Saturday, December 30, 2006

AT&T gets Bell South, but we get Net Neutrality!

Yes, as predicted, after intense public pressure, AT&T executives agreed to adhere to Net Neutrality conditions in order to secure FCC approval for their merger with Bell South. It is a significant victory for us to protect network neutrality. It is now upto the new Congress to finish up the work of the FCC and make Net Neutrality permanent under the law.

If you haven't been following what's been happening on this front, take this opportunity to read what Tim Lu, Professor of Law - Columbia University has to say.

Or even easier, just watch this high-rated SaveTheInternet's video of YouTube.

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Thursday, December 21, 2006

McDowell says he won't vote on the AT&T-BellSouth deal

WSJ Premium Uncut

I remember posting about a year ago, about SBC's takeover of AT&T for close to $20 billion. If we then watched in wonder on how big the telecommunications industry is in the U.S (and around the world, of course), this is how big it can get. The new AT&T made a $86 billion (!!!) bid to buy BellSouth Corp. sometime back and was approved by the Justice Department without any conditions in Oct. 2006.

While we all know of the tremendously large potential cost savings that this merger could result in for these giants, we also must remember, as consumers, the reduction in price-based competition that seems obvious at this point.

However, the deal faces certain obstacles at this point, with telecommunications lawyer Robert McDowell said yesterday that he is not going to vote on the deal because of ethical concerns. The 5-member commission with 2 Democrats pusing for certain conditions and 2 remaining Republicans opposing them, was depending on McDowell's vote to decide.

Why this deal and McDowell's stance is interesting to me is, now the deal might not be allowed to happen under these conditions, but might require AT&T to abide Net-Neutrality conditions. This means that the firm must treat all Internet traffic equally, and is something that the Democrats are pusing for, and something that we've spoken frequently in this blog.
AT&T is working hard with the the FCC to get the deal approved and bring the merger review to a bipartisan completion as soon as possible.


Geek couple implant RFID chips into their bodies...

I was checking out a few cool RFID applications and came across this story, which is more than half a year old now, but thought it was cool enough to post today too ...

A tech-savy couple (in full justification to my Tag name for these kinda posts), Jennifer Tomblin, 23 from Vancouver and Amal Graafstra, 29 from Washington, have taken both love and RFId to the next level and embedded electronic RFID chips under their skin that allow them unrestricted access to each others' lives, including front doors, computers, cars etc. The system works like a key-card, a simple swipe of the wrist across an electronic sensor sees them in.

The chip is just 2x12 mm, embedded in a tiny glass tube and can be inserted via an injection needle. Once implanted, it is invisible. Amal has even posted a few videos of his implant experiment on his website. The tag costs only a few dollars and the sensor h/w is like around $30 they say, but the softwares for all these applications aren't out yet. Amal has been experimenting in this field and has thus coded it up himself. Interested RFID geeks must check out his book that he released recently, called RFID toys

But keep watching this space, I'll post any other haunting RFID applications that I come across...


Wednesday, December 20, 2006

The Thai debacle

WSJ Premium Uncut

For once, I read and talk about something about Thailand other than tasty Thai food (I love it!) . Thailand is desperately considering ways to prevent foreign fund flows into their bond market, as such funds could push the Thai baht higher against the US dollar and undermine Thai exporters. Here' what happened in short,

Monday: Finance Minister Pridiyathorn Devakula and central bank announced that foreign investors would be required to deposit 30% of the money they bring in to Thailand to buy stocks and bonds in a non-interest bearing account in the central bank.
==> bhat dropped 1.6% lower against the dollar, but this also led to a disaster in the Stock Exchange of Thailand where the index dived 15% in its biggest ever daily decline

Tuesday: Late night on Tuesday, after foreign investors fled the stock market due to what effectively amounted to tax on foreign equity investment, Mr. Devakula announced that investments destined for stock market would no longer be subject to this reserve requirement

Wednesday: Mr. Devakula tells central bank has to find a new way to stop speculative flows of money into the country's bond market after coming into the country through the stock market.

I'm just talking about this here to point out how difficult it is to control a country's fiscal and monetary policy. Well-thought on decisions may have to be reverted in just a single day, as in the case of Thailand. Thailand is still in a tough situation, still. This 30% exemption to stock market is going to create further loopholes and headaches, unless they fix things fast. Over time, foreign invesetors will start disguising debt and property-related investments as equity and FDI.


Saturday, December 16, 2006

Have you tried trading LEAPS?

Q: What are LEAPS?

A: Acronym for `Long-term Equity AnticiPation Securities`

LEAPS are long-term equity options that are traded on U.S Exchanges and OTC. Instead of expiring in the near term months as most equity options do, LEAPS expire in 2-5 years (mostly for larger firms and several stock indices) thus giving the buyer a longer time for his strategy to come to fruition. LEAPS are traded on many individual stocks listed on the NYSE, American Stock Exchange and NASDAQ.


Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Private Equity firms to acquire Sabre Holdings Corp.

Who: Private equity firms Texas Pacific and Sliver Lake

Whom: Sabre Holdings Corp - a travel booking service

Deal: $4.5 billion in cash, plus the assumption of $550 million in debt

Cause and Effect:
  • Sabre, with a market cap of $4 billion, is enticing
  • Travelocity, and Orbitz are starting to show healthy growth again, although airlines have been decreasing the amount of inventory available to online ticket agencies
  • Orbitz, is now owned by PE firm, Blackstone Group - so there's some traffic heading in this direction
  • The overall PE market has been growing tremendously with LBOs. Lesser and lesser firms want to be taken public too, given all the regulations they need to go through for SOX compliance. So, PE and LBOs seem to be the new hot market for raising capital!
  • It has been announced that the same managment will be currently retained


Mozilla releases Firefox 3.0 alpha

It seems like Mozilla Foundation has released its alpha version of Firefox 3.0 browser to developers already. 3.0 will be a major step in making web applications indistinguishable from those installed on the desktop, developers say.

The final product could be shipped by Fall 2007, only one year after the launch of Firefox 2.0 this year. Can Microsoft ever keep up with this pace, for its IE 8?


Top 10 technology disappointments of 2006

With 2006 nearing a close, all sorts of annual ratings and rankings are firing up.
Microsoft figures in 2 of the top 10 technology disappointments of the year 2006. However, it is Sony who is leading the list this year, with the Blu-Ray delays and PS3 launch allocation problems. Here is the complete list. You can check out TG Daily's complete review of these products and reasons for their failures. Keep in mind, these are editorial comments and rankings, nothing official yet.

#10 - Apple iPod (what? - in face of competition, iPod is in near danger of losing its sex appeal)
#9 - Microsoft IE 7 (just one of Microsoft's futile attempts to fend off Firefox 2.0)
#8 - HDTV (user confusion and lack of easily available information on the product)
#7 - Intel ViiV and AMD Live (not a big value add, and these are high-tech brands that don't normally succeed in the consumer electronics market)
#6 - 802.11n (standard not approved yet, interferes with 802.11b/g)
#5 - Microsoft Zune (We've discussed enough in this space to see why this is a complete tragedy)
#4 - Broadband Internet (stalling distribution and development of DSL and cable Internet)
#3 - DRM (Digital Rights Management - content protection and access restriction)
#2 - UMPC (Ultra-Mobile PC-failure of Origami)
#1 - Sony (Blu-Ray and PS3 mishaps)


Save the Internet conference in Memphis in January

If you haven't heard about Net Neutrality yet, you're in the dark. I urge you to read one of my earlier posts

On January 11 in Memphis, some of the more than a million bloggers, YouTubers, musicians, celebrities, politicians, activists and citizens who form the core of Coalition will come together on the eve of the National Conference for Media Reform in Memphis.

The Coalition has enabled more than a million Americans to speak out on the issue, moving Net Neutrality to the forefront of the debate over the future of the Internet.

Throughout the weekend, members will participate on panels and workshops on online organizing, blogger activism, Net Neutrality and the future of the Internet. This is a chance to meet face to face, strategize and build momentum for winning Net Neutrality as a new Congress returns to Washington. I think I'm going to be heading there in Jan. If you are interested,

Register Now for the National Conference for Media Reform.

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Darfur - deadly genocide....not many of us know about it...

Darfur, a historical region and former province in western Sudan, has been suffering from a deadly conflict for the past three years now.
  • At least 400,000 people have been killed
  • Over 2 million innocent civilians have been forced to flee their homes and now live in displaced-persons camps in Sudan or in refugee camps in neighboring Chad
  • More than 3.5 million men, women and children are completely reliant on international aid for survival
  • Not since the Rwandian genocide of 1994 has the world witnessed such a calculated campaign of displacement, starvation, rape and slaughter
  • Antonio Guterres, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees has described the situation in Sudan and Chad as "the largest and most complex humanitarian problem on the globe"

It's just terrible, right? A whole nation in such dire straits. For more background on why all this happening, visit the Save Darfur interest group's website. Interested folks can also help lobby Congress or sign a petition to President Bush, from the activists' website

This is a problem that future generations would read about in their history text books. It needs to be stopped. Every message counts. Before it is too late.....Save Darfur!


Sunday, December 03, 2006

Oh man's Vista's commercial!

Watch this new Microsoft Vista commercial (in stark contrast to my previous post)

My comments -

(1) Terrible marketing - who is going to pay attention to a commercial where you have to read rather than listen to someone talk?
(2) Nobody will believe in a better Windows with this commercial. Please don't put this on TV!
(3) Why should I trade up my XP for Vista based on this ad, and further fork up $150 for the same (not forgetting any additional hardware costs that I have to incur)
(4) Ok. one of their liners read - "Build valuable solutions that meet customer needs" or something like that. Apart from sounding exciting (:-)), this gives me the impression that I've been losing customers because of using current Microsoft solutions...crap...
(5) I didn't quite understand who the target market is for this ad - people on macs and linux, or, people who want to upgrade from XP, or people who want to buy new PCs?


And his name is... it.


Saturday, December 02, 2006

5 reasons to hate Windows Vista...

Obviosuly there are infinite more, but these are key according to Robert Vamosi, CNET Reviews

(1) Your current hardware won't fully run on Vista
(2) Vista's Aero graphics eat laptop battery power
(3) The user account protection feature has already had plenty of negative press
(4) Missing drivers and incompatible applications (not surprising enough heh..?)
(5) Troubled sleep for the laptop (and the user, of course!)

Visit the ZDNet link above for more details on these bugs (or features?)
However, the most surprising part of the Vista release this year is that there were no big surprises, I must admit.


U.S Treasury yields reach lowest since January this week

Bloomberg Uncut

Treasuries rose for a second week, pushing yields to the lowest since January, as unexpected drops in manufacturing and consumer confidence fueled expectations the Federal Reserve will cut interest rates in the first quarter.

Yields on two-year notes fell 21 basis points this week to 4.52 percent. They touched 4.49 percent yesterday, the lowest since Jan. 31. The 2-year notes, more sensitive to the changed expectations of the Fed funds rate than the 10 years and above, yield 9 bp more than 10 year notes. And, the yield curve remains inverted since Nov.2


French Parliament goes all Linux

France's gendarmes and Ministry of Culture and Communication have done it, and now members of the country's parliament are about to switch to open source and dump Microsoft

Starting in June 2007, PCs in the French deputy offices will be deployed with Linux operating systems w/ productivity software, Firefox web browser and an open sourced email client (I don't know which one, my guess would be Mozilla Thunderbird). Well, I'm not a big fan of though, I'm very uncomfortable with their Excel equivalent (Excel, supposedly, is the only Microsoft product that I like somewhat, I'm forced to use certain others though :)). I hope they've revamped their spreadsheet and other products under the OpenOffice.

Nevertheless, this step is going to be a giant leap for Linux. It's better use of money on better products by all means. I'm waiting to see other countries' parliaments take this bold decision sometime soon too!

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