Rich Stroffolino

Making Sense of Nikon Buying RED

With Nikon buying the cinema camera maker RED, I was trying to research what this deal would mean. Certainly it gives Nikon access to a new market. While professional DSLRs/mirrorless cameras have had a place in movie production for decades, they can’t be rigged out like a proper cinema camera. It’s a market that’s projected to grow long term, even if relatively small.

I was trying to get a picture of what this market looks like. Looking at Canon, Fuji, and Sony, they don’t break out cinema cameras from their respective imaging segment revenue. So we have to assume their standard mirrorless offerings makes up the vast majority of revenue (otherwise they’d crow about it). Arri, Blackmagic, and RED are all private, so we don’t have a sense of how big those businesses are.

The analyst report I linked above is paywalled, but it lists the market at around $300 million in 2022. Nikon’s imaging unit generated about $500 million in revenue in its latest earnings report. So this isn’t going to move the needle too much for their bottom line. But given that I expect the margins on RED cinema cameras are significant, it plays well with the overall strategy. Nikon noted its imaging unit was the only part of its business that saw increasing operating profit on the year, due to the shift to higher end cameras. In that vein, cinema cameras make sense to pad those profits.

The acquisition also helps the optics of where Nikon is as a brand. While certainly respected, they’ve definitely been late to the mirrorless camera video revolution, where Sony and Canon dominate. Getting a respected brand like RED aboard, with devotees like MKBHD helps change that perception.

Linux Desktop Marketshare Hits 4%

Saw this report of Linux desktop marketshare hitting 4%, up 1% in less than a year. Curiously it doesn’t mention the Steam Deck, the hit gaming handheld that runs a version of Arch Linux. The article mentions reasons for the Linux marketshare increase that don’t seem to hold water:

The rise in Linux’s popularity can be attributed to several factors. Firstly, the open-source nature of Linux has made it a favored choice among developers, IT professionals, and tech enthusiasts who appreciate the flexibility and control it offers.

Additionally, the security and stability of Linux have been key selling points, making it an attractive option for both personal and professional use.

None of that is wrong, but also has been true for 20 years. The reason it jumped from 3 to 4% so quickly seems directly tied to millions of Steam Decks now in the wild.

I always find Steam’s user survey more interesting for these kind of figures. While skewed toward Windows gaming, we still see Linux with more marketshare than macOS. Unsurprisingly, Arch remains the post popular single distribution.

This is the memorial that TinyLetter deserved. I never used the service as a writer. Arguably I joined it just off-peak in 2017 to do a newsletter of family photos. But I deeply appreciated it’s dead simple interface, purpose, and lack of any kind of upselling. It’s incredibly rare to find a fully functional online platform that doesn’t try to sell you something. TinyLetter didn’t just deemphasize any commerce considerations, it lacked them completely. There was no mechanism to buy a service through it. Of course, this it certain to be on Intuit’s chopping block eventually.

Libraries are the last video store

Not that we need another example of why libraries rule, but I recently realized it’s the last place I can go to get an experience of going to a video store. Growing up the Cleveland Public Library system always had VHS movies to rent, but the selection was spotty with usually only a single copy, so you’d be on a waiting list for anything popular. Years ago my local library bought up the movie collection of a local video store going out of business. So in an instant you had multiple copies of pretty current DVD and VHS releases. Impressively, they’ve kept up their acquisitions. I recently picked up the Barbie Blu-Ray. They had several copies across formats. I can keep it for three weeks rather than pay for a month of Max to watch it (or pirate it). My five-year old daughter doesn’t know quite what to make of the shelves packed with movies, although she was disappointed in their lackluster Pixar collection.

Yamaha Remembers the QY-Series Glory

Yamaha just announced an interesting little groovebox, the SEQTRAK. It’s billed as an OP-Z competitor, and I get it based on looks. I love that it comes in fun colors and has plenty of encoders (knobs). Little sad no velocity sensitive buttons but that’s par for the course. It’s got a good selection of effects, and supports stereo samples, but initial look that the sequencer might be a little basic compared to what you can get on the Elektron Model series.

Need to see how the companion app looks, I always assume that means the device doesn’t stand up on it’s own as well. If nothing else, the UI will either require attaching the phone app or a lot of button combos to remember. Biggest difference with the OP-Z is there’s no ability to integrate this into modular arrangements. That required an expansion module for CV control on the OP-Z, but still a notable capability.

Overall it looks really fun and at the $400 launch price, damn competitive. At that price it’s just a little more expensive than Teenage Engineering’s recent hit, the KO2 sampler. The SEQTRAK gives you dedicated synth engines, a mixer, per-track and master effects, and way more sampling memory for about $100 more. It’s probably still as much of a synth mom/dad musical curiosity than serious music making tool. But as an avowed member of that class, I’m glad there are more options at better price points. If nothing else I trust Yamaha’s product QC way more than Teenage Engineering at this point.

Stacking the AI Turtles

A lot of times when dealing with complicated systems, it’s easy to get to a “turtles all the way down” point. What’s interesting with a lot of AI conversations right now is we’re watching ourselves stack the turtles.

I found myself stacking turtles reading this article about the impact of Amazon’s AI summaries on product sales. Basically sellers say these summaries over index on negativity. So I can see the utility in Amazon making these product review summaries, but also how this could really hurt a seller. But because there will be no way to scale any kind of human curation of these summaries, the next inevitable step will be to have an LLM review these summaries for overly negative content. Which then will require this ever spiraling series of LLM review because we are setting up systems that cannot scale to human curation. Turtles are now stacked. It’s supremely bizarre to see this happen in real time.

Hacking with Mr. Cooper

Just 14 million people with social security numbers and banking information exposed. It’s crazy how numb we are to this reality now. Like no one in my social circles will have this on their radar. And I don’t blame them because next week another MOVEit victim will have millions of people’s medical data exposed.

X and the FTC Consent Decree

So in 10 minutes, I read two amazing things. From this Guardian piece on X potentially violating its consent decree with the FTC:

The DoJ filing also counters X Corp’s argument that Musk should not have to testify about its [data privacy] compliance with the order. The DoJ argues that Musk has “unique, firsthand” knowledge about the company’s data practices.

Compared to this excerpt from the upcoming Is Walter Isaacson bio (from Tech Dirt):

The servers had user data on them, and James did not initially realize that, for privacy reasons, they were supposed to be wiped clean before being moved. “By the time we learned this, the servers had already been unplugged and rolled out, so there was no way we would roll them back, plug them in, and then wipe them,” he says. Plus, the wiping software wasn’t working. “F—, what do we do?” he asked. Elon recommended that they lock the trucks and track them.

So James sent someone to Home Depot to buy big padlocks, and they sent the combination codes on a spreadsheet to Portland so the trucks could be opened there. “I can’t believe it worked,” James says. “They all made it to Portland safely.”

Physically ripping out servers yourself without doing any due diligence that they might contain personal data and then suggesting that sticking AirTags and consumer locks on them as adequate…. seems like there may be some cause to testify.

Celebrities on Social

I’m speaking from total ignorance here, but how big of a factor is this with social networks?

She also met talent agents at Creative Artists Agency and United Talent Agency as well as A-list celebrities in Hollywood last month, as the platform tries to win high-profile entertainers to boost engagement.

Like I get that all platforms these days work in some way with their top users, obviously in their interest. I know Meta had celebrity commitments before the Threads launch.

Cox said the company already has celebrities committed to using the app, including DJ Slime, and was in discussions with other big names, including Oprah and the Dalai Lama.

I have context for how common this kinds of celebrity outreach is. For Threads it makes sense to want to have it filled with big names at launch, avoid having the empty room problem. But Twitter… is old. Everyone knows about it. Does Snapchat do this kind of outreach, beyond influencer partnerships? Organic use by celebs was THE use case on Twitter, why so many consumed their feed. Maybe these kind of talks are extremely common and we just have no context. But that struck me as odd.

AMD Isn't a PC Chip Company Anymore

AMD posted it’s Q2 earnings, with revenue down everywhere except it’s embedded unit. What’s remarkable though is because it’s PC chip business fell 54%, it’s now AMD’s smallest business unit by revenue.

AMD’s client group, which includes sales from PC processors, dropped a massive 54% year over year to $998 million because of a “weaker PC market,” it said. AMD noted that market conditions are improving.

It’s interesting to note that it’s gaming segment saw more modest declines and is now its biggest source of revenue. AMD is ramping up its AI-chip business, but that’s not reflected in the earnings this quarter. Instead a big part of that is chips for gaming consoles. Another sign of the rise of semi-custom silicon.

VanMoof Goes Bankrupt

Well that happened quick, a court declared VanMoof bankrupt. Where does this put bike owners? It doesn’t sound great:

For VanMoof owners, the company says its e-bikes “will remain functional and rideable, as we aim to keep our app and servers online and aim to secure the ongoing services for the future.” It also confirms that all repair work and deliveries of parts is currently stopped, and that repaired and un-repaired e-bikes at shops in the Netherlands will eventually be made available for riders to pick up.

One of the constant criticisms of VanMoof’s bikes was its proprietary parts supply chain. Now bike owners are locked out of repair parts, and hoping that the company can keep its “aim” of keeping its servers online. While I think a sale is likely given their considerable customer base, it also likely means a buyer would have to convert those customers into revenue, ie a subscription for previously free services. Would suck for customers but I guess better than losing access to their bike.

Broadcom-VMware Gets EU Thumbs Up

Since this is a revenue diversification play for Broadcom, its in their interest to not restrict VMware’s software stack. While Broadcom is pervasive across enterprise infrastructure, it would needlessly devalue their VMware assets, which are not operating in a competitive vacuum.

Thus, the EC has made this one of the conditions for approving the deal — Broadcom must provide guaranteed access and interoperability relating to the “APIs, materials, tools, and technical support” that allow rival hardware companies (i.e. Marvell) to leverage VMware’s virtualization software. And on the same terms as Broadcom does.

It’s interesting the tact Broadcom has taken since their bid to acquire Qualcomm fell apart a few years ago. While that fell apart over concerns about Chinese influence, that really had all the trappings of creating a vertical chip monopoly. The Broadcom-VMware deal isn’t done, but getting EU approval means its a lot closer to happening.

Orange Cassidy Is Why I Love Wrestling

I love wrestling. I love goofy wrestling. Orange Cassidy is my favorite goofy wrestler. His whole gimmick is that he’s lazy and doesn’t really care. It’s glorious. This was his first match with AEW in 2020. Since then, he’s wrestled more than anyone in the company. King of Sloth Style

Testing Out Claude 2

Anthropic released its Claude 2 chatbot. I asked it to rewrite the US Constitution as a boy band song. It was fun.

We wanna form a more perfect union

Establish justice for all, from sea to shining sea

Make sure everyone can feel free

Provide for defense, for you and for me

Promote the welfare, general, you see

Secure the blessings of sweet, sweet liberty, yeah

For ourselves and our kids to eternity

Baby say you’ll agree and please ratify

This Constitution for you and I

Testing out I evidently signed up for it a while ago but never posted anything. Now I have posted something.