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Starting to Freelance? Take Heed to Your Books

Invoice
Image via Wikipedia

If you’re starting your own business, one of the first and foremost things you have to do is your incorporation work. One of the second things on your to-do list? Accounting.

Believe it or not, regardless of how little you know about it to begin with, you have to choose your accounting software wisely. This is due to the fact that the ease of billing and getting paid is supremely important (unless you don’t want to be paid). Thus, if you’re considering going solo or doing anything on the side, my suggestion is to take a look at what sort of accounting software is out there for freelancers. Perhaps brush up on some of your terminology and read some guides on how to set up. It’s well worth your time and you’ll be better prepared to take on managing your business if you take care of this first.

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Buffetonomics

A Chinese buffet restaurant in the U.S.
Image via Wikipedia

So there’s this thing about buffets that I always lived by ever since middle school. It’s all about bang-for-buck.

And you can apply this to almost anything when it comes to money savings. So you ask, what does this all mean? Think about how you would apply the most value to a buffet line. For example, at twenty-five dollars a head, to get your meal’s worth you should be having the prime rib and staying away from the fried chicken. What makes you more full, such as heavy/fried foods, actually plays in the favor of the restaurant than your pocketbook. And if you love all of it, then go for the dishes that usually would cost the most by themselves out in any other restaurant. Thus, if I had a choice between fried chicken and a burger, I’d go for the burger. Juice and soda, I’d go for whatever makes me feel less full which usually ends up to be soda. And if there’s sushi involved? Sushi over lobster tail. Anything to bring the potential single plated foods over the overall twenty-five dollars that you pay to the buffet restaurant.

Now you’re probably sitting here going, how the heck do you apply that type of economics to anything else? There are some things that I have recently purchased for my consulting business that I had to weigh the features and cost between two similar gadgets with very similar feature sets. The more expensive one came with a few things that for the most part one could do without, but in the end the cost difference wasn’t that much to deter getting the one that could pull traffic information.

In that sense, you could say that I learned to weigh the good and bad through buffetonomics. It’s not all about cost in the end, but more of what will help you do the right job for the best price. And that’s what counts more than always having the most expensive thing.

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iTunes Saturday

Apple iTunes

Anime Review: Black Blood Brothers

Recently, I had the opportunity to finish the Black Blood Brothers: Box Set and I have to say that while it’s not in my top tier of favorite animes, it definitely ranks high up there in the next tier. This vampire based anime talks about how vampires and humans have set aside their differences and lived peacefully in a place called The Special Zone. There is a barrier that holds any vampire away from this area unless invited by a human being that is from here. Yet, there is a rogue clan of vampires called the Kowloon Children that are out to basically wipe both vampires and humans from existence. Think of them kind of like the infectious guy from Blade II.

So the point is that there is an older more chivalrous school of vampires called the Old Bloods, that do everything in the way of the old. They are the most powerful, but they also bound by rules and regulations that determine how they fit into society and how they judge are to be judged. There are multiple vampire houses like the Sei house, the Warlock house, and the Sage house and in the middle is a human controlled “Company” that is the neutral party. The entire political structure is actually pretty simplistic although in the anime, you soon realize that there is a public face of peace while the underlying foundation shows a darker and more sinister side.

The entire story arc is about Jiro Mochizuki, the Silver Blade, or Kinslayer, a name that was given to him after the Hong Kong Crusade ten years prior due to him defeating the Kowloon King and the majority of the Kowloon Children. It’s also about acceptance, and how two cultures come to see one another and how there was intermediaries that helped smooth things over to make a place for all people, vampire and human alike.

I personally found this story to be fairly well thought out although the depth wasn’t as much as GitS or FMA. What’s also interesting is that the end seemed to come rather quickly but left it open for a second season. Especially with how it left it open, it wouldn’t surprise me if another publisher would have picked up this story arc and ran with it again.

Time Warner and Embarq Try to Ban NC Community Broadband

greenlight Kind of irks you, me, and that guy down the street, when you start reading about the latest Time Warner fiasco. Apparently, they caught wind that there’s this thing called Greenlight and could actually hurt their business of monopolistic practices and so they’re trying to get them banned in NC legislation. Pretty low, if you ask me and definitely not exactly in the best sense considering at least Time Warner is in their “consumer education process” mode.

Guess they got scared eh? I mean, the fact that anyone was actually making the comparison for what the Triad had to do to actually attempt something like Greenlight as a community based competitor would scare the pants off of me too if I was trying to make a greedy play for more cash that cannot be justified by any common sense.

So the Public Affairs Manager for the City of Wilson started a “Save NC Broadband” site and is trying to get people to pick up arms again. Let me tell ya, this is not a good thing if they stifle any sort of competition, especially community driven ones.

I can tell you a couple of the arguments that Time Warner and Embarq are saying to the legislation actually just isn’t true.

Myth: Community Broadband offer the services at cost
I suppose that Greenlight could, but they actually are not. If I’m not mistaken, it’s just another choice of a provider. Let’s not forget that they do have staff and everything else that you need to run a business as such. Now, if they do not mark it up as much as TWC or Embarq does, then that’s their business. Let us also not forget that Greenlight was only founded after the city approached these businesses and asked them to provide the services to which they refused (for faster services). If they make the play that they have no cost, I’d laugh since I’ve actually never known any city service to be sold “at cost”. And Greenlight if I remember correctly is a service provided for by the City of Wilson.

Myth: ISPs take two or three years later to deploy broadband to very rural areas
I can say this with much certainty that having lived here since 2001, and having been up to rural western North Carolina where there was the infrastructure for broadband, but “not turned on” due to it not being profitable was a serious problem for many years. I actually knew of Comcast turning on cable internet, and then turning it off and claiming it didn’t exist in that particular area, and then the same happened with Verizon DSL. It’s very much a profit play and not so much of a deployment issue. In fact, as far as your costs are concerned, the majority of any of the cost really lies within the lines themselves and not the servers and connection equipment since the backhauls are already in place for your current phone and cable television services. The addition of Internet services adds to cost, but nothing like they would like you to believe.

Currently, I really have no clue if the Triad itself is looking to even do community broadband (I know of some early talks, but I’ll let the people involved break the news when they’re ready for it). I do know that this move by Time Warner and Embarq really does prove that people can’t just idly stand aside and let them be though. This type of behavior is outrageous to try to oust those that they have even refused services to at the small likelihood that at some point they might have potential of business in the future. Interestingly enough, that type of behavior reminds one of payment plans and racketeering of the 1920s and 1930s. So write/call/email to your State representatives and let them know that we can’t have this going on. Enough really is enough.

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Thank You Microsoft for Spam

microsoft-live-spam I love it when companies send you spam in the form of “no, it’s not really spam, and we really know that you had clicked this, but we want you to click it off so we can send you more spam” type of spam.

I mean, seriously. Do they think that you opt-out of the marketing and promotional materials because you’ll want to be reminded that you had opted out? Uhh. No. Sorry, Microsoft. That’s definitely a spam-fail on your end. Reminding me, that I opted out of your spam, means that you basically did not abide by my preferences of not bothering me with promotional offerings. And yes, I consider the fact that administrative type emails of promotional offerings to be under promotional offerings and not under critical administrative messages.

I wonder what brilliant person came up with that one. Hey! Let’s spam all the people that don’t really want spam with a message that says… hey, we wanna send you spam, but we can’t because of your preference! To add insult to injury, they add on a note that talks about how they respect your privacy and have a link to their privacy statement.

Sometimes, it definitely makes you shake your head and wonder what goes on in those ivory towers.

Use of Proxy Servers Could Increase Jail Time

Eternal privacy
Image by Nano Taboada via Flickr

The United States Sentencing Commission has voted but I haven’t found anything on what they’ve actually decided.

Basically, there was legislation put out there that was written in too broad of a format where it said that any sort of proxy server use could increase jail time up to 25%. Now, in essence, the way it’s worded would mean that proxy server use seems to be a secondary offense if you use it for means of hiding yourself to do illegal deeds. And knowing that there are things such as bouncers, and darknets, there’s definitely a reason for this from a law enforcement perspective. But on the flip side, if you strictly say that there is jail time in direct relationship with proxy server use, then that’s completely incorrect and then you render the that argument invalid since there are many uses of proxy servers including those of privacy concerns.

From my perspective, I believe that there’s more to it than meets the eye. It’s not just privacy that I would worry about for your average Net surfer but the fact that translation servers like the one used by Google, is technically a proxy server since it can translate websites and redirect. This means that as a proxy, the host website sees Google instead of your IP address and thus is in a “proxied” fashion. Would you jail those that use translations? What about other means of redirection that are legitimate? Thus, I believe that using the terminology as proxy servers by itself would be too broad. There has to be some sort of offense tied to the use to cover illegal means.

That being said, there are darknets and hosted vpns that you can use for privacy use. TOR is just one of the many. But I think that both sides have to be weighed and find the correct wording choice that doesn’t interfere with privacy, or legal use versus prevention of law enforcement to chase down those that use proxies for unethical behavior.

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Time Warner Shelves Tiered Billing For Now

Time Warner Inc.
Image via Wikipedia

It looks like Time Warner is shelving metered billing for now.

Like I’ve said before, while I don’t believe this is the right way of doing things and I’m still miffed at the “customer education process” in their current PR statement, this definitely shows that when you play against the majority of your customers’ common sense, you’re bound to lose a pretty penny. I believe that from my personal perspective, I’ve put together a pretty decent scenario on where everything stands for my own benefit and hopefully for the benefit of others.

What’s actually interesting is that there are plenty of ways to make money through feature sets that Internet Service Providers do not really consider. I never did understand why since there are technical skill sets that you can sell as managed services just as I have done in the past for my employer since it’s a worthwhile service position.

Having been in talks with a few friends, I do know that Time Warner Cable has stirred up a hornet’s nest and even with their backing off of their current shift, they’ve also forsaken this move for other ISPs and put the actual issue on the table. And with it on the forefront, there will be eyes on bringing competition into the Triad and other regions which really hurts Time Warner Cable in the long run.

I still wouldn’t doubt that there could be legislation coming down the pipe to prevent this type of move from happening in the future. But the backing off defuses much of the ire. For now, the people have won out.

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Can the Triad Go the Way of Greenlight?

greenlight Greenlight is a FTTH (basically the same technology as Verizon FiOS) service by the city of Wilson in North Carolina. But the question is that if there was to be the creation of such a service, would we have the infrastructure to support it currently and how far would the reach be? Thus, this discussion is predominantly about that and where we stand currrently.

DOCSIS
My main concern with Time Warner currently is how they’re selling DOCSIS 3.0 as if it’s going to fix the data cap issue. But, don’t forget that DOCSIS 3.0 doesn’t actually require that much effort in technology upgrades. It’s mainly a standards change and binding of channels. This basically means that 3.0 markets could eventually fall under the axe of the data caps. So when I saw that they were toting a $99/month 50Mbp downstream and 5Mbp upstream, it hit me that the consumers would lose yet again here in a tiered system.

So far, there have been no guarantees that going to DOCSIS 3.0 would actually have no data cap. Time Warner will probably not deploy this technology here either until there is serious competition since it doesn’t impact their bottom line here in the Triad due to little to no competition.

Verizon FiOS and AT&T Uverse
I predict that Verizon FiOS will not be here any time soon based purely on the fact that this market is maintained by AT&T (previously BellSouth). This was a distribution by the Baby Bells, and thus Verizon doesn’t have any infrastructure here. AT&T Uverse is a hybrid fiber/copper system that can provide a similar sort of service without going through the full fiber infrastructure ground work. The negative of it is that it doesn’t provide the speeds of FTTH (which is what FiOS is due to it being pure fiber to the homes), but the positive is that it costs less in the fixed costs of initial groundwork and can set up as an intermediate stage to FTTH. Unfortunately, AT&T has shown interest in the data cap type servicing plans which defeats the purpose of “faster” services when you’re limited to how much you can use.

Pricing
From a price structure, most of the speed is really lost when you’re on a data cap. Currently, the pricing below shows the more comparable services and how much they’re supposedly going to cost based on their current quotes. Also remember that as of current, unless you do a lot of simultaneous high bandwidth type downloads, upper limits of speed for downstreams are more or less irrelevant to most of your general consumers currently. Now if you had multiple HD streams going, then it would definitely make a difference but even with your current cable, you already can buffer and watch while it buffers the rest.

TWC DOCSIS 3.0 Verizon FiOS Greenlight
Speed (down/up) 50Mbps/5Mbps 50Mbps/20Mbps 40Mbps/40Mbps
Price (per mo) $99 $144 $99

City Infrastructures
High Point : I’m not really sure if High Point has a fiber ring. They might, or might not but if they do, I don’t know what it’s used for as of current.
Greensboro : They do have a fiber ring but it’s city use currently. Can this be used to create FTTH service to certain neighborhoods? I think so. But the infrastructure would have be upgraded and extended out to service more than just the downtown areas where I assume most of the ring is located. They will also have to begin to look into how to create the jobs similar to Greenlight and how to break city and law enforcement services away on the same ring from servicing the public.
Winston-Salem : Of the three cities, Winston-Salem is probably the best set for a shift to services like Greenlight. This is due to the fact that WinstonNet already services the universities here and they have been working on a wireless initiative in the past to provide wireless to all of Winston-Salem and eventually Forsyth County. Being an Internet 2 POP, the bandwidth is definitely there and they can use that as a base structure to become a provider. I would love to see this happen, but it would depend on how they feel about the entire competitive thing and if they believe it would benefit the citizens on a whole.

Regional Politics
I truly think that regionalism is the best push for this type of project, but seeing how the Heart of the Triad pretty much fell by the wayside, and there’s always talk about regionalism but actually very little action, it’s hard for me to see it happen without turf issues. All in all, smaller cities just can’t compete on a grand scale compared with a larger populace.

Synopsis
I believe that a municipal provided service would actually be the most beneficial to defeating tiered billing. Not only would it be a cheaper service, but the governments on a whole are accountable to its people. The couple of parts that I foresee as an issue would be the fact that municipalities not working well together as a region to create a larger fiber ring that no one else has in the United States. It would also show that when people come together, they can provide for its people and put aside its differences. Great speech stuff, but in reality I wonder if the Triad can actually accomplish this. The other part is that business competition with municipalities is actually a potential legal problem. There would have to be some sort of a nonprofit that would represent the Triad in this matter similar to how Winston-Salem is represented by WinstonNet. Only as such, can they perhaps play the same game that the city of Wilson is playing.

Crazy Science

introduction to terraforming
Image by zyphichore via Flickr

I’m not so sure I’d want to go down this path that Obama’s science advisor wants to take. Not that I’m a Nobel prize winner, nor is my fascination in the topic as in depth as any of these experts, but it’s based on a few common sense methodology.

Here’s the issue I see with geoengineering which is the application of planetary engineering specifically to Earth. Ever watch a lot of science fiction? Know the term terraforming? It’s basically the process of turning another planet into one suitable for living for human beings. The scale and technology that you would need to do such a maneuver is so enormous that it’s mainly theoretical and inconceivable at where are scientific research is currently. On top of that, we’re lacking in the tools and technology, but the ones we have for planetary terraforming are crude at best. Mimicking volcanoes by shooting sulfur into the atmosphere? What guarantees would you have that you wouldn’t bring the apocalypse as we know it upon ourselves because we don’t understand how the weather systems work?

I think we know too little to be delving into trying to cool the Earth outside of enforcing what it sent out into the atmosphere or perhaps create some artificial means of doing what we’re currently lacking (like reproducing the types of effects the rain forest has on the Earth by artificial means). The issue is that the delicate nature of how weather systems are make it impossible with current mathematics to understand if we’re overdoing something that might upset the balance the other way.

So terraform Mars? Sure, why not. There’s nothing to lose there. But we’d have to get there, understand how gravity functions on a human body, how to change a planet from the inside to out, understand gravity itself, how to do massive experimentation on planetary scales, and so on so forth. To try to do it on Earth, where we have issues predicting the weather a week in advance is almost absolute insanity.

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