What yield for the Cell processor?

According to an interview in Electronic News, manufacturing yields for the IBM / Sony Cell processor might be as low as 10 to 20 percent.

With standard silicon germanium (SiGe) single-core processors, IBM can achieve yields of up to 95%, [IBM VP Tom Reeves] told Electronic News. But “with a chip like the Cell processor,” he then remarked, “you’re lucky to get 10 or 20 percent.”

He implied that because the Cell uses as many as eight identical synergistic processing elements (SPEs), but Sony only requires the use of seven, some production units could, in fact, get away with one core in eight being defective without any impact on the customer.

Lawyers gone wild

The New York Times just printed a map of 25 Silicon Valley companies accused of manipulating stock options for executives.

Of the more than 80 businesses that have been caught up in federal investigations or have announced their own internal reviews, technology companies make up the overwhelming majority.

The practice of backdating options dates to the early 1990’s but took on momentum during the frenzied days of the Internet era, when the competition for available talent was fierce. Numerous Silicon Valley insiders described the practice as routine.

As scores of Silicon Valley firms went public in the late 1990’s, there was enormous pressure on many accounting firms and law firms to keep their newly minted clients happy.

“These guys were dancing on leather tabletops in their leather pants,” Mr. Melbinger said. “The rules didn’t apply to them. They were the new Masters of the Universe. If they called one firm and they wouldn’t do it, you’d have firms lining up to take their business.”

Eww! That’s one mental image I could have lived without.

Are bicyclists bad for the environment?

I rode my bike in to work today. And for the rest of the day, I noted with satisfaction that riding took only 10 minutes longer than my regular commute by car.

Then I learned that Wharton Business School professor Karl Ulrich has written a working paper called: “The Environmental Paradox of Cycling“. In which the good professor claims that I am actually harming the environment. By … living … healthier.

Andrew Leonard at Salon deconstructs the argument- Bikers, they ain’t no good:

Here’s the gist. Bicycling and other means of human-powered transportation consume less energy than driving, which is good for the environment. But all that healthy exercise makes cyclists live longer, which means they end up ultimately consuming more energy than they would have had they not biked. Which is bad for the environment.

But hold on there for just a second. There are holes in this argument that you can drive a biodiesel-powered Hummer through. First and foremost: Isn’t it likely that biking is a kind of gateway drug for enlightened resource consumption? I see it happen here in Berkeley all the time. First you start biking around town, then you put solar panels on your roof and start worm composting your newspapers. Suddenly, you find yourself raising organic free-range chickens in your backyard and hosting weekly meetings of your local Peak Oil Awareness encounter group.

New interest in AI

Brainy Robots Start Stepping Into Daily Life

Recently, however, researchers have begun to speak of an A.I. Spring emerging as scientists develop theories on the workings of the human mind. They are being aided by the exponential increase in processing power, which has created computers with millions of times the power of those available to researchers in the 1960’s — at consumer prices.“The implication of this is amazing. What you are seeing is that cognitive computing is at a cusp where it’s knocking on the door of potentially mainstream applications.”

Wow, such optimism. Could you pack any more qualifiers in that sentence?

Books on science and religion

A reading list courtesy of our friends at the New York Times:

Books on Science: Faith, Reason, God and Other Imponderables

By Francis S. Collins.
Free Press, 2006.

By Richard Dawkins.
Houghton Mifflin, 2006

By Daniel C. Dennett.
Viking, 2006.

By Owen Gingerich.
Harvard University Press, 2006

By Joan Roughgarden.
Island Press, 2006.

by E.O. Wilson.
W.W. Norton, 2006.

By Lewis Wolpert.

I always wait for Version 2.0

Fears of Dot-Com Crash, Version 2.0

Watching venture capital firms invest hundreds of millions of dollars in new Web companies last year, longtime Internet executive Richard Wolpert branded the upswing “a mini-bubble.” But “about a month ago,” he said, “I started dropping the word ‘mini.’ ”
In the first three months of this year, venture investors funded 761 deals worth about $5.6 billion. That’s up 12% from the same period last year and the highest first quarter since 2002.
The $254.9 million invested in blogging and online social networks in the first half of the year already exceeds such spending for all of 2005, according to research firm Dow Jones VentureOne.

Twice as much Itanium

Itanium’s future hangs in the balance

Many chip experts have already written off Itanium as a failure. Even before it debuted five years ago, industry wags coined the nickname “Itanic” for the chip. The theme of a sinking ship has stayed with Itanium since then as many customers have decided it is inefficient, expensive and not worth the trouble of upgrading to newer software and hardware.

The new version of the Itanium chip, code-named Montecito, has more than 1.7 billion transistors.

In the past year, Itanium has lost some momentum, particularly because Montecito is being released nine months late.

The Tubes

Thanks to Senator Ted Stevens for his illuminating explanation of how the internet works.

“The Internet is not something you just dump something on. It’s not a truck. It’s a series of tubes,” Stevens said during a June 28 committee session.
“And if you don’t understand, those tubes can be filled. And if they are filled, when you put your message in, it gets in line and it’s going to be delayed by anyone that puts into that tube enormous amounts of material.”
“I just the other day got — an Internet was sent by my staff at 10 o’clock in the morning on Friday and I just got it yesterday. Why? Because it got tangled up with all these things going on the Internet commercially.”

Nice to know that the head of the Senate Commerce Committee has such a good understanding of technology as they debate “net neutrality” bills.

Building a war chest

Venture capital companies last quarter raised $11.2 billion, the highest level since Q1 2001. Buyout firms raised $30.8 billion.

Several experts were surprised at the level of fundraising, not matched since the bubble years.
“We cannot pretend that this isn’t an incredible amount of money to invest,” Mark Heesen, president of the venture capital association, said in a statement. “It reflects a philosophy that companies need more money and a longer runway to go public today.”

The ‘everybody does it’ defense

A new study claims that 30% of companies nationwide manipulated stock option grant dates before Sarbanes-Oxley reforms. But more recently, the rate of suspect grants dropped to only 10%. Glad to hear that legislation is working so well.

Researchers analyzed nearly 40,000 stock option grants to top executives of nearly 8,000 companies from 1996 through 2005.

Kind of makes you wonder, if cheating is that easy to spot, why nobody else noticed before?