Taxing the Smartphone

On Monday a report was released in France that contained the suggestion that a tax should be levied on Internet devices in order to raise money to promote and protect French cultural production.

A Tax Paid Phone

A Tax Paid Phone

For several years France has had a policy of taxing broadcasters and spending the money on supporting its own film and entertainment industries, but revenues are falling. The problem seems to be that many more people are accessing their entertainment via the Internet and therefore not contributing to its production cost.

The Lescure report as it is known suggests a tax of between 1 and 4% on any Internet capable devices (smartphones, eBook readers and games consoles included), but as we might imagine many of the producers of these devices are not happy about the proposal.

Money has to be raised to maintain the entertainment industries, but many of the companies that provide access to this entertainment are not based in France and do not contribute. They probably don’t want to either, and so we come across the same problem that I wrote about last week, collecting national taxes from international corporations based in another state is never easy, and borders are porous.

The proposed tax would replace one already in existence upon storage devices. Currently tax is levied on blank CD’s and memory sticks as well as computers with hard discs.

The manufacturers complain that the price of the devices would rise leading to fewer sales, although the author of the report argues that such a small percentage increase would make little difference, and would not even effect the home job market because most of these devices are assembled overseas. A 1% tax would raise something of the order of 90 million Euro a year.

The problem remains though. As our sources of entertainment move away from pay TV, publicity funded channels and national subscription systems such as the BBC, money is taken away from the producers and associations that represent and fund these industries. Some see the fact that Google and Apple amongst others are operating outside the tax system and are not contributing to the industries that they make their money from as unfair, and hope that this change in tax law will go some way to evening out the field.

The Wall Street Journal goes into a little more depth on the matter in its free online edition.

I wonder if France takes this step if others in the EU will follow. There are many different ways of making money through so called free downloads as we all know, but the money ends up in the pockets of the provider and not the producer and the industries involved are feeling the pinch. Maybe this needs to change.

Advances in Computer Cooling Systems

A few months ago I wrote an article about electricity use in data storage centres, and I want to continue on that theme today. This week Intel announced the results of a year long experiment that involves immersing computers in mineral oil to cool them.

It turns out that the reason these centres use so much electricity is the need to cool the machinery. As this article points out some companies have had the brilliant idea of building their facilities in cold places, so that they can just leave the doors open or use cold seawater to cool the plants, but obviously this does not suit all business plans.

Intel have been immersing their machinery in mineral oil in an attempt to save on electricity. Oil is a better conductor of heat than air so works more efficiently. You just have to remove the fans from the casings and drop the machines in. At the end of this 1 year experiment they found no problems in the machinery due to the immersion. Report in the article linked above.

Computers submerged in mineral oil which acts as a cooling agent

Intel’s experimental oil cooling system

This certainly gives a whole new meaning to the idea of a think-tank.

An organization called Sandia have another idea called a fan-less heat sink. This is a rotating wheel covered in fins that cuts out the use of the fan. They claim that this system is also much more efficient than the old fan system and is not affected by dust as the centrifugal force generated during its use throws it all out. There is an article explaining it here and for a technical explanation see their company website.

If you want to go one step further how about laser cooling? Researchers at Nanyang Technological University have been working on this idea in the hope that they will be able to build microchips that actually cool themselves. Their press release talks about the end of compressors in fridges and air conditioners, a dramatic advantage in energy waste and an end to noisy fans. All published in this month’s Nature science journal.

If all of this has wet your appetite you could try to convert your old computer to a water cooling system. Rather expensive commercially available solutions are available but this blog demonstrates how you can do it all in your own home using just a few things you can buy at your local hardware store. I would recommend that you do not use the computer you are using now though and that you save anything you might want to see again onto another hard drive!

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