Thursday, March 31, 2022

Deglobalization And Emergence of Regional Blocks May Increase Cryto Adoption (Especially Those Who Are Anti-West)

Source: CNBC.

Russian aggression and invasion of Ukraine has brought a realignment of global affairs and changed the normal flows of political and economic activities around the world. As Putin's brutal Urainian war enters a second month with heavy Russian losses, sanctions on Russia has highlighted just how fragile globalization has been and it takes only one despotic moron to ruin it for everyone. It is as if an ongoing pandemic was not enough. 

With the Russian economy cut off from foreign capital and major currencies, I had wondered if Putin will look to the black markets and even the gray areas of global trade to blunt the catastrophic effects of Western and allied sanctions on his diminishing economy. And it looks like crypto could offer him a limited lifeline.

It is clear that some nations are attempting to reap the benefits of the previous economic relationships and some are trying to claim neutrality to avoid angering Putin and continue to buy cheap oil and gas from him. Nations like India, Israel, and Turkey quickly comes to mind. In fact, it is likely that Asian nations could continue to fund Putin's war and keep him afloat.

It has become clear to me that the West particularly the United States, will exert pressure on nations to enter its camp. It may work with some over time but nations like India and Israel, semi-allies at times when their national issues align with those of the United States continue to have a pass. For Israel, it's its security while with India, it is China's growing willingness to flex its political and military powers and exert its will on others. But who can blame them? We do the same here.

I believe blocks of nations will be created and overlap with some nations participating in more than one depending on their own interests. Most of them will be only economic in nature. But if some blocks be more rigid and globilization fractures further, cryptocurrencies may the link that binds these blocks together. 

Just as Russia is desperately trying to find ways to get around sanctions, these blocks will trying find ways around using the major currencies. Imagine oil, minerals, and precious metals listed on futures exchanges not against the dollar but Bitcoin or Ethereum. Further more, some blocks may decide to collectively adopt a single or basket of cryptocurrencies as their own means of trade among each other.

This is not going to good or bad for the West but it could definitely allow some unfriendly governments to escape sanctions. What this means for the global economy is difficult to say. Being an optimist, I hope that it will allow some parity between the rich and poor in these blocks if there is a stable means of trade and allow the masses a greater voice in their own governments. Isn't that what some supporters of crypto are hoping for?

Tuesday, March 29, 2022

Android Tablet Is Dying, All Hail The Chromebook (and iPads If You Really Need The Tablet Form)

I'll get right to the point - get an iPad. And if you really adamant about staying in the Google ecosystem, then get the apps you need on the App Store because most of all the Google apps you need are there. But if you really insist, likely because you detest Apple so much or you have spend a lot of money on Android apps, then perhaps a Chromebook is the best choice.

The last Android tablets I own was the Nexus 7, a wonderful tablet, and then when Google stopped selling their own branded tablets, I with an Asus tablet that looks similar to the Nexus 7. Since then, I've stopped dabbling with Android tablets and decided to just stick with an iPad mini.

Now, the suggest I made above is not one I made lightly. Here is a bit of how I came around to the Chromebook as a better option than an Android tablet. First, I am not a fan of Chinese branded tablets. I just non-Chinese ones but there are just not a lot of them. Samsung tablets are awesome when it comes to hardware, it's top notch. In some ways, they're better than Apple's iPads. However, the software...meh right? Google has done a lot to improve the tablet experience on Android but Apple is light years ahead. At this point, I'm not sure Google will be able to catch up for these reasons - Google is all over the place with it comes to Android tablets and I'm just not sure Google is committed to the tablet as I think they should be. If anything, I feel like Google is just doing it to satisfy Android fans until it's ChromeOS experience with tablet features and UI improve enough to keep them from going over to the iPad side.

Now, it seems like with Android 12L, Google is finally taking tablets more seriously. If Google releases a Pixel tablet, then I'll bite. Maybe. But for now, I believe the ChromeOS experience if further along and has more to offer than Android for mobile users - consumer and business both. 

I had seriously considered the HP's X2 detachable Chromebook when it went on sale at Best Buy last year for around $400, a great deal from the $600 price point. I was very close but I think given this is HP's very first decent try with a detachable, I think they'll do better the next time around. I told myself I would get the next update as a reward if I become better as coding.

And speaking of coding, it would be what I want a Chromebook for. I am on a very old 12" MacBook and I need an upgrade eventually. I'm not took keen on carrying around a $4000 machine all the time so a Chromebook for coding Python, SQL, and doing Web stuff would be perfect.

However, for day to day stuff like writing, reading, and gaming, I am still on my iPad mini. In fact, my wife who is an Android fan recently got an iPad mini herself because there simply was nothing on the Android side where she could get a similar experience. It surprised the heck out of me. I threw Kindle tablets at her. I took her to stores to show her shiny Samsung tablets. But she ended with the iPad.

She did consider the X2 but it was not as sale at the time. And there are no updated Pixel tablets from Google to choose from.

Look, as a regular consumer much like everyone else, competition in the market place is great. I feel Apple does not feel any heat from other tablet makers even though it does not dominate the market. I feel Apple is making different models of the iPad compete against each other and eventually, it might mean iPads will compete with the MacBooks directly. 

When that happens, what does that mean for Android tablets then? I think Chromebook experience is further along and feel more natural to Google. It's Linux and Chrome is more Google's game. And this is why I would recommend Chromebooks that can running Android apps than Android tablets themselves.

Saturday, March 26, 2022

MacOS Can Boot From A M1 iPad, Only if Apple Makes It So

 "Make it so," Captain Jean-Luc Picard of the Federation starship, the USS Enterprise, commanded in his familiar British accent even though he's French because, I did not know this, that by the 24th Century, French was became an obscure language.

My hope is that Picard can just as easily command the USS Cupertino to get their engineering team finally allow MacOS work on any iPad with the M1 chips and beyond because it makes sense, it is doable, it is in high demand, and it will make Apple a lot of money. 

One reason why I do not think Apple is ready for MacOS to run on an iPad is the experience - there are some UI issues that Apple needs to work out for touch interface. Of course, like most Mac users and increasingly iPad users as well, we have been using our iPad with a keyboard and mouse. 

I have used Windows 10 and 11 on a HP laptop for work and half the time, I do not even remember that the screen has touch features. And I hesitate to use it because of smudges and it was not very intuitive. If Apple is trying to come up with a touch scheme that is different from the iPad experience but will work better with MacOS, I am all for it. 

You know the Apple elitists. If you do not satisfy them, they can be a loud minority. I'm not saying Apple cares at all what they think. Apple will do it own thing. But the media may help amplify those voices. So, Apple will need to make the MacOS on the iPad experience seamless. Not everyone will use a keyboard and mouse with it. 

In the photo above, I am running MacOS in my 2018 iPad mini through a remote access app. And for short durations, it is fine. I have tried it on an iPad Pro with 13" and it works better. I use it with a keyboard and mouse. There is a touch element to the app for me to use MacOS with and it works just fine in a pinch but it is no where nearly as good as using a mouse. So, Apple, if you eventually allow MacOS or a version of it to run on the iPad, I am fine if you only allow physical keyboard and mouse to use it if you have not already figured out a new touch interface that works just as well. 

Right now, I am writing this post (including this sentence) using the MacBook keyboard via Universal Control on MacOS Monterey. 

The other issue is battery life. All iPad Variants of the iPad is limited to ten hours of use. As far as I can recall, Apple has limited iPad battery life since the original iPad to 10 hours of use. Right now, there are MacBooks that have 50% to 100% the battery life of the iPad. 

Despite the current perceived limitations of running MacOS on an iPad, there are million of users who would not mind and want to be able to do more with this revolutionary device. My iPad is with me nearly 100% of the time. And if I can use it in ways that I do on the MacBook, I would love it.

I'll get into some advantages for Apple why iPads should be able to run MacOS. For now, I think it is a matter of when Apple "makes it so" or see iPadOS evolve enough to resemble the MacOS and have similar experience. 

Friday, March 25, 2022

Twitter Is Where the Second Front of the Russian Invasion of Ukraine Is and Pro-Kyiv Tweets Are Winning

I've been doing on Twitter to get as much updated information on the illegal, illogical, and ill-conceived Russian invasion of Ukraine. It isn't easy but looking through hundreds of tweets at a time, I start to get a general idea of how things are going for the brave Ukrainians and how the West is trying to help and how that help is helping to turn the table on the invaders. Through these tweets, you have to work your way through a lot of misinformation - both pro-Russian and pro-Ukrainian ones. It felt a little gross figuratively. However, you get the sense that this is a social media war that the supporters of Ukrainians  are winning and anti-Putin tweets just do not have the muscles it did a month or so ago. I'll explain why.

During Desert Storm, I could not get enough of the 24-hour cable news update on how the US and allied forces (including forces who are generally considered anti-West) storm out of Saudi Arabia to liberate Kuwait and then later in 2003 when the US (with less allies) invaded all of Iraq to depose of Saddam Hussein's regime and in search of weapons of mass destruction. 

All that was before social media like Twitter. There was the Internet for the second Iraq war in 2003 but this is nothing like what it is today with the war in Ukraine. I came away with a couple of observations.
  • Twitter is very useful if you use it in a limited set of ways. During my searches for information about the war, I have learned a thing or two about urban resistance. Anyone who is laughing at me obviously have never seen Red Dawn. The original one of course.
  • Twitter is filled with garbage and you can either let it in or keep it out. It is easy to do that. I've searched keywords about the war and when you do that, it seems like Twitter just lets everything in. The good, the bad, facts, made-up stuff (I am not going to say "made up facts"), information, and misinformation. But you can learn to filter things out - when something that seems a little too good to be true, it is. 
    • For instance, during the first week of the war, there was supposed an Ukrainian ace who downed six Russian fighter jets/bombers. It was not true. I am sure it did wonders for pro-democracy and the brave Ukrainian defenders and boosted morale but again, it was not true. It might have been based on a pop gun Ukrainian pilot who did take out a couple of Russian fighters but it was not six. 
  • Twitter was blocked by Russia and Twitter started blocking some Russian government accounts. I'm guessing that they also blocked a lot of bots (makes you wonder why Twitter did not do it before) and accounts in Russia that spread misinformation. This is why you get a few bad attempts by some who try to spread Putin's propaganda. There are accounts that are out there doing that but you can tell because when the bad spellings, grammars, and incoherent sentences are put together, the pro-Russian tweets merely repeats what is coming out of Moscow.
  • Also interesting is that now Twitter is limiting access from Russia, the trolls that generally spread other misinformation and conspiracy theories are not as loud as before. Now, you get a lot of accounts from China and the Middle East who generally support the Russian invasion. 
  • MAGA tweets are not as pro-Putin as their leader, Donald Trump when it comes to the war. Most are quiet about the war or blame the current administration for not doing enough to help the Ukrainians - like sending in planes/tanks or implementing a no-fly zone. Very vocal about the Hunter Biden laptop though. But MAGA tweets seem to be down. At least for me.
  • In Ukraine, the Russian army probably have access to social media that their fellow Russians do not have access to. I wonder what they are seeing on Twitter, news that are no longer banned, and on other social media. I imagine it cannot be a good - their advances have stalled, pictures of Russian equipments destroyed or commandeered by Ukrainian farmers, the low morale being reported in the media, and the six or so generals/colonels who have died for the Motherland. These are kids who did not want to be there, who were lied to, and wanted to go home.
Like I said above - if you use social media in the right way, there are benefits. There is a danger of being too immersed into something and locking one's beliefs without trying to consider other sides and social media lets you do that. Some social media like Facebook even encourages that. Twitter is far from perfect but it is no where nearly as bad as Facebook. Too much of Twitter can be bad too.

For updates like what I was looking for on Twitter, it works. You have to be smart about it. For the Ukrainian war, this is the first war I can think of that is being fought on battlefield front as well as the social media front. 

Look, I'm not anti-Russia. I'm pro-people and definitely anti-bullies, anti-Putin, anti-Xi, and anti-despots (bonafide ones or wannabe ones, you know who I am talking about). Nor am I anti-Chinese. I just don't like the policies of these governments - wars (okay, we had a couple of we started and I'm not for them), great firewalls, and taking away people's freedoms in general. 

Wednesday, March 23, 2022

The Case for Why Apple, Fisker Or Anyone Else Can Thrive In The EV Market

Apple has the formula down for entering a market and thrive. It did it with the iMac/iBook, iPod, iPhone, iPad, EarPods, Apple Watch, and services and it can continue to do that as the giant California company continues to expand into other markets. In looking at how Tesla and other auto companies are doing in the EV market, I came to the conclusion that Apple or anyone else who follow Apple’s formula for getting a product to the market can hope to do well and thrive.

I’m a Fisker Ocean fan and I have a reservation for an Ocean. It’s a risk I know but given the history of the company and its founder, Henrik Fisker, I think Fisker has the making of an Apple-like story in the auto industry. But I also believe that if Apple ever does enter the market, it has the ability to duplicate the success it has found in the computing and mobile markets.

This all started when I started looking at the financial numbers from Tesla to see if there is any justification for Fisker’s value to increase because during an excited chat with a friend who is an even bigger Fisker fan than I am, I bought a fews shares and have accumulated about 100 shares over the last year. In my wildest dream, I am hope those shares will pay for my Ocean. I have since concluded it’s not going to happen. Oh well…

But I got to thinking about how Fisker, Lucid, or even a number of new EV entrants can survive much less thrive in a market where Tesla is the giga (because it has giga factories) gorilla in the room and where traditional auto makers have finally woken up to the changing market and are about to release dozens of their own EV models. 

Well, Fisker can thrive in the long term. Apple certainly can. Any of these new electric vehicle makers can. Okay, it’s a lot harder than just stipulating what I think but really, all of these companies can. You only have to look at the PC and smartphone markets to see what I have concluded is plausible. 

Take the PC market. In the 1970s, there were many companies that came out with their own computers including Apple. Later in the 1980s, Apple pivoted with the Mac while the PC market continued with DOS for a while until Windows came up and crushed Apple in the 90s.

Meanwhile, the PC landscape was thriving with dozens of clones of the IBM Personal Computer all running DOS and later Windows. I recall seeing tons of ads in newspapers and magazines from companies that no longer exist while HP, Compaq, Dell, and IBM sort of came through. And remember how Sony, Toshiba, and other Japanese electronic companies also go into the games. 

It seemed like every week, there were new PC makers. Of course, that also mean the landscape was littered with corpses of computer companies that did not make it. In a way, it was a race to the bottom in terms of prices and the margins became too low for these companies to stay in business.

This may sound like it is going against my assertion that any EV company can thrive in the market. Let me continue. Remember how Apple almost went bankrupt? But now it’s the biggest public company in the world? Right, Apple was able to resurrect its fortune in the 2000s and beyond because it stuck to a formula that is so simple that anyone can emulate. It’s came out with a top notch product in a market that already has many players. And despite facing intense competition and sometimes priced higher than its competitors, Apple products continue to sell and demand for it  has only increased over the years. Apple has managed to differentiate itself from the rest of the market. In some respects, one can argue that it redefined the market and forced competitors to play in its terms. It did that with the original iPod and it has changed the mobile market dominated by Blackberry. Where is Blackberry these days, by the way?

It’s now doing that in the PC market by designing and incorporating the Macs with its own chips. Now, other PC and chip makers are scrambling to duplicates Apple’s game plan. If someone else can do it and their PC or laptop has the same appeal as the Macs, they stand to gain a lot.

The only pitfall in all this? Well, Apple’s method has a flaw - it has to keep innovating. If it stops innovating, it will die. Just like a shark - if it stops swimming, it will sink (yeah, I googled to make sure it’s true - however, not all sharks will die if it sinks because some can still breath).

So, not a flaw for Apple because I just do not see it stop innovating at all. So, Apple should do fine. And if Apple does enter the market with its own electric car, it stands a good chance of carving a piece of the overall auto market for itself. Now, it cannot release a Tesla clone. If it does, who is going to buy it? And you can get any Apple car will cost a pretty penny. Won’t be cheap. So, why pay extra for a Tesla clone simply because its behind Apple ecosystem? I’m afraid it will not be enough. So, Apple will need to bring more to the game.

And it means Fisker will have to as well. So far, I’m encouraged by what I am seeing despite some features like the California Mode being more of a gimmick than a must need feature or an “oh wow, I didn’t know I needed this until Fisker showed me”. I’m glad Fisker is not trying to up sell the California Mode since I think other EV makers can duplicate or have similar features via a software update on their cars.

So, there are innovations and then there are gimmicks. These EV companies have to look at what they can offer the market that sets themselves apart.

And speaking Fisker. This is not the original company Henrik Fisker started. Prior to Fisker Inc., there was Fisker Automotive. Because you probably have not heard of it, your guess that it did not do well would be correct. However, Henrik Fisker is back and the Ocean and the upcoming Pear are looking strong. The difference between Fisker now and previous efforts by Henrik Fisker is the focus on innovation and bring something new to the market. Personally, it sounds a lot like Apple’s own story which is why I think Fisker will do really well this time around.

Given the rapid pace of how markets today evolve, any one of these car makers can become the next Tesla. Maybe not a trillion-dollar company like Tesla because the market can support a lot of companies that are worth tens of billions, each with their own segment of the market, drivers, and fans.

These EV companies do not need to go bankrupt, go wondering in the woods for a few years, and then come put with something different. They can look at these other companies that have had setbacks and see how they’ve reinvented themselves and what is it about these companies and their products that are so sought after.

Apple Should Prepare to Leave China (There Is Still Time To Execute Such A Plan)

At first glance, you might think that the title of this article is a clickbait considering that China is the second biggest economy in the w...