Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Convenience Fees

Posted: December 30, 2011 in Uncategorized

Not understanding the backlash on Verizon for wanting to institute a $2 fee for over the phone and internet payments. It’s not a monthly charge and only occurs under those two uses. Sign up for auto pay, mail your payment, or pay in a store to avoid paying an extra $2. “Convenience fees” are nothing new and help companies pay for new tech, research, and/or make current services more efficient.

By the way, the market worked like it should. Verizon announced a change to one of their services, consumers voiced their opinion, Verizon canceled the change. Many will claim the change of heart came only after the FCC voiced concern over the fee, and that’s a very distinct possibility. Perhaps it was a combination of the two. (I’ll not go into why I think the FCC should stay out of these types of business decisions.)

Contrary to (seemingly) popular belief, HP did not purchase Palm in order to put the struggling company out of its misery. Think about it: would you spend $1.2 BILLION on a company (or anything) just to kill it? Of course not.

HP bought Palm for webOS (and its almost endless cache of tech patents that puts those at RIM (maker of BlackBerry products) and Apple combined to shame). They did not buy Palm for the Palm name. They just killed the palm.com URL, which now redirects you to HPwebOS.com, the Palm App Catalog is now the HP App Catalog, the boot screen now says HP instead of palm, etc. But just because they’re killing the Palm name doesn’t mean they’re killing Palm.

As a matter of fact, Palm lives on at HP in its own division called the Palm Global Business Unit. According to those employees who have spoken to webOS news websites, such as webOS Roundup & Pre Central, they operate mostly independently. HP has also canceled working with Microsoft on the server side of their business in order to send that team over to the Palm division to help work on webOS. 

They also gave webOS Internals, the leading webOS homebrew development community, a server valued at between $10,000-$15,000 with no strings attached. Palm has always embraced the homebrew community & it seems like HP is continuing that tradition. As a matter of fact, when the Pre 2 was released with webOS 2.0, it turned out HP had taken several of the patches developed by webOS Internals & other homebrew developers for earlier versions of webOS and made them standard in 2.0 & up.

Yet still rumors persist that HP bought Palm to kill the company. They say they’ll release the final products Palm was working on before the acquisition and then kill the brand altogether. The products Palm was working on were the Veer (world’s smallest smartphone only available on AT&T in America), which was released last month, and the Pre 3 (release date yet to be announced).

What they seem to forget is that HP is set to release the Touchpad, their answer to the iPad, this month (hopefully). The Touchpad will be the first webOS-powered tablet developed after the acquisition. They also want to put webOS on PCs, printer, pretty much anything with an electronic display. 

But HP isn’t making things better on the PR front. After Palm made the promise last year that the original Pre, Pre+, Pixi, & Pixi+ would receive the webOS 2.0 update. But just weeks before the release, HP announced that wouldn’t happen due to hardware constraints. They said that during the acquisition they missed a release cycle and promised to “make things right”.

But so far, no details on how they’ll do that have been revealed. Add that to contradictory statements from their CEO & Senior VP, few details on upcoming releases, and an app catalog that has fewer apps than Windows Phone 7 which was released a year after the original Pre and you get a confused, pissed off, dwindling consumer base.

Bottom line, HP made a major investment in webOS, not Palm. Only the truly webOS faithful are willing to stick it out waiting on new hardware, but those numbers are dwindling. HP has made a few missteps in the last year and it takes the patience of Job (for those unfamiliar with the Bible, Job, rhymes with lobe, was put through a series of tests to prove his faith) to wait for the tiniest tidbits of webOS-related news. 

I and the webOS faithful understand why HP is taking their time releasing new hardware. They want to release not just an appealing product, but also a working one (unlike RIM, who rushed the Playbook to market WAY before it was ready and has to deal with the fallout of thousands of tablets that don’t even boot properly, if at all). But to the average consumer, it looks like HP is just dragging their feet, possibly because they don’t really believe webOS will sell. 

It sucks for the average consumer because they don’t read tech related articles and they depend on sales people to inform them on what type of phone or tablet they should get. And sales people typically push the popular or promising brands, not the best or most innovative.

I’ll do my part to spread the word about webOS. Who wants to help? 

I’m reading Leonard Peikoff’s (executor of Ayn Rand’s estate) introduction to We The Living, & I have to disagree with him on one point: he says America was the result of, among other things, the West’s ridicule of Christianity. To my knowledge, the colonies were a pretty religious lot, as were the founders. 

To treat religion as the enemy is the wrong approach. I am a Christian. I believe in helping others. I believe in being charitable. I don’t believe, however, that it should be up to the government to direct our dollars to charities at their discretion.

Randians & religious peoples of all flavors can find a common ground: my money is mine to do with as I see fit, not for you to forcibly take from me and do with as you see fit.

Government should go back to it’s beginnings and do what it was meant to do: keep us safe, while the courts do what they were meant to do & protect the law from government.

California’s video game law has reached the high court. On Nov 2, the Supreme Court will hear arguments on the law’s constitutionality.

Supporters of the law say it “facilitates good parenting” & keeps minors safe. Opponents say there’s no conclusive evidence that violent video games harm minors.

I happen to be one of the opponents of the law. Why? Several reasons. 1: Movie retailers are less effective at keeping mature flicks out of the hands of minors than video games retailers are. 2: Why hold one section of the entertainment industry to different standards than another i.e. movies vs video games. There are other reasons, which you can read in a previous post.

As I mentioned in a previous post, video games, like movies, have their own ratings system. The latest data I could find shows that this system, along with parents & retailers, keep age inappropriate games out of the hands of minors about 80% of the time, even though it’s not illegal. A store can use these ratings suggestions to decide if they sell these games to minors or not. And if they do sell the games to minors, then the responsibility falls to the parents to know what their kids are doing & if it’s appropriate to do so.

California’s law takes that responsibility away from parents & grants it to government officials. Why should it surprise me that they’d do that, though? This coming from a state that has a county that banned toys in McDonald’s happy meals. 

Other industries, even scientists, are coming to the aid of video games. Scientists are handing over evidence that violent video games have no harmful effects on kids. The motion picture industry sees the implications of the law on their industry if the law is found constitutional & are running to defend video games.

I pick on CA, but several states (including my own) have tried this approach with video games. And each & every time, the state Supreme Court found the laws unconstitutional. But CA’s the only state to take the case to the US Supreme Court. 

Why would a cash strapped state enact a law that could piss off a $20 billion industry? Hey video game makers: come to Tennessee. The auto industry found out we’re more company-friendly. Energy companies are moving to the South. Even some tech companies are realizing this. 

For a more extensive write-up, check out this month’s issue of Game Informer. To let lawmakers know where you stand, check out http://www.videogamevoters.org. G4TV has some good write-ups on the case, too.

I’m curious to hear your thoughts. Whichever side you’re on, I want to know why you’re in favor of or opposed to the law.

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof

The very first words of the very first amendment to the US Constitution. These words are very important. The founders understood over 200 years ago that the freedom to practice your religion, whatever it may be, or no religion, is essential to securing all other freedoms.

This is just as true today as it was then. That’s why it bothers me when people from all sides of the political spectrum are calling for the community center (which is mistakenly referred to as a mosque) to not be allowed to be built two blocks away from the former WTC site. These supposed lovers of freedom are calling for two of the most basic freedoms, freedom of religion & the right to private property, to be denied to a select group of people based on what happened nine years ago (yes, it was a tragedy) perpetrated by a small group of terrorists from a country not even remotely like ours.

And it’s not just happening in NYC. Just an hour or so from my house, a community center (also referred to as a mosque) is finding opposition to a planned expansion in Murfreesboro. The kicker? The group has had a community center in the county since 1997. The reason for the epansion is because they’ve outgrown their current facility. Luckily, despite the opposition, the expansion will be allowed.

This battle is being fought all over the country. Newt Gingrich says that we shouldn’t allow mosques in this country until Christian churches are allowed in Saudi Arabia (or something along those lines). Howard Dean says it’s an affront. He also says those doing the project in NYC are doing it in good faith (that’s a little contradictory).

The fact is that none of these projects are in violation of any zoning laws, they’re being built on private property, and are run by those who have proven to be good citizens. Why should we deny them their constitutional right to practice their religion, especially on private property?

Do you disagree with Islam as a religion? If so, why? Are you aware that Islam, Judaism, & Christianity share many of the same tenets? Adam, Eve, Cain, Abel, & the angel Gabriel all appear in the 3 religions, among other figures.

But Muslims stone people to death, right? Well, it’s allowed under their laws, but the majority of Islamic nations have ceased this practice. And don’t forget, stoning was an acceptable punishment in early Christianity & Judaism. 

Look, we all have our differences. But the fact is they have the right to practice their religion, especially on their own property. We have no right to take that away. And when you insult their religion, you most likely insult your own (unless you’re an atheist).

Isn’t funny how people can figure out what kind of person you are, how you grew up, etc just from one political comment? It’s uncanny how accurate they are!

For example: during the 2008 presidential campaign I made a comment on a blog on Myspace that I didn’t support Obama because I don’t agree with his stance on several issues (for the record I supported Ron Paul. When he didn’t get the nomination, I voted McCain *ugh*). Well this one reader of the blog took it upon herself to call me out. And rightfully so. I never would have seen the light if not for her.

Turns out it wasn’t because I believed in a different political/economic ideology because of all the research I had done up to that point. No, it was because I was born with a silver spoon in my mouth, I’m rich, have had everything handed to me on a silver platter, and I don’t care about the little people or those that are suffering.

How very accurate! At that point, I dropped to my knees & prayed for the Lord to forgive me for my sins!

Ok, if you’re not getting the sarcasm by now, seek help. Also, read on to learn about my childhood.

I was born in 1979. If I remember the story correctly, I was 2 or 3 weeks premature (got my picture taken with Miss Tennessee, though, so it was worth it). I spent a couple weeks in an incubator because my lungs were underdeveloped & I would forget to breathe.

My dad, albeit jokingly (I hope), has credited my hospital stay as part of the reason my parents filed bankruptcy (also, the economy sucked back then, too). I vaguely remember living in a trailer in the middle of town, briefly. When I was 4, we (me, Mom, Dad, & my brother) moved in with my grandparents, who lived in a very, very small house. 

There was a living room, kitchen, (I think) 2 bedrooms, 1 bathroom…for 6 people (was used for several more when Dad was raised there. Big family). I didn’t care how big it was or the condition it was in (the uneven floor made roller skating, in one room, easy). 

I didn’t realize it at the time, but Mom & Dad took out loans for a Christmas or two, just so me & my brother would enjoy it (I miss my little yellow 4-wheeler). We never wanted for anything. We had clothes, a roof, loving parents, food…but we were far from well-off.

I made friends at school & little league. I fought with my brother. Got in trouble. Blah blah blah.

Am I leaving some stuff out? Yeah. But you won’t get my life story here.

My point is: don’t think you know someone from one comment they make about anything. I have friends who make racist jokes. Are they racist? No. Insensitive, maybe, but not racist. I have friends/family who are Democrats. Are they facist, socialist, commie pigs? Of course not. Though we disagree politically (which makes for great conversations), we know we are both good people. We’ve just had different life experiences that led to different conclusions.

So obviously I wasn’t born with a silver spoon in my mouth. Things aren’t handed to me on a silver platter. I’m most definitely not rich (I’ve been unemployed for 11 months now). I do care about the poor, which I am, and those that are suffering. I just believe a truly free market is the way to promote income mobility & alleviate suffering. Will there be assholes who take advantage of the disadvantaged in a free economy? Of course. But the market, IMO, would deal with them. 

Yes, Ayn Rand is the source of my main belief that “Man—every man—is an end in himself, not the means to the ends of others. He must exist for his own sake, neither sacrificing himself to others nor sacrificing others to himself. The pursuit of his own rational self-interest and of his own happiness is the highest moral purpose of his life.” (from The Ayn Rand Institute). This belief fuels my other beliefs.

In conclusion: I am not a Godless heathen who cares only about himself. I am a God-fearing man who believes rational selfishness and adherance to the truth benefits everyone, not just the one. For future personal attacks on me, please refer to this post before being an anonymous hit-and-run commenter.Haters

When did it become wrong to believe in individual people and right to believe in collectivist governments?

I know many people don’t like Ayn Rand or her philosophy (which was partly too difficult for even her to live by), but she had the right idea: keep governments out of private business. That’s the way the country was run for a long time.

Cut to today. Now we have big corporations (not all, but some), lobbyists, & special interests that have politicians in their back pockets. Case in point: the NRA. They recently pledged support for a campaign finance reform bill after being awarded exemption from the new rules through a provision they authored (see my previous post: Special Interest & The Government).

Google & Verizon recently published what they believe should be the guidelines for regulating the internet…rules that would hinder their competitors. Even the FCC, which is in favor of internet regulation, came out against these guidelines, as did a huge swath of the internet community.

This may seem like a rant against business, but it’s not. It’s a rant against government & businesses getting too cozy. When the government picks the winners, the populace loses. Look at the current “Summer of Recovery”: 9.5% unemployment, 131,000 net jobs lost last month (though the private sector has decreasingly added jobs every month this year), GDP growth that gets revised downward more often than not, etc. And this is after the trillions of taxpayer dollars that were pumped into certain companies, banks, and government departments to stop the downward economic spiral.

So where’s the recovery? Most major downturns are followed by quick recoveries. Look at the depression of 1920-1921: tax cuts, spending cuts, and some other noninterventionist policies paved the way for the roaring 20s. By contrast, the Great Depression lasted over a decade despite (because of) government interference, and unemployment didn’t see a sharp decline until America got into WWII & the draft was instituted.

Empirical evidence shows the less government interferes, the faster & more sustainable the recovery. Governments picking winners & losers means everybody loses.

Got off on a tangent there. You’ll see that happens a lot. Anyway, my point is that anybody that believes in giving power to the individual to do what he wants, with the caveat that he harms no one other than himself, is now considered an extremist.

Belief that we are free to live our lives our way, again- harming no one other than ourselves, instead of the government proclaiming how we should live is a crackpot. Not giving us control over our own bodies, what goes in our bodies, what happens in our bedroom, who we take to our bedroom (consensually and both being of legal age), how we spend our money, what we buy…these are a few examples of how government interferes with our lives. And we’re crazy because we want to take responsibility for our own lives & not have that responsibility taken away by government?

Then call me crazy.