Random Ramblings

August 7, 2008

Cost Effective Automated Investing

Filed under: finance — Tags: — camotop @ 7:28 pm

I really like the idea of “dollar cost averaging”. I’m looking for advice on how to do this in a cost effective manner. I’m not looking for 401k, or IRA investing — that’s already maxed out and taken care of. I’m looking to invest the money that’s sitting in my savings account, and that’s not assigned as Emergency fund. I’m looking to invest some money once or twice a month (depending on fee schedules — I’m quite flexible, I just don’t like wasting money on fees).

Regular brokerage fees for buying and selling run anywhere from 4-20 dollars. If you’re only investing, say $250 at a time, that’s a large overhead: once for buying, and at some point later for selling. Especially if you’re also selling using the dollar cost averaging technique.

In my research I came across a ShareBuilder review, where people go into some options. Of course, that review is over 8 months old, which in our internet world means it is almost irrelevant.

I like the idea of ShareBuilder — it seems simple and easy, and the $4 buy is manageable, although I’m not clear on the fees on a sell.

Somehow I can’t find myself trusting Zecco — the idea make sense, and I’m sure they are legit, yet with ING behind ShareBuilder, I may have to give them a chance.

TD Ameritrade and E Trade having very nice trading and research tools, but IMHO lack the simplicity that saves me, the casual investor, time and money.

Lastly I could see if I qualify for free trades at my brick and mortar bank, as loyal customer or something, but that seems so …. last century!

I wonder what others have done, and what has worked well, and not so well.

August 2, 2008

Please heat pizza before eating

Filed under: food — Tags: — camotop @ 11:20 pm

In a recent health binge, I have not eaten or heated up pizza for several months. Today I broke down and got a frozen pizza to indulge on. Reading the instructions, the first thing it said was: please heat before eating.

Yes, thanks. That got a good laugh, just trying to image some idiot trying to bite into the frozen mess.  Any more useful instructions out there ?  Maybe I should start eating more junk food for good laughs.

FSLint – Save time and disk space by duplicate file removal

Filed under: photography — Tags: , — camotop @ 3:22 pm

With two digital cameras and two photogenic kids, we take plenty of pictures. We do a dump of those pictures onto one of our computers, and leave the photos on the disk. Just so we have them in two places, should the hard disk crash. We then filter the photos, discarding probably between 2/3 and 3/4 of them. The good ones are grouped into folders, and turned into JAlbum web albums.

We copy the album over to a web server, so we have a master copy of the albums and a servable web copy on the web server. We also copy the master files over to a external hard drive. At that point we deem it save to format the SD or CF cards.

Occasionally we start taking pictures before we have had time to wipe the cards. That means that we now have files all over the place: in our ‘incoming’ directory, already filtered and grouped into albums, and on the cards. It is a pain to manually figure out which ones we already have.

That’s where FSLint comes to the rescue.  I had never used it, just insalled in and it just saved me hours of photo grunt work. FSLint lets you select one or more directories, then you click Find, and it searches for a while (depending on the size of your selection). When done, it lists all duplicate files, grouped by duplicate. You can select all duplicates (“select by group, all but first one”), and hit delete to get rid of the dupes.

Wonderful!  I was up to date with my files in no time. I saved a lot of disk space too!

Underwater the last tech-free place ?

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , — camotop @ 2:38 pm

Bliss. No phones, no computers, no internet. Not even speech. Just bubbles and buddy signals. Gravity is overcome by my BCD. I just float around and enjoy the scenery. I love scuba diving.

Our last trip was different. As recreational divers we usually just follow a dive master and see what he or she points out. This time we were just chucked into the water and we could guide ourselves. Our only problem — we did not have a dive watch. Nor a compass. We could borrow a watch and things worked out, although we were worried about getting lost in unfamiliar waters without the compass. I made a mental note (about all you can do under water, although special writing tablets are available if you do something like the fish identification course).

When I came home I lookup dive watches. I was shocked to see how many there are, how quickly they go up in price and how they become dive computers. All I need is a watch and compass, how hard can that be ?

Although, it would be nice if it could record the length of the dive, maximum depth, time at maximum depth, and all that stuff you write in your dive log.

So when I started browsing the different devices, I got excited about getting this or that dive computer. But then I stopped myself. This is like the last place that I do not bring technology with me. Why spoil that ?!

I did not make a purchase, and before our next trip, I’ll go through this exercise again. This time I will make sure I only get a watch and compass. I just want a simple wrist device. No battery  (or at least one that lasts several year) or charger. No memory cards.

Any advice ?  Good or bad experiences with any types of dive watches ?

Device Dilemma: iPhone, iPod Touch, N810 ?

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: — camotop @ 2:04 pm

I do not really need a new phone.  I do not really need a new iPod (my little 4 Gb nano works just fine). I do not really need internet access everywhere.

Yet I find myself drooling over the cool gadgets that are now available.  Possible excuses as to why I would buy one:

  1. We do not have a computer other than in the den in the basement. It’d be nice to be able to check email, weather, movies upstairs without hauling the laptops up.
  2. We don’t travel that much, but it’d be nice to have our own internet device wherever we go. (Never trust public computers with your email or other password!).
  3. I want to do away with my expensive BlackBerry (even though work pays for it). I cannot justify the cost (of the plan).
  4. I want to experience the touch screen interface.

Apple’s devices are cool looking and very friendly in their user interface, yet something I am really turned off by their closedness. If I buy a mini-computer, I want to be able to put my own programs on it.

I’m leaning towards getting the Nokia N810 WiMax edition. No monthly service plan to worry about, and fully open. Of course, no phone service, and I’ll be dependent on the availability of free Wifi.

What other options are there ? Any compelling reasons why the N810 is a bad idea ?

July 24, 2008

Investment options in a down economy

Filed under: finance — Tags: — camotop @ 12:58 pm

With the market and most of my portfolio down dramatically compared to months and years ago, I wonder what I should do ?

1. Do nothing, wait for things to recover.

I do not like that because I believe there are opportunities.Also with more money in the bank, it’ll be more tempting to spend it.

It would be a good time to build up my emergency fund, because in a down economy changes of losing my job are greater, finding a new job will be harder, and new salary would likely be lower.

2. Do not invest in the market, pay off debt.

With the uncertainty of the market, if I except things will fall further, perhaps I can pay of some of the higher-interest loan. That saves money on the interest in the long run, is a safe investment.

Someone told me that “Cash is King” so I would have to be careful about paying off too much too quickly, because I will not be able to get that money out if I need it for investments or emergencies.

3. Invest in index or stock funds as they are at multi-month or year lows.

We cannot time the market, but when things are down this much, we do expect that sooner or later it will recover, right ?

I think I will act on a combination of all three. I’ll grow my emergency fund from 6 to 9 months, I’ll increase my loan payments by 50% and I will use the remainder to scoop up some funds that are at lows. We’ll review and reconsider by the end of the year.

When the economy is healthier, I will reduce loan payments again, no longer grow my emergency fund, and invest more in stocks and funds.

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