MOZY

Jeff: ‘You write: ‘My reason for using Mozy is for the day the NSA comes and spirits away my computer.’ Of course, if your data is on Mozy, they can just get it from there without telling you (and it probably says so in the satirically named Patriot Act).’

☞ Good point. Well, at least then we can both have access to it.

GLDD

Drew Bubser: ‘For those of us who exercised the original Aldabra options and purchased the GLDD stock with the intent of holding onto it for a long term gain, what is the advisable course now that the stock is trading close to $5.00? The fundamentals of GLDD do not seem to have improved much, and the recent management conference call indicated [no quick improvement].’

☞ I continue to think that all the basic reasons to be in this for the long-run hold: Silt builds up. The normal levels of annual dredging to keep our ports clear has been cut way back by budget constraints from the Iraq war but one day may be restored. GLDD has 53% U.S. market share and lots of work overseas.

Yes, an orange juice tanker hit one of our barges in the waters around Newark, but how often is that going to happen? (Plus, for much of the loss we were insured and we’re suing for the rest.)

BOREF

Herron Benjamin: ‘Interesting article in USA Today about airlines’ concern for rising fuel costs. Seems like a gizmo such as the Wheel Tug would certainly have a place in any sort of airline strategy to mitigate them. Looks like BOREF is a steal at its recent $4.30 closing price. Do you see the dwindling stock price as a indicator of a perceived bleak outlook for Borealis, an overreaction to shaky market conditions, or a sleeping giant?’

☞ Well, it’s hardly a sleeping giant. And it’s harder still to think we could have waited nine years to buy it and paid not much more today than we did then (although on even modest volume, the stock would go up . . . just as it’s gone down on modest volume . . . so we likely couldn’t replace our positions at this price). And certainly if we’ve learned anything about this bizarre company it is that its claims and projections have been wildly, preposterously overblown.

But work on WheelTug and on the Roche Bay iron ore deposits seems to be progressing; and if either of these panned out, let alone both, it would not be hard to make a case for a value 20 times the company’s current $25 million market cap. So I hang on to every share, all bought with money I can truly afford to lose.

YOUR EXPERIENCES SWITCHING TO A MAC

Aaron Stevens: ‘Well, you asked! First, it’s important to note that all Mac computers are now built with Intel processor chips. This is important because the old Macs had a Motorola processor. Each processor family has a unique set of binary-coded machine language instructions for fundamental computer tasks like addition, loading operand data from memory, and storing the result of operations back to memory. Software compiled (think: packaged) for one processor’s machine language instruction set does not run on any other processor for this reason. Now, since Mac has an Intel processor, it can run all of those programs which were written for PCs over the years.

‘But how does it run Windows? There are several options, but I’ll just mention two. One is something from Apple, called Bootcamp, which lets the user choose which operating system to boot at the time the computer starts up – Mac or Windows. You have to make that choice each time you boot up. The other strategy is called virtualization. A virtual machine is a computer simulating a computer – or more precisely, a software application simulating the low-level hardware interfaces of a computer, which enables running an operating system inside the virtual computer, which is running as a software program on the actual or host computer. There’s a great product called Parallels Virtual Desktop which does this beautifully.

‘Parallels lets you install any other operating system (including Linux, XP, or Vista) in a virtual machine on the Mac. Now, what’s really clever is the integration: first, you can launch Windows in 3 modes: single window (where it looks like windows in a program within the Mac desktop; full screen, where it looks like you’re just sitting at a Windows PC, with no visible traces of Mac; and ‘coherence’, which allows you to see the Mac desktop, and the Start menu/taskbar from Windows, and run any Windows application in a Mac window. It’s hard to describe without showing you the pictures, so you can look at the Parallels website for the pictures. Now the integration points that make it lovely: Parallels maps the Windows ‘My Documents’ folder to the Mac ‘Documents’ folder, so any document created/edited in Windows is actually stored in the Mac filesystem, and thus fully accessible in all Mac programs and automagically backed up by Time Machine. It also maps the Windows ‘Z:/’ drive to the Mac user’s ‘home directory’. So basically all the data lives within the Mac filesystem. Parallels also integrates features like copy/paste, so I can copy the amount of a transaction off my bank’s website in Firefox under Mac, and paste it into Quicken under Windows, without even thinking about them being on separate operating systems.

‘So how does the Mac run Windows any better than my IBM did? This is all about hardware integration, I believe. Since Apple is the only company that makes the Mac, it can carefully manage which hardware chipsets and drivers are used, and the number of permutations is limited. Windows, on the other hand, must work on any ‘compatible’ hardware, which includes literally billions upon billions of possible permutations of hardware combinations. The complexity of such interactions is mind boggling, and I believe not possible to fully test all combinations. In fact, I believe Microsoft puts the burden on testing this on the hardware vendor/integrator (e.g. IBM, Dell, whatever), but the truth of the matter is that the testing can only go so far, and some incompatibilities invariably will slip through. However, the Apple hardware is so well integrated, and just works together, out of the box, no questions asked.

‘And it boots Windows more quickly and smoothly than my ThinkPad ever did. When Windows throws up a blue screen of death (for example, on upgrading its service packs), Parallels restarts it in no time; and, since the Mac OS doesn’t crash during the Windows blue screen, I can still do email and listen to iTunes while Windows gets back up. So why would anyone run Windows on the Mac, anyway? I try to limit my Windows time to applications which have not been developed for the Mac (for example, Quicken Mac is very limited in features and updates). I didn’t want to give up on those applications, but with Parallels I didn’t have to. The best of both worlds, I think.’

 

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