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Bad Luck

Chaos Manor View, Monday, July 06, 2015

“Throughout history, poverty is the normal condition of man. Advances which permit this norm to be exceeded—here and there, now and then—are the work of an extremely small minority, frequently despised, often condemned, and almost always opposed by all right-thinking people. Whenever this tiny minority is kept from creating, or (as sometimes happens) is driven out of a society, the people then slip back into abject poverty.

“This is known as ‘bad luck’.”

– Robert A. Heinlein

Entrepreneurs are fleeing Greece. Some Greek politicos are threatening to turn Greece into a way station for Near East refugees fleeing to Germany and Belgium. The result should be interesting,

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China’s Hunger for Robots Marks Significant Shift   

Country’s emergence as automation hub contradicts assumptions about robots, global economy

By

Timothy Aeppel and

Mark Magnier

July 5, 2015 2:26 p.m. ET

http://www.wsj.com/articles/chinas-hunger-for-robots-marks-significant-shift-1436118228 

Having devoured many of the world’s factory jobs, China is now handing them over to robots.

China already ranks as the world’s largest market for robotic machines. Sales last year grew 54% from a year earlier, and the boom shows every sign of increasing. China is projected to have more installed industrial robots than any other country by next year, according to the International Federation of Robotics.

China’s emergence as an automation hub contradicts many assumptions about robots and the global economy.

Economists often view automation as a way for advanced economies to keep industries that might otherwise move offshore, or even to win them back through reshoring, since the focus is on ways to reduce costly labor. That motivation hasn’t gone away. But increasingly, robots are taking over work in developing countries, reducing the potential job creation associated with building new factories in the frontier markets of Asia, Africa or Latin America.

A confluence of economic forces is behind the trend in China. Labor costs, while low relative to advanced economies like the U.S.’s, have soared. That has undermined the calculus that brought many of those jobs there in the first place. And new robot technology is cheaper and easier to use than ever before. In addition, many of China’s fastest-growing industries, such as vehicle-making, tend to rely on automation regardless of where the factories are. Some jobs, such as delicate operations in electronics plants, can only be done with machines.

“We think of [the Chinese as] producing cheap widgets,” but that is not what they’re focused on, said Adams Nager, an economic research analyst at the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation in Washington, D.C. China, he said, is letting industries that rely on lots of manual labor, such as clothing and shoe production, shift out of the country to focus on capital-intensive industries such as steel and electronics where automation is a driving force.

In this sense, what’s happening in China is no different than what has occurred in many other parts of the world.

The fact that it is happening in China, though, underscores a significant shift. Some economists believe China may be one of the last places where industrialization spawns the kind of massive job growth that allows a country to leapfrog into the ranks of the wealthier nations. If the automation trend continues, it will mean slower job growth, though that isn’t apparent yet in China.

The International Federation of Robotics estimates about 225,000 industrial robots were sold world-wide last year—a record number and up 27% from the year before. Robot sales grew in all the major markets, with over half the growth in Asia. But China is the rising star, with about 56,000 robots sold there in 2014.

One reason China will continue booming is because it has relatively low “robot density,” the trade group says. China has about 30 robots for every 10,000 factory workers. In Germany, the density is 10 times that amount.

“China has explosive growth [in robots],” said Henrik Christensen, head of Georgia Institute of Technology’s robotics lab, adding that all the world’s biggest automation companies are rushing to build factories there to supply demand for new machines.

Terry Hannon, chief business development and strategy officer for Adept Technology Inc., a U.S. robotics maker based near Silicon Valley, said he was startled to see 400 new domestic robotics makers at a Chinese trade show last year. Among those jumping in: Hon Hai Precision Industry Co.—better known as Foxconn—which has announced plans to build and install thousands of robots to assemble Apple Inc.iPhones and other products.

There is a pride factor at work in China’s rapid adoption of robots, whether made by domestic companies or manufactured in China by Western firms. “When the Chinese started to export, they often got pushback about what kind of quality they could deliver,” said Steven Wyatt, head of marketing and sales for ABB Robotics in Zurich. “They want to be able to say, ‘We use the same robots as you guys use in Western Europe and North America.’ ”

That is one reason the Chinese government is pushing the trend. In 2013, Beijing outlined a 2020 goal of having at least three globally competitive robot makers, eight subcontractor clusters, a 45% domestic market share for Chinese high-end robots and a tripling of robot penetration to 100 per 10,000 workers.

Some say this top-down approach can create something of a herd mentality and spur misdirected spending. “If you give funds to the wrong companies, you can crowd out those who will be the most productive,” said Gan Jie, a professor at Cheung Kong Graduate School of Business and a longtime board member of DJI, a Shenzhen, China-based drone maker.

Meanwhile, there is little evidence so far that robots are having a big impact on employment. Average urban wages in China rose more than 10% in 2014, even as the country remains on target to create at least 10 million new jobs this year.

Also important in spurring broader use of robotics, say factory owners, is their growing difficulty finding young Chinese willing to do often mind-numbing assembly-line work. Some electronics makers say they are battling turnover rates of up to 20% a month.

The job impact may be felt instead by other developing countries, since jobs that might have migrated out of China in search of lower-cost labor will remain rooted there.

Chen Zhengxiao, manager of Ruian Carbide Tool Co. in eastern Zhejiang province, a maker of parts for lathes and milling machines, said labor costs weren’t a factor in the company’s decision to use more robots. “Touching a product by hand causes quality problems,” said Mr. Chen. “The precision can’t be guaranteed. The process is also faster with robots.”

More than half of present jobs can be done by robots within ten years…

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An Econ Lesson in a Shanghai Market

http://www.wsj.com/articles/SB10587845965603524902004581051862200079074

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Freedom is not free. Free men are not equal. Equal men are not free.

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Yet Another Win 10 Build; Network Sharing

Chaos Manor View, Saturday, July 04, 2015

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This morning Precious, the Surface Pro 3, said she had another update, but it was dated from long ago (March or so) and had to do with firmware; why it had never asked for this update may have to do with experimental Windows 10. It may not. Anyway I told it to go ahead, and as always it took a while, the percentage done estimate sitting unmoved and no indication other than its existence that anything was going on; then the percentage would jump and we’d have another wait. Eventually it was all downloaded and I was told that a reset would happen at 3 AM unless rescheduled. I told it to do it now, and some minutes later I had new wallpaper, but still Build 10159. A quick check showed I could log on to Swan, a Windows 8.1 system, and Bette, my Windows 7 former main machine; but it could not see Alien Artifact, the current Windows 7 main machine. I experimented and made sure I could transfer files to and from the machines I could see, and went back to work on the substantial amount of text Steve Barnes sent last night: essentially Part One of the new novel, along with an even larger “Encyclopedia Avolonia”, the story bible. I did some adjustments to the bible, and went to bed. It’s good stuff, and I feel like writer again, adding some details and generally having fun before plunging into the real work of contributing to the text; it’s character development time.

But while doing that I had the nagging feeling that it all needs backup, and Precious is one logical place for backups; so this morning when Precious said she wanted a long overdue update, it seemed reasonable to see if that changed Alien Artifact’s visibility. But nothing changed: Precious could see several machines including the ThinkPad portable, and had mapped drives to several of them, and that all worked; but not a sign of Alien Artifact, alas.

Next step: can Alien Artifact see Precious? And indeed he could, and clicking on Precious in My Computer on Alien Artifact immediately gave me access to Precious, root and branch. I could transfer files from Precious to Alien Artifact, and I could create Folders on Precious, so I did so, making a Master folder with sub folders for the each project I’m working onto Precious. I used Norton Commander as a file manager, and all worked perfectly. Well, perhaps not perfectly because the default library system of Windows has been a bit of a mystery ever since my brain cancer nearly a decade ago: but I was able to create a system I can find easily, so it doesn’t matter. I’ll use Commander to straighten it all out and put Mamelukes on Precious as well. Time to work on that also, but it’s in a master folder called WinWord, which has a hundred folders of all my projects including some I haven’t worked for years, and yes, even though disk space is cheap and redundancy is good, I admit I have about three incompatible organization schemes, and it’s getting absurd. But that’s for another time.

Meanwhile, I had established that Alien Artifact could see Precious; he couldn’t, last night before the update. That’s progress. Now I went to Precious, hit Winkey e, open This Computer, and Lo! I could see Alien Artifact. I tried to map Alien Artifact D Drive to Precious, and two things happened: suddenly I could see that Precious drive Z was already mapped to Alien Artifact D – and Precious wanted a password for Alien Artifact. And when I gave it, it was rejected. Now clearly it must have accepted it in the past, but not now.

Still, if Precious can see Alien Artifact, and receive files from him, eventually Eric or Alex or I will figure out what to do next; it’s already possible to back up everything one way or another, and transfer files (with an intermediary copy to either Swan or Bette) so everything I need to do is possible. What Microsoft needs to do is make their new security system usable by users. Now it’s only useful to hackers, which someone at Microsoft will eventually is not the goal.

Now back to work on the new text. Progress is being made, and it’s good stuff. If you liked Beowulf’s Children, you will love this.

1515 I find that Build 10162 is now available, and I am downloading it now. Perhaps this will take care of the situation. I continue to this stuff so you don’t have to.

This update was available earlier – by Thursday night – but for some reason my visit to updates today didn’t see it until I had downloaded the hardware stuff, which was a month old. But we’re 90% done with the update to a new build.

1730 The new build has downloaded and I am resetting. Eric warns me to be sure that network discovery is turned on, but I can’t see why that would change what it would see if it could be seen at all, or see anything at all. But we’ll find out. The installation is taking considerable time so I can’t test anything. Precious is resetting as I write this…  ah, 60% done. More later.

Ah.  I now have Build 10162, but it says it needs some new installation and it’s updating again.  Fortunately I don’t use that machine (Precious) for anything critical although I want to; I make no doubt that there’s a stable operating system out there that can wait for Windows 10. All the Microsoft gurus are using the Surface Pro 3, so there’s an incentive.  Me. I keep doing the experimental OS because that’s sort of what I do.  And updates are installing as I write this; whether it’s yet another build I don’t know. Fun, ain’t it?

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1830: Well,  I have build 10162 and it no longer wants updating. Everything seems to work but I do not have the “credentials” to allow Precious to connect to Alien Artifact; the problem is the user name, which wants some domain name rather than just the login name.  I’m sure this is solvable, but Microsoft just improved things when we didn’t ask for the improvement, and made it unusable.

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Eric reminds me that we will shortly have a raid backup system that should solve all the backup problems,

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I will shortly have more to say about the Register article, but it is getting to dinner time.

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win10 wifi access sharing thought

Jerry,

So apparently win10 isn’t going to share a plaintext wifi password.  Instead, it will be sharing what is effectively a magic spell, unpronounceable to mortal humans, that does the EXACT SAME THING as the password, namely getting access into a password protected system.

And somehow this is more OK than just giving out the password instead of a “hash” (i.e.. Magic spell) that does the same dang thing that the password does.

Nope, still not ok.  I put passwords on things that I don’t want to share.  I’m totally not ok with my OS sharing magic spells (hash, whatever) that bypass my password security.

It’s a bit like selling a car that would automatically unlock all its doors on the command of any other person who doesn’t have an actual key, as a default behavior.  Why would anyone want such a thing?

Sean

I asked for the source and got

win10 wifi access sharing thought

http://www.theregister.co.uk/2015/06/30/windows_10_wi_fi_sense/

There is some discussion on a handful of tech forums as well.

Sean

And then turned to my advisors.

Peter Glaskowsky says

It’s a real feature. It’s been in Windows Phone 8.1 since last year.

It’s described on Microsoft’s own Windows Phone website:

https://www.windowsphone.com/en-us/how-to/wp8/connectivity/wi-fi-sense-faq

And it’s been covered by reasonably responsible industry websites, for example:

http://www.windowscentral.com/wi-fi-sense-windows-phone-81

As well as the article Mr. Long mentions from the infamous scare-mongers at the Register.

As Microsoft says, it’s basically a way to “crowdsource” access to Wi-Fi to help more people get on Wi-Fi more easily. It helps access public Wi-Fi hotspots, as well as privately managed ones, and it’s those privately managed hotspots that are the only issue being raised here.

It’s opt-in on a per-user, per-network basis. There’s also a terribly awkward opt-out option that protects you even if someone else who has your Wi-Fi password decides to share it using Wi-Fi Sense. (That, to me, is the worst problem, but it’s unavoidable in any shared-password system.)

I’m a bit curious about some of the limitations they say they can impose on the Wi-Fi network, such as limiting guests using shared passwords to Internet access only, preventing them from accessing LAN resources like printers or webcams. I don’t think there’s any way to do that with older Wi-Fi access points that have an all-or-nothing security model, so maybe Wi-Fi Sense only works with newer routers. I’d like to get that answer, at least.

I have no idea what the underlying security model is, so I don’t trust it, and I wouldn’t use it, but it’s hardly evil for a “deal killer.” Just another misguided Microsoft attempt to make their ecosystem more attractive to users.

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I should have known that, I expect, but I don’t keep up as much as I would like.

Peter adds

As a postscript, btw, I got into a long email bickering contest with an editor at The Register over that original misleading article. I got them to make two sets of changes during our exchange (which I documented by saving PDFs), but he wouldn’t yield on the deceptive headline. Even the changes in the body were basically minimal and inadequate.

He wanted to hide behind an assertion that “All the facts are in the article,” so a person could figure out what was actually going on by carefully reading the article and the Microsoft pages it links to.

I tried to explain that this wasn’t good enough since most people, reading articles the way they usually do, would come away with the wrong impression. At that point he just stopped responding.

A big change from the old days under Mike Magee, who enjoyed such verbal fencing but was reasonably good at fixing anything that was actually wrong.

I suppose any publication that makes Mike Magee look relatively responsible must be doing something wrong…

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As Peter says, bottom line, Microsoft isn’t always as good at explaining what they are doing as they would like to be. My own observation is that without Bill Gates there’s no one in charge to set goals, so different parts of Microsoft set off in different directions; and if it takes a while to turn big ships, it takes longer to redirect a fleet of big ships…

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Freedom is not free. Free men are not equal. Equal men are not free.

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