Focus on Usability in 2009

In years past, the Consumer Electronics Show has been a showcase for excess. Huge televisions, products that are well out of the price range of the average consumer and were often rushed to release in time so that the manufacturers could make a bug splash at the show. They didn’t spend much time on usability research or test to see if people actually wanted or needed the product.

With the current economic situation, not only will there be fewer people and products at CES this year, but I am also hoping that companies will focus more on usability in their products. People are going to be more discerning in how and where they spend their money. The average tech consumer now should expect more from their products. It is not enough that it surfs the net, or connects your TV and computer. It should do it easier, faster and cheaper.

Companies will need to focus on usability and be sure they are spending their R&D monies on creating a product that serves a need simpler and without the fluff.

Best Of 2009 Consumer Guide

consumer money

As the year ends, there will be a plethora of ‘best of’ lists. best song, best movie, best album, best cheese, best web app…

I thought that with the struggling economy, that it would be helpful to have a list of the best ways to spend (or save) your money. I gleaned this information from many sources, including Forbes, Kiplinger’s, Consumer Reports and, of course, my own experiences and those of my colleagues.

  • Best Carry-On Travel Bag – With its rounded sedges and flexible nylon sides, the Red Ox Air Boss hasn’t met an overhead compartment it couldn’t squeeze into.
  • Best Online Savings AccountING Direct is simple, has a clean web interface with great rates.
  • Best Low Cost Travel Destination – Panama! panama vaction It’s like the South Pacific without the outrageaous airfare. In fact, recently found a 6-night stay for 2 in a 4-star hotel for less tha $2000, including the $351 roundtrip ticket.
  • Best All-Around Retirement AccountRoth IRA is still the best vehicle for long-term retirement savings. You can even tap earnings early to pay for college or buy a first home.
  • Best IRA for KidsCharles Schwab is one of the few financial institutions that lets you set up a custodial IRA for your child. Minimum investment: Only $100.
  • Best Online Broker – Better known for their mutual funds, Fidelity does well when it comes to online brokerage. Great research and a user-friendly website (important to me) as well as reported great customer service, they came out ahead for an online stock picker.
  • Best Mutual Fund for a Bear Market – The aptly named Grizzly Short Fund (GRZZX) is the ultimate hedge for a falling market. When the market fell, it was up over 83% for the year compared to the S&P’s 38% loss!
  • Best Last Minute Travel Deals – Some of the best airline and hotel deals pop up at the last minute, and www.USLastMinute.com shows you how to take advantage.
  • Best Car Insurance Web SiteInsWeb.com lets you compare price quotes form several major insureers and offers tons of tips on how to save money on premiums.
  • Best Stock for Dividends – Like P&G, Johnson & Johnson (JNJ) J&J logo is an “all-weather” stock that can be expected to survive all kinds of economic turmoil. With recent yields of 3.3% it also provides much needed income.
  • Best Non-Dividend Stock – What a great time to be Warren Buffet! (was there ever a bad time?) Stock prices are low and if you have extra cash laying around (and don’t want to donate it to me), the “Sage of Omaha” will be like a kid in a candy store. You can join in the fun by buying some of his Berkshire Hathaway (BRK.B) shares.
  • Best Stock to Buy and Forget – Even during lean times (recession), people still buy razor blades and potato chips. Procter & Gamble (PG) is a steady ship in stormy markets.
  • Best “Starter” Fund – If you are new to investing, the Amana Growth Fund (AMAGX) is a great way to get your toes wet for just $250. By folowing conservative investment principles, it managed to sidestep the recent debacle in financial stocks.
  • Best Web Site for Cheap Gas – Rater than rely on “spotters” Gasprices.Mapquest.com updates fuel prices daily via a data feed from the Oil Pricing Information Service. Just type in your zip code.
  • Best Airline – There are no “gotchas” on Southwest. southwest logo You can check two bags for free, and you’ll pay no extra fees for changing tickets or selecting seats. I was reminded of this several times this year when I had to fly on other airlines and had to pay several SURPRISE! fees at the ticket counter.
  • Best Hybrid Vehicle – Although it gets slightly lower mileage than the Toyota Prius, the honda civic hybrid Honda Civic¬† Hybrid is a better overall value and just plain cooler.
  • Best Non-Hybrid Car for Fuel Economy – Though it is new on the scene, the new 2009 Honda Fit has the best combination of fuel economy (28 mpg city/35 mpg highway with manual transmission), utility and overall quality.
  • Best Place to Fill Your Prescriptions – Unfortunately, Wal-Mart comes out ahead as far as price is concerned; $4 for 95% of the prescriptions written in most drug categories if you can stand being there long enough to get it filled.
  • Best Smart Phone – The iPhone. iphone 3g Need I say more?
  • Best Small Digital CameraSony Cyber-shot DSC-T700 has a fantastic view finder as well as easy to use controls and slides into most pockets easily.
  • Best Credit Card for Low Rate – If you carry a balance, consider transferring to the Wells fargo Prime Rate card for its 5% interest reate and $19 annual fee.

Redistribution of Wealth, Commando Style

obamahood

I thought it important to note that I put this blog posting up AS A JOKE!!! People, come on! I am a steadfast Obama supporter. Obviously this story and the person who wrote it has virtually nothing to do with Obama’s distribution of wealth plan.

The changes having to do with the economy are geared toward changes in taxes:

Obama and Biden will cut income taxes by $1,000 for working families to offset the payroll tax they pay.

  • Provide a Tax Cut for Working Families: Obama and Biden will restore fairness to the tax code and provide 150 million workers the tax relief they need. Obama and Biden will create a new “Making Work Pay” tax credit of up to $500 per person, or $1,000 per working family. The “Making Work Pay” tax credit will completely eliminate income taxes for 10 million Americans.
  • Eliminate Income Taxes for Seniors Making Less than $50,000: Barack Obama will eliminate all income taxation of seniors making less than $50,000 per year. This proposal will eliminate income taxes for 7 million seniors and provide these seniors with an average savings of $1,400 each year. Under the Obama-Biden plan, 27 million American seniors will also not need to file an income tax return.
  • Simplify Tax Filings for Middle Class Americans: Obama and Biden will dramatically simplify tax filings so that millions of Americans will be able to do their taxes in less than five minutes. Obama and Biden will ensure that the IRS uses the information it already gets from banks and employers to give taxpayers the option of pre-filled tax forms to verify, sign and return. Experts estimate that the Obama-Biden proposal will save Americans up to 200 million total hours of work and aggravation and up to $2 billion in tax preparer fees.

This has nothing to do with taking money from someone who has earned it and giving it to the poor.I am saddened that I needed to explain the joke, but I guess my dry sense of humor goes over even poorer on the web than it does in person.

The Original Post:

This story was found on an unidentified blog earlier today and I thought it would be worth disseminating for those who wish to help jumpstart Obama’s redistribution of wealth before he gets into office:

Today on my way to lunch I passed a homeless guy with a sign that read ‘Vote Obama, I need the money.’ I laughed.

Once in the restaurant my server had on an ‘Obama 08’ tie, again I laughed as he had given away his political preference–just imagine the coincidence, him and the homeless guy.

When the bill came I decided not to tip the server and explained to him that I was exploring the Obama redistribution of wealth concept. He stood there in disbelief while I told him that I was going to redistribute his tip to someone whom I deemed more in need–as his candidate declares is fit and proper. The server angrily stormed from my sight.

I went outside, gave the homeless guy $10 and told him to thank the server inside as I’ve decided he could use the money more than the man who earned it. The homeless guy was grateful.

At the end of my rather unscientific redistribution experiment, the homeless guy was grateful for money he did not earn, but the waiter was pretty angry that I gave away the money he made… even though the actual recipient deserved money more and the waiter had publicly declared his agreement with that political stance.

I guess redistribution of wealth is an easier thing to swallow in concept than in practical application.

Obama's Tax Calculator

termiBama
While I understand that there may be a political charge to the calculator, as well as questions as to the validity of the results, there is no denying the simple usability of Obama’s Tax Calculator.

The Obama campaign continues to utilize the web with grace and style. It brings McCain’s technological retardation in to sharp relief.
For more info about Obama’s Tax plan you can read this PDF; Barack Obama’s Tax Plan.
Additionally, there is a comparison between Obama and McCain’s Tax Plans.

Wall Street Bailout

I think Marcy Kaptur of Ohio speaks for many of us about this turn of events and the insanity of letting the rich continue to gouge the taxpayers for money with no strings attached, no oversight and no real planning for how we will improve our national finances. While she  does not detail her bill in this video, she gives an outline of its objectives.

Wall Street Bailout

The update on Monday Nov 10 is that the Bush Administration is providing even more money to AIG than originally offered. The administration scrapped its original $123-billion bailout of American International Group (AIG) and offered a new one, for $170 billion, that extends the loan from two years to five. The deal is part of the $700-billion stash that Congress passed last month.

So far this morning, Wall Street seems to like the news. As for AIG, its CEO Edward Liddy said the new plan “is a significant step forward” that will help AIG divest itself of bad business loans. Tapped to lead the company amid its turmoil five weeks ago, Liddy also said it feels more like five years.

This is amidst revelations that the CEOs and account executives are continuing to get the big bonuses and perks that led to the loss of investors’ money in the first place.

The “Lame Duck” presidents have inflicted their fair share of pardons, gifts, etc during these last couple months. Lets not forget that the Bush Administration still has 70 days to wreak havoc. Lets not let these actions go unchecked.

Obama will have enough of an uphill climb without additional tom-foolery.