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Why New York City rents are sky-high

2010 August 7
by stefann

The concentration of “high-net-worth” individuals in 2009 is as follows:

  1. New York City: 667,200 (persons)
  2. Los Angeles: 235,800
  3. Chicago: 198,100
  4. Washington, DC: 152,400
  5. San Francisco: 138,300

A “high-net-worth” dude or dudette is one with $1 million or more in investment assets (i.e. money other than primary residence, collectibles, or durable goods like cars, appliances, electronics, etc.).   The data is from a research report by Capgemini that made its way in the NY Times.

Now, Manhattan has an official Census population of ~1,6 million people.  Granted, not all the millionaires live on the island, but most do, so approximately speaking, 40% of inhabitants have lots and lots of disposable cash.  No wonder my lame landlord charges me $2500/mo for a “large” studio with shitty 1970s windows that I’ve only seen in the Communist era in Eastern Europe.  Hey, PanAm! (my lame landlord)  Romanian peasants in the poor country-side now have double-glazed windows!  Be enlightened for once in your life!

Another interesting thought: no matter how enchanted we are with high-tech, the world is still ruled by old money.


Should I patch or should I jailbreak?

2010 August 4

The iPhone is great product, but the dependency on the AT&T network and the lame restrictions both companies put in place make it a-less-than-ideal experience.  My biggest complaint is the inability to use a local SIM card when I travel to Europe for business.

It’s ironic that after so much effort to digitally sign firmware updates, one can jailbreak iOS 4.0.1 by exploiting a security vulnerability.  The vulnerability is so dangerous though that it’s hard to argue against patching when the fix is eventually released.

I’m so torn… should I patch or should I jailbreak?

Thanks Lenovo for updating drivers to Win7 for older hardware

2010 January 30
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by stefann

Recently I upgraded my 3.5yr old Thinkpad to Windows 7 and the experience couldn’t have been smoother (and faster).  I’m glad that finally Microsoft and the OEMs figured out the “driver supply chain”.  Windows 7 setup + post-setup Windows Update does a great job of identifying and retrieving the proper drivers.

The big kudos here goes to Lenovo however.  My Thinkpad has an embedded EV-DO modem that connects to Verizon and on which I depend heavily for work while on the road.  It’s made by Sierra Wireless and it’s among the first models that OEMs started embedding in their laptops.  I was concerned I wouldn’t find a driver for it, but Lenovo published an update not just to the driver, but also to their connection manager app so the broadband experience is even better than XP or Vista.

This is more than I can say for HP which on multiple occasions did not publish updated drivers for hardware I own when a new OS was released (the Laserjet 3055 All-in-one comes to mind which hasn’t had drivers for Vista let alone Win 7).   Bad, bad, HP!

Thanks Lenovo!

Warren Buffett promoting business like Richard Branson?

2009 December 30
by stefann

I was flipping through the Dec 14, 2009 issue of Newsweek and on the inside cover there’s a spread advertisement for GEICO.  What’s different about this one is that the text refers poignantly to the greatness of Warren Buffet:

What the Gecko lacks in stature he certainly makes up for in ability. In fact, under the ownership of Warren Buffet’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc., he’s helped GEICO rise to become the nation’s third-largest car insurance company. […]

Has the Gecko really been Buffet all along? :-)  Also, The GEICO logo now features in small-type: “a subsidiary of Berkshire Hathaway Inc.”

The whole thing caught my eye since I’m reading at present Buffet: The Making of An American Capitalist which goes into detail about the GEICO investment in the late 70s.  The 2009 recession has definitely positioned Warren Buffet as an investment genius even more so than before.  The fact that GEICO uses his persona image to promote itself and associate with those values is similar to how Branson uses his feats and persona perception to aid the promotion of his Virgin businesses.

Foodie birthday dinner

2009 December 17
tags: ,
by stefann

In between exams and end of year business chores Felicia was such a darling and cooked a beautiful birthday dinner and invited four of her girlfriends over. What more can I ask for than tasty dinner and five gorgeous women =)

She cooked roasted pears with Gorgonzola, roast duck breast w/ pomegranate seeds & arugula

…butternut squash                                                        …and bowtie pasta with vodka emulsion.

Lots of red wine and chocolate Maracaibo mousse cake from Citarella.

Yum, yum! Thank you sweetie! Muah!

When in trouble save your ass first and don't try to be a hero

2009 December 9
by stefann

Apparently that’s the lesson to be learned from the recent verdict in the RIAA vs. Joel Tanenbaum lawsuit.  Sad, but true.

As reported by ComputerWorld in Judge affirms $675k verdict in RIAA music piracy case:

[U.S. District Court Judge] Gertner said the court would have been willing to consider Tenenbaum’s fair use defense in the case but concluded that the manner in which the arguments were presented by the defense counsel made it all but impossible for her to do so.

“Rather than tailoring his fair use defense to suggest a modest exception to copyright protections, Tenenbaum’s defense mounted a broadside attack that would excuse all file sharing for private enjoyment,” the judge wrote in a 38-page decision. Such a broad definition of fair use would “swallow” all copyright protections, Gertner said.

So, had Tenenbaum’s defense team narrowed its fair use argument to Tenenbaum’s own activity rather than “mount[ing] a broadside attack that would excuse all file sharing for private enjoyment,” she would have been willing to consider the argument.  Seems to me that Harvard Law School professor Charles Nesson was defending Tanenbaum more on ideological grounds than trying to save his student ass.  A very Hardvard-esque thing to do perhaps, but a tough lesson to learn.

Google advertising is like Microsoft pre-Windows 7

2009 December 3

Recently I’ve been bombarded (while watching The Daily Show) with advertising for phones running Google’s Android OS.  These phone were on my short list but the advertising turned me off.

I don’t know if Motorola or Google is responsible for the Droid super-geeky branding, but they don’t seem to have learned much from Microsoft’s lame advertising in the past years.  Customers are not machines!  They are people!  You’re effectively telling me these phones are for geeks and robots.  And the best feature you have is turn-by-turn directions?   Seriously?!  My geeky crappily-designed Windows Mobile phone was giving me turn-by-turn directions three years ago. Let’s see what avenues the competitors are exploring…

See?  Cool inspiring music!  Connecting with people and audience!  (plus you too know just as much about your customers :) )

The other ads in this campaign are just as cold and geeky, effectively portraying the phone as an alien device (see them in the Verizon Wireless channel).  In a recent interview on Fox News, Eric Schmidt, Google CEO says they’ll try not to make the same mistakes Microsoft made but in fact they are making the same mistakes around bullying other businesses and lame geeky commercials.

Update 1: my suspicions were confirmed by this analysis: Why are So Many Android Owners Male? (post-campaign 73% of Droid users are male compared to 54% for other brands of smartphones)

Update 2: Google is really making the same mistakes as Microsoft by forcing OEMs into buying their products as a bundle: Google Is Now Officially Evil

And yes, I do believe the Windows 7 advertising campaign is a successful one.  Leading with the customers and leaving your ego behind is always a good thing.

Calling Romania? Use Alonia, not Skype!

2009 August 28
by stefann

I recently became acquianted with Alonia (, an IM client and VoIP softphone.  On the IM side it can interoperate with the MSN and Yahoo networks.  The part the impressed me however is the VoIP softphone (calling phones).  It’s unimaginably cheaper than Skype.  Calling mobile phone numbers costs €0.06/min or about $0.09/min instead of $0.29/min which Skype charges (among others because it’s written by a Romanian VoIP provider which has great interop deals with the local mobile operators).

One feature Alonia has which I have yet to see in other softphones is, it recognizes when the caller’s mobile phone is switched off or unreachable and it pops up a message box telling you it can’t reach the caller rather that charging you for a full minute just to find out this info.  Skype is very dissapointing in this regard. Not only do they not have the feature, but they charge you more than a full minute when you get someone’s voicemail for instance ($0.06 instead of the regular $0.02 for US phone numbers for instance).

Use Alonia!

Windows Update just cost me $10 over coffee

2009 April 28
by stefann

So I’m having a great and productive time working on my laptop from a coffee shop and enjoying the beautiful Spring weather when I notice and Windows Update icon in my system tray telling me it’s downloading updates.  Crap!

Why?  Because I’m on a modest broadband connection over GSM (or CDMA doesn’t really matter) and I don’t have an unlimited plan.  Do you know there’s no way to stop WU from downloading updates once it starts?  Crap!  I have no idea how big these updates are so I wonder how much is this “initiative” to keep me secure is going to cost me. 

In an attempt to keep (l)users secure the WU service starts itself if you kill the process from Task Manager.  So really the only way to do something about this is to stop (actually disable) the service from the MMC Computer Management snap-in.  I didn’t know that at the moment plus I was in the middle of writing some beautiful code and haven’t really noticed until a significant chunk of the updates (about 20 MB in total) had already downloaded.

Lesson to be learned: WU team, please detect the connection speed and DON’T download updates over a limited/paid-per-KB broadband connection.  You cost me real money!

New York to Bucharest direct Delta flight

2009 April 26
by stefann

The beloved direct flight from New York (JFK) to Bucharest (OTP) is back! 

The flight was in service for about a year and a half starting with 2007 and ending in October 2008.  Rumors have it that Delta stopped flying the direct route because the merger with Northwest put it in conflict with whatever dealings Northwest had with Air France-KLM about not taking away any of the European business.  Which is too bad because after flying Air France on two roundtrips JFK to OTP in the Fall of 2008 I concluded most everything about that airline (and CDG) sucks!  Good thing KLM can save the day in that company.  But I digress…

Starting with June 1st, 2009 there will be Delta flight #134 JFK to OTP departing at 5:00pm EST and arriving at 10:20am Bucharest time.  The return flight is #135 departing at 12:20pm Bucharest time and arriving at 4:05pm EST.

I’m not reporting this as any official news and I don’t know of any official annoucement.  I figured it out through my own ticket booking excercises :-)