DON’T ASK!

Got a spare AOL 5.0 CD lying around? I need one. (Don’t ask!)

OK, I’ll tell you.

I can’t upgrade to 6.0 or 7.0 or 8.0, because AOL has a secret limit on the size of your address book, and mine is way too big to convert. So I need a 5.0 disk to install on my new ThinkPad.

I’m actually working with someone at AOL in hopes AOL will either offer a higher priced ‘professional service’ that allows higher limits – a win-win for everyone – or else convert my file to an exportable form so I can switch to a competitor.

(Warning: if even one of you writes to tell me how stupid I am to be among AOL’s 35 million users, I will triple the price of the subscription to this page. I don’t want to hear it.)

GORE

Michael White: ‘You were right to say that a lot of us don’t realize how good Gore was as VP. I learned that from Joe Klein’s excellent book about Bill Clinton, The Natural. It turns out that Gore actually took big steps in reducing the size of the federal payroll, the kinds of steps that the Republicans have been talking about for decades.’

BUSH

Mike Lynott: ‘In keeping with your comments on Mr. Bush’s economic policy, Malcolm Gladwell writes in the current New Yorker (p.58): ‘This Administration’s idea of economic policy is to go from table to table at the Four Seasons discreetly asking patrons if they need help with the check.”

BUT TO HIS CREDIT . . .

It looks as if unemployment benefits will be extended shortly after the holidays – better late than never – and it looks as if the new S.E.C. chief, Bill Donaldson, will be getting the full $776 million, if not even perhaps a bit more, spoken of yesterday.

PUT IN YOUR TWO CENTS

Joel: ‘Yes, let’s fund the SEC properly . . . but perhaps you can also provide this link so that investors can comment on various proposals to change the regulation of mutual funds, etc.’

AND LET’S FUND THE IRS

Ron Heller: ‘As an attorney/CPA who deals with the IRS all the time, I absolutely agree that they need more funding and better staffing. It’s not just a question of more money and more bodies, though – they need to really focus on providing answers and assistance to taxpayers. Those of us who qualify to use the special ‘Tax Practitioner Hotline’ enjoy the privilege of being on hold for 20 minutes when we call, instead of being on hold for an hour like a mere taxpayer. Current waiting time for processing an Offer In Compromise is over a year. Audits often drag on for years, with the auditor being reassigned to other duties for months at a time. Taxpayers who WANT to comply with the law (and their tax advisors) find this extremely frustrating.’

AND THE PATENT OFFICE!

Chris Holley: ‘There is a similar situation at the Patent Office. The millions in Patent fees go straight to the general revenue fund and US Patent Office is left underfunded (no digitization, insufficient staff, etc.) even though it more than carries its weight.’

☞ Did you see the new $9 million venture to provide peer-reviewed articles fast, on the Internet, rather than waiting for the traditional scholarly publications to publish? This strikes me as a great way to speed advances in technology, which generally redounds to the common good. Similarly, there is finally a movement afoot, if a recent Wall Street Journal article is to be believed (and I always do, except the editorials), to bring the slow and costly ‘title insurance’ industry into the 21st century. That would make real estate closings quicker and less costly. And so – in the same productive vein – would it not make our economy a little more nimble if patents weren’t ‘pending’ for quite so long?

TIPS

Diane Anderson: ‘I’d like to expand on the issue of owning TIPS directly versus buying a TIPS bond fund. Buying your own bond is better. First, as you point out, the fund has annual costs or fees. I may be cheap, but ‘only’ 0.25% a year is too high for me. Second, when you buy your own TIPS you can choose the issues that don’t come due until 2028 or 2032 (I don’t like the 2029s because their premium is higher, which would be a problem if there really were deflation). The average maturity in a bond fund may be 15 years or less. If you expect inflation, the longer you can be protected, the better. Also, the 30-year TIPS pay a higher interest rate than the 10-year TIPS. Keep promoting TIPS. They are not getting the attention they deserve because no one has a financial incentive to sell them.’

APPLE

Bill Schwartz: ‘From InfoWorld: ‘The PowerBook G4 isn’t a product to watch; it’s the only notebook on the market worth spending $2,500 on, and at that price, it’s a steal.’ ‘When it was over, the PowerBooks owned us utterly. Trust us; that never happens.’ For the complete article on the ‘PC Killer,’ click here. And, yes, with a program called Virtual PC, you can actually run DOS and all flavors of Windows. It’ll be slower, of course, than on a modern PC, but from what I’ve heard quite useable. You’d want to check with Connectix specifically about any particular DOS program, but I believe they’d all run just fine.

‘As for the learning curve, I think it’s pretty minimal, especially with Apple’s truly wonderful new operating system (OS X). It is true that all computers have problems sometimes, and once in a while I myself pull out what little is left of my hair over Mac problems. But trouble is a lot less frequent (and a LOT easier to fix) than with Windows, no question. Why? First, Apple makes both the hardware and operating system software and makes sure they play well together. Second, ease of use has always been one of Apple’s most basic design values. OS X, in particular, is truly a joy, and it is almost completely crash-proof. Almost everything is plug-and-play (printers, scanners, digital cameras, Internet, etc.) My significant other’s 79-year-old technophobe mother just bought an iMac running OS X. I was sure that I’d be spending hours on the phone with her and many days traveling to her home to help her. We even bought software (Timbuktu) that allows me to remote-control her computer so I could help her with problems from my home. Guess what? She has had almost zero problems and loves her new Mac to death.

‘If you or anyone else is interested in ‘switching,’ the best idea is to go and play at an Apple Store for a while. But be careful: you might just fall in love!’

☞ Old dog, new tricks.

 

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