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Gmail and Google+ Now on Dumb Phones

Gmail and Google+ Now on Dumb Phones

Not having access to a computer or a smartphones should not be an impediment to people who want to take advantage of Google’s growing suite of Internet services. In an announcement written by engineer Mohamed Fouad on Google+, users are encouraged to take advantage of Google’s low barrier to entry by signing up for Gmail from any Tier 2 or Tier 3 cell phones; the kind of handheld communication devices colloquially known as “dumb phones.”

Gmail and other Google cloud-based services were once upon a time only available to desktop and notebook computer users. When smartphones and tablet computers became popular, Google developed the requisite Gmail mobile apps for popular platforms such as Android, BlackBerry and iOS. In the process, Google forgot about hundreds of millions of users in developing nations and emerging economies who don’t have regular access to computers or smartphones.

In many regions of the world, particularly in many African, Asian and Latin American nations, smartphones aren’t as commonly used as they are in Europe and North America. Most feature phones these days, however, include wireless Internet connectivity and basic mobile browsers. Google realizes the importance of trying to reach every customer across the world, and to that extent they have redesigned their Gmail and Google+ signup process. Accessing plus.google.com from just about any mobile phone will allow users to obtain a Gmail account and Google+ profile in just a couple of minutes.

The entire signup process takes just 5 steps to complete, and it includes verification of identity via SMS. Google expects its number of users to swell in the future thanks to this retrograde.

Posted in Featured Articles, Gadgets, Life, Random Stuff, Technology

Facebook: We’re Not Giving Out Your Number

Facebook: We’re Not Giving Out Your Number

Whenever Facebook changes a feature or adds something new, people get up in arms about privacy issues and how the company is stealing information and sharing it with all of the wrong people. The initial reports were that Facebook was giving out people’s phone numbers. A flurry of blog posts and Facebook wall posts erupted over this. That is certainly not the case and the recent change to the contact information in Facebook.

Every person who has a Facebook account has the ability to limit the amount of information that is shared. This can be very basic information or can include an address, phone number and more. There are account settings where a user sets who sees this private information. This is not decided by Facebook. If a user lists his cell phone, and has privacy setting where anyone can see all of his information, then anybody can see it. If you are concerned with this information sharing, take a look at the Privacy Settings of the account. It can easily be restricted to only those people who are on your friend list.

Facebook is a social media tool and the goal is to share with other people. People are on the site and have accounts because that is what they want to do. It is a wonder why people get bent out of shape over something they are electing to do. The bottom line is that if you do not want to share, do no have a Facebook account. Problem solved.

Posted in Featured Articles, Random Stuff, Technology

Social Security Really Is A Ponzi Scheme

Social Security Really Is A Ponzi Scheme

Rick Perry’s book “Fed Up!” says that Social Security is a Ponzi Scheme. Rick Perry reconfirmed his commitment to this belief on the September 7, 2011 debate on MSNBC. His opponents on stage mainly disagreed. Vice President Cheney disagreed. Karl Rove took issue with Rick Perry’s assessment – probably because of political motivations.

 

What is a Ponzi Scheme?

Wikipedia cites a Ponzi Scheme as:

Ponzi scheme is a fraudulent investment operation that pays returns to separate investors, not from any actual profit earned by the organization, but from their own money or money paid by subsequent investors. 

It goes on to cite a quote from Michael Tanner:

…the vast majority of the money you pay in Social Security taxes is not invested in anything. Instead, the money you pay into the system is used to pay benefits to those “early investors” who are retired today. When you retire, you will have to rely on the next generation of workers behind youto pay the taxes that will finance your benefits.As with Ponzi’s scheme, this turns out to be a very good deal for those who got in early. The very first Social Security recipient, Ida Mae Fuller of Vermont, paid just $44 in Social Security taxes, but the long-lived Mrs. Fuller collected $20,993 in benefits. Such high returns were possible because there were many workers paying into the system and only a few retirees taking benefits out of it. In 1950, for instance, there were 16 workers supporting every retiree. Today, there are just over three. By around 2030, we will be down to just two. As with Ponzi’s scheme, when the number of new contributors dries up, it will become impossible to continue to pay the promised benefits. Those early windfall returns are long gone. When today’s young workers retire, they will receive returns far below what private investments could provide.
—Michael Tanner

CBO: Life Expectancy of 65-Year-Olds

There are only a few instances where the funds could never run out and the pyramid collpase on itself:

  1. Taxes increase forever. The only problem is that the government cannot increase taxes beyond 100% of income and 100% of assets.
  2. Populations increase forever. The only problem is that the US have an average birthrate of 2.1 children per couple, which is barely sustainable for more than 2 generations for any culture. No culture has ever economically survived a birthrate of less than 2.1. The current SS tax rate is 15.3% (per SSA website). Assuming Social Security taxation remains  approximately 1/6th of our income…we would need 6 working adults for every 1 retired person on Social Security.
  3. People die younger. The only problem is that people are dying older. The other bigger problem is that 40% of all Americans will be over 65.
  4. If the account actually held investments which yielded a return greater than or equal to its expenses. The only problem is that the account has no cash to invest, just IOUs.

Congressional Budget Office Report: Population Age 65 or Older as a Percentage of the Population Ages 20 to 64

The pyramid must collapse based on simple economics.

 

 

Sources which Wikipedia cites as agreeing that Social Security is indeed a Ponzi Scheme:

  1. Daniel Indiviglio Perry Is Right: Social Security Is a Lot Like a Ponzi Scheme The Atlantic, August 15, 2011
  2. Laursen, E. (March 12, 2010). “Is Social Security Really a Ponzi Scheme”. “The Ponzi epithet for Social Security originated in a 1967 Newsweek column by Paul Samuelson: [...] A growing nation is the greatest Ponzi scheme ever contrived. And that is a fact, not a paradox
  3. “Social Security: The Enron That Politicians Have in the Closet”. Capitalism Magazine. 23 March 2002.
  4. “Yes, It Is a Ponzi Scheme”. National Review. 31 August 2011.

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The Best 10 New Words from the New Oxford Dictionary

The Best 10 New Words from the New Oxford Dictionary

The Oxford English Dictionary (OED) is considered by many to be the ultimate lexical resource for the English language. With about 600,000 words described over 22,000 pages, the OED is the authority for all vernacular matters. For the 2011 online edition of its dictionary, the Oxford University Press announced the inclusion of almost 2,000 new entries that clearly reflect our ongoing fascination with the global economic crisis, technology, social networking, and teen speak.

The ten best and most interesting neologisms in the new OED are:

Couch surfer: Formerly used to describe a trendy Generation X practice, couch surfing has become more common thanks to sluggish economic growth.

Dot-bomb: Somehow the current failures of dot-com enterprises aren’t as spectacular as they were in the late 1990s.

Ego-surfing: Searching your own name on Google used to be an ego booster for some people. The new ego-surfers boast their number of friends on Facebook and followers on Twitter.

Gremolata: You know that delicious condiment made of garlic, parsley, rosemary, sage, and lemon zest? Goes great with braised veal and risotto.

Heteronormative: Sometimes even old-fashioned social attitudes towards gender preference need new shiny terms.

LOL: According to the OED, it stood for “little old lady” back in the 1960s.

OMG: You know it had to make into the dictionary one day.

Rotoscope: This cool animation technique was patented back in the early 20th century, but it didn’t become well-known until Generation X icon Richard Linklater used it in his films.

Smack talk: No longer confined to AM talk radio and WrestleMania.

Tinfoil hat: Wearing one will not block the cringing effect left by the inclusion of certain words in the OED.

 

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Bill Gates is Spending $42 Million….On Toilets

Bill Gates is Spending $42 Million….On Toilets

When someone thinks of Bill Gates, the first thing that comes to mind is Microsoft. Now, toilets can be added to that list. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is investing $42 million in creating a new toilet. Before anyone jumps to conclusions, this is for a good cause.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation often focuses their efforts on improving the standard of living in the developing world. One of the problems in the developing world is that there is little infrastructure for plumbing. The result is widespread disease and death because waste is not properly disposed of across a developing nation. This leads to increased infant mortality rates and water pollution. Keep in mind, the developing world often accounts for 1 to 2.6 billion people, depending on a definition for developing nation. That means almost a quarter of the people in the world do not have access to any toilets whatsoever. Studies show that 1.8 million children die each year from a water-borne illness that is the result of polluted drinking water from public defecation. Bill Gates wants to alleviate this problem.

The $42 million investment is to entice research universities and inventors to create a clean, efficient, and cheap toilet for citizens in the developing world. That way, the people can afford such a device and use it in their daily lives. The hope is to decrease the numerous health problems that are associated with the lack of toilets or waste management systems in the developing world.

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McDonalds Fries or Whataburger Fries? The Faceoff

McDonalds Fries or Whataburger Fries? The Faceoff

We’ve all been there. It’s been a long night or a long morning after (or afternoon after, in most cases) and you don’t want something fancy to eat. You just want to keep your sunglasses on, throw a bill through a sliding window and get some fast food. If you’re looking for some slim fried potatoes, what’s the best choice to make here? Since Whataburger and McDonalds are the two places most like to be open at any time, we’re going to see how their fries stack up against one another.
First up, McDonalds. Right off the bat, you can tell these are the cheapest option. All the fries are shoved into either a little paper bag or a cheap carton. Some are soggy and wilted, others stand at attention, and yet others are brown and shriveled, like some sort of mutant raisin. You can taste the cheap grease on them right away. Yet for anyone who grew up on these fries (and if you’re American, chances are you did), they have a certain charm. They’re familiar, like fast food comfort food.
Whataburger fries are on the opposite spectrum. They are always straight and perfect, with the more expensive fries in a carton that can stand on it’s own. They taste more like classic potato chips, using old grease and more care in their making. They are much crispier, with a satisfying texture. This is the gourmet option. You may pay more, but you get your money’s worth.
So who wins? Whataburger definitely pulls ahead, with their commercial-worthy batch of fries every time. Sorry to all you with McDonalds nostalgia. Don’t worry, they’ll always be there for you. Just remember to get the ketchup.

Posted in Featured Articles, Random Stuff

Top 10 Creative QR Codes

Top 10 Creative QR Codes

For over 15 years, QR codes have been restricted to car manufacturing plants as a way to organize basic parts and materials. These dull early years has have come to an end though as more companies, bands, celebrities, authors, and more have discovered the power of the QR code. Here are 10 of the most creative uses for QR codes today.

1. Clothing
To put it simply, basic promotions on clothing is overdone. Why not put a small QR code on the clothing to spur on curiosity and initiate a conversation?

2. Business Cards
While not exactly a breathtaking use of the QR code, this is an inventive way to make a business card stand out.

3. Band Promotions
Handing out flyers will result in a lot of ripped up flyers on the ground. With a QR code, potential fans can access a free single or an entire album.

4. Storefronts
Having the word “SALE!” posted up just no longer cuts it. Customers can search through products and finally have a reason to come in because of a QR display.

5. Non-Profits
QR codes can be used for good also. Use them to link to helpful hotlines or donations pages.

6. Forget the Credit Cards
Retail ompanies have begun using QR codes as the method of purchase. Point, click, and walk out of the store without standing in line.

7. Reviews and Previews
Instantly find up-to-date reviews and previews before having to lug a product home only to find it is not up to par.

8. Directions
Lost? Click on these QR codes to have step by step directions to wherever you are going.

9. The Art Scene
Place one of these next to an art display and link to information about the piece and artist.

10. Underground Events
An event isn’t exactly underground with a billboard displaying the time and place. Instead shoot for the subtle invite of a QR code.

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Harvard Business Review’s Service Profit Chain

Harvard Business Review’s Service Profit Chain

At one time or another, most of us have stated in disgust that we’ll never buy another item from X store or Y company. Product quality may or may not be involved. More often than not, it is perceived lack of service or lack of caring on the part of the organization. Harvard business researchers put a label on that phenomenon in 1994. Businesses know it as the “service profit chain.”

The “chain” consists of nine components in seven positions, with the endpoint being that customer loyalty drives profitability and company growth. The researchers traced the endpoint of growth and profitability to the common denominator of internal quality. Internal quality focuses on employees and includes points such as hiring the “right” people for each job, training and development, empowering employees to truly serve customers, and recognition for a job well done. These and other points of internal quality serve to support and enhance employee motivation and therefore employee loyalty.

From the customer’s perspective, dealing with a company with loyal employees often translates to being able to speak to someone who is truly knowledgeable and can resolve the customer’s issue quickly and to the customer’s satisfaction. From the company’s perspective, employee loyalty means that it has lower turnover rates and far less need to focus on replacing employees or the loss of internal knowledge and experience lost when an employee leaves. The result for the organization is greater productivity, which in the chain model drives value. For the customer, value is the perception that the products or services gained from the organization are worth more than the price paid. Value drives customer satisfaction, which in turn creates customer loyalty.

The result for the organization is that it operates with loyal customers and loyal employees, reducing the need to replace either. The organization that cares about both its customers and employees is the one most likely to deliver value, and it also is the one least likely to disappear in tough economic times. It also is the one most focused on meeting customers’ needs, and ensuring that customers become and remain loyal to the organization’s goods or services.

Reference
Heskett, James L., Thomas O. Jones, Gary W. Loveman, W. Earl Sasser, Jr. and Leonard A. Schlesinger (2008, July-August). Putting the Service-Profit Chain to Work. Harvard Business Review. Retrieved July 4, 2011 from http://hbr.org/2008/07/putting-the-service-profit-chain-to-work/ar/1.

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