Mar
19
2009
0

Freeview will not break your TV – Phew

12 Apostles In a rare moment, I happened to pick up the Herald Sun on the train on Monday. I noticed an article entitled “Clock ticks for plasmas, LCDs” stating that:

THAT expensive plasma or LCD will be obsolete from May 1 when Australia’s TV population – about 16.5 million of them – and its digital TV system, becomes officially outdated.

Basically the article says that the digital signal for HD channels will go from MPEG2 to MPEG4 on May 1. This is simply not correct.

Yes, Freeview branded products are hitting the shelves on May 1.

Yes, Freeview products must be capable of receiving MPEG4 to get brand approval.

But NO, TV stations are not switching to MPEG4. They might switch to MPEG-4 one day… but they are not now.

Don’t throw away your plasma TV for now!

When that day does come, fortunately I can just switch over the TV card in my Windows Vista Media Centre with an MPEG4 one and she’ll be right mate!

Thanks to Gizmodo for explaining this and putting our minds at ease.

Written by brettg in: TV | Tags: , ,
Mar
18
2009
0

The world economy is doomed… Buy a farm, get a shotgun

According to Marc Faber author of the Boom Doom and Gloom Report, the global economy fell of a cliff in September. To top that off governments are printing money to “ease the situation” and bailing out banks that made stupid choices. Marc Faber’s outlook on ABC’s Lateline Business last night was not very good.

Faber points out that government interference and bailouts only delay the coming economic doom wave, and whilst they hold it up, the wave is just getting bigger.

A TNT driver last week told me that business is scarily quiet. All casuals are gone, and drivers are being asked to do extra work to keep their jobs. When freight stops, it’s a sure sign that the economy is up a creek without a paddle.

Ultimately, the prospect of many large western governments going broke is very real and the economic situation that we are experiencing is unprecedented. Mark Faber

My advice to you is to go and buy a farm… and a shotgun, because things will get very bad in the world.

If governments fail or hyperinflation comes in to roost, civil unrest will surely follow (See Zimbabwe). It won’t matter how much money, gold or property you have then or how secure you feel now.

It’s hard to see a way out and I wonder what the heck are we going to do about this? The current economic system doesn’t work. I fell confident enough that we are all about to know this for sure. I think it’s time to look to an alternative source for guidance. See the bible at Jeremiah 10:23.

Written by brettg in: Economics |
Mar
18
2009
0

Best technical product video I’ve ever seen

It’s pretty hard to present a boring technical product like a pdf editor in an interesting way. Bluebeam software have managed to present their pdf editor in the coolest wrapper that I have ever seen!

This product is not aimed at consumers though, it is straight out B2B. There is a lesson here for B2B marketers. You can make your pr

If only motion computing would do a video like this for the their Tablet PCs… That would rock!

Mar
11
2009
0

Freeview Parody Video

I’ve spoken to a lot of people about the dodgy “anti-ad-skipping” Freeview brand lately.
 
Freeview is basically:
  1. A poor attempt at branding free to air TV
  2. An attempt to get manufacturers to make PVRs minus a button that skips forward 30 seconds (to skip ads)
  3. An estimation that the general public is stupid and that they don’t have smart friends!

Whilst Freeview is wrapped in a promise to supply more free to air channels, the unfortunate reality is that there is no new content. Channel 7 and Channel 9 have not taken up the new channels yet, and Ten has already been playing US sporting events on its OneHD for ages now.

I found this video on Smart House today…
 

LOL

Lesson: Don’t buy anything with Freeview written on it. Get a Windows Vista Media Center or a decent PVR instead.

Written by brettg in: TV |
Mar
07
2009
0

Don’t use Hotmail and Gmail addresses for web enquiries

IMG_1880 In one of our online businesses, we get far too many enquires every week to practically handle. Needless to say, we have to do some weeding. 

RANT Warning!

One of the easiest ways to weed is to look at enquiries that come from Gmail, Hotmail and Yahoo email addresses. If you’re not using a proper email address we might assume* one of three things:

  1. You are not professional enough to have a real email address
  2. You are not serious about buying
  3. You want to deal at arms length.

To us, buying a product is more than just a transaction, it’s an interaction. When you have more information requests than you can handle, you’re going to filter down to the requests that appear to be inclined to be interactive, rather than just transactional..

Having had the rant, I know that there are always plenty of things that we can do to make people feel more comfortable about using their real email addresses.

There are plenty of spammers around too, and not everyone has noble intentions for your email address. Aaagh!

*It’s not necessarily right of course, but everyone makes assumptions, at least subconsciously.

Written by brettg in: Web Marketing |
Mar
05
2009
0

The worlds favourite billionaire – Warren Buffet

IMG_1516 Warren Buffet’s letter to Berkshire Hathaway shareholders in 2008 is really interesting to read. I learnt an enormous amount about the Global Financial Crisis (GFC, not to be mistaken with KFC) by reading it.

What I found fascinating though was Mr Buffet’s ability to admit mistakes. Why is this so intriguing? Warren Buffet is famous for being a conservative, but consistently performing investor. I maybe out of my depth here, but I understand that his company Berkshire Hathaway is basically the benchmark for all investors and investments.

It seems that many of the high flyers in public companies seem to want to cook the books when they stuff up, as a way of saving face (see the note about Fannie May and Freddie Mac on page 16). Of course by doing that, they inevitably make the situation worse and it always ends badly. By contrast, Mr. Buffet is up front about his stuff ups. Even when they involve billions of dollars, and even when given a bit of time they might turn out ok. See a couple of examples from the letter:

I told you in an earlier part of this report that last year I made a major mistake of commission (and maybe more; this one sticks out). Without urging from Charlie or anyone else, I bought a large amount of ConocoPhillips stock when oil and gas prices were near their peak. I in no way anticipated the dramatic fall in energy prices that occurred in the last half of the year. I still believe the odds are good that oil sells far higher in
the future than the current $40-$50 price. But so far I have been dead wrong. Even if prices should rise, moreover, the terrible timing of my purchase has cost Berkshire several billion dollars.

I made some other already-recognizable errors as well. They were smaller, but unfortunately not that small. During 2008, I spent $244 million for shares of two Irish banks that appeared cheap to me. At yearend we
wrote these holdings down to market: $27 million, for an 89% loss. Since then, the two stocks have declined even further. The tennis crowd would call my mistakes “unforced errors.”

Nobody wants to lose, and you can see that Warren Buffet hates to make mistakes. Having made a mistake, he is open and up front about it.

What would I do if I lost several billion dollars?

One final word that stood out to me from the letter:

Approval, though, is not the goal of investing. In fact, approval is often counter-productive because it sedates the brain and makes it less receptive to new facts or a re-examination of conclusions formed earlier. Beware the investment activity that produces applause; the great moves are usually greeted by yawns.

This letter is a fascinating read, and quite funny too. If you are interested in what’s going on around it, I highly recommend that you read it. Warren Buffet is certainly my favourite billionaire.

Written by brettg in: Economics |
Mar
03
2009
0

What school could be for

Picture 042 So I had my rant about the current system of schooling in response to Seth Godin’s question, “What is school for?”

In review, it’s pretty negative. But, that is how I feel about the current system of schooling. I believe it could be so much better.

I do believe in the need for schools. However, the world has changed radically in 150 years, but schools have not. Whilst the school rhetoric changes and styles changes lightly each year, the basic assumptions and structures of school remain the same.

Schools run in the same basic format today as when they were formed (or forced on us) at the dawn of industrial age. Back then capitalism needed workers and managers for factories.

Whether you think the industrial age brought us progress or not, you need to acknowledge that it has passed for us. We are now firmly planted in the information age. But in order to be relevant to the information age, school as a concept must radically change.

Of course, there are still subjects that simply must be held to a practical tested standard. For example, you would never trust a surgeon unless he was qualified to a standard. You wouldn’t hire an engineer unless you were absolutely sure he could do the calculations. However, the path to achieve those competencies must be adapted.

When I think about the question, “What is school for?” I think about the:

  1. Foundations: What do people really need to know at a minimum?
  2. Delivery: How can we learn most effectively?
  3. Confirmation and Qualification: How can we determine how competent we are in order to cross over into real practice?

Allow me to explain these 3 thoughts…

Foundations:

As I see it, the basic foundations of education that people need include:

  1. Learning how to read, write and manipulate numbers
  2. Becoming confident to handle an unknown, unfamiliar situations by gathering information and making decisions
  3. Developing compassion and empathy for others

That’s not 12 or 16 years worth of learning. Those three aims can really be accomplished in just a few years. I believe that they are the entire basis of competence required for real learning.

You see, once you’ve learned to read, write and manipulate numbers you can learn anything that you truly desire to learn. Once you have confidence you are not afraid to learn. Once you learn compassion and empathy, you can work in a team and cooperate.

Having achieved the foundations, there is no need for a fixed curriculum. Instead, your personal curriculum would set by the topics of your interest. Your interests would naturally lead you to a career.

For example, if you were fascinated by animals – as many kids are – you might want to become a vet. Through the study of animals you would learn things like biology, chemistry, maths, finance, business, physiology, psychology and all sorts of other subjects as they relate to your field of study.

Studying a subject like chemistry in a context like this makes it far more interesting and meaningful. This in turn results in true retention, not just test regurgitation.

This kind of general education through interest would lead people directly to their logical place in the world. It would end the illogical situation that we have today where most kids simply have no idea what they want to do with their life by 15, 16, 17 and so often even 18 years old.

Such and education would allow students to master a far broader field of knowledge in their chosen area of study by the age of 25.

Delivery:

If you were asked to do something important that you didn’t know how to do, who would you turn to?

  1. A low paid teacher who has no experience in the real work, but has lots of theories to teach in a structured format
  2. Seek out someone who has hands on experience in the task, and who can communicate with proficiency about it.

Unfortunately, under the current system, we choose option (a). For example, your economics teacher at school is well versed in the theory of economics. However, you’d probably learn a lot more about the real situation of our economy from someone like Marc Faber.

So good schooling would be delivered in context within community by the community. It would require business, professional and community involvement.

In my ideal school, people with real experience would offer mentorship to the young, and this would start from a much younger age than it ever does today. In fact, in my ideal school kids from 10-14 should be involved in real, hands on and productive learning.

“School” would never be very far from real life at all. Actually, school as I see it cannot be separated from real life. Real life always presents a smorgasbord of opportunities to learn, and so would my school.

In order for this to work however, we would have to get rid of some terrible assumptions of the current system. Bogus assumptions such as:

  • Boys and girls, or for that matter anyone learns the same way and at the same pace
  • Competency in a topic should be reached by a certain age
  • Things worth learning can be broken into 45 minute segments and thrown randomly together for the purposes of scheduling
  • Mistakes are bad, only right answers matter
  • Learning must be guided by a teacher
  • Students can be led to understanding (not just answers) by pedagogy
  • Learning can take place inside shut inside a classroom
  • Anyone can learn effectively in a class of 20-30 students or more
  • Surveillance is required to keep students under control
  • Written testing can determine competency or mastery
  • A certain (high) percentage of students must be weeded out or failed.

So many of these assumptions set students up for failure. Even those who pass with flying colours are set up for long term failure because they are not equipped for the real world.

In building a school context without assumptions like those above, you would create an environment for students that would support true learning without fear.

Ultimately, students with confidence, context and freedom become self directed and self motivated. Answers that are sought out have so much more sticking power than those that are rammed down throats.

Students would be less likely to pursue a subject that they have no aptitude for, as hands on application would show them that they would not find fulfilment in it.

Qualification and Confirmation:

Who is in the best position to determine who is ready to practice in the real world?

Undoubtedly different professions require different standards for qualification. Becoming a house painter does not require the same level of scrutiny as a becoming bridge engineer. Surely though, a house painter would be best to determine who is a good house painter.

Under the current system of official testing there are incredible gaps. Many companies today decry the knowledge standard of university graduates. It seems that graduates often fail to retain important knowledge.

I can vouch for this. One graduate accou
ntant that I offered some work experience to had to keep a sticky note on his monitor explaining the difference between a debit and a credit. Another fresh accounting graduate that I recently spoke to did not understand what insolvency was.

I’ve heard so many more stories like this. It demonstrates to me that the current system of institutional testing is not adequate. These guys had both passed the tests, but they failed to retain some of the most basic and important accounting concepts.

So how do you know if someone is competent in a subject? Well, I believe that it can only be done by a person who is competent in that subject. Working closely with a student over time and under close supervision would clearly reveal the true extent of their competency.

Qualification in this way could not be achieved by a series of written exams or tests. The medical profession often adopts a practical method of mentorship and qualification like this one. It is time consuming, but then again, getting it right is so important.

The same could be applied to practically anything important. The level of risk would determine the intensiveness of the qualification period required.

So is a radical change like this ever going to happen?

Sadly, I think that the answer is no. The current system is far too entrenched. Parents lack a thorough understanding of the changes required, and instead demand more of the same from schools.

The teachers and politicians who run the system have a vested interest in maintaining the status quo. The only way to bring about radical change like this is to bring it about yourself for your own family.

Written by brettg in: Education |

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