I’m Back …….Well Nearly

“Fight Against Stupidity And Bureaucracy”

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Hi folks. Hope you are all keeping well. I’ve missed you. Hope you can say the same.

I’m back, sort of. I had a sudden enforced blogging break thrust upon me when I received an SOS from a good friend of mine. His company was in need of help.

desk full of files
I thought at the time that it would be a two week job at most, but when he said he was in trouble he wasn’t kidding. We’re still not done, but at least now things are looking a little bit better.

I’m in “Yurp” right now, watching the refugees take over. More of that in a future post perhaps. In the meantime take Trump’s advice a close your borders or you’ll end up like this place.

refugees europe
I could have done some blogging when I was travelling around, I certainly had plenty of time at airports, in between flights and wading through the dumbest security checks you could imagine, but I wanted to take a bit of time to prepare my next post. Hopefuly I’ll get to it next week.

Meantime, if you can believe WP stats, this blog has whizzed through the 200,000 views landmark without me and there are actually MORE daily hits now than when I was blogging almost every day.

Do you think the world is trying to tell me something?

Maybe I should stay away?

Actually I don’t know whether to be pleased that I have created something with a life of it’s own or dismayed that I’m not really needed.

puzzled
Now in an effort to get some of my dignity back I think I will indulge in a quick gloat.

This is not going to be pretty so feel free to skip over this bit if you haven’t got a strong stomach.

I’m having a laugh at the stupidty of the Fed again and the dumb financial journalists and fund managers who hang on their every word despite a mountain of evidence that should lead them to do otherwise.

Federal Reserve

The Fed has wimped out AGAIN. Lost their nerve. Promised and hinted and leaked stories to the financial press for months that an interest rate rise was imminent – and then they bottled out.

No surprise to me. At the beginning of May I wrote a post explaining why they wouldn’t put up interests despite all the pifle they were saying. (if you want to read it  click here.)

Then in mid-June I did another one ( click here for that one), saying there was no way the Fed could make good on their threats to raise the rate in September.

Of course nobody listened and the meeting on Thursday was one of the most anticipated Fed meetings of all time. And it all came to nothing. No interest rate hike.

And I don’t think they’ll do it next time either. There’s talk about December, but as far as I see the Fed’s hands are tied and rates are going to remain at zero or close to it for years.

Good news for borrowers. Not so good for savers with all the traditional yield opportunities such as bonds, Treasuries and bank CDs offering little or no returns. If you have cash to invest you should be looking at solid low risk undervalued stocks with a decent dividend. Otherwise your savings will be eroded by inflation for at least another year, proably longer.

Having said that, no rate hike is on balance good for the economy as a whole.

That will do for the gloating for now. Not sure when the next post will be exactly. Hopefully next week so if you’re interested keep a look out for that.

Meantime warmest regards to everyone who visits – even when I’m not around.

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Looking Through The Windows

“Fight Against Stupidity And Bureaucracy”

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Looking Through The Windows

Have you noticed that Microsoft Windows operating systems follow a distinct pattern?

By that I mean that after a fairly decent stable version, it inflicts a bloated piece of trash on the poor consumer. Software that is invariably rushed out to the public before it is ready, or before someone in the company has had the decency to take it out behind the Microsoft barn and shoot it.

Invariably each new version of Windows is hailed by Microsoft as “the best Windows yet”. You can understand that advertising hype I suppose, but it just ain’t true, they only get it right about half of the time.

The other half, Microsoft takes a good idea and turns it into a bad one as it tries to be new and trendy and interesting. It invariably ends in disaster.

Windows XP

After a number of faltering tries, most of which I experienced during my long love affair with computers that I previously wrote about on this blog (click here if you want to read it), we eventually got a decent operating system that Microsoft called ‘Windows XP’. It was stable, did everything reasonably well, didn’t suffer from too many dreaded blue screens, if any, and everyone was happy, particularly business users which are Microsoft’s bread and butter.

I know some people who are still happily using ‘XP’ despite its lack of updates to fix security issues like new hacks or threats now that Microsoft has finally ditched it.

Sadly, Microsoft followed the ‘XP’ success with a thing they called ‘Windows Vista’. As usual it was intended to be breakthrough technology. They tell me it was the brainchild of Bill Gates himself.

Windows Vista bad

However, ‘Windows Vista’ had one big flaw.

To put it bluntly, it was a piece of crap!

Most people, with the exception of the idiots who have to have every shiny new thing that is announced whether it is any good or not, stayed well away from ‘Vista’, and wisely so. Just to see what all the complaints were about my curiosity made me load it on to an old machine. I persevered with it for a couple of days before taking it off my computer for ever, never the easiest thing to do with Microsoft operating systems but I did it. I had to. It was dreadful.

I continued happily with ‘XP’ until it was time to change my laptop. The new one came with a 64bit version of ‘Windows 7’ on board. I had read good things about ‘Windows 7’ and they were largely true. It was a good system.

Windows 7

In fact a lot of people agree, because ‘Windows 7’ runs on about fifty-five per cent of the World’s PCs. ‘Windows 7’ was a winner because it didn’t try to make a big splash by attempting to do everything everything else did, only worse. It was just a good stable operating system that worked.

‘Vista’ became a distant memory, people were happy once more.

But then Microsoft went and did it again.

Instead of allowing ‘Windows 7’ to stay on as a cash cow, their idiot designers thought it was time for a new breed in the herd.

They ignored everything that was good about ‘Windows 7’ and, in a nerd-like stupor of unreality, decided what the world needed was not something that they were familiar with and liked, but something they wouldn’t know how to use and that would frustrate the hell out of them.

So it was that the horrible ‘Windows 8’ was conceived and born. It ignored the desktop and most of the laptop markets completely and aimed itself squarely at the touch-tablet system, Microsoft thinking that was where everyone was going. They didn’t say so, but a big part of their plan was to try to get kick Google’s ass because its ‘Android’ operating system for mobile devices and tablets had become a dominant market force (80%+ of the market).

It could all have been so different if the arrogant know-alls at Microsoft had listened to what people were telling them when they did exhaustive testing for ‘Windows 8’ before releasing it. About 1.24 billion hours of testing was done pre-release and all the feedback ignored, presumably because it was overwhelmingly negative.

Windows 8

Needless to say, when ‘Windows 8’ did hit the market it failed.

In fact it failed on all levels.

It alienated the desktop and laptop users. Business users didn’t want it and ordinary consumers didn’t want it either. It was so bad it wasn’t even popular with the mobile device users it was aimed at.

Microsoft got themselves stuck with one of the least wanted versions of Windows in the history of the company and that’s saying something!

‘Windows 8’ is so bad it has even eclipsed the hated ‘Vista’ in the league of things you never want near your computer.

It’s not just my opinion. Microsoft’s share of the PC and tablet market on ‘Windows 8’ is only just a little over 10 per cent and quite a lot of that is made up of people who didn’t have a choice when they bought a new machine with this catastrophe pre-loaded on it.

So what have I got on my computer?

I’m glad you asked. I have ‘Windows 8’!

WTF?

No, wait, I’m not a hypocrite, not completely.

‘Windows 7’ is no longer available since Microsoft stopped retailers and PC makers from selling and installing it.  It has entered into what Microsoft calls an ‘extended support mode’, but this only means that from now on all you will get will be new bug fixes, if and when problems crop up.

So when I needed to upgrade my laptop the dreaded ‘Windows 8.1’ was all that was available. They call it version ‘8.1’ because it is 0.1 percent less horrible than version ‘8’, but that’s still nowhere near being even average, let alone good!

Of course, trying to regain my dignity and sanity, I immediately tweaked the whole horrible mess that ‘Windows 8.1’ is, for example, adding back the start button (like ‘Windows 7’), loading a proper desktop version of ‘Skype’ instead of the irritating piece of crap app that is bundled with ‘Windows 8’, and doing some more bits and bobs to make the thing actually work like a ‘Windows 7’ machine. The bloated and useless ‘Metro’ start screen is also gone and I boot right to my familiar desktop.

The only reason I didn’t dump the whole shebang and load on my old ‘Windows 7’ program was because the new ‘Windows 10’ version is so tantalizingly close.

‘Windows 10’ ? Wait a minute. What happened to ‘Windows 9’ ?

Windows 9

There are a lot of theories about what has happened to ‘Windows 9’. Personally I think Microsoft already had it in development as another souped up version of ‘Windows 8’ when they launched ‘Windows 8’. But when they saw what a disaster that was they just ditched the whole thing and put all their efforts into ‘Windows 10’.

The official line from Microsoft says they have called the new operating system ‘Windows 10’ because they wanted to emphasize that it is is not a simple step up from ‘Windows 8’ but is a huge change for the company from the way they build Windows to how it will be deployed.

In plain English what that means is that Microsoft themselves know what a crappy program ‘Windows 8’ was and are trying to put some distance even in their numbering system between it and their new baby.

Windows 10

That aside, from what I have read so far, ‘Windows 10’ is a step back towards ‘Windows 7’ rather than a move ahead to where ‘Windows 8’ was trying to go. In other words, ‘Windows 10’ is bringing back the parts of the Windows desktop stupidly dumped by the designers of ‘Windows 8’.

At last Microsoft has hit the reality wall with a big slap and realized that safe and familiar is what the vast majority of their consumers want. The detestable immersive UI experience that forced bewildered users into the flawed ‘Metro’ world is gone and the desktop environment is back. And so is the beloved start button – hurrah!

Sanity has returned!

No, wait a minute, this is Microsoft what are you thinking?

‘Metro’ is still there, although in a much toned down version, with ‘Metro-looking’ apps that can be run in the desktop environment.

Apparently Microsoft has also integrated its digital assistant ‘Cortana’, the rival to Apple’s ‘Siri’ and Google’s ‘Now’, which made its debut on the unwanted ‘Windows Phone’. On the phones, ‘Cortana’ is used for voice-activated calls and searches, mapping, location and to launch apps. I’m guessing it will be on ‘Windows 10’ for the same reasons, but how much use people will make of it remains to be seen and heard.

I have also read that with ‘Windows 10’ comes a new Windows browser, codenamed ‘Spartan’, which may or may not integrate with ‘Cortana’. If it is a better browser than IE that will be a good thing, but don’t hold your breath on that score, after all IE versions just kept getting worse and worse when compared to something like ‘Google Chrome’. Another point against it in my book is that it has been designed as an app rather than a proper program so the jury is still out on it. I think I’ll still be using ‘Google Chrome’!

It is a bit obvious that the idea of adding these, really unnecessary, features, to ‘Windows 10’ is an attempt by Microsoft glamorize the new operating system and, by no means least, a smoke and mirrors attempt by the company to divert attention away from the fact that it has stuffed ‘Windows 8’ in the bin where it always belonged.

So for now we just to wait and hope. On past performance, after such a turkey as ‘Windows 8’, the next Microsoft version of its operating system should be good. It has to be better. It wouldn’t be possible to do worse.

But you never know for sure with Microsoft.

One final thought.

If your name was ‘Gates’ why would you call your operating system ‘Windows’ instead? Did he suspect right from the start that there would be embarrassing catastrophes ahead and didn’t want his family name associated with them?

As I said, just a thought.

open-gate-meadow-field-peaceful-43309059

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Sorry Elvis, You May As Well Come Back Home!

“Fight Against Stupidity And Bureaucracy”

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We all know politicians and their bureaucratic lap dogs are stupid. We also know that they fanny around trying to find ways to steal more of our money and then waste it on laws and other interference we neither want nor need.

But sometimes their efforts are just staggeringly unnecessary and stupid.

Did you know, for example, that the morons in the US Congress wasted time, money, energy, not to mention paper and ink, discussing and clarifying that any income earned by U.S. residents while in space would be subject to U.S. taxes!

residents while in space would be subject to U.S. taxes

During the Apollo missions we already witnessed the nonsensical spectacle of national heroes like Neil Armstrong having to be processed through US Customs and Immigration when they returned from the Moon. Talk about bureaucratic jobsworth claptrap!

Now the idiots in Congress have declared that colonists on Mars, of whom there are currently, and for the foreseeable future, none, zero and nil, will be taxed on the income they earn while en route to, and living on, the Red Planet. I suppose to continue the madness, the US authorities will try to make the Martians themselves  –  if we find any  –  subject to US taxes too!

It’s enough to make you get your antennae in a tangle!

It’s all because the US government is broke and because it wants to have total control over its citizens (not the uber rich ones, of course, they can do whatever they want). Unlike most countries, the United States uses a ‘worldwide’ system of taxation, under which it taxes all income earned by U.S. citizens and residents, regardless of where it is earned.

The arrogance of a ‘worldwide’ catchment is apparently not enough, now America thinks it must have a ‘pan-galactic’ tax system.

tax burden

At seven times the size of the humongous novel ‘War and Peace’, and at around four million words and counting, the US Tax Code is already monstrously over-sized, but with the whole Universe to cater for it’s only going to get bigger and more complicated. For example, I foresee vast sections trying to explain how to cater for an Earth year of 365 days being factored into a Martian year of 687 days.

Make that getting your antennae in a knot rather than just a tangle.

But no doubt the bureaucrats back on Earth are already salivating at the prospect of drafting even more crap.

As for those with Martian ambitions?

Sorry Elvis, you might as well come back home. We miss you!

Elvis on Mars

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The Internet Of Things.

“Fight Against Stupidity And Bureaucracy”

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The Internet of Things courtesy of kpcb.com

Last year the ‘new thing’ that all the techies were talking about was the ‘Internet of Things’.

For those who are not up to speed on this ‘new thing’, the ‘Internet of Things’ is about getting all of our household devices connected online.

This is not just a ‘new thing’ but it’s a ‘BIG thing’ too.

Already there are about 10 billion net-connected devices and predictions are that by 2020, just five years from now, the number will have grown to 50 billion devices.

More importantly, for the businesses involved in this industry, and for investors, the ‘Internet of Things’ market will be worth at least three-quarters of a trillion dollars – that’s an ‘illion’ with a ‘tr’ in front of it!

As you would expect, the big technology players aren’t wasting any time getting involved.

Samsung's 'SmartThings Hub

Samsung has developed what it calls a ‘SmartThings Hub’ which will organize all of the connected devices in your home regardless of what platform they run on. The company’s CEO has promised that by 2017, 90% of its products would be connected to the Web.

The Samsung ‘SmartThings Hub’ is compatible with the Apple ‘HomeKit’ for iOS8, which was introduced last summer.

A lot of the ‘IoT’ devices are aimed at the home security market. Many of these are already available, but with the development of the ‘IoT’ they will become much more sophisticated, have additional features, such as cameras with facial recognition capabilities, and be more affordable for the average consumer. At the moment most of the better systems carry a hefty price tag and are aimed at the high-end market.

Another big market is babies, with a number of devices coming to the market that monitor almost everything about your baby and send that information to you wherever you are via a mobile device.

Other ‘IoT’ devices for the home include smart light bulbs, Bluetooth speakers, WiFi repeaters and lots of other home entertainment applications.

You will even be able to control your coffee maker or tea kettle via wifi.

fitbark

And your pets have not been forgotten either. If you just can’t bear to be unconnected to your dog, for example, you can get a smart collar like the ‘Fitbark’ or ‘Motorola Scout 5000’. If this was pun day I’d tell you it came with a paws control.

It all sounds great, for those who like that kind of thing. And indeed some of the devices will be useful and hopefully cost effective and energy saving for the home. I don’t think you’re going to have any choice because new devices for the home will come with all this new technology built in.

The big problem will be sophisticated burglars and malicious tech savvy people, who will no doubt figure out ways of hacking your system and possibly gaining control of the whole set up.

A password like ‘password’ will no longer suffice in the era of the ‘Internet of Things’.

you have been hacked

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Give That President A Cigar …er… A Great Big Cuban One!

“Fight Against Stupidity And Bureaucracy”

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Cuban American flags

Strangely, when President Barack Obama was elected with ease in 2008 and had a comfortable Congressional majority he didn’t really capitalize on his advantage. He may have gotten elected promising ‘change’ but he didn’t make many when he made it into the big seat.

Now, perhaps sensing the end of his term as President, and in spite of the Democrats’ recent crushing defeat, he is becoming ‘Obama the bold’, maker of decisions, changer of things.

Hence his recent decisions to re-establish diplomatic relations with Cuba and an amnesty for five million illegal immigrants in the US.

JFK imposed the embargo on Cuba way back in 1962, in the midst of the Cuban Missile Crisis. In JFK’s day the embargo was America’s way of thumbing its nose at the Soviet Empire. Cuba was less than 100 miles from the continental US and its defiance of the mighty Uncle Sam was an embarrassment, particularly after the Bay of Pigs fiasco.

Cuban missile crisis

Curious therefore that Obama cannot see the similarities with Putin’s stance in the Ukraine, but that’s another story.

However, getting back to the Cuban embargo, it was a decision that has been condemned by almost every nation in the world ever since. I think it smacked too much of the big rich kid in the schoolyard picking on the little poor kid.

But, like a lot of things that are half a century old and more, the Cuban embargo was well past its sell-by date. Not least because it didn’t work!

Neither of course did the Cuban system, which failed mainly due to the disintegration of the Soviet Empire that had kept Cuba financially afloat long after Castro’s communism would have bitten the dust if left to its own devices.

In Cuba today there is a realism and a recognition of that very fact. Fidel Castro himself admitted that their model “….no longer works even for us,” when he was speaking in support of his brother Raúl’s “liberal” reforms announced a few years ago.

For the moment, that ‘liberalization’ in Cuba means allowing employees, most of them former civil servants, to become the owners of the small businesses that employ them.

I call that capitalism. What do you think?

Lots of US corporations are queueing up to develop their business interests in Cuba. Big names, like American Airlines, Hilton Hotels and PepsiCo are already in the starting blocks.

It will be interesting to see what happens when the new US regime sweeps into power.

In the meantime I think I’ll buy a nice big box of cigars.

A-Box-Of-Cigars

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A Round Of Applause For Ms Fleischmann, I Think.

“Fight Against Stupidity And Bureaucracy”

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Alayne Fleischmann

Alayne Fleischmann was someone who I though did not exist.

Yes, it’s a slightly odd name, but that’s not what I mean.

She’s a real person, she does exist, although many on Wall Street and in the government wish she did not.

You see Alayne Fleischmann is a an honest lawyer.

Not only an honest lawyer, but an honest securities lawyer.

And not only an honest securities lawyer, but an honest securities lawyer who worked for a bank.

I know, it’s hard to believe isn’t it?

But it’s true.

Eight years ago Ms Fleischmann was employed by J P Morgan Chase Bank as a deal manager, a position that allowed her to see the crooked activity, fraud in other words, that was going on at the bank, particularly in regard to mortgage securities.

jp-morgan-chase-bank-logo1

She has been effectively ‘gagged’ for many years by confidentiality agreements, hordes of lawyers acting for the banks, and by government organizations that were supposedly investigating the fraud but which were in fact just trying to get it pushed under the carpet as soon and as quietly as possible.

Now Alayne Fleischmann is blowing the whistle, not just on the fraudulent activity of the banks but on the massive cover-up that followed it.

In doing so she is just confirming what anyone who has been paying attention already knew to be true, namely that the government has allowed the banks to buy their way out of criminal charges and jail time by paying multi-billion and multi-million dollar fines, fines that may sound large to you and I but which to them are a small fraction of the money they stole.

Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission report

The Department of Justice, Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission, SEC, and more have been pretending to investigate and bring the culprits to book. In effect they have done very little.

So I think a round of applause is in order for Ms Fleischmann. She won’t make much of a dent in the corrupt system, the corruption is so ingrained that I doubt if anyone could do that. But at least she came through with her honesty intact and that is a hell of a lot more than can be said of the banksters or the politicians and political appointees who were supposed to be going to make things right.

 

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Failure.

“Fight Against Stupidity And Bureaucracy”

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success failure

They say that success breeds success and to a great extent that is true. If, for example, you have a successful business it can give you the confidence and the cash to acquire or set up another.

But is the opposite also true? Does failure breed failure?

I think it does. Most people tend to get the confidence knocked out of them when they fail. That’s why most never really succeed after one or two set backs. Some are so afraid of failure that they won’t even try the first time.

But, when they fail, some do get up, dust themselves down, and try again. And they are the ones who prove that failing a few times can, in the long run, actually lead to greater success that would otherwise have been the case.

Most of the world’s greatest serial entrepreneurs have had their failures. Some have even been bankrupt or been close to it. It may have dented their confidence a little and made them more cautious for the next time, but it didn’t stop them trying and that’s the key to real success.

Sure, plan well, be smart, work hard and all those good things, but don’t give up.

Do not give up

Does that mean you are bound to succeed? Well, no it doesn’t. There can always be extenuating circumstances well out of your control that makes things go wrong, but on average you should come out ahead. And you will have the satisfaction of knowing that you did your best and that’s as much as any of us can hope for.

It also helps if you set you sights at a realistic level. Barring a highly unlikely win on the lotto you won’t become a millionaire overnight, no matter how many of those self-help books you buy or how many internet webinars you attend. Nor will you become a Hollywood superstar if you move to L.A. and fill in the time waiting tables in the hope that some famous producer will stop by and ‘discover’ you.

Winston Churchill perhaps summarized it best when he said that success was going from one failure to the next without any loss of enthusiasm. Be sensible and it may be success that waits round the corner for you.

failure-sucess

 

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