Thursday, July 31, 2014

The Economy – GDP

The new GDP numbers came out today and the last quarter grew at a 4% rate. I do not believe the number is accurate. 4% would indicate that the economy is doing well and I don’t see it. In my area (southwest Riverside County CA.) stores, restaurants, movie theaters, and even McDonald's are empty. Traffic is still lighter than what I remember it being before the great recession. Yes, foreclosures have decreased substantially and layoffs are down, but things are not getting better. It’s as if we have hit a plateau. 4% would mean that businesses are hiring and sales are up, but I don’t see it. Maybe things are better someplace else, but here in Southern California, things are not improving. Maybe the number is an optimistic estimation that will be revised lower over the coming months? It’s not like that has not happened before. I just don’t see a recovery anyplace I look.

What do you think?

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Technology – My New Laptop

My Acer E3-111 is working well for me. I just finished taking a class at my local community college and I bought the laptop to do all of my assignments. I had to use Office extensively which was not possible on my Chromebook. I created several Word documents, several Excel spreadsheets, and a couple of PowerPoint presentations without a single issue or problem. In fact, I enjoyed using Office 2013 quite a lot and will be investing in Office 365 as soon as my trial period expires. For $250 I am well pleased with what I can do with my new laptop and I am not missing my Chromebook much. I have also not used my Mac Mini or my iPad a whole lot since I purchased my new laptop. I think Microsoft might be onto something with this inexpensive laptop, It does everything I need it to do without a problem (though it is slower than my Chromebook). So far I am well pleased and unfortunately for Chromebook, not switching back.

What do you think?

The Economy - Inflation

I was just wondering why it seemed that my parents were better off financially in the 1980’s with only my dad working then we are with two good incomes today. My dad made $60,000 a year in the 80’s. I make over $80,000 today and my wife makes over $60,000, so we should be doing way better than they did, but we are not. My parents had no problem buying four properties (we can only afford one). My parents put two kids through college (California State Universities) at the same time and paid cash without a problem (we can barely afford to put one through, and that includes borrowing to do so, and we have another one getting ready to start in a year).

How come they were so much better off making so much less? Inflation! I just ran my dad’s salary through an inflation calculator ( and he would be making $15,000 a month today, or $180,000 a year! I also never remember him complaining about taxes or the cost of gas, electricity, water, or food. Inflation has made us all poorer. I wonder if it is also responsible for so many of the problems we face today.

What do you think?

Monday, July 28, 2014

Technology – It’s a Microsoft World

I have been using my new laptop now for about two weeks and I am pleased with my purchase. My Acer Aspire E3-111 is working well, but one of the things that bugs me a bit is the boot up time. My Chromebook was supper fast, but if I just put the system in sleep mode (shut the lid) the boot time is much faster and I can live with it. Overall my new laptop is slower than my Chromebook, but it makes up for the lack of speed with all the new capabilities I have. What I have come to realize is that web apps don’t compare to having the full functioning application installed on your computer. Having access to Word, Excel, and PowerPoint is a luxury I do not want to be without. You can complain about Office all you want, but it leaves Google Drive and Open Office in the dust. In my opinion it is well worth the investment to have at least the home, personal, or student version.

I also realized that it is, for better or worse, a Microsoft world. 90% of computers are still powered by Microsoft. Yes, Smartphones and tablets are making an inroad, but if you have to do any serious writing or work, then it’s a Microsoft world. Is Windows and Office the best system out there. No, but it is the “standard” and you lose a lot of capability when you use a different system. I for one have been persuaded to come back to Windows. Plus, the $250 price tag was a bargain. I have a fully functioning (though not super powerful or fast) Windows machine that lets me do everything I could ever want to do for the price of a Chromebook. This might be what does Chromebook in.

What do you think?

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

World News – Venezuela

Things just keep getting worse in Venezuela. Not only is inflation over 50%, but things are starting to grind to a halt. Basic necessities like food and toiletries are not being produced or imported so they are running out. Sales across the board have collapsed and so factories are now starting to close down. Car sales are down 75%! One car dealer has stated that they have not sold a car in months and have only survived because of providing repairs. Unfortunately, parts are running low and that may not keep them afloat for much longer.

Socialism does not work. You can’t take from the rich to prop up everyone else. The rich just don’t make enough money to make that possible. Unfortunately so many countries are on the same path to ruin. True capitalism based in the rule of law is the only economic system that works. Is it perfect or fair? No, but there is no other system that works. Everything else eventually collapses. Just look at Venezuela (or Greece, or Argentina).

What do you think?

For more:

Monday, July 21, 2014

Technology - My New Laptop

I have been using my new laptop for about a week now and I am pleasantly pleased. Is it possible to have a fully functioning Windows laptop for $250? Yes is it and my Acer E 11 proves it. I bought the laptop from Amazon for about $250. It has a newer model Celeron Chip in it which does not require a fan, and so it is remarkably quiet as a result. Now it does take much longer to boot up that my Chromebook did, but it is not so long that it bothers me. I have found that once I boot it up, and if I leave it in sleep mode when I am finished, when I come back to it, it gets up and running quickly. I just shut it down at night when I finished with it. So far all my usual programs work well. I use Chrome as a browser so I have all the apps and features I used on my Chromebook at my disposal. What I am most happy about is being able to use my music scoring program (Finale) on it. I thought my new laptop would be under powered to use my music scoring program, but so far I have been able to use it to score just about anything I want to write. I have a trial version of Office 365 that I am using. I am pleased with how it works so I am going to purchase it once the trial period is over.

For $250 this laptop has performed above what I was expecting it to. I think Chromebooks have a problem. If you can have a fully functioning Windows machine for $250, then why buy a Chromebook for about the same price? I think Microsoft decided that they need to own the low end or they will lose a significant portion of market share. So how can Chromebook compete? Unless they figure out how to offer as many features as Windows does for even less, I don't think Chromebooks will make it. In fact, if you go and check on the Amazon web site, Chromebooks are not the number 1 seller any more. Low cost Windows machines are (and the Acer E11 is sold out).

What do you think?

Sunday, July 20, 2014

The Economy – The Movie Business

I just took a look at how well the movie business is doing and things do not look too good. This year is on track to being one of the worst in 5 years. Is this the canary in the coal mine giving us a clue as to how the economy is doing?? Or is this just reflect that “Hollywood” has lost its ability to get people to buy movie tickets? I think it is a combination of the two. I think people have less and less money to spend because of inflation and the fact that the economy is not recovering. I also think that “Hollywood” is running out of idea that are worth watching. I for one have not been to the movies much this past year. There is nothing that I want to see in the movie theater. I am good with waiting for the movies I want to see to be available as rentals. The time span between movies being in the theater and being available for rental is getting shorter and shorter, so why spend the money when all you need to do is wait a few weeks? Add this bit of data with all that is going on in the world and I think that we are going to see things grow worse. Hold on to your hats, things might start to get interesting.

What do you think?

For more:

Friday, July 18, 2014

Creativity – Being an artist

I spent some time going over Seth Godin’s posts. I like reading his stuff because he is an artist. That is, he creates things and then sells them or gives them away. Is that not what an artist is? We all have the potential to be artists. All we need to do is create stuff and then either sell the stuff we create or give it away. You also do not need to make “artsy” things like paintings, crafts, books, or music, or anything else like that. It can be anything. If you create cars, or homes, or provide a great service, you can be an artist as well. Just create something and provide it to the public. Then you are an artist.

What do you think?

Thursday, July 17, 2014

World News – Israel and Palestine

Israel launched a ground invasion of Gaza tonight. Not that it was unexpected. They have been telegraphing that they would for several days. It was even speculated that it was just show because they were taking so long. It turns out that they took as long as they did because they were training. It is one thing to invade open territory. It is another to invade a highly dense urban area where the entire population is armed and hostile. Gaza has been preparing for this for decades. Let’s see if the Israelis are up for the challenge. My guess is that they are though they will take heavy loses. Who is in the right? Well, I think Israel is only because what sovereign country would allow another to bombard it with hundreds of missiles, motor rounds, and ambush attacks from sea and tunnels. You can make the argument that they took the land from the Palestinians, but that was settled in a couple of wars and Israel won. It is not going to surrender and go away. Maybe the Palestinians should spend more time of building up their territory and not focus so much on killing Israelis. Even if they put half the effort into making Gaza a better place to live than they do in killing Israelis they would not live in the poverty and squalor that they do.

What do you think?

The Economy – Microsoft

Microsoft announced massive layoffs today. 18,000 jobs are being cut at the software giant with many of the layoffs occurring at the recent acquisition Nokia. Still, the layoff amounts to about 17% of employees. Is this part of the “recovery” we are supposed to be experiencing? I think this is just the beginning of another round of layoffs and things could get ugly rather quickly.

What do you think?

World News – Ukraine

It looks as if things are heating up once again in Ukraine. The U.S. has imposed further sanctions on Russia. A military transport plane has been shot down in Eastern Ukraine. There are reports that a commercial airliner has been shot down over Ukraine as well. Financial markets in Russia are down today and so are markets in the U.S. At some point will this all grow into a regional war? It is basically a civil war now. Will things escalate?

What do you think?

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

World News – The Middle East

First Libya erupted into civil war and it is still embroiled in sectarian violence. Next, Syria devolved into civil war and is still a mess. Assad just was sworn in once again as ruler, but the country is a shambles as Sunni radical militias control the eastern part of the country as well as a good chunk of Iraq. Speaking of Iraq, the quasi stable country has been attracted from Syria by Sunni radical militias which now control a large portion of the western part of the country. Iraq has also turned to Iran and Russia for assistance since the U.S. does not seem to want to get involved once again. Then we have the seemingly eternal conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. Israel is preparing to invade the Gaza strip because of incessant rocker attacks. I think the whole region is about to explode into a regional war that will have a negative effect on the economy of the rest of the world. Could this be the spark that brings on the coming economic storm? It could very well be.

What do you think?

Technology – Microsoft

Here is what I think Microsoft should do. They need to find a way to offer a solid laptop with basic Office installed for less than $300. If they did that they would kill off the Chromebook market just like they did the netbook market. Maybe an i3 chip based laptop that had good components and had Word, Excel, and PowerPoint all included for $299. Now that would be a great machine to have. I would think about buying it. It would be even better if they found a way to include Word, Excel, and PowerPoint on a $250 laptop like the one I have. That would also put an end to the Chromebook market. The issue I would think is if there is enough of a profit for Microsoft to make that happen? I think they would be crazy not to because then they would own the market on the low end, which is what Chromebook is doing now.

What do you think?

Observation – The Laptop Market

Chromebooks are in trouble. Why buy one when for a few more dollars you can have the full functionality of a Windows machine and all that you can do on a Chromebook? That’s right. On a cheap Windows machine, if you use the Chrome browser, you have access to just about everything you can do on a Chromebook. But, you also have a functioning Windows laptop (though under powered). I think Chromebooks are going to fade. Microsoft is going to kill them. In the meantime, what about Apple? Now that is going to be interesting. On one side you have a race to the bottom between Microsoft and Google. That will leave Apple with the high end and probably a better profit margin, but with an ever decreasing share of the market (in my opinion). Things just shifted once again in the laptop market.

What do you think?

Monday, July 14, 2014

Chromebooks – I Think There Is A Problem

With the new chips from Intel, Chromebooks seemed to be getting a much needed boost to their legitimacy. But, the new chips might be causing a new problem, cheaper and better low end Windows machines. I bought an Acer E 11 Windows laptop for $250 a few days ago and it has one of the new chips. I did not buy it because I was tired of or disappointed in my Chromebook. I bought it because I needed a Windows machine for the classes I am taking at my local community classes. I also bought the least expensive Windows machine I could find expecting it to suck. Now the performance of my new Windows machine is not as good as my Acer C720 Chromebook, but it is not so bad that I hate it. In fact, it is better than I was expecting – disappointingly so. I think Chromebooks now have a problem. If you can get a functioning Windows laptop for about the price of a Chromebook, why switch?

Now I can think of many reasons to still buy a Chromebook, but I think they will fall on deaf ears. What people want to do with a laptop is access the internet and use Office offline. Now Chromebook can do most of that, but the off line aspect is still and issue (one that never really bothered me). The best point for buying a Chromebook was cost. All the other issues were just icing on the cake (so to speak). Again, I think Chromebook has a problem, can they become even cheaper? Maybe, but the difference might not be substantial enough to woo someone away from a Windows machine. Ouch!

What do you think?

Observation – Dropping Out Of College

I think learning is learning so it does not matter where it happens. The only disadvantage with dropping out of college is that you will not get a degree. If you need a degree in your chosen field to gain entry, then you need to stay and finish your degree. For example, I am a public school music teacher and I needed a degree and a credential in order to be able to teach in the public schools (and most private ones as well). I am also a composer. Now I learned a lot in college, but I did not need a degree to write music. In fact, my recommendation to those who want to pursue a music career other than teaching is to not get a music degree, but study privately with the best people you can find and afford. Then spend the rest of your time practicing your craft. I think getting a degree to be a performer or a composer is actually detrimental. Spend your time practicing, not taking classes to meet a requirement that has nothing to do with what you want to do. It all boils down to what you want to do and if it requires a degree to do it.

What do you think?

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Observations – Reading

“Teach someone to read and you guarantee that they will be able to learn forever. Teach an entire culture to read and connections and innovations go through the roof.” Seth Godin

Reading is the foundation for all learning. If you can’t read, what can you learn to do besides some very basic skills? If you can’t read, you won’t be able to write. If you can’t read, you will not be able to use the best part of the internet – information! How well is the US doing at teaching students to read? I think the US is not doing a good job of teaching students how to read. Now the US might be doing well at teaching students how to decipher the letters, but there is more to reading than that. I have found that most US students could be classified as functionally illiterate because they don’t want to read. What good is it if you can read but you don’t want to?

What do you think?

Seth Godin:

Observations - New Laptop

I now have used my new Acer E11 laptop for most of a day and here are some more observations. Word works well on the new laptop. I have been writing in my journal most of the day and I created and published a blog post without any issues. Finale, my music scoring program, seems to work fine as well. I was able to playback an old score and I was able to compose a short piece all without a problem. I have noticed that battery life is an issue. I am getting about 3-4 hours of use before I need to recharge the battery. Let’s see if I get a better result tomorrow after I charge the battery overnight. I downloaded Chrome to use as my browser, which works great. I was also able to print using my HP laser printer without any issues. What I don’t seem to do easily is have more than one program running at a time. I think that’s just because of the low amount of memory and the fact that I am using a Celeron processor.

So after a day, I am pleased with this machine that has only cost me $250 so far. I am sure I will need to spend some money on programs in the near future. For example, I do not have a copy of Office, so if I want to keep using word after the trial period, I will need to spend some money. I am enjoying how silent this machine is and how light it is. I also like the smaller size. I don’t have to carry around something that is heavy and bulky. Overall, this has not been a poor investment, but let’s see how this laptop holds up over time.

What do you think?

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Observations - New Laptop

I received my new laptop today from Amazon. I bought an Acer E11 Model E3 -111-C5GL and it cost me $250. For the last several months I have been using an Acer C720 Chromebook which cost me $200. Here are my first impressions:

First, the Chromebook is slightly heavier and seems sturdier. The Acer E11 feels cheaper in quality even though both machines are plastic. The E11 is noticeably lighter and I wonder if that is why they used cheaper plastics. The E11 has no fan since it uses a chip that does not require one so it is whisper quiet, but is just as noisy as my Chromebook because of the hard drive. The Chromebook is faster, but the Acer E11, which is running Windows 8.1, is not to bad. I did notice a difference when similar documents or web pages loaded, but the E11 is not so slow that it bothers me. I liked the track pad on the Chromebook better. On the E11 it seems much more sensitive and has more options that I am not used to yet. The keyboards feel the same and he screens are similar. The E11 has one more USB port and it also has and built in ethernet port. It also has an HDMI and an SD reader just like the Chromebook did.

So these are my first impressions. So far I am not disappointed by the Acer E11, which is what I was hoping for. I truly enjoyed using my Chromebook, so there will be some disappointment in the future over that. What I am looking forward to though is being able to use some applications that I was not able to use on my Chromebook namely Office and my music scoring program, Finale. I also want to keep in mind that I only paid $250 for this computer and I should only be expecting what I paid for. Lets see over the next few weeks what I discover.

What do you think?

Friday, July 11, 2014

The Future - Cloud Based Computing

I have been using Google Drive ever since I bought my Chromebook a few months ago. Since then Apple has expanded their cloud services, Microsoft has expanded their cloud services, and now Amazon has announced similar devices on their cloud system. I also think several of the other PC and phone manufacturers have introduced cloud services. I think they see how successful Google has been with their clod services and want a piece of the market. I think they also realize that the future is in the cloud. T is interesting to note that we have almost come full cycle in technology. When computers were the size of small office buildings people connected to the via terminals. With the growth of cloud computing we are coming back to the same concept. More and more devices will be designed to connect to the cloud rather than being stand alone systems. In other words, they are going to be more like terminals. Go figure!

What do you think?

Observations - US Postal Service

I ordered a new laptop from Amazon and I noticed that the US Postal Service is delivering it. Maybe the Post Office got smart and realized that the future is in delivering packages for the online retailers. UPS and FedEx have been making a profit delivering packages for decades, so why not focus on taking a piece of the market from them? The US Postal Service has several advantages over the other guys in the business. They have a built in home delivery system, they have a built in transportation system, and they can run at a lose for as long as they need to in order to take substantial market share. Hey maybe the Post Office finally got smart? No, they will find a way to mess it up. It is the US government at it's best.

What do you think?

Chromebook - It's over!

Unfortunately, my use of my Chromebook is coming to an end thanks to going back to school. The college I am attending is all Microsoft based and though I might be able to wing things on my Chromebook, I am running into problems. Many of the required classes are based on Microsoft Windows and Office. Much of the work is also expected to be done on Windows and Office. I think I ran into the reality that very well might keep Chromebook from becoming mainstream. Much of the world is invested in the Microsoft world. If you want to function in it, you need to work on a Windows machine with Windows applications. So I ordered a low end Windows machine (an Acer E3 111). It is going to arrive in a day or two and I know that I am going to be disappointed in what I will have to live with. I am going to have to function in a high cost, low performance environment with all the problems associated with Windows. Since I want to be able to pass my classes, then I don't have much of a choice.

Now My Chromebook is going to be put to good use. My wife is going to see how well it will work out in her 3rd grade class. If things go well, we are going to run a campaign on "Donors Choose" to try and get her 4-5 more for her classroom. I still think Chromebooks are great for education. They provide a way for students to access the internet and partake of all the great information that is available. They also help students become familiar with the basics of computing. Finally, they provide a way to enable students to use technology without all the cost and support needed for any other OS (especially Windows). As a result, this is probably the last post I write using my Chromebook.

What do you think?

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Observation - The Digital Age And The Music/Movie Industry

Did the movie and music industry fight the use of vinyl records, CD's, or DVD's? The movie and music industries did not fight vinyl records or CD's or DVD's or any other physical delivery method of music or movies. They have fought only digital delivery of music and movies because it can be copied so easily. All the physical methods of delivering music or movies did not cost any jobs. In fact they either kept jobs or added jobs. Digital delivery of music and movies has cost jobs because there is no need to hire people to make the physical copies. It is all done digitally on computers and is not labor intensive. But, the cost of production has also fallen as a result. For the consumer, digital delivery has been a blessing. For the music and movie industry, it has been a curse because of job losses and illegal duplication. For creators of music and movies it is a blessing because there are many more ways to sell the music you make. For the music and movie industry it has been a curse because it has rendered the "labels" and "studios" unnecessary.

As a consumer and creator of music, I totally embrace the digital age. It has allowed me to build a great library of music that I can carry with me (on a digital playback device) wherever I go. I have also the ability to create music for any ensemble I want right on my desktop using a music scoring program with sampled sounds and digital recording software. I feel sorry for the music and movie industry, but personally, it is awesome what is happening.

What do you think?

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Chromebook - My Experience

I have been using a Chromebook for nearly 8 months now. So far, my Acer C720 has worked perfectly and my Chromebook is still my "go to" device. I use it to do all of my writing, all of my email, all of my web surfing, and anything else that comes up. As far as the limitations in using a Chromebook, I have not encountered anything that I am not able to do. I can watch all the videos I want to, I can create all the content I want, and I can do everything I can think to do. Also, having to be online to use most of the functions on my Chromebook has actually forced me to use the cloud extensively. This has been the best $200 technology investment I have made.

What do you think?

Monday, July 7, 2014

Observations - Unintended Consequences

I find it very interesting that many times we do things with the best intentions, but we are not aware of some of the consequences that may follow. Take welfare for example. It is a very good thing to help out others in a time of need and it is a good thing for the government to provide. But, one of the unintended consequences of welfare is dependency. We now have generations of Americans who are unwilling and unable to provide for themselves because they are dependent on welfare. As a result, their lives are worse off than if nothing had been done. I think that many times we let our emotions guide our actions when maybe we should be a bit more rational. I also wonder how many of our problems today have only been made worse because we did not consider some of the unintended consequences caused by what we thought were good actions.

What do you think?

Saturday, July 5, 2014

The Future - Global Drivers Of Change

I run across an article on what will be driving change over the next several years. They are:

* Longer life span. By 2025 70% of Americans will be over 60!
* Job Automation. More and more jobs will be replaced by automation and technology.
* The rise of data. The increasing use data will influence every aspect of the economy and life.
* New media. Text will decrease in usage and all other means of communication will increase.
* Increasing social organizations. Social will provide the means for large global organizations.
* Global connectivity. The whole world will be online in some form or Fashion.

What are the implications of these trends?

What do you think?

For more:

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Chromebooks - Great For Education

Last year the Los Angeles Unified School District rolled out a 1 to 1 digital device program using iPads. It turns out that the roll out has not gone as well as expected. One of the unexpected outcomes has been student hacking and another cost. As a result, some schools are being given the option of using a different type digital device. One of the options is to use Chromebooks, which would cost significantly less than iPads. Hacking is also less of a problem since Chromebooks are web based rather than app based. There is also the problem with standardized testing. It turns out that it is either difficult or impossible to take any of the standardized tests on an iPad. In the end I think it would have been better for the district to have used Chromebooks. It would not have spent more than $1 billion on devices that have not worked out as expected.

What do you think?

For more:

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

World News - Ukraine and Iraq

Things in Ukraine have become "hotter". Government troops have started to shell separatists positions in the east. Russia is threatening new "sanctions" over natural gas. Things are getting interesting once again. In Iraq things seem to have calmed down a bit. I think this is just because the militants are consolidating their positions and government troops are also getting ready for an offensive. They have taken delivery of new weapons and fighter jets. Plus there are more advisors coming from the U.S. to assist. It won't be long before things become interesting once again. The world just does not seem to be able to be at peace.

What do you think?

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

World News - Ukraine

Well, the civil war is back on in Ukraine. The government announced that it is ending the ceasefire it announce a while back. Fighting between the western backed government and Russian backed separatists is set to resume. I wonder how much things will escalate? Will this be the "trigger" that will bring Russian troops into Ukraine? How will this affect natural gas shipments into the rest of Europe. Things are getting interesting once again.

What do you think?