Friday, December 12, 2008

Financial Reality Show

In the last few months, to be precise since the downfall of Lehman Brothers, the whole financial market is in doldrums. Looking at the 401(k) it looks like i will never get to retire, so i have not touched my allocations, they are still the same when Dow was over 14000 and i will let it ride the down swing till Dow reaches the magical 5 figures.
I have been reading a lot on financial jitters in forbes and businessweek, which don't paint any rosy pictures for at least few more months to come, the recession is hitting each individual hard and the best thing to do is to call the credit card companies to lower the apr and banks to lower the fees. Lets see what happens when the Feds meet on december 16th, what plan they come up with to boost the spending power of consumers and investors.

Yahoo Pipes to rescue

I'm back to blogging after a long silence i was undergoing few very pleasant events, life has to offer. While settling in one of the recent events, i was constantly looking up few items for sale on where else but the friendly old It was a tiresome and bothersome process to go though the same old keywords for search and to search those items in a specific region of where i live.

We have a saying "If you manually do the same thing twice, automate it" and so i started looking for a mash-up application that i can use to automate my search. Thanks to Yahoo Pipes it was few licks and i was able to automate my search for "Baltimore" region. If your from baltimore region and use craigslist to search, try the pipe that i have published and you can also create a RSS feed so that your search is delivered to your feed reader with the new results or you can email the results also.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

JPMorgan buys WaMu

WaMu that was for sale since last week has found a buyer in form of JPMorgan Chase. That was a quick sale i must say, and for the customers of WaMu nothing changes. This has made me wondering if my money in the brick and mortar institution (bank) safe?

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Financial crisis hits IndyMac

As per a report from AP. IndyMac Bank is been placed under FDIC and will reopen on Monday (07/14/08) as IndyMac Federal Bank FSB.

This turmoil will hit more who are faced with the ever growing foreclosure crisis and the soon to be retired people who have had placed money and bought shares of such financial institutions. This people may have to rethink about retirement as the the funds will be shrinking and the inflation soars. Lets hope senate passes the "Foreclosure rescue plan" soon to save the people and the banks some time to recuperate.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Can using GPS save greens on gas?

Yesterday i bought a Magellan 4250 GPS from Circuit City. I had been avoiding incurring this expense thinking i will use Google maps or MapQuest to reach the destination, but in spite of this paper copies i have gone in circles and missed the destination on number of occasion. Okay, I'm not directionally challenged, but due to detours as summer is the favorite time to repair the roads, i have wasted gas and time.
I plan to recover the cost of the unit ( i bought a open box item so it was cheap far less then $300.00) within 2 yrs time by avoiding getting lost and saving gas.

What do you guys think has the time come to categorize a GPS as a "Need" and not a "Want" and can it save some money?

Sunday, March 16, 2008

JP Morgan Chase to acquire Bears Stearns

JPMorgan Chase announced today that it will acquire the investment bank Bears Stearns in an transaction for stock to stock exchange. On the basis of the closing stock price of March 15th, 2008 the value per share comes to merge $2.00 . Based on a report from BBC business site, Bears Stearns had a sub-prime loss of US$3.2 bn and lately JP Morgan Chase with the backing from Federal Bank of New York was to provide some emergency funds.

Another article on BBC says that Bears Stearns is(was?) the Wall Street's fifth largest investment bank and there where speculations that it was finding hard to come up with funds for its daily operations. The shares dropped 46% on Friday (March 14th, 2008) on the news that the banks is driven to insolvency by the hedge funds clients.

Looking back to my post i wrote on February 28th,2008 about the grim banking forecast, it looks like the reality of banks facing the sub-prime mess is hitting close to home.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Stars, moon & mars covered by Google

Google has launched a new website "Google Sky" where everyone interested in astronomy can be a star gazer under sun light :) armed with a browser and internet connection. If that's not all, you can now follow the Apollo landings sites on the moon and can visit the mars. Google has created a very detailed map of mars in alliance with NASA and Arizona State University.
I will like to thank its development team for doing such an outstanding job in showing me the stars during day time which otherwise was only possible by visiting a planetarium.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Google launches Calendar Sync. with Microsoft Outlook

Thank you Google for providing the sync. tool for Microsoft Outlook. Now i don't have to retype the events in Google Calendar if i had updated or entered few new events in Outlook, while away from internet. Yes, it does happen that i many a time while traveling cannot access internet. Now using this utility i can be more comfortable using Google Calender and Outlook for keeping track of my appointments.

Please, refer to the Getting Started page is full of all the details on how you can setup and remember its the primary calendar only that can be sync. with the outlook at this moment of time.

My wish is now to see when Google will release a sync. tool for Microsoft Outlook Contacts with Gmail contacts also, that will be the next best thing to sliced bread.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Lease a new life into an old laptop

I have a very very old laptop(Compaq Presario 1260) that is designed for Windows 98 and had been very handy until past few years. When the software environment started getting more and more resource hungry. I had to with a heavy heart retire this laptop as its resources where no match to the new softwares requirements. It has just 4.3 GB hard drive and cannot support more then 128 MB RAM. This was my first laptop and i'm still very much attached to it. The good old coding fun i had with it using Microsoft Visual Basic 4.0 and then 5.0, PERL and C. I had to shelf this computer as i never would never muster enough zeal to drop it at Salvation Army. For past few years i have tried to infuse life into this laptop by using many different Linux distro's like Puppy Linux, Damn Small Linux and Ubuntu 7.0.4 then upgraded to Ubuntu 7.0.10 on this laptop. I was happy with Ubuntu 7.0.10 as i was able to use my ZyXEL Wireless card to connect to internet,but the performance was very slow and so i had to shelf the laptop or quite few months.
Then i saw the gBook laptop at Walmart, which is powered by gOS which is based on Ubuntu linux. I downloaded and installed the gOS on the laptop while i was watching the 1st final one day cricket match between Australia and India on saturday nite.
I liked the gOS's tight integration with Google Apps and i won't mind living out of my browser for this laptop. The interface is very clean with all the program icons on the bottom dock just like OS X. Now i can use a dedicated laptop to handle my blog and also use it for light weight internet app. The further test i want to carry out on this old laptop is if i could use it as temporary wireless coverage booster as gOS is based on Ubuntu.

Friday, February 29, 2008

Time to think Miles per Dollar (miles/$)

I guess with the barrel of oil flirting with $103.00 , i better start amending my driving styles and engage IT(Information Technology) to max out the miles per dollar. I have stopped thinking about miles per gallons few months back when the barrel was going against Newton's third law and i myself started following Newton's second law(Every action has equal and opposite reaction). It seams like just few years back we had the liberty to drive the car with lower prices and be more social then now a days. So for me the higher gas price is taking a toll on my social circle. A change that i made in my driving pattern was to walk to the stores, if they are within one mile radius, no need to burn the gas. This way i have three fold benefits (will keep fit, take care of the environment and keep my wallet happy).

Since 2007 January i have started keeping track(formed a habit) of all my fuel, service and car insurance expenses in Microsoft SQL Server 2005 Express Edition. To get a feel of how much i'm spending per car per month and annually. When Microsoft came out with Visual Studio 2008 Express Edition i created a web based application to streamline the tracking of services, fuel receipts and generating the analysis reports before i get shocked by the credit card statement. Its a good idea at least for me to see my monthly fuel expense as soon as i start the application and when the next service is and what needs to be done in that service. I have attached the screen shots of the application.
If you want to give the application a spin and start tracking the expenses i will be glad to provide you the application and database structure just email me your request.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Grim Banking Forecast

Today i saw a very interesting article by Ken the Bank Deals Guy where he is referring to a recent article on CNN about FDIC bracing for large number(100-200) of bank failures in the upcoming months(12-24). That is a big scary numbers. What happens to the contents stored for safeguarding at the safe deposit box when the bank goes under? Next time i visit my bank i will ask them this question and see what the reply is. This article further mentions how an individual can safe guard his deposits, i would recommend this article to all my viewers and readers. I bookmarked that article so that i can read it often.

I hope FDIC increases the $100,000.00 deposit insurance to cater for the inflation.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Free tools bonanza for students from Microsoft

First thing first i would like to apologize for been away from posting any new blogs. Its been hectic for me as i have been trying to squeeze in 25 hours out of 24 hours . I have started my doctoral research studies as i cleared my qualifying exams in late Jan. 2008.

I would like to say a big "Thank You" to Microsoft for providing, students with FREE copies of Visual Studio 2008, SQL Server and Windows Server 2003 thorough Microsoft DreamSpark . If you want to learn the new cutting age technology introduced by Microsoft, i will encourage you to register, roll up the sleeves and start using it. If your school is not listed in the listbox, not to worry they have provided a link to JourneyEd. This company will do the student verification and once your verified you will receive an email within 24 hours with downloading instructions. I got my downloading instruction email in 15 minutes. Its almost 3.3GB to download the VS 2008, so you better leave the downloading for overnite. I have been using VS 2008 Express Edition for almost 2 months now and i liked the LINQ classes, AJAX controls that are provided along with the ease of coding(reducing the loc and errors that might go with it). I'm hoping to see the ASP.NET, VS 2008 and Silverlight to enable the user to develop RIA (Rich Internet Application) with a shorter turn around time.
Microsoft will launch VS 2008 in Baltimore on May 23rd, 2008 and the registration is still open. So if you guys wanna be there, please register soon.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Another Fed Rate Cut

Jeez, this year has started with a turmoil in the stock market, what a way to start the year? I wonder, where this drop will lead to. Looks like history repeat itself and now the stock market globally is showing how globalization pull each other down. To steadfast the drop on this Tuesday morning of 01/22/2008 Fed called an impromptu meeting and cut the lending rates by 0.75% to make it to 3.50% from the whooping 4.25%. This provided a cushion to the stock market crash as this move kinda off opened the parachute on the stock market and the wall street glided itself down instead of crashing down at a high speed. There is again a possibility that Fed will again cut the rates when they meet on Jan 30,2008 for the scheduled meeting. Fed also lowered the rates for the banks to borrow directly from the central bank to 4.00% .

The million dollar question that arises is What does this mean to you and me? My two cents on this is now it is a good time to call the credit card companies and ask them to lower the APR This move will also effect car buyers as the auto loans and home equity lines will be reduced. Had the gas price been lower we would have seen some good times for FORD and GM, but lets hope new first time car buyers will get the bargain.

The interest rate drop will prompt few home buyers who have fixed rate mortgage to refinance the house as this drop will surely save a big chuck of interest over the mortgage loan's life. Hopefully, this will easy up the sub prime mess for the lenders.

Down side is the savings accounts will look less attractive as the interest rate drops faster then the big apple coming down on midnight in NYC. This can be a good time to invest in CD's and lock in the prevailing rates. I did run a query on the for higher yield rates for 1 year and found the best rates been provided by Flagstar Bank (4.83%),Intervest National Bank(4.64%) and Advanta Bank Corp (4.59%). You can check the full list of the high yield CD's for 1 year here.

If any of you have information of higher yield CD's please do mention it in the comments.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Free Sample Schick Quattro Titaninum Razor

Get your hands on the Free Schick Quattro Titanium Razor before Schick runs out of stock. After you Submit the mailing information, If the razors are in stock you will get a message "Thank you for signing up! Your free razor is on its way!".

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

New Cricket Rules!!!!

Today I read this email from my cousin who lives in Ghana (Meda wo ase bro) with new cricket rules that ICC should implement when any team is playing cricket against Australia anywhere on this earth. I'm in awe at the impact of the 2nd cricket test match had on the cricket fans around the globe.

Here is his email for you all to enjoy and ponder. This are real funny and scary rules , hope ICC and CA (Cricket Australia) don't get any good ideas straight out of here.


After watching the test match, I feel some rules have to be incorporated by ICC to give the other teams a perfect clarification;

(1) Ricky Ponting – (THE TRULY GENUINE CRICKETER OF THE CRICKET ERA AND WHOSE INTEGRITY SHOULD NOT BE DOUBTED) should be considered as the FOURTH UMPIRE. As per the new rules, FOURTH UMPIRE decision is final and will over ride any decisions taken by any other umpires. ON-FIELD umpires can seek the assistance of RICKY PONTING even if he is not on the field. This rule is to be made, so that every team should understand the importance of the FOURTH UMPIRE.

(2) While AUSTRALIAN TEAM is bowling, If the ball flies anywhere close to the AUSTRALIAN FIELDER(WITHIN 5 meter distance), the batsman is to be considered OUT irrelevant of whether the catch was taken cleanly or grassed. Any decision for further clarification should be sleeked from the FOURTH UMPIRE. This is made to ensure that the cricket is played with SPORTIVE SPIRIT by all the teams.

(3) While BATTING, AUSTRALIAN players will wait for the ON-FIELD UMPIRE decisions only (even if the catch goes to the FIFTH SLIP as the ball might not have touched the bat). Each AUSTRALIAN batsman has to be out FOUR TIMES (minimum) before he can return to the pavilion. In case of THE CRICKETER WITH INTEGRITY, this can be higher.

(4) UMPIRES should consider a huge bonus if an AUSTRALIAN player scores a century. Any wrong decisions can be ignored as they will be paid huge bonus and will receive the backing of the AUSTRALIAN team and board.

(5) All AUSTRALIAN players are eligible to keep commenting about all players on the field and the OPPONENT TEAM should never comment as they will be spoiling the spirit of the AUSTRALIAN team. Any comments made in any other language are to be considered as RACIALISM only.

(6) MATCH REFEREE decisions will be taken purely on the AUSTRALIAN TEAM advices only. Player views from the other teams decisions will not be considered for hearing. MATCH REFEREES are to be given huge bonus if this rule is implemented.

(7) NO VISITING TEAM should plan to win in AUSTRALIA. This is to ensure that the sportive spirit of CRICKET is maintained.

(8) THE MOST IMPORTANT RULE: If any bowler gets RICKY PONTING - "THE UNDISPUTED CRICKETER WITH INTEGTIRY IN THE GAME OF CRICKET" more than twice in a series, he will be banned for the REST OF THE SERIES. This is to ensure that the best batsman/Captain will be played to break records and create history in the game of CRICKET.

These rules will clarify better to the all the teams VISITING AUSTRALIA.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Staying away from buying or driving Nissan vehicles

Today received a call from the Nissan Consumer Affairs stating I won’t be eligible for the reimbursement of the “Fuel Sending Unit” that was replaced on 03/03/2006(The total numbers of Xterra's effected by this recall are 586196) and this part failed again(it previously failed on 07/302/007) on 01/04/2008.

My car had stalled on 07/30/2007 while I was driving on I-695 Baltimore beltway in the evening rush hours and those who are familiar with this road would know how horrible the traffic is and what can happen if the car is stalled in the mid lane. It did scare the living day light of me. Lucky we all are alive and I can still rant about the carp deal I got from Nissan.

I spend $97.67 for repairing the car + $50 for towing the car to the nearest garage. I was provided a receipt that stated that this WILL happen again and I should talk to Nissan as there was a recall on this unit. I called Nissan and I was given a File no 5802XXX with a promise somebody will call me, which never happened.

As my luck was good on 01/04/2008 the car stopped working at home itself and not on road. I had it towed to the nearest Nissan dealer who charged me $275.03 to fix the fuel sending unit. I again called Nissan consumer service (18006477261) and was given a file number 5991XXX (email me if you need the whole number) and was promised somebody will get in touch with me,this time the CSR (Customer Service Representative) asked me what i wanted Nissan to do. I wish I could have told them to manufacture more reliable parts, but I was too money minded and I asked for the reimbursement.

On 01/14/2008 a service manager(1866.XXX.XXXX ext:1XXX) called and told that Nissan is not liable to reimburse me the payment (I didn’t even ask for the towing charges) as the recall was done 12 months prior to the breakdown and Nissan doesn’t keep a track of its drivers driving style. What a carp way of dealing with a customer, my question was does Nissan have a way of knowing if the recalled unit was really changed in my car or the dealer just billed Nissan and said it was done? Has Nissan’s manufacturing so much distorted that it’s crucial part fails before even 12000 miles are recorded on the vehicle? What happened to the Total Quality Management (TQM)”? I guess Nissan is no stranger to tomiryokuteki hinshitsu (魅力的品質)- The idea that things should have an aesthetic quality (e.g. a pen will write in a way that is pleasing to the writer, and leave behind ink that is pleasing to the reader).

Should I be again expecting the unit to fail again in mid of 2008? Why cannot Nissan reimburse me the amount as the part they manufactured was recalled and still they didn’t get it to its high caliber and quality standard the second time also? I will try and stay away from buying any more Nissan after getting such a lousy customer service and spending so much money on the car to fix the same recurring problem.

Who can hear my anguish to fix my car without me having to own an oil well; as the vehicle itself is a big gas guzzler. I guess Nissan needs to learn more about Kaizen and customer relation management. May be next time I will go Toyota or Volkswagen but will never even bother to look at Nissan.

I hope the top management can improve the company’s quality control and standards by manufacturing better parts and make all the employees go through mandatory customer relation management course work.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Where will you stop in order to WIN!!!

First thing first kaizen in Japanese means continuous improvement... Well what a nice little word to emphasis a big commitment on our part.

I had been watching and following the 2nd cricket test match between Australia and India been played in Sydney Cricket ground(SCG) and was watching with awe the different mental approach both teams had, one was subtle and other aggressive (no doubt they where playing to win at all cost to match the record of straight 16 win). Accordingly to me there is nothing wrong in playing to win, but to cheat in order to win is BIG no no. How far will you go to WIN something to add a aureole?

I thought for a moment i was watch poker been played with players intimidating the umpires and the poor umpires where so awe struck with the big name out in the field that their reflex's where not under there control and like a zombie where raising finger to pass a verdict. All the three including the third umpire made mistake, its so easy to say "to err is human", but why do we have his elite panel umpires making such gross mistakes? The umpiring was so sub standard like it was some street cricket game with novice umpires under flood lights. Umpiring was at its lowest ebb and i think the bad umpiring played a big role in one team winning the game , i think in future the umpiring debacle will be measure in term of "How bad was this as compared to the SCG umpiring?"

The third disturbing thing that was brought to light was name calling and thats a big NO NO in a game, trading insults to get under the skin of the other player is a part of the game for few players and they tend to get away with it, but if this is not controlled are we going to have microphones on each and every player to monitor their speech?

I was hoping the team that was made to lose the game by cheating would have packed its bags and left and said to NO to this type of humiliation. Again dollar won over the ethics and the game continues and life goes on.

Lets hope the lessons are learnt and there will be improvment in the 3rd cricket test match to be played at Perth.

I would like to invite you reader to share your views do drop me a line.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Save more money (smm)

The general rule of thumb that I have started using is budget the saving approach, use the e-billpays to pay the bills, use Google apps to document expenses, yodlee the credit card accounts, so all the transactions snap shot is right in front of my eyes and I don’t have to hop from among various different credit cards sites to check my balances.

Budget the saving: I started making budgets to save money (at least 25%) from my paycheck and then paid myself to take care of the bills. I would normally budget my expenses prior to the saving and to my horror I use to rarely save a dime, as I would be paying myself more to indulge in all the lavishes, buy new gadgets add would celebrate with friends often even on wining in racquetball tournament.

I opened different funds in different banks earning higher yields (Flagstar) stay away from CITI (I wasted days trying to get my account activated), always have an account with credit union. I have a credit union account and I’m happy with the service they have provided me, not so much with the yield that my money earns. Hence, I maintain the bare minimum balances that I would require on monthly basis and transfer rest to the higher yielding accounts.

e-BillPay: I use the bill pay options to pay the bills and this way save few quarters every month in postage. Moreover bill-pay provides me the facility to pay the bill on time and never get in the bad books for missing deadlines and take a credit hit.

Google Apps: Normally as soon as I get a bill I will open it to see the due date and balance amount and write it on the top of the envelope and collect the bills from Monday till Saturday. Every Saturday I'll schedule the payments using e-billpay facility provided by my bank. Then I update the spreadsheet in Google documents where i enter the balances to update my Net Worth and Expenses. I use to manage my finances using Quicken (> 2 years) then moved to Microsoft Money(2 yrs), but then after 2 years the Microsoft Money asked me to pay for an upgrade in order to receive electronic updates of my credit card transaction and recently few credit card providers have made it even hard to download the transactions namely(Discover), so I decided that I will not allow myself to be held at petty ransom or at the mercy of the software companies and pay them my hard earned greens just to download my other expenses (That’s double whammy). Here in enters Google with its online suite of apps, where by I can access my expense log anywhere I can get connection to internet. So once a week I update my spreadsheet of expenses and maintain a local copy in my pc just in case if the Google server or the internet connection is lost. I will say that keeping a track on my expenses has helped me to reduce my debt and expenses and be more careful with my green backs.

Yodlee: It’s FREE software that keeps track of the transactions of the accounts you specify. It provides a snapshot of the accounts balances and there by saves time as I don’t have to hop from one account to another. I tired mint and wasabe, mint uses yodlee as its back end aggregator so i stayed with yodlee rather then moving to mint. wasabe shows too much details on every transaction, put my two cents in it why should i care who paid for the same item in new york or california.

People tend to save money and think about ways to save the money, but seriously how many of us have thought to ways to increase the income and the mantra to be "spend less then you earn" ?

I would like to hear your comments and view and any new ideas you readers would have.