of 2008-9. The number of smartphones, smart wearables (such as the Apple Watch), camcorders and handheld game consoles grew in 2016, but the production of 2,817.3 million electronic devices in 12 different categories was 2.8% less than in 2015.

ElectronicDeviceProduction2006-16

Over the last decade smartphones have eaten away at the market for most of the types of electronics listed in the table above. Once smartphones began to produced on a massive scale starting in 2007, they largely replaced the market for PDAs, cameras, camcorders, portable media players, GPS devices and handheld game consoles. Global production peaked in 2008 for portable media players, handheld game consoles and portable GPS devices and in 2010 for cameras and camcorders. These devices have largely been relegated to niche items for specialty markets.

The cheap point-and-shoot cameras which were so popular a decade ago have mostly disappeared from the market. Most cameras being sold today are more expensive models with better zooms, sensors and image processors than found in a standard smartphone. According to CIPA, only 6.7% of digital cameras produced in 2006 contained an interchangeable lens, whereas that percentage had grown to 47.8% a decade later in 2016.

Likewise, the market for standard camcorders has also largely disappeared, as most consumers now have a smartphone for low-quality filming. There is still a good market for professional quality camcorders, but almost all the growth in recent years has been for action cameras, known as “action-cams,” that are water proof and can be worn unobtrusively on the body. Frost and Sullivan estimate that 62% of the camcorders produced in 2016 were action-cams.

The same relegation to niches is occurring for GPS devices. According to IHS iSuppli, global production of GPS devices peaking in 2008 at 42.08 million devices. For many consumers, the maps on their cell phones provided by Google Maps, Waze, Apple Maps or OpenStreetMap are good enough to avoid buying a dedicated GPS device from a manufacturer such as Garmin or TomTom. GPS devices have been forced to increase the quantity and quality of their offline maps in order to differentiate from the free online maps that come with most smartphones and tablets. The need for greater offline storage capacity and higher resolution screens in these devices has increased their manufacturing costs, so they often cost as much as a mid-range smartphone with less functionality.  There is still a niche market for people who need a navigation device to drive in places with cellular dead zones or have limited cellular data plans, but it will become increasingly difficult to justify a dedicated GPS device in the future as cellular data plans continue to get cheaper and the data collection in online services such as Google Maps provides better real-time information about traffic and road closings.

Although Garmin remains the leader in the shrinking car navigation market, most of Garmin’s focus today is on the growing market for wearable GPS devices that can also track biometric information such as heartbeats, running steps, golf swing speed, swimming strokes, etc. While Garmin can charge a premium for these fitness wearables, the market is limited and cheaper devices from companies like Fitbit are encroaching on their premium market. Smartphones are also incorporating biometric sensors and becoming thinner and more water-proof, so it may be just a matter of time before   Like camera and camcorder manufacturers, GPS device makers  have been forced to focus on the high end of the car navigation market or or the  Many experts here is a growing market for action GPS become increasingly difficult for GPS device makers to compete with the network effec

Further analysis will follow, but for now here is the data:

GraphGlobalElectronicDevices2006-16GlobalProductionOfSilicon2000-16TVGameConsoleSales1994-2016PortableGameConsoleSales1994-2016GameConsolesMarketShare1997-2016GameConsoleSales1994-2016GameConsolesByModel1994-2016GlobalGamesMarketNewzoo2012-17

The short-sighted missteps of the server companies

Apologists for Capitalism are wont to wax eloquent about the creative destruction they see in the tech industry. They see the vertiginous rise and fall of tech companies in the Silicon Valley as a beautiful system that weeds out the laggards who aren’t nimble enough to keep adapting, while rewarding the creative innovators with huge pay offs.

Frankly, I see the skyrocketing stocks and crashing failures of the tech industry as a condemnation of how modern Capitalism functions. The erratic fortunes of the tech companies generates a tremendous amount of stress in the lives of the people who work in these companies. The directors of tech companies often make decisions which are based on short-term profit margins, raising the stock prices or cashing out those stocks, rather than producing a quality product or service and working toward long-term goals that will help the company grow in the future and provide stable employment for the employees.

We can see this destructive dynamic playing out currently in the server business. Fifteen years ago, IBM was the undisputed leader in the server business. It had a long tradition of offering quality servers, which were pricey, but its engineers were known for the high quality of their support and services around servers. IBM was also renowned for for offering the best line of PCs for enterprise, which came with excellent support and long-term warranties. IBM’s Thinkpad and Thinkcentre lines were highly sought after PCs, due to their engineering excellence and sturdy construction. The Thinkpad laptops generated a special kind of brand loyalty among engineers and geeks, who took exceptional pride in owning the coveted boxy, black devices. Unfortunately, PCs were turning into mass market devices with slim profit margins under 3%, so IBM’s PC business was nearning the company very much.

Still, as the inventor of the PC and a long tradition of quality engineering and reliability, IBM’s PCs added a certain cachet to the reputation of the company. IBMers knew that HP and Dell might move more PCs, but they could take pride in the fact that they offered quality PCs and people trusted them to provide the best support in the industry. More importantly, IBM’s PC business gave the company an entry way into businesses to sell them more lucrative contracts in other areas. The support contracts for the PCs were a vehicle for Big Blue to talk to companies about their other IT services where IBM did earn large profit margins. Having a PC business allowed IBM to offer comprehensive IT services for companies and helped keep its competitors HP and Dell away from its clients.

Rather than think about PCs as an essential piece that helped enable their servers and software businesses, the directors of IBM fixated on the fact that PCs were being commoditized with low-profit margins. They decided that IBM should only focus on areas with high profit margins, so in 2004/5 they sold their PC business to Lenovo, a Chinese original design manufacturer who had been building their Thinkpads since 2002.

IBM essentially shot itself in the foot, although it would take a while for that fact to become evident, so the managers at IBM would pat themselves on the back for increasing their profit margins and getting rid of many costly employees in North America and Europe who they passed to Lenovo. In addition, they gained entry to the growing Chinese market, because Lenovo promised to direct their Chinese customers toward IBM’s server business. It looked like a great decision on paper, but in the long term, divesting from the PC business helped to undermine IBM’s profitable server business. Not only did IBM help establish Lenovo as a major provider of PCs to enterprise, but it also gave Lenovo a vehicle to start offering their own servers to many clients of IBM and become a major competitor which undercut IBM in the x86 server market. By no longer providing PCs, IBM lost contact with many potential new clients for its server business and it gave its existing clients to start talking to HP, Dell and its new competitor Lenovo for their IT services, since IBM could no longer offer a comprehensive IT solution for businesses.

After selling its PC devision to Lenovo, IBM gradually lost market share in its server business, especially among x86 servers, where all the growth in the industry was occurring. IBM’s biggest profit margins lay in mainframes and in AIX on the POWER architecture, but the market share of both mainframes and UNIX servers was already in long-term decline and that decline further accelerated after the economic crisis of 2008/9, as many companies sought to reduce their IT budgets by switching to cheaper x86 servers running Linux or Windows, reducing the number of servers through virtualization and by outsourcing their servers to third-party clouds.

While IBM maintained its formidable advantages on big iron, only a select number of companies and governments now needed mainframes. Much of the computation formerly conducted on mainframes moved to distributed networks of low-end x86 servers. High performance computing is increasingly moving to the cloud, where IBM certainly competes, but cloud computing is a cut-throat business dominated by Amazon, Google or Microsoft. The advent of the Moreover, many of the new mainframes were now located in China, where the government was eager to promote national companies shifdistributed computing on  found fewer and fewer reasons to use old-style mainframes

 

shrank, while the low-end servers based on the x86 architecture grew to take over most of the market. Since IBM was no longer a first tier eventually became new provider of In the long term, however, IBM opened up their rid of a business with low-profit margin

 

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some kind it engenders. , but the need for short term profits to Capitalism the goal of short term profPeople often wax eloquent about the  of Capitali


 

Add a custom spam filter to phpBB3

I have been the maintainer of the ProcessMaker forum since June 2009, which has generally been an enjoyable experience, but lately we have been inundated with spam. I usually don’t mind deleting the occasional spam from the forum. In fact, I find it very interesting the tricks that the spammers use to fool me into thinking they are legitimate posters. Usually they are very subtle, so it doesn’t particularly bother me if a couple posts of spam slip through undetected.

The usual trick is to post something that looks like a legitimate post the first time. The more skilled spammers use a script to analyze the previous posts on the forum and construct a new post which merges the previous content. It often comes out as gibberish, but some of these scripts can actually generate something that appears to make sense. After the first post has passed the censors, then they sneak in a link in the second or third post.
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Obama’s mediocre record on the environment

Obama was both good and bad on the environment, and we should be honest about his record, rather than mindlessly praising him, since he appears so much better than the Republican administration that followed him.

On the one hand, Obama did some good things:

  1. Got additional funding for renewables and clean tech in the 2009 stimulus bill,
  2. Talked a lot about a Green Jobs program at beginning of his term, but only got it partially funded by the stimulus, because Republicans blocked it afterwards, so he gave up on it after 2 years.
  3. Worked hard to extend the incentives for renewables and had to negotiate with intransigent Republicans to do it,
  4. Dramatically increased the fleet fuel efficiency standards,
  5. Drafted the Clean Power Plan and tried to get it implemented despite Republican obstructionism,
  6. Implemented a hiatus on leasing coal on federal lands,
  7. Drafted new rules to prevent contamination of streams by coal mining,
  8. Negotiated bilateral deals with China and Canada/Mexico to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
  9. Signed the Paris Agreement and did not work behind the scenes to block it.
  10. Appointed smart Secretaries of Energy and other administrators, who helped promote alternative energy, clean transport and clean tech and approve the infrastructure for clean tech.
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Questioning the rosy predictions about the transition to autonomous electric vehicles

The Stanford economist Tony Seba and tech investor James Arbib just released a report entitled “Rethinking Transportation,” which makes an number of predictions about the impact that autonomous electric vehicles will have on the demand for vehicles and petroleum. Many of these predictions are based on faulty assumptions about human behavior and a misunderstanding of the auto supply chain.
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