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April 18, 2021 - Episode 592 (F5 Live: Refreshing Technology)

This week, chips are in short supply, Twitch is reducing the bots, and Google is pushing away the rest of the web.

How to Find Limited Computer Hardware - Episode 256 (Piltch Point)

As the global chip shortage continues to affect product availability, finding certain technology products is getting more difficult. Whether you are looking for a new Radeon RX 6900 XT videocard or an Xbox Series X, you're up against limited inventory, high consumer demand, and scalpers. All of these conditions are adding to the overall challenge of acquiring one of these products. Obviously, if it is possible to skip one of these items in the near term, that is going to be your best choice. However, there are some processes and solutions if you need one of these items.

One company that is trying to provide a solution to the problem is Newegg. Their Product Shuffle feature creates a lottery system when a new shipment of inventory has been received. So, if you are looking for that NVIDIA RTX 3090 and Newegg receives a shipment, you can sign up to be considered for purchase. Once the time window closes, the company randomly draws the number of names for which they have inventory and send an email. You then have a limited amount of time to make your purchase before the inventory is unlocked once again. It's not ideal, but it does mean that you're not fighting the mob.

Another option is to sign up for an inventory alert system like HotStock. On these platforms, you can log your interest in a particular product, for example a PlayStation 5. You can also enter a maximum price you are willing to pay (which you should absolutely do), to limit the results. Then, when the system encounters the product available on one of its partner sites for a price within your range, you can get an email or a push notification (if you download the mobile app). One of the limitations of these systems, however, is that you cannot enter a product category. So, for videcards, you'll need to enter alerts for every manufacturer of a model, as opposed to just saying you want a Radeon RX 6800.

No matter how you solve the inventory issues for yourself, we wish you luck in finding the items you need.

A global chip shortage has been affecting product production and availability for nearly a year now. For those who had hoped that perhaps the fabrication plants might be getting close to having a handle on the problem, we've got some bad news. According to executives at all of the major foundries, we can expect these shortages to stay around for years.

The semiconductor bottleneck

The majority of major chip manufacturers use semiconductors produced by one foundry: Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. (TSMC). The company produces for brands like Apple, Broadcom, Nvidia, and Qualcomm (though not exclusively) - none of whom have any chip fabrication capabilities internally.

This means that any delays at TSMC will mean major delays for products from these companies. And we have seen exactly that, with shortages in videocards from Nvidia, and chip shortages from Qualcomm. Even Apple's ability to source display technology has been affected.

The timeline to normalcy

TSMC says that they expect these delays to continue well into 2023. This delay comes because the company is already running its operation at over 100% of capacity. Producing a new facility to improve performance is not easy, as it can take years to build a facility and months to configure a new line.

So, two full years of technology at a near standstill, all because we rely on a single manufacturer for many of our chip components. And the company's affect will be far and wide in those two or so years. 45 percent of the company's revenue comes from smartphone component manufacturing and 35 percent comes from high-performance computing components. So, mobile and stationary computing are in trouble.

Automaker GM recently announced that it would have to idle some of its factories because of the shortages. While changes were made to the plans, it is still a dark situation for the automaker. Though they believe they have solved the problem in the near-term to get back up and running, the long-term effects are still murky.

The competition is stuck

But, if you were hoping to avoid the problems by switching form AMD (for whom TSMC manufactures the 7nm silicon) to Intel, who manufactures its own silicon, there is some equally bad news. Intel has also famously been affected by their own semiconductor manufacturing slowdowns. It's part of the reason why the company's chips are still not running at 7nm, while AMD has been there for a while.

New Intel CEO Pat Gelsinger recently told The Washington Post,

We do believe we have the ability to help. I think this is a couple of years until you are totally able to address it. It just takes a couple of years to build capacity.

The conclusion

Whether you're making them yourself or outsourcing the components, producing semiconductors is a challenge right now. And, w're going to be feeling the pressure for the next few years. So, if you were hoping to get a new Xbox Series X or PlayStation 5, patience is going to be of the utmost importance.

March 28, 2021 - Episode 591 (F5 Live: Refreshing Technology)

This week, LG might leave the smartphone market, Xbox Live is now the Xbox network, and Twitch is scoring your stream.

Tools to Improve Working at Home - Episode 255 (Piltch Point)

This month marks the 1 year anniversary of "15 days to slow the spread" and it has brought with it a number of new challenges. For many people, it was the first experience of working from home instead of going into an office. That change in paradigm created a need to rethink our homes, as well as the tools that we use to get through our workday.

The most important recommendation has been to carve out space in your home that is your work area. This helps to prevent the feeling of never leaving work and always being at home. It can be confusing emotionally to not have a separation between these aspects of your life. It doesn't need to be a whole room, but some space is good.

Of course, there are items that can improve your work, as well. A great keyboard for your computer can improve your typing and reduce strain on your wrist. Avram uses the Hexgears Impulse and Scott uses the Razer Cynosa V2 with the Razer Tartarus keyboard extension. A good mouse is also important, and Avram uses a Logitech M510 wireless mouse and Scott uses a Razer DeathAdder wired mouse.

A good webcam is another useful component. This is because the webcam that is built in to your laptop is statistically garbage. At this point, nearly no manufacturer includes a decent webcam, so getting an external one can make you look far more together on a meeting. Avram uses the Logitech C920 and Scott uses the bigger sibling Logitech C930.

Other enhancements include multiple monitors, wrist rests for your keyboard and mouse, and a decent office or gaming chair. Everyone's experiences differ, though, and we are very interested in what our viewers and listeners have used to improve their experiences. Feel free to contact us and let us know what tools have made your work from home experience better.

LG, after years of struggling, is ready to exit the smartphone market

LG has a lot of product categories that might be in your home. Refrigerators, ranges, and microwaves are everywhere. Their smart TVs are also one of the big categories for the company. However, one category that people don't currently think of when they think of LG is smartphones. Because of this shift in market share, the company is thinking about abandoning the market entirely.

A decade ago, LG was one of the major players in smartphones. Before Apple got involved, they were one of the big names, along with HTC and Motorola. Today, none of those companies play a major role in the industry. Motorola has changed hands a couple of times over the past few years, currently part of Lenovo. HTC has suffered a similar fate, once considering abandoning the market, later changing course and selling most of the business to Google (who sold Motorola to Lenovo).

Now, LG is in a similar position. Recently, the company was rumored to be considering a sale of the smartphone division to another interested company. However, new reports suggest that LG is now considering simply shuttering the division entirely and moving on. This could be because there are simply no interested parties, or because the amount of work or time involved in the process of a sale would exceed the value of the brand. Sometimes the best course of action is to walk away and cut your losses, which might be where LG is headed.

Now, this is not to say that LG would be entirely absent from the smartphone world. The company is one of the major manufacturers of components like screens for other bands, including Apple. There is no suggestion that LG is considering abandoning that aspect of its business, which makes sense. They have consistently held a position of quality in the component space, so continuing with that aspect of the business is a way to keep participating while not trying to follow the bizarre trends of the smartphone space, which they have struggled to understand.

March 21, 2021 - Episode 590 (F5 Live: Refreshing Technology)

This week, NFTs are all the rage, EVO Championship Series is joining Sony, and the NFL has found some funding.

Tech My Son Won't Use: 9 Years Later - Episode 254 (Piltch Point)

In April 2012, Avram's son was born. This got him thinking about what technology and related industries we were using at the moment that his son would never use, or would never be a part of his normal life. Obviously, with Avram's job, there was always the possibility that these things would be around, but not because it's normal. As his birthday approaches, as does the 25th anniversary of Tom's Hardware, Avram looks back on the reality of his predictions.

Some of the predictions were pretty spot on. For example, Avram predicted no reliance on wired internet connections. Very few devices in their home use a wired internet connection. Thanks to advances like Wi-Fi 6 and Wi-Fi 6E, wireless speed and stability have gotten to the point where they are nearly on par with Ethernet. There are places for a wired connection, such as our studios, but for standard home use, Ethernet is mostly a thing of the past.

The same goes for point-and-shoot cameras. Today, most people's phones have cameras that are nearly as good if not better than these handheld cameras. In fact, phone cameras are quickly replacing even DSLRs for many uses, such as in Avram's daily life at Tom's Hardware. Of course, for content creators, particularly video, standalone cameras will continue to be an important part, but for consumers, phones are the way forward.

Unfortunately, Avram missed the mark on slow-booting computers. He had predicted that computers would get to the point of instant-on, like we usually see with the general usage of phones and tablets. In reality, it seems to have gone the other way, with phones and tablets taking longer to boot than they did previously.

He also missed the mark on windowed operating systems, but for the better. He was worried that moves like Windows 8 signaled the end of windows as know them, but Windows 10 showed that Microsoft had pushed too hard and lost the plot.

WTF NFT? What are they and why did one recently sell for $69 million?

In the past few weeks, the concept of NFTs, or nonfungible tokens, have become mainstream. With high-profile sales of digital assets, including some weird and others fairly normal, the term NFT has become one that many people have heard of. However, not everyone knows exactly what they are - in fact, few people really seem to know what the term really means.

What is an NFT?

An NFT is a specific token that exists on the Ethereum blockchain. They share a common technological DNA with the Ethereum cryptocurrency but represent something different. Rather than representing a single portion of the overall value of a cryptocurrency ecosystem, NFTs represent a single point in time. That representation can be thought of as a digital certificate of authenticity for a particular digital asset.

These assets are most commonly artwork, music, or video clips. However, there have been some other oddball items, such as tweets. Recently, a nonfungible token representing the first ever tweet, a post from founder and CEO Jack Dorsey on March 21, 2006, sold for $2.5 million. As if that's not crazy enough, shortly after, Christie's auction house sold an NFT for $69.3 million. That token represented a piece of digital artwork named Everyday: The First 5000 Days by artist Beeple.

If I own the NFT, do I own the item?

Headlines about recent NFT sales have not been entirely clear about exactly how they work or what the sale represents. With a traditional certificate of authenticity, you get it when purchasing an item. With NFTs, however, this is not the case. Owning the NFT does not mean that you are the owner of the original digital asset. It's the most difficult part of the concept to understand. Jeffrey Thompson, associate professor at the Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, New Jersey explained it, saying,

NFTs challenge the idea of ownership: digital files can be reproduced infinitely and you do not (usually) buy the copyright or a license when purchasing an NFT.

Another strange NFT sale is for the Nyan Cat meme, which sold for $590,000. The owner of that token does not give ownership of the meme to the owner, nor does it allow for them to prevent others from downloading or using it. What it does is gives the owner a unique token theoretically tied exclusively to that meme.

While it doesn't exactly work this way, you can think of it like going to a convention and buying a print of an artwork. You own that print, and only you can own it. But, it doesn't mean that the artist no longer uses it, and does not mean that you can reproduce it and make money from it.

But, why are they so valuable?

Just like any item, the value comes from people's belief in its value. And, like many collectables, value will be variable over time. People might remember the comic book craze of the 80s that collapsed by the 90s, or the Beanie Baby craze of the 90s that crashed by the 2000s. Those markets crashed because people lost faith in the value of the products. Marvel almost went out of business because of this loss of perceived value. Some collectables, however, maintain their value. Baseball cards, Magic: The Gathering, and Pokemon are all good examples of collectible commodities that have maintained for decades.

For NFTs, the future of value is unpredictable. It could go the way of Beanie Babies and Pogs, but it could be more like Pokemon and persevere. The fact that it is blockchain-based will help it maintain its momentum, at least among blockchain diehards. However, it is going to need to make a play for general acceptance, like cryptocurrency has, in order to maintain its growth.

March 7, 2021 - Episode 589 (F5 Live: Refreshing Technology)

This week, Big Tech is in the crosshairs, Fall Guys is entering the Metaverse, and Sony is out of video sales.

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