The Direct-to-consumer (DTC) Lemmings

Currently, there is a shake out in direct-to-consumer, also known as "DTC," startups. You may wonder what distinguishes the direct to consumer category from what is known simply as e-commerce, which is a venerable and long-ago consolidated category. Why has a lot of supposedly smart money spawned a large number of doomed startups? While lemmings periodically have population explosions, they don't actually leap into the sea. So let's take a closer look at the breeding grounds of DTC startups to see why there are many more of them than the e-commerce ecology can support. Winter is coming. A superficial reading of this wave of e-commerce startups can seem to find justification for their existence in the apparent opportunity to disrupt dominant consumer brands that have the power to deny competitors access to retail distribution and mass media marketing. This is why you see startups bringing mundane items like shaving razors, mattresses, bicycles, eyeglasse


The Boeing 737MAX crisis is a crisis of over-optimization. "Over-optimization" is a curios term: "Optimal" means the best possible state of being. So how can something be over-optimized? You wouldn't say someone is "over-healthy," and much less would you expect that person to be ill. Yet over-optimization killed two plane-loads of people and grounded a plane that cost billions to develop, idling billions of dollars more in finished goods sitting on aprons, runways, and parking lots. Boeing made a safe and very efficient airliner. Then, in pursuit of even greater efficiency, they made it less safe. Boeing over-optimized. There are other elements to this tragedy, especially in in that Boeing could have chosen to mitigate some of the risks they created in over-optimizing by adding redundant sensors, better warnings of failures, etc. Boeing could also have done, months ago, things like what they announced in January of 2020, that 737 MAX pilots sh

Whatever Happened to the Amazon "Ice" Phone?

In 2017, rumors circulated that Amazon was going to make another try at phones. Two years later, and no announcements. Fire & Ice The most important difference between Amazon's then-rumored "Ice" phone and the previous Fire Phone is that it was to incorporate the Google ecosystem: Google's package of proprietary applications on top of the open source Android OS. Almost all Android phones, other than those for Chinese and Russian domestic markets, are made this way Amazon has used a derivative of the Android OS for their Fire OS, without the Google Play Store and Google's application suite, and used Amazon's own ecosystem. Amazon's Fire OS is a very credible derivative of Android. But, unlike Amazon's tablets, which sell well to customers seeking an inexpensive device for videos, reading, and music, Amazon's attempt at a Fire Phone was a disaster of major proportions. Imagine getting in your car and finding that Google Maps is not only m

5G: Hype vs Reality

UPDATE A continually updated version of the information in this post, plus a lot of new information, is now available at: Telecom companies, their suppliers, and politicians are putting 5G in the news There have been a lot of news stories about 5G, a new mobile wireless standard. The theme many of these suspiciously similar articles is that 5G is going to transform everything. I'll tell you what to expect in reality, and what is wishful thinking on the part of the telecom industry, and why telecom service providers and equipment makers are hyping fantasies. 5G is a better radio 5G means better mobile devices and a better mobile network. There are three main reasons 5G is better: 5G introduces a new radio technology that makes more efficient use of radio spectrum The network behind those radios will be faster and have lower latency 5G enables using more of the radio spectrum There are many factors in the increased sophistication in 5G radios. These are

A $99 Android Tablet That Doesn't Suck

The last of my Android tablets, a Nexus made by LG, died over a year ago. It had stopped being updated years before that. This is why I had not bought a replacement: I don't like Samsung's Android extensions and bloatware, and how that delays updates I won't buy a cheap tablet with an out of date version of Android The Pixel Slate is a software platypus, part Chromebook, part Android tablet, and expensive I don't use Alexa, and I don't like the lack of Google Play Services on Amazon Fire tablets Except for Samsung, Google has done a terrible job cultivating tablet manufacturers to make good Android tablets at good prices. Amazon Fire tablets, which are great for consuming Amazon media content, don't run a lot of apps I use. The choice has been between Samsung, or cheap and underpowered tablets running versions of Android that are obsolete right out of the box, and never updated thereafter. Recently, I was listening to a tech news podcast and

Legal Compliance Is Insufficient in Stopping Hate Speech on Social Networks

US law is especially liberal when it comes to free speech. This puts hate speech, however you define it short of a call to violent action, under the protection of the First Amendment. For the foreseeable future, the fight against hate and violence must operate in this context. This feels unsatisfactory when the killer of eleven people in a Pittsburgh synagogue vented his hate on the social network Gab leading up to the attack, even announcing his intention to act. Social networks can, in fact, be much better at containing the problem of online hate speech. You should raise your expectations of social networks to help solve the problems of fascist, antisemitic, racist, and sexist speech. Here's why: Social networks and hate speech Social networks are privately run, and have the freedom to limit any kind of speech on their platforms, for any reason. You have no right to have Facebook publish your posts. For example, selling illegal drugs or passing around copyright works

Telirati Tips #1 Sony RAW Noise and Bricking Problems and Solutions

Here we'll take a short break from mobile telecommunications, IoT, project management and other Serious Topics to cover a little photography. I recently found some commonplace problems with my camera, and solutions to those problems: Noisy RAW files Bricked cameras when updating I set out to see if a firmware update would cure a problem with excess noise in RAW images from my Sony a6000, and on my way to find out, I discovered that Sony's Mac OS X firmware updater is a flaming bag of poop that bricked my camera. What I learned on my way to a solution is probably applicable to other similar Sony cameras. The Sony a6000 is a wonderful camera. I bought one when it first came out as an upgrade from my NEX-5. In silver, it has a classic look without pandering to hipster faux 1950s rangefinder affectations. With 24 megapixels in an APS-C sensor, it packs prosumer DSLR specs into an under $1000 compact camera body. Sony's mirrorless product line go