Why DVDs Don’t Make Cents

Video rentals use to mean driving to the movie rental store, walk around the shelves and looking for the latest releases (hoping that all copies weren’t check out), driving the DVD back home, watching it, and then returning it (more often than not, paying a late fee). While not a new concept, various providers are marketing downloadable movies. Faster broadband connections means a movie can be downloaded in about 30 minutes, or less with a fast connection. I recently tried out two services: Apple iTunes movie rentals and Amazon.com unboxed on Tivo. The selection isn’t always complete but as the services mature, it appears that the latest hits are available.

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Taking a Methodological Approach to Solving Problems

There are two types of jobs: doer or reviewer. The doer creates widgets, manages programs, or provides services. The reviewer are consultants, auditors, and any external entity that reviews the doer’s product or service after the fact. Being a Gen-Y’er, my education consisted mostly of theory and thought. Very little was actually spent on planning and developing methodologies. In the real world, most of the resources are spent upfront on the planning stages of the project.

In consulting and auditing engagements, a large proportion of the resources are spent scoping and planning the project. It’s this upfront definition of what the project is going to entail and how the goals will be achieved that is vital to the success of the project. For each discipline of work, there is a standardized body of knowledge that governs how the work should be done:

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Online Personal Finances

Managing your personal finances used to mean that you downloaded MS Money or Quicken onto your PC/Mac and inputted your transactions manually. Then came auto download where the software accesses your financial institution and downloads the transactions.

Now, a number of online sites are doing the same for you. If you can get past the fact that your data is out of your hands — although storing personal finance data on a machine that can be unsecured is just as bad — and saved on a third party server, then Mint.com is for you. I’ve been using it for a few months now and having it automatically track my transactions. It flags certain criteria as they come up and can e-mail or send you an SMS warning you of low account balances, credit limits, etc.

The key feature that makes this a great product is that it is automatic. The hardest part is setting up the account and inputting in your username and password for each of your credit card, banks, and other accounts. After that, it’s automatic. You can run reports and trend your spending habits, even comparing it to other Mint.com users.

Going Green with CFL

spiral-bulb_2.jpg I just picked up a pack of Verilux compact fluorescent light (CFL) bulbs. The package claims 10,000 hours of “bright, white daylight.” It uses a sixth of the energy of a regular lightbulb. Additionally, it outputs a cool blue color that simulates natural daylight. In an effort to reduce my monthly energy bill, I’m doing my part to help the environment. To accomplish that, I also picked up a five pack of regular GE CFL bulbs to swap out around the house. It’s still taking me some time to get use to the spectrum of light. I’ll follow up in a week or so and report back on progress made.

Productivity 1.0

moleskin.jpgPerhaps the most advanced technology, or at least the one that works best for me, is simply good old fashion paper wrapped in leather: the Moleskine. Nothing works better than just having something around for jotting down ideas and putting together thought. I still read the Wall Street Journal, print edition, even though the online version will soon be free.

I’m not saying that I’m not overly obsessive with my Facebook page or my Google Calendar, but it’s something that doesn’t rely on an Internet connection, and won’t crash or go blue screen on me.

Google Notebook

Google is starting to really integrate its 10 million different products. Lately, I’ve been attracted to Google Notebook, which can quickly be used as a GTD tool. I’ve set up my “notebooks” as:

  • inbox (to process)
  • next actions (to do)
  • someday/maybe
  • reference
  • projects

When I stumble across something I’m interested in, I simply dump it in the inbox. This gets processed through the GTD work flow and sorted as necessary. Fortunately, a la Gmail, Google Notebook has powerful search option that really eliminates the need to arrange items in such granular folders.

Next steps:

  • Create a bookmarks notebook to track all my favorite sites
  • Clip useful articles from blogs as I read them

I Heart Tivo

Tivo is amazing. The company (TIVO) itself, is worthless. I caved in and opted to get a Tivo Series 2 instead of Comcast’s DRV box. The software interface is amazing and it just works period.

The benefits are:

  • Season Pass – It records all episodes during the season and changes the recording time if the show moves to a different time or date.
  • TivoToGo – Tivo is hooked up to my home network. I can transfer the shows to any of my computers.
  • 30 second skip – Using a hack code, I programmed my remote to skip 30 seconds at a time, useful for not ever watching TV commercials.

Atlas Shrugged

The New York Times published a rather interesting article on Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged. The 1200 page book I’ve been reading has been inspirational reading to a number of people including Allen Greenspan.

Ayn Rand’s philosophy, objectivism, appeals particularly to me because of its applications to free market economics.

Further thoughts pending substantial completion of the book.