Friday, October 31, 2008

The Ten Web Clips That Shaped The Election

Check out this video montage that Alley Insider put together for a post called The Ten Web Clips That Shaped The Election.

The real winner of the 2008 presidential election? Web video. According to metrics from TubeMogul, ViralVideoChart, YouTube and the New York Times the following ten campaign-related videos have been viewed 71 million times.

Silver Surfer Gets Busted with a DUI

Halloween night the Silver Surfer got busted in Las Vegas for a DUI. Local news channel 13 has video of it.

No sign of Batman or Superman just yet...

Monday, October 27, 2008

Google Earth for the iPhone

Google has ported Google Earth to the iPhone.

This demonstrates the significant advantage iPhone and Windows Mobile have over other mobile operating systems like Blackberry and Android. Since the iPhone and WinMobile are so closely related to their desktop counterparts porting existing applications to their mobile platform will be orders of magnitude easier than developing them from scratch using say Java.

For this reason I continue to believe Windows Mobile is poised for significant growth IF they can get the UI revamped and marketing right. This also assumes that there are many other desktop applications worth porting to the mobile.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Presentation on Startups

Check out this really good presentation by Saul Klein of on startups in the current financial environment.

Thoughts on European Start Ups
View SlideShare presentation or Upload your own. (tags: startups vc)

Dialing Words and Using Directory Asistance on Blackberry QWERTY Keyboards

One problem I occasionally run into with my Blackberry is how to "dial" words or use directory assistance with its keypad.

Let's say you are having trouble sleeping and need to call 1-800-MATTRES. You know to leave off the last S for saving but on a Blackberry it is not obvious what phone number is associated with the word "MATTRES".

The Blackberry keys are laid out in QWERTY format and does not show the standard "phone number key to letter" mappings where for example 2 is A, B, or C and 8 is T, U, or V. Simply spelling the words with the letter keys will not work.

The same issue arises when doing name look-ups in a phone directory assistance system. These depend on the tone of the number keys being pressed and it is assumed that the user can easily convert the letters to numbers as they are printed on all standard phone key pads.

Turns out there is a very easy solution for this on Blackberry. Simply hold down the ALT key and type the letter key you want. It will convert the letter press into the desired number press.

Whitey Bulger's Garage Becoming a Church

The infamous Somerville, MA garage that was headquarters to Whitey Bulger and the Winter Hill Gang is apparently set to become a church.

I walked past the deserted building this morning and saw a banner across the top reading "Coming Soon New Testament Church of God".

Sent via Mobile Device

Friday, October 24, 2008

N85 Launches in Germany with Zeemote JS1

This morning the N85 launched in Germany and includes a Zeemote JS1 in the box! Buy one today.

DISCLAIMER: This is a personal weblog. The opinions expressed here represent my own and not those of my employer.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

SNL Palin Rap Skit

A few days late to this one but the SNL Palin rap skit last week was really good:

The Old Light Bulb Trick

Nicholas Johnson describes an old '70s con during a discussion called "The psychology of conmen":

Sure. My all-time favourite one only makes the con artist a few dollars every time he does it, but I absolutely love it. These guys used to go door-to-door in the 1970s selling lightbulbs and they would offer to replace every single lightbulb in your house, so all your old lightbulbs would be replaced with a brand new lightbulb, and it would cost you, say $5, so a fraction of the cost of what new lightbulbs would cost. So the man comes in, he replaces each lightbulb, every single one in the house, and does it, you can check, and they all work, and then he takes all the lightbulbs that he's just taken from the person's house, goes next door and then sells them the same lightbulbs again. So it's really just moving lightbulbs from one house to another and charging people a fee to do it.

Carl Icahn & United Shareholders of America

"Activist investor" Carl Icahn had a terrific post on Tuesday criticizing the limitations Treasury Secretary Paulson has put on institutions accepting bail out money and on the executives that ran / run those companies.

Icahn believes that shareholders should have the "immediate right to call a special shareholders meeting to elect new board members".

He is calling for people to join his "United Shareholders of America" campaign "for improved corporate governance"


Terrifying Movie Returns; Continues to Haunt Me

When I was about 3 years old my parents treated the kids to a movie at a drive in theater but it was really just intended for my older brother and sister. It was a late movie and my younger sister and I were expected to fall asleep in the back of our vega station wagon well before it began.

There was no way I was going to miss a drive in movie though. So I faked being asleep and a few minutes into it I peeked over the seats and was absolutely terrified by what I saw!

Now they are releasing a remake of that movie and I think I'm still a bit scared. Here is the trailer.

Comcast DOCSIS 3.0 in Boston!

Comcast just announced the launch of a new high speed internet service called DOCSIS 3.0 and it is available in certain parts of metro Boston now.

Offering downloads speeds of up to 50 Mbps and upload speeds of 10 Mbps, we finally have a competitor to Verizon FIOS. And by we I really mean you because neither service is available at my place yet.

See if it is available in your area here.

P.S. DOCSIS = Data Over Cable Service Interface Specification. And I can only assume 3.0 is much better than 1.0 or 2.o.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

The A-11 Offense

The Freakonomics blog wrote an article about an interesting football offense strategy which attempts to use total randomness in play calling to confuse the defense:

It’s called the A-11 Offense — all 11 players are eligible to catch the ball — and it works by introducing such unpredictability into where a quarterback will pass the ball that it baffles the defending team and gives the offense a better chance of breaking through.
Maybe that is what we should have been running in High School huh Tom?

Go Back in Google Time

Google recently celebrated its tenth birthday and "in honor of it" the company created a search site that will only search pages as they existed in January of 2001. It even links to old versions of the pages hosted on the Internet Archive.

You get exactly 0 results when searching for 9/11/2001.

Ironically the first hit for September 11th is a Linux Security Week article in which they discuss (lament) "Carnivore" a system implemented by the FBI under the Clinton administration to monitor internet traffic. Privacy advocates were up in arms THEN.

Terrorists Just Need Some Friends

Just read a great article by Bruce Schneier discussing a theory by Max Abrahms on why people become terrorists. Rather than political motivation, Abrahms believes

people turn to terrorism for social solidarity. He theorizes that people join terrorist organizations worldwide in order to be part of a community, much like the reason inner-city youths join gangs in the United States.
They just need to be part of a community? Guess we should get Al Qaeda members onto Facebook so they can throw turkeys at each other rather than bombs. He goes on to explain:
seven tendencies are seen in terrorist organizations all over the world, and they directly contradict the theory that terrorists are political maximizers:

Terrorists, he writes, (1) attack civilians, a policy that has a lousy track record of convincing those civilians to give the terrorists what they want; (2) treat terrorism as a first resort, not a last resort, failing to embrace nonviolent alternatives like elections; (3) don't compromise with their target country, even when those compromises are in their best interest politically; (4) have protean political platforms, which regularly, and sometimes radically, change; (5) often engage in anonymous attacks, which precludes the target countries making political concessions to them; (6) regularly attack other terrorist groups with the same political platform; and (7) resist disbanding, even when they consistently fail to achieve their political objectives or when their stated political objectives have been achieved.

What Does 30 Minutes of Primetime TV Cost?

Barack Obama's campaign has bought 30 minute blocks of primetime TV on CBS and NBC for a "special program" (i.e. a really long campaign commercial) and is to air at 8:00pm on Oct 29.

So what does 30 minutes of primetime network TV cost? Silicon Alley Insider puts the number at around $1.5 million.

S60 Touch & Java

There is a good blog posting on that discusses developing java applications for S60 touch based devices and backward compatibility issues.

  • All the lcdui widgets will support touch
  • A virtual keypad can optionally be displayed for backwards compatibility. It can be configured through a jad attribute or the control panel.
  • A new TactileFeedback class has been added to Nokia UI API to allows application to register tactile feedback areas to the platform.

Eclipse MTJ Released

For the Java ME developers out there. Last week the Eclipse Foundation announced the first release of the Eclipse Mobile Tools for Java Project (MTJ). It is a plugin to Eclipse IDE for developing Java ME applications. It was based on and now replaces Eclipse ME. Congratulations to Craig Setera and everyone else who contributed to Eclipse ME and now Eclipse MTJ.

Who was the big winner in the last debate?

So who was the big winner of the last debate? Silicon Alley Insider says it was Joe Francis, a plumber from Amarillo, TX who owns the domain!

Joe tells us he's been flooded by calls ... Among those calling him: Radio stations and people looking to buy his domain name. Joe didn't tell us exactly how much he's been offered, but did say it was in the "hundreds of thousands". And yes, he's willing to part with the name.

Our advice to Joe: Sell! Immediately!

Powell Endorses Obama

Very powerful endorsement for Obama from Gen. Colin Powell.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

NBC Pulls SNL Bailout Skit - Update 3

NBC finally posted the edited SNL bail out skit here:

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

John McCain to Bail You Out?

In tonight's debate, John McCain just suggested bailing you out if you can't afford your house:

We're going to have to do something about home values. You know that home values of retirees continue to decline and people are no longer able to afford their mortgage payments. As President of the United States, Allen, I would order the Secretary of the Treasury to immediately buy up the bad home loan mortgages in America and renegotiate at the new value of those homes (at the diminished value of those homes) and let people be able to make those payments and stay in their homes.
Beginning to think I should have bought that overpriced condo last year.

NBC Pulls SNL Bailout Skit - Update 2

Regarding the SNL bailout skit discussed here and here. The LA Times is reporting that an SNL spokesman has made a statement saying that the skit "didn't meet our standards" but an edited version will be re-posted soon.

For what it is worth at the time of this writing there is a version on YouTube here but I expect it will be pulled soon:

NBC Pulls SNL Bailout Skit - Update

I went looking around again for the SNL bailout skit and found that this has become a hot topic in the blogosphere.

Michelle Malkin has a better theory than I did on why it might have been pulled.

One of the rapacious couples featured in the skit was Herbert and Marion Sandler (portrayed by Darrell Hammond and Casey Wilson). Unlike the other composite figures, the Sandlers are a real-life couple.
The real life couple (with apparently strong political ties) sold their sub-prime mortgage business to Wachovia for $24.2 billion in 2006. In the SNL skit as the couple spoke the caption under their names read "People who should be shot". So the theory goes that perhaps the billionaire couple with strong political ties may have applied a tad bit of pressure on NBC.

Monday, October 6, 2008

NBC Pulls SNL Bailout Skit?

I watched Saturday Night Live live this weekend for the first time in a long time. Of course they opened with a hillarious spoof on the VP debate but later on there was a pretty great skit on the bailout. In C-Span Bailout George Bush, Nancy Polise, and Barney Frank announce the deal and introduce some of the "beficiaries" of it.

I was looking forward to linking to it once available but apparently just a few hours after posting it, NBC pulled it down!

I'm sure the Conservative conspiracy theorists will say it is because the skit made the Democrats look bad (in it Barney Frank tells Nansi Pelosi that this time it was the Democrats fault). I suspect however that it had more to do with the fact that they portrayed the "typical sub-prime mortgage recipients" as criminals and drug addicts.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

What's up with the names Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and Sallie Mae?

So on a lighter note, have you ever wondered what's up with the names Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and Sallie Mae? I looked around and found the answer in a posting by Cynthia E. Brodrick on

Perhaps like me, you're wondering what's up with these country-cousin-style names. A little explanation is in order. Their given names are the Federal National Mortgage Association (FNMA) and the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation (FHLMC). You can think of Fannie and Freddie as their easier-to-remember "code names."

Now I can see Fannie Mae coming out of FNMA, but Freddie Mac is a heck of a stretch out of FHLMC. I mean, where'd the H and L go? Freddie's Fitzpatrick explained that while the "MA" turned into Mae, the "MC" made more sense as Mac. Therefore the FHLMC needed a more masculine name to go with Mac. Still no explanation on the missing H and L.

If you borrowed money for college, you may have met Freddie and Fannie's young cousin, Sallie Mae. Also known as the Student Loan Marketing Association (SLMA), Sallie is the company that buys up education loans. Sallie Mae is different from Freddie and Fannie in that she also administers those loans, meaning hundreds of thousands of college grads write out their checks to Miss Sallie.

By the way, they all have another cousin named Ginnie Mae. She's a true government agent, managing the government's secondary mortgage market. Her name stands for Government National Mortgage Association (GNMA), and her job is to serve lower-income homebuyers. Through Ginnie Mae, the federal government assumes the risk on mortgages that the FHA insures and the VA guarantees.

These simplified names, Freddie and Fannie, are explained in a government "cover story" that claims they're just easier to remember. But personally, I think these organizations "cutesified" their names in hopes that it would make loan holders less intimidated by these financial institutions that own their mortgages.

Glimmer of a Free Market!

Wells Fargo has now offered to buy Wachovia without any government assistance and for about 7 times the value of the deal in which the government and Citigroup made to take it over.

Some excerpts:

Citigroup Inc.'s takeover of Wachovia Corp. was torpedoed on Friday when San Francisco-based Wells Fargo & Co. agreed to pay $15.4 billion to buy Wachovia.
Wells Fargo's offer upended the government's hastily arranged effort last weekend to match New York-based Citigroup with Wachovia of Charlotte, N.C. -- a federal effort to prevent the bank from joining the growing ranks of failed financial institutions.
The Wells Fargo offer provides a glimmer of support for the fundamental value of troubled U.S. banks: It signals that there is still a market, albeit limited, for private takeovers of these institutions, one that does not place taxpayer dollars at risk. It is also significant because the new buyer, unlike Citigroup, asks for no government assistance.
So our tax dollars nearly went to Citgroup to help them purchase an asset worth $15 billion dollars for just $2 billion. Would have been a sweet deal for Citigroup, huh. Simply stunning.

Bob Barr on the Bailout

Bob Barr, the Libertarian Party candidate for President, put out this press release following yesterday's bailout. Some excerpts:

“The bailout will set back the economy’s recovery. It tosses good money after bad. It also punishes companies that attempt to work through their problems without taxpayer largess. Now only a fool will take tough steps to clean up his firm’s balance sheet," Barr explains.
"Instead, they will put in a call to Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson to ask for help,” notes Barr. “Moreover, Congress is creating a bailout culture. No matter how foolish or irresponsible a borrower, lender, or investor may be, they can count on the government to bail them out,” observes Barr.
“Congress must say 'no' more. There must be no more special interest bailouts. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac must be privatized. There must be no more government pressure on banks to increase lending. We need oversight and transparency at the Federal Reserve. Political meddling in the economy must come to an end,” notes Barr.
“Neither the Republicans nor Democrats can be trusted to protect the taxpayers,” warns Barr.

And here is a video he recently made in which he references the now famous 1999 article predicting the crisis which I linked to earlier this week:

Bailed Out

The toxic assets are ours!

The bill passed Wednesday in the Senate 74-25 (15 Republicans, 9 Democrats, and 1 Independent voted against it). It passed Friday in the House 263-171 (108 Republicans and 63 Democrats voted against it). Signed into law on Friday by the President.

Both Presidential candidates voted for it.

From the Times:

After the House reversed course and gave final approval to the $700 billion economic bailout package, President Bush quickly signed it into law on Friday, authorizing the Treasury to undertake what could become the most expensive government intervention in history.
The change in course by the House was prompted by fears of a global economic meltdown, and by old-fashioned political inducements added by the Senate: a portfolio of $150 billion in popular tax provisions, including credits for the production of solar, wind and other renewable energy, and an adjustment to spare middle-class families from paying the alternative minimum tax.
Both Mr. Obama and his Republican rival, Senator John McCain, voted for the measure when the Senate approved it on Wednesday, and both hailed Friday’s outcome.