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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..
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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.
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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.
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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

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