Category Archives: technology

Using LibreOffice’s Draw to edit a PDF ballot to vote by email

I just wanted to share my solution to voting by email. When I signed up to vote by email, I got a PDF file in my email box. PDF may be a free/open format, but there are remarkably few programs available to edit PDF files. I am not prepared to pay $12.99 per month just to use Adobe’s Acrobat Standard DC and it doesn’t even run in Linux, which is my operating system of choice. I can install an ancient version of Acrobat Reader for Linux, but it doesn’t allow editing of PDF files.

Sadly, all the PDF editors for Linux have their drawbacks compared to Adobe Acrobat. The solution that I found was to open the PDF file in LibreOffice‘s Draw program. Then, edit the PDF as an image file. Inserting text boxes is a bit dodgy with LibreOffice Draw. The easiest way I found is to write the text in LibreOffice Writer, then copy and paste it into the image in Draw. Then, I was able to move the text to the location where I wanted it inside the image.

For my signature, I took a photo of my signature with my smartphone, then transferred the JPEG file to my laptop via Bluetooth. Then I opened the file with GIMP and selected the part of the image containing my signature. I copied it and pasted the signature into Draw. The signature can also be obtained by opening the JPEG file in Draw, but I find GIMP more convenient.

When I finished editing my ballot in LibreOffice Draw, I was able to export the images as a PDF file under File > Export As > Export as PDF. Then, I sent that file as an attachment in my email.

Since LibreOffice runs on every major OS (Windows, Linux, BSD and MacOS) and is gratis, this solution should work for everyone. Of course, this isn’t the ideal solution, since the PDF file contains images rather than text that can be processed, but it is effectively the same as faxing in your ballot, which is also an image. I imagine that all email ballots are being processed manually anyway, so it doesn’t really matter what is the underlying format.

The questions that mobile phone reviewers never ask

One of the fundamental problems with the mobile phone industry is that most of the people who review phones only focus on the superficial aspects and don’t ask the right questions about the phones. It is hard to find a mobile phone reviewer who is even worth reading/watching.

The typical mobile phone review doesn’t provide much information beyond what can be gleaned by simply glancing at the phone’s spec sheet. The only real value they add in my opinion are their comments about each phone maker’s modifications to Android and their evaluation of how well the cameras work.

Most of the mobile phone reviewers such as Marques Brownlee (MKBHD), Lewis Hilsenteger (Unbox Therapy and Lew Later), Mrwhosetheboss, Verge, CNET, Engadget, etc. don’t have much technical knowledge. Only a couple reviewers like Anandtech and Android Authority bother to delve into the tech underlying the phone. Most of them blather on about style, how it feels in the hand, bezels and the screen notch/bullet-hole. They focus on the superficial aspects that anyone can figure out just by picking up the phone and looking at it, rather than informing the public about the unobvious aspects that truly matter for the long-term ownership of the phone.

Here are the questions that reviewers should ask when evaluating a mobile phone:

  • How long is it likely to receive security updates?
    Reviewers can provide the OEM’s history with previous phone models in the same market segment to tell people how long they can expect security updates.
  • How long is it likely to receive operating system upgrades?
    Again, most OEMs don’t tell you, but reviewers can provide the OEM’s history with previous phone models in the same market segment.
  • How likely is the phone to break if dropped?
    Reviewers should be conducting drop tests, but even if they don’t want to destroy the phone, they can look at the engineering and make some assessment of its durability. If it has a glass back, a curved screen or little bezel or casing to protect the screen, the phone is more likely to be damaged in a drop and reviewers should inform the public about those aspects of the phone, rather than focusing on its style.
  • How easy is the phone to fix if it gets damaged?
    Reviewers should open the darn thing and tell us how hard it is to replace the screen and the battery, because those are the two components that are most likely to need replacing. Reviewers should also tell us whether the parts can be bought and roughly how much a replacement screen and battery will cost.
  • How hard is it to root or jailbreak the phone, so preinstalled apps can be deleted and the configuration changed?
    It drives me bonkers that phone reviewers never cover the fundamental question of how to root/jailbreak a phone. They expect people to just accept whatever comes preconfigured and preinstalled in the phone and seem to believe that people should have no right to change it.
  • How hard is it to unlock bootloader?
    Reviewers never tell us what is the OEM’s policy toward unlocking the bootloader, so we have no idea whether it is possible to install another bootloader program like TWRP that allows complete device backups or install another OS, like LineageOS or another AOSP derivative.
  • How likely are TWRP and AOSP derivatives to be ported to the phone?
    Reviewers need to spend some time on the phone’s XDA-Developers forums and give us some idea of how likely it will be possible to keep using the phone after the OEM stops providing software updates. You usually can make an assessment even if porting work hasn’t started just by looking at the processor and the history of that OEM’s other phone models. OnePlus and Google phones always have good TWRP and LineageOS ports because they provide a lot of info to the community, they use Snapdragon SoC’s, and they have active users to do the ports, but it is hard for people to know when buying phones from other OEMs. Reviewers should let us know whether a phone has hardware that allows for porting, whether porting work has already started, and tell us whether similar models from the OEM got ports in the past.
  • What’s inside the phone?
    Reviewers should crack open the case and tell us what they think of the components they find. If they don’t have the tech knowledge to talk about what is inside a mobile phone, then they have no business being phone reviewers.

I have never read a mobile phone review that covers all these questions, which are fundamental to determining what will be the long-term utility of a phone. Every time I buy a new mobile phone, I have to spend hours investigating the phone at different sites such as iFixit and XDA-Developers forums to find the information that phone reviewers should be covering, but they don’t.

I see two fundamental problems with how mobile phones are reviewed. The first is that many phone reviewers don’t know much about the tech that they are reviewing. The second is that reviewers don’t seem to care about the total cost of ownership and the longevity of phones, so they don’t inform the public about the aspects of phones that matter for maintaining them over the long term. Tech reviewers seem to think that most people want to throw away their phones every two years.

Because mobile phone reviewers don’t focus on the questions that I listed above, people make poor choices when buying phones, because they aren’t informed about the total cost of ownership of different phone models. The longer a mobile phone lasts, the lower the annual cost of the phone. Because reviewers don’t cover these questions, the public doesn’t look to buy phones with a lower total cost of ownership and OEMs have little incentive to make phones that are less likely to break, easier to fix, are supported for longer and have longer lifespans. Phone reviewers are helping drive an industry that is based on planned obsolescence and locked-down devices that afford the user few rights.

Comparing specs of Linux phones

With the PinePhone and Librem 5 coming onto the market, the PDA’s by Planet Computer and all the Xperia phones being sold by Jolla, we now have quite a few choices in phones that can be bought with Linux preinstalled or supported by the phone maker:

To help people decide which Linux phone they should buy, I have created a table comparing the specs of the different Linux phones:

(It is best to use the .ods file even if using MS Excel, Quattro Pro, WPS Office, etc, but here is a converted .xlsx file if you can’t open the .ods file.)

The strategic advantages of Phosh for mobile Linux

Since Purism announced the crowdfunding for its new Linux phone, the Librem 5, on August 24, 2017, it has been heavily criticized by the Linux community for deciding to create a new mobile desktop environment (DE) based on GTK and the GNOME ecosystem. It dubbed its new interface “Phosh,” which is a portmanteau from “phone shell”.  Despite all the criticisms that Purism has received, I believe that the Phosh DE is likely to become the most popular user interface for Linux phones and will play a crucial role in helping to establish mobile Linux as a viable alternative to the Android and iOS duopoly.

There were already many existing mobile desktop environments (DE’s) that Purism could have selected when it announced the crowdfunding for the Librem 5 on August 24, 2017.  There have been over a dozen mobile Linux DE’s created since the first two Linux phones, the Motorola A760 and the Yopy YP3500, were released in February 2003. Purism could have selected from many mobile interfaces, including Sailfish OS’s Silica, Firefox OS’s Gaia, KDE’s Plasma Mobile, UBports’ Ubuntu Touch, Maemo Leste’s Hildon, LuneOS’s Luna Next and Nemo Mobile’s Glacier UI. Many in the community felt Purism was wasting resources and causing needless delays by creating yet another mobile interface. Continue reading

El núcleo de Linux y los navigadores de web tienen miles de desarrolladores, pero otro software tiene muy pocos

¿Qué programa en mi computadora contiene más líneas de código y más desarrolladores?

Programa Líneas de código Número de contribuidores
Núcleo de Linux 19,2 M 4037
GNU Core Utilities 93,6 K 17
Bash 224 K 1
GNOME 16,3 M 776
Cinnamon 777 K 64
LibreOffice 9,51 M 213
Firefox 22,2 M 1291
Chromium 25,6 M 2109
Geany 236 K 31
KiCAD 908 K 324
Inkscape 629 K 92
GIMP 867K 74
Debian 85,7 M 123

Nunca me he imaginado que el navegador web contiene más líneas de código que cualquier otro programa en mi compu. La complejidad de un navegador web moderno es increíble. El web contiene 25 años de estándares (HTML, XHTML, DOM, JavaScript, CSS, XML, SOAP, WSDL, XSLT, WebGL, WebGPU, tipos de imagines, vídeo y audio, etc) y todo tiene que ser compatible atrás.

La maquina navegador de Firefox (Gecko) ha sido programado desde el año 1997 y la maquina de Chrome/Edge/Opera/Brave (KHTML -> WebKit -> Blink) fue iniciado en 1998. El código debe ser un lío después de 23 años de desarrollo continuo. ¿Puedes imaginar el problema de mantener código que tiene que soportar 25 años de estándares y necesita mucho rendimiento y mucha seguridad?

La Fundación Mozilla creó la nueva lengua Rust porque fue tan difícil escribir código seguro en C++, que ejecuta en muchos cores a la vez.

Me sorprende el número de personas que contribuyen al código de Chromium, pero hay tantas empresas contribuyendo a su desarrollo (Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Opera, Adobe, Intel, IBM, Samsung, etc.) porque hay 3 mil millones de personas en el planeta que utilizan su código. Sin Blink y V8, el mundo virtual dejaría funcionar.

Yo sabia que el núcleo de Linux tiene más desarrolladores que cualquier software del mundo, porque todo el mundo utiliza su software y tiene que soportar 30 arquitecturas diferentes de chips, producidos por cientos de empresas. Hay cientos de empresas que pagan desarrolladores para contribuir al núcleo de Linux.

Lo que me sorprende es el número limitado de desarrolladores de otros programas. ¿Sólo hay un contribuidor de Bash y 17 de GNU Core Utilities? LibreOffice depende de 213 personas, que es un número muy limitado para mantener un programa de 9,5 millones de líneas de código y casi todos son voluntarios porque muy pocas empresas contribuyen a su desarrollo. Me da rabia cuando yo pienso en los millones de desarrolladores que malgastan su tiempo creando apps inútiles de Android y iOS.

No estoy seguro de que consiste todo el código de Debian. Me imagino que la mayoría de su código es prestado de otros proyectos, pero 123 personas no son muchas cuando pensamos que 2/3 de las maquinas utilizando Linux son de la familia Debian (MX Linux, Ubuntu, Mint, elementary, Zorin, Pop!_OS, PureOS, etc.)

Recognizing the growing risk of rocket emissions for global warming and ozone depletion

There are a growing number of fans of space exploration and colonization, but they seem to be totally clueless about the potential environmental problems from rocket emissions. Many of these space fans turn to Tim Dodd, who is known as the “Everyday Astronaut” on the internet, to get the latest news from SpaceX, Blue Origin, ULA, Virgin Galactic, Boeing, Rocket Lab, etc. Unfortunately, people like Tim Dodd are not reliable sources of information when it comes to the environmental impact of rockets.

Dodd recently produced an article and video about the emissions from rockets. Dodd should be commended for trying to calculate the emissions for a number of different rocket models. However, he either hasn’t read the papers by critical investigators such as Dr. Martin Ross or his boosterism of space exploration makes it difficult from him to understand the potential problems with a massive increase in rocket launches.

In response, to Dodd’s article, I posted this critical comment, pointing out what he missed in his article:

Tim, I appreciate the time that you took to calculate the emissions for each type of rocket, but you did a real disservice to the community by not clearly explaining how rocket emissions threaten the environment. M. Ross et al (2009) estimate that rocket emissions only account for 0.03% of ozone depletion, but they predict that rocket emissions will deplete the ozone layer more than CFC emissions by the year 2050. See:

The big threat to the ozone layer is the growing use of rockets that are fueled by ammonium perchlorate and alumina, which will be driven by the future boom in the space tourism industry. Virgin Galactic’s Unity uses 15,000 lbs of fuel, which we can guesstimate is 68% NH4ClO4, 18% Al and 14% HTPB. Considering that Virgin Galactic already has reservations for 600 passengers / 100 flights, it is likely that Virgin Galactic will be launching several thousand times per year by 2040.

Your article focuses on CO2 emissions which is totally wrongheaded, because the vast majority of radiative forcing (RF) from rockets emissions comes from black carbon, alumina and water vapor. Unlike in the troposphere, where black carbon and alumina particles quickly disappear, these particles stay in the troposphere for roughly 4 years on average, so they cause a lot more warming over time. Ross and Sheaffer (2014) calculate that rocket emissions produce about 16 mW/m2 of RF, which is about a fourth of the RF of the global aviation industry. See:

The amount of RF is probably higher today than what Ross and Sheaffer calculated, because of the increasing number of kerosene rocket launches by SpaceX. Ross and Sheaffer believe that black carbon has a global warming potential (GWP) of 50,000 due to how long it lasts in the stratosphere, making it the most potent warming substance produced by humans. Ross and Sheaffer calculate that a kerosene rocket produces 30 times the radiative forcing of a comparable hydrolox rocket. If the use of solid and kerosene rockets keeps growing, the rocket industry could produce more radiative forcing than the aviation industry in the future.

We don’t know exactly how long particles stay in the stratosphere at altitudes of 20-30 km where most of the ozone layer is located. We need a lot more study of the impact of black carbon, alumina particles, methane and water vapor in the stratosphere. Despite that uncertainty, I believe that rockets using ammonium perchlorate and alumina fuel should banned (except for non-regular uses such as emergency abort systems and ballistic missiles). If we look at the amount of black carbon that kerosene rockets produce, we need to move to methalox and hydrolox rockets as quickly as possible.

If the plans of SpaceX, Blue Origin and ULA come to pass, there will be massive numbers of methalox rocket launches in the future. I haven’t found any papers that calculate the radiative forcing and ozone depletion from methalox rockets. They seem to be better for the environment than solid and kerosene rockets, but there are still serious questions about whether the water vapor, NOx, CO2 and unburned methane that they emit will have serious effects in the stratosphere. What percentage of methane isn’t burned in the Raptor and BE-4 engines? I can’t find any estimates. In the troposphere, methane converts to CO2 after an average of 9.1 years, so it is calculated that 1 gram of methane has the same global warming potential (GWP) as 33 grams of CO2, but if methane doesn’t convert to CO2 very quickly in the stratosphere, then its GWP could be much higher. The water vapor from rocket emissions will stay much longer in the stratosphere than in the troposphere, so the warming effect from rocket contrails could be much larger. If the growing emissions from rockets heat up the stratosphere, then the chemical reactions that destroy ozone could also speed up, and we could potentially destroy the ozone layer.

We don’t have to worry too much today, but if Virgin Galactic has thousands of solid rocket launches per year and SpaceX is launching StarShip tens of thousands of times per year, then we really do have to worry. Elon Musk is planning to send a million colonists to Mars, which would mean 10,000 passenger flights and 100,000 equipment flights of StarShip to Mars. If we guesstimate 5 launches to fuel up StarShip for each flight, then that means a total of 550,000 launches. We had better be really sure that we know the impact of methalox rockets in the stratosphere before we start colonizing space, because we can’t take the risk of destroying the ozone layer.

It is clear that Dodd did a lot of research for his article on rocket emissions, so he probably ran into some of the Martin Ross’s work, but he seems to have either ignored it or done mental gymnastics to dismiss it. Sadly, this is the response of many smart people when they find out that their favorite activity has large environmental impacts. We can always find ways to justify what we appreciate, whether it be red meat, private cars, air flight or space flight. The challenge is trying to be honest with ourselves about the impacts of what we humans do to our planet.

Questions raised by a study finding that math isn’t important in learning to code

A recent study published by Nature by Chet et al. (2020) found that that reasoning ability, memory capacity and language ability were far more important factors than math skills when learning to program in Python.

The commentary in the popular press is that this study shows that learning foreign languages is better preparation to become a computer programmer than studying math. That certainly agrees with my own experience. I only took two math classes in college (Calculus 2 and statistics), whereas I took 7 language classes (Spanish and Latin) in college, before I taught myself C when I was 22 years old. I recalling thinking at the time that it was much easier to learn a computer language than a human language.

The question raised by the findings in Chet et al. (2020) is whether computer science programs should change their requirements for getting a degree. Computer science degrees typically require two calculus classes, plus a statistics or probability class, and some require a class on matrix mathematics as well. They typically do require a general English and/or writing class, but they don’t typically require any study of a foreign language, linguistics, philosophy or formal logic, which develop abilities that Chet et al. found to be more useful than math in learning Python. Continue reading

Trump displays his utter ignorance about wind energy

Donald Trump is the kind of guy who doesn’t even bother to do his homework before he gets up on stage to demonstrate his ignorance to the world. It would be funny if he wasn’t the person in charge of making public policy for the nation. Even worse is the fact that his followers don’t even seem to care if their dear leader knows anything or not.

Trump put his ignorance on full display in a recent speech in West Palm Beach, Florida, where he made a series of ludicrous statements about wind turbines:

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Which search engine is the ethical choice?

I generally use Firefox’s default search engine, which is currently Google in most of the world, Yandex in Russia and Baidu in China. I want to help generate revenue for the Mozilla Foundation, which does very important work in my opinion, and needs support.

However, I am now more concerned about supporting companies that provide ethical web services, but I can’t figure out which search company I should support. All of them say that they won’t keep profiles on me or track me or share my personal data, but they are all based on pay-per-click advertising revenue.

Qwant based in Paris, France and StartPage based in the Netherlands have better European laws to protect users than DuckDuckGo based in Pennsylvania, USA, but I’m more concerned with how each company operates.
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Reddit now forces people to view lots of worthless junk

The last time I logged into Reddit, the screen was filled with all sorts of junk that I have no interest in reading. I thought to myself that I need to unsubscribe from all these garbage subreddits. All I want to see on the introductory screen are the posts from the subreddits that I am subscribed to.

I hunted around and was shocked to find that there was no way in the Reddit interface to display the list of subreddits that I was subscribed to. “Strange,” I thought to myself. “There has to be a way.”

I Googled the problem and found that it was only possible to see the list by subscriptions by entering the following URL in my browser to get the old Reddit interface:

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How the comment systems on YouTube and Facebook help propagate misinformation.

I get so depressed by the amount of deliberate misinformation that I encounter on the internet. Today I ran across this YouTube video spreading patently false propaganda about renewable energy:

The annoying thing about this sort of video is how effective it is. At the time when I watched it, this video had 1.57 million views and it had 63k likes compared to 19k dislikes. It was trending high enough that it popped up in my list of recommended videos, right after I watched some business news on YouTube. If this video is reaching a user like me who isn’t part of the right-wing news bubble on YouTube, then it is probably showing up in the recommended video lists of a lot of average YouTube users.

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Trying to decide between the PinePhone and the Librem 5

Most of the articles in the tech press just refer to the Purism Librem 5 and the PINE64 PinePhone as upcoming Linux phones, but they don’t delve into their differences. These two phones were designed with very different goals, and the focus of the two companies behind them is quite different. Just looking at the list of specs for the two phones doesn’t tell the whole story. In order to help people decide which Linux phone they should buy, I made a list of what are the major reasons to buy the two phones.

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Reflections about buying a new mobile phone

For several years I have been giving talks about the environmental impact of planned obsolescence in electronics and the need to avoid the endless upgrade cycles of modern electronics. I tell people that they should install Linux in their PCs and LineageOS in their phones to extend the lifespan of their devices, since the manufacturing phase of personal computers, tablets and mobile phones consumes roughly 80% of their total energy. I have tried to practice what I preach by buying used phones off eBay to avoid creating new electronics and to lower my carbon footprint.

The last new phone I bought was back in 2006. Since then, I have only bought used phones. Nonetheless, I decided last year to cause the manufacture of a new phone by crowdfunding the Purism Librem 5. I decided to increase my carbon footprint because I wanted to support the development of the first phone that would run on 100% free/open source software because the world desperately needs an alternative to the Android and iOS duopoly. I justified this decision, because Purism promised to make a phone that wasn’t designed around planned obsolescence. Continue reading

Lo que yo hago para resistir el capitalismo de la vigilancia

Necesitamos regular las empresas que recolectan los datos personales para construir perfiles de cada persona y promover progaganda personalizada que es basada en las preferencias, habitos y amistades de cada persona. Nuestros deseos y pensamientos son colonializados por esta propaganda personalizada, pero el problema mas grande es que los gobiernos pueden utilizar los datos recolectados por empresas como Alphabet (que es el padre de Google), Facebook, Verizon (Yahoo), Amazon, Microsoft, Baidu, Alibaba, Tencent y Yandex para vigilar nuestras acciones y reprimir los movimientos disidentes. Continue reading

Adding kill switches to protect your privacy is not as simple as you might think

The use of modern electronic devices such as laptops, tablets, smart phones, smart watches, smart speakers and autonomous vehicles are a growing threat to people’s privacy and security because these devices not only have the ability to collect massive amounts of very personal data, but they rely on a whole host of services from companies such as Google, Amazon, Facebook, Twitter, Microsoft, Tencent, Alibaba and Yandex which mine that personal data for profit, or companies like Samsung, Apple or Tesla, which are collecting that data to better train their AIs.

Governmental agencies like the US’s National Security Agency (NSA), Britain’s Government Communication Headquarters (GCHQ), China’s Ministry of Public Security and India’s Central Monitoring System (CMS) love to get their hands on this information, as was shown by Edward Snowden’s revelations. The “five eyes” nations, which include the US, Canada, UK, Australia and New Zealand, agreed in August 2018 to establish a mutual framework for dealing with the fact that the internet is “growing dark” because so much much of its traffic is being encrypted. As part of this framework, Australia passed an Assistance and Access Bill in December 2018, requiring tech companies to provide the government access to communication services under a warrant. The other “five eye” nations probably decided that they would face too much of a public backlash if they tried to pass similar laws, so instead they convened a two day meeting with Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Roblox, Snap and Twitter in late July to pressure them to provide back doors to their encrypted messaging services.

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La importancia del Purism Librem 5

El Purism Librem 5 será el primer celular en el mundo que funcionará con 100% software libre, que es una bandera proclamando nuestros derechos digitales. El diseño de la placa tiene una licencia de GPL 3.0+, entonces la placa es hardware libre también y es disponible en:

Purism Librem 5 Dev Kit visualizado en KiCAD 5.0:

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Aventuras en la actualización al Debian 10 (buster)

Quise ver las esquemas del Librem 5, que sera el primer celular de 100% software libre. Para abrir los archivos de circuitos del Librem 5, necesito la versión 5.0 de KiCAD, que no esta disponible en los repositorios de Debian 9 (stretch). En el mundo aburrido de Windows, puedo descargar la nueva versión sin tocar el sistema operativo, pero en Linux es mas fácil instalar todo un sistema operativo nuevo para conseguir la última versión de un programa que jugar con la configuración de repositorios y pinning.

Entonces, yo entregué el comando apt upgrade en mi compu y ahora estoy instalando Debian 10 (buster). Sólo tengo 1,7 GB más para descargar y ver que puedo romper en mi compu. ¡Software libre es mucho mas divertido!
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Why IBM buying Red Hat doesn’t matter

I found myself yawning as I read the news that IBM will be buying Red Hat for $34 billion and dumping a lot of its proprietary software on HCL, an Indian company. I stopped caring about Red Hat and IBM years ago. The fact that the fourth largest server company in the world is buying the leading Linux company should be big news, but I stopped caring in a personal way about these two companies years ago.

IBM in the 1950s – 1970s used to be the evil Goliath of the computer industry, but in my lifetime, IBM was the first tech giant to embrace free/open source software in a major way and help legitimize Linux. It was also the company that provided AMD and then Global Foundries with process tech to compete with Intel, and it was the company promoting the POWER architecture, which was the freest of the major CPU architectures (before RISC-V appeared on the scene and MIPS was recently open sourced). I should be celebrating that Big Blue is getting rid of lots of proprietary software and embracing open source in a major way, but IBM stopped being relevant to me years ago, when it sold its PC and then later its x86 server lines to Lenovo. IBM was the company which made Thinkpads into a durable line of laptops that was compatible with Linux and helped establish Linux as the OS for servers, but Big Blue has become largely irrelevant to me as the company sold off its hardware production to Lenovo and Global Foundries, and retreated into the niches of supercomputers, corporate middleware and data analysis.
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Trump’s counterproductive ban of Huawei

When the Trump Administration decided to ban Huawei, it displayed a shocking level of ignorance about how the global tech industry operates. It is not surprising that the US government sees Huawei as a threat. Huawei is the now the second largest smartphone maker in the world, growing from 5% of smartphone shipments in Q1 2015 to 17% in Q1 2019. Likewise, Huawei has become the largest maker of telecom equipment in the world, growing from 8% of the market in 2013 to 29% in 2018.

The problem is that banning Huawei from using tech from American companies will have widespread consequences in the American tech industry and the economy as a whole. One out of four of Huawei’s 263 suppliers last year were American companies, and I suspect that those companies (Flex, Broadcom, Western Digital, Qualcomm, Micron, Seagate, Intel, etc.) will be lobbying like mad to reverse this decision, because they know that Huawei, unlike ZTE, has the resources to either make their own chips or to use Chinese suppliers, so they will be cut out of Huawei’s supply chain. For example, Huawei’s Kirin processor is already competitive with Qualcomm’s Snapdragon and Huawei will no longer be selling to the American cellular market, so it can stop using Qualcomm’s modems. Continue reading