October 31, 2003

This was not the way I wanted to get a G5

Well, having messed with the server interminably, I've gone to a new system. Ordered a new motherboard for the old server, so now I'll be able to swap if one goes down. Never did I think I'd be my own one-man IT department.

UPDATE: I've found a way to trick the old system into staying up longer, though not permanently. It'll be a while before we return to normal operation around here, as I have several projects on deadline this week. If you are reading this, I am still being tricky enough to keep the system up -- it seems to involve keeping Ethernet and at least one application active.

Posted by Mitch Ratcliffe at 12:15 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

October 30, 2003

Power outage, server outage

Seven hours without power today, because of windstorm damage. The only system that didn't come back up was my OS X server. It seems the power management chip is fouled up, as any power-related function, like sleeping the display, puts the system into sleep. I've reset the PMU -- anyone have any other ideas?

Posted by Mitch Ratcliffe at 11:44 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Light Blogging

It's one of those three-deadlines-in-one-week weeks....

Posted by Mitch Ratcliffe at 10:38 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Bouy, Those Are Some Economic Numbers

Headlines trumpet the "best economic growth in 20 years," hearkening back to the Reagan recovery well before there is any actual sign of improvements for ordinary Americans. Just as the press wants to be patriotic during a war, they tend to be parochial about the economy. Thus, you get statements like "The U.S. economy, hitting on all cylinders for the first time in several years..." from the Washington Post when there is absolutely no sign of employment improvements, setting the stage for a dismal Christmas retail season as consumers save for hard times (less job security) and the profits generated by the recent wave of tax refunds is absorbed and spirited away to the bank accounts of the richest one percent of the nation.

If you look at the chart the Post provides, you can see that there are two factors that account for the spurts of jobless growth in recent years -- every quarter in which a tax refund was delivered to Americans (Q4, 2001, Q3 2002 and last quarter, Q3 2003), they spent more; otherwise, if you look at the quarters after the invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq (Q1 2002 and Q2 2003, when we had to build and buy more bullets, uniforms, bombs and missiles), defense spending pumped things up. But the purpose of the tax cuts was to stimulate job growth, which still hasn't materialized and I'll take economy's slower growth without the expense of American lives any day.

But the really painful medicine in the "stellar" economy reports is that every time we've had a great quarter, the following unstimulated quarter--that is, when money wasn't being pumped directly into the economy in the forms of checks from Treasury or the DoD--growth has fallen back to a dismal 1.3 percent to 1.4 percent.

Secretary of Commerce Don Evans took the occasion of today's economic numbers to reiterate the promise that "We're growing the American economy and soon we'll be growing more jobs." We won't be seeing any new jobs if, as the market seems to think, stocks are currently priced for perfection and that the Fed will soon have to raise rates, which will choke off consumer spending built in recent years on the extraction of equity from homes. This is not an environment of renewed investment, but one of economic sleight of hand, trading current spending for massive federal deficits, not to mention ever-growing consumer debt. Much of the current job "growth"--which is still 250,000 jobs lower each month than promised by the Bush Administration--is in pre-holiday temporary hiring. It happens every year, so the gain of 57,000 jobs in September should be discounted more aggressively to account for seasonal jobs. The key sentence in that employment report was: "Since November 2001, the proportion of long-term unemployed has increased by about 9 percentage points."

The problem with tracking unemployment on the Department of Commerce site is that they replace the previous month's current unemployment with the previous month's report without changing the URL, making it hard to create comparisons between months. But, these charts clearly show the lack of progress in the economy:

One hopes that Republican voters hold the President and his administration to the promise they keep repeating but on which they never deliver.

Posted by Mitch Ratcliffe at 10:23 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

October 28, 2003

Bushies -- Who Do You People Think You Are?

Posted by Mitch Ratcliffe at 11:26 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

What Sony Tells Us

The news that Sony is laying off 20,000 workers and redirecting its effort both to increase revenues in China and lower costs to compete with Chinese consumer electronics has only one message for U.S. technology and consumer electronics companies: China is the main competitor and main market where they must succeed in the next 20 years. Ignoring the China market will lead to corporate fatality.

Sony's president, Nobuyuki Idei says he wants to gain five percent of the Chinese consumer electronics market for Sony, which currently holds about a one percent market share. Those gains have to come while domestic Chinese companies and competitors from other countries, particularly Samsung and LG in Korea, compete for a share of the exploding Chinese market. So, Sony doesn't just have to increase its Chinese sales by 500%, it has to increase it by 5,000% over the next decade to achieve that market share target.

The layoffs, while not unprecedented in Japan, are massive. And the suggestion that the company will compete in China by outsourcing manufacturing to China is a clear sign of what happened to that headcount, half of which were "administrative" positions overseeing an already deeply automated production system. Sony will never be rehiring that 13 percent of its workforce --those jobs have gone permanently to the floating market for outsourced manufacturing and middle management associated with those product lines has been wiped out.

Posted by Mitch Ratcliffe at 05:03 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (2)

October 27, 2003

Rich Media Ads Increasing Market Share

Mediapost reports that DoubleClick is seeing continuing and impressive gains in the use of rich media ads. Here are the numbers:

Rich Media's Share Of Online Ads Served

Share Of Ads Served*
Q1 2002 17.3%
Q2 2002 19.3%
Q3 2002 23.2%
Q4 2002 24.9%
Q1 2003 27.8%
Q2 2003 31.7%
Q3 2003 38.6%

Source: DoubleClick Q3 2003 Ad Serving Trends Report. *By DoubleClick. Q3 2003 Base = 172 billion impressions.

Posted by Mitch Ratcliffe at 10:00 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

How Do You Spell "Capital Flight"

I guess I am beginning to understand George Bush's statement that he looked into Vladimir Putin and believed he saw a man with whom he can do business. Mr. Bush clearly has a skewed view of reality, because Putin is a guy who only does business on his terms.

President Putin, who runs his country as a quasi-dictatorship at this point, has jailed one of "the oligarchs," the cadre of super-rich quasi-mobster businessmen who dictate most of the economic activity in Russia because he threatened to contest Putin's political power. In one of those trumped-up sounding charges of corruption, Putin has had Mikhail Khodorovsky imprisoned on corruption charges as Khodorovsky's company, Yukos, the world's fourth largest oil company, was in the midst of negotiations with foreign investors to sell part of the firm. The sale would have freed Yukos from the strict control exerted by Putin.

Russians, who have had to endure the concentration of wealth and power in the hands of a very few people in the wake of the collapse of the Soviet Union, another centralized regime, are going to pay for this kind of conceit on Putin's part with an even longer economic winter. It also suggests that, should the U.S. and Russia come to some geopolitical loggerhead, the only option will be a catastrophic showdown between Bush and Putin, neither of whom seem to understand anything other than blunt force.

Posted by Mitch Ratcliffe at 09:56 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

The Benefit of IT Quantified Or Rationalized?

According to the Economist, a team at Harvard led by Dale Jorgenson has determined that the benefits of IT investment we have seen in the United States aren't evident in Japan and Europe because they are being mismeasured:

Mr Jorgenson uses data for Europe and Japan which are adjusted to incorporate price deflators and measures of software expenditure similar to those used in America. Unfortunately, the detailed information needed to make these adjustments is available for most economies only up to 2000. Even so, the results are striking. For instance, they suggest that Japan's GDP grew by an annual average of 2.1% in the second half of the 1990s, compared with only 1.4% according to official statistics.

Employing these revised data, Mr Jorgenson finds that in all G7 economies, not just America, a boom in IT investment helped to boost growth in the second half of the 1990s. Indeed, the contribution to GDP growth from IT capital spending was almost as big in Japan as in America—although it was offset by a fall in investment of other sorts. All of the European economies also saw a marked increase in their IT capital stock, albeit smaller than in America. As in Japan, in many European countries this was partly countered by weaker non-IT investment.

I'd say that the different perceived value of the returns on IT investment are a combination of overstatement of the value to the U.S. economy and an understatement of the European and Japanese returns.

The article goes on to talk about "deficient demand" in Japan and Europe, "The snag is that elsewhere it has been partly disguised by the poor performance of investment in other things," which is a fancy way of saying -- in my opinion -- that the benefits of IT aren't being recognized. But I'd say that is actually a failure of IT marketing and product follow-through, not some kind of fault in the populations of other countries.

This same researcher said in 1991 that IT investment would "ease the economic slowdown," which was patently wrong. It seems he expects perfect responses by the market to imperfect technology or technology marketing.

I think we have a ways to go on the understanding the economic benefits of technology front.

Posted by Mitch Ratcliffe at 09:44 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)