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US ponders tech export ban on SMIC, China's biggest chipmaker

Company reacts with 'complete shock and perplexity' and says it's a law-abiding citizen


The US government is contemplating a Huawei-style ban on Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corporation (SMIC), China's largest chipmaker.

SMIC is known to provide chips to Qualcomm, Broadcom, and Texas Instruments among others.

The company is listed on both the Shanghai and Hong Kong Stock exchanges, having quit the New York exchange in 2019. SMIC operates five chip-making plants in China and in documents, published ahead of its July 2020 Shanghai listing, revealed it can create just under half a million wafers a month and can deliver products built on processes from 0.35μm to 14nm. SMIC is capable of producing SoCs for mobile phones and also claims it can crank out "logic, mixed-signal/RF CMOS, high voltage, flash, EEPROM, CIS and LCoS micro-display technology."

The firm's clientele includes Qualcomm Broadcom and Texas Instruments, so its output probably ends up in products from top-tier electronics companies.

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The company was founded in 2000 and has quickly achieved scale that puts it at the forefront of China's ambition to build a domestic semiconductor industry that can satisfy local demand and win more export business.

The US Department of Defense said in a statement that it "is currently working with the interagency in assessing available information to determine if SMIC's actions warrant adding them to the Department of Commerce's Entity List. Such an action would ensure that all exports to SMIC would undergo a more comprehensive review."

The Trump administration has used the Entity List to prevent Chinese firms using US technology without a licence, on grounds that they represent national security risks due to Chinese government influence and/or are involved in corporate espionage. While some licences have been issued, the likes of Huawei are reportedly now struggling to source components.

If SMIC is added to the list and US chip tech exporters do not receive licences to sell to the company, it could struggle to continue some production.

In a statement on Saturday, SMIC denied it has any ties with the Chinese military and said it was "strictly complying with the laws and regulations of all jurisdictions where it performs its businesses."

"The company is in complete shock and perplexity to the news. Nevertheless, SMIC is open to sincere and transparent communication with US government agencies in hope of resolving potential misunderstandings," it said in a statement. ®

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Threeshiba: Key Toshiba investor opposes firm's split

3D Investments said plan will result in 'three underperforming companies'

A fund that holds around 7 per cent of Toshiba stock – making it the company's second-largest shareholder – has opposed the Japanese industrial giant's proposed split into three companies, and called for a review of alternative strategies.

A scathing open letter from 3D Investments begins by declaring that the company's "failures of execution and misallocation of capital" are compounded by the board's lack of transparency and have collectively damaged the company's credibility.

The investment firm said Toshiba's strategic review committee (SRC) failed in its attempt to find a plan, with an 8 per cent stock price plunge evidence that the plan to split the company is not a good idea.

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Renting your IT hardware on a subscription basis is bad for your customers

We're back with another debate you can vote on as we argue back and forth – this time over cloud computing

Register Debate Welcome to the latest Register Debate in which writers discuss technology topics, and you the reader choose the winning argument. The format is simple: we propose a motion, the arguments for the motion will run this Monday and Wednesday, and the arguments against on Tuesday and Thursday. During the week you can cast your vote on which side you support using the poll embedded below, choosing whether you're in favour or against the motion. The final score will be announced on Friday, revealing whether the for or against argument was most popular.

This week's motion is: Renting hardware on a subscription basis is bad for customers.

Call it leasing, equipment rental, or hardware as a service, the idea of NOT owning your computing devices has been around for years. However, many individuals and corporations have been distinctly ambivalent about the idea, feeling that the benefits tend to flow to the suppliers, and most of all, the financers.

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Project Union: Microsoft releases Windows App SDK 1.0, developers try to puzzle it out

Multiple Windows in WinUI 3? Next version. Open source? Maybe one day

Microsoft released the Windows App SDK 1.0 earlier this month, the first full release of "Project Reunion", but there is some confusion about what it is and whether developers need it.

The release of the Windows App SDK was associated with the arrival of .NET 6.0, a long-term release of Microsoft's application platform, but it is not exclusively a .NET API. What is it then?

Unfortunately the answer is complex which is why Microsoft has struggled to articulate it. The best effort is this GitHub post which describes it as a combination of new APIs with converged APIs that can wrap both Win32 and WinRT – where Win32 is the original and low-level Windows API, and WinRT the modern binary interface introduced for Windows 8.

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Smart things are so dumb because they take after their makers. Let's fix that

IoT still needs its lightbulb moment

Opinion Tech is a great leveller. You can drop £50k on a shiny Tesla and £1k+ on the latest iPhone 13 Max Grunt to unlock it. But if some netops drone located half the globe away misconfigured a server, you're walking home just like a peon with a scratched-up Android and a battered Peugeot who dropped their keys down a drain.

Now, we don't know what caused the outage that outraged owners out with their Musk oxen last week – Tesla doesn't care to communicate details with the press about this or anything else, really. But we do know that the best you could get if you were caught out using mankind's most advanced phone to access mankind's most advanced electric vehicle in the closing stages of 2021 was "Server Error 500."

Numeric error messages were just about OK with the Sinclair ZX81, which had the excuse of an 8 kilobyte ROM with no room for text that could be looked up in the ring-bound manual ... That was 40 years ago.

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When civilisation ends, a Xenix box will be running a long-forgotten job somewhere

'Keep it running a few weeks.' Fast-forward 5 years. 'Why'd it break, man!?'

Who, Me? We've all heard the phrase that "best is the enemy of good", but we've all also shoved in that "temporary" solution that ended up being a bit more permanent than we'd hoped. Welcome to the home of duct tape and prayers: Who, Me?

Today's confession comes from a reader we'll call "George" (not his name) and takes us back once more to the UK of the 1980s and his time working at a pathology company.

"They were switching from a proprietary ICL system to a new Unix-based solution which was still in the 'being developed' phase," he said.

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Looking to get complex machine learning models into production? Serverless might be the answer

Oh-em-gee, it's only another free web lecture from our MCubed team

Special series An old truism of machine learning states that the more complex and larger a model is, the more accurate the outcome of its predictions – up to a point.

If you’re looking into ML disciplines like natural language processing, it’s the massive BERT and GPT models that get practitioners swooning when it comes to precision.

Enthusiasm fades when it comes to running these models in production, however, as their sheer size turns deployments into quite a struggle. Not to mention the cost of setting up and maintaining the infrastructure needed to make the step from research to production happen.

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It's 2021 and someone's written a new Windows 3.x mouse driver. Why now?

For those of you who virtualise Microsoft’s finest and struggle with the pointer, this developer has an answer

Two thousand and twenty-one might not seem the obvious year – or century – to give the world a new mouse driver for Windows 3.1, but a developer named Calvin Buckley has written one nonetheless. His motivation apparently is to ensure rapid and reliable rodent operations when Microsoft's venerable OS runs as a virtual machine.

Buckley's day job is developing software for IBM's i platform. A bio states he once ported the .NET framework Mono to help IBM i developers run .NET programs on i.

Nice.

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Warning: China planning to swipe a bunch of data soon, so quantum computers can decrypt it later

Meanwhile, the Middle Kingdom’s military plans an AI offensive – in the labs and on the field of combat

Tech consultancy Booz Allen Hamilton has warned that China will soon plan the theft of high value data, so it can decrypt it once quantum computers break classical encryption.

The firm offers that scenario in a recent report, Chinese Threats In The Quantum Era, that asserts the emerging superpower aspires to surpass US-derived quantum computing tech in the mid-2020s – but probably won’t get there. However, it "could plausibly lead in developing and deploying early quantum-computing use cases" by that timeframe.

One of the use cases China desires is decryption.

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Indian government warns locals not to use Starlink's internet services

If you are going to sell satellite internet subscriptions in India, you Musk get a license, says regulator

The government of India has advised locals not to subscribe to SpaceX’s Starlink Internet service, revealing that it does not have a valid license to operate on the subcontinent.

Starlink registered its business in India on November 1, actively engaged in advertising and even pre-sold subscriptions. But it has not secured a license to operate, prompting India's Department of Telecommunications to issue a warning tweet.

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AWS is on the threshold of adulthood, but is nowhere near grown up

The cloudy concern is a prodigy, but early promise is no guarantee of dominance

re:Invent 2021 Heading into Christmas 2005, could you have imagined that 16 years later a new player would have rewritten the rules of how business tech is delivered?

Could you have conceived of the notion that this new contender would already have swatted aside attempts by Cisco and HP to mimic its approach, trampled IBM, and forced Microsoft into a pivot and a reboot of its culture?

Could you have imagined this new company had $100 billion annual revenue on the horizon?

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Australia will force social networks to identify trolls, so they can be sued for defamation

At the same time, will overrule court decision that traditional publishers are liable for comments on social media

Australia's government has announced it will compel social media companies to reveal the identities of users who post material considered defamatory.

Prime minister Scott Morrison phrased the planned legislation as creating a power "to unmask anonymous online trolls".

The effect of the planned law will be to put social networks in the same legal position as publishers – liable for whatever material they carry if it is defamatory, even if it was written by a third party. More on that later.

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