WW 709: Master of Soft Numbers

Beep boop - this is a robot. A new show has been posted to TWiT…


What are your thoughts about today’s show? We’d love to hear from you!

I am so waiting for This Week In Sea Shanty Infosec!

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I’m with Paul on the Bernie memes. It’s the worst thing since baby Yoda.

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I just want to say that I have had that InfoSec sea shanty running through my head all day today.

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Paul brings up an interesting point about Progressive Web Apps (PWAs) and their future around the news that Firefox will no longer support them.

With Firefox no longer supporting PWAs and Safari not supporting them either, what is the future of PWAs? (at least on desktops) Are developers relieved to not feel pressured to create PWAs? Are users frustrated that they’re either strong-armed into using another browser or abandon their dreams of using a PWA?

Curious software engineer here looking for your take on PWAs!

I tried using Twitter as a PWA, but it was more of a pain than it being a fixed tab in my main browser window. A lot of the time, you are opening additional tabs and using it as a PWA didn’t work as well as having it in a tab, so I stopped using it after a couple of hours.

That is about the only site I use on a regular basis that is PWA compatible.


I think Paul is confused about the value of PWA’s… he seems set on hoping they’re the future when they feel more like a solution for lazy developers. I don’t see any value in PWA’s what-so-ever. As I’ve already said, they seem designed to allow crossing from mobile to desktop. I don’t have, nor do I want, touch on my desktop, and I don’t want a mobile phone without touch. This just leads to an “app” that will be poorly designed for at least some subset of its users. I don’t know any site that offers enough value to have it “always on” in any context. It also seems a huge security risk that some app running in a browser with important content might be cross-site infiltrated by some other mal-site/script in a browser.


I agree. I don’t think PWA’s are going anywhere. 99% of people in the world will never use or try a PWA or even know what they are.

I love the idea of PWA’s. I’m not a developer, but I love the idea of being able to use an app both on my iPhone and my Macbook Pro. I’m not saying I want touch on my mac, I have it on my Windows Laptop and rarely use the touch screen. But if I didn’t have to pick up my phone to respond to snapchat or a twitter dm then I’d say hey thats worth it in my book. I could be odd in that aspect but if I’m on a computing device. I want that one computing device to do as much as it can and not have to pick up the other.

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The problem is, especially for more complicated applications, that you get the worst of all worlds:

  • You get a slower experience, because it isn’t tailored for the hardware it is running on.
  • You get a buggier app, because it is written in JavaScript, which has no inbuilt checks and balances to ensure the code is correct, it just assumes everything is correct and carries on regardless. (TypeScript should help here, but it still translates down to JavaScript or WebAssembly at the end of the day to run.)
  • You get a more restricted experience, because the browser can’t do everything a local application can - and it damned well shouldn’t! Even though Google are trying to push through lower level APIs, ones that IE and ActiveX allowed 20 years ago and were derided as a security nightmare.

There are even middle-ground apps, that use Electron. They are probably the worst, because each application brings its own copy of Chromium with it and loads its own copy of Chromium when run. Teams and Visual Studio Code are example of this. They are bloated and use much more memory and processing power than is really necessary for these “simple” applications.

Notepad++ uses a couple of megabytes of memory, VSC uses several hundred megabytes to achieve the same thing. Not a problem on a modern PC that has 32GB RAM or more, but it is still very wasteful. And being interpreted JavaScript, it is also very processor hungry, compared to a native application.

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PWAs are part of the move to the cloud initiative. Where you have older or underpowered systems like chromebooks that can access these services not as native apps but as pwas.

Can’t helping feel that Intel having their own fabs would still be an advantage. When the other manufacturers are suffering processor shortages, because the fabs producing them are too busy producing chips for other companies, Intel can still produce chips.
As for podcasters not being able to access the same data as Amazon or Spotify can give, and therefore not being able to make money, I suppose you could always do what Tom Merrit does and us Patreon.

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And those of us who lived through this the first time, in the 70s and 80s, know that this isn’t the be-all-and-end-all. Some things are better done locally, some data is better off not leaving your control; and any time it leaves your network, it is out of your exclusive control.

Some applications can work well in a client-server environment others have no direct benefit and yet others have huge disadvantages to running on a remote server.

I worked in the food processing industry and, for example, the cool-house management systems at the end of the slaughter lines were making decisions on where to hang the carcasses in the sub 30ms range - that is from receiving the signal from the RFID tag on the hook to it round-tripping to the server that looked at the slaughter information on the carcase, made a decision about its quality and sent a signal back to the line, about which lane it should be sent to - i.e. does it throw a switch to divert it onto the line it is currently passing.

Such systems that require instant decisions can’t cope with the data being sent through the internal network, slowed down through the router and diverted all over the internet, until it reaches a server, somewhere in a data center, or worse in a cloud farm that could move locations on a whim, then come back again.

Others collect so much information that they can’t send it to a cloud farm for processing. It is cheaper and faster to have local processing and upload the finished results - oil exploration comes to mind, you are on a ship on the ocean or in a remote location on land with little or not mobile signal and pushing hundreds of gigabytes of data over a satellite connection is too expensive. You are self-contained - in the old days, the ships had their own VAX mini computers to run the first, rough on-site calculations of the results of a seismic line. Interesting results would then be transmitted in abbreviated form to base. The couple of thousand magnetic tapes would then be transferred to base, when the ship landed.

Even with the advances in satellite communications today, I can’t see that amount of information being economical to send for clous processing. Sneakernet is still, in some circumstances, cheaper and quicker.

Heck, look at cloud backup solutions, they often still offer to deliver a set of hard drives to the recovery location, because it is quicker and cheaper than recovering over an internet connection in the event of a disaster, where the whole kit-and-kaboodle needs to be recovered.

And that is not even going into governmental regulations and industry regulations about the storage of data - has to be within the company network, or has to be held nationally / by a national/regional cloud supplie; GDPR comes to mind and the US’ CLOUD Act, Patriot Act, FISA Courts and National Security Letters, which make it nearly impossible to use AWS, Azure or Google Cloud, for example, or at least there is a huge financial risk to using their services.


The problem is, Intel can still sell chips based on 5-6 year old technology (I’m not talking about the chip designs, but the manufacturing processes). The others are selling “modern” chips that are quicker and use less power, when they can get them made…

AMD has been more agile since it split off its foundries. AMD concentrates of designing the best chips and the foundries concentrate of being able to create chips using the latest technologies. If one foundry can’t move forward, you find another that can and leave the old foundry making smaller numbers of legacy chips until they can ramp-up production on the next generation of manufacturing equipment. The foundries can find more customers for their current process and the big names, like AMD, Apple, Intel, Qualcomm & Samsung can shop around to find the foundries that have the newest and most advanced processes.

That is where the limited capacity comes in, at the beginning of each new generation of processes, there is limited capacity and everybody wants to use it. But at least they can use it.

Intel’s problem is that they have failed to get 10nm working in high volumes (2016/17 technology) and are still struggling and looking to leapfrog to 7mn (2018) or 5nm (2020), whereas AMD, Apple and Qualcomm and some others are already on 5nm and looking to jump to 3nm this year.

As the 5nm process stabilizes and yields increase, there will be more capacity to create chips at that level, so the delivery problems will be alleviated. But this problem happens to each generation and it happens to Intel as well. When they moved to 14nm, there were supply problems to begin with, because the yields (how many chips per wafer were usable) was lower. As the process matured, the yields increased. Their 10nm is still unstable and only a small number of chips are made at 10nm, the rest are still 14nm, because they just don’t have the yields at 10nm, even after 4 years of fine tuning the process.

The other foundries have leapt ahead of them and are producing a superior product, even if the volumes at the forefront are lower than needed, but Intel’s forefront is now at least 3 generations behind the big chip foundries and is still having the same sort of yield problems, even after 3 - 4 years of production.

The problem is, a lot of listeners won’t or can’t pay, even if they don’t like adverts in their podcasts / videos. I pay for Thurrott.com and I donated part of my bonus this year to TWiT, but, until I got my bonus, I was seriously considering dropping my Thurrott.com subscription - although Paul solved that for me, I was given a year’s subscription for being an outstanding member of the community, so I could actually donate what would have been the Thurrott sub to TWiT in December.


Hey big_D, I am with you, I agree completely with what you say, but here is the catch, in many cases you will see Leo advocating people buy Chromebooks when a user is a basic user.

These people are the majority of the users who just want to browse the internet and write a few emails/documents. It is a significant part of the market, therefore these people who use Chromebook will depend on PWAs.

Personally I will never buy something like Chromebook because my line of work depends on automation and the need to run multiple containers/vms on my systems, there are other use cases such as you mentioned that having a thin client won’t work.

Having said that and as a Linux user I like the fact that I can use the web version of MS word for the odd word document or web outlook, or web webex in the past. Most of the time I do not need it because I use LibreOffice and other tools, but when I need it its there for me.

At the end of the day I think PWAs are catering to the everyday Joes who do not know or care about the advanced features of Word or Excel but they need to be able to write a basic document, and their documents live mostly on the cloud.

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Well the other side of this is that really, right now, there is only two competitive fabs. Samsung is semi-competitive with 8nm and TSMC is at 5nm. Intel is at 10-14nm depending. If you look at all the downsides of the pandemic right now, one of the reasons (yes I know there are many and this is an over-simplication) is the fact that Apple bought up all of TSMC’s 5nm capability and AMD has bought up a lot of their 7nm and Nvidia is occupying Samsung’s 8nm. All the supply problems with AMD GPU and CPUs and Nvidia GPUs are potentially related to the fact that there isn’t a lot of supply to go around. I don’t think Intel’s CPUs are actually hard to purchase, if you wanted one, because they have their own means of fabrication and aren’t beholden to any one else, or the fact that Apple or anyone else could buy all the available capability out from underneath them. Of course, this is a double edged sword, because the major reason why people don’t really want Intel chips is also because of those fabs being out dated. Shrug I would prefer Intel to be competitive again with their own fabs, and I would prefer those fabs to be operating in North America to avoid issues with nationalist tariffs, and other “China is dangerous” mentalities.

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I never said they were in short supply. I said that, because they rely on their own fabs and they can’t actually get the technology right, they are stuck with 2016 levels of fabrication for a majority of their chips and 2018 levels for a small number of mobile chips. The “rest of the world” is using 2019 and 2020 levels of manufacturing and looking to switch to 2021 levels with their next generation.

Other fabs are also coming online, SMIC is also producing at 8nm, although Trump threw a spanner in the work with them expanding / moving to 5nm, because nobody is allowed to supply them with the manufacturing equipment for a new fab.

LOL, I love listening to Paul and Mary Jo desperately trying (every show!!) to explain the Windows update dumpster fire.:fire: Cracks me up


Windows updates less often than Macintosh, in my experience. And most Mac updates require a reboot, just like many Windows updates… so that’s nothing to bleat about.

The average Windows user probably barely notices Windows updates to be honest. They download in the background, they apply in the background, and just need a few minutes of downtime when you reboot or power off. And, for most users, considering there are nearly a billion of them, but very few ever report problems with them, they just work. It’s only people who are looking for problems (technologists) that have any concern over how Windows updates work.


Mary Jo and Paul talk about Windows updates every week - listen to the first few minutes of this episode and you’ll see what I mean!

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