Adsense2

Thursday, February 21, 2008

WHAT'S NEW IN TECHNOLOGY?

A major new trend for 2008 and beyond will be the growth of international social and business networking sites. Sites like LiveMocha.com, LinkedIn.com or Google Finance discussions are drawing participants from countries all over the world.
Computer Graphic 31819
LiveMocha.com, along with Praxis' LANGUAGE+Pod.com sites like SpanishPod.com, allow people all over the world to learn a language from native speakers, also located all over the world.

The potential for these services is enormous. Profitability, however, may be a more elusive thing to measure easily. People that speak more than one language fluently certainly have the potential to earn more income. People that interact globally through services like LinkedIn.com or Google Finance might possibly advance more quickly in business or investment positions. It all depends on how people use the service, how many people contribute to the sites, and the quality of those contributions.

Google Finance offers investors the chance to chat, gossip, or rant about their favourite or most-hated stocks. Certain shares like, Apple Inc., Microsoft, and Google seem to have attracted a large number of followers in many nations. Among the green new investors in these discussion groups are many experienced traders. Yahoo Finance once offered the promise of 'insider information' but was overwhelmed by junk postings over a year ago.

In the past major networking sites tended to segregate users through language or nation-specific versions of their web portals. Now the trend is to have people from many nations mix it up in many forums, usually in English.
Internet Cafe, Dublin 00052
The prospect of the world using a global computer network to develop greater understanding is phenomenal. It was expected that business would profit from the 'Net but the benefits versus costs to society were once less evident. Easy access to bank and other accounts has also given criminals a new avenue for theft. Some innocents sharing personal details have suffered misfortune. Shut-ins, the elderly, and people living in remote areas find new benefits for the Internet every day. Think of the corners EBay reaches into for example

Of course there is still a digital divide and most people in the world do not have easy access to the Internet. That will be a given for many years but the future is growing in the user audience currently online and soon to get on the Internet.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

What's New???

Clients and friends are always quick to ask, "What's new?"

My latest investment is in steel through a Van Eck Global fund, Market Vectors Steel ETF (AMEX:SLX). The fund is simply a basket that contains shares from 30 steel manufacturers. My research into the global demand for various metals revealed this gem.

Among the many interesting new technology developments is the collaboration between Tata Motors and Air Car, S.A..
Key West 44914
Air Car makes a car that runs on air, compressed air to be exact. There are two air tanks running the length of the car frame. In one design the air tanks are the car frame! The low temperature compressed air in these tanks push pistons that transfer energy to the drive wheels. There is no exhaust created, just a sound similar to that made by the old VW microbus.

The biggest hazard associated with this car would be a very loud blow-out if punctured or overfilled.

Air Cars do have a limited range at present, less than 100 miles. One design idea places a solar panel on the roof of the Air Car. While you drive around during the daytime, the solar panel runs a small air compressor, providing more distance. During the 8 hours your car is parked at work it can practically recharge itself, on a sunny day of course. It can also be plugged in to household electricity to run the air compressor.

Compressed air is available at most gas stations today. To facilitate the Air Car these air systems would need to be upgraded to allow faster transfer of compressed air. That's all.

This is quite a bit different than the distribution network planned for new hydrogen-fueled vehicles.

Tata Motors of India has decided to mass produce the Air Car. Tata basically sees the Air Car as an alternative to adding more fossil fuel-burning chariots to India's overcrowded cities.

You can be sure other car manufacturers and the oil companies will be watching the performance of the new Tata Air Car closely.

It was only a few years ago that GM and Ford dismissed hybrid passenger cars as a novelty item. After all, the extra cost of the equipment necessary to make a hybrid car like the Toyota Prius outweighs fuel cost savings for the first 5 years. It seems many people in the U.S. buy hybrid vehicles to display their concern for the environment.
Cadillac 00006
Quite a few drivers in Virginia and other states buy hybrid cars to get to work faster. Hybrid drivers are able to use the fast HOV lanes, normally reserved for car pools. So many drivers are using this loophole that the HOV lanes are just as crowded as all other roads most days.

"WHAT'S NEW IN TECHNOLOGY?"

A major new trend for 2008 and beyond will be the growth of international social and business networking sites. Sites like LiveMocha.com, LinkedIn.com or Google Finance discussions are drawing participants from countries all over the world.

LiveMocha.com, along with Praxis' LANGUAGE+Pod.com sites like SpanishPod.com, allow people all over the world to learn a language from native speakers, also located all over the world.

The potential for these services is enormous. Profitability, however, may be a more elusive thing to measure easily. People that speak more than one language fluently certainly have the potential to earn more income. People that interact globally through services like LinkedIn.com or Google Finance might possibly advance more quickly in business or investment positions. It all depends on how people use the service, how many people contribute to the sites, and the quality of those contributions.

Google Finance offers investors the chance to chat, gossip, or rant about their favourite or most-hated stocks. Certain shares like, Apple Inc., Microsoft, and Google seem to have attracted a large number of followers in many nations. Among the green new investors in these discussion groups are many experienced traders. Yahoo Finance once offered the promise of 'insider information' but was overwhelmed by junk postings over a year ago.

In the past major networking sites tended to segregate users through language or nation-specific versions of their web portals. Now the trend is to have people from many nations mix it up in many forums, usually in English.
Internet Cafe, Dublin 00052
The prospect of the world using a global computer network to develop greater understanding is phenomenal. It was expected that business would profit from the 'Net but the benefits versus costs to society were once less evident. Easy access to bank and other accounts has also given criminals a new avenue for theft. Some innocents sharing personal details have suffered misfortune. Shut-ins, the elderly, and people living in remote areas find new benefits for the Internet every day. Think of the corners EBay reaches into for example

Of course there is still a digital divide and most people in the world do not have easy access to the Internet. That will be a given for many years but the future is growing in the user audience currently online and soon to get on the Internet.

Links:

Air Car
BBC Article
Air Car

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

MEND: A Larger Threat Than al Qaeda?

While the media keeps all eyes focused on the Middle East the real threats may lie elsewhere.

Who has not heard of al Qaeda?

Who has heard of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta or MEND?
Annapolis 38792
The latter group, led until recently by Henry Okah, has the capability today to cause far greater damage to Western nations.

Like many people in the United States, the poor in Nigeria are angry that most oil profits are only going to oil company executives and political leaders. The Nigerians know that oil wells bring great wealth to their country. However they see nothing but polluted villages, more crime, and death from horrific explosions. These explosions are the result of desperate people stealing fuel by tapping large pipelines. So why are they compelled to steal something that is abundant in their nation?

Kidnapping is common in Nigeria. Every few months revolutionaries storm an oil rig or break into a oil company office. They hold the oil employees hostage until their demands are met by the company. Surprisingly few hostages are ever killed by these groups. No matter, the threat of more attacks was enough to cause the big oil firms to scale back operations significantly along the coast of Africa.

Now the members of MEND and other groups like NDPVF and NDV, have learned that all they have to do is interrupt the oil production in Nigeria. It was threats from this organization that contributed to this week's price of $100 for a barrel of oil. Closer to home, gasoline in the U.S. is now ten cents a gallon more, five cents because of the Movement for the Emancipation of the the Niger Delta and five cents for a refinery fire in Texas (Big Spring). It makes you wonder about the real reason refinery owners like BP or Alon allow safety measures and equipment to deteriorate to the point that they simply explode? Like the explosions in Nigeria, these refinery blasts drive up the price of oil, creating massive profits for oil companies and oil-exporting nations alike.

What's the solution?

In some other oil-rich nations the government provides petrol at subsidized prices. A few nations that are rich in resources invest that money in their own people. Countries like Norway use their oil money to provide education and health care for all citizens, among other benefits. Venezuela is lionized for using some oil money to provide health care and food to the poorest. Saudi, Kuwaiti, and other governments of top OPEC nations provide cradle to grave care, for their citizens only of course. Millions of guest workers that keep those nations functioning get only low wages and poor living conditions. Certainly the Saudi people must be credited for donating huge sums to all sorts of genuine charitable causes, they are noted for that. Alaska is even wise enough to give every resident a share of the cake that comes from the North Slope oil fields every year.

Little of this kind of profit-sharing is happening in Nigeria, with a population of 150 million. Or Indonesia with 250 million people. Little wonder violent extremist groups are thriving under so much corruption and greed. Western nations seem unwilling to get involved until one of these new breed of revolutionaries strikes at home.

In a sense, interrupting oil production is the only recourse left to groups like MEND. In Iraq the oil pipelines must be closely guarded. The government of Nigeria will likely respond in a similar fashion with military actions. The real solutions include a massive increase in social programs to combat poverty, stimulating small business growth, and perhaps subsidized cooking fuel. The governments should be developing communities by encouraging light manufacturing, specialized tropical farming, and maybe one day soon, tourism. Training centers, community colleges, and better primary schools create real foundations for peace. Sports facilities and parks should be common and well-maintained. When people living in the villages and towns located near oil production start to see real improvements in their lives the violence will diminish rapidly. When was the last time you heard about an uprising in Oslo or Anchorage? In time a future government may learn these lessons but for now we all must pay the price for the mistakes of a few, very rich people.



Links:

New York Times article.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Steroid Problems Resolved

It's a good thing they have gotten to the bottom of this steroid scandal. Congress held a hearing yesterday and the whole issue will soon be resolved.

So it was only Clemens, his wife, Andy Pettitte, Barry Bonds and those guys that ride bikes in the Tour de France that use this stuff. I was afraid NFL football players might be using human growth hormones (HGH).American Football 17715 Oh, surgeons prescribe them to people recovering from surgery, that too. And body-builders like Arnold the governor, those guys too. And a few fake wrestlers abuse steroids and kill their families. And a few high school football players, that's all. Whew, it's a good thing the problem is limited in scope and not tied to corporate profits in any way.

Major league sports does not really benefit financially when these players use drugs to break sports records, do they? Do major league team owners really sell more advertising, more tickets, more T-shirts, and more TV broadcast rights when the best players use steroids to enhance their performances? What about the sponsors like Budweiser, Miller, or Molson Coors? Are they tainted because the sports they sponsor are rigged by designer pharmaceuticals?

The major league sports team owners must be relieved at the outcome of these hearings, that's for sure. Now we can bring our children to see baseball games without wondering if the players are all pumped up on human growth hormones (HGH) or other steroids.

Links:

A List of Baseball Players from the Mitchell Report Note: Keep scrolling down, the list of names is really, really long!
New York Times article
Washington Post article

Monday, February 11, 2008

Apple Inc. Retail Strategy

Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) retail strategy is studied at the big league business schools. The downtown storefront Apple retail stores really impress me. Forget about going to the Mall, head downtown, where people used to shop. Computer equipment presented like a Tiffany or Coach store shows jewelry, in similar locations downtown.

Even the Apple store lighting designs are impressive. No dark spots anywhere, even on rainy days.

For first-time Apple buyers at the downtown Atlanta or Manhattan stores, the perception must be similar to stopping in to pick up a diamond necklace or Burberry coat. Far different than entering a big box store like Circuit City or Best Buy. Certainly a major switch from buying a computer using a web page order form or telephone. Gateway's stores with no inventory left the buyer arriving home empty-handed. It was tough for Gateway buyers to explain to their wives that they just paid a thousand dollars for a PC that will arrive in a few days.

Dell buyers had web forms to interact with. Questions? Here's a FAQ sheet for you.

Prior to those experiences buying a computer meant accepting the junk on the department store shelves or going into the geek shops where the heavy-set guy built you a computer to-order from parts. "How much video RAM you think you need, man?"
Fun for me but so intimidating to many business buyers that they hired me to shop in PC stores for them. They still do.

Stores like MicroCenter and Fry's became popular for the same reason Apple stores are a retail computer buyer's mecca; if a buyer can get their hands on something they like they often will go ahead and buy it. If a buyer can get questions answered by a knowledgeable human clerk that speaks their local dialect, they feel better about dropping a thousand bills or more. If they can go back to the same store and get friendly assistance, that's even better.

Apple clerks do not know about future sales projections. That is not their job. However every Apple employee I meet knows the answers to Apple hardware and software questions or where to get the correct answer.

It is more difficult to look the clerk in the eye and say, "Nah, this Mac Air just does not meet my needs, I think I will go look at the Acer models." With Dell's old business model I just closed the browser window if I did not want to complete the sale. I never completed a sale at Gateway stores I visited, the employees only knew how to take orders.

Now we see Dell moving into face-to-face retail, wonder why?