Sunday, January 31, 2010

Banfi Chianti Classico Riserva 2006

Not really a wine drinker , long story as to why I had this bottle around, but must say its a very good tasting wine and does not give me a headache like most Reds do. If your near a WorldMarket you can pick up a bottle there for around $15 if not google it.

Color: Deep ruby-red.

Bouquet: Rich with notes of cherries, plums, and iris.

Taste: Deep cherry and leather flavors with subtle wood notes. Supple tannins, good acidity, and a lingering finish.

Perfect with flavorful roasts, pastas, and cheeses.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Who would eat it ?

#10 The Bacone
A bacon cone filled with scrambled eggs and country gravy topped with a biscuit.

#9 White Castle Casserole
Six White Castle burgers topped with gravy and American cheese baked in a casserole dish.

#8 Potachos
Thick potato chips covered with chedder, bacon, tomatoes, onions, ketchup, chives and sour cream.

#7 Monte Cristo
Deep fried ham, turkey american and swiss cheese sandwich with rasberry preserves and topped with powdered sugar

#6 Bacon Crust Pizza With Bacon

#5 Cheeseburger Waffles

#4 Candied Bacon Ice Cream

#3 Bacon Cinnamon Roll

#2 Bacon Donut
Served at The Nickel Diner.

#1 Krispy Kreme Bacon Cheddar Cheeseburgers

Friday, January 29, 2010

"Invalid Boot.ini" or "Windows could not start" error messages when you start your computer

To resolve this issue, start the computer from the Windows XP CD, start the Recovery Console, and then use the Bootcfg.exe tool to rebuild the Boot.ini file. To do this, follow these steps:

1. Configure the computer to start from the CD-ROM or DVD-ROM drive. For information about how to do this, see your computer documentation, or contact your computer manufacturer.
2. Insert the Windows XP CD-ROM into your CD-ROM or DVD-ROM drive, and then restart your computer.
3. When you receive the "Press any key to boot from CD" message, press a key to start your computer from the Windows XP CD-ROM.
4. When you receive the "Welcome to Setup" message, press R to start the Recovery Console.
5. If you have a dual-boot or multiple-boot computer, select the installation that you have to use from the Recovery Console.
6. When you are prompted, type the administrator password, and then press ENTER.
7. At the command prompt, type bootcfg /list, and then press ENTER. The entries in your current Boot.ini file appear on the screen.
8. At the command prompt, type bootcfg /rebuild, and then press ENTER. This command scans the hard disks of the computer for Windows XP, Microsoft Windows 2000, or Microsoft Windows NT installations, and then displays the results. Follow the instructions that appear on the screen to add the Windows installations to the Boot.ini file. For example, follow these steps to add a Windows XP installation to the Boot.ini file:
1. When you receive a message that is similar to the following message, press Y:
Total Identified Windows Installs: 1

[1] C:\Windows
Add installation to boot list? (Yes/No/All)
2. You receive a message that is similar to the following message:
Enter Load Identifier
This is the name of the operating system. When you receive this message, type the name of your operating system, and then press ENTER. This is either Microsoft Windows XP Professional or Microsoft Windows XP Home Edition.
3. You receive a message that is similar to the following:
Enter OS Load options
When you receive this message, type /fastdetect, and then press ENTER.

Note The instructions that appear on your screen may be different, depending on the configuration of your computer.
9. Type exit, and then press ENTER to quit Recovery Console. Your computer restarts, and the updated boot list appears when you receive the "Please select the operating system to start" message.

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Wondering Why You Can’t Pre-Order an iPad? It Isn’t Legal Yet

From Wired:

You know you can’t obtain an iPad for least three months, but you may not know the reason you can’t even buy one in advance: Apple has not yet obtained the necessary Federal Communications Commission approval to unleash it on the nation’s airwaves.

The specs on the iPad page mention the lack of FCC approval in tiny print that is easy to miss. And nobody seriously expects the iPad won’t be approved — Apple’s been through this before, with the launch of the first iPhone announced six months before it was available. And the “why?” is almost certainly to have kept as few people in the loop, and only those you could in some way control.

But in an e-mail sent to customers, Apple made the situation a bit more clear. “Some features and applications are not available in all areas,” reads the note. “Application availability and pricing are subject to change. This device has not yet been authorized as required by the rules of the Federal Communications Commission. This device is not, and may not be, offered for sale or lease, or sold or leased, until authorization is obtained.”

Apple has good reason to keep a government agency out of the advance loop, since somehow anything juicy is likely to see the light of day. Still, the FCC likes Apple right now, recently commending the company for reversing its policy against VOIP calling over AT&T’s 3G network, which allows the iPhone and iPad to be used as web phones.

However, the new reference in Apple’s e-mail about certain features and applications not being available or being priced differently depending on a customer’s location raises unanswered questions. It could refer to content-oriented applications (movies, books, magazines, etc.), which in their physical forms, vary in price based on location — we already know that this is true of books. But all we really know about that at this point is that the iPads sold in one area will differ in features and app prices from iPads sold in another area.

The FCC’s approval process is standard for electronic devices. The agency ensures that they don’t interfere with other wireless equipment, operate in an area of the spectrum that’s allocated for something else, or emit too much radiation into the people using them.

The agency approved the iPhone about a month after Apple announced it. Unless there’s an unexpected hiccup, it will most likely do the same for the iPad. A conspiracy theorist might say that Apple secretly hopes the FCC will step in and “force” it to sell the iPad to all of its potential customers, regardless of which wireless carrier or plan they want to use, but that seems like wishful thinking.

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Thursday, January 28, 2010

How to keep your PC clean and quick

From ARA:

(ARA) - What you don't know can hurt you - big time - when it comes to what's hiding in your PC. From "naturally" occurring registry errors to more insidious threats like spyware, hidden problems can slow your computer performance to a crawl or even cause it to crash.

A little proactive maintenance, however, can go a long way towards preventing problems. Keeping your PC "clean" and running at its best is as simple as establishing a routine maintenance schedule and using the right kinds of software to address the most common problems. The good news is, many of these maintenance tasks can be automated, thanks to software developers who understand how busy the average PC user is - and how baffling trouble-shooting can be.

Here are three key "cleaning" tasks that you should perform on a regular basis (at least once a week):

Run a registry cleaner

If your computer is slower now than when you first bought it, the problem may be registry errors. Installing and removing software, playing online games, application crashes and upgrades of software problems can all create "natural" errors in your PC's registry. They accumulate over time and the more errors you have, the higher the likelihood that you'll experience trouble.

To protect your system, install a one-click tool called Advanced Registry Optimizer 5 (ARO 5). The software ferrets out and corrects registry errors. Manufacturer Sammsoft offers free trials of ARO 5 so people can check their systems for errors. Go to to download your free trial. Once the download is complete, just click "run" to install ARO 5. The program will scan and diagnose your PC's registry, tell you how many errors it found and then fix the first 20 errors for free. If you like the trial version, you can upgrade to the full unlimited commercial system for just $29.95.

Industry watcher Softarea51 recently gave the software 5 stars, calling it "a remarkable product, best of breed in its class, rising above its competitors by its innovative approach."

Out spyware

Did you know that 61 percent of PCs have spyware on them? And of those infected, 92 percent of users didn't know spyware was present on their computers, according to a poll by AOL and the National Cyber-Security Alliance.

Spyware - software that gets installed on your computer without your knowledge or consent - is considered a serious security threat. Not only can spyware collect information about your Internet usage, it can install additional software, hijack your browser, change your computer settings and slow down your computer performance.

Scan for spyware daily if you are on the Internet often and download frequently. Many companies offer completely free anti-spyware software for download.

Be vigilant to viruses

With so many other computer threats cropping up, it may be easy to overlook virus protection. But viruses continue to be a major threat to computer security, costing consumers and companies billions of dollars worldwide each year to prevent virus transmission and clean up after infection.

The best defense is a good offense when it comes to computer viruses. Subscribe to a virus protection software that provides constant updates since new viruses emerge and old ones evolve into new forms every day. Scan for new viruses at least once a week - more frequently if you are a heavy Internet user or receive large volumes of unsolicited e-mail.

Don't wait until it's too late...go to to download your free trial. Once the download is complete, just click "run" to install ARO 5. The program will scan and diagnose your PC's registry, tell you how many errors it found and then fix the first 20 errors for free. If you like the trial version, you can upgrade to the full unlimited commercial system for just $29.95.

Sponsored content provided by ARALifestyle.

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Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Making Merit in Thailand tourist style

Making merit is a way of life for most Thai people. An old Thai proverb says it best: “if you do good you will receive good; if you do evil you will receive evil ”. Karma it seems really can be a bitch.

There are a few ways of making merit. The first is to give alms. Every morning you will see monks walking up and down the streets of Thailand with empty bowls. They are giving the people a chance to gain merit by filling that bowl with food as monks aren’t allowed to store or cook food. The person gains merit and the monk gets fed. Many small stores and temples have people selling alms baskets, small beach buckets filled with rice, candles, incense, flashlight, and other things the monks need. These baskets are given to the monks at temple giving yet another chance to gain merit. Being generous to those less fortunate is also a staple in the merit making process.

Another way of making merit is through prayer, usually done at the local temple.Opening ones mind to the spiritual side will gain the individual merit.

As a tourist in Thailand you’ll be given the chance to make merit everywhere. Around temples children carry many small cages of differing colors with small birds inside. Releasing these birds at the temple and giving them their freedom will give you merit… Well, as a tourist you kinda have to pay for your merit, the privilege of releasing the birds will set you back 50 Baht. The birds are well trained too…they fly right back down the hill to the cages and waiting food. You can also purchase an alms bucket to give to the monks.

Making merit is a way to gain happiness in this life and a better position in the next life. Here is what Thais believe certain alms will bring you.

If you offer rice or any staple food, you will be happy and healthy all through your life.

If you offer clothing, in your next life, you won’t have a problem with clothing and will also have beautiful skin.

If you offer candles, flashlight and incense sticks you will have beautiful and bright eyes. Also, in your next life you will not need glasses.

If you offer a Buddha image, in your following life you will be as beautiful as that image.

If you offer religious books or donate text books and learning materials for school children, you will be intelligent in your next life.

If you offer soap, skin lotion or cleansing facilities, you will have nice and beautiful skin.

If you donate money and materials for constructing buildings in the monastery, you will have a big and beautiful house in your next life.

If you build bathrooms and toilets for the monastery and help to build public hospitals, you will have a healthy and happy life.

If you offer toothpicks, toothbrushes and toothpaste, you will have beautiful and strong teeth.

If you donate blood, kidney or other part of your body, you will have a fit body and vigorous health in your future lives.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Apple Tablet: 10 Things We (Already) Hate About You

From DailyFinance

For several months, rumors that Apple (AAPL) will release a touchscreen tablet-style computer have dominated the tech world, despite little or no tangible news to verify that. But that hasn't stopped reporters and bloggers from diving into the rushing stream of speculation over this still unnamed "iTablet," hurling themselves headlong into Steve Jobs's infamous "reality distortion field" (and generously fueling Apple's publicity machine). But not us. No, here at DailyFinance, we're far above leaping into the mosh pit. Instead, we realized we had 10 excellent reasons not to buy an Apple tablet. (Full disclosure: we've used Apple products for 20 years and love them.)

O, Apple iTablet, how do we (already) hate thee? Let us count the ways.

1. The first version of an Apple product is usually buggy. It's the First Commandment of Apple consumers: Thou shalt not buy the rookie products. "I'd like all the other 'beta testers' to work out the kinks first," one staffer here says. Sometimes, the launch is completely half-baked. Remember the iPhone's debut? Just months after it hit the market, the 4GB version was scuttled and the 8GB version's price dropped. Fact is, there will be a second tablet within months, and the price will inevitably drop. If you simply must have one, wait for it, because you'll be pretty annoyed when see how much it improves.

2. You don't need a giant thousand-dollar smartphone. You've got an iPhone. You've got a laptop. You just received a Kindle for Christmas. Why do you need a tablet? You're probably not sure. Unlike the iPod and the iPhone, this is a product without a clear need. Unless you deliver FedEx packages, you probably don't need a giant mobile touch-screen device. It won't replace your smartphone, which you carry around in your pocket, or your laptop, which needs a keyboard. Will you want to pay nearly $1,000 to carry around a tablet, along with your mobile phone, your work BlackBerry, your laptop, and your Kindle?

3. You're just going to break it, anyway. Picture yourself with your steaming coffee in one hand, your squirming toddler in the other -- and, somehow, your shiny new Apple tablet, playing Sarah Palin's Fox News clips you missed last night until -- gasp -- your precious Apple escapes and plummets to the floor, shattering into a million little pieces. In The Hunt For Red October, sub captain Marko Ramius observes: "Most things in here don't react well to bullets." Don't expect an Apple tablet to react well to almost anything in the world. Water, soda, food, kids, pets: you'll surely figure out a way to damage your new toy sooner or later.

4. Multifunction devices can do a lot -- just not well. Other than your couch, where might your tablet be more useful than what you're using now? Will you use your tablet instead of the PC at your office desk? Will you watch videos on it instead of your flat-screen monitor? Will you use it instead of your smartphone when you're out? No, no, and no.

5. Buy one, and you might as well wear a "Rob Me!" sign. Carrying a tablet around on public transit, on the street, or in a bar is a needless risk -- yet that's precisely where you're expected to use them. Cellphones stow invisibly in your pocket, and laptops fit innocuously into cases, but if you use the tablet as intended -- on the go -- you're just asking for someone to snatch it. Remember those iPod muggings, with those telltale, enticing white earbuds? Think about that whenever you're tempted to watch last night's Daily Show on the New York City subway.

6. The tablet never caught on -- and there's a reason for that. You do not need to buy a new gadget every time Steve Jobs tells you to. The iPod represented a major evolution over the Sony (SNE) Walkman, and the iPhone escalated the smartphone game. But the tablet seems driven by nothing more than desire. Just take a breath...put the tablet down...and back away...slowly.

7. No keyboard, no mouse, no dice. Typing (or "typing") on touchscreens is annoying. How many Tablet buyers will wind up connecting peripheral keyboards and mice? And then...well, what's the point? Besides, mobile devices are only as useful as their battery life. Unless the tablet has more than about six hours of power, it's going to wind up tethered to a wall. Just like your desktop.

8. Netbooks are cheaper. With a glut of netbooks on the market -- with keyboards! -- offering a full Web experience with significantly less sticker shock than the tablet, there's no reason to go there. If you've got the cash for a tablet, you'd be better off with a MacBook Air, a device with far more functionality packed into its three pounds.

9. Something better's coming. With advances in speech recognition, data input will be changing radically over the next few years. Perhaps more importantly, advances in mobile display technology suggest we'll eventually be projecting images and videos on blank walls, or even into space. Or we'll be wearing headsets that project tiny images of the screen into our eyes at close range. In any event, the tablet is an innovation that'll surely be obsolete within a few years.

10. Beware -- Apple also built the world's most infamous paperweight

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Saturday, January 23, 2010

Burger King to sell beer at fast food joints

[B]Introducing the Whopper Bar: Burger King to sell beer at fast food joints
By Henrick Karoliszyn and Corky Siemaszko
Daily News Writers

Friday, January 22nd 2010, 12:45 PM

Getty/Daily News Photo IllustrationBurger King is unveiling its Whopper Bar, where customers can have a beer to go along with their fries. Take our PollAren't you thirsty?
Do you think beer should be served at Burger King?

Yes, sometimes I like to drink a brew with my food
No, it's a family place
I will stick to the bar either way

Related NewsArticlesFounder of Taco Bell dead at 86Burger King is going to be selling brewskis - and that's no whopper.

Hoping to tap a whole new customer base, the fast food chain has unveiled plans to peddle beer alongside their famous burgers at something they are calling a Whopper Bar.

The first one is opening in Miami Beach and will target thirsty tourists hitting South Beach, Burger King confirmed.

The chain is also reportedly looking to open more Whopper Bars in other tourist meccas like Times Square, as well as Las Vegas and Los Angeles.

Don't look for exotic brews - BK is starting out with domestic brands like Miller at Budweiser and will consider other beers down the road.

"You can have America's favorite beers with America's favorite burger," said Chuck Fallon, the chain's North America honcho.

Served in specially designed aluminum bottles, a BK beer will sell for $4.25 alone. And a Whopper combo with a beer will run $7.99, which is about $2 more than the same meal with a soda.

Burger King's beer n' burgers idea got mixed reviews from New Yorkers.

Arnold Lyons, 58, of the Bronx, said he didn't think it was a good idea because so many kids eat at Burger King.

"There's already enough trouble without Burger King selling beer," he said. "You don't take your kids to a bar."

Sharon McKnight, 49, of Manhattan, called serving beer at a fast food restaurant "ludicrous."

But Sonia Neal, 36, called the scheme "genius."

"I think it's a brilliant idea as long as it's done tastefully," said Neal, of The Bronx.

Burger King isn't the first fast food chain to embrace alcohol - Starbucks already sells beer and wine and some of its cafes.

Also, Burger King diners in beer-loving Germany and Venezuela can already buy suds with their Whoppers and fries.

But with the competition for America's fast food eaters getting fiercer by the day, Burger King needs novel ways to bring in more business, industry experts said.

Over the years, Burger King has launched some famous customer campaigns, including "Have it your way" which helped separate the chain from rivals like McDonald's.

There have also been some duds like "Flame," a men's body spray the company introduced two years ago and described as "the scent of seduction with a hint of flame-broiled meat."

Burger King also tried to make itself hipper by referring to itself with just its initials, the same kind of makeover Kentucky Fried Chicken attempted when it started calling itself KFC.

It's also known for its Burger King character, the latest incarnation of which is an actor wearing a grinning, over-sized mask that has caught on with the public despite being so creepy.


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Monday, January 18, 2010

4 smart fixes for your 401(k)


-- With stocks up more than 60% since hitting bottom last March, the red ink is finally fading on the typical 401(k) account. Yes, it's safe to look at your statement again: Balances for boomers who have worked 10 to 20 years at the same company are now down less than 3% on average, compared with pre-crash levels; younger employees and 45- to 64-year-olds with less tenure are solidly back in the black.

That's a stunning turnaround from the 25% or more losses of just a year ago. So what if some of that lost ground was made up with new contributions and employer matches? Getting back to even, or pretty darn close, still feels like a major victory.

Don't bask in self-congratulations too long, though. Fact is, you have to do a whole lot better than merely recovering your losses to get your 401(k) on a winning track.

"Many people were two or more years behind on their savings even before the crash," says Alicia Munnell, director of the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College. "The market rebound has put their balances back closer to where they were, but not to where they need to be."

Getting to that goal may seem daunting, but recent developments in the 401(k) world should make the challenge easier to meet. Many plans have improved their investment options, allowing you to better protect your portfolio against market mayhem. They've also added tools that make it easier to rein in costs and adjust your asset mix as financial conditions change.

Just as important, the lessons learned from the experience of the past 18 months -- especially the way most investors handled the downturn -- suggest new strategies going forward that can help you manage your 401(k) more profitably. To move beyond square one, follow these four steps.

Don't just stand there

The typical 401(k) investor did not react to the financial crisis by selling in panic, as many advisers feared. Instead, most plan participants (80%) did ... nothing. And inertia is the most dangerous path of all for many retirement savers. Not making any portfolio changes as shares peaked in 2007 was a big reason many preretirees had hefty stock stakes when the market crashed in 2008 -- nearly four in 10 employees ages 56 to 65 had more than 80% of their 401(k)s in stock, according to the Employee Benefits Research Institute. And it's likely they had losses of 30% to 40% as a result.

Don't repeat that mistake. After the 2009 surge in stock prices, your asset allocation is probably out of whack again. The solution: Rebalance your 401(k) now, shifting money out of stocks and into fixed-income investments until you're back at your target weightings.

You'll also need to rejigger your holdings of subcategories of stocks, lightening up on small, midcap, and foreign stocks, which have gained the most, and betting more on blue chips.

Some good news: The process is easier now that nearly half of 401(k)s offer an automatic rebalancing option, up from 11% six years ago; many other plans provide an online tool to help you do it yourself.

As you fine-tune your mix, take advantage of opportunities to diversify into asset classes that can help improve your returns and reduce risk. In the past two years many plans have added investments to their menu: 12% now have an inflation-protected bond fund, and 19% offer real estate funds, according to Hewitt Associates.

Pump up to double digits

No matter how well you position your portfolio, you can't count on market gains alone to power your 401(k) to greater heights. The only sure way to keep your account balance growing is to contribute more to your plan. Yet only 23% of participants have boosted the amount they're saving in the past year, and 20% are contributing less, according to a survey by Wells Fargo.

That won't cut it -- especially if you're among the vast majority of 401(k) investors who don't kick in much more than is needed to qualify for the maximum employer match (typically 50% of what you put in, up to 6% of your salary). Aim instead to contribute 10% to 15% of your pay (your limit: $16,500 in 2010, plus another $5,500 if you're 50 or older).

The higher bar is more reachable than you might think because the tax break you get on your contributions reduces your net outlay; investing an extra $6,000 a year, or $500 a month, costs you only $360 out of pocket if you're in the 28% bracket. A few judicious nips and tucks to your budget should yield most of what you need.

Zero in on low-cost options

A long-term investor in a 401(k) plan that charges 1.5% in annual expenses is likely to end up with a 20% smaller nest egg than someone in a plan that costs 0.5%, according to a GAO report. Does your 401(k) charge that much or more? Unfortunately, it's tough for you to know now, since total costs, which include fund expense ratios and administrative charges, are often poorly disclosed.

Legislation has been introduced in Congress to address the problem, and the Labor Department is expected to release new rules in early 2010 requiring greater transparency about fees.

But don't wait for the feds to act. Check out how your plan stacks up against others in its industry at, a new, free 401(k) service that evaluates more than 15,000 plans on factors such as fees, investment choices, and company matches. If your plan's fees are high, be especially vigilant about favoring low-cost options, like index funds (typical expense ratio: 0.2%) and institutional funds (0.8% or less), vs. actively managed retailstock funds (1.4%).

Stuck in a plan with high fees and no solid low-cost fund choices? Invest just enough to get the full employer match, then kick in the max on a traditional or Roth IRA at an online brokerage or fund company, where you'll have access to low-cost mutual and exchange-traded funds. (If you can afford to save more, follow the same strategy in a taxable account.) Over the long run, the extra money you make by lowering expenses will more than outweigh the forgone tax breaks on your 401(k).

Build your safety cushion

Call it the danger zone: The five years before you quit the workforce is when your 401(k) is most vulnerable to a plunging market. If you don't have time to repair the cracks in your nest egg before you exit, and you're forced to draw on a shrunken account for retirement income, you greatly increase the odds you'll eventually run out of money.

Embrace your inner conservative during this period. "Most investors should keep no more than 40% to 50% of their portfolios in stocks at retirement," warns Denver financial adviser Charles Farrell, author of Your Money Ratios. If you're investing in a target-date fund, which automatically shifts to safer assets as you age, make sure the manager is really doing the job (find its recent allocation at During the crash, 2010-target-date funds lost 25% on average because many had loaded up on emergingmarket stocks, subprime mortgage bonds, and other risky assets.

Building cash reserves outside your 401(k) equal to two to three years of expenses will also help you to ride out a downturn without tapping a depleted nest egg.

Another option: At retirement, invest some of your savings in an immediate annuity, which will give you a regular monthly paycheck. Compare offerings at, and stick with a financially strong insurer, rated A or better from A.M. Best or Standard & Poor's. Treasury officials are now pushing for an automatic annuity option in 401(k) plans. But until that happens, you'll have to provide your own life vest.

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Saturday, January 16, 2010

Homebuyer tax credit: No e-file and four-month delays

From CNN;

NEW YORK ( -- Good news homebuyers: You can file for your $8,000 first-time buyer tax credit again.

Bad news: You still can't e-file your taxes if you want the cash. And there are long delays.

On Thursday, CNNMoney revealed that buyers who purchased their properties after Nov. 6 were unable to claim the refund because the Internal Revenue Service had yet to release a new form and instructions. But on Friday, the IRS finally posted the new form 5405.

The two-month delay was frustrating to Florida resident Charles Teschke. "We are not broke or anything, but nevertheless we were still counting on getting the tax refund to help pay for the appliances and stuff we needed for our new home," he said. "The IRS told me they estimate it will take four months for me to get my refund!"

First-time buyers were able to immediately file for the tax credit after Congress approved it last February as part of the stimulus program. All they had to do was file an amendment to their 2008 tax returns (the ones they filed last April) and claim the promised refund of 10% of the purchase price, up to $8,000.
What I did with my $8,000 tax credit

They were able to e-file, and they received their refunds promptly. One reader filed a claim the first week of August, and had the check by the third week in September.

But on Nov. 6 the rules changed. That's when Congress extended -- and expanded -- the tax credit, which was originally scheduled to expire on Nov. 30.

Now, the deadline is April 30, by when all contracts must be signed. (Closings must happen by June 30.) Plus, existing homeowners looking to trade up (or down) can qualify for a $6,500 refund.

And these new buyers can no longer file electronically. They have to mail in paper forms, including the new 5405, whether they are amending their 2008 taxes or claiming it on the 2009 taxes that are being filed this spring.

That is going to dramatically slow refunds, but taxpayers can't blame the IRS. Instead, it's people scamming the system who are at fault.

For example, in October tax preparer James Otto Price III was the first person convicted of this crime. He falsely claimed the credit for 15 clients.

So buyers must now file documentation with their taxes -- including proof of residency, a signed mortgage statement and drivers license -- which the e-file system is not equipped to handle.

"Because of the scams, the IRS started sending back the amended returns and asking for proof," said Mary Mellem of David & Mary Mellem, EAs & Ashwaubenon Tax Professionals. "The system has no way of sending along the documents they're requiring. Taxpayers must file a paper return instead."

The IRS points out that taxpayers can still use the electronic forms available on its Web site or consumer sites such as TurboTax; they just have to print them out, attach the proof and mail everything in. And that can take quite a while.

"Taxpayers are looking at another three months before they get their returns," said Mellem. To top of page

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Friday, January 15, 2010

Verizon and AT&T dial up wireless plan wars

From CNN:

NEW YORK ( -- Verizon Wireless said early Friday it will lower prices on its unlimited wireless plans.

Later in the day, AT&T followed suit.

Verizon cut its unlimited family talk and text plan from $229.99 to $149.99 and its nationwide unlimited voice plan was reduced to $69.99 from $99.99.

An unlimited family voice plan will cost users $119.99, down from $199.99, and nationwide unlimited talk and text plans were lowered to $89.99 from $119.99.

"Prices either stayed the same or were lowered for unlimited usage," said Brenda Raney, a Verizon Wireless spokeswoman.

The lower prices will be offered Monday. Existing customer contracts will not be affected, but customers may switch over to any of the new plans without a penalty or contract extension.

After the announcement, AT&T said it will cut back prices on unlimited plans as well and the new rates will also be available Monday.

AT&T will lower the price of each of its unlimited plans by $30, leaving the two companies neck and neck yet again.

"We are committed to providing more value to our customers and staying competitive in the marketplace," said AT&T spokesman Fletcher Cook. "These new plans make it even more attractive to choose AT&T."

"The reason AT&T had to lower its prices is because its brand reputation is taking a lot of hits," said Doug Helmreich, program director at consultancy CFI Group. "It's predictable just because they are a big player in the market and they can't not respond."

And because competitors won't want to be left in the dust, other wireless service providers including Sprint Nextel (S, Fortune 500), T-Mobile USA are likely to hop on the bandwagon, said Daniel Hays, wireless expert and partner at consultancy PRTM.

But Verizon's smaller -- but growing -- competitors may be even more affected by the price reductions.

"This is going to put continued pressure on some of the smaller players like Leap Wireless (LEAP) and MetroPCS (PCS) who have really been taking the lead in this pricing competition," Hays added. "They're going to be the ones who are going to have primary impact." To top of page

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Monday, January 11, 2010

Virtual 'Suicide Machine' Erases Your Online Life

(Newser) – A new site promises to set people free from the chains of social networking, and Facebook is not amused. The site, Web 2.0 Suicide Machine, is designed to permanently remove people's accounts from Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, and LinkedIn. (See the video for details.) It proudly claims nearly 900 users, 58,000 unfriended friends, and 230,000 de-tweeted tweets. And now it also has a cease and desist letter from Facebook.

The suicide site is the collaboration of artists and programs in the Netherlands, reports NPR. "Basically, we try to remove as much content as possible," says its chief. "We change the profile picture and the password so you can't log in anymore." The site is still figuring out how to respond to Facebook, complete with a clock counting down its deadline.

more at

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Google to mobile industry: ‘F*ck you very much!’

Interesting read:

Winners and losers from the great Nexus shafting

By Andrew Orlowski

8th January 2010 12:05 GMT

"It’s Google’s autistic approach to relationships," one senior phone exec told me this week. "They don’t know what hurt they’re doing, and they don’t care."

It’s nothing personal, guys. Today, some of the biggest tech companies in the world, who thought they were Google’s closest partners, will begin to understand how, say, copyright holders have felt for some time now. For the first time, I suspect, they’ll be enjoying that recurring tingle of amazement and disbelief that (as Chris Castle explained here), Google would even try and pull off such a stunt. It took EMI Publishing six months to realise that Google had claimed digital rights to its songs, for example. But even if the decision to shaft its closest Android partners and biggest customers is an aberration, a one-off, a fling that Google will later regret - then the size of the parties involved means it’s going to have lasting repercussions.

Even before Google started competing with it head on this week, the mobile industry was already wary of the Mountain View Chocolate Factory, and its inclination to hoover up every morsel of service revenue. Now complaining about that may be a bit hypocritical, you might think, if you look at how much of a transaction operators such as Docomo have traditionally retained, and how much they want to keep now. But look at the alternative, Google told the networks and device makers. That Mr Jobs doesn’t leave anything on the table. And besides, we Do No Evil.

Wakey wakey, networks

If you’re scratching your head wondering what the big deal is, then I suggest you do a quick news search on the number of stories containing the phrase ‘Google superphone’. Imagine how this looks to a punter. There are over a dozen Google phones. Only one is a real Google phone. Only one is a Google superphone. And you can only get that from Google. Won’t Sony Ericsson, Motorola, Acer and Samsung be feeling pleased today? Sony Ericsson’s X10 has a fairly identical spec (plus Sony branding) or better – but it’s not a ‘superphone’. And not the ‘real thing’.

If you thought there was a level playing field, you’ve been mugged. If you’re looking for a differentiator, similarly, you’ve been mugged.

As we discussed earlier, there may be some semantic wiggle room for Google – but it’s a Bill Clinton defence. Andy Rubin not only questioned the definition of sexual relations but also what ‘make our own hardware’ means (phnarr!). Maybe even what ‘is’ is. So despite nods and winks to the contrary, Google is now selling a Google-branded ‘superphone’, alongside its Google ad programs and Google-created software platform.

This is no surprise.

If networks are surprised that Google can turn around and shaft them – then they can’t have been paying close attention to company strategy in recent times. They certainly weren’t reading El Reg, where we’ve been joining the dots for you for years. The evidence was already abundant that Google envisaged a value chain without operators or ISPs. In Google’s vision of the future, there are no $80bn-a-year turnover giants like Vodafone. Instead, masts are merely a dumb transmission network, most likely operated by a monopoly incumbent (such as Arqiva for UK TV and radio), which must be regulated (out of necessity) by an equally dumb transmission network regulator.

With the value of copyright also reduced to zero, (the other arm of Google’s mighty lobbying effort is to kneecap creators and rightsholders,) then the only internet company that could possibly make money would be Google - since it would be the only internet company.
Good, honest lobbying

Google has lobbied for this for years now; it's also why Google has its own private internet. Googlenet already carries 10 per cent of the net’s traffic internally, and this is a testbed for replacements for the open protocols we use today such as http and dns. And it sure as hell isn’t neutral. Google has no obligation to open this to anybody else. The huge data centres are simply the physical manifestation of the private internet – like the vast ventilation towers at each end of the Holland or Rotherhithe Blackwall Tunnels

Rad more @

MagicJack's next act: Making cellphone fees disappear for home users

By Peter Svensson (CP) – 21 hours ago

LAS VEGAS — The company behind the magicJack, the cheap Internet phone gadget that's been heavily promoted on TV, has made a new version of the device that allows free calls from cellphones in the home, in a fashion that's sure to draw protest from cellular carriers.

The new magicJack uses, without permission, radio frequencies for which cellular carriers have paid billions of dollars for exclusive licenses.

YMax Corp., which is based in Palm Beach, Fla., said this week at the International Consumers Electronics Show that it plans to start selling the device in about four months for US$40, the same price as the original magicJack. As before, it will provide free calls to the U.S. and Canada for one year. The original magicJack is available in Canada.

The new device is, in essence, a very small cellular tower for the home.

The size of a deck of cards, it plugs into a PC, which needs a broadband Internet connection. The device then detects when a compatible cellphone comes within 2.4 metres and places a call to it. The user enters a short code on the phone. The phone is then linked to the magicJack and, as long as it's within range (YMax said it will cover a 280-square-metre home) magicJack routes the call itself, over the Internet, rather than going through the carrier's cellular tower. No minutes are subtracted from the user's account with the carrier. Any extra fees for international calls are subtracted from the user's account with magicJack, not the carrier.

According to YMax CEO Dan Borislow, the device will connect to any phone that uses the GSM standard, which in the U.S. includes phones from AT&T Inc. and T-Mobile USA. At a demonstration at CES, a visitor's phone with a T-Mobile account successfully placed and received calls through the magicJack. Most phones from Verizon Wireless and Sprint Nextel Corp. won't connect to the device.

Borislow said the device is legal because wireless spectrum licences don't extend into the home.

AT&T Inc., T-Mobile USA and the U.S. Federal Communications Commission didn't immediately respond to requests for comment.

Borislow said YMax has sold five million magicJacks for landline phones in the last two years, and that roughly three million are in active use. That would give YMax a bigger customer base than Internet phone pioneer Vonage Holdings Corp., which has been selling service for $25 per month for the better part of a decade. Privately held YMax had revenue of $110 million last year, it says.

U.S. carriers have been selling and experimenting with devices that act similarly to the wireless magicJack. They're called "femtocells." Like the magicJack, they use the carrier's licensed spectrum to connect to a phone, then route the calls over a home broadband connection. They improve coverage inside the home and offload capacity from the carrier's towers.

But femtocells are complex products, because they're designed to mesh with the carrier's external network. They cost the carriers more than $200, though some sell them cheaper, recouping the cost through added service fees. YMax's magicJack is a much smaller, simpler design.

Read more @

Friday, January 8, 2010

3 Signs of a Terrible Investment


There's nothing wrong with fixing your focus on trying to find the next Wal-Mart (NYSE: WMT). After all, isn't that what we're here for in the first place?

But before you go diving in after that hot new small cap you found, let's take a moment to remember some of Warren Buffett's priceless investment advice: "Rule number one: Never lose money. Rule number two: Never forget rule number one."

Maybe we should rename Warren "Captain Obvious."

But as obvious as Buffett's advice may seem, it's an important and often overlooked aspect of investing. So how do we avoid losing money? I've found a few great lessons from some of the past decade's worst investments.

1. Poor business model
In Buffett's 2007 letter to Berkshire Hathaway (NYSE: BRK-A) shareholders, he described three types of businesses: the great, the good, and the gruesome. He described the "gruesome" type as a business that "grows rapidly, requires significant capital to engender the growth, and then earns little or no money."

Buffett's prime example of a gruesome business? Airlines. And he's not alone in thinking this. Robert Crandall, the former chairman of American Airlines, once said:

I've never invested in any airline. I'm an airline manager. I don't invest in airlines. And I always said to the employees of American, 'This is not an appropriate investment. It's a great place to work and it's a great company that does important work. But airlines are not an investment.'

So then it shouldn't be much of a surprise that AMR (NYSE: AMR), American Airlines' parent, would come up as a stock that has massively underperformed the market. Though American is the only legacy airline not to have declared bankruptcy, the business has performed only marginally over the years, and its voracious appetite for capital has gobbled up all of the company's cash and then some.

Investing large amounts of capital into a business isn't a bad thing in itself. However, investors need to be sure that there's a good chance that capital investments will actually translate into healthy shareholder returns.

2. Sky-high valuation
We can take our pick of overvalued stocks when looking back 10 years, but Yahoo! (Nasdaq: YHOO) seems to stick out as a prime example.

Yahoo! had a lot going for it back in 1999 -- it was a pioneer and leader in the Internet search arena, it was growing like a weed, and by the end of 1999 was actually profitable. And, in fact, Yahoo! continued to get even more profitable and managed to expand its revenue 12-fold by the end of 2008.

However, the 259 price-to-revenue multiple that investors awarded the stock at the end of 1999 was absolutely ludicrous. Even if Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) had never come along and pushed Yahoo! aside as the industry leader, it would have been nearly impossible for the company to live up to the expectations that Yahoo!'s 1999 valuation implied.

As Buffett has said, "It's far better to buy a wonderful company at a fair price than a fair company at a wonderful price." And it's never a good idea to own even a great company at an absurd price.

3. Loss of focus
What exactly was it that made E*TRADE (Nasdaq: ETFC) so successful for so many years? That's simple: It was a leader in the online brokerage market, making it easier for Fools like us to buy and sell stocks, bonds, mutual funds, and options.

However, the need for speed on the growth front, along with the pre-crash excitement in the housing and credit markets, led E*TRADE to rapidly bulk up its lending activities and investment portfolio, including feasting on food-poisoning-inducing asset-backed securities. As it turns out, E*TRADE wasn't especially good at managing these areas, and when all hell broke loose in 2008, the company found itself on the brink of extinction.

E*TRADE competitors like optionsXpress and Charles Schwab (Nasdaq: SCHW) have either stuck to their knitting or never let their noncore operations get out of control. As a result, their stocks have held up much better through the market turmoil.

Successful companies tend to be successful because they're good at their core business -- online brokerage services in E*TRADE's case. Is it possible for a company to branch out in a related area and be successful? Absolutely, but investors should always be on high alert when a company charges full throttle into uncharted waters.

The best of both worlds
Keeping these lessons in mind when evaluating an investment will help you avoid some of the next decade's worst investments, but they may also help you achieve the goal that we started with -- finding the next Wal-Mart. After all, Wal-Mart is a company with a great business model and a laser-like focus on its core low-priced-retail strategy, and it's been a fantastic investment for those who bought at a fair price.

The investing team at Motley Fool Hidden Gems focuses all of its time sorting through the world of small-cap stocks -- the prime hunting ground for tomorrow's Wal-Marts. By looking for the very best businesses and recommending them when the price is right, the newsletter has uncovered big winners for subscribers.

More here

Dell Offers Smoking-Hot Alienware Notebook for Less Than $1,000


LAS VEGAS — Dell has managed to pack an entire Alienware gaming rig into a tiny, 11-inch notebook body, and it kicks ass. It will also cost less than $1,000.

Regular readers will know I’m a Mac user. Normally, no matter how good a PC might be, if it doesn’t run the Mac OS I’m not interested. The Alienware M11X is the first machine to tempt me to the other side.

Dell decided not to bother with a heavy, power-thirsty CPU. Instead, the M11X is tricked out with a Core 2 Duo and hardware to push graphics. The NVIDIA GT35M can be switched in and out, so you can pick the internal graphics hardware for your e-mail and a 6.5-hour battery life, or fire up everything for two glorious hours of on-the-go gaming on the 720p, 1366 x 768 screen.

The M11X even goes one better than the MacBook Pro, which has a similar GPU-switching trick, but requires a logout to do it. When I asked Alex Gruzen, Dell’s VP of consumer products, if you had to restart the machine to change modes he smiled. “No, you just hit a switch,” he told me, “it takes about two seconds.”

I took the machine for a spin. On battery power, the M11X was running Modern Warfare 2 at full tilt, with almost everything turned on, at 30fps. It looks gorgeous. Kick up the volume and the sound thunders, crisp and clear, from a pair of speakers under the front edge, and when you pick it up and flip the thick but compact body over, there is even a glowing red light inside the fan-hole. Classy.

So nice is the output that, through the press conference, there was a Star Trek game running onstage on a big screen. We all assumed it was powered by the huge Alienware desktop next to it. It turned out that it was powered by the little M11X, which outputs via HDMI, DisplayPort or VGA.

It’s probably the best netbook you could buy, and it comes in at under $1,000.


Sunday, January 3, 2010

US airways Dividend Miles Dining

For those of you that have a Usairways mileage card ( dividend Miles) if you have not heard of there free Dining miles program you might want to join up if you’re the type that eats out a lot like I do, The points do add up and helped me get a lot of free flights in the past.

Dine out at a participating location when miles are being offered and use a registered credit or debit card to pay. There are no additional cards to carry, coupons to print, or numbers to remember. And you can manage your cards and view rewards anytime in your online Account Center.

You'll earn 3 miles for every dollar spent at participating restaurants, And that includes what you spend on tax and tip. Plus, it gets even better the more often you dine out.

Heres the link to sign up and for more info.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Inmate sues Penthouse for denying him access to mag

Ha !

Florida prison inmate, Jorge Niebla, sues Penthouse magazine for denying him subscription

What, no Penthouse in the big house?

A Florida prison inmate is suing the nudie magazine because it refused to send a subscription to him behind bars.

Jorge Niebla, who is serving 13 life sentences for kidnapping and armed robbery, filed the two-page suit in handwritten block letters to Manhattan Federal Court.

"[I] would like to purchase the magazine ... but staff are being predjudice and don't have respect for my basic rights," Niebla wrote in the bizarre filing.

Penthouse couldn't be reached for comment.

A judge last week ordered Niebla to fill out a form to get a waiver of the $350 filing fee.

Read more:

Friday, January 1, 2010

How to connect your PC to your TV

Good read from CNET:

The nightmare scenario for cable companies is that customers drop their TV subscriptions and grab their video directly from the Web, turning the cable guys into mere providers of "dumb pipes."

But here's a comprehensive set of instructions from a big cable company showing its customers how to do just that. It suggests that they head to the likes of Hulu, Fancast, or "any search engine"--weird for it not to call out Google, no?--to find their favorite shows.

Time Warner Cable's instructions on "How to Connect Your PC to Your TV" can be accessed by clicking on the image at the bottom of this post. And here's a helpful video (sorry for the clumsy screen grab; the video kicks in at about the five-second mark, and there's some unpleasant coughing around 2:30. Yikes!):

The instructions (Time Warner Cable promised to provide them last week) are part of the company's game of chicken with News Corp.'s Fox, which is supposed to come to a head Thursday night. If you believe the posturing so far, Fox and its associated cable channels (Fox News, FX, etc.) will disappear after midnight because the two sides can't agree on a new rate.

Alternate view: this thing will go down to the wire and then get resolved, like Time Warner Cable's back-and-forth with Viacom a year ago.

If you want blow-by-blow coverage, let me suggest the Los Angeles Times' tireless Joe Flint, who is updating each salvo in real time, or very close to it. Or you can just turn on your TV set after midnight Thursday and take a look for yourself.

Still, no matter how this resolves, the danger for both sides is that consumers really do take up Time Warner Cable on its offer and start watching Fox stuff on the Web. And to be clear: Fox would prefer that people keep paying for cable TV, because the media company really likes subscription fees from cable TV providers.

People are already moving to the Web to watch TV, of course, but it's not mainstream behavior yet. It may be inevitable anyway, but no matter what you hear from both sides of this contract dispute, both sides like this model very much and they'd like to keep it intact as long as possible.

Which is why discussions with would-be "over the top" providers like Apple are supposed to be about adding additional TV programming, not replacing cable.

The safety catch here for the TV business is that consumers who do go to the Web to watch TV, at least through sanctioned means, may be disappointed: They'll find that programming there doesn't show up for at least a day, and often longer, after it airs. And some stuff, notably live sports like the NFL playoffs (contrary to the image in the screenshot above) and Fox's "American Idol" don't make it on the Web at all.