Wednesday, November 30, 2005

NASCAR to go International?

Brian France might be on to something here. I think NASCAR can really thrive overseas but the sport will have to change a bit. I agree with this point:

"I don't think that works in the long term. You have to build stars who are from Europe, teams that are from Europe and get manufacturers who have an interest in Europe," he said

Nor would NASCAR try to displace Formula 1, which France said was totally different. However, NASCAR would likely have to incorporate some road racing as opposed to racing on tracks like in the United States.

The Europeans like their road courses and rally racing. I think they may need to allow more manufacturers into the sport to get any kind of European recognition. That means BMW and Porsche may need to submit bids for NASCAR cars in the near future. I don't think the American auto-dealers want to compete with these guys though. So European expansion might be kind of hard in the near term.

However Japan would seem to be a great place to start their expansion. Toyota is almost ready to put their car into the mix in 2007. If this new car model is successful then they should think about having a race in Japan. The Japanese seem to like amateur racing quite a bit so I can see a NASCAR race that is run on the streets of Tokyo be quite popular. They can run it similar to a road course like that one level in the PS2 game Gran Turismo. Getting the cars to Japan may be pricey but I think it could be quite a boon for the sport.

Congress Addresses E-waste

Finally Congress is stepping in and talking about E-waste.

Representatives of manufacturers, consumers, and recyclers are advising Congress on legislation that would create a national standard for disposal of e-waste. Earlier this year, a group of congressional representatives formed the E-Waste Working Group to target the growing problem.

And this problem will get worse and worse as the years pass. I mean most gagets that we are seeing are only in their 2nd or 3rd generation so far. As the years pass this will be one of the things that a digital society will really have to deal with.

I mean cell phones have only been around for a few decades. I have replaced mine 3 times so far in my lifetime. Imagine how many I would have gone through when I am at retirement age? And I am not really a high turnover gageteer. I can see some people generating 100s of times more e-waste a year then me. And multiply this by all the Indians and Chinese that will soon be entering their own e-item replacement cycles.

And finally Congress is doing something about it. Well, I guess forming a working group is the first step. I think government will eventually need to step in and create some sort of nationwide e-waste recycling program. Haling your old PC down to CompUSA will not cut it anymore.

Blackberries may be shut off in the US

This looks like it will be a bad deal for all the crack-berry addicts out there. I think a shutdown of their service would be something that Palm should exploit. I mean they should go as far as to give out free Palm Treos to anyone who's Blackberry does not work. A shutdown of service would be a competitive misstep that comes along once in a lifetime. Palm will have the opportunity to change the entire landscape when it comes to handhelds.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Mr. Miyagi died!

Pat Morita passed away at the age of 73:

There were conflicting reports about the cause of death. His daughter Aly Morita said he died Thursday of heart failure at a Las Vegas hospital; longtime manager Arnold Soloway said the actor died of kidney failure at a hospital while awaiting a transplant.

He was also the original Arnold on Happy Days. He certainly made the 80s decade for all the Xers like myself. With all that "wax-on-wax off," crane kicking, and drum punches.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Sound Advice from Investors Business Daily

It seems they use the 7% to 8% loss point to jump out of a stock. That seems like good advice to me. They say:

The primary rule of investing is to sell a stock if it falls 7% to 8% below your buy point. This kind of attitude takes discipline, plus the ability to suppress your ego for the sake of your portfolio.

That is why you just make a stop at that point so you don't have to think about it. Your ego doesn't even get involved at all. I have been doing this for some time and it works for me.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Sony Sued by Texas and EFF

Well it looks like the cashola that I sent to the EFF has been put to good use.

Texas has become the first U.S. state to sue Sony over its distribution of flawed copy protection software, while representatives for the EFF, a digital rights watchdog group based in San Francisco, said the organization will bring a class-action lawsuit against Sony in California.

The Texas lawsuit accuses Sony of violating the state's 2005 antispyware law by distributing the software on 52 of the company's music titles this year.

So it seems that they are accused of knowingly distributing spyware. I wonder if there are criminal charges that they could attach to this. It would be nice to see Sony hit for billions in damages. I would also love to see some of BMGs top execs doing the perp walk as well. The allegations of what XCP copy protection software did get even worse:

The Texas attorney general's office is also investigating reports that XCP may be collecting user information and sending it back to Sony, as well as improperly concealing the fact that it does not work with Apple Computer Inc.'s iPod music players.

Yup that program may have dialed home and sent some information without your knowledge right to Sony. I hope it was just demographic information and systems specs they stole and not confidential e-mails and bank account passwords. Who knows what was stolen. You can never tell with a company like Sony.

ITunes the Number 7 Music Store

It seems that ITunes is climbing up the list of music stores. They were number 14 this time last year. They beat out beat out Tower Records, Sam Goody, and Borders to take that spot. Here is the rest of the list:

Wal-Mart Stores retained its first place ranking as the top music seller, followed in order by Best Buy, Target, and, all of which held onto their previous spots, according to NPD. For Your Entertainment leaped to fifth place from tenth, and Circuit City Stores dropped one spot to sixth.

I wonder what For Your Entertainment is. I guess that is a store we don't have in Hawaii. I was surprised to see Wal-Mart at the top of this list too. I guess throwing a music CD on the pile of ones everyday shopping needs is something alot of people do.

Debra Lafave found Guilty

It looks like the Florida teacher that had sex with her student has pleaded guilty. This is a kind of interesting defense that they tried though:

Fitzgibbons said in July that plea negotiations had broken off because prosecutors insisted on prison time, which he said would be too dangerous for someone as attractive as Lafave. He said then that she planned to plead insanity at trial, claiming emotional stress kept her from knowing right from wrong.

So if the prosecutors pushed for prison time then she would have pleaded insanity. That seems pretty interesting to me. Here is a pic of the Lafave looking like there are only two brain cells rattling around in her head:

Xbox 360 Flipping on Ebay

Looks like people are already selling the thing for double the price on Ebay.

EBay said the average price for consoles, including those sold with games and other add-ons, was $660. However, the company said some console packages were selling for as much as $2,500, with bidding and sales prices varying widely.

Whoever is paying $2500 for it has more money then sense. They will have lots of these things on the market before too long. It will be interesting to see how this perceived shortage will play out in the US:

Still, Microsoft has conceded that an ambitious plan to launch the console worldwide within a few weeks -- rather than staggering releases over months and months, as is typical -- will mean fewer consoles initially in North America.

Xbox 360 Released!

It has just come out and the reviews seem pretty positive. Lots of people were waiting in line down here at Wal-Mart to get a shot at it. Let's see if MSFT can keep up with the demand. There seems to be gripes that people had to buy the $300 version instead of the $400 one. it seems that the add on kits will be pretty good sellers as well this Christmas. Lets hope that Robbie Bach, president of Microsoft's Entertainment & Devices division isn't just blowing smoke:

Microsoft's Bach repeated the software giant's plan to deliver up to 3 million consoles to consumers in the first 90 days.

Wedbush Morgan analyst Michael Pachter estimated that 900,000 Xbox 360s are now available. He expects 450,000 to be shipped in the United States, 300,000 to be shipped to Europe and 150,000 to be held back for restocking this weekend.

That means a third will soon be sold. That means MSFT will soon rake in $315 million in revenue. I'm wondering what the final installed system tally will be when the PS3 comes out.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Buybacks Not So good for stocks

It seems that massive stock buybacks actually cause stocks to lose value according to some research.

The same appears to hold true over the longer haul. Take the 10 largest buybacks announced last year. On average, the group saw its share prices decline by 1.8% in the year following their announced buybacks, according to MarketWatch research. Seven of the 10 posted negative returns for the period.

Yup if you bought the $1 billion or more buyback company you would have actually lost money. That is why I like one time dividends instead. You get a nice chunk of change that is usually a few 100 bucks. The stock usually stays about the same price so it is just guaranteed money for just holding the stock for a few months. Can't beat that kind of thing. I agree 100% with this statement though:

"We occasionally run into circumstances where a stock seems to be misunderstood, and a buyback in those cases can demonstrate confidence of management," Oberweis said. "More indicative in my book is to have management themselves buying the stock, because it's very different to do something with your own money instead of someone else's money."

Insider buying is a massive vote of confidence when it comes to a stock. That means the managers have their money on the line exactly the same as you. It makes you feel like you are on the same team as them.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

More on the Sony Mess

It looks like they have finally recalled the offending CDs due to pressure from the Blogosphere. This guy needs to be the first one fired out of this mess:

Thomas Hesse, Sony BMG's Global Digital Business President, attempted to do just that by dismissing the online protests. "Most people, I think, don't even know what a rootkit is, so why should they care about it?" he said in a November 4 interview on National Public Radio's Morning Edition. He added, "The software is designed to protect our CDs from unauthorized copying and ripping."

Yup, he said that the people that buy Sony are stupid. They are just too stupid to even care about the spyware hidden in their BMG Music CDs. Whatever the case it looks like Sony is just going to get a slap on the wrist for all this. Let's hope some of these lawsuits have some teeth though.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

EFF comes to the rescue against Sony XPC CDs

I Googled and found a pretty good site called that talks about how to recognize and protect yourself from this XPC technology. I love the Electronic Frontier Foundation. They seem to be looking out for the little guy like me. I just gave them some cashola for their efforts to protect us from predators like Sony. Here is the list:

EFF has confirmed the presence of XCP on the following titles (each has a data session, easily read on a Macintosh, that includes a file called "VERSION.DAT" that announces what version of XCP it is using). If you have one of these CDs, and you have a Windows PC (Macs are totally immune, as usual), you may have caught the XCP bug.

Trey Anastasio, Shine (Columbia)
Celine Dion, On ne Change Pas (Epic)
Neil Diamond, 12 Songs (Columbia)
Our Lady Peace, Healthy in Paranoid Times (Columbia)
Chris Botti, To Love Again (Columbia)
Van Zant, Get Right with the Man (Columbia)
Switchfoot, Nothing is Sound (Columbia)
The Coral, The Invisible Invasion (Columbia)
Acceptance, Phantoms (Columbia)
Susie Suh, Susie Suh (Epic)
Amerie, Touch (Columbia)
Life of Agony, Broken Valley (Epic)
Horace Silver Quintet, Silver's Blue (Epic Legacy)
Gerry Mulligan, Jeru (Columbia Legacy)
Dexter Gordon, Manhattan Symphonie (Columbia Legacy)
The Bad Plus, Suspicious Activity (Columbia)
The Dead 60s, The Dead 60s (Epic)
Dion, The Essential Dion (Columbia Legacy)
Natasha Bedingfield, Unwritten (Epic)
Ricky Martin, Life (Columbia) (labeled as XCP, but, oddly, our disc had no protection)

Several other Sony-BMG CDs are protected with a different copy-protection technology, sourced from SunnComm, including:

My Morning Jacket, ZSantana, All That I Am, Sarah McLachlan, Bloom Remix Album

This is not a complete list. So how do you recognize other XCP-laden CDs in the wild?
Tip-off #1: on the front of the CD, at the left-most edge, in the transparent "spine", you'll see "CONTENT PROTECTED" along with the IFPI copy-protection logo.

DO NOT BUY Sony Music CDs!

This is something that passed under my radar recently probably because I don't really buy music CDs very much.

That antipiracy software - which works only on Windows PCs - came with a cloaking feature that allowed it to hide files on users' computers. Security researchers classified the program as "spyware," saying it secretly transmits details about what music the PC is playing. Manual attempts to remove the software can disable the PC's CD drive.

So in other words Sony infected PCs with spyware just to protect Sony from people putting music on their Ipods. That is highly unethical but it gets far worse:

The program also gave virus writers an easy tool for hiding their malicious software. Last week, virus-like "Trojan horse" programs emerged that took advantage of the cloaking feature to enter computers undetected, antivirus companies said. Trojans are typically used to steal personal information, launch attacks on other computers and send spam.

Yup nothing like a big company putting spyware on your PC and then making the spyware so crappy that virus writers can exploit it. And this blows it into a boycott all Sony stuff at all costs until they fire top management territory:

To get the uninstall program, users have to request it by filling out online forms. Once submitted, the forms themselves download and install a program designed to ready the PC for the fix. Essentially, it makes the PC open to downloading and installing code from the Internet.

"The consequences of the flaw are severe," Felten and Halderman wrote in a blog posting Tuesday. "It allows any Web page you visit to download, install, and run any code it likes on your computer. Any Web page can seize control of your computer; then it can do anything it likes. That's about as serious as a security flaw can get."

Yup the fix makes it even worse. To uninstall their spyware you have to go and fill out a form which downloads more spyware that makes your PC even more open to attacks. That is something that only the worst of worst spyware offenders have done. And this bit is the most ironic thing about this whole mess:

Other programs that knock out the original software are also likely to emerge. Microsoft Corp. says the next version of its tool for removing malicious software, which is automatically sent to PCs via Windows Update each month, will yank the cloaking feature in XCP.

That means MSFT is coming to the rescue of a mess that Sony made. That is ancient Greek style irony. Whatever the case it is time to buy a Panasonic or Samsung TV and DVR player instead of anything by Sony. Who knows what will happen if I watch a DVR disc made by a Sony player in my PC.

I am also thinking of not buying a PS3 until that thing has been vetted by security pros. Or forgetting about the thing all together. It could download some spyware to my PC when I connect it to my home network. Finally, I *definitely* won't buy a thing from BMG music or even allow a CD from them to touch any electronic item I own for the rest of my life.

This is the kind of screwup that should cost top managers their jobs. If Sony does nothing to address the culture that made them put spyware on PCs, then more spyware if you want to get rid of the first batch of spyware, then I will never buy anything from Sony ever again.

Castro may be on his way out?

It looks like he has Parkinson's disease. It seems it could be affecting his ability to govern the nation:

The Miami Herald, which originally reported the CIA assessment on Wednesday, said Castro could be entering a period in which medicines are less effective and mental functions start to deteriorate.

But the newspaper said Cuba analysts fear the possibility of a tumultuous period during which an incapacitated Castro refuses to give up power but can no longer lead.

Maybe the CIA needs to start the mechanisms where they can get the right guy as the head of their government. Some chaos followed by UN peacekeepers. It sure would be nice to see the second to the last real communist government vanish into the mists of history.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Pics of My Hiking Trip

Now these are some pics from a hiking trip I took last Saturday

Here we are all ready to hike:

Here we are at the end of the hike:

A real before and after kind of thing.

GM Bankruptcy fears?

Hmm, it looks like we could have the biggest bankruptcy in a while if they go belly up:

Concerns about the future of the world's largest automakers are showing up in the credit default swaps market, where investors effectively buy insurance protection against defaults. Holders of GM debt who want to arrange a hedge against the risk that they won't be repaid are finding that the cost of buying the protection has risen dramatically in recent days.

Also there seems to be a pretty healthy amount of short interest in the stock at 11% of the float. Could high gas prices and lots of big gas guzzling trucks spell the end for GM? These prices have already hurt the Airline Industry. Could US automakers be next?

Monday, November 14, 2005

Quake Hits Northern Japan

Good thing there was no damage at all. It seemed like a powerful one though clocking in at 7.2 and it created:

A 12-inch tsunami wave hit the city of Ofunato, and two 4- to 8-inch waves generated by the quake struck two other towns in the area, the agency said.

That's good news for the people on Northern Japan. A 7.2 earthquake in a metropolitan area would have created havoc.

Belleville, Ind hotbed of violence?

Hmm this is kind of a weird story I think. It seems that this little Indiana town has had some strange things happen recently:

A man wanted in a Pennsylvania double homicide and apparent abduction of a 14-year-old girl was captured Monday after a car he was driving crashed in Indiana following a police pursuit, State Police said. The girl was found unharmed.

Also earlier there was this:

On Tuesday, police shot and killed 23-year-old Daniel B. Faust hours after he allegedly shot one of three officers who had gone to his home with a traffic warrant. The officer, Jevon M. Miller, was critically wounded.

Lots of weird gun violence for such a small town. The 18 year old man in the first crime, David Ludwig seemed like a regular kid that wouldn't be prone to violence. He shoots and kills the parents and then rushed off with the 14 year old girl. Maybe there is something in their drinking water.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Carl Edwards Wins 2nd Strait Race

Wow now this is good news that I missed while I was in Japan. Carl won his second strait race this time it was the Dickies 500 at Texas Motor Speedway. He did well previously at Atlanta Motor Speedway so I thought he would do well again there. He won that one and now he comes through and wins this one in Texas too. That Office Depot Ford of his is really humming. Now he has a shot at the title if he can do well in these last two races. Here is a pic of Carl from the Texas win:

Well I'm back from Japan

I'm back from Japan and ready to do some posting again. I have lots of pics to share so keep watching this space.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Two New Moons Found Around Pluto

Now this is an interesting discovery.

The newfound moons orbit about 27,000 miles (44,000 kilometers) from Pluto, more than twice as far as Charon, Pluto's other satellite. They are 5,000 times dimmer than Charon.

Right now they are named S/2005 P1 and S/2005 P2. They should think about calling one Cerberus after the guardian dog of the underworld and the other should be Persephone the Queen of the Underworld who Pluto abducted.