Thursday, November 16, 2006
  Why I Hate Apple, Why I Switched Back
Just like I've noticed for several years. Apple's software has some nice edges, some not so nice edges - why Apple users let themselves beta-test OS X from 10.0 to 10.2/10.3 I will never understand. Its hardware though tends to emphasize form over function/reliability. The switch to Intel should at least allow a decent Apples-Dell-HP comparison.
Wednesday, November 15, 2006
  Toronto Star - Most consumer warranties 'bad deals'

"Betting on an extended warranty is a sucker's bet," Consumer Reports senior editor Tod Marks said in an interview.

There are only two products for which an extended warranty makes sense, the group said. They are rear-projection microdisplay televisions, because replacing the bulb costs three times the extended warranty, and Apple computers, because they come with only 90 days of technical support.

Other unreliable products, such as laptop computers, which break down 43 per cent of the time, and desktop computers, which break down 33 per cent of the time, do so after the typical three-to-four-year warranty expires, and in most cases are cheaper to replace than repair, he said.

In comparison, the breakdown rate for a TV is 8 to 10 per cent.

As for iPods, the problem is usually with the battery and it's cheaper to buy one from a third party than pay the $50 to $60 extended warranty the store charges, he said.

And if you're still determined to buy the extended warranty, don't pay more than 20 per cent of the price of the product for which it was purchased, Consumers Reports said.

Monday, November 13, 2006
  NYTimes - A Hedge Fund With High Returns and High-Reaching Goals

According to a Harvard Business School case study about Mr. Hohn’s investment in Deutsche Börse, in 1996 Mr. Hohn began working for Perry Capital, a hedge fund founded by Richard C. Perry, a former partner at Goldman Sachs. In June 2000, Mr. Perry raised money for a European-focused fund to be managed by Mr. Hohn. The fund, said the case study, achieved “superior performance of 20 percent a year over three years with little volatility” — meaning Mr. Hohn produced outsize returns without taking the risk associated with such returns.

Like most managers who do well working within a larger fund, he set out on his own, starting TCI in January 2004. The fund would not be socially responsible but would invest in any sector it deemed undervalued. According to the Harvard case study, Mr. Hohn said, “We believe we can do greater good by making more money and giving it away.”

The fund would take large bets — for example, own shares in only a few companies — in industries that are hard to break into.

The fund has an unconventional fee structure: instead of the standard 2 percent of assets for managing the fund and 20 percent of the profits as incentive compensation, the fund charges a 1 percent management fee and a 13 to 17 percent incentive fee. Investors then pay 0.5 percent of committed capital and 0.5 percent more if the investors’ net return exceeds 11 percent, with both fees going to charities. People invest with the understanding that they cannot get the money back for three to five years, an eternity for many investors who like to be able to withdraw their money at any time.

Mr. Hohn’s track record and his dedication to philanthropy convinced people to invest. The returns paid off handsomely and contributed to money flooding into the fund. In 2004, the fund produced returns from 42 to 44 percent, depending on the class of share invested in. Returns for 2005 were even better: 50 to 52 percent, investors said.

TCI is among the funds changing that dynamic. It has not been without controversy. This year, Mr. Hohn tried to raise fees retroactively on a group of investors; the move incited some to withdraw their money. “It was outrageous,” said one who left. NHS computer boss failed IT exams
According to This is London, Granger's mum Mary Granger said Richard failed his computer studies exams while at Bristol University and was only allowed to resit after she wrote to Princess Anne.

Mary Granger is amazed that her son was put in charge of a £20bn project to transform the NHS's computer system. She is less surprised that his 'Connecting for Health' project is over-budget, behind schedule and threatening to become the biggest IT disaster in history.

  NYTimes - Shopping Site Offers a Way to Raid a Celebrity’s Closet

For fashionistas in lower tax brackets, reproducing the latest hip look from Lindsay Lohan or Paris Hilton can mean endless clicking through online retail sites and hit-or-miss searches on Google or shopping engines like

Now a new search site,, offers a shortcut for the budget-minded wannabe. The site, rolled out last week, relies on artificial intelligence technology to search images on the Web, and serve up goods for sale that visually match items on a shopper’s wish list.

Visitors to the site search for products in one of two ways. First, they may type in “red strappy shoes” or silver earrings and receive pages filled with images that match the description, along with prices and links to the product pages of the Web sites where the items are sold.

Or users may browse through selected items in the wardrobes of about a dozen celebrities, including Scarlett Johansson and Jessica Simpson and choose, say, a pair of the dangling silver earrings Ms. Johansson wore to the premiere of the Woody Allen movie “Scoop.” The site then searches for similar earrings, returning more than 8,000 pairs ranging in price from $40 to $8,000.

Friday, November 10, 2006
  Judge Grants Marie Lindor's Motion to Amend Answer to Add Affirmative Defense of Unconstitutionality of Damages
If the RIAA can only sue for ~$0.70 instead of $750.00 per infringing song...
In UMG v. Lindor, Judge Trager has granted Ms. Lindor's motion to add a defense based on the unconstitutionality of the $750-per-song damages sought by plaintiffs. He rejected the RIAA's arguments that the defense was without merit, that the motion was untimely, that the amendment would prejudice the RIAA, or that Ms. Lindor was required to send a notice to the United States Department of Justice of her defense of unconstitutionality.

Thursday, November 09, 2006
  NYTimes - A Website to call your own

A nice starter-kit for small biz to get online, but the name is just totally wrong.

Most people will think that "Office Live" refers to MS Office on the web, not about an entry-level internet hosting business. But other than the credit card registration requirement, this seems like an easy way to get website hosting for cheap. But things like service, uptime, etc. are still unknowns. Wonder how Go-Daddy, 1 and 1, etc. are handling the news.

So how do you get an actual domain name like You have to pay a registrar company around $10 a year for it. You might then pay another company a few bucks a month to “host” your Web site, and somebody else to design the Web pages themselves. For nontechnical people, it’s all an expensive headache. No wonder half of all small businesses don’t even have Web sites.

But starting Nov. 15, somebody will offer to pick up the entire bill. You’ll be able to pick any dot-com (or .net, or .org) Web address that hasn’t already been taken — no charge. You’ll get to design a Web site, complete with links, graphics, search boxes, tables, forms and navigation bars, and hang it on the Web for all to see — no charge. You’ll even get crystal-clear traffic reports whenever you want them, showing how many people are beating a path to your door — and still no charge.

So who’s your mysterious benefactor? A little outfit called Microsoft.

The service is called Office Live. Ignore the confusing name, which falsely implies some connection with Microsoft Office. Instead, Office Live is a suite of services, mostly free, to help the little guy get into the game of online sales and marketing. It’s intended for small businesses, but individuals can use it, too.

  CNN - 'Helicopter parents' try to help their kids land jobs
Cut the cord, people. You're not supposed to live your kids' lives.
Some parents are writing their college-age kids' resumes. Others are acting as their children's "representatives," hounding college career counselors, showing up at job fairs and sometimes going as far as calling employers to ask why their son or daughter didn't get a job.

It's the next phase in helicopter parenting, a term coined for those who have hovered over their children's lives from kindergarten to college. Now they are inserting themselves into their kids' job search -- and school officials and employers say it's a problem that may be hampering some young people's careers.

"It has now reached epidemic proportions," says Michael Ellis, director of career and life education at Delaware Valley College, a small, private school in Doylestown, Pa.

At the school's annual job fair last year, he says, one father accompanied his daughter, handed out her resume and answered most of the questions the recruiters were asking the young woman. Even more often, he receives calls from parents, only to find out later that their soon-to-be college grad was sitting next to the parent, quietly listening.

  The Guardian - The Enema Within
One of the grossest articles I've read online in a long time.
When photographer Anthony Cullen heard the clank of glass on porcelain, he didn't need to examine the contents of the toilet bowl between his legs. He instinctively knew he had just passed the marble he had swallowed as a five-year-old; the small coloured sphere - "I think it was a bluey" - had lodged in his colon for 22 years. His nonchalance was understandable. Having flushed 400 pints of coffee and vinegar solution around his large intestine through 10 enemas, and taken 100 herbal laxatives, he had become hardened to extraordinary sights. He had already excreted yards of long stringy mucus "with a strange yellow glaze", several hard black pellets and numerous pieces of undigested rump steak. Like an iceberg breaking away from a glacier, the marble was simply the latest object to drop off the furred up wall of his colon.

  MSDN - 8 Simple Rules For Developing More Secure Code
Habit #7: Recognize the Strategic Asymmetry

This is one of my favorites. Remember that as a software developer, the security odds are stacked against you. I like to call this the "Attacker's Advantage, and the Defender's Dilemma." You need to get the code and the designs 100 percent correct 100 percent of the time, and that is impossible. To make matters worse, you must reach this insurmountable goal on a fixed budget, on time, while having to consider requirements of supportability, compatibility, accessibility and other "-ilities." An attacker can spend as long as he wants to find one bug, and then announce to the world that your application is insecure.

Security holes are like dominoes. If you can knock a domino down, others may fall, taking down the whole structure. Most people aren't trained to deduce the severity of a fallen domino though. It's also much easier to knock down one or a few dominos to bring down the whole structure than it is to setup up all the dominoes in the first place.
  CNN - Low-carb diet doesn't raise heart risk in women, study shows
The title is probably misleading to those who equate "low-carb diet" with "Atkins diet":

The study of thousands of women over two decades found that those who got lots of their carbohydrates from refined sugars and highly processed foods nearly doubled their risk of heart disease.

At the same time, those who ate a low-carb diet but got more of their protein and fat from vegetables rather than animal sources cut their heart disease risk by 30 percent on average, compared with those who ate more animal fats.

The findings came from researchers at Harvard University's schools of medicine and public health who reviewed records of 82,802 women in the ongoing Nurses' Health Study over 20 years. The women were not dieting to lose weight. In fact, on average they were slightly overweight and increased their body-mass index roughly 10 percent during the study.

  Blame the consultant
From NYTimes' "‘Brooklyn Style Pizza’ Meets the Real Deal":

Arthur Schwartz, the Italian food authority and author of “Arthur Schwartz’s New York City Food: An Opinionated History and More Than 100 Legendary Recipes” (Stewart, Tabori and Chang) said he might be to blame for this turn of events. He was a consultant to Domino’s last year, suggesting — among other things — that they use cornmeal in the crust.

He said the phrase Brooklyn Style Pizza never came up, and he doesn’t believe there is such a thing.

He didn’t know what Domino’s was planning.

“If I caused this,” he said, “I apologize.”

Tuesday, November 07, 2006
  MSNBC - A lice treatment to blow problem away?

Head lice — those nasty nuisances for schoolchildren and parents — were blown away in half an hour by a new blow dryer-like device its inventors call the “LouseBuster,” university researchers report.

The device, which kills bugs and eggs by drying them out, might one day offer an alternative to the powerful delousing shampoos and literal nit-picking currently necessary for dealing with this widespread problem.

The appliance works by blowing twice as much air as a typical blow dryer, he said. Treatments typically take 20 to 30 minutes, he said, although in the study they lasted 30 to 35 minutes.

Clayton studies birds and lice, but after moving to Salt Lake City from England in 1996 he found the air was too dry to keep lice alive on laboratory birds. He had to humidify rooms to keep the bugs alive.

If dry air could kill lice on birds, Clayton reasoned, it might do the same on humans. And the project became personal: His own kids had them.

Clayton found temperature wasn’t as important as the amount of air. The air in his device is cooler than a standard hair dryer.

  NYTimes - In Arizona, 'For Sale' Is a Sign of the Times

Until recently, the calculation was fairly simple for individual real estate investors. “You put $5,000 down and you sell it for a $100,000 profit,” sometimes almost before the paint dried, Mr. Burns said. “And then you roll into 15 more houses.”

The speculators are gone. But builders predict that the current downturn will last no more than six months to a year, arguing that prices and sales will start rising again after the homes on the market are absorbed by the normal influx of migrants to the area.

“By the time all the dust settles, will this be an 18-month correction or a 36-month correction?” said Thomas Bruin, chief executive of Hearthstone, a firm based in San Rafael, Calif., that invests pension fund assets in land and residential real estate. “Nobody really knows.”

Economists note that the construction sector, itself dependent on the housing boom, accounted for about a quarter of all new jobs created in the last six years. Lower-paying retail jobs added about 15 percent.

Wages rose, too, but not nearly as fast as home prices. In Maricopa County, which includes Phoenix and Scottsdale, median home values — half the homes are worth more, half are worth less — increased 64 percent, to $212,700, from 2001 to 2005, while the typical household’s income rose just 5 percent, to $48,711, according to the Census Bureau.

The housing correction has, thus far, had only a modest impact on the broader economy. While home builders have cut back, contractors remain busy erecting shopping malls, office buildings, schools and civic projects. Builders and contractors say the costs of concrete, drywall, copper and other building materials remain high, though the supply shortages seen last year have dissipated.

But smart investors, he argued, were absorbing the surplus by buying up homes that builders were now unloading at bargain prices — some for as little as $60 to $80 a square foot, which local experts say is barely enough to cover construction costs let alone land expenses.

At such prices and with interest rates still low, an investor can cover his monthly costs, maybe even earn a modest income, by renting homes for $900 to $1,400 a month while the market recovers, Mr. Caldwell noted.

“It is not a get-rich quick scheme,” he acknowledged. “But investments in real estate,” he added, “do go up over time.”

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