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Scott Ertz Global chip shortage is not going to get better any time soon
(2021-04-17)
A global chip shortage has been affecting product production and availability for nearly a year now. For those who had hoped that perhaps the fabrication plants might be getting close to having a handle on the problem, we've got some bad news. According to executives at all of the major foundries, we can expect these shortages to stay around for years.

[heading" class="UpStreamLink">The semiconductor bottleneck[/heading" class="UpStreamLink">
The majority of major chip manufacturers use semiconductors produced by one foundry: Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. (TSMC). The company produces for brands like Apple, Broadcom, Nvidia, and Qualcomm (though not exclusively) - none of whom have any chip fabrication capabilities internally.

This means that any delays at TSMC will mean major delays for products from these companies. And we have seen exactly that, with shortages in videocards from Nvidia, and chip shortages from Qualcomm. Even Apple's ability to source display technology has been affected.

[heading" class="UpStreamLink">The timeline to normalcy[/heading" class="UpStreamLink">
TSMC says that they expect these delays to continue well into 2023. This delay comes because the company is already running its operation at over 100% of capacity. Producing a new facility to improve performance is not easy, as it can take years to build a facility and months to configure a new line.

So, two full years of technology at a near standstill, all because we rely on a single manufacturer for many of our chip components. And the company's affect will be far and wide in those two or so years. 45 percent of the company's revenue comes from smartphone component manufacturing and 35 percent comes from high-performance computing components. So, mobile and stationary computing are in trouble.

Automaker GM recently announced that it would have to idle some of its factories because of the shortages. While changes were made to the plans, it is still a dark situation for the automaker. Though they believe they have solved the problem in the near-term to get back up and running, the long-term effects are still murky.

[heading" class="UpStreamLink">The competition is stuck[/heading" class="UpStreamLink">
But, if you were hoping to avoid the problems by switching form AMD (for whom TSMC manufactures the 7nm silicon) to Intel, who manufactures its own silicon, there is some equally bad news. Intel has also famously been affected by their own semiconductor manufacturing slowdowns. It's part of the reason why the company's chips are still not running at 7nm, while AMD has been there for a while.

New Intel CEO Pat Gelsinger recently told The Washington Post,

We do believe we have the ability to help. I think this is a couple of years until you are totally able to address it. It just takes a couple of years to build capacity.

[heading" class="UpStreamLink">The conclusion[/heading" class="UpStreamLink">
Whether you're making them yourself or outsourcing the components, producing semiconductors is a challenge right now. And, w're going to be feeling the pressure for the next few years. So, if you were hoping to get a new Xbox Series X or PlayStation 5, patience is going to be of the utmost importance.
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Scott Ertz Brand Safety Score, coming to Twitch, rates channels for advertisers
(2021-03-27)
Brand Safety Score, coming to Twitch, rates channels for advertisers Twitch has had some issues over the past year or so. Most notably, the brand has had trouble being open with its community of content creators about what they are working on behind the scenes. Most notably, they came under fire when they deleted videos with little to no explanation. Later, the company apologized for how poorly they handled the situation, which surrounded a large influx of DMCA requests. Now, a new feature is coming, for which there was once again no communication - Brand Safety Score.

In fact, the only reason why information about the score is available at all is that it was exposed, either purposefully or accidentally, through the platform's internal API. Twitter user tayariCS showed off the documentation, exposing the new fields that would be added to the profiles in the future. The idea appeared to be a score that was either automatically generated or manually entered (there was evidence for both theories), that shows how advertiser friendly the channel is.

Of course, there are other indicators already available, such as whether or not the channel is set top mature content. The Brand Safety Score seems to revolve around violations of the already nebulous community standards. In fact, the documentation shows the current relationship with Twitch (active, suspended, banned, etc.), reason for suspension/ban, and past issues. It also includes custom data points which might be of value to potential advertisers.

After word hit the street of this potential change to the way channels are evaluated, Twitch responded with a statement saying,

We are exploring ways to improve the experience on Twitch for viewers and creators, including efforts to better match the appropriate ads to the right communities. User privacy is critical on Twitch, and, as we refine this process, we will not pursue plans that compromise that priority. Nothing has launched yet, no personal information was shared, and we will keep our community informed of any updates along the way.

So, as of right now, Brand Safety Score is a feature that is being considered, not one that is being implemented. However, if the API endpoint is already stood up, then the likelihood is that this is coming soon er rather than later. Having a way for advertisers to determine the value proposition for their interaction with a channel is a good thing. However, any time a company that relies on user generated content starts creating policies with dark data about its users, things are about to get complicated.
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Scott Ertz People are too lax with giving permission to their mic and camera
(2021-03-27)
People are too lax with giving permission to their mic and camera Data breaches happen all the time, companies misuse the data they have access to, and hackers want access to everything you do. Because of all of these threats, personal privacy and security should be a major focus of people online. However, a lot of people don't put any thought into their security or privacy online, and those who do, leave major holes in their plan. This has been made even more apparent thanks to the Kaspersky Consumer IT Security Risks Report 2021.

The report highlights a number of issues. This includes 80% of people using personal computers for business purposes, which can give your employer access to your personal data and expose proprietary data to the open internet. In addition, 53% of people who are victims of ransomware paid the ransom, and 17% of those people still didn't get their data back.

More importantly, though, is the major difference between thoughts and actions on access to users' cameras and microphones. 60% of users are concerned that access to their webcam and microphone could be gained by nefarious actors, or could be used outside of their intended purposes. However, 23% of all online users grant access to their webcam and microphone in every case it is requested. Even when using platforms you expect to be safe, they can expose your webcam without permission. With Zoom, external access to your cam was available even after uninstalling the software.

But, for those who are always giving access, they are asking for trouble. Very few apps and websites require access to your mic or camera. If you're not there to share your cam or mic, don't share your cam or mic. The same applies to location access - if it isn't going to give you a benefit, don't grant access. And, on your webcam, you should cover the lens when it is not in use. It might sound like a conspiracy theory, but it's true. Even Mark Zuckerberg, who is often portrayed as the bringer of the end of privacy, covers his camera with a sticky note.

The takeaway: stay vigilant online and protect your privacy and security by thinking about the permissions you give to apps and cameras.
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Scott Ertz Xbox Live is now Xbox network as free-to-play games drop requirement
(2021-03-27)
Xbox Live is now Xbox network as free-to-play games drop requirement In the console wars, one of the biggest arguments against Xbox has been the requirement for Xbox Live Gold for online gaming. In the early days, Gold for all games was an easy argument because the cost of managing XBL was high, and all communication ran through Microsoft's system. But, in recent years, more of the communication has happened off-network because of cross-platform gameplay. So, as times are changing, so is Xbox Live.

This week, the most recent Alpha build for Xbox Insiders shows "Multiplayer in Free-to-play games, Looking 4 Groups and Party Chat on Xbox no longer requires an Xbox Live Gold membership." This move brings Xbox Live requirements inline with Sony and Nintendo when it comes to free-to-play games. It is also in line with the actual value that Xbox Live is providing to gamers playing these particular games. Fortnite players put little load on the system compared to Halo.

Along with the change to Gold policies, another big change seems to have come along with the update: a name change. Rather that being referred to throughout the system as Xbox Live, all references now show "Xbox network" with a lowercase n. The Verge received a statement from Microsoft saying,

Xbox network' refers to the underlying Xbox online service, which was updated in the Microsoft Services Agreement. The update from 'Xbox Live' to 'Xbox network' is intended to distinguish the underlying service from Xbox Live Gold memberships.

So, going forward, the actual technology will be referred to as Xbox network, while the paid subscription will retail the original name of Xbox Live Gold. For longtime gamers, the naming change is going to take some getting used to. Xbox Live and its name (while not the logo) have been around for 18 years - since the original Xbox. Like when a sports field changes names, many people will continue to use the original name for years. It is likely that the same will be true about Xbox Live.
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Scott Ertz LG, after years of struggling, is ready to exit the smartphone market
(2021-03-27)
LG, after years of struggling, is ready to exit the smartphone market LG has a lot of product categories that might be in your home. Refrigerators, ranges, and microwaves are everywhere. Their smart TVs are also one of the big categories for the company. However, one category that people don't currently think of when they think of LG is smartphones. Because of this shift in market share, the company is thinking about abandoning the market entirely.

A decade ago, LG was one of the major players in smartphones. Before Apple got involved, they were one of the big names, along with HTC and Motorola. Today, none of those companies play a major role in the industry. Motorola has changed hands a couple of times over the past few years, currently part of Lenovo. HTC has suffered a similar fate, once considering abandoning the market, later changing course and selling most of the business to Google (who sold Motorola to Lenovo).

Now, LG is in a similar position. Recently, the company was rumored to be considering a sale of the smartphone division to another interested company. However, new reports suggest that LG is now considering simply shuttering the division entirely and moving on. This could be because there are simply no interested parties, or because the amount of work or time involved in the process of a sale would exceed the value of the brand. Sometimes the best course of action is to walk away and cut your losses, which might be where LG is headed.

Now, this is not to say that LG would be entirely absent from the smartphone world. The company is one of the major manufacturers of components like screens for other bands, including Apple. There is no suggestion that LG is considering abandoning that aspect of its business, which makes sense. They have consistently held a position of quality in the component space, so continuing with that aspect of the business is a way to keep participating while not trying to follow the bizarre trends of the smartphone space, which they have struggled to understand.
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