Friday, October 30, 2009

Have a spooooky Haloween - don't skimp on candies for kids!


It's just a fun-fun-fun Holiday, I love it. All the cute little kids walking gathering candies - overcoming their fears.

Although one of this blog's themes is thriftiness - I do urge people to give away good candies, not turn off lights and pretend they're not there, and just be good neighbors.

For good humor, do consider the following awesome link:
7 Horrific Boogeymen Used to Scare Kids Around The World

Boo!!!

Cheers!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Jim Cramer Smackdown

Not the first by this guy - but the latest - and to the point again:


Watch out for bad advice on CNBC - too much of over-confident yet clueless punditry can cost you a bundle.

Cheers!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Guest Post: Why Aren’t You Budgeting?

Guest post by John Brisbane.

Why Aren't You Budgeting?
Right now, times are tough for us all and whilst some of us sit around waiting for things to get better, others are acting proactively to help themselves. One area many people are looking more closely at is their budget as this is a place you should easily be able to identify savings. If you are reading this thinking “I haven’t got a budget” then it’s about time you sorted one out.

Creating a budget isn’t hard (sticking to it might be though!) and shouldn’t even take that long, the rewards can be substantial however. Follow our simple steps creating an effective budget.

1) Calculate all your income (after any taxes).
2) Make a list of all your essential expenditure, such as mortgage, heating, water etc.
3) Add your daily spends together, everything from clothes to beer money. If you need to, it’s a good idea to create a spending diary to calculate this more accurately – you’ll be surprised at what it tells you.
4) Estimate an amount for occasional spending, such as house repairs and Christmas presents.
5) Total them up. As a general rule of thumb, its best to try and make a saving of 20% and this can be done by mortgage switching or cutting out the morning coffee, it doesn’t matter.

If you found that your spending far outweighs what you are earning, you might want to consider getting some professional advice from a debt expert (for more about debt, visit http://www.debtadvisersdirect.co.uk

It is also important to review your spending on a regular basis as it will change from time to time. It is a good idea to get into the habit of reviewing it on a weekly basis, even if its only for 5 minutes. By reviewing your spending on a regular basis you will be more informed to make better purchasing decisions when they need to be made.

Lastly, always remember to factor in some savings to your budget. Many people get bogged down with surviving the here and now, they forget to think about the future.

Budgeting is an elementary personal finance tool which simply should be used by everybody. It is the easiest and most effective way of creating a cross section of your finances and giving you an idea of what’s affordable and what’s off limits.

Developers, Microsoft wants you to focus on Windows 7

Two important links found today on MSDN's front page:

Take a Look at the Windows API Code Pack for the Microsoft .NET Framework
The Windows API Code Pack for the Microsoft .NET Framework provides a source code library that can be used to access some new Windows 7 feat..

* Windows 7 Training Kit for Developers
The Windows 7 Training Kit for Developers includes presentations, hands-on labs, and demos designed to help you learn how to build applicati...


I assume developers can go about their usual way and only take interest when they want to focus on some windows 7 specific features.

Choice quote from the 'training kit':
During install, Windows 7 automatically detects whether your screen supports High DPI. If it does, Windows 7 automatically sets the screen resolution to High DPI. If your application is not High DPI-aware, this may cause some display issues like text clipping, pixilated bitmaps, layout issues and image size issues, blurry UI, mismatched font sizes, and more.
This unit will show you how to solve issues related High DPI and how to write DPI-aware applications.


One would expect to have applications somehow tagged for compatibility with this feature and not automatically destroy its controls alignment. Hmmm....

Cheers!

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Two important free applications for developers at home

I'm 100% sure I'm telling no one anything new in this post. Still, I feel I must mention this. Everyone who is seriously developing at home on his own computer, and not to a company server through some VPN, needs to have some sort of source control. There are many options out there, right now I'm experimenting with a combination of the following two:

* VisualSVN - visual server, free for personal use. 500$ per server for enterprise version.
* AnkhSVN - visual studio plug-in

My official real career (where I get paid to work) experience thus far with source control environments included perforce and sourcesafe - there were a few others I'd rather not mention as well. Obviously, usage of the two freeware apps listed above is far superior to SourceSafe - which people from within Microsoft have always made fun of themselves.

For those who have no clue as to what I'm talking about - source control is a database system used to archive changes in code, allowing tracing of when and who added changes/bugs and tracking versions and releases. Assume you wrote something awesome and cool - and then one day you just edited a file and destroyed it's functionality, without source control - there'd be no way to restore what has been achieved thus far.

PS. There's a free E-Book for subversion, including PDF downloadable version: here.

PPS. Of course, if one is comfortable with going public with his development phases - he may choose to host on sourceforge.net, and use their source control management which include subversion.

Cheers!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

A recovery theory rooted in junk bonds

Consider the following news bits:
* S&P lowers bond default forecast
Standard & Poor's said on Wednesday it lowered its forecast bond default rate to 6.9% for the next 12 months, citing better access of low-rated companies to funding and less volatility in the market. The rating agency previous expected the default rate to rise to 10.8%. "The marked improvement in financial conditions has altered our expectations for corporate default rates, analysts led by Diane Vazza wrote in a research note. "The sharp decline in funding costs, the reopening of the bond markets (even for low-rated issuance)" and less volatility will lower the cost of refinancing, they said. Also, the firm now expects some defaults to be pushed out later than its forecast horizon, instead of occurring in the second half of 2010, S&P said. The gap between what speculative-rated companies have to pay to sell debt and Treasury yields has declined to levels last seen in mid-2008, Vazza said.

* Is This a Real Bull or "Red Bull" Market?
* Why Junk Bond ETFs Are Calling to Investors

So here's my theory: Despite a really amazing bull market in the junk bonds, the fundamental driving it has just gotten even better - the rating agencies predicting lower default levels. This should allow the junk bond ETF-s to appreciate even further. The side effect (or the cause - depending on point of view) - would be lower yield. As a result, more large scale companies with medium to good credit could refinance and even expand their leverage. Using that leverage they would replenish inventories, which would reignite another growth cycle in the economy. This should lead to lower unemployment (at some point). At the very hint of unemployment subduing
two things should happen. One - the stock market would recognize this extremely bullish indicator and shoot up. Two - people would start spending more. And at that point, inflation/higher federal rates should restart.

Well... that's my bullish take on it. There are plenty short term and political perspectives which should suggest failure of recovery and further collapse. What do I know? I'm just a guy who tries to extrapolate from what he's reading.

Cheers!

Questions every investor or a person planning to invest should know the answers to

Easier said then done...
  1. What is your risk tolerance? Does it match your age? Your wealth?
  2. Will you panic if your holdings lose X% - do you expect it to at some point?
  3. Did you write down portfolio success goals? If you write them down – are they realistic?
  4. How soon will you need the money invested?
  5. What will you do when S&P 500 crosses its 200 days moving average downwards? Upwards?
  6. What will you do if your portfolio gains 50%?
  7. What will you do if your portfolio loses 8%, 10%, 20%, 40%? Specific actions?
  8. Do you have a plan to sell anything next month? Buy anything next month?
  9. Are you bullish on the entire market?
  10. What is the current greatest risk to the economy?
  11. What’s the level of aggressiveness of your portfolio?
  12. Are you keeping a journal of your thoughts and actions regarding your investments? Are you reviewing it to improve your future actions?
Cheers!

Assuming you had an extra $1000 - what would you do with it?

A big assumption these days... yet - not all of us are on the rocks. Most are still employed, some got a raise, some will get a bonus - what would you do with it?

CNN-Money and Yahoo finance 8 options:
What to Do With $1,000 Now

1. Top off your emergency fund ... [cash]
2. Spend five hours with a financial planner ... [like the author of the article?! smart - you got a 1000$? pay me! pay me!]
3. Buy a top-notch stock fund ... [don't pay the author - that's his advice!? fire that planner]
4. Upgrade your home appliances ... [smart advice]
5. Help on a large scale (really!) ... [ok, he means basically charity to 3rd world]
6. Join a gym... [my alternative, have a REALLY-REALLY-good meal ;-) ]
7. Beef up your IRA [back to option number 3? didn't we fire you already?]
8. Pay down credit card debt

There's a 9, 10 and 11 on CNN as a slide show...

Besides my notes above, here are a few more:
* Pay your debt aught to be #1
* Who among us doesn't wish he'd had a $1000 right now to do XYZ, who needs this worthless article? We all know what to do with an extra $1000 right now, depending on our personal situation.
* One could write the opposite article - what not to do with JUST a 1000$ - on every one of the advised topics in this article
* Check out point 10 - Who wrote this garbage? Who?! Well - it's redeemed with point 11, which could be a stroke of genius (or just a breeder of false hope and a waste of your last 1000 bucks...)
* Yes - they did write a what to do with a 50K. Reminds me that a while back, a friend asked me what I think of his idea of investing a similar sum he is about to receive in his employer's stock. To which I said: Use half to pay debt, and half to hold as cash for emergency. Then wait a year and see if you want to put any of it into riskier options.

Cheers!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Nuvifone G60 for $99!!!

It's a cell phone, it's GPS from the most popular GPS manufacturer out there, it's an MP3 player, it's a web browser over WI-FI!!! A camera with geotagging - what isn't it?!



$99 for new 2 year contract, $175 for upgrade. On ATT's site - the price is much higher. (but there's an iPhone upgrade for $50)

Yes - I want one. No - not buying yet. :-(

Cheers!

Capital one raises interest on Dec 26th, Mary X-Mas?

Remember the days they used to show commercials how all the other credit companies are so evil with their unpredictable high interest rates on credit cards?

Capital One Invents Its Own Christmas Creep, Raises Interest Rate On December 26th


When Wally first got his Capital One credit card, the interest rate was 12 percent. Then they raised it to 22.9 percent. Now they're going to raise it again—the day after Christmas—to 25.9 percent.

Wally writes, "I am a good customer and pay on time every time, and right away as well," and he adds that he pays an annual membership fee of $40, and Capital One charges him $10 to make any payments over the phone. "Like most credit card holders," he adds, "I am 99% set on cancelling the card, but don't want to affect my credit score."

We don't know your overall financial situation, Wally, but we think the message that Crap One is sending you is pretty clear: they think you suck, and they're going to bleed you for as much cash as possible until you wise up and leave them. Sign up at a site like Billshrink (it's free) or visit Bankrate, and start comparison shopping for another card with a better interest rate, then do a balance transfer. That way you keep the credit history and lose the punitive interest rate.

Also, remember that the only time you really need the highest credit score possible is if you're planning on financing a home or a car. If that's not in your near future, don't let fear of losing a few points influence your decisions too much. It's just a stupid number that a company invented to describe you to other companies—and unfriendly companies like Capital One like the fact that their customers are afraid to jump ship, because it means they can keep hiking rates and adding fees.


Cheers!

Did your savings triple in the last 10 years? Neither did mine, but this portfolio did

After playing around with my own utiltiy - EzBacktest, I've created a 'defensive equity' portfolio. I simulated it over 10 years with quarterly re-balancing.

Here are the results:


To download the portfolio allocation file click here.
To download the utility to view the portfolio, continue on this page.

Cheers!

Friday, October 16, 2009

EzBacktest and Excel 2007

Well, this was not intended, but it so happens you can open the XML files produced by EzBacktest in Excel, and produce nicer graphs if you'd like.

There are 2 XML files produced which might be useful. The first has the extension .pfl.xml which is the portfolio allocation file you would use to save your work. The other is .pfl.graph.xml which is the graph data you can save.

To open the file, drag and drop the XML file onto an open Excel 2007 window, you'd be asked which way to import - select 'As an XML table'. Presto - a new window will open with the data translated into a table. Then erase or hide irrelevant or incorrect columns and buildup your own cool graphs.

I should add though - the date format I used in the XML files isn't recognized by Excel, so I'll that problem to my internal wish list...

Of course at some point in the future - I might improve the software to deliberately export to excel or perhaps export more useful XML-s.

Cheers!

Download Original Freeware From This Blog

Here's a list of freeware apps released with short descriptions.

EzBackTest


What is it? - A utility to backtest static portfolio allocations with different reallocation schedules and schemes. Built to assist in adjusting and planning investment portfolios to match risk goals.

Download: here

DelayedExec


What is it? - DelayedExec is a startup applications that allows users to move other applications from startup to being run in a queue in a timely manner - leaving you a less stressful computer upon startup.

Download: here

Free Stocks Ticker


What is it? - An RSS reader and stocks ticker in one which places scrolling ticker style lines at the bottom or top of your computer allowing you to get the 'I'm watching a news channel/finance channel' feel while using your PC.

Download: here

Reflected Data C# Library


What is it? - A C# open sourced library to allow easy, fast, and intuitive access to data sources. Reduce the amount of coding and studying needed to access Excel, Access, or SQL Server sources.

Download: here

Cheers!!!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Data Doctor Ken Colburn explains how toothpaste can fix scratched CDs, DVDs and gaming discs

Important video on CNN


More from Ken on twitter and his site.

Cheers!

Google 'backtesting software', you won't even find EzBacktest

This blog has such a low google rating, and I'm not investing too much in promoting my blog or the free software I produce. So if you do download EzBacktest, and you like it - but don't consider donating even 5 bucks - that's fine. But do your fellow man a favor and spread the word around. In discussion threads, word to mouth, links back on blogs or tech sites, any of these would be appreciated.

I think EzBacktest provides users with excellent value, at no cost. I just want to share it with whoever might be interested.

To download and experiment, click here.

Cheers!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

EzBacktest Download Page

This page has moved to:

http://ezbacktest.blogspot.com/

Create your portfolios:


And verify historic results:


Key features:
* Compare portfolios
* Sharpe plots
* Test investment strategies
* Test trading tactics
* Create correlation matrix

Cheers!

Saturday, October 10, 2009

New utilty approaching: EzBacktest, no download yet

UPDATE: Released, more details here.

Original Message
I'm about to release for the public an application to back test and plan static allocation portfolios. I'm almost done, just a few finishing touches. It would probably be available for free.

Here's a snapshot of results for a certain portfolio I was playing around with:



This application would replace iCarra for what I used it for. That is - to test potential portfolios and plan by back-testing. It goes a step forward by allowing automatic reallocation and different reallocation schemes.

In the meanwhile, I found this image out there on the web - made me think, does anyone make money these days releasing shareware and hoping the general public pay up?

Friday, October 9, 2009

Billionaire investor Carl Icahn: Double Dip Recession Likely, Bloodbath expected for Investors

Morning scare-mongering?
Icahn: Risk of Double Dip, Investor 'Bloodbath'
There is a real risk of a double-dip recession and the market is acting in a "schizophrenic" way, which could cause a "bloodbath" for investors, billionaire investor Carl Icahn told CNBC Friday.

If you get a double-dip recession and they start coming down, it's going to be a bit of a bloodbath," Icahn said.

"The amateur investor is going to get hit badly again because they're pouring money into these funds. Some of these funds managers I do not think are experienced enough to handle some of the distressed stuff they're buying and they're going to get burned," he said.

Icahn said he still sees investment opportunities in advertising, telecom, the Internet and bankruptcies. But making money out of bankruptcies should only be attempted by the experts, he said.

"We're quite involved in the secular change in the way advertising is going to be done. Obviously the cell-phone business is a growth business," he said.


Add another rich professional investor to the list of ones warning of a true catastrophe.

Yikes. (no cheer - just a big gulp)

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Finally, Ebay lets regular folks post 5 items a month for free

I've always been somewhat 'anti-ebay' as a potential seller because you can post stuff for sale,and not get a bid - all the while paying for the luxury of having posted something for a week. It was IMHO too expensive to pay to sell and not sell.

Finally:

5 Free Insertion Fees Every 30 Days

Well, don't get too excited, you'd pay 8.75% off sale...

Insertion Fees for Auction-style listings effective June 16, 2009
Starting or Reserve Price Insertion Fee
5 listings every 30 days
Insertion Fee
Additional listings every 30 days
$0.01 - $0.99
5 FREE
regardless of start price
$0.10** / $0.15
$1.00 - $9.99 $0.25** / $0.35
$10.00 - $24.99 $0.35** / $0.55
$25.00 - $49.99 $1.00
$50.00 - $199.99 $2.00
$200.00 - $499.99 $3.00
$500.00 or more $4.00
**Includes the following media categories and the related subcategories: Books, Music, DVDs & Movies, and Video Games (excluding Video Game Systems)

Final Value Fees for Auction-style listings effective June 16, 2009
Starting or Reserve Price Final Value Fee
5 listings every 30 days
Final Value Fee
Additional listings every 30 days
$0.01 - $25.00
8.75% of the
closing value
or $20 for
5 listings
8.75% of the closing value
$25.01 - $1000.00 8.75% of the initial $25.00, plus 3.50% of the remaining closing value balance ($25.01 to $1,000.00)
Equal to or Over $1000.01 8.75% of the initial $25.00, plus 3.50% of the initial $25.01 - $1,000.00 plus 1.50% of the remaining closing value balance ($1,000.01 - closing value)

Cheers

Monday, October 5, 2009

Feds turn their aim on bloggers

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) will fine bloggers who review products and don't disclose what they get paid - if any.

Yea.. a fine: 11000$

More info: FTC trains government focus on … bloggers

So here's my public disclosure of profits:
I got squat didly. I still get squat didly. Nada, zilch nothing. I post Amazon ads and adsense ads, and if anyone is gracious enough to click or buy anything I'm grateful. Regardless - I have not yet seen a dime, except for the two 'friends of this blog' links shown on the right. For which the agreement is set to expire soon.

Now - I'm sure FTC was after my tail with my "massive readership"... >:-0

I do my best to avoid political views on this site, but this latest intrusion, in addition to the garage sales and church bazaars insanity is too much for individuals. Normal folks should not be inflicted with such government intrusion.

For the heck of it, here are a few other Amazon ad - click it, or not - it's up to you:


Cheers!

Bill Gross from PIMCO said what?! Prepare for financial apocalipse

Bill Gross from PIMCO said what?!
"Prepare for financial apocalypse" - in so many words:
Our future doggie bags can hold steak bones or doo-doo of an increasingly familiar smell. For now investors should be holding their noses, their risk orientation, as well as their blue bags, until proven otherwise. Specifically that continues to dictate a focus on high quality bonds and steady dividend paying stocks that can survive, if not thrive, in our journey to a “new normal” economy of slower growth, muted profit gains, and potential capital destruction via default, abrogation of property rights, and dollar devaluation.

Read it all: Doo-Doo Economics (or listen to the podcast)

Comparisons between the economy and political responsibility to the content of dogy doo-doo... explicit warning from "potential capital destruction via default, abrogation of property rights, and dollar devaluation". One should not ignore such opinions.

Cheers!

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Wii, Winamp, Internet, Orb and watching your home videos on your TV made 'accessible'


Well, not only did the price for a new Wii fell, last month Nintendo decided to give away the internet browser, the one they've been charging people 5$ per usage. I guess that when sales started collapsing, adding value to their flagship product was the easiest and fastest choice they could make. Plus-consider that many new TV sets come equipped with WiFi internet browsing and media sharing, Wii had to step up and provide more value.

Simply enter the Wii-Shop, and download the internet channel. Then browse. Wii is not HD - so browsing the web isn't extremely useful. Just headlines, and You-Tube I guess.

But here's where it gets interesting. If you download and install the latest version of WinAmp, you can install the Beta version of Winamp remote, which is simply the application 'Orb' with a different name and UI. Once you do that, register and list your media folders.

Next, browse the internet with Wii and set the address to 'winamp.orb.com' .

Now you can use your Wii to playback all of your audio and video files from your PC. The interface for Wii seems to have been created with Wii's limitation and TV experience in mind. For me the audio plays great, the video stalls every now and then - sometimes halts. Perhaps it's just my clunky PC - or the fact that it's still in Beta.

Download winamp here. Visit winamp.com.
Buy Wii for 199$ at Amazon.

Cheers!

PS: Amazon giving away 25$ gift card IN ADDITION to Wii price drop!!!

Friday, October 2, 2009

How about a 500GB MP3/GPS/do it all thingy for ya?

Archos 5 500 GB Internet Tablet with Android

It's apparently not released yet - just a pre-order. With the recession /consumer confidence so low - will these cool new gadgets fare well with the general public?


Yes... a GPS, but still 499$ ... when you can buy full featured ones for about a 100$.

Anyways, don't get me wrong - I'd love to have one, the full explanation on the Amazon page describes one cool thingy. I'm just pondering the existence of consumers who aren't considering the cost first these days.



Don't know...

It's Friday, digging for funny to forget yet another work week

* The opposite of good advertisement photos>:


* Crazy stuff that was approved for a patent...

* LSD vs Alcohol vs Tree:

Click on it, it gets better...


Cheers!

WPF, locks in paint and reentry bugs

Going off-off topic for this blog, but hey - I'm a software developer, this is what I do day to day.

I've recently came across the most puzzling bug. While porting some application from WinForms to a combination of WinForms/WPF environment, I traced a situation where a call to paint was supposed to be blocked on a lock, but instead a different control's paint entered and altered a shared class's internals. The result was the wrong presentation on the original paint. It was very hard to trace this bug.

I found the following related resources:
MSDN discussion thread: Paint reentrancy during thread sleep

Potential solution:
Dispatcher.DisableProcessing Method

Explained in this article:
WPF Fundamentals: Threading Model (look for "reentrancy and locking" segment)

For me - the bug isn't resolved yet. I'm still looking into ways to prevent the trace. The lock in paint here is unavoidable as it waits on access to video frame grabbers.

Grrrr....
Update: - this is how I solved it, I added a push pop mechanism to the data that was changed internally inside the paint functions. Since the error was caused by lock not preventing paint reentry - the sequence was within one thread and sequential. Therefor the push/pop mechanism is assumed to have solved it.

I know no one cares, well - I hope you enjoy my other content. It's my blog, this is what I'm doing/thinking.

Cheers!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

CIT going down, taking market with them?

Notice the market decline - while not 'Lehman'-like catastrophical yet - is across the board and is affecting bonds. It's not the economic measures causing this, I'm assuming some people know something - and rumors are abundant.

Bloomberg: CIT May Pit Bondholders Against Each Other With Swap
CIT Group Inc., the 101-year-old commercial lender, will seek board approval as soon as this week for a voluntary debt exchange that may pit bondholders against each other and leave shareholders almost wiped out.

The company has been in talks with a steering committee of bondholders before a deadline today to present a restructuring plan, according to a person familiar with the matter who declined to be identified because the negotiations are private. At the same time, New York-based CIT is proposing that debt holders vote on a pre-packaged bankruptcy plan in case the exchange fails, the person said.

CIT may adopt a plan similar to one used by Residential Capital LLC in December in which the company offered higher priority for repayment to holders of bonds that mature sooner, according to Adam Steer, an analyst at CreditSights Inc. in New York. CIT needs to exchange debt to raise sufficient equity to meet Federal Reserve capital requirements and fund itself, he said.

“We have seen exchanges in the past that pit long-dated bondholders against short-dated bondholders,” Steer said in an interview. “We believe CIT’s exchange could have a similar dynamic.”

A CIT spokesman, Tim Lynch, declined to comment on the exchange terms.


CIT is not as huge as Lehman - so I just hope media and politicians aren't hiding the truth. It could be devastating if another Domino chain effect were to happen.

Internet speed: Lithuania beats out U.S.

But we beat Estonia... Go USA, go and improve the infrastructure - please.

CNN reports: U.S. broadband lags Asian nations
South Korea leads the world in providing broadband services, according to a study released on Thursday. The United States did not make the top 10.

South Korea dramatically improved the speed, quality and availability of its Internet service in 2009, pushing past Japan, the former worldwide leader, according to a team of business students from the University of Oxford in England and the University of Oviedo in Spain.

The study, sponsored by Cisco (CSCO, Fortune 500), examined 66 countries and 240 cities. Broadband leadership was measured by various factors, including the number of wired households, where South Korea scored 97%. Hong Kong, which was rated number three in overall broadband leadership, had an even higher penetration, at 99%.

In terms of overall leadership, Hong Kong was followed by Sweden, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Singapore, Luxembourg, Denmark and Norway.

The United States did not make the list's top 10, even though it made "significant, above average improvements" in quality, the study said.


Cheers!