2018-09-10 3 min read


Planning & Strategy.

  • Me, writing about margins and strategy and making sacrifices.
  • In their 2018 annual report, Altium (which is primarily known for their electronic design software; they're also a sponsor of The Prepared via Octopart) disclosed that they had acquired PCB:NG (which does quick-turn PCBA that's partially enabled by eliminating stencils and using solder paste dispensers + a bunch of software instead). This is an interesting acquisition: An engineering software company buying a contract manufacturer.
  • Why China can build high speed rail so cheaply: Low cost of land acquisition + design standardization + local component manufacturing. It's like The Power Broker combined with 21st century operational efficiency... presumably with the ruthless social policies intact.
  • Buffer, which from an openness & funding strategy perspective is really the most remarkable software startup around, spent $3.3M to buy out their large series A investors. The combination of foresight and luck here (namely, including the downside protection clause in their series A) is pretty impressive.
  • A good update on the state of funding strategies (VC vs. self-funding) for direct to consumer hardware startups.
  • Jack Ma is retiring from Alibaba.

Making & Manufacturing.

Maintenance, Repair & Operations.

Distribution & Logistics.

Inspection, Testing & Analysis.

  • Transitive.js is an open source tool for generating dynamic stylized transit maps that are easy to understand.
  • The Times' analysis of the Genoa bridge that collapsed earlier this year, with helpful infographics included. With its cable stays encased in concrete, assessing their condition was difficult, and the bridge's lack of redundancy resulted in catastrophic failure.
  • Léon Theremin, the inventor of the eponymous musical instrument, also invented a piece of Soviet spy apparatus called The Thing. The Thing was a passive covert listening device hidden in a hand carved Great Seal of the United States, which was powered by a strong electromagnetic signal from the outside. "When the Russians knew that an important meeting would take place, they parked an unmarked van in the vicinity of the residency and illuminated the bug. A receiver, tuned to the bug's resonant frequency, was then used to pick up the conversation in the ambassador's office."
  • 2nd Ave Sagas on the revamped plans for the BQX, which are both absurd and strategically reasonable.


Photos of the Themis solar power plant, which used mirrors + molten salts + a steam generator to power a 2MW electric turbine.

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