Friday, November 27, 2009

Forget about awkward camcorders, the future belongs to mini-HD, only $99

Forget about awkward camcorders, the future belongs to mini-HD, only $99, Just don't forget to buy insertable memory card.

I still own a DV camcorder I paid more than $500 for. Those mini cameras sure beat the old tape ones on so many criteria, including image quality, color, tape noise, requiring video capture to computers, editing... publishing. Seems like much of the process is so much easier with the new mini cameras.

For your convenience I'll quote a good post on Amazon's review which looks at several different such cameras:
The camcorder SHOWDOWN: I've done the product comparisons for you
By A. Chandler "ArtistAlana"
If I'm going to spend more than a hundred bucks on an item or somewhere around there, I do extensive research first to know I got the best bang-for-the-buck and, consequently, dodge any potential future buyer's remorse.

I've realized that the time I spend doing my product comparisons is often time that others don't have so I may as well share what I can.

I'll start by saying that you'll see my "Verified Amazon Purchase" on the Flip HD Ultra Camcorder review because, obviously, that's the one I wound up buying and I'll share with you why. But what I like in a camcorder may not suit your own needs so I'll break it down and let you decide what's best for you via what I found out:

Here are the pocket camcorders I compared:

Flip UltraHD (will be referred to as "F")
Flip Mino HD 2nd generation (Will be referred to as "M")
Creative Labs Vado HD 8 GB 2nd generation (Will be referred to as "CL")
Kodak Zi6 Pocket HD (Will be referred to as "K")

Why HD cameras only? Brighter colors and better images, wider images

F: 120 minutes.
M: 120 minutes
CL:120 minutes
K: 25 minutes with batteries they included, 120 minutes if you buy an SD card

F: 8 GB
M:8 GB
CL: 8 GB
K: internally only 30 MB recording space but it has 32 GB expandable SD/SDHC card slot. Because it comes with such small recording space you really need to buy an SD or SDHC card to maximize its potential, but the potential is really good and this will increase your ability to shoot longer.

All 720p which is excellent, just one step below the top 1080p format.

F:Premier AAC audio. Best sound quality but still not great in winds
M:Premier AAC audio. Best sound quality but still not great in winds.
CL:Poor sound quality; had issues with sound and picture not being in sync.
K:Poor sound quality

F: 2x
K: poor quality zoom on the one I tried but I still think it's 2x. It has a great macro focus for very close-up objects if, for example, you see a bumble bee and want to shoot it on a leaf a few inches away! Kinda cool.

F: 6.2 x 3.1 x 3.1 inches ; 11.2 ounces
M: 2 x 0.7 x 3.9 inches ; 1 pound
CL: 3.3 x 7.9 x 6.3 inches ; 11.2 ounces
K: 4x 5x 2.5" 2.4 lbs

F: USB cable pops out of the back so you don't need to keep up with a separate cable. Comes with Flip Video rechargeable AA battery pack (recharges when connected to USB); also supported by standard AA batteries. Note: Some sets come with the HDMi mini included and others come with the rechargeable battery pack on Amazon. Looks like one or the other but of course if you need both you can buy the other.
M: USB cable pops out of the back on this one as well. Has child safe button to prevent accidental deletion of videos. Internal lithium ion battery recharges through built-in USB arm
CL: USB cable in camera, Included in box are HDMI cable, (nice) USB extension cable, (nice) silicon skin (cool) & rechargeable battery.
K: Included in box are HD and AV cables and wrist strap and rechargeable batteries and battery charger. Has built in USB arm.

F: 30 frames per second.
M: 30 frames per second
CL: 30 frames per second
K: choice of 30 frames per second or 60 frames per second.

VIEWING SCREEN: All 2" except the Kodak was the largest at 2.4"

F: Best low-light performance for the mini cameras (though not perfect at all) and least amount of blurring and dropped frames in my opinion. You can get an underwater case for this one! Though that may sound crazy for a Texan, we use the camera non-stop on vacations and even when we aren't IN the water, we are around the water...on boats, in the sand with sea mist, etc. Then we can dive in and record the fish. Comes preloaded with flipshare software...just plug in to computer and it pops up.
M: Colors don't appear as good on the Mino as the other cameras. Thinnest camera. Make sure you get the one that only comes in the color aluminum or brushed metal. If it comes in any other colors it is the 1st generation MinoHD and they improved upon that one in the newer models. Great audio. Better shooting in low light than most mini cameras. Camera comes preloaded with FlipShare software. Can get still images through flipshare software.
CL: Decent filming in low light. Software is preloaded in camcorder.
K: What appears to be metal in picture is actually a chrome colored plastic. That said, this had the largest viewing screen of all of them. 2.4" Very poor in low light and seemed to have far more shaking and blurring. It also takes still pictures but they are really really poor quality...same as a lesser-quality cell phone pictures but good in a pinch if you want a still shot and have no cell or camera I s'pose. Heaviest for a pocket camera. Software is not preloaded in camcorder but a cd comes with it.

And, finally, the reviews of the Flip Ultra HD from experts swayed me quite a bit:

Fast Company: "Flip Ultra HD is Pure Digital's "Best Pocket Camcorder Yet." 6-09

USA Today: "New Flip Ultra Video Cameras Might Flip Your Switch" 4-09

Business Week: How do you Invigorate a Recession? Look to i-phone, Flip, Kindle, and Zip Car For Answers

There were lootttts more I came across when researching the Flip Ultra HD but those are some of my favorites.

CONCLUSION: Clearest picture and sound was important to me, expert reviews that pointed to the Flip UltraHD as well and I liked the built in software and the case I can get to shoot underwater. It is the number one selling camcorder as well. So that was my personal decision-making process. However, keep in mind that if you need reading glasses none of that will matter if the 2" screen is too small for your viewing the shots easily for playback in which case you may wish to get the Kodak if that's important to you..

Also: No matter which one you get, you will probably want a mini tripod if you ever want to be in the shot yourself do don't forget those.

Hope my obsessive comparing and contrasting for my own purchasing assistance helped you as well even if what you wanted in a camera was different from me. :-)


Hey banking titanic, major iceberg ahead

Let's all put our money on an artificial island off the coast of a desert country. See how that works for out banking system.

Dubai Crisis May End in ‘Major’ Default, BofA Says
Dubai’s debt woes may worsen to become a “major sovereign default” that roils developing nations and cuts off capital flows to emerging markets, Bank of America Corp. said.

“One cannot rule out -- as a tail risk -- a case where this would escalate into a major sovereign default problem, which would then resonate across global emerging markets in the same way that Argentina did in the early 2000s or Russia in the late 1990s,” Bank of America strategists Benoit Anne and Daniel Tenengauzer wrote in a report.

Wife says: 'well, shit happens'.
Dubai debt crisis: Now British banks face fresh crisis after investing billions
* Barclays, RBS and HSBC face losing billions
* Wall Street plummets by 2 per cent after late opening
* FTSE falls by 1.5 per cent before stabilising
* Banks see £14billion wiped off market value in one day
* Dubai may consider selling QE2 to tackle debt

British banks were teetering on the brink of a fresh meltdown today after it emerged they had invested heavily in crisis-hit Dubai.

An $80billion debt default in the emirate has already reawakened the spectre of a global 'double dip' - that the first shoots of recovery could be wiped out by a second wave of recession.

But the level of exposure that the crippled British banking sector faces is now under renewed scrutiny.

The crisis was prompted by Dubai World, the development company behind three palm shaped islands as well as an off-shore replica of the globe , defaulting on its debt.

Read more:

Personal note: still recovering from food coma from Thanksgiving feast. Thanks to wife for great home cooking. Turkey should last us for about a year....


Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Where to find black friday deals?

You really shouldn't, you know that right? If you still do - be civil.

Here's a list of sites to get your troupes ready as you storm the stores this Friday, trying to squeeze a smile from little Johnny next month.

Of course, there's always the stores sites too: (most links directly to ad pages)
Some people... well, I know it's a shock to you - but some people don't buy anything at all until AFTER Christmas, when everything is on clearance sale. At quarter price of black Friday. Of course, I'm not referring to electronic deals - just general toys and gifts.


Tuesday, November 24, 2009

FDIC in the red, US growth numbers were made up, no one pays attention due to holiday

Optimists were all liars?

Economy's rebound not as strong as first thought
The economy is growing modestly, with consumers too wary about spending to invigorate the recovery.

That picture emerged Tuesday from reports on the nation's economy and the confidence of consumers, who power 70 percent of it. The economy grew at a 2.8 percent rate last quarter -- less than originally estimated. And forecasts for the current quarter are for similarly slight growth before a drop-off next year.

The main reasons are that consumers remain reluctant to spend, commercial construction has slipped and imports are dampening U.S. growth.

The Commerce Department's new reading on gross domestic product was weaker than the 3.5 percent growth rate for the July-September period estimated just a month ago. The GDP, which measures the value of all goods and services produced in the United States, also was a tad weaker than the 2.9 percent growth rate that economists surveyed by Thomson Reuters had expected.

‘Problem’ Banks at 16-Year High in Third Quarter
U.S. “problem” lenders climbed to the most in 16 years and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.’s fund protecting customers against bank failures slipped into a deficit in the third quarter, the agency said.

Shouldn't the situation at FDIC get everyone, including cash holders - scream with anxiety?
U.S. Fund for Bank Deposit Insurance Falls Into the Red
The government-administered insurance fund that protects depositors fell $8.2 billion into the red for the first time since the fallout from the savings-and-loan crisis of the early 1990s as the pace of bank failures accelerated in the third quarter.

Bank customers, however, should remain confident that their deposits would be protected since the bulk of that negative balance reflects money the agency has set aside to cover future bank failures.

Federal Insurance Deposit Corporation officials warned in October that the deposit insurance fund had been depleted, but Tuesday’s third-quarter report card on the banking industry marked the first time that hard numbers had been released. Even amid early signs that the economy is recovering, the report suggested that the country’s 8,100 lenders remain in fragile condition.

In its state of the industry report, the F.D.I.C. reported that banks posted a $2.8 billion gain in the third quarter, after a $3.7 billion loss in the previous period. Meanwhile, the number of “problem banks” that run the biggest risk of collapse increased to 552, from 416 in the second quarter. Bad loans of virtually every stripe — credit cards, mortgages, small business and commercial real estate — continue to grow, albeit at a slower pace.

No one's in doubt - if there's enough non-existing money to stimulate to the sum of 800 billion, and non-existing money to fund new legislation and social plans - I doubt the government would let FDIC fail and let everybody's cash savings at banks disappear. If that day would ever come, you'd see real blood in the streets.

Have a joyous family time this weekend. Try to make it about family and giving thanks, not about shopping... frugal cheers!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Report says: Consumers in a frugal holiday mood

Who wants to spend every penny he doesn't have when the fear of losing your job, and/or increased taxes while reduced medical benefits looms? (still doing my best to avoid political opinion here)

Survey: Consumers in a frugal holiday mood
A new survey shows consumer spending likely will be lower this holiday season, as U.S. households will spend an average of $390 on Christmas gifts this year compared to $418 a year ago.

The survey of Christmas spending intentions, conducted for The Conference Board in November by TNS, included 5,000 U.S. households.

“Consumers are approaching the holiday season very cautiously,” said Lynn Franco, director of The Conference Board Consumer Research Center, in a written statement. “Job losses and uncertainty about the future are making for a very frugal shopper. Retailers will need to be quite creative to entice consumers to spend, both in stores and online this holiday season.”

In addition to being frugal, another study found that nearly a quarter of shoppers are expected to pay cash when holiday shopping this year.

Thriftiness trend continues among American consumers. Will this generation return to frugality as a permanent lifestyle? Consider that each period of unimaginable boom in the past has lead to such situation.


Paul McCulley, managing director at Pimco:"Raise cash!!!"

The gist of the article: Everything has risen way too much and nothing is screaming cheap. Therefor PIMCO expects a correction, and whoever doesn't sell now to protect his gains is a sucker. You got that sucker?

Don't Be A Sucker, Take Your Gains
Nothing is screamingly cheap.

The easy money has been made in both equities and fixed income. From the low point in March, it seems you can't pick an asset class that hasn't gained something in the area of 60%. That was some fear discount back in March.

During this universal recovery, as in most post-recessionary periods, lower-quality high-yield bonds have outperformed quality issues, and lots of smart guys who had the guts and money to buy them at the depths are cashing out--convinced that risks of continued exposure outweigh possible rewards of staying long.

"It's past the time to lighten up, no reason to chase risk assets from currently lofty valuations," says Paul McCulley, managing director at Pimco. "To the contrary, the time has come to begin paring exposure to risk assets, and if their prices continue to rise, paring at an accelerated pace."

That's what Guardian Life Insurance chief investment officer, Thomas G. Sorell, has been doing with his $30 billion portfolio after unexpected gains of 50% in high-yield bonds and leveraged bank loans that he purchased at distressed levels. The problem is that the yield on cash is zero. Cash is trash right now, and promises to continue to be.

Jim Oberweis bought at $79, at $16. Click here for the latest recommendations on these two stocks and two dozen more small caps and Chinese stocks in the Oberweis Report.

Money market funds, according to latest numbers, are down half a trillion on the year. Stock mutual funds have drawn a measly $5 billion, while taxable bond funds have drawn almost $250 billion, and municipal bond funds $60 billion.

The big winners since the stock market bottomed in March have been emerging-markets stocks, up a stunning 99% on the iShares MSCI EAFE Index ( eem - news - people ). Corporate junk bonds are up 50% as measured by the iShares iBoxx High Yield Corporate Bond ( HYG - news - people ) ETF, while the iShares iBoxx Investment Grade Corporate Bond ( LQD - news - people ) fund is up a comparatively modest 21%.

...(continued here)

Exit question: Isn't cash a risk asset these days? Particularly dollar.


Thursday, November 19, 2009

Hold on to your seats, Roubini says worst is yet to come

My only question, as a private non-rich person, where does one find these days financial security?

More of my humble opinion after Roubini's version of 2012 script.

The article:
The worst is yet to come: Unemployed Americans should hunker down for more job losses
Think the worst is over? Wrong. Conditions in the U.S. labor markets are awful and worsening. While the official unemployment rate is already 10.2% and another 200,000 jobs were lost in October, when you include discouraged workers and partially employed workers the figure is a whopping 17.5%.

While losing 200,000 jobs per month is better than the 700,000 jobs lost in January, current job losses still average more than the per month rate of 150,000 during the last recession.

Also, remember: The last recession ended in November 2001, but job losses continued for more than a year and half until June of 2003; ditto for the 1990-91 recession.

So we can expect that job losses will continue until the end of 2010 at the earliest. In other words, if you are unemployed and looking for work and just waiting for the economy to turn the corner, you had better hunker down. All the economic numbers suggest this will take a while. The jobs just are not coming back.

There's really just one hope for our leaders to turn things around: a bold prescription that increases the fiscal stimulus with another round of labor-intensive, shovel-ready infrastructure projects, helps fiscally strapped state and local governments and provides a temporary tax credit to the private sector to hire more workers. Helping the unemployed just by extending unemployment benefits is necessary not sufficient; it leads to persistent unemployment rather than job creation.

The long-term picture for workers and families is even worse than current job loss numbers alone would suggest. Now as a way of sharing the pain, many firms are telling their workers to cut hours, take furloughs and accept lower wages. Specifically, that fall in hours worked is equivalent to another 3 million full time jobs lost on top of the 7.5 million jobs formally lost.

This is very bad news but we must face facts. Many of the lost jobs are gone forever, including construction jobs, finance jobs and manufacturing jobs. Recent studies suggest that a quarter of U.S. jobs are fully out-sourceable over time to other countries.

Other measures tell the same ugly story: The average length of unemployment is at an all time high; the ratio of job applicants to vacancies is 6 to 1; initial claims are down but continued claims are very high and now millions of unemployed are resorting to the exceptional extended unemployment benefits programs and are staying in them longer.

Based on my best judgment, it is most likely that the unemployment rate will peak close to 11% and will remain at a very high level for two years or more.

The weakness in labor markets and the sharp fall in labor income ensure a weak recovery of private consumption and an anemic recovery of the economy, and increases the risk of a double dip recession.

As a result of these terribly weak labor markets, we can expect weak recovery of consumption and economic growth; larger budget deficits; greater delinquencies in residential and commercial real estate and greater fall in home and commercial real estate prices; greater losses for banks and financial institutions on residential and commercial real estate mortgages, and in credit cards, auto loans and student loans and thus a greater rate of failures of banks; and greater protectionist pressures.

The damage will be extensive and severe unless bold policy action is undertaken now.

Back to my question, as a private non-rich person, where does one find these days financial security? Keeping your tiny wad in cash? Gold? Real estate (most everyone in a hole on that one).... Markets? Dividend aristocrat stocks? Where? If everything falls - then it falls in relation to what? Last crash - just a year ago - everything crashed in relation to the dollar. Including gold, oil, shipping costs, Asian markets, China's market - everything.

Now - where's safety? You hold on to cash, and within years, months - perhaps days in case of hyper inflation - that cushion of security can't buy you what you had it stashed for...

I guess if you truly have nothing, those questions don't bother you. Back to clipping coupons and counting pennies in the little piggy.


Analyst: Wells Fargo Needs TARP Money More Than It Admit

Flow of news this morning makes me suspicious regarding who choses to publish what and when. I've commented before about the correlation between bad news and market moves (only after move was made - such news is published), and vice versa. It was 3 days ago when the business media was oh-so-optimistic. That being said, I'm not doubting the sincerity or honesty of the report.

First, consider todays comment on Zacks Profit from the Pros newsletter:
Don't believe most of the nonsense that was discussed in the investment media Wednesday. They always want to create a cause and effect relationship between that days economic news and the direction of the market.

So yes, both the Consumer Price Index [CPI] and Housing Starts reports came out Wednesday. Yet the substance of each had nothing to do with the market being in the red. So why were we in the red? Because it can't be in the green everyday as it has been of late. Until proven otherwise, the trend has been our friend for 7 months. The day to day gyrations and the stories that come with it are just fluff.

And with that, let's go to the bad news:
Wells Fargo Needs TARP Money More Than It Admits: Jonathan Weil
When it comes to giving the U.S. taxpayers their money back, it’s time for Wells Fargo & Co. to put up or shut up.

Ever since Wells accepted its $25 billion of federal bailout assistance last year, its bosses have been complaining that the San Francisco-based bank never needed the money, didn’t want it, and shouldn’t have been forced by the government to take it. They keep saying they want to pay it back, too.

During a Sept. 1 Bloomberg Television interview, Wells Chief Executive Officer John Stumpf said the bank planned to return the cash “shortly” and in a “shareholder-friendly way.” On Oct. 21, Chief Financial Officer Howard Atkins said the injection under the Troubled Asset Relief Program “has served its purpose, and it’s time to repay the money.”

Wells still hasn’t bought back the $25 billion of preferred shares it issued to the government, though. And I’ve got a pretty good idea why: It can’t afford to -- at least not without selling a lot more common stock first. The numbers tell it all.

Start with the bank’s tangible common equity, a bare-bones measure of net worth often used by investors for evaluating a bank’s financial strength and ability to cope with losses.

Tangible common amounts to a company’s shareholder equity, minus preferred stock, which is left out because it acts a lot like debt. Tangible common also excludes intangible assets such as goodwill, which is a bookkeeping entry left over from past acquisition sprees, and mortgage-servicing rights, which represent the estimated value of future income from collecting and processing loan payments.

Taking Account

Wells had about $37.4 billion of tangible common equity as of Sept. 30, by my math. Yet even that number is frothy, because it doesn’t take into account the fair-market values for most of the bank’s financial assets and liabilities, which the company discloses in the footnotes to its quarterly reports.

Factor in those adjustments, and Wells’s tangible common equity falls to $14.3 billion, or just 1.2 percent of the bank’s tangible assets. The main reason for the difference is that Wells said its loans as of Sept. 30 were worth $22.1 billion less than the carrying amount it showed on its balance sheet.

How can Wells repay its TARP money, when its capital cushion on a fair-value basis remains so thin? A Wells spokeswoman, Mary Eshet, responded to that question by saying: “We will work closely with our regulators to determine the appropriate time to repay TARP while maintaining strong capital levels.”

She added that “our capital position is improving,” which is true, even using the bank’s fair-value numbers. So far this year, Wells has raised $8.6 billion in a common-stock offering, reported a $4.9 billion increase in retained earnings, and slashed its common dividend.

Take it as it comes. New crash leg? Je ne sais pas.


Hmmm...Goldman Sachs shorting Wells-Fargo, Mastercard and AIG?

Recovery? Not according to Goldman Sachs:
Goldman Sachs (NYSE:GS) Shorting Wells Fargo (NYSE:WFC), Mastercard (NYSE: MA), PNC (NYSE: PNC) and AIG (NYSE: AIG)
I learned a long time ago to not listen to what people say but watch what they do, and in the case of Goldman Sachs (NYSE:GS), their net shorting of Wells Fargo (NYSE:GS), Mastercard (NYSE: MA), PNC (NYSE: PNC) and AIG (NYSE: AIG) reveals they’re not buying into the assertion that we’ve started to enter a period of economic recovery; on the contrary, they’re betting against it.

In their recent quarterly filing, which is called a 13F, Goldman asset managers revealed their largest positions in specific companies, and within those parameters, the largest short and long positions they have. That simply means what stocks they believe will go up or down in price going forward.

As far as the strategy Goldman is employing, they’re investing in shorts and longs, but when the smoke clears they’re net short on the four stocks mentioned above. Without getting into what that strategy means as far as how it protects from losses while promising the best gains, let’s look at what it means from Goldman’s current view of the economic crisis.

It’s simple really. Goldman is saying by their actions that the financial industry is still in shambles, and we are far from entering an economic recovery. You don’t offer net short positions unless you absolutely believe that. Consequently, Goldman believe the future doesn’t hold a lot of promise for these four financial stocks. I’m sure Citigroup (NYSE:C) would have been part of this as well, but shorting a $4 stock doesn’t leave a lot of room to make money.

As of the release of the report from their asset managers, the net short position of the four companies are this: Goldman has shorted Wells Fargo by $289 million, Mastercard by $266 million, PNC by 202 million, and AIG by $152 million. Together that’s over $900 million. Not a strong support for an economic recovery at all.

One interesting side on all this is Goldman itself is one of the most exposed financial companies in the world to derivatives, and when measured by derivatives as a percentage of assets, is over 8 times more exposed than their nearest competitor in the U.S. I wonder if Goldman shorted themselves?

I’ve been talking for some time on American Banking News on why the recession is far from over and the idea of recovery being a reality is ridiculous. Here’s another proof that others, within the industry itself, understand that as well.



Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Free Stocks Ticker development update

11/20/2009 update: changes made...

original post:
Of the few items listed recently as a wishlist, I have already implemented on my machine the following:
* Turn on AppBar, so that maximized applications consider existence of tickers
* Keep on top option (currently Bottom-Most as forced bottom most )
* Fixed: When taskbar is on top, can't see ticker forms

* Hide default Foxnews/Cnn feeds
* Interactivity option (turn clicks on/off - turn tooltip on/off)

Next release, probably next weekend... to download latest version, click here.


Monday, November 16, 2009

Consider this, there are fundumental reasons to get bullish on the market

Based on earnings and valuation, not just hope. And it's not Joe Six pack - me - saying it. But just in case, yes I am popping one beer can right now.

What's the Stock Market Worth Now?
By Jeremy Siegel, Ph.D.

Operating earnings for the S&P 500 Index for 2009 are projected to be about $56.00 per share, which, at current levels of the Index (1070), puts stocks at about 19 times earnings, higher than the long-term historical average of 15.

But basing stock values on 2009 earnings is inappropriate. 2009 marked the bottom of the worst recession since World War II. What is relevant for determining stock values are future earnings, not past earnings. Next year's operating earnings on the S&P 500 Index are projected to be $74.34 a share, marking the index at 14.4 times earnings. And early earnings estimates for 2011 are at $89 a share, puts stocks at about 12 time earnings.

Furthermore, stock values are not based only on 2010 or 2011 earnings but also on earnings in 2012 and beyond. And because of productivity trends , there is good reason to be optimistic about long-term earnings. Productivity growth has been on a tear, increasing at a 6.9 annual rate in the second quarter and a blow-out rate of 9.5 percent in the third quarter. This is the fastest two-quarter rise in productivity in 40 years.

Productivity gains boost profits because productivity measures how much more output can be produced for a given labor input. Since labor costs are the lion's share of most firms' expenditures, raising output through productivity growth means more revenue for given labor costs, and it raises earnings. If rapid productivity growth continues, stocks could quickly surpass their record high $91.73 level reached in 2007 before the recession began.


I've provided only a short excerpt out of an article with several more bullish acceptable economic measurements.

Should we accept this? The market is about to sky rocket, Wall-Street and CEO-s are about to bask in huge financial glory again on the backs of the 10+ percent unemployed?

Don't bet the farm on it. Yes - unemployment is an issue, and with high unemployment consumer recovery is in doubt. The first stage out of the massive recession is inventory replenishment. We are witnessing that. In a good scenario, this will start a snow ball rolling of profits for the big corporations who would in turn rehire to keep up with demand. Which will then restart the private consumer appetite.

On the bad scenario... well - try watching Fox-News at 5PM eastern. See how you feel about the market and the economy after that. Not accepting or endorsing any point of view, simply stating that it's there.


Making your Fire-Fox confuse the heck out of you-Dressing as a chrome/explorer hybrid

Let's face it - while Firefox has become slower and clunkier - and its competitors have become so much lighter and safer - you stick with it for a few essential plugins.

For me - it's the adBlock plus plugin. Pages load faster and are more readable without flashy crappy commercials. Animated ads drive me insane. So I stick with it, and hope they fix the clunkiness ASAP. Another version and another reduction in speed of interactivity would be the death of FireFox.

Well, in addition to that, FireFox as a product was left behind on the UI advancements. Both Explorer and Chrome reduced as much buttons/bars and menus - leaving you with mostly the browsing area. Then of course, Microsoft pushed their MSN toolbar on you, and I hope for your sake you did your best to uninstall/hide as many bars as possible. Because that's the point - the modern acceptable UI removes as much 'less used' components as possible.

After last week I found the 'magic' of disabling 'Windows Defender' real time scanning and the wonders it does to your startup process and how it removes the choke hold from most applications performance; I decided to take it all a step further. Let's see what I can do to make FireFox more Chrome/IE - and much less FireFox.

So without further ado, here are the downloads/extentions/themes and persona I used to make my FireFox a Chrome/IE hybrid lookalike:
Auto hide menu plugin
Personas plugin
Vista-aero theme
Chrome Persona

And there you have it - a new breath of life to the aging FireFox. Hopefully, the fire-fox team can make these changes the default and fix whatever they broke when advancing to 3.5.


Sunday, November 15, 2009

Free Stocks Ticker getting some attention, wishlist ideas accepted

I'm grateful to two blogs for providing positive review of my freeware free-stocks-ticker today. I've so far gathered some wish list items and I'll try to incorporate them into a new version soon enough:

* Hide default Foxnews/Cnn feeds
* Interactivity option (turn clicks on/off - turn tooltip on/off)
* Turn on AppBar, so that maximized applications consider existence of tickers
* Keep on top option (currently Bottom-Most as forced bottom most )

Reported bug to be resolved on next update:
* When taskbar is on top, can't see ticker forms

The relevant two external blog posts reviewing the application:
* Free Stock Ticker: display a real time stock ticker on your desktop
* BARRY'S BEST COMPUTER TIPS: Free Stocks Ticker - Put a scrolling stock and news feed ticker on your desktop

To download latest version of Free Stocks Ticker, click here.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Return of Friday funny: Flowchart of Hey Jude

I've had this on my facebook page - thought I'd share the laughter.

Flowchart: Hey Jude



Windows Vista shows Defender Errors? Microsoft says reinstall operating system - what?!

Defender is without a doubt the worst piece of software ever written and imposed on users. It never detects or help remove real malware. Only real anti-viruses and adAware do the job properly. Still it was included in Vista as part of the OS and lucky me: It started messing up on windows startup at my work machine.

After my company's IT guy basically gave up - I eventually found this Microsoft support page:

Error message when you try to start Windows Defender on a computer that you recently upgraded to Windows Vista: "Application failed to initialize"

Well - I didn't recently upgrade. But I suspect some anti-virus the IT guys imposed on this machine caused some mess-ed registry and defender just goes belly up after I log-on. It would be great if one could just un-install it and never see it again.

But - no, Microsoft says reinstall Windows.

So let me get this straight, an unnecessary piece of software in the OS cannot be removed, bugs you with messages - and instead of allowing us to remove it all together the suggestion is to waste several hours, if not days in computer down time and potential lost data?


Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Who's the genius? 18 Button Mouse

If someone loses his job at Sun for this idiocy - he shouldn't be surprised (unless it was meant as a joke - and shareholders don't mind burning money)

18-Button Open Office Mouse Makes A Keyboard Look Minimal

One button. One button. One button. So goes the mantra at Apple, chanted before and after the compulsory morning yoga sessions, watched over by Steve Jobs in his cube-shaped glass office as he meditates on the minimal over steepled fingers.

Over on the free-software side of the world, things are a little different. If the phrase “design by committee” ever sent an icy pang of fear into your heart, then look away now. The Open Office organization, behind the splendid free MS Word alternative of the same name, have come up with a mouse with not one button, but 18, all of which can be double clicked, if you can actually contort your fingers to reach them.


One of those stands out: “PDF export of profile button assignments”. A mouse so complicated that you need a cheat-sheet to use it. What’s more, it is butt-ugly. looking like somebody cut holes in a generic dime-store mouse and inserted the plastic leftovers of pill-bottle lids.

The saving feature, if indeed this thing can be saved, is the analog control stick, very similar to the Nintendo 64 controller’s mushroom stick. Unlike the nodule on the mighty mouse or the tipping, clicking scroll wheels of any other mouse, the stick is on the side, under your thumb. This strikes us a dead handy.

The pictures you see are either mockups or prototypes, and the actual mouse should be available in February for $75. It’ll work with Windows, OS X and of course, Linux.

Somehow I imagine some Linux people using it... ooh cool - when do I get my 27 keys mouse? Yikes.


Friday, November 6, 2009

Wow: Vista sold more PCs than Windows 7 did

Well - could it be because more people believe simply buying the upgrade and discarding Vista is a better solution to buying yet another PC? Doesn't it say more about the PC market than about the OS?

Or perhaps it has more to do with the economy in general?

Vista sold more PCs than Windows 7 did
Microsoft moved a lot of install disks, but hardware makers got a bigger bump two years ago

When Microsoft (MSFT) launches a new operating system, as it did two weeks ago, PC manufacturers like Hewlett Packard (HPQ), Dell (DELL) and Acer are supposed to reap the benefits. And everything seemed to be in place on Thursday Oct. 22 for that to happen.

"Never before has the industry launched such a variety of new form factors, price points, technology upgrades, and design innovations at one time," wrote NPD's Stephen Baker just before Windows 7's release. "This past weekend I happened by a Best Buy store and there was not one single PC for sale with Vista on it. Lots of Windows 7 machines, however, all of which were marked 'not for sale until October 22.' Someone did a great job in the supply chain making this happen. This will give Win 7 a tremendous boost out of the gate." (link)

Two weeks later, Baker is singing a different tune. Microsoft got a big boost according to NPD's weekly tracking data, racking up sales of Windows 7 that were 234% higher than Vista's during its first few days of sales. (More on that below the fold.)

But PC makers didn't make out quite as well. Although they had a relatively strong week, with unit sales up 49% year over year and 95% from the week before, it was nothing like Vista's launch in Feb. 2007. Then, sales soared 68% year over year and 170% from the week before.

In related(?) news, Microsoft announced a new wave of job cuts.


Unemployment rate hits 10.2%, worst since 1983

And market goes up?

Unemployment rate hits 10.2%, worst since 1983
The nation's unemployment rate rose above 10% for the first time since 1983 in October, a much worse jump than expected as employers continued to trim jobs from payrolls.

The reading, reported by the government Friday, is a sign of the continued weakness in the labor market even though the economy grew in the third quarter following the longest and deepest downturn since the Great Depression.

The government reported Friday that unemployment rate spiked to 10.2%, up from 9.8% in September. It is the highest that this rate has been since April 1983. Economists had forecast an increase to 9.9%.

There was also a net loss of 190,000 jobs in October, according to the Labor Department, an improvement from a revised estimate of 219,000 job losses in September. However, economists surveyed by had forecast a loss of only 175,000 jobs in October. This was the 22nd straight month of job losses.

Government efforts to end job losses have had limited effects, although the Obama administration estimated last month that 640,000 jobs were created or saved by the federal stimulus package passed earlier this year. But that's modest compared to the 7.3 million jobs that have been lost by the economy since the start of 2008.

Friday's report comes one day after Congress voted overwhelmingly to extend unemployment benefits by up to 20 weeks. There are now a record 5.6 million people who have been unemployed for six months or longer, as the average time an unemployed person has been out of a job hit 26.9 weeks.

Prior to this report, most economists had believed that the unemployment rate would keep rising and that job losses would continue into next year. But the jump in unemployment in October took it to levels worse than what many previously had expected to be the peak.

According to a survey of top forecasters by the National Association of Business Economics last month, the consensus estimate among economists was that unemployment would hit a high of 10% in the final three months of this year and the first quarter of 2010.

The five economists with the most bearish forecasts had expected unemployment to rise to 10.2% in the fourth quarter of this year before hitting 10.5% in the first half of next year.

Another headline said jobs will return in..... 2012?!

Is the future brighter? What would be the 'bottom' of the job market? Will it continue deteriorate along side the housing market?

Je ne sais pas.


Thursday, November 5, 2009

Goverment making Fannie Mae delinquent home owners become permanent squatters?

Brilliant idea alert - turn foreclosure distressed neighborehood to public housing calamity.

You know what I'd do? Give the home to the government and flee those soon to be slumps neighborehoods before it's too late.
Fannie Mae to rent out homes instead foreclosing
Thousands of borrowers on the verge of foreclosure will soon have the option of renting their homes from Fannie Mae, under a policy announced Thursday.

The government-controlled company, through its new "Deed for Lease" program, will allow borrowers to transfer ownership to Fannie Mae and sign a one-year lease, with month-to-month extensions after that.

The program will "eliminate some of the uncertainty of foreclosure, keeps families and tenants in their homes during a transitional period, and helps to stabilize neighborhoods and communities," Jay Ryan, a Fannie Mae vice president, said in a statement.

But the effort is likely to affect a relatively small number of homeowners. In the first half of the year, Fannie Mae took back about 1,200 properties through this process, known as a deed-in-lieu of foreclosure. That pales in comparison to the 57,000 foreclosed properties the company repossessed in the period.

While neither option is particularly attractive for the homeowner, a deed-in-lieu does less harm to the borrower's credit record.

The rental program is designed to help homeowners who don't qualify for a loan modification under the Obama administration's plan, but still want to remain in their homes. Fannie Mae is not planning to market the homes for sale during the one-year rental period.

Fannie Mae has hired an outside company, which officials declined to identify, to manage the properties

This is by far the biggest political statement I made on this blog.


Trying to avoid that.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Hey Microsoft - do you care at all about bugs in Microsoft Expression?!

I'm so glad my company is paying the huge wad it costs each year to subscribe me to MSDN - so that Microsoft can ignore bugs in their product altogether:

* Microsoft Connect: Expression Blend 3 ignores and hides my attached properties used in styles

* Expression Blend 3 ignores and hides my attached properties used in styles

Reported on August 6th 2009 (about a week after Expression 3 release). Response: Nada.

Sure - creating customizable buttons for WPF is such an unimportant feature... sure.


Monday, November 2, 2009

Google to easily conquere cell phones/GPS market?

Google to easily conquere cell phones/GPS market?

Observe this video:

Stunning, you can bet that ATT, Apple, Garmin and Tom-Tom are going to offer amazing price drops and offers - will try to point out to the amount of data usage Droid customers would have to pay for.

Video found at this great post: Google Announces Free Mobile Navigation App, Just in Time for Verizon’s Droid & Android 2.0


Wired.Com: Yes, This Is the Droid You've Been Looking For


New EzBacktest release 0.9.1

Changes since initial release:

* Recent files menu
* Excel friendly dates in saved XML files
* Mark areas of graph to measure and show percentage change
* Support backtest simulation of as little as 2 months
* Improve open/save/file name mechanism

To download continue on application's main page: here