Cutting Wine & Cheese Could Save Colorado's Southwest Chief

According to the Denver Post, “Cuts in luxuries may save Colorado Southwest Chief stops, Amtrak says“.

Garcia said he was heartened that Amtrak CEO Joe Boardman promised to help rescue the line by cost-cutting measures, including eliminating complimentary wine and cheese, as well as pillow chocolates, flowers and vases, and newspapers on three of its routes.

The move comes as the railroad moves to answer congressional criticisms and stop the losses from its food and beverage service alone that totaled $72 million in fiscal 2012, according to the news website Politico Pro.

To keep the Southwest Chief on its current route, Amtrak has proposed that New Mexico, Colorado and Kansas share the costs of the track maintenance and upgrades with Amtrak and BNSF. The plan calls for the states to each provide $4 million annually for a decade.

It would be really great if we had a good quality train system alternative to flying in the US. I hate flying.

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Intel Cancels Larrabee

An Intel blog updates on Intel’s graphic’s chip program and says Larabee is no longer. Anandtech has a good analysis of the blog.

Intel cancelled plans for a discrete Larrabee graphics card because it could not produce one that was competitive with existing GPUs from AMD and NVIDIA in current games. Why Intel lacked the foresight to stop from even getting to this point is tough to say. The company may have been too optimistic or genuinely lacked the experience in building discrete GPUs, something it hadn’t done in more than a decade. Maybe it truly was Pat Gelsinger’s baby.

I don’t know why Intel can’t make Larrabee happen but I am disappointed that Intel can’t be competitive with AMD and Nvidia.

FTC Sues Intel

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The US Federal Trade Commssion is joining the EU and going after Intel on antitrust charges. Updated: link and text changed to the FTC’s website.

The Federal Trade Commission today sued Intel Corp., the world’s leading computer chip maker, charging that the company has illegally used its dominant market position for a decade to stifle competition and strengthen its monopoly.

In its complaint, the FTC alleges that Intel has waged a systematic campaign to shut out rivals’ competing microchips by cutting off their access to the marketplace. In the process, Intel deprived consumers of choice and innovation in the microchips that comprise the computers’ central processing unit, or CPU. These chips are critical components that often are referred to as the “brains” of a computer.

Intel responds. Updated: Link changed to Intel’s official press release.

“Intel has competed fairly and lawfully. Its actions have benefitted consumers. The highly competitive microprocessor industry, of which Intel is a key part, has kept innovation robust and prices declining at a faster rate than any other industry. The FTC’s case is misguided. It is based largely on claims that the FTC added at the last minute and has not investigated. In addition, it is explicitly not based on existing law but is instead intended to make new rules for regulating business conduct. These new rules would harm consumers by reducing innovation and raising prices.”

2010 Ford Ranger

3A2C8A90-6903-4E3E-8628-603763F7A1B9.jpgFord has announced the 2010 Ford Ranger and it looks almost like the Ford Ranger I bought in 1997. Ford’s press release promotes safety including AdvanceTrac® with RSC® (Roll Stability Control) and side air bags. They also promotes the 21 to 26 MPG that the tiny 2.3 liter 4 cylinder engine gets.

I guess there’s some money to be saved by keeping with the same basic design of a vehicle for over a decade. The base price for a low end 2009 Ford Ranger is about $17,000. Compare that to a more innovative truck in about the same size range. The 2009 Honda Ridgeline runs about $28,000 on the low end. I’m not sure a low end Ranger and low end Ridgeline compare exactly however.

You might think that the Ranger might make a good platform for some innovation. Body styling aside, how about an electric or hybrid for Ranger? Oh wait, Ford did Make an electric Ford Ranger and killed them in 2002.

The only option is LionEV, which will offer an electric Ranger for $38,950. That’s almost the price of a hover conversion. LionEV also offers conversion kits for Rangers (electric, not hover) for about $10,000.

ArsTechnica On Intel Making Batteries

I love ArsTechnica, but I have to question part of an article that Jon Stokes wrote today about Intel making car batteries.

I bring this up because Intel doesn’t actually make as many chips over here as they used to. Most of the company’s sales are overseas (Asia is the biggest market), so that’s where a large and growing percentage of its workforce is, as well. The company’s pronounced shift in moving jobs abroad has been a sore spot for American Intel employees over the past decade, but I hear that, internally, the Intel top brass makes no bones about the fact that they have no qualms about moving the plants closer to the customers.

I am employed by Intel in the manufacturing side of their business. I don’t pretend that I know everything that is going on but I’m pretty sure this part of the article is incorrect. Most of Intel’s manufacturing is in the United States with the rest in Ireland and Israel. The only Asian capacity is in China and it hasn’t finished construction.

I also don’t know anything about Intel replacing manufacturing capacity in the US with factories outside of the US. My opinion: It costs billions of dollars to build a factory, Intel isn’t about to move capacity from existing locations to overseas unless there’s economic reasons to do so and highly skilled worker base. Just because the customers are there doesn’t seem like a good enough reason.

As far as Intel making batteries? I have to agree with the rest of the article. It’s better if Intel invest in battery tech R&D rather than try it themselves. Not that I wouldn’t love to see Intel broaden out in other ventures. Intel has failed at every attempt to make non microchip businesses (see LCOS and the watches they made that I can’t find a link to) as profitable as chips and top management knows that.