Can The Internet Carry The Load Of Silicon Valley Dreams?

That’s a good question.  Especially for the optical and electrical engineers that design the evolving internet infrastructure and the money people that are going to have to pay for it.

Since 1980, the number of bits per second that can be sent down an optical fiber has increased some 10 millionfold. That’s remarkable even by the standards of late-20th-century electronics. It’s more than the jump in the number of transistors on chips during that same period, as described by Moore’s Law. There ought to be a law here, too. Call it Keck’s Law, in honor of Donald Keck. He’s the coinventor of low-loss optical fiber and has tracked the impressive growth in its capacity. Maybe giving the trend a name of its own will focus attention on one of the world’s most unsung industrial achievements.

Moore’s Law may get all the attention. But it’s the combination of fast electronics and fiber-optic communications that has created “the magic of the network we have today,” according to Pradeep Sindhu, chief technical officer at Juniper Networks. The strongly interacting electron is ideal for speedy switches that can be used in logic and memory. The weakly interacting photon is perfect for carrying signals over long distances. Together they have fomented the technological revolution that continues to shape and define our times.

Now, as electronics faces enormous challenges to keep Moore’s Law alive, fiber optics is also struggling to sustain the momentum. For the past few decades, a series of new developments have allowed communications engineers to keep pushing more and more bits down fiber-optic networks. But the easy gains are behind them. To keep moving forward, they’ll need to conjure up some fairly spectacular innovations.

New ideas continue to emerge. In June 2015, Nikola Alic of the University of California, San Diego, and colleagues reported a way of increasing fiber transmission distance by using optical frequency combs, which naturally lock laser wavelengths relative to one another, eliminating jitter and improving signal quality. “We can at least double the data rate of any system” by using a frequency comb, says Alic. “It is very nice and solid work,” says Winzer, but he doubts it would have much practical impact, because developers want a bigger increase.

What will come next? Today telecommunications carriers have their hands full installing 100-Gb coherent systems. Superchannels will boost maximum capacity by 30 percent or so, and spatial-division multiplexing looks like the best candidate for the next big jump in capacity. But beyond that, who knows?

Perhaps some new twist on an old idea might come along. Coherent transmission, which was finally adopted around 2010, was actually a hot topic in the 1980s, but it lost out then to other technologies that were ready to deploy. Something totally new might emerge from the fertile ground of photonics research. And we could always lay more fibers. In any case, the global thirst for data will keep engineers working very hard to keep pumping up the bandwidth.

Bandwidth drives everything and it looks as if there may be limitations on bandwidth just like there are limitations on just how much bandwidth is going to be available for the internet of things. The idea of connecting everything to the internet may seem great, but if you can’t carry the load, well, it’s just not going to work.

This Is What Trust Is All About

Mr. Cook of Apple earned his salary this week.  Here’s why.

Look at that top ten list of Apple user countries.  China, India, Russia, Indonesia.  Hundreds of millions of people willing to pay a premium for an Apple phone.  A phone that may cost them more than the typical person in those countries make in a year.  Why?  Because when the rubber hits the road all those hundreds of millions of customers trust Apple better than they do their own governments. With good reason in those low trust societies.  That’s what Mr. Cook is protecting.  I suspect that he understands at gut level just what the consequences of Apple will be if Apple betrays the trust that it’s customers place in it.

Apple is proving that there are more important things than “national security.” The trust of approximately half the population of the planet is one of them.  The future of those people to live better and more secure lives is another.  Having secure and private data is essential when the government corruption and oppression are all around you. Where there is no law, or the law is corrupt, being able keep your business private becomes essential. Apples phones and devices provide the security and privacy people need to conduct business without literally risking their lives.

Of course the consequences of Apple caving are that Apple will have failed all those people, who will, as soon as they can, find other ways to do business and Apple will lose all those hundreds of Millions of customers and the revenue they provide.  So no back door, FBI.

If the FBI and NSA are so inept that they can’t do simple traffic analysis on the communications or find other means to do the legwork, why has country spent hundreds of billions over decades to build up an intelligence apparatus that apparently can’t find it’s ass with both hands. And what happens to what’s left of our liberties if nothing is secure from the government?

A quick explanation of encryption.

And Apple’s statement.

I’m also going to point out that this is the FBI in the same administration that has violated every rule and law of national security and data encryption to the point that it is almost certain that at least some government servers have been compromised and who’s handling of secure data can only be described as abysmal.  Would you bet your life on some Obama Administration not selling the Apple private key once they had it. I wouldn’t.


The Infrastructure Of The Internet

If you see all those ads from internet service companies you might be led to believe that the internet doesn’t have an infrastructure.  After all with terms like “putting stuff on the cloud” what are people supposed to believe?  The internet does though, have infrastructure, a lot of it, hidden away in places you might never suspect.  Like office parks in Northern Virginia.

Or a repurposed office building in NYC.

Actually there are several internet hubs in lower Manhattan, including one right next to the World Trade Center.


The cloud just means putting your stuff on somebody else’s computer, far away.  That can be good and that could be bad.

The End Of Moore’s Law On The Streets Of Shenzhen

Bunnie Huang goes shopping in Shenzhen.

He makes some very good points about how the end of Moore’s law has come for processor speed.  The end of shrinking the gate size is coming shortly as well.  Not necessarily because the physics don’t work but because the machines to make the transistors will have gotten prohibitively expensive.  It seems that there was another exponential in Moore’s law.

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Spent Fuel Removal At Fukushima Daichi

From a robotics standpoint the ongoing cleanup and dismantling of the Fukushima Daichi Nuclear plant is probably going to stand out for the next fifty years or so as the heavy use of robotic and teloperated systems goes forward and the lessons get used  for other things.

Here is a blog with ongoing updates on the decommishioning. This is a large and serious project that’s being done with a high degree of professionalism.

And some news and TEPCO updates.

Click to access handouts_160118_01-e.pdf

Some of the new technologies being used.

Click to access handouts_160118_01-e.pdf

From an engineering prospect this is one of the most interesting projects out there.  The aftermath will require the use of interesting new technologies in a very hostile environment.  Just about every aspect of mechanical engineering is going to be involved and it’s going to be a unique opportunity to get read data on using a bunch of technologies.

In spite of what all too many want us to believe the Fukushima Diachi dismantlement has been done in a very cautious and professional manner with every measure taken to ensure that radiation releases are minimized.  For which Tepco receives an unceasing bombardment of hysterical nonsense and outrageous nonsense.

What’s even worse is that the concentration of attention on a nuclear power plant that has killed nobody diminishes the scale of a disaster that ruined entire towns and killed over 10,000 people.  On that scale, the fact that a power plant had a bad, but contained accident should barely register.  After all NOBODY DIED at the nuclear power plant.

If there were any doubts about the overall safety of nuclear energy the accident at Fukushima Diachi should have ended them.  This was a worst case scenario with total coolant loss and probable core meltdowns. Yet there were no explosions or China syndromes.  And the effect on the surrounding area is fairly minimal and contained.  Contrast that with the Texas City ANFO explosion or the Bhopal accident, both of which killed hundreds or thousands of people.

The amount of people spreading fear and uncertainty and doubt about nuclear energy far exceeds any possible dangers.  None of the scary things that the scaremongers keep screaming about have actually happened.  the fact is that in terms of health effects, nuclear power has a remarkable record even including Chernobyl.  Yes, people working in Chernobyl have gotten radiation sickness and died.  Some of them because they were heroes facing death to get a very nasty job done and others because the Soviet government didn’t take the time to take reasonable safety precautions.  Still the number that have had demonstrated effect is small compared with the numbers killed in other industries and energy sources.  The fact is that the number of people killed in a nuclear plant is far lower in total over all the time that nuclear power plants have been running than those in coal  power plants over a typical year.  It’s time we grew up and stopped running scared over every little thing.

Tech Stuff 1

This is a sort of search and discover newsletter of my findings of things that may relate to technology in one way or another.  It might be the latest gosh wow tech, it might be something as old of humanity.  It might relate to science large or small.  It might be art for art’s sake.  Or somebody just doing something funky. Because I think that technology is just the representation of human creativity and breaking boundaries.  So I’m certainly not going to place boundaries here except that it won’t be the same old, same old.  So almost no gadgets or yacking about the latest phone or whatever, unless of course it involves taking them apart or destroying them in unusual ways.  Or putting them to work in imaginative ways that most people won’t even think of.  So buckle up, it’s going to be a fun ride.

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Hitler’s Supergun

I first heard of this project reading about it in Ian Hogg’s book Artillery back in the 1970’s.  That book didn’t have too many details and I’ve never really thought about it much since.  This post has most of the details and what the V3 was about.

Apparently there is a documentary coming out about the guns and their installation.  The fact is that this thing would never have succeeded because it’s was too obvious and too big a target.  And it would have solved any of Germany’s strategic problems even if had been deployed and used. The ammunition for the gun was about the same size as the Qassam rockets that Hamas uses to hit Sredot and as about as accurate.  And Germany had no way of determining  the effect of the weapon and would be firing blind.  In the end this was a waste of resources that Germany desperately needed elsewhere

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