Wednesday, January 31, 2007
  Windows Vista App compatibility problems

File and registry virtualization is generating a lot of grey hair for developers.

From Windows Vista Security Guide: Chapter 4: Application Compatibility:

Windows Vista 64-Bit. 16-bit applications and 32-bit drivers are not supported in the Windows Vista 64-bit environment. Automatic registry and system file redirection is not available for the 64-bit environment. For these reasons, new 64-bit applications must comply with the full Windows Vista application standards.

Monday, January 29, 2007
  Toronto Star - Skinny-model ban not desirable: U.K. fashion

Just plain stupid. I don't think they know the meaning of the word 'enforceable'. It'd seem pretty easy to enforce it.

Organizers of London Fashion Week said Thursday they would not ban ultra-thin models from the catwalk, but stressed they had asked designers to use only "healthy" people in their shows.

The British Fashion Council said barring stick-thin models – as fashion weeks in Madrid and Milan have done – "is neither desirable nor enforceable.''

  Globe and Mail - Winners security breach hits home

Why they kept credit card records back to 2003 is beyond me.

Thousands of Canadian credit-card holders have been victimized by fraud after a security meltdown at the U.S. parent company of retail chains Winners and HomeSense, according to sources in the financial community.

They suggested that number could rise as banks and other credit-card issuers continue to gather information on what has become one of the most high-profile privacy thefts in recent memory.

“We have seen fraud on some of those accounts that we can directly link back to [the breach],” said an official with one card issuer, who cautioned his company is still determining how many of its clients could be left vulnerable by the hacking incident. He added that issuers are directly contacting any customers whose cards appear to have been used fraudulently.

TJX, which also operates the T.J. Maxx and Marshalls banners in the United States, said it learned of the breach in December, but confirmed that the intruder had accessed credit-card records dating back to 2003.

The company did not disclose how many customers were affected, but some have estimated that between 20 million and 40 million cardholders worldwide could potentially be exposed to fraud. The number of people affected in Canada is thought to be about two million, according to estimates on Bay Street.

  MSNBC - FDA advisers back 5-in-1 childhood vaccine

The endorsement makes it more likely the Food and Drug Administration will approve the Sanofi Pasteur vaccine, called Pentacel.

The vaccine is meant to prevent diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough, polio and bacterial infection caused by Haemophilus influenzae type b, or Hib. Hib disease can cause meningitis, pneumonia and arthritis.

If approved, the vaccine could eliminate seven of the 23 federally recommended injections children now must endure through age 18 months, according to Sanofi Pasteur, the vaccines business of Paris-based Sanofi-Aventis. The vaccine would be given in four doses, at 2 months, 4 months and 6 months and finally at 15 months to 18 months.

The vaccine was first sold in Canada in 1997 and is now available in eight other countries, the company said.

  NYTimes - For the High-End Bathroom, Something Unexpected

Even with designer urinals, I bet it'd take a lot of work to get the wife to go along with putting one in the bathroom.

The new urinals bear little resemblance to the grungy fixtures you might see littered with cigarette butts and hanging from the wall of a truck-stop men’s room. Consider, for example, Duravit’s McDry, an elegant, teardrop-shaped model that sells for $895 and doesn’t require water to flush (instead it uses a biodegradable blue oil, penetrable by a stream of urine, which acts as a barrier to odors).

Indeed, there is still a certain amount of squeamishness about home urinals, particularly among women, so marketers are focusing on designer style and claims about cleanliness in an effort to overcome negative associations. Kohler U.S.A., for instance, says that its “human factors group” — a team that studies, among other things, how people urinate — has found the best urinal shape for keeping the bathroom clean. A result is Kohler’s funnel-shaped Steward series, introduced last April.

“When you go at a flat wall there’s lots of splash,” said Shane Judd, product manager of Kohler’s fixtures group, whose job it is to know these kinds of things. “The conical shape eliminates splash.”

The environmental benefits are also an attraction for some, since several of the new models use less than a gallon of water per flush, while an older toilet can use as many as five gallons. Eric Cadora, a 42-year-old actor and consultant on green building, installed a Duravit McDry model, which uses no water to flush regularly, in the 2,800-square-foot home he shares with his wife in Malibu, Calif. He estimates the urinal will save thousands of gallons of water a year. Maintenance, he added, has been minimal; every two months, he flushes the fixture with a gallon of water and then refreshes the sealant. “It never smells,” Mr. Cadora said.

Although the appeal of urinals has more to do with function than form for most people, the notion of the urinal as artwork is being revived by one enterprising sculptor 90 years after the artist Marcel Duchamp unveiled his “Fountain.” Kathy Dorfman, 36, spent $10,000 on a one-of-a-kind urinal hand-sculptured from porcelain by Clark Sorensen, a San Francisco artist, in the form of a pink orchid and gave it to her husband as a gift. The couple plan to install it in the master bathroom in their 11th-floor penthouse in Edgewater, N.J., which is decorated in white and lilac marble. “The pink orchid is the most beautiful piece,” Ms. Dorfman said. “It’s very sexual.”

Until now, home urinals have been installed largely in testosterone-laden basement bars and dens, according to Paul Rice, an architect who installed a urinal in his own home in Amagansett after specifying one for a client in Manhattan. “This is another way to make men feel pampered, the way the bidet made a woman feel her bathroom was complete,” Mr. Rice said.

But as urinals get the high-design treatment, they may increasingly move into master suites and powder rooms. One model with a distinctly feminine appeal is Villeroy & Boch’s Oblic, which costs $910 and resembles an egg. Petite and popular in smaller bathrooms, where it can be mounted in a corner, it is likely to meet the approval of women like Deborah Wiener, an interior designer who said she hides terrycloth slippers in each bathroom of the house she shares with her husband and two sons. “My fourth design mantra is never, ever go barefoot in a man’s bathroom,” said Ms. Wiener, who runs Designing Solutions, based in Silver Spring, Md., and has recommended urinals to clients.

  MSNBC: Has housing market bottomed out?

The real estate economists are always overly optimistic.

After a historic five-year boom propelled by a strong economy and low interest rate, the real estate market went bust in 2006, according to the final tally released Thursday by the National Association of Realtors. Sales of existing single-family homes fell 8.4 percent to about 6.5 million, the biggest annual decline since a 14.8 percent drop in 1989.

Those numbers have driven away much of the quick-buck crowd that loaded up on unbuilt condos and helped fuel the rapid rise in prices. In 2005, some 40 percent of the market represented investment or second-home purchases. Comparable figures for 2006 were not yet available, but the departure of those investors should help stabilize the market, according to David Lereah, chief economist at the National Association of Realtors.

The trade group's official forecast calls for a 1.2 percent drop in sales of existing homes this year and a 1.5 percent increase in the median price.

Some market watchers note that at 6.5 million sales a year the pace of homes sales is still strong by pre-boom standards. And there are signs that the slump is easing, if not reversing course. Brian Wesbury, chief economist First Trust Advisors, notes that lumber prices, mortgage activity and some homebuilder stocks have begun to pick up.

“It looks to me as though maybe we haven't reached the complete bottom yet, but we're in the bottoming phase right now,” he said.

  MSNBC: 77 sq. feet for $335,000? Welcome to London

I knew London was expensive, and I thought the real estate market had cooled off in the past couple of years, but that's really nuts.

  NYTimes - Now You, Too, Can Enter the World of 007 Finance

The proliferaion of ETFs and other stock-related instruments allows the do-it-yourself investor to mimic trading strategies of the bigger players. Whether that's a good thing or not, in the short term, it'll be a costly experience for the beginners.

  CNet: About South Korea's 'dependency' on Microsoft

Cheap pirated software in South Korea is the main cause for Windows dominance in the country. And the rest of the developing world too. Some countries have piracy rates close to 100%.

  Broken barriers not so newsworthy anymore

I noticed that the three of the four film acting awards at the Golden Globe and SAG ceremonies went to actors of African American descent. And the Oscars tend to follow in the footsteps of these two award ceremonies. Yet a quick scan of the major news websites show no major articles about the occurrence.

Several years ago, you could count on one hand the number of Oscars awarded to actors of Afican-Ameican descent and it was noteworthy when another was awarded. But now, nothing. As it should be.

But there's still a long way to go. Movies and TV are still Caucasian-dominated on screen compared to the ratio in the general population.

I did see an article noting that several of the female SAG award winners weren't rail-thin model-clones. Since the USA has more overweight/obese people than thin people, maybe this is just a reflection of the norm. In the long run, I'm not sure if it's a good thing or not - more realistic, yes. Good? I dunno. 50% movie piracy from Canada: Hollywood

Well the Canadian national anthem says,

...The True North strong and free!

From far and wide,
O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.

God keep our land glorious and free!...
though the quebecois version doesn't mention freedom, but seems slightly American in its use of violent terms and protection of rights.

As much as 50 per cent of the world's pirated movies come from Canada, prompting the film industry to threaten to delay the release of new titles in this country.

According to an investigation by Twentieth Century Fox, most of the illegal recording, or "camcording," is taking place in Montreal movie houses, taking advantage of bilingual releases and lax copyright laws.
Global National Online Extras

In Quebec, it is much more advantageous because you get both English and French. You cover a bigger part of the world," said Ellis Jacob, chief executive of the Cineplex Entertainment theatre chain. "They are using Canada because they can have the movie out on the street in the Philippines and China before it even releases there."

Under the act, anyone caught copying a movie without the studio's consent can face criminal charges and jailed or fined up to $25,000. Copyright holders can also take civil action against someone who has infringed on their property.

However, Jacob said convicting someone is difficult.

"You have to prove that the person was camcording and using it to generate revenue. It is virtually impossible to do that," he said." Unless you can assign blame to the person recording in your theatre, your law doesn't have any teeth.

"Because of movie piracy, a U.S. congressional committee has added Canada to a "country watch list" that includes such well-known piracy havens as China, Russia, India and Malaysia.

According to the 2006 watch list, "piracy in these countries is largely the result of a lack of political will to confront the problem."

The document says movies recorded in Canada are quickly filtered through organized crime groups and circulated around the world. It also claims that Canada has become a dumping ground for pirated content.

"Canada's lax border measures appear to permit the importation of pirated products from East Asia, Pakistan and Russia. A co-ordinate national program targeting importation of counterfeit goods at all major Canadian ports of entry is needed."

Studios are able to trace pirated movies to specific theatres by examining them for watermarks that are contained within the images, but invisible to the naked eye.

Sunday, January 28, 2007
  MSNBC - McDonald's goes 24/7

Story talks about McD's revival from the low point of 2002.

McDonald's went 24/7 in Garner in April, 2005, after a push by corporate headquarters to boost profits by extending store hours. Franchisee Fred Huebner had doubts at first. He doesn't anymore. By catering to the area's night owls and early birds on U.S. Highway 70, Huebner, who put on his first McDonald's uniform almost 35 years ago, figures he has increased his restaurant's revenue by 4.5%, or $90,000, over a year. "There are so many customers out there all times of the day," he says. "We have to be out there, too."

The all-hours offensive reflects a strategic shift at McDonald's. For most of its history, growth meant one thing: more locations. And until the late 1990s it worked. Like a juggernaut, McDonald's rolled over the competition and across the nation, opening hundreds of outlets each year and cranking out a run of hit products. Then the company reached a saturation point. While overall revenue kept climbing, the new sites stole customers from existing locations. Margins and same-store sales slid into 2002, reflecting diminishing returns on the $1.2 billion a year that the company was plowing into new restaurants during this period. By spending so much time on real estate, recalls James Skinner, a 35-year veteran who was promoted to chief executive in late 2004, "we had lost our focus. We had taken our eyes off the fries."

Today the mantra is "better, not just bigger." Instead of building more restaurants, McDonald's is increasing its financial results by squeezing more from the ones it has. The new focus has forced it to rethink every element of its business, from product development and marketing to restaurant design and technology. In the process, McDonald's, which seemed out of touch with consumers just a few years ago, has attempted to realign itself with contemporary tastes.

Despite the competition, McDonald's is, at the moment, triumphant. After posting its first-ever quarterly loss in 2002, it has logged 45 consecutive months of U.S. sales increases, including a 6.9% pop in December. It now commands nearly half the U.S. hamburger market—three times more than either Wendy's or Burger King—and has such a lead that even its fastest-growing rivals may never catch up. McDonald's share price, up 25% in the last year, is trading at a seven-year high of nearly $45. John Glass, a restaurant analyst with CIBC Worldwide, sees only further gains from McDonald's new strategy. "People's days are longer," he notes. "So are McDonald's restaurant hours. This is a natural evolution to capture more business."

Thanks to icons like the McMuffin and the McGriddle — a pork patty between two syrup-infused pancakes introduced in 2003 — McDonald's dominates mornings. It owns a quarter of the $25 billion market for fast-food breakfast. In fact, morning is now the most important part of the day for McDonald's in the U.S., accounting for a quarter of domestic revenue and nearly half of profits. Those numbers roughly approximate the breakdown in Garner, a fairly typical store, where breakfast accounts for 30% of the store's $2.5 million in annual sales. Lunch is 24%, afternoon 15%, dinner 15%, and overnight 16%. The single hour that generates the most revenue annually at the store, about $200,000, is the traditional lunch period, from noon to 1 p.m.

For all of its success at breakfast, management is confident that there's still plenty of room to grow in the morning. Why? Because it is still the meal that people in the U.S. are least likely to eat away from home. For every restaurant breakfast, the typical American orders 2.5 lunches and nearly 2 dinners, according to NPD Group. And new products attract new business. Since McDonald's rolled out a darker and stronger coffee last March, same-store sales at breakfast have increased 7.5% in the U.S., on a pace with Starbucks. To build on this momentum, the company is testing two more breakfast items: a Southern-style fried chicken biscuit and Newman's Own iced coffee.

A bigger breakthrough may come out of the company's experimental restaurant in Romeoville, Ill. Today the standard McDonald's kitchen has room for one built-in grill. As a result, restaurants have to stop serving breakfast in the late morning so crews can begin sizzling up burgers for the rest of the day. The company is working on a potential solution to this conundrum: a portable electric unit that would permit kitchens to serve breakfast all day long.

One reason McDonald's is creating crowd-pleasers again is that it has become much more rigorous in product development. New ideas are generated in the company's food studio in Oak Brook by a staff of three dozen chefs, food technicians, and market researchers. Potential new products get tried out first in one market for six weeks. The company doesn't just assess sales. It also monitors costs and margins and judges how easy a new product is to prepare by a crew that is constantly changing. (The annual turnover among cooking crews companywide exceeds 100%, although it is about 70% for the Huebners.) If the concept passes muster, McDonald's expands its test cell to 800 to 1,000 restaurants in four to six markets.

Skinner and others say this wasn't standard operating procedure before the company embarked on its comeback in 2003. Back then the company was in all-out expansion mode, opening outlets somewhere in the world at the rate of one every 4 1/2 hours. Ralph Alvarez, 51, McDonald's president and chief operating officer, recalls spending six to seven days of his 20-workday month on real estate. That left scant time for things like consumer research. Little surprise that many new products bombed. Case in point: the McShaker salad. Introduced in 1999, it came in a large plastic cup designed to fit a car's cupholder. Problem: Nobody could figure out how to eat a salad while driving. "We were more willy-nilly then," says Skinner. "The attitude was, we'll make it and they'll buy it."

Today the company is adding just 50 to 100 sites a year in the U.S. The shift has freed up billions of dollars in capital, which has enabled McDonald's to quadruple its dividend to $1.2 billion over the past four years, ramp up its share buybacks, and hand out generous subsidies to its 2,400 franchisees to refurbish their stores. Since 2003 the chain has remodeled more than 3,000 sites. Now it plans to convert every location over the next 20 years from its 1980s mansard roof design to a more upscale exterior of earth-red brick and glass accented by a yellow swoosh at the roofline. These new stores could cost up to $1.5 million apiece to build. To help franchisees, the company has agreed to chip in as much as $600,000 per site.

Thursday, January 25, 2007
  NYTimes - The Irish, Young in ‘Old Europe,’ Strain Schools and Housing

The Pope effect? There is some phallic imagery associated with the pontiff.

Demographically, the births creating the Irish age bulge reached a peak 27 years ago, roughly nine months after the September 1979 visit to Ireland of Pope John Paul II.

The 74,064 births recorded by the Central Statistics Office in 1980 was the largest number in Ireland in more than 80 years.

“Ireland hit a perfect demographic storm,” said David McWilliams, an economist in Dublin and author of “The Pope’s Children: Ireland’s New Elite,” published in 2005. “The post-pope bulge combined with a booming economy to bring Irish home from overseas and attract even more young people from Poland.”

I wonder if there's any cause-effect relationship or if it's similar to the blackout-effect-on-births urban legend.

Friday, January 19, 2007
  CNet - Report highlights mistakes in search for Kims

Boy, the CNet article makes negative comments about several people, but mainly Josephine County Search Coordinator Sara Rubrecht.

Rubrecht was a "part-time" employee with "limited training" who nevertheless is in charge of managing all aspects of the county's search and rescue operations, including overseeing 100 volunteers. In a December 28 interview with investigators, Rubrecht acknowledged that "she has a checklist of what was required for her duties on the search but she said she did not have time to pull it out."

The report added: "Rubrecht has not had a performance review for over three years. She does not know what her job expectations are."

John James owns the nearby Black Bar Lodge. He called the Josephine County Sheriff's Office that morning and was transferred to Rubrecht's voice mail. After leaving a message, John James and his brother, Denny James, drove snowmobiles up Bear Camp Road until they hit pavement after about a mile and could not continue. After retreating, the James brothers ran into Rubrecht and Stanton in a patrol vehicle.

John James stressed that county authorities should explore the rest of Bear Camp Road. But Rubrecht replied, according to John James: "We don't believe that they are out there. We are doing this just to do it." (Denny James confirms this version of events.)

  Silicon Valley - Number of people with traditional landline phones drops sharply

About one in eight households did not have a landline telephone in the first half of 2006, according to data the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention collected in its National Health Interview Survey. Three years earlier, it was about one in 20.

So that means the USA went from 5% cellphone-only to 12.5% cellphone-only. If a blackout hits, I wonder how bad the overload at the cellphone towers is going to be? Back in 2002, there were fewer cellphones around. Usage has trickled down to tweeners now.

Among all adults, 9.6 percent had only a cell phone in the first half of 2006, compared with 7.7 percent in the preceding six months. The overall number without landlines -- 13.2 percent -- includes those who have no phone at all.

``This latest increase is larger than we would have predicted,'' said Scott Keeter, a senior researcher at the Pew Research Center. ``It's now about one in four young adults (18-24) who have cell phones only.

Thursday, January 18, 2007
  WSJ - Walt Mossberg - Vista: Worthy, Largely Unexciting

I think most of his problems are due to weak graphics/shared graphics memory buffer causing low memory for his computer.

After months of testing Vista on multiple computers, new and old, I believe it is the best version of Windows that Microsoft has produced. However, while navigation has been improved, Vista isn't a breakthrough in ease of use. Overall, it works pretty much the same way as Windows XP. Windows hasn't been given nearly as radical an overhaul as Microsoft just applied to its other big product, Office.

  CNet - T.J. Maxx parent says customer data stolen

TJX, which operates the T.J. Maxx and Marshalls chains, said the computer systems that process its customer transactions have been breached and customer information has been stolen.

TJX said the breach involves the computer network that handles credit card, debit card, check and return transactions at its T.J. Maxx, Marshalls, HomeGoods and A.J. Wright stores in the United States and Puerto Rico; and its Winners and HomeSense stores in Canada.

TJX, which operates the T.J. Maxx and Marshalls chains, said the computer systems that process its customer transactions have been breached and customer information has been stolen.

  RedTape@MSNBC - Win customer service phone battles
Something to keep around for the inevitable customer service war...
  Globe and Mail - Report critical of ending GST rebate for visitors

One of the lamest reports I've seen. Of course a consultant was hired to write the report.

The federal government's decision last year to cancel its GST rebate program for tourists is a "short-sighted" move that will cost Ottawa millions of tax dollars and cause the loss of more than 5,000 Canadian jobs, a report says.

The program's cancellation will cause an estimated net loss of $46-million in tax revenue and eliminate 5,713 tourism sector jobs, Mr. Crowley concludes.

But the Canada Revenue Agency says less than 3 per cent of foreign visitors -- 939,000 -- applied for the tourist rebate in one recent year. The government also says the cancellation will save $78.8-million and tourists don't choose their destinations based on sales tax rebates.

Tourists spent $62.7-billion in Canada in 2005, with foreigners accounting for $17.5-billion of that, the report says.

One of the main reason for the low participation rate by foreign visitors in the GST rebate program (besides ignorance of the GST rebate program) are all the restrictions in the rebate program. See What can you claim? and Who can apply?.

Here are some significant restrictions:

  • Only purchases >= C$50 that you can take out of the country with you, e.g. no meals, drinks, entertainment (movies/theatre tickets), parking, transportation expenses (car rentals, cruise tickets), professional services (weddings/funerals)
  • Short term accomodation (hotels, B&B, campgrounds) are eligible with no minimum limits
  • Only original receipts can be submitted
So if you came to Canada to shop for stuff, this may affect you. But since you have to submit original receipts and you'll get back 7% of what you spent on those items, it doesn't seem like a good deal unless you spent more than $500.

  Globe and Mail - iPhone to face growing pains before coming to Canada

The sleek iPhone is more than four months away from its scheduled release in the United States and up to a year away from reaching Canada but it's already facing an army of detractors who point out supposed shortcomings that take the sheen off that sexy touch-screen facade.

Apple said the gadget would be released in the United States in June, in Europe late this year and in Asia next year. There was no mention of Canada but industry observers expect a late 2007 or early 2008 release.

A lawsuit filed there by Cisco Systems Inc. claims the name iPhone has been a Cisco trademark since 2000.

The iPhone could face a similar battle in Canada with Toronto-based Comwave Telecom Inc., which has been selling a voice-over-Internet service under the name iPhone since 2004.

Then there's Nortel Networks, which offers a phone message service remarkably similar to the iPhone's touted "Visual Voicemail" feature, also called "Visual Voicemail" by Nortel.

  Globe and Mail - CIBC loses info on 470,000 Canadians

CIBC seems to have continual problems retaining data.

The personal information of nearly half-a-million customers at a CIBC mutual fund subsidiary has gone missing, prompting fears of a potential security breach and inciting an investigation from Canada's federal privacy commissioner.

A backup computer file containing application data for 470,000 investors at Montreal-based Talvest Mutual Funds disappeared in transit on the way to Toronto recently, the bank said in a news release Thursday.

The file contained everything from client names and addresses to signatures, birth dates, bank account numbers and Social Insurance Numbers. Officials at CIBC Asset Management Inc., a division of the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce, said there is no evidence of fraud, nor is there any indication that any data on this hard drive has been accessed. The company did not explain how it lost the drive.

  Globe and Mail - Long-used drug shows new promise for cancer
Imagine, if you will, a drug that shrinks cancer cells and can even make tumours disappear. A couple of spoonfuls a day of powder in a glass of water is all you need.

There are no nasty side effects like nausea and hair loss, and no damage to internal organs such as with traditional chemotherapy. And it costs only about $2 a dose.

Not according to a Canadian researcher who stumbled upon the potentially new anti-cancer agent called dichloroacetate, or DCA, a drug long used to treat rare metabolic disorders.

In a paper published in today's edition of the medical journal Cancer Cell, Dr. Michelakis and a group of researchers from the U of A and the University of Ottawa, report on how they were able to use DCA to shrink human lung-, breast- and brain-cancer tumours in both lab rats and in a test tube.

While this type of research in laboratory animals does not generally generate a lot of enthusiasm, in this case the findings are creating a stir because DCA has actually been used safely in humans for decades -- in treating rare inherited metabolic disorders such as lactic acidosis, not cancer.

What Dr. Michelakis and his team found is that while mitochondrial function is suppressed, it can be revived with DCA, which makes the cancer cells susceptible to dying. (Most cancers become resistant to standard chemotherapy by suppressing mitochondrial function.)

There is no longer a patent on DCA, meaning it is not owned by any one company. As a result, there is little chance of making a large profit, even if the drug works remarkably well, and hence no incentive for pharmaceutical companies to invest in research.

"Nobody is going to make a billion dollars from this drug," Dr. Michelakis said. "But maybe it will help a lot of people with cancer."

  Toronto Star - MADD's outspoken founder punished

The founder of MADD Canada, who spoke out against the national organization's fundraising practices, has been stripped of his role on the charity's two key committees.

A recent Star investigation, in which Bates was quoted, revealed that most of the millions MADD raises stays with the paid telemarketers, door knockers and direct mail companies hired by the charity to raise cash.

While MADD insists that 83.6 per cent of donated funds goes to the charity's programs, the Star found that it was virtually the reverse, with about 81 per cent of MADD money spent on fundraising and administration.

  More people asking about the iPhone's lack of clothes
Barron's: Apple’s iPhone: Could It Flop? and Motorola's Mr. Warrior - iPhone, uPhone, We all Phone!.

“Apples goal of 10 million units in FY 08 appears predicated on securing widespread global distribution, but more importantly, on convincing consumers to spend dramatically more on an enhanced handheld computing experience,” he wrote. “We do no think this is a slam dunk.”

Motorola’s (MOT) RAZR was offered at $500 at launch; but as Sacconaghi notes, it only hit mass adoption when it dropped to $100, which took only 10 months. “It is unclear how aggressively Apple can afford to price the phone, and it appears unlikely that carriers will provide the Apple phone with unique subsidies,” he writes. One issue that other phone makers do not have is that a price that drops too low will cause cannibalization issues. “If the iPhone drops below $250, we suspect Apple margins would suffer, and provide little to no incentive for consumers to purchase stand-alone iPods. Carriers appear unlikely to give Apple any special treatment or extra subsidization, given that most will likely resent the iPhone’s wi-fi capability and Apple’s tie to iTunes.”

Apple seems more willing to upgrade features rather than drop prices on products. But I don't think that'll work with the cellphone. I'd expect typical cellphone customers will be waiting for a large price drop before jumping on board.

  FoxNews - Nearly Half the Nation Shut Out of iPhone Service

People try to pierce the Jobs reality distortion field. But the general population seems to be impervious to their attempts.

The iPhone service won't be available in all or large portions of Alaska, Colorado, the Dakotas, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Maine, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, upstate New York, Oregon, Utah, Vermont and Wyoming, among other places.

Monday, January 15, 2007
  Matching Balanced Constructs with .NET Regular Expressions


  Globe and Mail - The best mutual fund manager you've never heard of

Small cap stocks have done well in the past few years and many pundits have been calling for large caps to become popular again - Cisco and Microsoft have seen impressive increases over their 52 week lows.

Since November, 2001, his flagship Front Street Small Cap Canadian Fund has rewarded investors with an average annual return of 37.7 per cent. The average Canadian small-cap equity fund averaged 17-per-cent annual growth in the same period and the benchmark BMO Nesbitt Burns Canadian Small Cap Index almost 19 per cent.

Mr. Lamarche began managing the fund in 1999 and has propelled it into the best-performing mutual fund on the market over a 15-year period, averaging an annual return of 25.5 per cent. Through Thursday, the fund returned 20.42 per cent for the year.

He oversees Front Street Capital's $2.5-billion investment portfolio with fellow chief investment officer Frank Mersch. His secret isn't much of a secret at all -- find small, well-managed Canadian resource companies and hold on for the ride. "We think the juniors will be driving the fund in the new year," he says.

Although the cash-rich resource sector and the vital U.S. economy have shown signs of softening in late 2006, Mr. Lamarche believes strong global demand for Canadian resources will continue from emerging markets such as South Korea, China and India.

  Toronto Star - U.S. retracts spy coins claim

It seems there's no danger of your spare change spying on you after all.

A U.S. government defence agency has suddenly retracted its claim that Canadian coins containing tiny transmitters were planted on at least three American contractors who visited Canada.

In a statement posted late Friday on its website, the Defense Security Service said the coin claims were based on a report provided to the agency.

"The allegations, however, were found later to be unsubstantiated following an investigation into the matter," the statement said, adding that "the 2006 annual report should not have contained this information."

The service's acting director has ordered an internal review of the circumstances leading up to publication of the information "to prevent incidents like this" from recurring.

  Globe and Mail - The underachievers: Flirting with disaster

These discontented young people go by a raft of names, from underachievers or slackers to such clever labels as ”adultescents,” ”parasitic singles,” ”kidults” or ”kippers” (”kids in parents' pockets, eroding retirement savings”). In Britain, the phenomenon has been dubbed Peter Pandemonium for the disquiet it causes to families and society as a whole.

All the names refer to the same syndrome — a veritable parade of young people who appear to be walking away from many of the things their parents thought they taught them to cherish.

Great careers don't always begin right out of university, but what's changed since the baby boomers came of age is the length of ”Peter Pan” time, says Marshall Korenblum, a psychiatrist at Toronto's Hincks-Dellcrest Teaching Centre.

Many people in their 20s prefer to put off jumping into the job market for as long as possible, Dr. Korenblum notes, sometimes until 30 or beyond. ”There is a fear of failure and of growing up,” he says.

Madeline Levine, the San Francisco-area clinical psychologist and author of The Price of Privilege, has heard that tune before. She says upper-middle-class parents now ”are extremely anxious about their children.” She believes today's young people are more immature than those she treated 20 years ago. They don't know how to handle failure and their self-worth depends mostly on their peers' opinions.

Their parents, she says, have been distracted — committed, but stressed out and overworked. By giving kids highly scheduled and pressured lives that mirror their own, parents today aren't allowing the downtime needed for psychological development. Young people don't have the emotional space to figure out who they really are.

”There is a tremendous pressure to perform well,” Dr. Levine says, ”to get the best grades, to win a place on the varsity sports team. All this external pressure encourages kids to become very dependent on external factors for their self-definition. These kids are very immature. One of the ways they rebel is by not living up to their true potential, or courting failure.”

To back up these claims, Dr. Levine points to research by Suniya Luthar at Columbia University in New York. While affluence provides a plethora of opportunities, it seems to do little for upper-middle-class kids' sense of self. Not only do they feel less connected to their parents than any other social group, but they have higher rates of depression, anxiety and substance abuse than the general population.

”I saw this one family where the father was a dentist. We knew the kid was very bright because we had her psychologically tested. The two subjects the kid was not doing well in were math and biology. It drove her father crazy. Eventually we worked out that she was purposefully not achieving. She didn't want to try because she felt she couldn't live up to her father's expectations.”

However, Dr. Korenblum believes that the fear of failure goes only so far toward explaining the phenomenon. He also feels that parents today pile on extracurricular activities until every hour of each day is accounted for. When expectations are not met, there are tutors, parental supervision of homework and financial incentives for high marks.

”They think they are helping, but they aren't,” Dr. Korenblum says. ”When every minute of every day is programmed, parents encourage children to be dependent. Children become afraid to try to make it on their own.”

Wednesday, January 10, 2007
  ExtremeTech: Gigabyte Launches 'Solid-Capacitor' Motherboard Line

So the half-life of a computer with electrolytic caps is 3 yrs?

Solid capacitors also last longer with an average lifetime of 23 years compared to only three for electrolytic capacitors, according to Gigabyte.

Yet Gigabyte touts:

Additionally, solid capacitors have a higher tolerance for higher temperatures and they also perform better with higher frequencies and higher current than electrolytic capacitors.

Hmm, last time I looked, Gigabyte mobos weren't touted as the best overclocking motherboards for Core 2 Duo CPUs.

  Toronto Star: Bregman's to close doors after 28 years

Another old establishment bites the dust.

The doors will close Jan. 31, Terry Mellis, the property manager for Delisle Court, Bregman's landlord on Yonge St., just north of St. Clair Ave., confirmed later. "The owners came to us and asked us to assist them in finding someone to take over the space," Mellis said. "They didn't want to be in the restaurant business any more."

Bregman's was one of the building's first tenants when it opened, Mellis said.

A combination bakery and restaurant, it was originally part of the Bregman family empire, a business Lou Bregman started with the popular Bagel King on Eglinton Ave., and grew to include Second Cup Ltd., mmmuffins Inc., Michel's Baguettes, and Lou's Harvard-educated son, Michael.

No longer in the Bregman family, the restaurant retained the name and remained popular with long-time area residents, Simpson said yesterday.

But the district changed dramatically after two movie theatres across the street closed eight years ago, Simpson said.

"There's no night life now, no dinner crowd," said Simpson, who joined the restaurant five years ago.

"When the condos behind us went up, we thought, great. But it did absolutely nothing for us. The owners tried everything. Nothing worked."

A younger, health-conscious generation couldn't be tempted by Bregman's famous double-chocolate fudge cake.

  Toronto Star: Flood of false alarms plagues police

Nearly all of the burglar alarms police are summoned to – about 80,000 annually – are false, a Star analysis found. And the small number of valid alarms rarely help catch thieves, a fact police and alarm industry officials acknowledge.

In 2005, the most recent year data is available, between 97 and 99 per cent of alarms police attended in the GTA were false, a number that has been relatively constant for years. With the market for home security systems growing rapidly, alarm industry officials say the problem isn't going away.

The cost of responding to false calls has been hefty: Most forces place the cost of attending a routine alarm call (local policy involves sending two officers and sometimes two cruisers) at between $150 and $300, meaning false alarms in the GTA in 2005 ate up between $11.8 million and $23.7 million.

In Toronto alone in 2005, 28,982 of the 29,920 alarm calls police received were false. The tab: more than $4 million. HD-DVD camp claims goals achieved

One of the more interesting things to come out of the event was the introduction of a 51GB triple layer HD-DVD. This is achieved through increasing the data per layer to 17GB. This disc is expected to be ready for production in Q4 2007. It eliminates the size advantage held by Blu Ray, but one question which remained ominously unanswered is whether the existing installed base of players (and players sold to that point) will be able to read this new disc.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007 - US 'licence to snoop' on British air travellers

Looks like we will have to live with being more public about our comings and goings. Once given, it's very hard for governments to give up these new avenues for information gathering.

By using a credit card to book a flight, passengers face having other transactions on the card inspected by the American authorities. Providing an email address to an airline could also lead to scrutiny of other messages sent or received on that account.

Not only will such material be available when combating terrorism but the Americans have asserted the right to the same information when dealing with other serious crimes.

Shami Chakrabarti, the director of the human rights group Liberty, expressed horror at the extent of the information made available. "It is a complete handover of the rights of people travelling to the United States," she said.

As the Americans tightened security after the September 11 attacks, they demanded that airlines provide comprehensive information about passengers before allowing them to land.

But this triggered a dispute that came to a head last year in a Catch 22 situation. On one hand they were told they must provide the information, on the other they were threatened with heavy fines by EU governments for breaching European data protection legislation.

In October, Brussels agreed to sweep away the "bureaucratic hurdles" preventing airlines handing over this material after European carriers were threatened with exclusion from the US. The newly-released document sets out the rules underpinning that deal.

As a result the Americans are entitled to 34 separate pieces of Passenger Name Record (PNR) data — all of which must be provided by airlines from their computers.

Much of it is routine but some elements will prove more contentious, such as a passenger's email address, whether they have a previous history of not turning up for flights and any religious dietary requirements.

  NYTimes - Power-Sipping Bulbs Get Backing From Wal-Mart

A compact fluorescent has clear advantages over the widely used incandescent light — it uses 75 percent less electricity, lasts 10 times longer, produces 450 pounds fewer greenhouse gases from power plants and saves consumers $30 over the life of each bulb. But it is eight times as expensive as a traditional bulb, gives off a harsher light and has a peculiar appearance.

As a result, the bulbs have languished on store shelves for a quarter century; only 6 percent of households use the bulbs today.

Which is what makes Wal-Mart’s goal so wildly ambitious. If it succeeds in selling 100 million compact fluorescent bulbs a year by 2008, total sales of the bulbs in the United States would increase by 50 percent, saving Americans $3 billion in electricity costs and avoiding the need to build additional power plants for the equivalent of 450,000 new homes.

That would send shockwaves — some intended, others not — across the lighting industry. Because compact fluorescent bulbs last up to eight years, giant manufacturers, like General Electric and Osram Sylvania, would sell far fewer lights. Because the bulbs are made in Asia, some American manufacturing jobs could be lost. And because the bulbs contain mercury, there is a risk of pollution when millions of consumers throw them away.

Michael B. Petras, vice president of lighting at G.E., concedes that “the economics are better with incandescent bulbs.”

All that has only spurred Wal-Mart to redouble its efforts — and, in typical fashion, it is asking those who may be hurt by the change to help achieve it.


A compact fluorescent has clear advantages over the widely used incandescent light — it uses 75 percent less electricity, lasts 10 times longer, produces 450 pounds fewer greenhouse gases from power plants and saves consumers $30 over the life of each bulb. But it is eight times as expensive as a traditional bulb, gives off a harsher light and has a peculiar appearance.

As a result, the bulbs have languished on store shelves for a quarter century; only 6 percent of households use the bulbs today.

Which is what makes Wal-Mart’s goal so wildly ambitious. If it succeeds in selling 100 million compact fluorescent bulbs a year by 2008, total sales of the bulbs in the United States would increase by 50 percent, saving Americans $3 billion in electricity costs and avoiding the need to build additional power plants for the equivalent of 450,000 new homes.

That would send shockwaves — some intended, others not — across the lighting industry. Because compact fluorescent bulbs last up to eight years, giant manufacturers, like General Electric and Osram Sylvania, would sell far fewer lights. Because the bulbs are made in Asia, some American manufacturing jobs could be lost. And because the bulbs contain mercury, there is a risk of pollution when millions of consumers throw them away.

Michael B. Petras, vice president of lighting at G.E., concedes that “the economics are better with incandescent bulbs.”

All that has only spurred Wal-Mart to redouble its efforts — and, in typical fashion, it is asking those who may be hurt by the change to help achieve it.

  NYTimes - Banks’ Leases to Hedge Funds Are Questioned

As hedge funds have exploded, so, too, have the fortunes of Wall Street, which earns billions of dollars a year in fees executing trades and lending money to hedge fund clients. Hedge funds typically trade more than other Wall Street clients and they trade exotic, high-margin products, like complex derivatives.

Because hedge funds have become such important customers, there are concerns that they may be receiving tips about pending mergers, for example, or other yet-to-be-disclosed news that could affect a stock price. Trading ahead of public disclosure would give a fund an advantage; while it generally would be illegal, it is often hard for regulators to detect or prove.

The global prime brokerage business generates $8 billion to $10 billion a year, according to an estimate by the Vodia Group, a consulting firm for the financial services industry. The business is highly profitable, with a return on equity — a measure of how efficiently the bank reinvests its capital — of a healthy 15 to 20 percent. In 2006, Goldman Sachs made $2 billion directly servicing hedge funds, 22 percent more than the previous year.

Prime brokerage is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the fees that hedge funds generate for Wall Street firms: billions of additional dollars come from trading for these funds. Credit Suisse estimates that investment banks made $25 billion in revenue from hedge funds in 2004, $19 billion of which came from sales and trading and the rest from prime brokerage.

Hedge funds now control half the volume traded on the New York and London Stock Exchanges, according to Credit Suisse.

In markets like convertible arbitrage, hedge funds control 70 percent of the trading. (In convertible arbitrage, an investor buys a bond that can be converted into stock and then sells that stock short, betting that its price will fall because of the sale of convertible bonds.)

“Hedge funds generate about 30 to 35 percent of the equity commission volume of the major Wall Street firms,” said Brad Hintz, a securities analyst with Sanford C. Bernstein & Company, a respected Wall Street research firm that manages money for wealthy individuals and institutions. But that is only part of the equation.

In the United States, Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley and Bear Stearns lead the pack in prime brokerage, collectively controlling about 75 percent of the market, according to Sanford C. Bernstein, a unit of AllianceBernstein. - The Vista ScreenSaver Mystery Is Over

This issue was driving me insane as I couldn't spot what was causing the screen saver not to start, after deep investigation it turned out that the problem is due to a defected driver of the Microsoft Wireless Receiver which is part of both of my wireless mices (Microsoft Wireless Laser Mouse 6000 - Notebook & Desktop editions)

If you unplug the receiver the screen saver comes back to life !

  Globe and Mail - Child care so costly immigrants sending babies back to China

I've heard stories of toddlers calling their babysitters "Mommy". That'll guarantee the kid gets spoiled rotten by the mother.

According to social workers in Toronto's Chinese community, dozens, even hundreds, of recent Chinese immigrants have sent their infants back to China to spend their early years with relatives. They are separated from their own children due to financial constraints and unaffordable daycare in a country they came to, ironically, because they thought it would be a great place to raise children.

Canadians are, by now, familiar with the heartache Filipino and Caribbean women endure when they leave behind their children to come to Canada as live-in nannies. They end up parenting their offspring via long-distance phone calls and video cameras.

But the phenomenon of Chinese professionals immigrating here, and then sending their children back to China, is a new trend in what global experts call “transnational parenting.”

It raises troubling questions about how well Canada's immigration selection model is working — and may help explain the recent decrease in immigration applications from China.

“We discovered dozens of professional immigrants from mainland China were doing this because they all asked us how to get passports for their babies,” said Florence Wong, a social worker with St. Stephen's Community House in Toronto.

In 2002, Ms. Wong conducted a study of Chinese immigrants in five prenatal programs. Seventy per cent of the women said they were planning to send their children back to China to be raised by relatives. Social workers dealing with the community in Scarborough, Ont., confirmed the trend as well.

The Chinese women and their husbands interviewed by The Globe and Mail are all professionals in their 30s who came to Canada believing they would find jobs in their fields that pay well. However, instead of finding employment as civil engineers or meteorologists, they were forced to accept minimum-wage jobs. With family incomes of $1,000 a month, daycare often wasn't affordable; yet they also did not qualify for subsidies.

As China's economy has surged ahead in recent years, the number of immigration applications to Canada has dropped off dramatically. The number of Chinese applicants decreased to 19,000 in 2006 from a high of 40,000 in 2004, compared with 132,000 applicants last year from India.

Word has travelled back to China — the Canadian dream isn't all it's cracked up to be, said Sunny Wu. She would do anything to recapture those early years with her children. When she and her husband immigrated to Toronto in 1999, they were buoyed by their good fortune, dreaming of a new life in a clean, friendly country of wide open spaces.

They were planning to send for their older daughter once they got settled. “The immigration agency said Canada was the best place to live,” said Sunny Wu, an extrovert who speaks English flawlessly.

However, when her second child was born in November of 2000, her husband was still searching for work. Her mother came from China and flew back with the baby when she turned 13 months. “It was so difficult. I had breast-fed her and so we were very close,” Sunny Wu said.

“The most common issue is that the parent loses his or her status as an authority figure,” says Prof. Bernhard, who has conducted research into transnational mothers from Latin America.

The children often feel resentful and may rebel by refusing to listen or accept their parent as a decision-maker. Prof. Bernhard recalls one child who refused to eat in front of his mother.

For mothers, the most common emotion is guilt, and they sometimes compensate by spoiling the child, which can lead to more disciplinary problems.

  Toronto Star - Rice cakes kill 3 in Japan

Darwinism for the elderly

At least three Japanese people died and 15 were hospitalized after choking on sticky rice cakes traditionally eaten during the New Year's holidays, police and fire department officials said Tuesday.

Another 14 people between the ages of 65 and 91 were taken to local hospitals Monday and Tuesday, including seven who were unconscious and in serious condition, he added.

In Tokyo last year, three elderly people died and 30 others were hospitalized after the mochi was stuck in their throats.

Officials issue annual warnings about the risks of eating mochi, urging people to take small bites, chew well and drink plenty of liquids.

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