Monthly Archives

February 2009

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NYTimes.com: Microsoft Plans to Open Retail Stores

NYTimes.com: Microsoft Plans to Open Retail Stores

Microsoft plans to open its own stores despite the economic downturn that has left many retailers struggling.

The company said Thursday that it had hired David Porter, a 25-year veteran of Wal-Mart Stores, as its corporate vice president for retail stores. Mr. Porter was head of worldwide product distribution at DreamWorks Animation SKG since 2007.

The “Gurus” seemed to be Microsoft’s answer to Apple’s in-store “Genius Bar.” With its newly announced retail store intentions, the software maker is taking yet another page from Apple’s playbook. Apple credits its stores, concentrated mostly in the United States, for helping raise its profile and draw new customers.

I feel sorry for the “Gurus” who work at the store and I hope that there’s at least 50 at each store because they seriously are going to need them!

I can understand how Microsoft sees the success of the Apple Store and craves them as the marketing tool they are.  But, the main difference is that there are far fewer locations to find Apple products.  Windows PC’s are sold in almost every office and discount store.  Why would one need to go to a Microsoft store?

Sony has their own store with lots of their own branded products to sell.  They’re arguably “cooler” than Microsoft but every time I walk past them to go to the Apple Store, there’s almost no one in there.

It’s interesting that Microsoft chose a Wal-Mart executive to head their retail.  Apple chose Ron Johnson from Target to start the Apple Stores.  Sort of the differences between Microsoft and Apple in a nutshell.

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Steve Wozniak to appear on Dancing with the Stars

From LATimes.com: Steve Wozniak, of Apple fame, to hoof it on ‘Dancing With the Stars’

Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak is going to appear on this season’s Dancing with the Stars.  I’ve been salsa dancing for a couple of years and I understand how difficult it is to learn to dance.  I’m curious to see how the Woz will do.

Here’s a picture of me and the Woz from 2002 when he came to Cincinnati to speak at an event.
Morris & Woz.jpg

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NPR.com: Foreclosure Protesters Target Executives’ Homes

NPR.com: Foreclosure Protesters Target Executives’ Homes

This is a story about a protest organized by the Neighborhood Assistance Corporation of America to pressure execs of Wall Street firms to do more to help homeowners.

However, what caught my attention was one guy at the protest

But there were all kinds of people at this event. And it’s harder to see some of them as victims.

“I was two months out of college, and they gave me $465,000,” says Chris Donohue, a structural engineer who makes about $40,000 a year.

He clearly couldn’t afford the house he bought. He got the loan from IndyMac bank, which collapsed last year after many of its loans went sour.

“Every single other bank in the country told me no — wisely,” Donohue says.

Still, Donohue would like his payments lowered. Deciding where to draw the line on loan workouts will be a challenge for the government going forward.

The guy makes $40,000 and was able to get a loan of $465,000?  The guy doesn’t need to have lower payments, he needs to experience a little bankruptcy. 

Even if you charged him 0% interest on a 30 year mortgage, you still have a $1300 monthly payment.  Add to that property taxes on a $465,000 house, and insurance.  That would probably add another $1000/month.  If he’s making $40,000, after taxes his take home income would be around $30,000 leaving you a $2500/month.  So, his mortgage, even with interest relief would pretty much take up his entire salary.

This Chris Donohue is a structural engineer.  I wouldn’t want to be in any building that this fool has worked on.

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Washingtonpost.com: GOP Sees Positives In Negative Stand

From Washingtonpost.com: GOP Sees Positives In Negative Stand

After giving the package zero votes in the House, and with their counterparts in the Senate likely to provide in a crucial procedural vote today only the handful of votes needed to avoid a filibuster, Republicans are relishing the opportunity to make a big statement.  Rep. Pete Sessions (R-Tex.) suggested last week that the party is learning from the disruptive tactics of the Taliban, and the GOP these days does have the bravado of an insurgent band that has pulled together after a big defeat to carry off a quick, if not particularly damaging, raid on the powers that be.

The Republicans have learned from the “disruptive tactics of the Taliban”?  I have a suggestion.  Why don’t the Republicans take a page from Osama Bin Laden and go hide in the mountains for a while?  That would be a better tactic that we’d all be happier with.

The Republicans are playing their little game of politics and feeling proud of it as the economy sinks deeper and deeper.  The consensus of most economists that I’ve read is that the stimulus proposals from the Senate may be too small to really get the economy going.  But all I hear from the Republicans is the same tired old rhetoric of cutting taxes.  If you don’t have a job, cutting taxes isn’t going to do a darn thing for you. 

If the Republicans were truly in favor of small government, they should have done something with their 8 years of running the country besides rack up some of the biggest deficits ever.

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Cell phone text message SPAM scam- SJA Web Access Plus

SUMMARY:
Beware of SPAM texts on your cell phone.  Companies have agreements with the major mobile carriers for “Premium Text Messages”.  These companies can send you a text message and unless you opt-out of it, a “service” charge could added to your phone bill!  If you receive a text like this, respond to the text with “Stop”.  Wait a day or so and then call your mobile carrier to see if you have any charges added. 

******

This whole story started with two annoying, but somewhat benign looking SPAM text messages that I received on my iPhone.

TextSPAM.jpgThe two bubbles on the left are the the two text messages that I received from SJA.  Here’s the text for those who can’t see the image.

First Message
272 is the password —- Web Access plus SMS Queries, Send-to-Phone SMS Features, 866 559 1313 9.99 mthly and Other Value Adds.

Second Message
SJA Web Access Plus SMS Queries- Call Us Anytime 866 559 1313 9.99 mthly help, stop, info, Unlimted SMS Queries.

Just the fact that I received SPAM text messages on my iPhone is really bothersome to me.  But unlike email SPAM, I’m actually PAYING for this as it counts toward the 200 text messages that I get with my plan.  So, I decided to a little research into who’s sending this and how they’re able to do this.

It turns out that this is
a problem that’s bigger than just getting annoying text SPAM.  The SPAM text message is just a first step in placing a service charge on your phone.  Companies are able to send you a “Premium Text Message” that somehow establishes a “service” with you that you can be billed for.

This has been going on for a while and I found an article on Skydeck.com, titled TEXT MESSAGE FRAUD: PART 1 OF 2

At Skydeck we believe that anyone should be able to send a
text message to anyone else, but premium services should require
‘double opt-in’ before charging. I spoke with Sprint about the issue.
While the conversation went well and ended with the service rep filing
a fraud report against SJA Mobile, one of the first explanations I was
given surprised me because it implied that their partners can bill for
services on an opt-out basis: “SMS businesses under contract with
Sprint can send text messages to Sprint’s customers, and begin charging
them if the recipients don’t ‘opt-out’ of their service”. The only
SMS I ever received from SJA’s short code (23907) contained the
following message: ” … “. Seriously, that’s it. I was supposed to
recognize that “…” meant I was now enrolling in a $4.99 per month
service, and had to opt-out?

Lots of information on this site about SJA.

After reading this, I called AT&T to complain about this and they told me that all I had to do was to respond to the text message with “stop” and that I wouldn’t get billed for it.  I did that and I received the following text as a response.

Text Message:
No further text messages will be sent.  Not satisfied?  Email support@game-cheats-master.com 

 

SPAMText2.jpgSo, I have to pro-actively respond to SPAM to not get billed?  This makes absolutely no sense to me.  Why do I have opt-out of something that I didn’t sign up for?  I don’t respond to SPAM email or faxes, why do I have to respond to SPAM text messages?

Today, I decided that I would call AT&T to complain about the fact that I have to pro-actively opt-out of something that I shouldn’t have to deal with.  Plus, I lost 4 text messages dealing with this which represents 2% of my monthly total.  When I talked to customer service this morning, they told me that in fact that I had been charged the $9.99+tax for a service by SJA on my account!  The customer service rep had it removed from account and credited me with 4 text messages, but I was still steamed so I was escalated to her manager.

The manager told me that AT&T had agreements with companies for “Premium Text Messages” and that I must have signed up for something, which is I definitely did not do.  I asked to file a complaint with them about this billing and he said that he would escalate this and then get back to me.  I don’t know if this will happen or not.

This needs to stop.  The mobile phone companies should not be allowed to place charges on your bill based on a text message that is sent to your phone.  I am sure that there are plenty of people out there who are paying these charges without realizing what has happened.

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CNN.com: Numb and number: Is trillion the new billion?

From CNN.com: Numb and number: Is trillion the new billion?

“A million seconds is about 11½ days. A billion seconds is about 32 years, and a trillion seconds is 32,000 years,” Paulos said. “People tend to lump them together, perhaps because they rhyme, but if you think of it in terms of a jail sentence, do you want to go to jail for 11½ days or 32 years or maybe 32,000 years? So, they’re vastly different, and people generally don’t really have a real visceral grasp of the differences among them.”

I agree with the article.  It’s hard to get a grasp on how much money is involved in the economic stimulus package.