Intel sells XScale division to Marvell

Intel just announced that it is selling its handheld processor division to Marvell Technology Group for $600 million. That division produces versions of Intel’s XScale processor, derived from the old DEC StrongArm.

In the deal, Intel is selling its PXA9xx communications processor and PXA27x application chip, which are used in only a few handheld devices.

Intel will also keep its networking and storage processors, which bear the XScale name, Manetta said. This means Intel will maintain its architectural license with ARM, a designer of processor cores for mobile phones and embedded devices.

The division contains about 1400 people. Marvell employs 2200. Intel shares are up slightly on the news, while Marvell stock dropped.

Rainy day funds?

Many folks fail to keep funds for emergency

A poll done for, an online financial information service based in North Palm Beach, Fla., found 39 percent of respondents have emergency funds, defined as checking or savings accounts with the equivalent of three months’ living expenses. Some 55 percent of respondents don’t have such accounts, and the rest did not answer the question.

Hot enough for ya?

The National Research Council has reported that the earth is hotter now than any time in the past 400 years. They analyzed tree rings, coral and retreating glaciers that indicate surface temperatures over the past 1000 years. They also conclude that human activity is largely responsible for the temperature rise.

The committee pointed out that surface temperature reconstructions for periods before the Industrial Revolution — when levels of atmospheric greenhouse gases were much lower — are only one of multiple lines of evidence supporting the conclusion that current warming is occurring in response to human activities, and they are not the primary evidence.

Multiple identities

Pity Audra Schmierer. The Merc reports that over 81 people are using her Social Security number since her identity was stolen a few years ago. Most are probably illegal immigrants applying for work.

The penalties for companies that accept those bogus Social Security numbers sound pretty mild.

Under current law, if the Social Security Administration or the Internal Revenue Service finds multiple people using the same Social Security number, the agencies send letters informing employers of possible errors.

The IRS can fine employers $50 for each inaccurate number filed, a punishment that companies often dismiss as just another cost of doing business.

How to do the right thing

Harvard professor Daniel Gilbert, author of Stumbling on Happiness, gave an engaging talk at the South By Southwest 2006 conference entitled “How to Do Precisely the Right Thing at All Possible Times.” (23MB MP3 Link)

He explains why people make irrational decisions — that is, decisions that do not make economic sense. Why do so many people play the lottery? How do we over-estimate the threat of terrorism and underestimate the danger of backyard swimming pools? Some of it is due to how the news media portrays the world. But a lot of the problem is in our own minds.

As a psychologist, Gilbert has been able to conduct experiments that show how the decision-making process works. And fundamentally, he argues that the human brain is well designed for the natural world, but incapable of the kinds of statistical reasoning required in modern society.

People are notoriously bad at comparing relative risks, and of estimating chances of success or failure. We cannot even predict how much we’ll enjoy a reward, and are often disappointed in the results.

Gilbert also has some harsh words for that principle of eastern philosophy, “living in the moment”.

If you want to live in the moment, you should have been born a fruit fly. Or a toaster. One of the human brain’s most glorious and unique talents is its ability to look backward and forward across great swathes of time—to examine its own history and to imagine its own future, to engage in mental time travel. The problems that are most likely to cause the extinction of our species are due to living in the moment and letting the future take care of itself. The problem is: It doesn’t.

True Films

Tip of the hat to Kevin Kelly for his True Films list of great documentaries.

I present here the best general interest true films I’ve found. I define true films as documentaries, educational films, instructional how-to’s, and what the British call factuals – a non-fiction visual account.

Searching for terrorists on MySpace

Pentagon sets its sights on social networking websites

New Scientist has discovered that Pentagon’s National Security Agency, which specialises in eavesdropping and code-breaking, is funding research into the mass harvesting of the information that people post about themselves on social networks.

[The paper] entitled Semantic Analytics on Social Networks, […] reveals how data from online social networks and other databases can be combined to uncover facts about people. The footnote said the work was part-funded by an organisation called ARDA.

ARDA’s role is to spend NSA money on research that can “solve some of the most critical problems facing the US intelligence community”. Chief among ARDA’s aims is to make sense of the massive amounts of data the NSA collects – some of its sources grow by around 4 million gigabytes a month.

The new addiction

Today’s college students have to confront many temptations that I never had to worry about back when dinosaurs roamed the earth. I never had to deal with Internet porn, designer drugs, or for that matter, any semblance of social life.

The latest concern is how much time and money kids are spending on online poker. The NYT is running a story about the problem, and about a Lehigh University sophomore who robbed a bank to pay back his gambling debts. He had lost over $7,500 playing online poker in a little over a year.

And he’s not alone – online poker has become one of the most popular pastimes at American colleges. A lot of kids even play on their laptops during lectures, thanks to high speed internet access and wireless networks.

An estimated 1.6 million of 17 million U.S. college students gambled online last year, mostly on poker. According to a study by the Annenberg Public Policy Center, the number of college males who reported gambling online once a week or more quadrupled in the last year alone.

Our debt as society

The NYT reports on the national debt in Reasons to Worry.

Since becoming president, George Bush has presided over one of the steepest peacetime rises ever in the federal debt. The gross federal debt now exceeds $8.3 trillion. There are three reasons for the post-2000 increase: reduced revenue during the 2001 recession, generous tax cuts for higher income groups and increased expenditures not only on warfare abroad but also on welfare at home. And if projections from the Congressional Budget Office turn out to be correct, we are just a decade away from a $12.8 trillion debt — more than double what it was when Bush took office.

But perhaps a worse problem is the individual debt of American families.

Not only do Americans borrow as never before; they also save remarkably little. The impressive resilience of American consumer spending in the past 15 years has been based partly on a collapse in the personal savings rate from around 7.5 percent of income to below zero.