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ARM co-founder starts ‘Save Arm’ campaign to keep independence amid $40B Nvidia deal

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ARM Holdings, the UK semiconductor company, made history for the second time today, becoming the country’s biggest tech exit when Nvidia announced over the weekend that it would buy it from SoftBank for $40 billion in an all-stock deal. (ARM’s first appearance in the record books? When SoftBank announced in 2016 that it would acquire the company for $32 billion.)

But before you can say advanced reduced instruction set computing machine, the deal has hit a minor hitch. One of ARM’s co-founders has started a campaign to get the UK to interfere in the deal, or else call it off and opt for a public listing backed by the government.

Hermann Hauser, who started the company in 1990 along with a host of others as a spin-out of Acorn Computers, has penned an open letter to the UK’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson in which he says that he is “extremely concerned” about the deal and how it will impact jobs in the country, ARM’s business model, and the future of the country’s economic sovereignty independent of the US and US interests.

Hauser has also created a site to gather public support — savearm.co.uk — and to that end has also started to collect signatures from business figures and others.

He’s calling on the government to intervene, or to at least create legally biding provisions, tied to passing the deal to guarantee jobs, create a way to enforce Nvidia not getting preferential treatment over other licensees, and to secure an exemption from CFIUS regulation “so that UK companies are guaranteed unfettered access to our own microprocessor technology.”

The letter and general wave of backlash that is coming out in the wake of last night’s acquisition news underscores interesting — and, you might argue in the long term, bigger — themes about technology in the UK, or even more generally building technology giants outside of the US or China.

In short, the questions that are being raised are around why ARM can’t try to continue to build itself as an independent company, why it opted to go for a Softbank acquisition in the first place the first time around, and why the UK doesn’t do more to support the building of its own, homegrown tech giants.

Those questions are more high-level. More immediately, Hauser’s position is that by letting the company be acquired by a US entity, any future sales that the company makes will also be subject to US export regulations — a key point since so many of its dealings are with Chinese companies and companies that in turn do business with China, all of whom would need to comply with CFIUS regulations, he notes.

“This puts Britain in the invidious position that the decision about who ARM is allowed to sell to will be made in the White House and not in Downing Street,” he writes. “Sovereignty used to be mainly a geographic issue, but now economic sovereignty is equally important.  Surrendering UK’s most powerful trade weapon to the US is making Britain a US vassal state.” (Bonus points for the Nvidia/invidous pun, Hermann.)

No doubt prepared for critics to slam the deal, Nvidia CEO and co-founder Jensen Huang and Arm CEO Simon Segars held a press conference earlier today in which they both laid out, in many words, a commitment to keeping ARM’s business model and independence intact.

“This will drive innovation for customers of both companies,” said Huang at one point, adding that Nvidia “will maintain ARM’s open licensing model and customer neutrality…We love ARM’s business model. In fact, we intend to expand ARM’s licencing portfolio with access to Nvidia’s technology. Both our ecosystems will be enriched by this combination.”

Hauser’s response? “Do not believe any statements which are not legally binding.”

On the employment side, Hauser’s letter notes that ARM employs thousands of people and its ecosystem of partners stretch across Cambridge (where it is headquartered), Manchester, Belfast, Glasgow, Sheffield and Warwick. “When the headquarters move to the US this will inevitably lead to the loss of jobs and influence in the UK as we have seen with the Cadbury takeover by Kraft,” he writes.

ARM’s business model, meanwhile, has been built on the concept of the company being a “Switzerland” in the semiconductor industry, supplying reference designs to a host of licensees, many of whom might also compete against each other, and who also compete against Nvidia. His belief is that by giving Nvidia control of the company it will inevitably make those business relationships unsustainable.

But back to the biggest issue of all, at least as it is outlined to appeal to the UK government, it is ARM’s position as a company independent of US interests that is of the highest concern.

ARM, he points out, is the only UK technology company with a dominant position in mobile phone, with its microprocessors in a vast array of devices, making up some 95% market share. That helps the company stand distinct from the likes of the “FAANG” group of giant companies Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Netflix and Google, which dominate in their own respective areas (ARM does not compete against any of them, nor necessarily work with them all).

“As the American president has weaponised technology dominance in his trade war with China, the UK will become collateral damage unless it has its own trade weapons to bargain with. ARM powers the smartphones of Apple, Samsung, Sony, Huawei and practically every other brand in the world and therefore can exert influence on all of them.”

Hauser’s response is not the first time that a founder has been critical over how ARM’s business has been thrown first to one buyer, and then another.

Back in August, when the rumors of Nvidia’s interest first began to surface in the wake of SoftBank’s disastrous financial results, another co-founder and the ex-president of the company, Tudor Brown, spoke out against SoftBank’s handling of the company, and the inherent problems of having Nvidia buy it as a “solution” to that.

As we wrote at the time of SoftBank’s deal, SoftBank wanted to use the acquisition to spearhead a big move into Internet of Things technology — essentially use ARM’s business model and relationships with hardware makers to secure a new wave of investment in IP around semiconductors for connected devices, rather than doubling down on the areas that have become “hot” in processors like AI and implementations in autonomous systems.

That turned out to be a disastrous move, since IoT has not been nearly as big of a business opportunity as everyone thought it would be — or at least, the IoT business has not developed in anything like the timescales or trajectories people had predicted it would.

Tudor’s take on Nividia is much like Hauser’s. Selling to a company that essentially competes against your company’s customers will make it very tough, if not impossible, to assert independence and assurance that you’re giving everyone equal access to your products.

Of course, you could argue that Nvidia wouldn’t have acquired the company for $40 billion just to run it into the ground. But with that deal in stock, and Nvidia playing the long game, perhaps it wins either way in the end?

We’ve asked Nvidia for a response to the Save Arm initiative and will update as we learn more.

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Here’s why developers are in love with functional programming

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Functional programming has been around for the last 60 years, but so far it’s always been a niche phenomenon. Although game-changers like Google rely on its key concepts, the average programmer of today knows little to nothing about it.

That’s about to change. Not only are languages like Java or Python adopting more and more concepts from functional programming. Newer languages like Haskell are going completely functional.

In simple terms, functional programming is all about building functions for immutable variables. In contrast, object-oriented programming is about having a relatively fixed set of functions, and you’re primarily modifying or adding new variables.

Because of its nature, functional programming is great for in-demand tasks such as data analysis and machine learning. This doesn’t mean that you should say goodbye to object-oriented programming and go completely functional instead. It is useful, however, to know about the basic principles so you can use them to your advantage when appropriate.

It’s all about killing side effects

To understand functional programming, we need to understand functions first. This might sound boring, but at the end of the day, it’s pretty insightful. So keep reading.

A function, naively stated, is a thing that transforms some input into some output. Except that it’s not always that simple. Consider this function in Python:

This function is dumb and simple; it takes one variable x, presumably an int, or perhaps a float or double, and spits out the square of that.

Now consider this function:

At the first glance, it looks like the function takes a variable x, of whichever type, and returns nothing since there is no return statement. But wait!

The function wouldn’t work if global_list hadn’t been defined beforehand, and its output is that same list, albeit modified. Even though global_list was never declared as an input, it changes when we use the function:

Instead of an empty list, this returns [1,2]. This shows that the list is indeed an input of the function, even though we weren’t explicit about it. And that could be a problem.

Being dishonest about functions

These implicit inputs — or outputs, in other cases — have an official name: side effects. While we were only using a simple example, in more complex programs these can cause real difficulties.

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Think about how you would test append_to_list: Instead of just reading the first line and testing the function with any x, you need to read the whole definition, understand what it’s doing, define global_list, and test it that way. What’s simple in this example can quickly become tedious when you’re dealing with programs with thousands of lines of code.

The good news is that there is an easy fix: being honest about what the function takes as an input. This is much better:

We haven’t really changed much. The output is still [1,2], and everything else remains the same, too.

We have changed one thing, however: the code is now free of side effects. And that’s great news.

When you now look at the function declaration, you know exactly what’s going on. Therefore, if the program isn’t behaving as expected, you can easily test each function on its own and pinpoint which one is faulty.

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Keeping your functions pure is keeping them maintainable. Photo by Christina @ wocintechchat.com on Unsplash

Functional programming is writing pure functions

A function with clearly declared in- and outputs is one without side effects. And a function without side effects is a pure function.

A very simple definition of functional programming is this: writing a program only in pure functions. Pure functions never modify variables, but only create new ones as an output. (I cheated a bit in the example above: it goes along the lines of functional programming, but still uses a global list. You can find better examples, but it was about the basic principle here.)

Moreover, you can expect a certain output from a pure function with a given input. In contrast, an impure function may depend on some global variable; so the same input variables may lead to different outputs if the global variable is different. The latter can make debugging and maintaining code a lot harder.

There’s an easy rule to spot side effects: as every function must have some kind of in- and output, function declarations that go without any in- or output must be impure. These are the first declarations that you might want to change if you’re adopting functional programming.

What functional programming is not (only)

Map and reduce.

Loops are not a thing in functional programming. Consider these Python loops:

For the simple operations that you’re trying to do, this code is rather long. It’s not functional, either, because you’re modifying global variables.

Instead, consider this:

This is fully functional. It’s shorter. It’s faster because you’re not iterating through many elements of an array. And once you’ve understood how filter, map, and reduce work, the code isn’t much harder to understand either.

That doesn’t mean that all functional code uses map, reduce, and the likes. It doesn’t mean that you need functional programming to understand map and reduce, either. It’s just that when you’re abstracting loops, these functions pop up rather a lot.

Lambda functions

When talking about the history of functional programming, many start with the invention of lambda functions. But although lambdas are without doubt a cornerstone of functional programming, they’re not the root cause.

Lambda functions are tools that can be used to make a program functional. But you can use lambdas in object-oriented programming, too.

Static typing

The example above isn’t statically typed. Yet it is functional.

Even though static typing adds an extra layer of security to your code, it isn’t essential to make it functional. It can be a nice addition, though.

Some languages are getting more functional than others

Perl: Perl takes a very different approach to side effects than most programming languages. It includes a magic argument, $_, which makes side effects one of its core features. Perl does have its virtues, but I wouldn’t try functional programming with it.

Java: I wish you good luck with writing functional code in Java. Not only will half of your program consist of static keywords; most other Java developers will also call your program a disgrace. That’s not to say that Java is bad. But it’s not made for those problems that are best solved with functional programming, such as database management or machine learning applications.

Scala: This is an interesting one: Scala’s goal is to unify object-oriented and functional programming. If you find this kind of odd, you’re not alone: while functional programming aims at eliminating side effects completely, object-oriented programming tries to keep them inside objects. That being said, many developers see Scala as a language to help them transition from object-oriented to functional programming. This may make it easier for them to go fully functional in the years to come.

Python: Python actively encourages functional programming. You can see this by the fact that every function has, by default, at least one input, self. This is very much à la the Zen of Python: explicit is better than implicit!

Clojure: According to its creator, Clojure is about 80% functional. All values are immutable by default, just like you need them in functional programming. However, you can get around that by using mutable-value wrappers around these immutable values. When you open such a wrapper, the thing you get out is immutable again.

Haskell: This is one of the few languages that are purely functional and statically typed. While this might seem like a time-drainer during development, it pays off big when you’re debugging a program. It’s not as easy to learn as other languages, but it’s definitely worth the investment!

Man on leather couch with laptop
This is yet the beginning of the era of big data. Photo by Austin Distel on Unsplash

Big data is coming. And it’s bringing a friend: functional programming.

In comparison to object-oriented programming, functional programming is still a niche phenomenon. If the inclusions of functional programming principles in Python and other languages are of any significance, however, then functional programming seems to be gaining traction.

That makes perfect sense: functional programming is great for big databases, parallel programming, and machine learning. And all these things have been booming over the last decade.

While object-oriented code has uncountable virtues, those of functional code, therefore, shouldn’t be neglected. Learning some basic principles can often be enough to up your game as a developer and be ready for the future.


This article was written by Rhea Moutafis and was originally published on Towards Data Science. You can read it here

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Nokia and NASA’s 4G lunar network will mess up radio astronomy

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As you drive down the road leading to Jodrell Bank Observatory, a sign asks visitors to turn off their mobile phones, stating that the Lovell telescope is so powerful it could detect a phone signal on Mars.

Radio telescopes are designed to be incredibly sensitive. To quote the legendary astronomer Carl Sagan, “The total amount of energy from outside the solar system ever received by all the radio telescopes on the planet Earth is less than the energy of a single snowflake striking the ground.”

The total energy now is probably a few snowflakes’ worth, but nevertheless it is still true that astronomical radio signals are typically magnitudes smaller than artificial ones. If Jodrell Bank could pick up interference from a phone signal on Mars, how would it fare with an entire 4G network on the Moon?

That is the issue that is worrying astronomers like me, now that Nokia of America has been awarded US$14.1m (£10.8m) for the development of the first ever cellular network on the Moon. The LTE/4G network will aim to facilitate long term lunar habitability, providing communications for key aspects such as lunar rovers and navigation.

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Network interference

Radio frequency interference (RFI) is the long-term nemesis of radio astronomers. Jodrell Bank – the earliest radio astronomy observatory in the world still in existence – was created because of RFI. Sir Bernard Lovell, one of the pioneers of radio astronomy, found his work at Manchester hampered by RFI from passing trams in the city, and he persuaded the university’s botany department to let him move to their fields in Cheshire for two weeks (he never left).

Since then, radio telescopes have been built more and more remotely in an attempt to avoid RFI, with the upcoming Square Kilometre Array (SKA) telescope being built across remote areas of South Africa and Australia. This helps to cut out many common sources for RFI, including mobile phones and microwave ovens. However, ground-based radio telescopes cannot completely avoid space-based sources of RFI such as satellites – or a future lunar telecommunications network.

RFI can be mitigated at the source with appropriate shielding and precision in the emission of signals. Astronomers are constantly developing strategies to cut RFI from their data. But this increasingly relies on the goodwill of private companies to ensure that at least some radio frequencies are protected for astronomy.

A long-term dream of many radio astronomers would be to have a radio telescope on the far side of the Moon. In addition to being shielded from Earth-based signals, it would also be able to observe at the lowest radio frequencies, which on Earth are particularly affected by a part of the atmosphere called the ionosphere. Observing at low radio frequencies can help answer fundamental questions about the universe, such as what it was like in the first few moments after the big bang.

The science case has already been recognized with the Netherlands-China Low Frequency Explorer, a telescope repurposed from the Queqiao relay satellite sent to the Moon in the Chang’e 4 mission. Nasa has also funded a project on the feasibility of turning a lunar crater into a radio telescope with a lining of wire mesh.

It’s not just 4G

Despite its interest in these radio projects, Nasa also has its eye for commercial partnerships. Nokia is just one of 14 American companies Nasa is working with in a new set of partnerships, worth more than US$370m, for the development of its Artemis program, which aims to return astronauts to the Moon by 2024.

The involvement of private companies in space technology is not new. And the rights and wrongs have long been debated. Drawing possibly the most attention has been SpaceX’s Starlink satellites, which caused a stir among astronomers after their first major launch in 2019.

Images quickly began to emerge with trails of Starlink satellites cutting across them – often obscuring or outshining the original astronomical targets.

A field of next generation radio telescopes.
An artist’s impression of the planned SKA-mid dishes in Africa. SKA Organisation, CC BY

Astronomers have had to deal with satellites for a long time, but Starlink’s numbers and brightness are unprecedented and their orbits are difficult to predict. These concerns apply to anyone doing ground-based astronomy, whether they use an optical or a radio telescope.

A recent analysis of satellite impact on radio astronomy was released by the SKA Organisation, which is developing the next generation of radio telescope technology for the Square Kilometre Array. It calculated that the SKA telescopes would be 70% less sensitive in the radio band that Starlink uses for communications, assuming an eventual number of 6,400 Starlink satellites.

As space becomes more and more commercialized, the sky is filling with an increasing volume of technology. That is why it has never been more important to have regulations protecting astronomy. To help ensure that as we take further steps into space, we’ll still be able to gaze at it from our home on Earth.The Conversation

This article is republished from The Conversation by Emma Alexander, PhD Candidate in Astrophysics, University of Manchester under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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Samsung heir absent from bribery retrial following father’s death

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Samsung Electronics vice-chairman Lee Jae-yong was not in attendance for a scheduled court hearing Monday after the death of his father, Samsung chairman Lee Kun-hee, was announced yesterday. Yonhap reports that the conglomorate’s de facto leader and presumed heir had asked the Seoul High Court to permit him to attend the funeral.

Samsung has said that the wake will last four days with a family-only funeral taking place on Wednesday, according to The Korea Herald. Lee Kun-hee had been incapacitated by a 2014 heart attack, with his son Lee Jae-yong — known as Jay Y. Lee in the West — widely expected to take over.

The younger Lee, however, is facing the resumption of a bribery case that has dogged him over recent years. He was sentenced to five years in jail in 2017 for his role in the sweeping bribery scandal that brought down former South Korean president Park Geun-hye; he was then freed on appeal the next year with most of the charges dismissed. But the case was sent back to a lower court for retrial to take into account alleged bribes that hadn’t previously been ruled on.

The next hearing is planned to take place on November 9th, Yonhap reports.

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