Friday, July 31, 2009

FASB is killing the US economy

Federal Accounting Standards Board that is. Accounting is supposed to be the act of adding up income and expenses and computing how much money a company made. T.J. Rodgers of Cypress Semiconductor says that new FASB rules make it impossible to do that anymore. Companies are not allowed to show cash payments for shipped product as income, are required to carry "intangible" assets on their balance sheet, and cannot give their employees stock options except at ruinious cast.
As an example. GM carried $35 billion dollars worth of "tax write offs" on it's balance sheet for years. Just a few months before filing for bankruptcy did GM write these "assets" off. These "assets" could not be sold, could not be exercised, and were totally worthless, but for years they had made GM look like it had $35 billion more than it really did. I don't know what FASB calls this, but I call it fraud.

So where DID David Axelrod go to school?

Yesterday's Wall St Journal front page story quoted Obama top advisor David Axelrod as saying "Making laws is simular to making sausages, you don't want to watch it happening". Neither Axelrod nor the WSF reported seemed to know that they were paraphasing a famous quotation of Otto von Bismarck, the Iron Chancellor from two centuries ago. Do schools teach anything these days?

Laws are like sausages, it is better not to see them being made.
Otto von Bismarck

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Bimmers and Mercedes escape 35 mpg mandate

From the Wall St. Journal. Dunno how they managed this, I mean Bimmer and Mercedes aren't US companies. You'd think well connected Detroit car companies would be the ones to get a prime loophole like this one. How do German companies land a plum like this? The Obama administration proposes to let any company that sells less than 400,000 (that's right four hundred thousand!) vehicles a year in the US off the 35 mpg deathwish.
Industry lobbyists call this the "German provision". It also helps the smaller Japanese makers like Suzuki and Mitsubishi.
Geez, GM ought to declare Cadillac a small company that sells less than 400,000 cars a year.

Boko Haram means Education is Forbidden

From the Wall St. Journal.
" Abuja Nigeria- An Islamic fundamentalist group expanded its attacks into three states of northern Nigeria on Monday, a day after at least 50 people died during fighting between the group and security forces, according to aid workers and police.
On Monday fundamentalist group Boko Haram, which means "education is prohibited," launched attacks in three states where at least 100 bodies were counted be a reporter in Maidugurin, the capital of the Borno State, the BBC reported. "

Leave it to the "religion of peace" to create a terror gang named "education is forbidden."

Monday, July 27, 2009

We all have gold plated health plans

I worked at a lot of places and had a lot of health plans over the years. Each one paid for everything, accidents, cancer, operations, obstetrics, drug addiction, chiropractice, mental illness, prescription drugs, you name it. That's the ordinary company health plan.
Is that gold plated? What more could a health plan offer?
I think the current talk about taxing gold plated health plans actually means taxing all company plans. Which means taxing most people's health plans, since most people get their health insurance thru their company.
The real reason companies offer nice health plans is the tax break. The plan is tax free to the employee, and so a dollar of health care is worth $1.50, more than a dollar of ordinary taxable salary to employees. Eliminate that tax break and companies will decide it's easier to just pay salary rather than messing around with health care. Given five or ten years and most of us are out of company paid health care and doing God knows what.
You cannot finance health care by taxing health care. It's like hoisting yourself by your bootstraps. Obama needs to learn this.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Yet another thing Obama didn't talk about

He said nothing about allowing nationwide sale of health insurance. Right now, only insurance companies licensed by the state can sell insurance in that state. Few insurance companies have the time, money, and lawyers to get licensed in all 50 states. So us patients are limited in our choice of insurance company to the few that operate in the state we live in.
We could pass a federal law allowing any insurance company licensed by one state to sell insurance in every state. This would increase competition between insurance companies, and lower premiums. And not raise our taxes at all.

Words of the Weasel Part 10

"Is the recession over?" asked a newsie.
"Probably in a partial limited sense" said Paul Krugman on the ABC Sunday pundit show. Paul Krugman is supposed to be an economist although he is actually an editor of the New York Times. Classic evasion reply, saying both yes and no at the same time.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Going back to Firefox 3.0.12

The firefox web site doesn't show any of the 3.0.yadda-yadda versions. I just downloaded 3.0.12 from here. Works good, much better than 3.5.1. The 3.5.xx versions do have a faster render engine, it can paint the screen faster. But it has some kinda bug about opening new websites which cripples it so badly that the 3.0.xx version gives a better browsing experience.

FireFox 3.5 and the firewall, again

Firefox 3.5 is still having great difficult finding websites. Click to go to a site and often as not you get a "cannot connect to server" error message. I turned the firewall clean off, ran barefoot, and the problem is still there. I'm going back to 3.0.10

Fed unveils borrower protection rules.

After two years of mortgage catastrophes that brought on Great Depression II, the Fed is proposing a few little tweaks to mortgage policy. Just hand the borrowers a slip of paper with a few numbers on it before they sign the mortgage. The paper, if read, would warn about negative amortization (payments aren't big enough to reduce the outstanding balance)and balloon notes, (incredible amounts of money still owned the bank when the mortgage runs out). The lender is supposed to "provide clearer information" on how much the bank might jack up monthly payments on Adjustable Rate Mortgages (ARMs).
And they want to restrict kickbacks to mortgage brokers for steering marks into higher rate mortgages.
Oh yes, they want to revise how the interest rate is computed.
This weak tea is supposed to protect us from Great Depression III, coming to an economy near you.

How about standardizing the way interest is computed? My little local bank has a sign in their lobby listing two different interest rates for every kind of loan they would make. I asked about that once, and received a complicated explanation as to what the difference was. How can I shop for the lowest rate when each lender figures the rate a different way? Having a standard way of computing interest isn't a restriction on the right to make money.
Then there is the title insurance scam. The bank or someone gets a free few thousand dollars to guarantee that no shyster lawyer will turn up and claim ownership of the property because of an uncrossed T or undotted I in the title. That ought to be outlawed.
They ought to outlaw "points", another few thousand dollars claimed by the bank at closing for no particular reason. Banks charge "points" because they can.
They ought to outlaw mortgage brokerage completely. Everyone knows that you get mortgages from banks. Home buyers can go to the bank without paying a mortgage broker a fat fee for getting them in the bank door.
They ought to outlaw the termite inspection scam, the radon inspection and mitigation scam, the smoke alarm scam, the urethane insulation scam, and the lead paint scam. The house is sold as is. Should the new owner desire these various improvements, he is free to pay for them. The state should not force the seller to make these expensive and unnecessary improvements that the seller doesn't care about.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Real trains don't do rear end collisions

Real trains? Those are the trains with a real engineer, not a microprocessor, running the train.
The first unreal train was Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) out in San Francisco. Originally designed for fully automatic, hands off, no engineer running, to save on California labor costs. Half way thru the project a design review showed the automatic control system was downright dangerous. The central computer (a Data General Eclipse if memory serves) would order a train to close doors and accelerate out of the station. The computer assumed that the trains did as ordered, and so, if it had ordered train 1 to depart the station, it assumed the station was clear and ran train 2 right into it. At the design review it was pointed out that should train 1 suffer anyone of a myriad of ordinary faults (blown fuse, broken wire, loose connector, etc,etc,ad nauseum) it would fail to depart the station as ordered, and the computer would ram the next train right into the back of it.
The project was too far along to redesign the cars and add a real engineer's position. They gave the poor engineer a windshield to look out of, and a big red panic button to slam on the brakes. Nothing more. The engineers rode along with the central computer running the train, and the engineer sitting in the front waiting for a catastrophe that required him to hit the panic button.
Couple months after opening, a BART train drove right off the tracks. It was the end of the line, and instead of heading back, the train drove forward off the end of line. It plowed thru a huge sand pile left as a bumper and wound up looking foolish. Thankfully, no one was hurt.
They asked the engineer why he had failed to hit the panic button before the train ran off the tracks. The answer went something like this. "I've been sitting in the front of that stupid train for 8 hours doing nothing. I must have not been paying attention, and we were off the tracks before I could do anything about it."
Lesson learned. Until the guy sitting in the front of the train is actually running the train, throttle, brakes, open and close doors, whistle for the grade crossings, watch the block signals and don't go thru a red signal, he will doze off, text message, read a book, anything to relieve the boredom, he isn't going to be alert enough to do any good when the automation breaks down.
Better not to have automation. Have the engineer actually run the train. You gotta pay him just to sit there, might as well have him operate the train. Save money, omit the automation.

One more thing Obama didn't talk about

Those TV ads. We have ads for prescription drugs. Drug selection oughta be the doctor's job. When patients come in, asking for drugs they saw advertised on TV, a lot of doctors will proscribe them thinking they don't hurt and it makes the patients happy. Health care costs would decrease if those drug ads were off the air.
Then there are the TV ads from lawyers, looking for malpractice plaintiffs. Those drive up the cost of health care. Back in the good old days it was unethical for lawyers to advertise at all. We ought to revive those ethics.
Finally there are the ads from power wheel chair makers claiming they can get medicare to pay the whole cost of the power wheel chair.
These health cost increasing ads are on Fox News all the time. More often than the GEICO gecko.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

What Obama didn't say last night

He didn't say that the United States spends 18% of Gross National Product (GNP) on health care, twice as much as any other country in the world. The price of all our exports is jacked up 18% just to pay the workers health care. Imports are cheaper than domestic manufactured by 9 to 18%, just because of sky high US health care expenditures. One reason everything for sale in Walmarts is made in China is that health care is cheaper in China.
Insuring everyone in the country is not the health care problem, the health care problem is excessive health care spending. We ought to be cutting our health care costs in half, Obama wants to increase them by another trillion dollars. We can't afford what we have now, and Obama wants to make it more expensive.
Obama didn't talk about parasitic lawyers sucking up god awful amounts of money thru malpractice suits. That the malpractice award money goes to the lawyers, not the "injured" patients. Could he be currying favor with the trial lawyers?
He didn't talk about outrageous drug prices. The drug companies claim the money goes to research and development of new drugs. Actually it largely goes to marketing. The drug companies pay full time salesmen to call on every doctor in the country twice a month peddling drugs. Nor did he talk about allowing importation of drugs from Canada, or any other first world country.
He didn't talk about cherry picking insurance companies who give low premiums to company paid plans and charge individuals four and five times as much. He didn't talk about the unfairness of denying the self employed an income tax deduction for health insurance expenditures.
He didn't talk about wearysome FDA approval procedures for new drugs that add millions of dollars to the cost of a drug.
He didn't mention that 30% of health care costs are incurred in the last year of the patient's life. This money does little good to the patient but does lots of harm to medicare.
He didn't talk about fancy technology that does little to improve quality of care but makes a lot of money for the device makers. For instance fetal heart rate monitors, a $10,000 electronic box now universal in delivery rooms, have not improved the infant mortality rate.
Obama's health care plan is to throw another trillion dollars into the black hole. Hospitals, drug companies, insurance companies, doctors, and lawyers think this is just fine.
We should attempt to cut the amount we currently spend by half rather than dumping more money into it.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

The stiff in the CAT scanner

It was Friday before a three day weekend. The patient was very old and weak, nearly comatose, when we slid him into the scanner. Started her up and the scanner whirred away. When the scan was done, we slid the patient out.
Trouble started there. The patient had died while the scan was running. Being late on Friday all the doctors had left for the weekend. We couldn't find anyone to sign the death certificate. Couldn't send a body to the morgue without a death certificate. We couldn't go home leaving a dead body in the lab. What to do? Finally we rolled the gurney into the elevator and sent the deceased back up to the ward. Let the ward nurse cope.
I heard that story from our CAT scan sales guy, who had been a CAT scan tech before coming to work for us.
I always wondered about the doctor who ordered that scan. Here he has a patient at death's door, and all he does is order an expensive imaging procedure? He can't tell the patient is in a bad way by just looking at him? Or using a stethoscope?
But I'll bet the hospital billed that CAT scan and Medicare paid for it. A few thousand dollars spent that did nothing to improve or extend that poor patient's life.
Records show that 30% of all health care expenditures are incurred in the last year of the patient's life. How much of that money actually helps the patient, as opposed to just making money for the providers?

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

New browser needs needs new firewall?

Internet service has been slowing down for some time up here. Might be roadrunner, might be those distributed denial of service (DDOS) attacks on gov'ment web sites, tired computer, bad karma, who knows.
So I decided to upgrade Firefox to the new version 3.5. Although the new Firefox rendered pages faster it was less effective at getting onto the web. Lots and lots of "cannot find the such-and-such server" error messages, after a lengthy wait for a reply. Try again later and I could get thru. After a few days of this, I took a look at the mozilla website. They had a tab "What to do if you cannot connect with V3.5" That sounded promising. In short, the Mozilla people claim that firewalls are the problem. Turn the firewall off they suggest. Well, not sure about that, especially as the older V3.0.11 Firefox had been working OK for a year on my Zone Alarm freeby firewall.
But, hope springs eternal, I downloaded the latest copy of Zone Alarm and it works. Not 100%, but a lot better. It reduced the "cannot find server" errors to maybe one an hour, whereas with the old Zone Alarm I was getting 10 or 15 such errors per hour.
The V3.5 Firefox is faster than previous version 3.0.11, and with an updated firewall, things are somewhat better than the older software setup.
Lesson learned. Update your firewall more often.

Does California pay too much?

According to a Wall St Journal story, a suburban fire chief was making $186,000 a year. That's about twice what we pay fire chiefs around here. Then he turned in his accrued leave and sick time for a once time salary boost to $241,000. Three days later he retired. Guess what, his retirement pay was based on the $241,000. Plus, he hasn't retired really, he is serving as temporary fire chief and drawing $176,000 as a contractor AND drawing his retirement pay. By the way, he is only 51 years old.
Nice work if you can get it.
Somehow I don't feel very sorry for California's budget problems.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Reminiscing about Apollo

Discovery channel did 40th anniversary of Moon landing stories all day. The TV talking heads marveled at the Apollo computer with "only" 64 K bytes of memory. Brings back memories that does. A PDP-11 with 64K, programmed in assembler, could do most anything. Somewhere I still have my PDP-11 programmers card. Back then programmers were supermen. Now they are mostly dweebs.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

New Hampshire Wind Power 2009

According to the Union Leader, a state permit to put up wind turbines in Coos County was approved. The developer had to file a mitigation plan for that all purpose project slowdown bird, Bicknell's Thrush. This magical bird held up the Cannon Mt land swap for years, and now appears to be hard at work slowing down another project. Bicknell's Thrush did not exist until 1998. Prior to 1998 it was considered to be a member of the Gray Cheeked Thrush family. After Bicknell's Thrush was declared a seperate species in 1998 it was declared endangered.
With a state permit in hand the developers now need to obtain federal permits. Lenthy comments attached to the article complain about the terrible esthetic damage the project will cause. Other commenters feel the project paperwork was rushed thru improperly.
No discussion of costs was furnished.

Energy Policy.

First off, we ought to develop oil and gas reserves in the Western
Hemisphere. The gas people have done right well at this. New
technology has found new domestic gas fields and the price of natural
gas has dropped from $12 to $3 over the last few years. Right now most
of our domestic production comes out of the Gulf of Mexico. We need
expand that, to drill off the Atlantic and Pacific coasts. We need to
develop oil sands and oil shale.
Then we need to drill in the "Alaska National Wildlife Refuge" (ANWR).
The fields at Prudoe are reaching end of life. There will come a time
when the cost of maintaining the pipeline overwhelms the value of the
oil moved. At this point, the pipeline will be shut down and abandoned.
After a few years of rusting, it will be useless.
If we exploit the ANWR field now, its oil can come down thru the
pipeline. If we delay drilling in ANWR until the pipeline is gone, it
will require a new pipeline to bring the oil out. The cost of the
existing pipeline was horrendous. Doing it over will be worse.
Prior to the discovery of oil, ANWR was merely another piece of arctic
tundra. A few oil wells won't hurt anything. No one lives there.
Nuclear power is completely carbon free, for those who still believe
in global warming. It works, 20% of US electricity comes from nuclear.
80% of French electricity is nuclear. The "nuclear waste" and Yucca
Mountain arguments are irrelevant. Spent nuclear fuel rods have been
placed in ponds next to reactors for 50 years. They do just fine there,
and the volume is so small it will take a thousand years before the
ponds run out of room. One day we will recycle the "spent" fuel rods
and recover nearly as much fissionable material as the brand new rod
Nuclear power plants would be cheaper if the design were
standardized. The design costs and the huge paper work costs to get the
plant blessed as safe by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission could be done
once, and then dozens of plants could be built with no additional design
and paperwork costs.
There is a very promising hydrogen fusion project, the Polywell
project, that with some very modest funding might yield fusion power
within 10 years. A small scale test reactor has already fused hydrogen
and produced neutrons. Scaling it up from its current size of a
basketball to a couple of yards across ought to give a practical fusion
reactor. We should fund this, the cost is tiny, and the potential
payoff is enormous. It's not a done deal, it might not work, but it is
worth putting a little money into it.
We can build super insulated houses that stay warm all winter without
a furnace. A couple have been built up here and they are comfortable.
Just make the walls 18 inches thick and provide enough south facing
windows and they stay warm using no furnace and no furnace oil.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

787 Taxi test

According to Aviation Week, the long delayed Boeing 787 started taxi tests this week. They have some pix showing the plane zipping down the runway. They still don't have fix for the wing-body join problem, but at least something is happening.

Vermont Wind Power in 1941

From "Engineer's Dreams" by Willy Ley.

"A really large wind generator worked faithfully for years on a mountain called Grandpa's Knob, near Rutland Vermont. There is often a steady breeze on top of a ridge of hills even though down in the valley the air seems perfectly quiet. In 1939 a Boston engineer, Palmer Cosslet Putnam, had the idea that a hilltop should be a suitable place for a wind generator. Since aviation engineers had gained considerable knowledge of how air flows around an airplane wing, a wind generator could be designed far more efficiently in 1939 that it could have been two decades earlier.
The tower for the wind turbine on Grandpa's Knob was 125 feet tall, just tall enough to carry the two bladed impeller, which had a diameter of 175 feet. Each blade looked very much like an airplane wing and the whole was mounted in such a way that it turned into the wind automatically. The turbine was ready for operation on October 19, 1941 and ran virtually without serious interruption until March 1945. Then the wind generator on Grandpa's knob became a war casualty. On the twenty sixth of March one of the two blades was torn loose. Since the generator was spinning at the moment, the lower blade smashed into the other one, damaging it badly. If the had happened in normal times the damaged blades would have been carefully inspected, and the accident would have resulted in new and better blades. But it happened during the second world war. Neither material nor labor could be obtained, and since the wind generator could not be classed as "vital" -after all it was mostly experimental even though it did produce current which it fed into the local network - the structure had to be abandoned. "

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

All men are created equal

Jefferson wrote this as the preamble to the Declaration of Independence. It is a fundamental concept underlying American democracy.
Does Supreme Court nominee Sutomayer believe in Jefferson? Or does she believe that American citizens are divided into white, black, Latino, Japanese-American, and other ethnic groups, with each group entitled to special treatment before the law?

Monday, July 13, 2009

US Rep Paul Hodes, Welcome to the Twilight Zone

Got a letter back from Mr. Hodes this morning, in response to a letter from me asking him to vote against the Cap and Tax energy bill.
"A recent study estimates that this bill would create 1.5 million new American jobs."
"The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office has shown that this bill will actually save American families a net average of $3,500 each year by lowering their energy bills."
In 2010 we gotta elect someone, anyone, whose brains are not made of solid concrete.

James Bond no longer works for CIA

From today's Wall St Journal front page.
" A secret Central Intelligence Agency initiative terminated by Director Leon Panetta was an attempt to carry out a 2001 presidential authorization to capture or kill Al Qaeda opeatives, according to former intelligence officials familiar with the matter.
The precise nature of the highly classified effort isn't clear, and the CIA won't comment on its substance.
According to current and former government officials, the agency spent money on planning and possibly some training. It was acting on a 2001 presidential legal pronouncement lnown as a finding, which authorized the CIA to pursue such efforts. The initiative hadn't become fully operational at the time Mr. Panetta ended it."

Hmm. CIA was given a "license to kill" eight years ago and the project was still in the planning phase eight years later? US Air Force (my old outfit) would have done better than that. With that kind of mission order, USAF would have produced results within eight weeks, not eight years. Might not have had any bodies to show after the air strike, but they'd be good and dead. US Marine Corp could also handle this mission within a few weeks. What in hell is the matter with CIA? Take eight YEARS and have nothing to show for it?
Clearly some one was reading too many Matt Helm thrillers.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Newspaper business so bad. New paper starts up

Brand new weekly paper launched up here. The Littleton Record. Vol 1 No 2 landed in my mailbox Friday. Sixteen pages with color photos. Front page color pix showing soggy WWII vets parading in the rain in Franconia right past Bob Warden's Mobil station. Local stories inside, even about local people that I know. Good photos of the Littleton boys playing baseball. Keep this up and it will give the long established Littleton Courier a run for its money.
And the Record is free, delivered with the usual load of Friday junk mail. Who says you can't make money in the newspaper business?

Saturday, July 11, 2009

NYPD still paranoid from 9/11

They are so fearful of something, that they have blocked off a public street in Brooklyn. Brooklyn Police Hq on Johnson St has seven uniformed officers standing sentry duty 24/7. Two police cruisers, with police officers inside, engines idling, are parked across Johnson St blocking all traffic, even pedestrian traffic. Jersey barriers would be cheaper...
Putting seven officers on sentry duty 3 shifts a day, 5 days a week ties up 21 well paid uniformed officers. Covering the weekend uses five more cops and a fraction of a cop.
I heard NYC just raised the sales tax another 1/2 percent.
Will the last industry leaving New York please turn out the lights.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Windows enables cyber attacks worldwide

You might have seen headlines about cyber attacks on US government and South Korean websites. The attacks made the front page of the Wall St Journal today, so it isn't just a few system managers whining about spam. Attack traffic is so heavy that my internet access has slowed perceptibly.
Microsoft Windows is the root cause of these attacks. Windows is like swiss cheese, security holes everywhere. Attackers break into Windows computers thru these holes, and install robot code ('bot for short) which upon command fires off an endless string of requests to the victim computer demanding transmission of the website's first page. Each 'bot can fire off hundreds of requests per second. 'Bot nets of hundreds of thousands of captured Windows machines can overwhelm anything on the internet. Right now it's a major nuisance. But in the future when all bills are paid, all messsages go, all news comes from blogs, all music is downloaded over the internet, this kind of cyber attack will hurt more.
The only fix is to get on Microsoft's case and demand a secure Windows. It is perfectly doable. Microsoft doesn't fix the problem 'cause they don't see any money in security.

Aviation Week blasts Wall St.

From the Viewpoint editorial on the last page of the July 6 issue.

"In the past decade commercial banks have forgotten their main purpose - lending capital - and have invented self-serving new ways to make money. They have created products and services of no value to the economy, which they buy and trade among themselves, racking up profits, commissions and bonuses."

Services of no value such as mortgage backed securities which ruined the housing industry and credit default swaps which crushed Merrill Lynch, Lehman Brothers, Bear Stearns and AIG.

"Yet there is a bright spot for the smaller aerospace companies. While the big banks repay their TARP infusions so the can quickly increase their executive pay packets, small banks are jumping in to help companies in their local communities."

" These banks, numbering in the thousands, do not pay hefty executive bonuses for outrageous profits made through incestuous dealing. Their governance models, including community involvement, reward management for lending based on well-understood risk analysis tied to concentrated due diligence. Smaller players in the aerospace sector should end their fixation with Wall Street lenders and concentrate their credit hunt on Main Street."

Aviation Week is the bible of the aerospace industry. They have been around for ever. They are required reading at the airframe companies, the airlines, the avionics companies and the Air Force. The magazine speaks for its readers in a way the New York Times never has. The American aerospace industry is large, dominates the world markets, and exports to the entire world. We oughta listen to them, they are onto something. Namely Wall St banks bear great responsibility for Great Depression II and after $750 billion of taxpayer bailout, are doing little to bring us out of it.

Speed up Windows with Startup Manager

Windows loads and runs a vast number of programs behind your back. Some of them are necessary but most just slow your machine down and use up valuable RAM that would be better used running your programs.
Many of these secret ramhogs load when you start Windows. A worthwhile performance improvement (faster boot and livelier keyboard response) can be had by preventing unnecessary goodies from loading and running. Real techies can do this barehanded, but for most of us a software tool makes it a lot easier.
Reliable tool is Startup Manager V1.5 written by Brian Stowers of Creative Gaffers Software. You can download Startup Manager from the Aptiva Toolbox. This particular page offers three different programs, go to the bottom of the page and download startman.exe to obtain the software I am describing here. The program is a little old but it is still the best one out there in my humble opinion. It shows you what is loading at boot time and allows you to turn stuff off by just giving them a red checkmark.
The Startup Manager window shows a line for each piece of software that could be loaded at startup time. There is a status column (enabled or disabled). You turn stuff off by setting the status to diabled (big red X). If you change your mind, you can turn it back on just as easily, set it to enable (green checkmark).
You shouldn't have all that many programs starting at boot time. I am down to just three, the driver for the keyboard touchpad, Zone Alarm firewall, and something called kernelfaultcheck.
Which brings us to the tricky part. What can you turn off? Gotta be careful here, it is possible to turn off something needed and get all wrapped around the axle. Obviously you want to leave hardware drivers like touch pads and wireless modems running, if you still have the hardware in the machine. Naturally if you got rid of the wireless modem last month you can speed things up by not running the wireless modem driver. In fact you ought to use Add and Remove programs to clean such a driver right off your machine.
What can you get rid of? As mentioned, drivers for hardware you no longer have. "Speedup" or "helper" programs for Adobe and Office and Easyshare and Itunes and such. CTFmon.exe. Update schedulers for stuff like Java and Bios and Spybot and Adobe. I'd rather have a faster computer and just hit the "check for updates" tab inside Adobe or Spybot or Office when and if I want an update from the web.
Then there are the wierdo programs with wierdo names that mean nothing to you. If you want to really bear down on them you can google on the program name and some of the time you will get solid advice (Necessary part of Windows or Virus) and much of the time you get "This is a program that loads at startup" which means the website hasn't a clue. Conservative folk leave the unknown stuff alone. Daring folk disable it and usually everything works OK.
The column "Command" is actually the disk file name that would be loaded. The file name is often a clue as to what the software is for. The "Location" column shows from where the load and run command comes. Things marked [REG] load and run from keys stashed in the registry. This is only of interest for techies who might use Regedit to fiddle around, but things like that are not for the fainthearted. Things marked "Startup Folder" load and run from disk folders named startup.
As I mentioned, Startup Manager is a little dusty (my version is date stamped 2 Jan 2000), but it works well on XP. Before writing this post I googled around for something more up to date. There are such and I tried them all but cannot recommend any of them. Too complex, load to much adware, and support complex procedures that I'll never use, and in fact can cause real trouble. I vote for Startup Manager V1.5.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Obama to move against "speculation" in oil market

Well, I'm all against speculation. Evil it is. Last year with the stock market, mortgage backed securities, Lehman, Merrill Lynch, and Bear Stearns going down the drain, a lot of money was invested in oil futures for lack of anywhere else to put it. Which drove the price of crude oil to $144 a barrel. Which drove the price of gasoline to $4 a gallon. Those are bad things.
Of course the bubble burst that summer and the price of crude dropped to $35 a barrel. A lot of people got severely burned. Couldn't happen to nicer people.
So is there any difference between an evil speculator and Southwest Airlines buying future contracts of jet fuel ? Especially as the futures contracts Southwest buys are sold by futures traders, guys who just buy and sell futures contracts, they never take delivery of physical product, they just buy and sell paper futures.
It's generally accepted that futures markets are economically useful, they allow buyers and seller to lock in a price for future production. With a price locked in, a farmer can get a loan, an bakery can predict his cost of flour, an airline can predict the price of jet fuel.
Once we have a commodities future market anyone can play. Last summer a lot of people thought crude oil futures were a sure thing, and nearly everything else looked like a loser. So money flowed into buying up crude oil, a scarce and valuable commodity, and the demand made it scarcer and more valuable.
If Obama really wanted to crack down on speculation in commodities, he could cut off loans. Right now you can borrow money to buy commodities futures. The banks lend, and use the value of the commodity as collateral for the loan. We could pass a law preventing banks from making commodity buying loans. In fact FIDC could probably just make a regulation against it. FDIC says to the banks "Don't loan federally insured money (all the banks money is federally insured) for the purchase of commodities."
The Southwest Airlines of the world could pay cash, but the hedge funds and the day traders would find their returns a lot lower when they had to put up real money to play the commodities market.

Why the Porkulus isn't working

For one, only 11% of the $787 billion bill has actually been spent. That's only $86 billion, about the amount of money poured down GM.
A good portion of the Porkulus is tax cuts, which adds to the federal debt but don't stimulate the economy. With everyone worried about a layoff, nobody is spending any tax cuts/rebates/handouts. The money is going into peoples checking accounts and paying off bills or credit card debt. Nobody in their right mind is going to splurge on new cars, clothes, or anything but groceries with a layoff looming in the future. We aren't going to see consumer spending come back until unemployment has been licked.
You could get quite a bit of economic stimulus by just repealing the Porkulus bill. That would show people that the US government isn't completely spendthrift.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Robert McNamara, his impact on history?

In case you missed it, Robert S. McNamara died today. He was Secretary of Defense during the Viet Nam war for those of you younger than I. I watched a lotta bloviating about it on the Lehrer Newshour tonight. None of the talking heads had a clue as to what McNamara was, what he did, and how he should be evaluated.
As Secretary of Defense, McNamara's duty was to win the Viet Nam war. He failed to do this, in fact, he lost Viet Nam big time. No Newshour talking head mentioned this ugly fact. What's worse, many years later, McNamara published his memoires and said the Viet Nam war was a big mistake and he apologized for fighting it. The lefties loved this.
Those of us who served in Viet Nam were infuriated by this. If, back in 1964, McNamara thought the war was a bad idea, it was his duty to go on TV, say the war was a bad idea and then tender his resignation to Lyndon Johnson. He failed in this duty as well as failing in his duty to win the war.
Those of us who served back then came to know McNamara as an enemy as deadly as the Viet Cong. His whiz kids cut funding, canceled needed weapons programs, and foisted turkeys like the TFX, the C5, and the M16 on long suffering troops. He micromanaged the war from DC.
As far as this veteran is concerned, McNamara was a self important bean counter whose ignorance of warfare lost the Viet Nam war. Winning a war is different from running Ford Motor Company and McNamara didn't understand the difference.

Eugene Volokh on Flag Burning

Eugene Volokh is a University of Tennessee law professor whose blog, "The Volokh Conspiracy" is a good read. He usually makes a good deal of sense.
He had a piece in the Wall St Journal the other day on the legality of an anti flag burning law.
Some how I just wonder at the need for such a law, and the need to devote any thought to it. Now I don't hold with burning the American flag, but I hardly think we need burden the statute books with a law agin it. If you burn a flag in most places a large number of rough people will take great offense. In fact they will be offended sufficiently to take action right then and there.
Which is why very few flags are burned in public.
I am surprised that Eugene doesn't seem to understand this and wastes his time on a non issue.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Whither Sarah Palin ?

Just to set the record straight, I like Sarah Palin. Anyone who can work up from PTA to state governor, raise an big family, and manage a husband who races snow mobiles has got to have something on the ball.
Her announcement of resignation on Friday was a total surprise, and I have no idea what it means. It might be that the relentless media assault on her and her family is just to much, either for Sarah or for the family. I'm sure if Sarah decided that her children were at risk due to her political career, she would retire from political life. Mark Stein sees it this way, and laments that a real citizen in politics has been driven out by a vindictive MSM. He says this leaves us with monomaniacal single minded Clintons and Obamas, old party hacks like Biden or McCain, or dynasties like the Bushes and the Kennedys. If this is the case it's a shame.
Or, she might have decided that there are better platforms for a presidential bid than governor of Alaska. She is enough of a celebrity now to get plenty of national coverage doing anything. I hope this is the case, but what do I know?
Well, I know more than George Will does. George was opining on ABC this morning that Sarah might do well in Iowa but won't stand a chance in New Hampshire. I got news for you George. Everyone up here loves Sarah Palin. She is our kind of people. Men like her, women like her, kids like her, and we like her family too. Everyone who stepped into our Littleton HQ during the election was a huge Sarah Palin fan.
Anyhow, I wish Sarah well and I hope she stays in national politics. We need her more than we need the MSM.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Fourth of July

Got up at 6 AM to go down to the church pancake breakfast. Mixed pancake batter until 10 AM. The luck of the republic is fleeting up here, it rained most of the day. Made five pounds of potato salad for a 5 PM cookout. Hopefully the rain will back off by five.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Windows Auto Insert Notification, How to Disable it

Auto insert notification is a Windows "feature" that makes music CD's play in your computer automatically, just insert CD and the music starts to play. Convenient if you use your computer as a CD player. I play my CD's on my stereo, it sounds better.
Convenience has a high price. Auto insert notification does more than just start your music player. It also automatically loads and runs programs from the CD, from any flash drives, floppy drives, and USB gadgets. Virus's (Virii?) spread themselves via auto insert notification. The virus merely copies itself to the CD or flash drive, and it gets loaded and executed every time the infected media is inserted into a victim computer. The notorious Sony rootkit spread itself this way. Unless you disable auto insert notification, your computer is vulnerable to virus every time you insert a CD, a flash drive/thumb drive, or a USB gizmo.
Plus, auto insert notification is a CPU hog. When active it can suck up 10-20% of your CPU time. Working on a video capture project some time ago, we found the video dropped frames until we tracked down and killed auto insert notification.
With auto insert notification turned off you do have to click on your CD player program to play a CD. With a CD-Rom you will have to use explorer to launch the "autorun" program in the CD root directory by hand on install CD-Roms. That's the only down side to killing auto insert notification.
To kill auto insert notification on XP you hand patch the registry, using regedit. Regedit.exe comes with Windows and is found in directory c:/windows/system32. If you can't remember that, you can search for it with Explorer. There usually is a regedit and a regedt32, they both work pretty much the same.
Click on regedit and it will open a pair of side by side windows. The left hand window has a tree structure that looks just like the one in Explorer. Open Hkey_Local_Machine\System\CurrentControlSet\Services\Cdrom Once you navigate to the CDrom registry "leaf" the right hand window will fill with assorted icons.
Look for one named "Autorun". If it does not exist, you will have to create it. Click on Edit, click on New, click on Key. Make the new key a Dword and name it AutoRun. Capitalize the R just in case Windows cares about case.
In the right hand window right click on the AutoRun key and set it's value to zero.
That's it, you are done, close regedit and you have a faster and more secure XP machine.
You do it this way for XP. It's a good guess that Vista and Win 7 work a little bit different, but they both have auto insert notification and you want to turn it off. A bit of googling should turn up kill instructions for Vista or 7.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

787 Structural Problem

Boeing has postponed the long awaited first flight of the all new, all plastic, 787 Dreamliner. This is a tremendous disappointment to Boeing and Boeing customers.
Apparently something (no photos so it could be anything) showed up during static wing bending tests on the ground. According to Aviation Week the problem was "delamination and deformation on body (presumably wing-to-body) join points during a routine stress test". The wings are attached to the body with titanium bolts. There was discussion of a fix, stiffeners. "The parts needed are small, only an inch or two." Eighteen (one for each bolt?) will be applied to the top side of the join.
More discussion followed about the Computer Aided Design (CAD) procedures. The author clearly feels that this problem should have showed up in computer simulations long ago, and he faults Boeing's CAD work.
For Boeing's sake lets hope the one inch stiffeners are readily available and solve the problem.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Billions for paperwork, not one one cent for tribute

Japan wants to buy the F22 from us. F22 is the hottest fighter in the air with the best electronics. It's also very expensive, so expensive that even rich Uncle Sam has decided to stop buying them after the 187th aircraft. At least the Pentagon thinks 187 fighters is enough, the Air Force wants more.
Congress is wrapped around the axle on the F22. The Members from Lockheed don't want to shut the production line down, but they don't want to sell the F22 overseas lest the "secrets" of the aircraft leak out to US adversaries.
In actual fact we should sell the Japanese as many F22's as they want to pay for. Japan is a loyal US ally, with some bad neighbors close by, giving them a solid reason for wanting advanced fighter planes. Japan is the second largest economy in the world, fully capable of building their own fighter planes (and airliners) from the ground up if they care to. Right now they don't compete with us in the aerospace business, but they could if they wanted to. Refusing to sell essential military equipment might be enough to make them want to.
Plus, the US could use the money. These things go for $142.5 million EACH to USAF. Ten aircraft is $1.4 billion. A billion here and a billion there and pretty soon you are talking about real money. Plus we can sell them spare parts. Spare parts over a 30 year service life can add up.
And then we can sell paperwork. The Japanese are prepared to pay $2.3 billion up front for "non recurring engineering and manufacturing costs". This sounds like pure gravy for Lockheed in that the F22 is in full production and should not need any more engineering. Presumably the $2.3 billion will buy a couple of truck loads of paperwork.
All we need is for Congress to OK overseas sales of the aircraft. The customers have their check books out.