Freddie Mac on the offensive

So I'm watching some videos on CNN and what do I see? How about a nice marketing fluff piece by none other than our favorite mortgage sieve, Freddie Mac, FRE. Clearly all the hubbub surrounding these quasi governmental entities, Freddie and Fannie, FNM, going the way of the Dodo have prompted their officials to go on a marketing offensive. Seriously? What's wrong with these people?

For those who have been living under a rock these past few months, Freddie and Fannie are on the verge of collapse with a fully funded backstop ready to be dolled out by the taxpayer. With all this going on these guys figure a quick PR blitz is just what the doctor ordered. Good job, guys.


Another Virtual Market

Today, Google released details about their Android platform market. Following Apple into the new world of mobile application distribution, Google presents a familiar competitive offering. This is great news for the consumer who will now benefit from having two major technology providers providing markets for mobile applications. Competition is good for everyone. Their offerings will only evolve to provide all of us a better class of service.

I wrote about the merits of new markets a few weeks ago. We are truly living in a new age of quickly shifting technology. These new services mark the transition from ubiquitous wired computing to ubiquitous wireless computing.


More NYT Double Talk

Just over a month ago we find an editorial in the good 'ole Grey Lady about T. Boone Pickens and his impressive plan to save this country from itself by augmenting our national power consumption by producing somewhere on the order of 20% of our electricity needs via renewable wind. Today's NYT brings us an article entitled "Wind Energy Bumps Into Power Grid’s Limits." It has always amazed me how the NYT is singularly capable of playing both ends against the middle on any given subject. The electrical grid issue was mentioned in the previous editorial. Certainly the issue of power transmission deserves more attention.

I ask in what fashion should this issue be addressed? If you are a long time reader of our nations paper of record, you'll know that they are no fan of oil, drilling, refining, coal or anything else the world currently uses to turn on the lights. Then how is it that this national deficit is tied into the new talk of the town, renewable wind energy? The fact of the matter is that our transmission grid needs to be updated regardless of where or how we make it. Electricity is electricity. As the article astutely notes, "The difficulty is most acute for long-distance transmission, but shows up at times even over distances of a few hundred miles."

If we were to build generation facilities using any of the available, proposed or yet to be discovered methods we would still need to create a better power transmission infrastructure. As Mr. Wald points out: "Builders are also contemplating immense solar-power stations in the nation’s deserts that would pose the same transmission problems." Why not an article on power transmission? Why tie the transmission deficit into wind? I appreciate the effort to focus attention on this issue. It just rubs me the wrong way as to how their headline writers go about doing it.

Regarding the power transmission he-said-she-said, I personally think it is the duty of the federal government to regulate and mandate solutions to this problem. Akin to the mandated roll-out of the national interstate highway transportation network in the 1950's on national security grounds. In my humble opinion, this issue is at least on equal footing meriting "national security" status. When making a decision on where to live in the country, I would hate to have to add to the long list of factors whether or not I live in a location that has adequate power availability.


New Markets

If innovation is the lifeblood of capitalism, then new markets are the pools that innovators wish to swim in. Today, the business world is aflutter with news out of Apple and Amazon regarding, what else, their relatively new devices. News those already plugged in have known for some time now.

The Wall Street Journal ran an article profiling Apple's new market: App Store. For those not in the know, imagine the App Store as the iTunes of software applications. Where iTunes was the location where you bought music for your iPod, App Store (which also happens to operate through iTunes and on the devices themselves) is the location where you buy software applications for the iPhone and iTouch.

Since the first release of the iPhone and its close cousin, the iTouch, I have been telling anyone that would listen that the iPhone is not a cell phone that plays music. Rather the iPhone is a computer that also makes phone calls. Once you come around to this point of view you really see the potential of the device as a whole new computing platform. Which brings us back to the App Store.

All new platforms create vibrant, profitable markets - if they are successful. According to the numbers detailed in the WSJ article Apple is making somewhere on the order of one million dollars per day. That figure is just their take: 30% of App Store sales. The remainder is apportioned to the application developer. This new market, which did not exist before the release of the new iPhone 3G on July 11, 2008 has delivered a new avenue of earnings potential for thousands of independent software vendors around the globe.

This symbiotic relationship between Apple and its developers, although not a perfect marriage, is good enough to attract new developers in droves which, in turn, makes the iPhone platform more appealing to new customers. This then translates to a larger market for Apple's higher margin offerings: The Mac (both desktop and laptop). All this exemplifies the vaunted Halo Effect.

Also today, Citibank released an analyst research report which talks up Amazon's own consumer device, the Kindle (most of this data comes right from Amazons most recent quarterly report). This device has been likened to the iPod of books. And quite frankly, it is. The Kindle allows you to download books and other reading material as easily as you can music via iTunes. I expect great things from Kindle. Just as the original iPod, released in 2001 was not universally adored and even ridiculed by some, the Kindle will undergo many revisions over the years to come making the device as user friendly and ubiquitous as the iPod is today.

The ease of use and space saving nature of electronic media distribution is very compeling to those that either do not currently participate in the print based market place or limit their exposure for any number of reasons. I firmly believe that instead of cannibalizing the established print market, Kindle, and other devices that will no doubt follow, will only act to grow the pie.

Just as Google validated the nacent online advertising market pioneered by their pregenetors creating a well established, thriving, marketplace so too will Apple's App Store and Amazons Kindle do the same in their respective areas. Content creators would do well to recognize these early forays into a new market and take advantage of them lest they be left behind with the likes of the RIAA and MPAA.


The #hashtag

Hashtags originated as a method for grouping tweets when tweeting via twitter. As I understand it, a hashtag may be defined as :

a hashtag is a contraction of a hash symbol (#) and a tag that is a method for identifying a post as a member of a group or topic area. A hashtag is generally located at the end of a message.

Labels, tags and hashtags all serve the same function of grouping posts for searchability. When blogging from blogger you are able to "label" your post through a separate structured data element allowing your posts to be filtered by that label. When using micro-blogging services popularized by twitter there is no similarly structured method available.

For example, the 2008 Olympics have just begun and I find myself tweeting about it. My first move was to google what if any hashtag was being used by tweeters. Of course there is! Turns out some twitter users in China created a blog and started using #080808 (08 AUG 2008) as the specific hashtag for the 2008 Beijing Olympics. One of my tweets reads:

"opening ceremonies were AMAZING!!! #080808 "

Using the #080808 hashtag allows my tweet to be searchable by twitter search sites like twitters very own search.twitter.com.


Beijing 2008 Olympic Opening Ceremonies

NBC's airing of The 2008 Beijing Olympic Opening Ceremony just concluded and all I can say is - WOW! Of all the opening ceremonies I have ever seen (not that I have seen many) this one has absolutely surpassed all others. What struck me was the scale and precision of the artistic portion which just screamed "China." All in all it was a marvelous performance and a real coming out party for China on the world stage.

What can you say about the opening ceremony other than it was absolutely fantastic. The artistry, the culture, the synchronization, the tai chi. It will certainly rank as one of the most impressive olympic performances and as such, one of the most impressive global performances of all time.

As for the message of the event, harmony, it is all well and good but should be taken hand in hand with China's political record on humanitarian issues. Recently, members of Team Darfur have been denied visas by China for their affiliation with the humanitarian group. I am of the opinion that however you feel about China's humanitarian position (or lack thereof) it is in poor form for China to single out and impose these punitive measures on certain individuals. Tactically, all it does is call attention to their cause and garner the worlds sympothy for their plight.

Antiquity recalls an Olympics truce which all participants abided by. If in the spirit of this common understanding the Americans, Syrians, Iranians, Iraqis, Israelis, Palestinians, Pakistanians, Indians, North Koreans and South Koreans can compete, surely a few members of a peaceful humanitarian group can attend the festivities.


Remember to backup your data

I was pressed into service recently to try and retrieve data off my sisters dead Apple powerbook g4. For those who don't know, there are two ways to get data off a hard drive, the first being the easy way. The "way of the easy" may only be employed when your hard drive spins up properly. Then you may use all sorts of software to try and extract data from the disk. The hard way is employed when your hard drive has suffered a mechanical failure and you need to send it to an expert who has a clean room and special machinery.

The hard way is expensive and time consuming. But whats worse is that it may not even work. Unfortunately for my dear sister, her hard drive has fallen on hard times and is not coming back from the brink anytime soon. I was able to dig up this post from an expert who would know better than I that her particular drive, the Seagate ST9100823A, is more than likely beyond repair.

Of course, this means that the data is most likely lost. It amazes me how often people fall into this trap. Hard drives have come a long way since their introduction in 1956 yet they remain mechanical devices with moving parts. Anything that is mechanical and has moving parts will fail - it's a fact. Accept it and account for it. Mitigate your exposure with frequent backups to other storage media like the ubiquitous flash drive for documents and an external hard drive for large data items like images, music and video.

Don't let this happen to you!

Gutted PowerMac G4

The broken harddrive