Entries Tagged as 'Life'

BART overstepped boundaries in San Francisco Cell Service Incident

Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) logo Apparently SF BART had shut down cell service for about three hours in the San Francisco area at a few stations where some activists were going to protest.   While I do believe this has some serious free speech implications since they’re trying to pull a whole minority report type of scenario which is against current law, I have to say that from a telecommunications standpoint, they pulled a major flaw by calling it a safety issue.   As a telecommunications professional, I have spent years of time facing countless hours trying to maintain the cellular infrastructure.  One of the biggest risks we face in telecom is the one where someone can’t make a 911 call.   That means that people’s lives could indirectly be effected by our work which is why we must be careful.

In shutting down cell service to “prevent” something from happening, the problem then becomes an issue when someone does indeed get hurt and there’s no communications inward or outward.   You can’t rely on BART officers there with their CBs since they can’t be there while maintaining lines or what not against a protest.   So from an emergency situation where someone’s life is dictated by the minutes of time that could effect life and death, cellular service is critical for response.   In this case, I believe that BART made an egregious error and whomever made that decision didn’t think about the consequences that it might follow.  On top of all of this?  BART themselves pulled the plug on the base stations and notifying the carriers after the fact (another mistake and a hard one).  Meaning, the carriers had no idea and probably saw the sites go down in the NOCs and were scrambling to get them back up.

BART said that they were well within their legal rights to turn off cell stations, but I beg to differ.  If this were the case, then all base stations are endangered by the tower leasing areas.  Of which I know for a fact, the leasing contracts do state that they can’t just willy nilly turn off power or otherwise to the leased areas since the carriers are the ones that maintain those agreements with the utilities and not BART.

Nice job, BART.   You not only wasted a lot of telecom professionals time with your crazy logic, but you didn’t go down the right legal roads to at least create a foundation that your logic could stand on.   And thus, BART’s going to get their “you know what” handed to them by all sorts of legal experts.  Do I foresee a resignation?   Maybe, but at the very least, someone is going to take the fall for this one.

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Ten Tips to Refinancing in North Carolina

low rates

I have to say that refinancing in North Carolina isn’t fun, nor is it a ball of awesome. I mean, in all honesty, we had to do all of the research ourselves because frankly no one wanted to tell you about the fees and hidden costs that you’ll probably pay if you don’t be careful. Here’s a few things to keep in mind of to take out of the closing costs of a refinance.

  1. Mortgage Insurance. You only need this if you’re getting a second mortgage and if you don’t have home owner’s insurance. This stuff stings because you have to remember to cancel it even if you’re done with the second mortgage. If you don’t need this, get rid of it.
  2. In North Carolina, there is a origination fee. This is usually 1% of whatever your loan is although there could be a little extra called an “underwriting” fee. This is normal, but it’s also pure profit for creating the loan for you. In other states, this actually goes away these days, especially on jumbo loans, but in this state, it does not (at least not to my knowledge).
  3. Put everything in writing. If they’re going to waive something, that should go into the good faith estimate. Also, from experience, attorneys fees range somewhere around $500USD mark.
  4. Title insurance is a re-issue of your previous title. Don’t buy a new one since that’s a waste of money. Titles are the same everywhere nationally and it usually costs you something like $2 per $1000 on loan. This is for the lender so if they’re trying to get you for a lot more, get your own title from any title insurance company. You could try Chicago Title Insurance Company, whom is one of the major three vendors nationally.
  5. Don’t get suckered into a prepayment penalty loan. These loans will basically mean that you have to pay the entire interest amount off regardless of how early you pay off your debt. You don’t want a penalty for prepayment which basically means that the moment you pay off your principal, you’re home free for interest payments.
  6. Did you know that you can get waivers for appraisal fees and such? This all depends on how much you’re shopping out your loan and how large it is. The more money that’s at stake, the more there are negotiations on closing costs. Everything is up for grabs since the banks want to do the loan, especially if you have a spectacular FICO score.
  7. Don’t roll your closing costs into the loan. That’s plain silly. It might seem like you’re not paying a dime, but in reality, you’re not only borrowing the money of the closing cost, but you’re also paying interest on it. More payment to seem hassle free? I don’t think so.
  8. Home owner’s insurance. You shouldn’t have to pay this if you already have a home owner’s policy. I don’t know for sure on this, but I’m pretty sure it can be thrown out of the closing costs.
  9. Regardless of whether or not your house is in a flood plain, you have to pay for the flood certification. Runs somewhere around $15-25 depending on the home.
  10. If you don’t know how much your house is worth before you start down this path for refinance, check a real estate site like ZIllow. While this isn’t an exact science and there’s not guarantee that the appraiser will value your house close to this price, it’s a number to work with and it seems that banks also use sites like these for their beginning estimations. This will give you an idea on whether or not it’s even worth pursuing the refinance in the first place. On top of this… sometimes it’s not worth getting into a refinance situation if you’ve already paid off a significant chunk of your principal since regardless of the rate, you’re basically getting into another loan from the beginning. The money spent and time has to be accounted for in a refinance.

In the real estate industry, many of these fees are termed as “junk fees”. They’re basically fees that are tagged onto loans to make it seem legitimate but are actual pure profit for the loan generation. Think of it like the certain types of regulatory fees that you sometimes see on utilities or cell phone bills where it’s not tied to any actual law but is made to sound official so that they can collect a little bit more money.

What’s interesting here is that a lot of people lower their rates without understanding what sort of savings you’ll need to save. If the closing fees are $3600, and you’re saving $100/month in mortgage payments by lowering the rate, then this means that each year, you’ll be saving $1200. This means that just to break even on getting the lower rate, you’ll have to hold onto that home for another three years. Is that in your plan? Perhaps. But you need to figure all of this out and believe me when I say that most real estate people that are involved in your loan will probably not go out of their way to tell you about those types of things. In their best interest of course.

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Dropbox being Blocked in China

About two hours ago, in the forums, it seems that Dropbox has been blocked by China.

There really isn’t any reports on why this has happened or why Dropbox has joined the ranks of Twitter, Facebook and the rest, but one could probably speculate the fact that since they do allow sharing of files and some public urls of files, which could be used in anti-government actions. However, there hasn’t been anything that has surfaced so no one really knows why this action has been taken.

Amazon Tax Not Doing Anything for North Carolina

North Carolina State Capitol.
Image via Wikipedia

Apparently, the online tax for North Carolina hasn’t been bringing in the money that it was supposed to and the thinktank, Tax Foundation, has published a report that says that not only does it hurt the state in the short term, but it also hurts the state in the long term too.

Noooo kidddding.

Amusingly, this is basically the “I told you so” parts where the legislation made decisions on things they knew nothing about and spent budget money that they didn’t have. Again. Nothing new here, folks. Politicians that don’t understand technology and business? Like we’ve never heard that one before.

Interestingly enough, although to no avail, I had spoken about this issue time and again during the time when the “Amazon Tax” during the time period when it was passed and how our legislation thought how wonder it would be to gain some figure in the sky millions in some sort of pot of gold wish.

I mean, seriously. They still continued to budget and spend for this year as if there is this money coming in although there is nary a word from the North Carolina Department of Revenue on whether or not there actually is significant tax revenues coming in due to this tax. I suspect that there is little to nothing, considering they had targeted Amazon, and Amazon cut their ties with North Carolina affiliates and hurt the state in the process. Amusingly, the bad guy that Amazon was made out to be wasn’t so bad and in the end the politicians seemed to have stuck their own foots in their mouth if this study from Tax Foundation has anything to say about it.

From my perspective? Well, one of my businesses just didn’t carry as much revenue this year. Instead of having to pay taxes on the income, it seemed that it was more of a write off this last year. Oh well. Tough cookies for the North Carolina bare coffers.

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Getting Googley Eyes for Google

Image representing Google as depicted in Crunc...
Image via CrunchBase

I’m really disappointed. So far, I’ve been tracking the entire deal for all sorts of cities on and off for the past week on “Google’s Infrastructure for Communities” venture. Amusingly, I had actually applied for the city of Winston-Salem long before Greensboro even knew about this venture. And with all of the cities, including Greensboro, no one has once bothered to mention that this product is specifically last mile driven. It’s to the homes of consumers. That’s right, it’s basically the same as Wilson’s Greenlight project.

FTTH – (fiber to the home).

It’s documented right there in the RFI, but everyone is trying this gimmick and that gimmick to try to get Google to come. Why not analyze what their business model has been and will continue to be? Why not actually look and see whether or not they have actually purchased dark fiber around your area? That’s information that is vital and crucial to your cause. Those that have dark fiber that has been purchased close to your locale will probably stand a better chance of becoming the venture’s pet project.

What journalists need to focus on, is not whether or not businesses or research institutions have access to high speed Internet. That’s just entirely irrelevant. So what if Google puts in FTTH. That would not effect a school, nor a law firm, or even a medical facility. What people need to find out is what sort of applications could be coming across a high speed connection to your home. Would you discontinue your cable service? Would you go with fiber based HDTV? What if Google was your provider and controlled the line and access points? Why would this be good for what they do?

I think there are many people that are not asking the right questions. Google doesn’t ever do anything for free (yes, Google does mine your Gmail. It’s in your terms of service). And it’s not like the Dell fiasco with the manufacturing plant since any job creation would be very much infrastructure related. Would your city become an instant techburg? Of course. But at what price, and do you have what it takes to do this?

Personally? I think they’re after the television content. Youtube is perhaps only the first step in the long line of things, but having been a shareholder and analyzed their corporation for a number of years, I can say that I can see many ways that they could monetize the information gathered by using similar techniques as their current search but applied in the high-definition medium.

Google is a great company and I would love for them to become a major corporate player in the Triad. But so far, what I’ve seen has been more of the whole … who can throw the biggest party and have the best food for when Google comes. Sorry, Topeka. Just. Not. Impressed. And that just doesn’t cut the mustard when it comes right down to it.

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Wazing My Way Around

If you have a smartphone, I urge you to check out Waze.

The Android client is a bit new and they’re still working on it, but this is one thing that can totally get you to learn the area you live. Or at least drive it. Waze is basically a social geolocation game where you collect points on the streets you drive, and help map the environment by “road munching” new roads. Basically, you think of it as a real-life Pac Man meets Wikipedia mapping. The more users there are, the better it is and what’s interesting is that you can report hazards, speed traps, police, and all sorts of other things.

While based on the economy, I’m not inclined to drive all over jeebus to road munch, but I have to admit that there are a lot of people that are out there that are doing it.

What’s even more interesting is that you can see the business model and where this could really be fruitful. Garmin or Tomtom anyone? This not only makes cartography a lot easier as far as mistakes go, but it also allows you to not have to wait for a company to come out with the next version of whatever software to actually get the right road name (nudge at Garmin for spelling Raleigh – “Raliegh” on the I-40 Eastbound). It’s like Wikipedia but for maps and the more people that use it, the more fun it is.

Not having touched the iPhone app, I’m curious as far as if it’s better and more user friendly than the one for Android. Overall, the map editor on the web, and Android clients are a little clunky, but nothing that couldn’t be fixed easily. It’s the thought process behind this that counts. And if Waze just happens to give out free things for random driving events like their Christmas event? Then you can entirely count on a lot more users playing this game. I mean, everyone loves free stuff.

Oh. And it does integrate with Foursquare, so you can check-in at your local coffee shop easily from the app itself without having to exit. Or Tweet your location, or what not. Facebook anyone? There’s just so much that can be done with this, that I’m excited just thinking about it. Now if only they could make the client a little less laggy…

More Layoffs Means Economy Still Down Toilet

sun Still think that the economy is improving? If the shutdown of the Dell plant around here isn’t enough to scoff at that mindset, let’s look at an even larger one. Sun Microsystems is looking to layoff three thousand more employees. Now, while layoffs are inevitable during mergers and acquisitions (in this case with Oracle), this also represents something a little bit larger.

It says that until corporations or the government gives a nice jab in the arm on hiring, the overall percentage of buying power has been reduced. This hurt can and will be felt through both retail and financial markets since people without jobs cannot pay loans and mortgages. And let’s face it. Saving the financial institutions do not amount to squat if the people that the money is being loaned to can’t get work to actually pay it back. This is not only brings financial players to a grinding halt, but it shows that politicians do not understand the basics of economics. Everything starts with the beginning of the food chain, not the end.

What’s worse is that until someone does actually gain this bright idea, all of the injection of federal funding is for naught. That means that the taxpayers bear the burden of a costly mistake, of which becomes more and more weight per each individual as more and more people cannot find work. And you wonder how Congress can sleep at night with a twenty or so percent approval rating.

Rock the Block 2009


Don’t have anything to do after 6:00PM this Friday? Go check out Rock the Block. There will be live music, food, and vendors up and down 4th Street in Downtown Winston-Salem. I went last year and I have to say that it’s was definitely an enjoyable evening although I might not brave the crowds this year if it rains. We’ll see.

Why Fearmongering Solves Nothing


Argh. I can’t stand it. While I agree that environments effect a child’s raising, I truly don’t buy into the entire “it takes a village” scenario. It all starts, and ends with the parents and how much responsibility they’re willing to pick up in teaching the ways of the world to the child. So when I read about video games under attack, especially ones that are as light-hearted and humorous as Fat Princess, I just have to say something.

First off, for the kids. Eating a piece of cake will not make you fat. I don’t care who’s telling you that but if you’re going to trust me over your parents (which I don’t even want to know why I would be more authoritative in your family than your folks), cake doesn’t make you fat. Not exercising and eating too much will make you fat. Yes, the truth hurts, but portion control is key along with a healthy lifestyle. If your parents haven’t taught you that, then there you go. Voila, a lesson of life.

Next, for those that are afraid of games that will wreak havoc in their young children’s lives. Have you taken a look at television these days? Rated “M” is not the same Rated “M” a decade ago. In fact, there are several cable shows that I’ve heard on prime time use foul language. Are you to banish that from young ears for sake of corrupting innocence? Hate to break it to you, but every single one has been corrupted at an early age. There’s always some potty mouth at school that let’s your kids in on the excitingly forbidden. The question is more of how you deal with it. If your children live in a sandbox all of their lives along with you fearing everything, then they’ll grow up to …. guess what: fear everything. And there’s so much more to the world than some video game or movie. Will you always cower under the threat that nuclear war might ensue? Or that a meteor might strike the earth? Maybe Yellowstone might erupt?

The fact is, it’s YOUR responsibility in molding your kids, not the rest of the world. If you were supreme ruler of Earth, then I would probably say otherwise, but you’re not, I’m not, and we probably won’t ever be seeing one of those. So, quit shirking your responsibilities as a parent and get with it. Insults in life are a daily occurrence whether or not you like to deal with it. Same with staying healthy and not eating too much cake, just as dessert isn’t always on the menu. It’s how you manage to teach this to your children instead of passing off to people like Titan Studios. They’re in the business of entertainment, while you’re in the business of raising your kids to be be a part of society.

How North Carolina Will Go Broke By Stupid Tax Laws

Raleigh NC Tax Day Tea Party Protest
Image by Ivy Dawned via Flickr

I really don’t understand North Carolina state. At all.

The entire legislation is made up of some people that have no idea about technology or how it works. The fact that the final tax bill going to the floor has the “Amazon tax” tells me that not a single one of the incumbents that have pushed this or voted this in is either in the twenty first century, nor know a thing about business law. Mainly, the idea that affiliates are the physical presence for a major online retailer is so ludicrous that it’s laughable by anyone that has done consulting work. I’ll give you an example in the consultation analogy:

According to North Carolina state legislation, if I am an out-of-state corporation, but I have sub-contractors that I have agreements to do work with me, then I am to be taxed as if I operated my business in North Carolina.

Sound good to you? Well, that’s the same agreement that affiliates have with any sort of online retailer that pays them to sell advertisement. I also will be curious as far as when others such as the newspapers (News & Record, Business Journal), magazines, online radio stations, and so on feel this bite since I have heard nary a word from them even though they will technically be hurt by this. I’m surprised that actually no one has even thrown a red flag out there. Oh well, time to bite the bullet with stupid taxing that won’t bring in any money.

Here’s why it’s a stupid idea and totally the wrong way to go about taxing Internet purchases. If you want to chase Internet purchasing taxation, you’ll have to do some sort of an agreement through a payment service. Going after affiliates just allows the retailer to continue with their business and cut their ties to the affiliates (aka small business that do pay local taxes). What you miss out on is all of the taxation that the small businesses were putting into your coffers, and on top of it, you’re not making anything from the online retailer(s). This is expected to $150 million in the next two years?

Who the hell are they joking? With the way it’s written and the ties cut from affiliates, the State will be in the hole more than $150 million. Mainly with all the retailers refusing to pay and cutting their ties, and indirectly jeopardizing any real tax money that would have come into play. I can tell you that one of my businesses will be hurt by this and unfortunately for the state, unless something changes this company will probably be in the red instead of black this year and thus won’t be giving up anything to state coffers. Sucks to be you, eh?

If you want to tax internet retail, you have to move from smaller battles to the bigger picture. But if you can’t understand how to walk, I’m not exactly sure when you’ll achieve dreams of running a marathon.

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