Tuesday, July 25, 2006

News for Nerds

This broke over the 24th of July holiday (well, it's only a holiday in Utah - we celebrate the pioneers who settled Utah on that day by getting off work, hiking, barbequeing and shopping), but in news that I care about, microprocessor company AMD is merging with graphics chip company ATI. Why does this matter? A brief history of computer parts for those who care to read it:
For the past decade or so there have been 2 options in graphics companies and 2 options in processor companies. ATI and nVidia have made graphics cards, with each company taking turns leading the other (I will try not to lapse into my techno-jargon here, so I won't spit out a list of graphics card numbers). These companies have competed fiercely competed, giving us the same graphics power on a $300 card in your computer as a $1 million supercomputer had a decade ago. It's been great for the consumer and great for people's World of Warcraft habits. The same type of situation has happened with AMD and Intel. Intel has continued to be the market leader, but AMD has made processors that have clobbered Intel at times and vice-versa. It's led to lower prices and incredibly faster processors for everybody.
So why am I a little wary of this? It's because of the situation that it puts nVidia and Intel in. Currently nVidia and ATI make graphics cards for everybody, ATI makes motherboard chipsets for Intel, and nVidia makes chipsets for AMD. The problem comes with the new competitive landscape. If nVidia makes chipsets for AMD processors, they are helping to popularize the AMD Athlon processor. If they do that, they're now helping AMD/ATI compete against them in graphics cards. That's money that will go straight to the competition and make them even tougher for nVidia to fight against. By the same token, if Intel allows ATI to make motherboard chipsets for their Core processors, then they are helping AMD increase their bottom line to fund their processor war against Intel. AMD says that they don't think that's the case, but I don't see how it couldn't be. Graphics cards will continue to work on computers powered by either company, but the only possible reaction that Intel and nVidia will have to this is to get in bed together. This may not be a full-fledged merger, but I can definitely see nVidia stopping production of their nForce chipsets for AMD and ramping up production for Intel. I could also see a merger as nVidia tries to get into Intel's deep pockets to keep competing. In the end, this may not be a win for the consumer as the two camps get more entrenched. We may even see a polarization where you will only be able to get a total AMD/ATI or Intel/nVidia solution, which wouldn't allow people to customize as well as we have been able to. It's too bad too, because I've been an Intel and ATI fanboy for quite some time now. Well, such is life I suppose.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Eyewitness Reports from both sides of the front

"I belong to a certain secret society, who's name needs not mention here." Well, nevermind. It's a message board community called FlyerTalk. Normally we're all concerned about how to maximize our travel dollar and get the most free stuff, however, I just stumbled across a thread there that is about the current war between Hezbollah and Israel. There are several prominent FTers who are involved in this conflict, and here's a point/counterpoint from one in Israel and one in Lebanon, both of whom are in range of the enemy's forces. It's not antagonistic at all and it goes to show that there are great people on both sides and that the real tragedy is that Hezbollah started this and Israel feels compelled to respond.
Read all about it here.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Tee-eye-double grunt-are

Well folks it happened, Japan has hit rock bottom once again. After finally recovering from the embarrassment of Yatta! Japan will once again be the laughing stock of the world.

This advertisement introduces Japan's latest tools for toilet training. Apparently the Japanese see the need for an "oh crap" handle which is well accompanied by a musical paper dispenser to soothe your child's bowels. With the way that kid is bearing down it is probably best there is bar to go white knuckle on.
We can all hope that an adult version will soon be released so that I can once again eat Mexican food care free.


I go out of town on business for a week and I miss being a current blogging guy with some huge events happening in the Middle East. I had half a post on North Korea and their missile envy done that will now have to wait because Hezbollah decided that they wanted to get in on the hot Gaza action that Hamas was dealing with so they decided to kidnap some Israeli soldiers. Here's why the Lebanese should do what Israel has been trying to do for the past week: eliminate Hezbollah once and for all.
Hezbollah was formed from the Shiite resistance movements in Southern Lebanon in the early 80s, during Israel's ill-founded invasion of Lebanon to try and stabilize the country. They were quickly armed and used by Iran and Syria as a proxy for their interests in the country. Over Hezbollah's 20 year history they've specialized in kidnappings, suicide bombs, and rocket attacks. Nevertheless, after Israel withdrew from Lebanon in 2000, things were pretty quiet with the group. They gained some power in the Lebanese government and fired the occasional rocket at Israel, but for the most part they seemed to behave themselves. Now they have decided that no matter the consequences to their host nation, they'll not give up the Israeli prisoners without a trade for some of their own. Israel has traded prisoners in the past, but it is a terrible policy. It invites kidnappings because your enemies will know that you will cave in when you kidnap their soldiers or citizens. Its why most nations have a policy of not ever negotiating with terrorists - it just invites more terrorist attacks. As a result, Israel has responded with it's largest military operation in years to force Lebanon to get rid of Hezbollah. While there are native Lebanese that make up the group, they don't care about their nation. They are devoted citizens of their cause: liberating Palestine. By liberating Palestine, I don't mean the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Israel exited Gaza last year and is on their way to leaving most of the West Bank to the Palestinians as a free-standing state with their own government. Nevertheless, Palestine is not just those areas - it's all of Israel. There is no other reason to attack Israel during a time of peace.
We're seeing the results of this on the 24 hour news channels now. Lebanon, after a relatively peaceful 6+ years, is now turning into the morass it was during the 80s. There is now talk of a new multinational force that would come in to southern Lebanon to stabilize the area, which would be just as disastrous as it was when the US was part of the MNF and 241 Marines were killed when a Hezbollah suicide bomber blew up the barracks on the grounds of Rafik Hariri International Airport. Hezbollah has no desire for peace in Lebanon, and that's why the government of Lebanon, as impotent as it may be, needs to mobilize the army to take control of Southern Lebanon. While it could provoke a new round of violence, one thing that the world should have learned now is that we cannot force peace in Lebanon. Well, I take that back. We probably could force peace in Lebanon, but it would involve regime change in both Syria and Iran. Unless Hezbollah's backers are eliminated, Hezbollah will always be able to operate independently in Lebanon. The Lebanese government may be able to persuade them out of the south, but it won't be the result of outside governments waging a proxy war in the nation.
Another key point to look at is why Israel cares so much about getting Hezbollah out of southern Lebanon. If you look at the range of Iranian rockets (which have already struck Haifa and may be able to hit Tel Aviv) and the apparent ease that Iran is having in getting their weapons to Hezbollah, then combine that with the news about Iran's nuclear program, and Israel has every right to be very concerned. Iran doesn't have to develop long-range missiles, they just have to supply their current units to Hezbollah along with some nuclear munitions and suddenly Israel's largest city is wiped out. That's Israel's worst nightmare and it's why Israel has a retaliatory nuclear arsenal that they are willing to use. Unfortunately a deterrant only works with an enemy who will be deterred. These radical Islamic groups have already shown that they don't value their lives. What matters is the glorification of their twisted view of Islam. "Allah would like to see Israel destroyed, and if it costs the lives of 4.5 million Syrians and 7 million Iranians, then it is His will." I can say right now that that isn't His will, and I'm not even a Muslim, but try telling that to the Mullahs and Bashir Assad.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Black Calderòn

Felipe Calderòn has won a Mexican election that is notable for several of reasons:
1. It wasn't a sham
2. It showed that not all countries south of the border are enamored with Chavezian populist politics
3. It's being challenged by Mexico's own version of Al Gore.
For all of Mexico's problems, starting with 70+ years of PRI rule, they have a great election process. It was transparent, overseen by a neutral group, and certified as fair by international observers. If Andres Manuel López Obrador doesn't move his masses out on the streets and instead respects the results of the election it will be a landmark in the history of the country. It will be a second peaceful election and the PRI's grip on the nation will forever be gone. Their candidate wasn't considered a serious contender and that's a good thing.
As far as the whole Chavez connection that Obrador has, he has blown long and hard about using it. He would mobilize the masses and march on the capital to protest the election and demand the presidency if he felt that it was unfair. That's bullying the system and that's not the kind of President that Mexico needs. They need someone who will continue what Fox started and try to get them out of the mess that they have dug into. Calderòn will do that. By continuing to liberalize their economy, he will get multinational companies to invest more heavily in Mexico, which will help lead to improving conditions in the country. Now if the US will get rid of its tariffs on cement, we'll be in good shape.
Finally, Obrador is Mexico's Al Gore. I think eventually he'll cave (he'll have to - if he marches on the capital, look for Fox to call out the army to keep the peace), it's just a question of how much damage he'll do before he does. If he decides to take the route that is best for his country then he'll cede and life will go on. If he decides to play the tinpot strongman and go that route, then things will get significantly more hairy and that's not good for anybody.