Saturday, October 13, 2007

Ted Dziuba is a douche bag

..based on no information or experience whatsoever, except that he slammed Zoho whilst talking bollocks in a Wired interview.

He accuses them of having "no engineering merit", and simply re-implementing office apps online "with no added merit". The man is talking out of his ass. Zoho's web apps were kicking ass long before Google or Microsoft bought their way into the online office space.

Zoho's retort is intelligent and non-confrontational. Kudos, Zoho. Fuck you Ted "douche bag" Dziuba, whoever the fuck you are.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Cash accumulation equation vs 25 year mortgage

Ripples can still be felt from the sub-prime mortgage crash in the States, lest we forget. Interest rates got too high, repayments became impossible, foreclosures took over, and we're all still feeling the pain. I wonder what the rates were actually at, what the average house price was, and the average payments in relation to the average income?

Here in Australia, interest rates are around 7-8%, "fixed" for a few years before they are legally permitted to shaft you up the ass by bumping it up to who knows what. Budgeting for it to be 10% would be prudent. Does that sound like a lot of interest?

At that rate, St George bank of Australia would give you about $225,000 cash in exchange for monthly repayments of about $2,000 over a period of 25 years, totaling about $400,000 just in interest payments alone. Right now you'd have trouble finding a one bedroom apartment for that in an area that doesn't have to be accessed by helicopter due to it's remoteness.

St George Mortgage Calculator

Meantime, interest rates on savings accounts are pointless, while on a Cash Management Trust (CMT) you could easily get 5.5%, compounded quarterly. Not much to combat rising mortgage rates right, or is it?

Consider what it would take using such a CMT to acquire the same amount as the above mentioned mortgage principle, $225,000, by depositing the same amount as the monthly repayments into an account earning about 5.5% interest, with an opening balance of $67,000:

Cash Accumulation Equation

A CMT earning 5.4% interest could turn an initial investment of $67,000 into $225,000 in 5 years.

Lets extend that projection out to the full term of the mortgage - 25 years:

That's right - 1.5 MILLION DOLLARS!

If you had $67,000, what would you do?

borrow $225,000 see what you could buy for under $300K, and spend the next 25 years paying for it

B: borrow nothing, put the same mortgage repayments into a CMT and wait 25 years, let it accumulate to $1.5M

A few points to consider about the cash accumulation technique:

  • It would make you a millionaire in your 50's, but you wouldn't own a home

  • House prices in outer suburbs of Sydney have doubled over the last 20-25 years

  • The average house price in Sydney at the moment is about $500,000

  • If house prices continue to double every 20-25 years, it would cost about $1,000,000 for an average house in the outer suburbs, BUT:

  • You could buy it with cash and live on the interest on the $500,000 change.
    (Or at least supplement your income with it)

  • It all tend s to point towards you owning a million dollar house in your 50's

A few points to consider about taking a mortgage:

  • If you want to live in a major city in Australia, you'd have trouble finding anything other than a small apartment for under $300,000

  • You'd be paying $2,000 a month for 25 years before you owned it (in your 50's)

  • You would own your property, but it would be small, and at least 25 years old

  • The bank would have acquired $400,000 of your money, leaving you with no cash reserves

  • You will most certainly have to work well into your 60's to have any additional cash for retirement

A perfect world:

Average house prices down around $200-300,000, mortgage rates at about 5-6%. Not going to happen! We have the insatiable fractional reserve banking system to thank for that. Home prices and interest rates MUST rise to keep cash in the economy.

The solution:

Rent indefinitely, or move back to Japan where they learnt from this mistake 10 years ago when the Japanese bubble economy burst and houses are currently about half the price.

Friday, October 05, 2007

NeoOffice is shit

Sorry, but I have to say, of the last couple of times I've needed a word processor for work and I've used NeoOffice, it has crashed and lost work every time. Consistently. I'd buy Pages if it weren't for the fact that every time I send a PDF to people they ask me for the original Word document...

Bloody hell.

A solution I've been able to come up with is to use the excellent Scrivener (review) to draft the document, export it to RTF, then open it up in NeoOffice and quickly apply some formatting before it freaks out.

Desktop apps just should not be written in Java, period. Screw cross-browser portability, as a developer I believe that usability is more important.

Or is just that it's only trying to gain market share from Microsoft Office users, and they're used to stuff crashing and freezing up all the time?

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Fractional Reserve Banking System

Banks don't lend money, they create it from debit. As debit is potentially unlimited, so is the supply of money. The opposite is also true: no debit, no money.

Just watched an interesting animation about the fractional reserve banking system, and how really money is debt. | On YouTube (while it lasts)

I'm well familiar with exponential curves, and this revelation terrifies me. Suddenly it all falls into place - the seemlingly endless appetite for the consumption of resources, the futility of "voting" one politcal party into power over another in a "democratic" government, the pull in society towards becoming indebted to banks in order to be able to provide a home for our families.

The presentation is definitely an eye opener. Admitedly, I was naive (or lazy) enough to believe tha banks mostly leant money they'd acquired from deposits and their own capital raising exercises. At the same time, it doesn't present any concise alternatives, but made hints at a few possibilities.

One sounded a lot like socialism, another reminded me a lot of Japan's "construction economy", where the government pours money into the economy in the form of public works like bridges, roads, infrastructure etc, and banks use these to only lend against value, as opposed to debit. Or at least I think that's what was suggested.

Renewable energy was presented as the most promising alternative to creating money from debit - only use, and re-use what limited resources we have. Maybe that's why in recent times most attempts to bring renewable energy sources to market have been suppressed.

Scary stuff.

Maybe this is part of the reason why the real estate situation here in Australia has gotten so out of hand - if people weren't taking on loans to buy houses, the banks would run out of money. At the same time, the amount being borrowed must increase infinitely and that's the point that's so easy to miss when ignorantly believing the misconception that money is leant against value and not debit. As most houses are bought with money borrowed against other debits, the average house price must allways rise, regardless of it's rate of change relative to the average income and cost of living.

Right now in Ausralia it is terribly askew, with the mean house price in Sydney of about $500K being about 10 times the averge income of maybe $50K, while a mortgage for that amount requires a combined income of $145K/year to pay off the interest and feed the insatiable appetite of the fractional reserve banking system.

It's also now the main reason why I never enrolled to vote, and will never be able to buy a house in Australia. Japan on the other hand...

Thursday, September 20, 2007

First Impressions - Altec Lansing mx5021

First impressions: Holy Shit!!!

My last stereo speakers were a pair of bar-fridge sized boxes made by Cerwin Vega with some cheap-ass replacement 12" drivers in them. Needless to say, my expectations were high, especially in the bass response department.

The mx5021 are a 2.1 stereo system consisting of 2 x 20 watt sattelites, each with 2 x 3" midrange drivers and one tweeter. The subwoofer is a 6" driver in a large, wooden, ported enclosure that is driven by a separate 50 watt amplifier.

The specs are deceptive though, the sound coming out of these things is HUGE! The bass especially, if anything it's a little overpowering on the default setting. I can't over-emphasise how massive the bass is, just unbelievable. The subwoofer does has a particularly large enclosure, but I never thought a little 6" driver could rumble like that. Just amazing.

It uses a digital controller with an infra-red remote for volume, bass, and treble which has the usual problem of not providing enough resolution at lower settings - there's a big gap between too quiet and slightly too loud. Also, there is a noticeable 50Hz mains hum coming from the subwoofer at all times which is really inexcusable for such an expensive system - I paid $AU290 because I couldn't be bothered ordering one from ebay - probably caused by the fact that the mains power cable is only a two pin, double insulated type. Hacking in a earth lead might cure the hum, or electrocute you in the process of trying.

Aside from that, the sound is increadible, I was definitely not expecting anything near as good. The mids are lacking slightly, or perhaps I still need to wind the bass back some more. Overall, completely awe-struck.

Update - a week later:

Still amazed by these speakers, but one thing lacking is any chest sensations. I'm not able to really crank these things in our little apartment, but one thing I've noticed is that when they are turned up loud enough to fear invoking the wrath of disgruntled neighbours there's still no floor-shaking, chest-rattling levels of bass. I mean, you can really *hear* the bass, but you can't really feal it. The one thing about my old 12" speaker boxes was that you could use them as a pace maker if you turned them up a bit.

Update - movie listening: earth shaking bass!

Well, a few weeks into my experience with the mx5021 I finally just had a chance to try them out with a movie and the volume up a bit. Keeping in mind that in our apartment building I'm afraid to turn it up past the second lowest volume setting, it seems that any volume settings after the second LED comes on is really where it comes to life. I'd previously mentioned that you can hear the bass but not feel it, but it seems this is really only true for music at reasonable listening levels. For movies where sound effects like explosions are loaded with low frequency energy, the THX certification demonstrates it's worth by punching your chest and shaking the walls and furniture without any trace of distortion. It makes for a truly exhilarating movie experience.

I'd imagine if you could get the third LED (of 5 total) to come on with a movie you'd experience a whole new world of rib cage rattling bass that is belied by the softer, more accurate bass produced at comfortable listening levels by music tracks.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Friday, September 14, 2007

Social vs Anti-social: torrents & recording "industries"

Just had a small revelation:

P2P file-sharing networks encourage social behaviour by the nature of download speeds being improved by larger numbers of people "seeding" after their downloads have completed rather than just getting what they want and then closing the transfer.

The RIAA on the other hand dictates how, when, and where you will make your acquisition, and exactly how much you must pay. If you break any of their terms, they will sue.

Fair's fair, but I know who I'd rather play with...

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Computer Choppers

Computer Choppers do some awesome case mods!

Can't wait to see the finished MacBook Pro:

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

A word on un-capped bandwidth

I just realised, in Japan where bandwidth is cheap and unlimited, the thought is never on your mind that you have to try to get your money's worth. You pay a reasonable, flat rate per month, and as such you don't feel compelled to try and squeeze every last MB out of your monthly plan.

Here is Aus, where bandwidth is expensive, and limited, we employ bandwidth throttling in out bittorrent clients, and install dahsboard widgets that meter our usage down to the MB to make sure we don't get speed throttled, or let any of our precious, pre-paid MBs go to waste.

And come to think of it, I don't think I've ever download more stuff in my life. I mean just yesterday was the last day of our billing cycle, and I found myself on YouTube with one eye on the bandwidth meter trying to make sure that Optus only got to keep the minimum of bandwidth which I've already paid for. They only ended up with a few MB in their pocket in the end.

If it was uncapped, I'd only download stuff when I really had to, as opposed to actively seeking out things to download in order to utilise the last of my bandwidth. Another example of corporate fear and greed causing more harm than good.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

cool nerd says I'm a Cool Nerd.  What are you?  Click here!

Thursday, August 16, 2007

79% Jazz

Geek alert: I am 79% Jazz...

Take the Transformers Quiz

Explanation »

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Mobile Marketing

I just started a blog on mobile marketing at titled Mobile Marketing for Small Business. Someone else registered the mobilemarketing subdomain over the weekend...

I'm not an authority on the subject, but it's something I've been watching closely and needed a public forum to discuss relavent news and share some loud thinking.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Dalai Lama in Sydney

Today we had the privilege of seeing the Dalia Lama speak about compassion at The Domain in Sydney. There seemed to be even more people there than I'm used to seeing at a Homebake concert in the same venue, it was increadible, especially considering the poor weather.

Dali Lama 01.jpg

The key points I picked out of his talk were that everyone, no matter what race, religeon, or creeed, needs compassion in their lives, and that showing compassion for others makes the world better for everyone. To that end we should all work seriously towards putting an end to hatred and anger and the conflict they result it, particularly war.

Dalai Lama 02.JPG

When asked "What is the meaning of life" (seriously!) he simply answered "I don't know" to the applause of the many thousands in attendance. He then went went on to elaborate on that, saying that we should all strive towards happiness.

Dalai Lama 03.JPG

I loved that he considered compassion from the perspectives of other theistic religeons, atheism, and even science, and demonstrated how compassion can benefit us all.

Dalai Lama 04.JPG

As he left in his motorcade he was applauded by the enamored crowds and even followed down the street, but not in an idolistic way as you'd associate with a pop or movie star. People were smiling happily but besides the applause were otherwise silent. It was more like a gesture of appreciation.

Dalai Lama 05.JPG

Notice the hands clasped together in the photo of the Dalai Lama leaving in his motorcade? I thought I'd just captured someone clapping at the moment when their hands were pressed together. Actually, I had my camera in burst mode as he drove past and looking at the sequence of images I realised that the owner of those hands actually held them pressed together like that the entire time the Dalai Lama drove past.

iPods to blame for total eclipse of the art, says Hockney

iPods to blame for total eclipse of the art, says Hockney

"I think it's all about sound. People plug in their ears and don't look much..."

"You notice that on buses. People don't look out of the window; they are plugged in and listening to something."

Maybe because the scenery outside the bus is dull and boring? Not much art to see in modern architecture, wheras our iPod's are loaded up with audio AND visual expressions from both commercial artists, as well as from indiviuals around the world.

Wake up to the 21t century and get a copy of PhotoShop or iMovie, post something on YouTube, put out a podcast, but don't go crying to printed newspapers because kids listen to music.


Thursday, June 14, 2007

Movies in the cinema?

$15 x 2 adults
$13 x 1 child

$43 for couple of hours in the cinema.

They have this wonderful new thing here called designated seating. As we entered the cinema there was a large, angry woman stationed at the door who warned us in no unclear terms that we would be asked to leave if we even thought about sitting somewhere other than our designated seats. I was made to feel like a miscreant, and it cost $43 for the privilege.

Let's compare that to, say, downloading movies from the internet:

2GB + 6GB high-speed bandwith per month - $39.95 bundled

At least one movie a week and all the email, browsing, etc you want from the safety and comfort of your own home. It's strange, I feel like less of a miscreant for stealing movies than for actually walking into a cinema.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Kuding Tea

Kuding Tea is amazing, just tried some. Have to get some on the way home.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

good to be back (?)


Just saw an ad on TV for iinet where the bearded geek guy says that Japan has had high speed broad band since the nineties, but iinet are building out their broadband network in Austraiia so it's better unless you're thinking about moving to Japan... what a kick in the teeth!

When I moved to Japan in 2001 we were paying the equivalent of about $AU30/month for *uncapped* bandwidth. I just moved back to Australia at the end of last year. It's now 2007. If you check iinet's broadband plans you'll see that you couldn't even get 2Gb a month for that today. Yeah, iinet, I am actually thinking about moving back to Japan, everytime I pop up my bandwidth usage dashboard widget to make sure I'm not going to have my speed throttled I think about moving back to Japan. It's safer, cleaner, and cheaper to live in than Australia anyway.

The worst thing is that iinet are actually the best in Australia. I'm on Optus, and they suck ass!

video rental... as if you would

We made our first trip into a local video store. We're used to Tsutaya where you can rent vids for a few bucks. Hell, it's even cool to rent an armfull of audio cd's, and buy a spindle of blank cd's at the same time, what do they care? Well, I guess Blockbuster are really scared of being put out of business by kids with internet connections. Can't imagine why when no-one in Australia can get any real bandwidth down here, but try finding a price on their website - give up? I'll tell you: they want $AU15 to rent 3 videos on the weekend. About ¥1,500? No wonder they're ashamed to post prices like that on their website.

The thing I don't get is the stupidity. For an extra $15 a month I could up my broadband bandwidth by a good few gigbytes, and instead of being expected to return the ARccOS protected discs the next day, I could download and watch them os often as I liked. I could even legitimately purchase them from itunes for little more. Why do Blockbuster still exist?

Friday, May 25, 2007

A year and a half later...

...and not in Japan anymore!

Crazy. Lauched a language school scheduling service, wrote 3 handbooks about Linux, built a massive Rails site for a client, and then last November 2006, moved back down to Australia! Been back about 6 months but still can't believe it.

So a lot has changed since my last post here.

I finally worked out how to log back in here and discovered that Google has well and truly taken over. Great! Dropped in my Google Reader feed up the top there.

I've abandoned Linux and finally switched to a Mac!

Now I'm actually working full time for a startup developing with Ruby on Rails on a Mac. In Sydney.

So, not in Japan anymore, but planning to be back again soon. Allways been very sporadic in nature, so this might mark the ushering in of a new era of blogging, or it might be another few years before I post anything here. Who knows.