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The last stretch?

The E3 is now 4 weeks away, we see more leaks and a few confirmations. Most confirmations are to counter the ridiculous statements we have seen in the near past. Statements like: ‘we could see a first announcement of the new PS5‘, utterly ridiculous from the first moment it was voiced. The PS4 and PS4Pro are doing just fine at present, there is no need for new hardware, especially with all those games that are coming. Places like the UK Daily Star, who gave us ‘THE SONY PS5 console is coming – eventually – but some BIG E3 2018 news revealed this week could give us our biggest hint yet for when Sony will release a PlayStation 5 games machine‘, with ‘eventually‘ they cover their setting of utter stupidity. It is basically on the same level as ‘If we have unprotected sex the coming year every night, you might end up being pregnant at some point‘, it is on that level we need to see this. As stated previously, the Nintendo Switch will release 28 games between now and August 2018, that is rather huge, some of these titles have been revered for the longest of times, so the current owners are already hyped and if that was not enough, it is also hyping those who want one, so that is working for Nintendo at least twice over. In that regard, another source gave us earlier this month “Microsoft Won’t Release Xbox One Sales But Claims There’s Been Growth … as a key indicator of our success and will no longer report total console sales“, the upcoming degradation to third position has shaken Microsoft to the core, even as we accept ‘There’s Been Growth‘, the issue remains that there will always be growth, there will be an interest in buying an Xbox One, it is not a bad system, merely a flawed one and in that regard, it still has games, good games too. What is remarkable is the entire setting change within Microsoft. You might remember on how it was not a gaming system but set as an ‘entertainment‘ system for the whole family, which bites even more when you realise that some top boxes offer well over 100% more storage, so the ladies can get all 6 seasons of Sex in the city, whilst the partner can hold onto his entire NHL annual season games. Yet beyond that, when we dig deeper, we see that Microsoft fumbled yet again. In this case I must stand up for Microsoft in its defence (just a little), the market was suddenly overwhelmed with all kinds of Fetch options and recording of TV shows. It took a bigger leap as some offer Netflix, Stan, National Geographic and ABC iView whilst it will not count towards the data usage, which for the Netflix addicted is the sales pitch of the century. The fact that some offer mobiles a special deal that now includes a set top box is just a bonus. Microsoft will not be offering the Xbox One X for a mere $80, will they? That is not their fault, it is my personal belief that those offering these deals know what the data value of a consumer is, and this started merely a year ago, years after the console was released.

So when we go back 3 years (for the comparison), take a look (at https://www.onmsft.com/news/xbox-one-more-all-one-home-entertainment-ever), where we see: “Where media entertainment and television integration were the first talking point announcing the Xbox One, they are now on the back burner. Gaming has taken its rightful place as the emphasis of Microsoft’s gaming console. At E3 Microsoft didn’t focus on anything related to cable television or media streaming, they focused on their library of games, and gaming features such as Xbox One backwards compatibility with the Xbox 360. And that’s smart of them to do, but that doesn’t mean the Xbox One isn’t a home entertainment system. In fact, it’s even more of one than when it was initially announced“, which is all true and fair, yet as I basically stated about 2 months BEFORE that date, when you rely on a 1TB drive, whilst for the consumer the difference between the 1TB drive and the 2TB drive was at that point no more than AU$27, meaning that the difference for Microsoft would be a lot smaller, so why be so stupid to settle on 50% storage? I believe that their sense of pushing people into the Azure cloud never faded, it merely bites them now as we see data collecting abuse (Cambridge Analytica is one among many). That set off the gamers in the same way that ‘always online‘ did, and there is not denying it, it hurt Microsoft bad. Now, do not think for one minute that Sony would have been any better, because it took a while for them to back paddle the offline achievements, but they did and Microsoft did not (well only partially). From my point of view to some extent, the Xbox One offered in some ways less than the Xbox360 did.

Even Nintendo Switch would at some point make an error or two, but in all this the Xbox was the worst, even as we see news left, right and centre, and we see gossip on those same three paths, I am trying to see the reality and report on that. Yet in the end, we are still unsure what big whoppers Microsoft will offer during the E3 and that really matters. Even as we now see that Sony and Nintendo are ready to hit it out of the ballpark during their presentation, we still do not know how ready Microsoft is, because that is at the heart of the mounting pressure; The Daily Star gave us last week “It’s a great time to be a gamer and to be a part of Team Xbox. We’re hard at work on exciting plans for E3, from what will be a great briefing filled with new games to the fan experience at the Microsoft Theater. This is our biggest E3 yet, and we look forward to a great week for gamers“, it sounds cool but there is no beef on the bone of rumours, so we will have to wait another 4 weeks.

In all this I am not alone, more and more professional gamer sites and magazines give responses like ‘Microsoft has a lot of pressure to compete with Sony’s fantastic line-up‘, that is the crux of it, Microsoft cannot hope for a homerun, it desperately needs one at present that is for certain. In this, places like Techradar give us: “Now that the Nintendo Switch is so beloved and Microsoft can boast the most powerful console on the market, we’re hoping to see Sony pull out all the stops for PlayStation this year“, Sony who started and still embraces ‘For the players‘, seems to be ready to do just that. That is the setting that Microsoft is up against. when I look at their victory there is no way around Minecraft 4K, that is not a joke, for those addicted to Minecraft, seeing the 4K version on Xbox One was jaw dropping, in equal measure Forza Motorsport 7 will boast and deliver. Honest to god, what I saw (the short part I did see), I could not tell the difference between watching an actual F1 race on Blu-ray and Forza 7 4K. So they have the goods, and there is no way that it will not drive sales for Microsoft. From what I did see, whether you are a racing fan or not, there is no way around Forza this time around, only the foolish and the dead are unlikely to purchase that game if they have an Xbox One X. Yet, will it be enough? We will know in 4 weeks, for now, there is the smallest chance that Microsoft can turn the downturn around, but it will not be cheap and they have no further room for error, because the moment we see an actual first announcements of the PS5 (I reckon in 2020) and Microsoft has not mended its way, it will no longer be seriously considered by anyone but the devoted Microsoft fans, which remains fair enough.

It is up to Microsoft to figure out whether they are in their final stretch, the only real advice I have for them is to boot their marketing department and actually start listening to the gamers, not the Azure department, the Microsoft cloud needs and whomever else could benefit, because it did not bring the Xbox department anything at all (speculative on my side). Putting Phil Spencer on top of all this was a good first step, in 4 weeks we will see what the Xbox Owner gets to play between June 2018 and December 2019, we should hope for the best for more than one reason, because from my pragmatic view, as I see it, when Microsoft properly ups the game, Sony will be forced to do the same and that is good for every gamer in the world. In that Nintendo remains the wild card, they do what they it is that gamers want and they really got it right this time around (referring to the WiiU vs Nintendo Switch),

No matter what system you are on, there will be huge announcements for every system, which is always good and those who have more than one system will have to decide on which system to buy their games more, or less. It is in the end, the gamer’s choice!

As For the E3, the spaces are set, Sony rocks the western hall, see the image below , it is right next to Nintendo, which has half the space Sony has, so that will be one hell of a bottleneck. I wonder if the media will be there asking if people have both systems. Nintendo has two more attached stands, just like Sony. An interesting setting is that Big Ben Interactive is there too, as is NVidia and at least a dozen others. In the South hall, also below it is different. Most large ones are pretty much the same size, except for Square Enix and Bethesda being slightly larger. Microsoft has a tiny presence there, but it has its own venue as stated by some ‘across the street’, There was no mention of any Microsoft at the West hall at all, implying that their small presence in the South hall is merely some stations for playing. The images are nice to see and to behold some of the names there, what is clear is that Sony and Nintendo are ready to take this to the next level, especially in light of how unrealistically expensive floor space on the E3 is. Yet the best source of released info is the site of the venue itself (at https://www.e3expo.com/).

 

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Mining the Ocean

We might look at how Dow dropped 1175 points; we might in equal measure react to the act that Yemeni Houthi’s have decided to perform another attempt to send missiles into the Saudi civilian populations, all factual events of the last day alone. Yet that is not the initial issue that I am looking at. These are short term events and the media loves them because they get to report on the event, the proclaimed solution and the actual solutions. All follow up stories and the media loves them for the coin they tend to bring to their personal pockets. So it was nice to get a look at Saturday’s article by Jonathan Watts who gave us a look at an upcoming disaster (at https://www.theguardian.com/cities/2018/feb/03/day-zero-cape-town-turns-off-taps), not in Saudi Arabia, but in Cape Town no less. Yet it must be said that what is good for the one, could potentially hit the other as well.

So when you initially read the caption, you might think that the quote “In 10 weeks engineers will turn off water for a million homes as this South African city reacts to a one-in-384-year drought” is no big deal. Let’s face it, an event that hits once every 7 to 8 generations is not really a big deal is it. Yet that is not really the part that matters. You see, when you see the pictures, not on merely the empty swimming pool, but the image on the Theewaterskloof dam and how we see on what was and what now is. When we realise that ‘Day Zero, the apocalyptically named point when water in the six-dam reservoir system falls to 13.5% of capacity‘, is upon them just as autumn is ending, is in my view a much larger issue. When we see the people in queues with as many jerry cans as they can carry, that same point of befuddlement is reached when you consider why alarms have not been ringing a lot earlier, or were they ignored? They were not! The official Cape Town page (at http://www.capetown.gov.za/Family%20and%20home/residential-utility-services/residential-water-and-sanitation-services/Residential-water-restrictions-explained) gives us a lot. So as we see “A daily limit of 50 litres or less per person whether at home, work, school or elsewhere” we need to realise that 433 thousand people will still potentially drill down on 21.6 million litres of water every day. I am not putting any doubt on the 10 weeks until day zero, I merely wonder what else could be done to bring that number down and not to forget, that the WWF reported merely 4 days ago that only 39% of the Cape Town residents are adhering to these restrictions. The question becomes, when these restrictions began. For how long was there some plan of no-water, because the article gives us: “Greg Pillay: “We had to go back to the drawing board. We were prepared for disruption of supply, but not a no-water scenario. In my 40 years in emergency services, this is the biggest crisis.”“, it is fair that there was no plan and the fact that this happens once every 384 years makes the non-plan acceptable part, but the fact is that the empty dam pics should have been an alert stage when it had gone down to 50%, the restrictions to the degree as now might have been less severe pushing the reserves forward to a longer time. Now we see that the oddest thing will happen in 10 weeks, the taps will be turned off, no water from the taps. As seen the current 10%, who own up to 95% of all assets can likely afford, that each person buys a 20 ft. container filled with mineral water and ship it to their home, yet the other 90% will not have such an option setting a very dangerous situation, a very flammable and oddly fluid one to say the least.

the one good part is that Cape Town will start getting more rain by the time Day Zero approaches, so with April getting on average 300% more rain than the quarter before, and the steady incline in the months thereafter implies that the worst might be over, the dangers are that mother nature is a bitch on the best of days, so if they end up with a soft and warm winter the Cape Town goose ends up being most literally dry-cooked. There is just one other element. It is the one that they got to live with in Australia, these water catchments have no real purpose if the rain falls in the wrong place, so there is still that risk to look forward to.

So, why mention Saudi Arabia?

Well, Saudi Arabia has a similar drought pressures, yet they have additional issues as well. In Saudi Arabia, according to some sources groundwater extraction far exceed the level of natural recharge. The Al-Asha aquifer in the Eastern Province experienced a drop of 150 meters over the past 25 years. the National Geographic reported in 2015 that by 2012 80% of the aquifers had been depleted. That is one large setting whilst on taps the vein to find out in the first just how reliable those numbers are, but in the second degree as to how the impact on larger cities will become when the news brings them the story that ‘the fore mentioned source of water has been drained‘, because at that point the breakdown will be a lot larger when you consider 433 thousand in Cape Town versus 5.1 million in Riyadh. When that happens in one place, who long until Jeddah, Mecca and Medina follow? The problem is that there is no way to tell because there is no transparent oversight (an issue in many countries), there is no way to reliably forecast the issue and in all this the long terms impact of places that want to upgrade and maximise their economic potential sounds nice, but when the water level hits zero, everything stops, and right quick.

This might be the one long term danger that some are not looking hard enough at. so with: “Under the slogan “Bounties of our land,” Saudi Energy Minister Khalid Al-Falih inaugurated the 12th International Geological Conference on Sunday and an accompanying exhibition at a local hotel in Jeddah“, is nice to propagate the Vision 2030, but it is still 12 years away and at present, the water mining issues as well as the water disruptions that are currently still happening (as stated by more than one source) would impact it all. The growth of infrastructures, the middle eastern heat that is about to hit Saudi Arabia for the next 6 months, whilst the rain will again decide to remain absent until December (speculated forecast), that alone would require a much higher priority to resolve water issues in Saudi Arabia, or at least give it additional priority. The fact that there are 27 plants in Saudi Arabia, creating millions of litres of water every day implies that perhaps it is time to see if this process can be improved upon and more important 9 more plants will be added to the need of Saudi Arabia. Now we can agree that Saudi Arabia has made massive strides here and the fact that they have upped it to 5 million cubic metres a day should not be underestimated. I am merely speculating that if someone finds a way to improve this process by 1%-5%, the impact for the water quality of life for Saudi’s would go straight through the roof, the impact is that large at present. In addition, the fact that for now the 36 plants would suffice in the short term, the long term is still not a given, that is because the need cannot be predicted. Here too it is about the data captured and to learn where the losses to the water cycles are found and how they can be prevented. More important, if mining is an initial issue now, how much of an issue will it be in 10 years, because depleted places could have other implications too, implication mind you! There is a lot that is not known, but it seems to me that both Saudi Arabia and South Africa will have issue to deal with over the coming year. Not just the water as needed for consumption, whatever else relies on water will also impact structural changes and even more drastic show an optional impact on infrastructure. Part of this was also seen last month (at http://meconstructionnews.com/27099/emerson-opens-new-tech-lab-in-saudi-arabia), where Emerson is set to a “new $25 million new technology and innovation centre at Dhahran Techno Valley, in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia enables the company to host Saudi students, entrepreneurs, researchers and industry stakeholders to collaborate with its technical experts to develop process automation technologies and design products and solutions that, “meet the country’s goals.”“. Yet how much priority is given to design new ways to give rise to measuring and monitoring production, distribution and delivery of water solutions towards data collection, designed to contribute to longer term forecasting of water needs. You see, most of these systems tend to be short term, or when they are longer term they lose reliability because of a number of factors, so what happens when we can map and monitor the factors themselves? It is one of the powers that 5G could bring to an automation system, automated drone technologies that monitor and feed. This reminds me of a 2006 paper called ‘Modular learning models in forecasting natural phenomena‘ by Solomontine and Siek. Now in the paper we see in the abstract: “Comparison of the algorithms based on modular local modelling to the more traditional ‘global’ learning models on a number of benchmark tests and river flow forecasting problems shows their higher accuracy and transparency of the resulting models“, now what if the plant is the source of the river and the pipes are the river themselves. What if losses and therefor risks of these pipe systems could be mapped and correctly categorised? Only last year the Saudi Gazette reported (at http://saudigazette.com.sa/article/500157/SAUDI-ARABIA/Water-supply-disrupted-in-five-Jeddah-districts), “Residents of five districts in southeast Jeddah have complained about disruption of water supply to their homes after the National Water Company (NWC) changed its supply schedule. The residents of Al-Musaed, Quwaiza, Al-Nakheel, Al-Raghama and Al-Obaid districts in southeast Jeddah were mainly affected by the supply disruption“, now there can be all kinds of valid reasons why this happens, yet the official response was: “it was beyond their control as the quantity of water they receive from Shuaiba plants was less than what they received before“, the question is not whether, why or the issues of delivery, it is whether quantity of water changes can be measured and set into data models that give better forecasting, this is seen as that nations will soon face provision from 36 plants and any plan to rely on full production and let things run will have longer term problems. Knowing where water is going and what losses are measured will also give rise to initial better information and longer term better water measurement. In my view it is the same with almost every port in the world. It is not how much you ship and how many vessels you service, it is the one place where idle time is not monitored, that is the place where the cost of it all spins out of control really fast.

As I see it, both South Africa and optionally Saudi Arabia have a flaw in the long term view of water, from the articles South Africa is already past the initial point of worry from what I have read and I am speculating that Saudi Arabia has an optional issue growing as it is working towards Vision 2030, because when those tech firms start rolling in in 2031, Riyadh with all its growth could potentially grow by at least 10% in the short term, the question becomes whether Riyadh would be ready to service a jump that is twice the size of Cape Town? I have no way of knowing and it is not yet the point where it is out there, but Vision 2030 is only 12 years away and desalinisation plants do not grow overnight, which would be awesome if someone could design one that did so.

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