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Photo by Ussama Azam on Unsplash

It shouldn’t surprise anyone that “tech layoffs” have been on my mind, and I wrote a column for The Spectator to explain “the why of these layoffs.” An unprecedented boom in Silicon Valley that started with the once-in-a-generation convergence of three mega trends: mobile, social, and cloud computing, has peaked. It started in 2010, and it has been bananas around here for the past decade or so. The FAANG+Microsoft companies saw their revenues go from $196 billion to over $1.5 Trillion. Let that sink in. Booming stocks helped create an environment of excess like never before. 

The companies got into the business of what Paul Kedrosky calls “people hoarding.” The pandemic and the resulting growth revved up the hiring machine even more. The over-hiring of talent has led to wage inflation, which had a ripple effect across the entire technology ecosystem. Technology insiders are happy to tell non-tech companies to use data and automation as tools to plan their future. It is easier to preach than practice. 

Why does Google need close to 200,000 employees? Or does Microsoft need 225,000 people? Salesforce, till recently, had about 73,500 employees. Profitable as these companies have been, it is also clear that they have become sloppy and bloated. I don’t want to undermine the misfortunes of those losing jobs. A lot of the blame is on the leaders of these companies, who were asleep at the wheel. The reality is that when it comes to business, companies have to appease their investors. And right now, those investors want to see companies be more efficient, especially now that growth is becoming normal. 

If you are looking for one, the silver lining is that we will soon be in a new cycle, and a new set of hype trends will converge and create opportunities. And they might not emerge in 2023 or 2024, but they surely will. By then, the industry would have put these job cuts in the rearview mirror.

Read the full piece on The Spectator website!

February 2, 2023. San Francisco

In 2021, I had a chance to visit the frozen continent of Antarctica. It was a chance to experience “totality,” a kind of solar eclipse where the Moon fully obscures the disk of the Sun. Originally the plan was to see this eclipse over a large Emperor Penguin colony, but the weather changed my plans. Instead, I experienced totality on the vast nothingness of the Union Glacier.

But before that, I got to spend a lot of time with the Emperor penguins and get up close and personal with these beautiful creatures. I captured some of these moments on my iPhone, which was my primary tool for making short videos on this trip, which took me to different locations in Antarctica. My videographer friend Felix helped cobble them together and created a short 2+ minute film for your enjoyment.

Let me know what you think!

January 31, 2023, San Francisco

Apple recently released the 2023 MacBook Pros in 14 and 16-inch configurations. As expected, there have been many reviews about the new devices. They range from ho-hum to great reviews. As expected, most of these reviews and reviewers go over the specs. They talk about what’s new –more cores, more GPU power, and longer battery life. Bumps are great, but they aren’t bumper! And since this isn’t as big a bump as the e saw from Intel to M1 chips, no one is doing cartwheels about the new devices. 

I am one of those who doesn’t care about reviews that are pushed out after using the devices for a couple of days — it is true for the cameras, and it is true for the laptops. You could buy any Apple laptop as a general user, and you won’t be disappointed.  I recommend the new MacBook Air to friends and family all day long. Why? Because I used that computer for a few months and was thoroughly impressed — sending it back to Apple was a bittersweet moment. 

Apple sent me the 2023 MacBook Pro 14-inch with M2 Max 12-Core CPU/38-Core GPU with 64 GB memory and 2 TB of hard drive space. I have been playing around with the machine and what has surprised me — very pleasantly is the wireless networking capabilities. It has Bluetooth 5.3, but more importantly, it has WiFi 6E, allowing wireless networks to utilize the 6GHz band. It can theoretically support speeds of up to 2.4GB/s —up to twice as fast as the previous generation.

WiFi 6E is an extension of the existing WiFi 6 (802.11ax) standard that allows for using the 6GHz spectrum in addition to the 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands. This additional spectrum provides more bandwidth, which results in faster speeds and less congestion for devices that support WiFi 6E. Since (for now) the 6GHz band is less crowded than the 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands, theoretically fewer interference issues and better signal quality for WiFi 6E devices.

WiFi6EonMacbookPro142023

Screenshot 2023 01 26 at 10 04 41 AM

I have a Ubiquity U6 Enterprise access point plugged into my network and supports WiFi6E. This isn’t my primary network — to be honest, I have struggled with Ubiquity gear — but it is something I use as a test network. I connected the new laptop to this network and saw my connected speeds go from 350 Mbps down and 400 Mbps up to over 800 Mbps down and 800 Mbps+ on the uplink. My network provider — Google’s Webpass can only provide 1 Gbps, so this is as fast as what I am getting on my Wired Ethernet connection.

I saw speeds vary slightly over the few days I had the laptop, but not by much. The speeds were consistent throughout the apartment, even outdoors on the balcony. I walked out of my apartment and to the elevators, and there wasn’t a drop in speed. I saw latency and ping-time were all over the map, but not enough for me to worry. 

As a broadband nerd, this alone is a reason for me to contemplate trading up — though I don’t see any need to give up on my 2021 MacBook Pro — for now. But I can justify my upgrade to myself!

I am not sure how many people own WiFi 6E access points, but if and when they do, they will be thrilled, as I am with the addition of 6E. Of course, by then the networks would be crowded, and the performance would drop again! 

January 30, 2023. San Francisco

I asked ChatGPT what the top ten features of WiFi 6E are. These are not my words; they are what Chat GPT threw out!  

More bandwidth: WiFi 6E allows for the use of the 6GHz spectrum, which provides more bandwidth than the 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands.
Faster speeds: With more bandwidth, WiFi 6E devices can achieve faster speeds than previous generations of WiFi.
Less congestion: The 6GHz band is less crowded than the 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands, so there will be less interference and better signal quality for WiFi 6E devices.
Improved security: WiFi 6E includes stronger security features to protect against hacking and other malicious attacks.
Support for more simultaneous connections: WiFi 6E supports more simultaneous connections than previous generations of WiFi, which is useful for high-density environments such as airports and stadiums.
Better performance in dense environments: WiFi 6E is optimized to perform better in environments with many devices, such as high-density residential areas.
Lower latency: WiFi 6E offers lower latency than previous generations of WiFi, which makes it better suited for applications such as gaming and streaming.
More efficient use of spectrum: WiFi 6E includes features such as Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiple Access (OFDMA) and Target Wake Time (TWT) that allow for more efficient use of the available spectrum.
Better battery life: WiFi 6E devices use less power, which can result in longer battery life for mobile devices.
Improved reliability: WiFi 6E is designed to be more reliable than previous generations of WiFi, with features such as beamforming and multi-user MIMO that help to improve signal quality and reduce dropouts.

FTA: I recommend MacBook Air 13 (M2 2022 edition) as an on-the-go computer for photographers. It is a solid lightweight machine with long battery life. It is more affordable than the more expensive Pros. Read my full review here.

Smartphone photography keeps marching on — and why not. After all, cameras, screens, and battery life are the key distinguishing features of most phones, especially in the Android ecosystem. And that is why we continue to see Android hardware makers — Samsung, Xiaomi, Huawei, and others try to one-up each other with camera technology and megapixels. 

Samsung will soon launch a new Galaxy (23) model featuring a new 200-megapixel camera sensor. The new sensor, the ISOCELL HP2, will pack 200 million 0.6-micrometer pixels in a 1/1.3″ optical format. This isn’t the first 200-megapixel sensor made by Samsung. The higher pixels allow for “pixel binning,” which allows the sensor to perform better. So, for instance, four pixels can be binned together to create 1.2μm size pixels to output 50-megapixel images. Bin 16, and you get to a 12.5-megapixel image, which can lead to a better quality of images. Apple’s iPhone also uses Pixel Binning in the latest iPhone 14 models. Apple uses Sony sensors.

Samsung says it has a new technology –Super QPD that leads to faster and more accurate auto-focusing, especially in low-light environments. In addition, Samsung says the sensor uses a “Dual Vertical Transfer Gate” that leads to better colors, less overexposure, and fewer washed-out colors. 

Since Samsung supplies these sensors to others, such as Xiaomi, it shouldn’t come as a surprise to see new phone models show up with these sensors. What will distinguish one phone from another is how the software harnesses the capabilities of these new sensors.

Pixels aren’t the only thing, for image quality improves with sensor size. Larger sensors have better dynamic ranges and less noise. But don’t tell that to those who create marketing hype around the notion that “more pixels are better.” It would be cool to see Apple introduce phones with one-inch sensors. It was done before. Leica has collaborated with Sharp to make two such phones that feature a one-inch sensor.

You move, Cupertino! 

January 18, 2022. San Francisco

Here is my take on what happens to traditional camera makers in the long run:

The camera industry is going to become an industry of niches. The likes of Leica, Hasselblad, and PhaseOne will have a lucrative, albeit the smaller, higher end of the market made up of brand loyalists and those in need of specialized devices. Others will depend on working professionals — wedding, sports, and event photographers — to keep the home fires burning. And that isn’t that big a market.  It will be a bruising battle for the enthusiasts who like landscape, urban, and wildlife photography.