Monday, February 18, 2008

Fix Patent Law Not Protect Special Interests

Looks like someone owns the patents cover check scanning and clearing those checks electronically. Instead of fixing the patent laws, Congress is planning to pass some special measures to protect the banking industry. I wish that I could buy a couple of congress people to help protect me.

Laptop Suspends in Dock

I hadn't tried suspending my laptop while it was on the dock in a long time. Sunday evening I decided to give it a try. It worked. Hurray!!! It's good to know that this is finally working. Suspend has worked well in Fedora 7. The are only few issue that I have so far. On my wife's laptop, if you play with the touchpad it seems to cause the keyboard and touchpad not to work. I have to close the lid and wait for it to suspend again.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Comcast Filtering Pushing Customers Away

Comcast has briefed the FCC on their traffic policies. They are shaping the traffic to slow down some user's data transfers. Music and video transfers are two that are being slowed.

Time Warner is running a trial of hard bandwidth caps. Comcast is also considering the same thing. A fee will be charged for exceeding the bandwidth cap.

All of this makes me think that I should cancel my Comcast service. Luckily, I live in an area where I have some choice. I can get satellite from Direct or Dish. Embarq offers DSL and I've used their service. It looks like speed of 10Mbps/860kbps (Down/Up) is available.

I spend about $100/mth with Comcast. I'm guessing that Embarq will cost about $55-$65/mth. Direct will probably cost another $50-$60. Is it worth the potential extra $120/yr plus equipment costs? If it will help make Comcast wake up, maybe it is.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Subprime and Black Swans

It goes without say that the subprime mess is a Black Swan event, though many people will say that it was obvious. (We didn't purchase a home in Va Beach in 2005-2006 because of it.) The abundance of cheap money fueled a bubble. This is a well known phenomenon. It happened with the DotComs and other things. It caught the money people on Wall Street off guard. (Are they ever really on guard?) Everyone was looking to get fantastic returns so they kept pumping money into the system.

Another Black Swan event is the shown in this article from this article of the Financial Times.

Here's a quote:
In particular, it seems that mathematical models used to predict future default rates, based on past patterns of losses, have gone wrong because they did not adjust to reflect shifts in household behavior. Or, to put it another way, financiers have been tripped up because they ignored one of the most basic rules of investment, which is usually found in product literature: the past is not always a guide to the future.

What makes this a Black Swan event is the fact that the models being used didn't take into consideration a potential shift in the way that people value their possessions. A home used to important. It was the American Dream. Homeowners wouldn't stop paying the monthly bill. Money was saved to purchase a place where the children would be raised. Credit cards would be paid last.

Consider the fact that homes have been used as cash dispensers and there was no down payment for most of the non prime loans, people have no reason to stay in the home. From what I've been reading, foreclosure only hurts credit scores for two years so long as all of the other bills are paid on time. People are walking away from what is bad investment. Traders do the same thing with stock why shouldn't regular Joe's do the same thing?

The modelers and their models never considered this change in human behavior. They used the past as a predictor of things to come. It's a past based only on a few years of observation. It's weak and their short sightedness is going to cost everyone big.

(Roubini has some things to say about "Jingle Mail" phenomenon.)

Monday, February 04, 2008

Google, MS, Yahoo

Google is complaining about Microsoft. I still can't setup a multiuser (group) chat using a pidigin. It's only available to google talk gadget users.

I went to my neighbor's house for a birthday get together. Everybody there had a Yahoo! account and no one wants them to be bought by Microsoft. Some of these people were over 70 years old. What does that tell you about Microsoft's credibility?

Zimbra users are concerned about the Microsoft offer to purchase Yahoo!. Zimbra is an Exchange competitor. It uses a pseudo opensource license that is similar to Mozilla's. It requires attribution. It is possible to fork it, but whom ever does will have to put a powered by Zimbra notice at the bottom of the web pages served.