Brian Micklethwait's Blog

In which I continue to seek part time employment as the ruler of the world.

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Category archive: Business

Saturday February 28 2015

I just googled “3D printing” and clicked on “images”.  One of the more interesting images I encountered was this one ...:

image

… which I found here.  The point being that this is one of those technologies which lots of people are getting excited about, perhaps as something they might be able to do themselves, for fun but also for profit.  But most of the significant early applications of 3D printing seem now to be by businesses which were already making stuff, and now have another way to make it.  Regular thing makers (for those not inclined to follow links that’s a link to pieces about the use of 3D printing by the aerospace industry) have a huge advantage over “home” 3D printers, which is that they already know what would be worth making.

And making in quite large quantities, which means that they can acquire or construct highly specialised 3D printers for those particular items, which use their own very particular material inputs.  3D printers, if they are to pay their way, must surely specialise.  Which means they’ll be applied first by businessmen, rather than by mere people in their homes.

I have yet to hear about any 3D printing killer app which will kick off the much talked-of but yet-to-occur home 3D printing revolution.  It will come, I’m sure.  But it hasn’t come yet.

Tuesday February 17 2015

I just posted a Samizdata piece about Peter Thiel, a most admirable man, if the video performance that got me interested in him is anything to go by, and of course it is.

I kept the Samizdata posting short, and there follow a couple of paragraphs I decided not to include, because … well, I just decided not to.  The posting, which was basically just saying how about this for a clever guy go and watch him was becoming too unwieldy and too full of ponderousness.  So, the rest of this is me recycling my cuts here.  I can’t really put what follows as a quote, but it sort of feels like maybe I should.  Anyway, here we go.

There are around a dozen or more fascinating notions expounded in Thiel’s talk.  One thing in particular interested me, because it is an argument that has always interested me.  Extreme pessimism, says Thiel, often causes people to think that there is nothing to be done, because whatever they do is bound to fail.  Very true.  But extreme optimism (optimism being my preferred stance when trying to do anything) is also dangerous, because it is liable to tell you that you don’t need to do anything.  Good things will happen automatically.  Says Thiel: avoid both extremes.  Steer a middle path.  Do of a bit of both.  All of which may seem very obvious to you, but I have never heard it put quite like that, and certainly not so succinctly.

Another nice and counter-consensual thing Thiel says is that failure is over-rated, because you generally only learn one of the reasons why you failed, when in fact there were probably about half a dozen.

See the early comments at Samizdata by Rob Fisher, for other bits of cleverness from this extremely clever man.

More Thiel spiel here.

Sunday February 15 2015

While half-watching the rugby yesterday I was also half-rootling-around in my photo archives, and I came across a photo of a carpet.  I had put it in a special separate directory, on its own, but then forgotten about it.  It had a rather interesting message to impart.

Click on this …:

image

… to get the bigger carpet.

But whose carpet was this?  This is where the internet comes in.  I googled “true hearts and warm hands” and immediately learned that this is the motto of the Worshipful Company of Glovers.  Turning to images, I found no other pictures of the actual carpet, but scroll down to the “Glover’s window” here.  The same graphics as on the carpet.

As for my picture, I took it on November 6th 2006, at an event organised by the Globalisation Institute, now long gone.  The event was attended by, among others, the Prime Minister.  Most of the pictures I took, including those I took of the Prime Minister, were very bad, because my camera was no good in poor indoor light, such as prevailed that evening, somewhere in the City of London.

Did you know that Shakespeare’s father was a glover?  If you didn’t you do now.

Friday January 23 2015

I’ve already noted drones being used to take photos, and to save lives (although that is only being worked on).  Now, here is a story about drones being used to smuggle drugs.  One of these drones crashed, which is how they know.  The drugs were too heavy.  Man.

Is there anything, as Instapundit would ask, that drones can’t do? During the next few years, we’re probably going to find out.

LATER: Proposed State Legislation May Limit Drone Facial Recognition Use

Friday January 02 2015

I love to photo things in shops, because that way you can enjoy them indefinitely, yet never buy them.

Cats, for instance:

image imageimage image

Uploading all of those took an age.  I keep getting messages saying things like this:

PHP has encountered an Access Violation at 01BEA37F

Very informative.  But if I just keep trying, eventually it works.

If it isn’t one stupid thing, it’s another stupid thing.  It will bear repeating again and again that no two computers in the entire world are exactly alike.  Get used to one, and you ideally want to keep using that one, always.  Switch to another, and life just becomes relentlessly more difficult and annoying.

The message of all the cat stuff I do here is that blogging is fun and that if you are a blogger you should never forget it.  Sadly, this evening, blogging has not been fun. 

Sunday December 28 2014

When in France, I have no particular desire to do as the French do.  I have my own agendas.  So, for instance, French people do not make a point of photoing French posters advertising British or American films in the Paris Metro.  But, I like to do this:

image

I am using an alien computer.  Contriving the above photo-display took some doing.  Were I using my own computer I might have cropped that photo.  As it is, it is as it was when it came out of my camera.

Mostly, I just like the thought that we are making movies that they consider good enough to show in Paris.  But I think I am also interested in what sort of picture of my country they are seeing.  I’m guessing it is one that they want to see.  In this case, for example, they are see us Anglos being, although quite good looking, also boring, disgusting, uncultured and gross, and generally behaving like people upon whom wealth is wasted.  Not wanting to see Anglos in this light myself, I have not seen this movie, so I may be entirely wrong about what it is like.

But if it is not like that, they shouldn’t have called it that.  As a general rule, it is surely good business to take your movie look in the posters (and sound in its title) the way it actually is, because that way the people who will be attracted to it by the poster will then enjoy it, and the word of mouth will be good.  Many a movie is not what they first advertised it as, and hence was denounced by its early audiences, but was good in some other way, and ended up appealing to quite other people.  Had they advertised it more accurately to start with, they’d have done better business.

Thursday December 25 2014

Photoed by me in the Kings Road, last night:

image

I trust I make myself clear.

Tuesday December 09 2014

Another Bit from a Book, and once again I accompany it with a warning that this Bit could vanish at any moment, for the reasons described in this earlier posting.

This particular Bit is from The Rational Optimist by Matt Ridley (pp. 255-258):

Much as I love science for its own sake, I find it hard to argue that discovery necessarily precedes invention and that most new practical applications flow from the minting of esoteric insights by natural philosophers. Francis Bacon was the first to make the case that inventors are applying the work of discoverers, and that science is the father of invention. As the scientist Terence Kealey has observed, modern politicians are in thrall to Bacon.  They believe that the recipe for making new ideas is easy: pour public money into science, which is a public good, because nobody will pay for the generation of ideas if the taxpayer does not, and watch new technologies emerge from the downstream end of the pipe. Trouble is, there are two false premises here: first, science is much more like the daughter than the mother of technology; and second, it does not follow that only the taxpayer will pay for ideas in science.

It used to be popular to argue that the European scientific revolution of the seventeenth century unleashed the rational curiosity of the educated classes, whose theories were then applied in the form of new technologies, which in turn allowed standards of living to rise. China, on this theory, somehow lacked this leap to scientific curiosity and philosophical discipline, so it failed to build on its technological lead. But history shows that this is back-to-front. Few of the inventions that made the industrial revolution owed anything to scientific theory.

It is, of course, true that England had a scientific revolution in the late 1600s, personified in people like Harvey, Hooke and Halley, not to mention Boyle, Petty and Newton, but their influence on what happened in England’s manufacturing industry in the following century was negligible. Newton had more influence on Voltaire than he did on James Hargreaves. The industry that was transformed first and most, cotton spinning and weaving, was of little interest to scientists and vice versa. The jennies, gins, frames, mules and looms that revolutionised the working of cotton were invented by tinkering businessmen, not thinking boffins: by ‘hard heads and clever fingers’. It has been said that nothing in their designs would have puzzled Archimedes.

Likewise, of the four men who made the biggest advances in the steam engine - Thomas Newcomen, James Watt, Richard Trevithick and George Stephenson - three were utterly ignorant of scientific theories, and historians disagree about whether the fourth, Watt, derived any influence from theory at all. It was they who made possible the theories of the vacuum and the laws of thermodynamics, not vice versa. Denis Papin, their French-born forerunner, was a scientist, but he got his insights from building an engine rather than the other way round. Heroic efforts by eighteenth-century scientists to prove that Newcomen got his chief insights from Papin’s theories proved wholly unsuccessful.

Throughout the industrial revolution, scientists were the beneficiaries of new technology, much more than they were the benefactors. Even at the famous Lunar Society, where the industrial entrepreneur Josiah Wedgwood liked to rub shoulders with natural philosophers like Erasmus Darwin and Joseph Priestley, he got his best idea - the ‘rose-turning’ lathe - from a fellow factory owner, Matthew Boulton. And although Benjamin Franklin’s fertile mind generated many inventions based on principles, from lightning rods to bifocal spectacles, none led to the founding of industries.

So top-down science played little part in the early years of the industrial revolution. In any case, English scientific virtuosity dries up at the key moment. Can you name a single great English scientific discovery of the first half of the eighteenth century? It was an especially barren time for natural philosophers, even in Britain. No, the industrial revolution was not sparked by some deus ex machina of scientific inspiration. Later science did contribute to the gathering pace of invention and the line between discovery and invention became increasingly blurred as the nineteenth century wore on. Thus only when the principles of electrical transmission were understood could the telegraph be perfected; once coal miners understood the succession of geological strata, they knew better where to sink new mines; once benzene’s ring structure was known, manufacturers could design dyes rather than serendipitously stumble on them. And so on. But even most of this was, in Joel Mokyr’s words, ‘a semi-directed, groping, bumbling process of trial and error by clever, dexterous professionals with a vague but gradually clearer notion of the processes at work’. It is a stretch to call most of this science, however. It is what happens today in the garages and cafes of Silicon Valley, but not in the labs of Stanford University.

The twentieth century, too, is replete with technologies that owe just as little to philosophy and to universities as the cotton industry did: flight, solid-state electronics, software. To which scientist would you give credit for the mobile telephone or the search engine or the blog? In a lecture on serendipity in 2007, the Cambridge physicist Sir Richard Friend, citing the example of high-temperature superconductivity - which was stumbled upon in the 1980s and explained afterwards - admitted that even today scientists’ job is really to come along and explain the empirical findings of technological tinkerers after they have discovered something.

The inescapable fact is that most technological change comes from attempts to improve existing technology. It happens on the shop floor among apprentices and mechanicals, or in the workplace among the users of computer programs, and only rarely as a result of the application and transfer of knowledge from the ivory towers of the intelligentsia. This is not to condemn science as useless. The seventeenth-century discoveries of gravity and the circulation of the blood were splendid additions to the sum of human knowledge. But they did less to raise standards of living than the cotton gin and the steam engine. And even the later stages of the industrial revolution are replete with examples of technologies that were developed in remarkable ignorance of why they worked. This was especially true in the biological world. Aspirin was curing headaches for more than a century before anybody had the faintest idea of how. Penicillin’s ability to kill bacteria was finally understood around the time bacteria learnt to defeat it. Lime juice was preventing scurvy centuries before the discovery of vitamin C.  Food was being preserved by canning long before anybody had any germ theory to explain why it helped.

Matt Ridley on how technology leads science and how that means that the state need not fund science
Dominic Frisby on the Hype Cycle
And now a photo-drone in a London shop window
MDL and DPD delivered what they promised but were wrong about me having to be there to sign for it
Halloween buckets
The man who photoed the CDs in Gramex this afternoon
Recently on dezeen
Boris bus malfunction
Helter Skelter scrapped
Rob took photos
Flying cars will have to be flown by robots
Chippendale without Rannie
Bill Bryson on the miracle of crop rotation
Out and about in the sunshine
Xxxx-ie outside Xxxx-ridges
PID at the Times
ASI Boat Trip 9: The man driving the boat
Bombardier Embrio
You need to have abseiled …
Cashing a cheque by photoing it
What to call the sneerquote Salesforce /sneerquote tower? (plus a quite profound tangent)
Capturing moments
Ubernomics
Compact Cats buried under London’s poshest homes
I see cats
Me and the first cranes at London Gateway last September
Classical Amazon
A selfie taken in 1955 - another taken in 2014 - another being taken in 2014
The good done by the Apple Newton
A new Morrisons is opening in Strutton Ground next Monday
A Bitcoin vending machine and a Lego photographer (and a Lego Hawking)
I think I may at last have found myself a sofa
A quota post (with a quota link to a post about a post about a quota photo) and another quota photo
Big Things happening in the City
Selfies of me – 2001, 2007 and yesterday
Photoing the A380 from above – from the ground
I now have a new computer screen
Slightly wider tube trains
Guangbiao Chen’s incredible business card
3D printer sighted!
Tough going in Australia
Merry Christmas
Big Things and small things
La Porte des Indes
Father Christmas Aerodrome
Happiness is Gold Blend at only £3 instead of £4.50
On the insecurity of ObamaCare - and on the unwisdom of only punishing big and later
Rob Fisher on old things not looking old
A Strutton Ground shop and a Strutton Ground pub
Alex on Quentin
Halloween is near!
Amazon pricing puzzle
The Times of May 24th 1940
Bad and good in bad weather
Earn yourself fifty quid by finding me a suitable sofa
London Gateway from above
Rob Fisher on the 3D printing future
Quota photo of a bucket of plastic crocodiles in an otherwise deserted shop window in Oxford Street
The Alex Singleton blog
Spot the Samsung connection
Views from the Hackney Wick station footbridge
BMdotCOM mixed metaphor of the day
Wedding photography (5): Photography!
Wedding photography (4): Preparations
Bookshops as Amazon showrooms
Google Nexus 4 photos
Michael Jennings - pictures of globalisation
What Michael Jennings has been learning about and will be saying about globalisation
Waterloo Station’s new upper deck
Classical CDs from Gramex
At the bottom of the Shard
Looking along Victoria Street to The Wheel (and on how to be liked (or disliked) by Google)
Skull made of skulls in gift shop street
Croydon cats
An afternoon in Croydon
London reflected
Cleaning lady for hire
Michael Jennings on how the taxis at Skopje airport are an evil racket and what he did about it
Turning back the spam comment tide and allowing proper comments from way back still to be read
The Bezier Building and a hideous advertising erection at the Old Street Roundabout
“I just came across this fascinating photo …”
Talk by Frank Braun about Bitcoin at my home on Aug 3rd
Black Katz
62 Buckingham Gate
Space launch monster
Today I’m in a “How very odd!” mood
Street social services management integrated command sub-centres
The England rugby aftermath
Jarrod Kimber on biased cricket commentators
Go Gary Johnson!
The Jobs difference
David Friedman on the similarity between fractional reserve banking and insurance
Empty tables and empty chairs
Bitcoin etc.?
Misspelt (correction: Italian) signs of the times
Just Righter
Signs from the Frenchosphere
Someone doesn’t understand what I mean by roof clutter
If you can’t beat them hire them
The bike behind the theatre
Absolutely not a private navy (except that it probably is)
Noticing signs of the times
Jobs departs from Apple (again)
Mozart might have become a criminal
And then give up and stay fat
From pop to purrfume
Ashes highlights on ITV4
Those cameras are getting cheaper
Rockets are a great improvement on balloons
Beyond the Dome with Goddaughter One
Guerrilla webfare
I don’t usually approve of swear blogging but …
Happy hundredth
Andy Flower urges England fans not to punish cricket for being corrupt
Toby Baxendale on what went wrong and what to do about it
BrianMicklethwaitDotCom least obnoxious spam comment so far
At the launch of Alchemists of Loss
If they don’t want to be British Petroleum anymore they should stop calling themselves BP
Nuking the Oil Spill is probably a rather bad idea
Lucky we didn’t go to Lords
Apple passed Microsoft in market capitalisation today
Rubbish bridge in Shangai
How my camera and the internet explained an old bus
Why my libertarianism has the look and feel of socialism
You know where you are with a book - usually
Apple keyboard remains excellent – iPhone software not so excellent
Six lions on a white Mercedes bonnet
Quota cat rubber
Sounds like a brothel with film star lookalikes
Beyond iPad (and a picture that goes beyond this posting)
Does Google now rule the world of computing?
Fitness Superstore
My local Blockbuster Video just closed
Cricket talk tonight
Hasselblad hit by custom-built headquarters disease!
Three airplane photos
Short posting (with short photo) about SpaceShipTwo
The Shard is definitely being built!
Talking with Toby Baxendale
Apple mobile phones are very profitable but Nokia mobile phones are not very profitable
Under a hundred copies
Today I bought an Apple Mac keyboard …
God is killing cinemas!
Quotes dump
Pull Tab
Computer coffee table
Magic bottle that makes dirty water drinkable
Slumponomics
Me and Michael Jennings talk tech trends
Model T parts flatvert
Laptop for emails
The latest Canon DSLR comes without a twiddly screen
Handel in London – and an angelic tenor aria
The Vita-Mix 5000 at the Veggie Show
Two Samizdata comments on the sinking of Brown and on the sinking of the Daily Telegraph
Register for your free pack and five £1-off-coupons
A photo of the Samsung NC10 and the original Asus Eee-PC next to each other
PurseBook
The Fixed Quantity of Advertising fallacy and the menace of targetted advertising
James Tyler’s speech at Policy Exchange
Lawrence H. White on the Scottish experience of free banking
My confusion about free banking
Toys and big toys
Kevid Dowd video now up and watchable
Work begins on the Shard of Glass
Clay Shirky on newspaper doom
MBA - necessary but insufficient
Work photos
The Shard may actually be being built
Not cricket
Google and dongle
On being sold a telly
Vote for crazy flavoured crisps!
You don’t wait for it – you go looking for it
Roll out the Lino
OLED TV - very thin and detailed but not very big and not ready yet unless you’re stupidly rich
Picture charging advice please
Happy Christmas
Is the contemporary art bubble bursting?
Big clocks
Colonial Governor’s Mansion dwarfed by modernity
Linkin Park - one leg short of libertarian
Snapped in Egham
Why Willem Buiter blogs and why I do
Lang Lang crushes Yundi Li!
It’s over
Inamo
Another pendulum theory
Guido Fawkes conflates the Monetarists and the Austrians – needs to chat with Antoine Clarke
Antoine and Michael on what to do now
Tama the feline stationmaster saves the Wakayama Electric Railway Co.
Antoine Clarke on the financial turmoil and the US election
Tom Burroughes on the banking crisis
An abstract view of Kings Place
Chinese Friday?
Profundity and silliness
On classical music voice addiction
Cricket misery
Catbrella
A poetic Hornby
Voice of God journalism
Today I have been blogging elsewhere and also doing other things
Cisco – fuck off and die
“Better value on goods and services across a wide range of categories …”
Big Bens - Wheels - Big Ben teapots - telephone box teapots
Classic car thinness
News Media Coalition versus Indian Premier League
Travis Perkins of Pimlico Road are not good at delivering timber
Twickenham shop attacked by the Dark Side of The Force
Flat pictures for flat screens
Ed Smith on how baseball defeated cricket in America
Bookcase staircase many books electric book manybooks.net
Reflections in a Belgravia shop window
Customer service
Michael Jennings on telecoms at Samizdata
Moore versus Stossel on Cuban medical care
The great DVD packaging clearout
Blogging – the end of the beginning
The petty cash effect cuts in for Linux
Linux versus Windows - the bigger tiny laptop breakout
Jones the department store
The new South Bank
Democracy for sale – starting with football and beer
I love competition
A job well done
Eee PC not eeesy to get in Asia either
When the penny drops
Probably not right - but definitely written
The qualitative difference made by quantity
The A380 bulge
It’s the decline of old-school advertising that’s really hurting old-school journalism
The business of gadget blogging
“How much better …?”
Not actually all that dramatically
Michael Jennings on private law in Hollywood
Will China fail?
Smelling the smoke in the Microsoft machine
Smile
End the medical monopoly!
The cranes are migrating to China and Michael Jennings will be talking about China
Lots of links
The publicness of private life
The double thank-you moment
Pictures with words
Writhing
“Information makes markets work …”
Classical under-15s
“That’s not Minnie Mouse - that’s a cat with large ears”
Old gits at the Oval – and Shane Warne
Insurance question
How to handle the complaints of your fiercest critics
Very small screen – high resolution
Plastic that conducts heat better
Comparing classical music with modern architecture
Zong
Susie Bubble turns shopping into a job with her blog
Bollocks to the fashists
iPods as the new CDs
The future of music
New York Times links - owned genes
Very very low cost kitten in space
And further talk at Christian Michel’s about water and power
Jott
Back to the future with the virtuoso violinists
Billion Monkeys and people waving blue things!
Screwed by Google – and Google screwed by the kitten-bloggers?
Happy Christmas Day
The Pirates opens in New York
Big ships
Alice in Fortnum and Mason
Adriana Media Influencer: What do you do? (the mp3s of the book)
Spreading the word for free
Geek girl I like your thinkings - are nice - I want have sex with it
Top tips from Viz
Antoine Clarke and I don’t talk about elections
Grassy car with blog
How I became a One Minute Crap Manager
Getting things read
Remembering the Alternative Bookshop experience
Blogging is filing for those who can’t
Patrick Crozier talks with me about Japan
Being real on digital
Debussy denounces Massenet but Puccini follows him
Run Germany with thirty megs
On trust and obviousness
Presumably the noise is not a problem
Genius
On style and politics
They really were excellent
On the spread of voluntariness
Holocaust museum repeated as fashion?
Blogging fun and blogging profit
Read-Write versus Read-Only
tompeters!