ARM in play again

ARM in play again

I was interested to learn that ARM is in play again, although curious to learn that Nvidia might be its suitor, and even more interested to learn that Nvidia has overtaken Intel as the world’s largest chip fab. How did that happen? Nvidia sell on consoles as well as PC/laptops and games platforms are it seems another good whose demand has been boosted by CV19 and that the global demand for cycles has been driven by HPC and AI recently where the Nvidia  are competing architecturally with Intel, although they need a CPU to complete their portfolio. It may be a better fit than I’d thought.

I have to laugh a bit, as Intel drove the final RISC players out of the market by leveraging the volume of the consumer product design, and it would seem, have been bitten in the arse by the same thing. These products require volume, and production will coalesce towards the low price duopoly.

ARM was bought by Softbank, for £24bn cash, just under 4 years ago; they are a Japanese venture/hedge fund which has famously had it its own problems. I wonder what they did with the money as some of their principals are now bleating for state protection as Nvidia is a allegedly an inappropriate owner of the chip designers. The Verge heralded it as another proof that intellectual property has value. The Register reports that the big stake holders have been insuring themselves against losing access to the intellectual property.

In this article on the BBC, they returned to Herman Hauser, one of ARM’s founders, who voted against the deal in 2016 who shares his fears for access to the technology of bought by another market participant, and possibly the decommitment to the Cambridge campus, which is a security of supply issue, but this Govt. is unlikely to do much and it should be safer owned by someone who wants the ideas rather than an organisation which just considers it a red-ink line in the P&L. …

A collective voice

A collective voice

Things to be considered about Labour Party Policy making. Many people join because they have good ideas, and certainly have unique experiences and it’s not enough to just take their money and ask them to knock on doors. In “Ideas, alliances and promises”, I examined the long term failure of the Labour Party to develop long term effective and democratic policy making processes and the electoral consequences of this.

It’s possible that the most important reforms contemporary to the democracy review was the dropping of the need for motions to Conference to be “contemporary”, increasing the number of motions to be discussed from eight to twenty, which had the effect of ensuring that important topics with lower levels of support got to conference floor and the introduction of “reference back” on the NPF report. Let’s see how long these last. …

There’s no divorce in Bitcoin

There’s no divorce in Bitcoin

I attended a presentation hosted by the BCS, and given by Ron Ballard, based on his article in IT Now, “Blockchain: the facts and the fiction”. What he said inspired some thoughts and reminded me of others, some of which I have previously published on my blog. I wrote an article, called Learnings of Bitcoin, which was meant to be a spoof on the Borat film title and posted it on my linkedin blog, The article looks at the tight coupling of Bitcoin, and its consensus mechanism, the proof of work, together with its costs and vulnerabilities. It examines the goal of eliminating trust authorities and its questionable ability to meet the necessary roles of money as a means of exchange and a store of wealth. In the comment pushing it, I say, “This might be a bit basic for some, but you can’t have a coinless immutable blockchain, at least not one based on ‘proof of work’.”, at which point you need to consider if there are better data storage platforms for your use case.

Ballard is an anti-bitcoin polemicist and his anti-slide is comprehensive, although it misses the asynchronicity; I am less clear about his assertion that relational databases are good enough. Stonebraker in his paper, “The End of an Architectural Era (It’s Time for a Complete Rewrite) § 6.[12]” identifies five use cases where relational databases are sub-optimal including stream/feed processing and also states that SQL is not suitable for all data retrieval problems. I would add that an SQL database is not immutable, and most implementations do not come with a “four-eyes” super-user implementation; much effort needs to be invested in controlling the activities of these super-users, especially to implement the “developers can’t run code, and operators can’t change code” rule.

If the only use of Bitcoin, is paying for the electricity to keep it secure, exchanges become necessary. There’s something on how is Bitcoin valued by the market, but I haven’t found it yet also marginal utility theory requires two commodities; I wonder what the alternative to the crypto-currencies is and how liquid the exchange mechanisms are? Also are we trusting the exchanges? If so, the solution is not trustless! (I mean the alternative is cash since it’s the only way we measure energy and like cycles, electricity can’t be stored.

Some have suggested that the language used such as mining, is designed to suggest that the Bitcoin is similar and as safe as Gold, which isn’t! The use of the word ‘nonce’ which in IT security field means ‘number used once’, and is part of the chain design to my mind disguises the role of this field. It is only used once, but it is the output of the proof of work.

Ballard challenged his audience to find a good use case, and to my mind the proof of work and its costs make it hard, but I wonder if either trade confirmations or P2P name resolution are potential use cases, certainly bitcoin have had to solve the later and has inspired the namecoin project. There may be better ways to do both, but doesn’t look like anyone else is working on it.

The presentation was published on youtube here … …

Schadenfreude

Schadenfreude

I should have more sympathy, but Unite’s United Left,, have just conducted an e-ballot, to determine who should be the UL’s candidate for General Secretary when Len McClusky stands down, which will have to be in the next two years. McClusky and his close supporters prefer Howard Beckett, currently Director of Legal and Politics, and he is being opposed by Steve Turner, the Union’s most senior industrial organiser, and currently Assistant General Secretary. E-Ballots are hard to run, particularly over the internet. Beckett lost be three votes and is claiming that the ballot should be re-run; I, of course, am laughing my arse off, as so many of Beckett’s supporters and he himself, felt that over Brexit, the I and the rest of the British people should be denied a ‘final say’ by having a re-run of the referendum, 🤣 …

delicious bookmarks recovered

I found my delicious bookmarks, a couple of months ago, posted them to the blog decided to remove the easily identified as gone away and expose the tags, on the way, I removed those without descriptions. The links came from from ~3525 to ~1800. I was fascinated by this when I first discovered it, and used it as a micro blog. This is how it now looks in wordpress, but I need to put the anchor text, descriptions & tags through an ascii to html converter. The code is on github, in a repo called delicious tools. The next stage is to allow them to be queried using the tags (or not, if I think it's worth it) If interested, 'read more' …

On Record Management

On Record Management

As part of my series on devising systems to create logs to protect an organisation and its staff against charges of criminality, I posted an article on my linkedin blog called “Doing Record Management well”. It doesn’t surprise me that there is an ISO Standard (ISO 15489) on the subject, but it does surprise me that I hadn’t heard of it until I started to research some of the articles in this series.

I have a research note on my wiki, which links to the Bank of England policy and also quotes Deutsche Bank’s policy, which is available because they post it on internet. I quote it here,

Deutsche Bank’s code of conduct, see page 25, says, among other things,

“Maintaining accurate books and records is fundamental to meeting our legal, regulatory and business requirements. You are responsible for maintaining accurate and complete records and for complying with all the controls and policies our bank has in place. You should never falsify any book, record or account that relates to the business of our bank, its customers, employees (including your own activities within our bank) or suppliers. You must never dispose of records or information that may be relevant to pending or threatened litigation or a regulatory proceeding unless you are authorised to do so by the Legal Department. You must also comply with applicable record retention policies.”

DB Code of Conduct
 …

Labour and the 4 Day Week

Labour and the 4 Day Week

This is the text of the Working Hours resolution at #Lab19, calling for a 4 day week with no loss of pay.

Composite 8 -Working Hours

Working time is a major industrial and political issue in the UK. This conference is seriously concerned that compared to other countries in Europe, we have some of the worst public and statutory holiday entitlements; full-time workers have amongst the longest hours of any country; UK workers work unpaid overtime worth billions of pounds; and with the forthcoming increase in the state pension age, we will have the longest working lives.

But this has not delivered benefits to workers: average pay is lower than before the financial crash; productivity lags significantly behind other countries; and in-work stress is at record levels. The recent report from Autonomy and the 4 Day Week Campaign outlines the health and wellbeing costs of overwork. Work-related anxiety, stress or depression accounts for half of all working days lost to ill health.

Instead of building a country that works for everyone the Tories are building a country in which you work until you drop –and with the current imbalance of power in the economy, new technology and automation risk exacerbating this by continuing to intensify work, polarise terms and conditions and replace jobs entirely.

Conference believes there is a growing consensus around reductions in working time, including support from the TUC, STUC, Labour Party frontbenchers, individual unions and 63% of the population and that reducing the standard working week, with no loss of pay, must be a central pledge in the manifesto and a key aim of a Labour government.

In particular, Conference believes this should be part of the strategy to address under-employment, build a more sustainable economy, boost productivity and ensure workers benefit from the 4th industrial revolution and leads to opportunities for parents and a decrease in gender inequality.

Conference believes Labour should support the aims of Labour for a 4 day week campaign, go beyond the pledge to introduce four new public holidays and commit in the next manifesto to set out a plan to achieve a standard four day or 32 hour gross week with no loss of pay within a decade through sectoral collective bargaining and a new ‘UK Shorter Working Time Directive.’

Mover: CWU
Seconder: Perth and Kinross CLP
 …

The digital economy, surplus value and monopoly

The digital economy, surplus value and monopoly

More thoughts from a seminar. It was organised by one of the North London CLPs and was advertised as a look at the Digital Economy. So what did I learn and what did I think?

On asking how transformational is the Digital Economy, I am reminded that CV 19 has shown who are essential workers and raises the question as to why they are so poorly paid and that the Digital Economy is not yet ubiquitous. Distribution is not yet virtual and will never be, although with AI driven trucks and airborne drones, a lot of jobs can still be eliminated but I am reminded of Carlota Perez’s comments that the railways created demand for more horse drawn freight miles. The other work apart from the obvious health service workers that cannot be virtualised is cleaning and security.

One thing that was not said is that the platform companies and their software benefit from massive economies of scale, and the critical scaling factor is the number of market participants i.e. the consumers and suppliers; for Air BnB, room providers and renters, for Uber, drivers and riders. While some market place creators have applied massive imagination and science to the problems of IT scalability to support their global marketplaces, the IT plant is not at the heart of the value of these market places although we need to recognize that we’ll have to pay for cycles and the power they consume.

Copyright and closed source makes the software monopolistic which is then applied to the relationship with Labour, and in the case of both Air BnB & Uber non software capital is outsourced to the supplier! The value of the company is based on this market activity, not the value of capital employed and not the so-called cost of the software; the software expropriates the surplus value from the suppliers and the size of these markets acts as a further barrier to entry for competitors.

Copyright since it inhibits copying of the software, also underwrites the share value. This is important as we consider if these monopolies should be placed under common ownership. We need to recognize that copyright enables rental income on an infinitely available resource i.e. the software.

These problems are not new, it’s about how combine labour and the world’s natural resources to produce new stuff, the market is meant to optimise this and the platform companies break these economic rules, but fortunately we know how to regulate monopolies.

There is a need for some new thinking about the value of software and how markets might ensure optimal resource allocation but today the basic facts are that software copyrights enable the expropriation of surplus value and establish a rental income yielding super-profits, super-profits funded by the consumers.

The relationship between these marketplace platform companies[1] and their suppliers is exploitative, copyright laws add to the barriers to entry. Their practices are contrary to decent behaviour and the monopolistic nature of the enterprise, together with the subversion of the capital markets undermines their economic justification.

That’s the problem for socialists


[1] Banks are platform companies. …

STV & the Labour Party

STV & the Labour Party

There’s a sudden revival of interest in STV as the LP adopts it as a means of electing the CLP reps. There are in my mind, three problems with STV for party managers and one for voters. The fact that “order” can be critical in the results is important. When combined with the degree of discipline within Party voting blocs and the propensity to bleed votes from the block, getting the quota early is of advantage to parties. The problem of avoiding having large numbers of your votes trapped in the losing quota is also critically important for party managers particularly if the quota is high.

The Order based nature of STV counting leads to a series of well-known problems with STV in that it is one of the easier systems to game and has a number of design features which encourage manipulative or gaming behaviour. STV is not monotone, participative, consistent nor does it meet the No-Betrayer criteria.

There is no strategy that can compensate for a bloc’s voters not voting for all the candidates in the slate. Even within the activist or membership layer, many are more committed to their faction than to the Party, which may lead people to desert their first choice slate for another as the individual candidates become distasteful to the voter. I am curious if we could model the effect this ‘bleed’. The speed of desertion may well be determined by the slate construction as some on the slate might be exceptionally unacceptable to the otherwise loyal electorate. We should also note that not transferring reduces the quota[1] and so is equivalent to a (part) vote for all remaining candidates and acts as de-facto vote in favour of the highest remaining contender.

Early success militates against having votes lost in the losing quota, particularly as the STV transfers surpluses before eliminating candidates.

If running a complete slate, the offer of a recommendation to support as a second choice is not worth so much.

The disadvantage to voters is that their optimal strategy may not involve voting in a straightforward way as it may be best if someone likely to pick up a lot of transfers is eliminated before the transfers occur. This is more acute in instant run-off elections and depends on whether they want a candidate to win or prefer that others lose.

I can’t see what to do about weak discipline. If we take the example of the UK where we have Labour, the Greens, the Lib Dems and the Tories, we can see how people, who’s first choice might be, say, Labour might switch to the Green list after one or two votes for what ever reason and the Greens might go in both directions to Labour or to the LibDems. The system is designed to have this effect.


[1] This is the failure to meet the Participation Effect. …

Knowledge Graphs

Knowledge Graphs

I attended a Capco/Semantic Web Company webinar, on Knowledge Graphs which provoked these thoughts, on how far we’ve come, new solutions to old problems and the social inhibitors to new technology adoption. The complexity of the data administration problem is why specialist tools have been developed and matured to the point that Gartner produce a Magic Quadrant on Meta Data Management tools, in which the Semantic Web company’s Pool Party appears as a visionary. The MQ report is currently being distributed, as is normal, by one of the “Leaders”, Informatica.

Andreas Blumaur, who was one of the speakers, repeated his suggestion, start small with committed users and that possibly the best 1st solution is a semantic search. (I thinl I’ll have another look at implementing something on my wiki.)

I have felt for a while that semantic web technology could be used to match work to resource in the cloud, with cloud entities advertising their capability using XML, it shouldnn’t be a stretch and with Azure, these systems are being defined in XML. The other application that interests me is if the XML/RDF models can be used to create a model of the person in the enterprise, maybe implemented in SQL; my current researches have not been fruitful. …