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New Cool List of Linux Must-have Programs

Have you ever wanted to try out Linux but hesitated because you weren’t sure the available programs would do what you want/need to do on your computer? Or are you a Linux user always on the look out for the best software (that’s why you use Linux, right)? Either way, this extensive list from Dedoimedo is for you. I just did a quick skim and found several programs I want to put on my list to try out.

http://www.dedoimedo.com/computers/new-cool-list-linux.html

And the best part, with any up-to-date and popular Linux distro you will probably find most of these titles in the software repository for quick, easy and trouble free installation on your system. Enjoy, I know I will.

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What Does Monty Know About Investing

A little bit more than yesterday….I hope.

A couple months back I came to the realization that although I had bought a few stocks and I had put a little cash into a mutual fund, that even though my degree had “Business” in the title I really didn’t know anything about investing.  Following a pretty normal pattern for me, when I realize I don’t know something and I want to learn, the first thing I do is head over to Amazon and see what knowledge they have to offer.  I found a couple titles to order, I’ll comment more on them as I go through them, and looking at the bookshelves in our house (at one time we had a little used book business going) I found several other titles that looked interesting and one that even looked quite familiar.  (Note to self, look on bookshelf before buying books from Amazon next time)

So has begun my first real education on investing.  In the process I have started probably no less than 7 or 8 books, made it in a couple chapters and moved on to something else.  Of course along the way I’ve ordered one or two (or five)  more from Amazon.  Obviously this education is going to take a little displine if I am going to get anywhere, I probably need to finish at least one or two of the books I start.

I’ve also been checking out several of the financial web sites.  There are so many to choose from and so many conflicting ideas of how best to make (or just not lose) money.  One of the site I keep coming back to is Seeking Alpha.  They have great new articles everyday and a daily newsletter services that provides tons of links to articles on different investing products and strategies.  One of these newsletters is a great thing to find in the mailbox every morning.  Definately worth checking out.  Now I just need to get out one of those books and find out what Alpha is and why I should be seeking it.

So why investing?  Mainly retirement planning which at my age (40) is starting to appear to be “too little, too late” but at least I can do my best at this point to minimize the pain if I start doing some things right.  A little income generation also wouldn’t be a bad thing and I’ve also got several years of college tuition I expect I’ll be contributing to coming in less than a decade.

Well that’s where I am at and why I am interesting in investing.  Hopefully I can pass along a little of what I learn to help someone else out and also hopefully get some feedback on my thoughts to keep me on the right path and also some good discussion in the forums.

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So How Did We Get In A Mortgage Crisis

The headline from the article sums the cause up quite nicely,

Fannie Mae Eases Credit To Aid Mortgage Lending
By STEVEN A. HOLMES
Published: Thursday, September 30, 1999

You really need to read the whole article but a few excerpts.

In a move that could help increase home ownership rates among minorities and low-income consumers, the Fannie Mae Corporation is easing the credit requirements on loans that it will purchase from banks and other lenders.

The action, which will begin as a pilot program involving 24 banks in 15 markets — including the New York metropolitan region — will encourage those banks to extend home mortgages to individuals whose credit is generally not good enough to qualify for conventional loans.

Wow, who could have predicted that could turn out badly? Well I guess the NY Times did.

In moving, even tentatively, into this new area of lending, Fannie Mae is taking on significantly more risk, which may not pose any difficulties during flush economic times. But the government-subsidized corporation may run into trouble in an economic downturn, prompting a government rescue similar to that of the savings and loan industry in the 1980’s.

The rest of the article is available here.

Certainly can’t say that we were not warned. And just in case you were wondering, who is to blame for our current woes?

Fannie Mae, the nation’s biggest underwriter of home mortgages, has been under increasing pressure from the Clinton Administration to expand mortgage loans among low and moderate income people and felt pressure from stock holders to maintain its phenomenal growth in profits.

Somehow I doubt we have learned the lesson of our mistakes.

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Dell Introduces $299 Ubuntu Laptop

Dell last week introduced a 15.6 ” notebook with Ubuntu 8.10  installed by default.  Base specification of the new Dell 15n are

Intel® Celeron® 585 (1MB cache/2.16GHz/667Mhz FSB)
Ubuntu Desktop Edition version 8.10
Jet Black
1Yr Ltd Warranty and Mail-In Service
Glossy, widescreen 15.6 inch display (1366×768)
2GB Shared Dual Channel DDR2 at 800MHz
160GB SATA Hard Drive (5400RPM)
Intel Graphics Media Accelerator X4500HD
8X CD / DVD Burner (Dual Layer DVD+/-R Drive)
Dell Wireless 1397 802.11g Half Mini-Card
4-cell battery
High Definition Audio 2.0
Integrated 10/100 Network Card

This laptop is a full $50 less than the Windows Vista version you know you really didn’t want and would be fantastic for all the basic tasks laptops are used for…web browsing, chat and basic office tasks.  Best of all it comes with Ubuntu and all the great software available in their repositories (forget paying extra for an office suite or DVD burning software, it’s in there) at no extra cost.  I recently bought a netbook so I’m not currently in the market for a new portable machine but if I were I expect there would be a new Dell 15n in my shopping cart.

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Tax Free = Tax Expenditure

Reviewing a Bloomberg article on the “health-care overhaul” (how come they don’t call it “Universal” anymore?) I ran across the following paragraph that I had a little problem reconciling?

Lawmakers have a plethora of proposals to raise the hundreds of billions estimated to be needed for an overhaul, including new taxes on soda, beer, and wine, and a partial tax on employer-provided health insurance for the first time. The tax-free nature of employer-provided insurance is the biggest tax expenditure in the federal budget.

So do I read that correctly, tax free employer-provided insurance is considered not only a tax expenditure but the biggest tax expenditure in the federal budget?  So any unclaimed opportunity to tax is considered by the democrats as a “tax expenditure”?  Does that also mean when they start taxing our employeer-provided insurance that it was be considered a tax expenditure reduction?

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Highly Recommended Free or Open Source Software

Any computer user that isn’t aware of and doesn’t take advantage of the available free and/or open source software is really missing the boat.  There are some real software gems, they are free and in the case of open source, if they don’t do exactly what you want them to do you are free to modify it within your ability to do what you need it to do.  I’m going to give a quick little run down of 7 programs or categories of free or open source software that you should be aware of.

1. Firefox – Web Browser

I’ve been using Firefox for several years and would not consider running a machine without it. It beat IE to the punch with tabbed browsing and from what the experts say it is safer/more secure. I like the way it stores passwords and you can find themes and add-on to achieve a look and features to satisfy about anyone. Recently I realized that I was missing out on a good deal of Friends for Sale Bucks on Facebook by not logging on frequently enough. You earn $10,000 every four hours you log in. With an add-on auto-reload application I’ve set Friends for Sale to reload it’s tab every 15 mins on a seldom used computer. The result is $60,000 earned everyday. I’m not confident I could have accomplished this quite as easy using IE.

2. Avast and AVG – AntiVirus

I seem to bounce back and forth between these two, currently Avast is my favorite for a Windows machine but I would be quite happy using AVG also.  Good Anti-Virus software that keeps its self up to date is essential in a Windows environment and I can’t imagine paying for it with these two available free options.  They both need to be registered again every year but that’s a small price to pay for the outstanding free protection that they provide.

3. OpenOffice – Office Suite

I just can’t understand why this quite popular software isn’t more popular than it is. For the total price of FREE (it’s totally Open Source) you have a feature packed, highly compatible alternative to Microsoft Office. I use it, my kids use it, my wife who is a very long term Office user is now using it (at home). Compatibility is not 100% with MS Office but it is awful close. It doesn’t have all the feature Offices has but it has most that most users use. Before spending the cash for MS Office for your next PC, give OpenOffice a try. My guess is close to half the users who give Open Office a try will select it for free over the expensive Office suite from MS.

4. Hotspot Shield – VPN

This is one for the laptops or netbooks that are traveling away from home and connecting to the net by means of an insecure wifi hotspot. What good does it do to connect to the net if you can’t do anything or log in anywhere because you are afraid some guy at the next table is stealing your information. I know with Gmail you can log in with https but that only protects a small part of what I want to do online. The solution is of course VPN. When I’m on my work laptop the first thing I do is set up a VPN connection to the work network and then I can access the shared drives, mainframe, e-mail and other applications securely. I was looking over solutions for setting up a VPN server at home so I could securely connect back to a secure location for all my web traffic and then I stumbled upon Hotspot Shield. Hotspot Shield offers a free service where you can establish a secure VPN connection to their servers, protecting all your wifi data from your PC to their end, protecting it from any snoopers nearby. Hotspot Shield remains free for up to 3GB of use per rolling 30 day period. I expect this will be sufficient. If not they offer subscription options if you need more bandwidth. How can they afford to do this? Advertising! Across the top of your web session appears banner ads, not too tall, probably 50 pixels high. I wouldn’t want to see this all the time but it’s a worthwhile compromise to have a secure web session when I’m away from home.

5. Pidgin – Chat

According to the Pidgin web site,

Pidgin is a chat program which lets you log in to accounts on multiple chat networks simultaneously. This means that you can be chatting with friends on MSN, talking to a friend on Google Talk, and sitting in a Yahoo chat room all at the same time.  Pidgin is compatible with the following chat networks out of the box: AIM, ICQ, Google Talk, Jabber/XMPP, MSN Messenger, Yahoo!, Bonjour, Gadu-Gadu, IRC, Novell GroupWise Messenger, QQ, Lotus Sametime, SILC, SIMPLE, MySpaceIM, and Zephyr. It can support many more with plugins.

So if you are tired of having multiple chat programs open at the same time then Pidgin may be for you.  My Pidgin has my Yahoo, AIM, Gmail and Facebook (through a plug-in) all together at the same time.  I also saw just yesterday that you can also do Twitter through Pidgin but I haven’t tried it yet.  Highly recommended.

6. VLC – Media Player

VLC is a “highly portable multimedia player and multimedia framework capable of reading most audio and video formats”.  Basically, most any media formats that you want to play, this program can handle it and it works very well and is quite lightweight and trouble free.  This is one of those must have programs on all of my PCs.

7. Linux – Operating System

I’ll be posting more more about various Linux operating systems but if there is any part of the Windows experience that is unsatisfying to you and you can’t see yourself spending the money for a Mac well then Linux may be for you.  Once the exclusive domain of geeks, Linux now sports a degree of user friendliness and graphical configuration tools such that in many way it is far easier to use than Windows.  One area where Linux thrives is bringing life back to older hardware that have gotten sluggish with the latest versions of Windows.  Installation is usually trouble free with any of the major distros (short for distributions), most hardware being supported right “out of the box”.   The good distros to start with is best reserved for a future post but if you are in need of some immediate recommendations on how to get started just reply to this post in the forum and I’ll do my best to address your needs.

This list just scratches the surface so I’m sure there will be several follow up lists in the future.  If you are searching out software to do something specific and are not having any luck, drop me a post in the forum and I’ll see what I can do to help out.

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One of Every Six Dollars of Americans’ Income is a Handout from the Government

I was shocked by the headline this morning, “1 of every 6 dollars of Americans’ income is government check or voucher.”  USAToday.com had the whole story,

The recession is driving the safety net of government benefits to a historic high, as one of every six dollars of Americans’ income is now coming in the form of a federal or state check or voucher.

Benefits, such as Social Security, food stamps, unemployment insurance and health care, accounted for 16.2% of personal income in the first quarter of 2009

I knew that government assistance was way out of hand but this number put a huge exclaimation point on how bad it has become.  Where are all those dollars coming from?  The story continued,

In all, government spending on benefits will top $2 trillion in 2009 — an average of $17,000 provided to each U.S. household, federal data show.

Average of $17,000 per household!  Where are we spending all this money?  The story explains how cost have increase almost 20% in the first quarter of 2009 alone.

What’s driving the $209 billion increase in benefit costs from a year ago:

Unemployment insurance. One-fourth of the extra spending covers jobless benefits, a program started in the Depression. The stimulus law, passed in February, increased benefits.

• Social Security. The bad economy has prompted a 10%-15% jump in early retirements, the program’s actuary says. A 5.8% increase took effect January 1. Bottom line: $55 billion in new costs.

• Food stamps. Enrollment hit a record 33.2 million people in March, up 5.2 million from last year. The stimulus law boosted the size of the benefit. Average March benefit: $114 per person.

Please notice that when times are hard, and more Americans need help than any other time in recent memory, do we tighten our belts to get out country through the tough times?  No, across the board we INCREASE BENEFITS!

One of every six dollars of income.  An average of $17,000 per household and we are increasing benefits.  And this is pre-Universal Healthcare.  What will it be then, one in every five?  One in every four?

I don’t get it.  Huge numbers of Americans are unemployed, they aren’t paying taxes, there is almost no manufacturing base left in this country to build on and tax revenues are dropping fast than Bill Clinton’s pants in the Oval Office and we are across the board INCREASING BENEFITS.

At least the last two lines in the article shows that someone “gets it”.

Adam Lerrick, economist at the conservative American Enterprise Institute, says the benefits’ explosion will eventually lead to an economic crisis.

“We’ve seen this movie before in many countries. It always has the same ending,” he says.

Our arrogance is leading us down a path of destruction and it may be too late to turn back.  Read that last line again, “It always has the same ending”.  Our ending is total implosion of the US economy and I’m afraid we are getting closer than anyone is willing to admit.  China sees it, Russia sees it, will we wake up and see it before it is too late?

Don’t take my word for it, Monty’s nobody, take 10 minutes, click on the link below and read what the President and Chief Executive Officer or the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas has to say on “the frightful storm of unfunded long-term liabilities” of our government.

Storms on the Horizon by Richard W. Fisher

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Muse?

According to Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary one of the definitions of muse is “a state of deep thought”.  That is what this site is going to be, my “deep thoughts”, and maybe sometimes not so deep thoughts, about all the things that interest me.   Hopefully these posts will create some discussion and feedback from the readers.  I would much rather this be a discussion site instead of a lecture one.  Some of the categories I’ll already know I will be posting on, in no particular order are

  • Investing
  • Linux and Open Source Software
  • Guns, gear and other related gadgets
  • Fantasy Football (less than 3 months to go)
  • Religion
  • Conservative Issues
  • Current Events
  • Family Life
  • Favorite Books
  • and whatever else may come along

I don’t expect anyone will have all the same interests that I have but hopefully I’ll touch on something that is of interest to almost everyone.  One of the things I love are meaningful discussions about those things that interest me.  I’m not an expert on any of the interests I’ve listed above (well OK, maybe Fantasy Football) so I’ve probably got more to learn on all of these subjects than knowledge I can pass along.  Hopefully everyone can benefit from the interaction I hope to create here.

So thanks for stopping by.   I hope you come by often, read what is here and share your opinions, knowledge and experiences with the site.

I’ll end the initial post here with a “deep thought” from Jack Handy, “Maybe in order to understand mankind, we have to look at the word itself: “Mankind”. Basically, it’s made up of two separate words – “mank” and “ind”. What do these words mean ? It’s a mystery, and that’s why so is mankind.”

Here is to working through some of those mysteries here together.

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