Archive for October, 2008

Interesting sites in Google.

There are so many web based programs in Google now that help make life easier. I list below, just eight of the ones I use on a regular basis, together with two of their software applications I use daily. I hope they will be as useful to you as they have been to me!

Google Reader. I use Google Reader to read the morning newspapers, I also have the latest additions to a lot of sites about Linux and a lot of political information. Every morning when I look in, I see a one liner for every addition that these sites have added. I can, for instance, run my eye down the newspapers and in two minutes or less I know everything that is happening in the world. This is usually all I need to know. If I wanted to know more about a particular item, I click on it, and it ipens a paragraph about it. If I want to know more I click on the link and go directly to the full article – I rarely do that as I don’t really need to know such detail unless it affects my family or my business.

Google Trends. I use Google Trends to look to see which item is generating the most news on the Internet. I just type the names, separated by a comma and it shows me. Type in “Internet Explorer, Firefox, Opera” and in the first graph it will show you that users of Google are more interested in Firefox, followed by Opera and finally by Internet Explorer. The second graph shows the amount of news from media websites on each item.

Google Finance: I use Google Finance to keep track of my shares. I have just looked up my shares and 60% of them are worth more than when I purchased them a year ago, and I am only losing on 40% of them which is better than many people I know! Google Finance show some stock-markets in real time instead of the 20 minute penalty most have to accept without payment. They intend to cover all shares instantly, eventually.

Google Analytics. I use Google Analytics on my websites to track visitors to my websites. I used to pay for this but now Google offer the service free and give me far more information.

Google Docs. I use Google Docs when I am producing a report with others so we can all work on the report together, and spreadsheets. I can also use the presentation manager to build up a presentation and if I am in someone’s office, just go into the application on my client’s browser and pull it up and run it for them.

Google Mail. I have been using Gmail for years now and when abroad I find it so very useful to have every email I have ever written immediately available anywhere in the world. The alternative if I needed an address I know was sent to me three years ago, would be to keep my PC on burning electricity whilst away, so I could log on from abroad – and if a Windows user, hoping it hadn’t crashed.

Google Calendar. I use Google Calendar because of its versatility. Although when working, my wife and I sit in the same room, we allow each other access to our Google Calendars. If I click on her tag, her appointments are immediately superimposed on my calendar in a different colour (of my choice) I also have a weather calendar superimposed which shows me today’s weather and the next four days. I write for different magazines and one of them has a production calendar available so I can immediately see last dates for articles. My wife uses Outlook and Windows, and I use Evolution and Linux but we can both incorporate our Google Calendars in these program’s calendar pages.

Google Talk. I use Google Talk and it is much better behaved than Skype. However, I still have to use Skype as so many more of my contacts are on that.

Google Maps. I am certainly an avid user of Google Maps and I have an add-in with my Firefox browser which allows me to highlight an address on the web, right click on “show in Google Maps” and see an instant map of where it is.

There are more Google applications but the above are the ones that I, personally, use.

In addition to these web based programs, there are some other superb free programs from Google. I use Picasa v3.0 for my digital photographs. This program allows me to organise all my photographs on my computer and to edit them. Crop them and use special effects with them.

And I spend hours on YouTube watching all sorts of short videos. Political, musical, amusing, wild life, and so many more types.

Ampers.

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More savings in these difficult times.

I am bearing in mind that you may not want to lower your actual standard of living too much with these tips.

Reduced visits: Do you like to eat out? If, for instance, you eat out once a week, either get to know lower priced bistros or, if you are friendly with some of the restaurant owners and you want to continue to support them, why not just cut down to once a fortnight.

Home cuisine: Another idea what we have adopted at home is, on the last Saturday of each month, we have a superb three course meal at home with wine. We have a minute vase and always have a single flower in it. If we can’t locate a “live”flower, we have an imitation rose we put in. We also have candle lighting. It’s lovely and romantic, and costs us a fraction of the cost of going out.

Charity Shops. Don’t be proud. The good days are over. Years ago, in a previous depression, I bought a Jaeger suit, in brand new condition for £15, a Barracuda raincoat for £12 and a Simpsons hacking jacket and Daks trousers for around £20 the pair. I did see an almost new Saville Row suit for £25 but alas this was so much out of my size range I had to let it go. Nowadays the good stuff never reaches the shops! However,you can buy beautiful silk ties for around a fiver, and new shirts for not much more.

Food waste: If you are throwing away more than a small bag of waste for each member of your family, each week, you are doing something wrong. Wash your vegetables thoroughly before peeling and use the peels to make soup, or put them into stews. If you see a sign in the supermarket saying £1 each, two for £1.50, in most cases, the £1 for one is the cheaper price. Will you use the second one? Will it stay fresh and edible?

Food buying: There is a very good program called “Now you’re cooking” which allows you to store menus, gives all the health information for each item of food, allows you to enter details of what food is on which aisle in your supermarket and, when you have sorted out the weeks’ menus, it will print a shopping list in aisle order. These are just some of the options of the program. In addition, there are lists of recipes on the website totalling 158,000 and they are all free. You can use the program free but to speed it up, you can get it for US$25.00 and if you pay an extra US$5 you can have free upgrades for life. The following page has a huge amount of awards and write-ups. Not sure exactly how many as I got tired after counting 150 links!

Additionally, when you visit a supermarket, look at the bargains at the end of the aisles, but beware of the BOGOF (Buy one, get one free) principle. Be especially careful if it is on an item of dated food. This brings me to the shelf marked “End of life”. This may give you an idea for that evening’s meal, thus saving you considerable money. In addition, do note that a lot of end-of-life dates have to take into consideration that you may not have a fridge or freezer. Don’t automatically throw out food just because it has reached it’s sell-by date. Prawns and fish, perhaps, but many items can be eaten safely after this date. You have to use your head here and, if you are not an experienced cook/housewife, then perhaps you should rely on this date.

Using the car. Do you need to make that journey? Can’t you walk to the shop for that single item? Have a note list in the kitchen for chores you need the car for, and do them all together once a week. A walk to the station and back each day may put years on your life, keep you fit over the years to pursue the things you love to do, and keep you healthy. And think of the cost of petrol.

Work Lunches. Nothing wrong with taking sandwiches. If you like to join other workers going out to lunch, take just one sandwich so you buy less food out. I have done this and when people have made a remark at my skimping of lunch, I just said I was trying to lose a little weight as I couldn’t fit into my favourite old suit. (Men would understand this.)

Drinking. The first thing to cut out a few of those pub visits, and is the short at the end of the evening really necessary? If you have to go to the pub, go a little later. If you drink with half a dozen lads why not invite them home one evening a month. This means you are only host twice in a year and once a month you will all have an evening costing a lot less. This reduced business might encourage breweries to look at my idea in Sunday’s blog and start lobbying the government to encourage the sale of drinks with lower alcohol by reducing the taxes on them.

Entertainment: If you like the cinema, theatre, going to concerts, make a note of how many you go in a given period and for every six you visit, cut them down to five. Look for free or inexpensive entertainment such as playing bridge or poker with friends, How about getting a small group together of friends with similar tastes, and have an evening discussing a play which has been on TV during the previous week? Put an evening aside once a month if you have free evening calls, and call all your friends. A lovely way to keep in touch, and you can share some of the tips from this list with them.

Friends: If you are like me, you have friends all over the place. I live in London, with friends all around the UK. I have overseas friends in New Zealand, Australia, South Africa, the US, Mexico and a few European countries. This is all very nice but if times get worse, you need more local friends. I now wish I had more friends within walking distance as it is these local friends who will look out for each other if things really get bad.

The bottom line here is not to put these ideas into practice if times get bad. These ideas will be useless then anyway. The real idea is to save enough money to cut down on credit card bills, make mortgage payments, and put aside savings for the times that may get bad.

My ideas have been centred around a premise that you can cut down your expenditure without drastically curtailing your standard of living.

Ampers.

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Going out for a drink.

I have read about breweries being asked to sell their beers in third pint and two third pint quantities. Although this is not a bad idea, I think there is a better way we can do this.

If the Government is really serious in cutting down drinking they could also change the tax structure. Let me explain.

All beers over 4% alcohol.

The only way these beers could be legally be sold is in one third of a pint glasses, or 250ml whichever is preferred. In addition, 20% could be added in duty for beers over 4% alcohol and 20% taken off the duty for all beers of 4% alcohol or less. This is a 40% difference in the duty price.

This would encourage beer producers to make more lower strength beers for the British market. The lower priced 4% or less beers would encourage people back into the pubs for their pints. In other words, if you want a pint you have to buy a beer of 4% alcohol or less.

This would encourage drinkers to go back to drinking for the sheer pleasure of the taste and not for the effect of the alcohol.

All wines over 10% alcohol.

Once again, we could restrict the size of all glasses of wines over 10% by making it illegal to sell these in anything larger than 125ml (six glasses to the bottle). And once again, we could increase duty by 20% for all stronger wines, and reduce by 20% for the weaker wines.

This would encourage wine producers to make more lower strength wines for the British market. The lower priced 10% or less wines would encourage people to drink more sensibly. And, if the pub wanted to serve larger glasses of wine, it would have to be for wines of 10% or less).

Again, this would encourage drinkers to go back to drinking for the sheer pleasure of the taste and not for the effect, or quantity, of the alcohol.

I have arrived at this solution on the understanding that we cannot rely on the good offices of the breweries and wineries as they care more about the health of their profits, than the health of their customers. This way, customers will demand the lower priced beers and wines and the manufacturers will ignore these demands at their peril.

Those that know me will know that, as a libertarian, it is alien for me to consider any method of control by governments in any way whatsoever. However, I live in the present world and know that there is no way that politicians are going to talk their way out of their fat salaries, huge expense accounts and inflation proof pensions to introduce a libertarian society where they would be redundant.

Ampers

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Tony Meléndez

Tony Meléndez (born 1962) is a Nicaraguan American guitar player, composer and singer and songwriter who was born without arms. His mother took Thalidomide while pregnant, which caused his disability. Meléndez has learned to play the guitar with his feet.

When I first heard his story and watched him play, I could hardly see for the tears as I wept. Here is proof that we can do anything in the world if we set our mind to it. God damn it, this man even drives a car!

Never, ever, let me hear you say “I can’t!” You can – if you believe in yourself.

Ampers

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Prepare for the downturn

An old saying by Naguib Mahfouz: “You can tell whether a man is clever by his answers. You can tell whether a man is wise by his questions.”

As I have said many times before, the quality of the decisions you take will be the result of the answers you get to the questions you ask. Presupposing you have asked quality questions and have received quality answers.

So, what are you doing about the economy?

If the Government and big business are estimating that the downturn will only last until 2010, the wise question to ask yourself is “Do you believe them?” Previous experience of dealing with people in these types of organisations should provide you with the correct answer.

There are two stages in the preparations you need to contemplate. First to start reducing costs which do not make too much of an impact on your standard of living. Intelliplugs that turn off everything in order from your computer installation and television and home movie setup so you save on stand-by electricity. For a one off payment of £77 for three of these special plugs we are saving £121.76 a year at present prices. (We have two computer installations and a TV installation.)

We have purchased a Remoska and a slow cooker so we can still enjoy meat but (a) we can buy less expensive cuts and (b) we save on oven electricity. They will both have paid for themselves in about ten months.

We have reduced our wine purchases by around £24 a case (£2 off a bottle) and could reduce this further as we discover special offers. We have reduced drinking to the weekends other than special occasions which will reduce costs further, make us healthier, and make us feel superior 🙂

We will not restrict our “healthy eating regime” but do look for the special price reductions at our local supermarket, and at the “nearly out of date” shelves.

“Now you’re cooking” is a good computer software program and we have over 300,000 free Internet recipes to choose from. The program can be used free although the price is only around £12 for the full program.

What I am trying to say here is, we are looking at general ways of saving wasteful expenditure without actually denying ourselves too much. We don’t need to now but that is no reason not to ensure we improve the amount we save every month in case things take a turn for the worse.

We have programmed our computer calendar to remind us every six months to investigate gas and electricity prices, and on the alternate quarterly six month period to check broadband costs and telephone costs. This means that every quarter we will be looking at a further way to reduce expenditure.

Phase two will only be brought in if things really become bad. I don’t think they will – but if they do, then phase two will mean real austerity to the Taylor household. But the important think is, we will survive. Will you?

There’s an old saying in Japan, “Success is always due to spending 80% of your efforts on preparation.”

Do you have the following telephone numbers in your cellphone?

  • Local police station – for those events that aren’t 999 worthy but still important.
  • Bank(s) – for questions on your account and stopping payment on cheques.
  • Customer service for your credit cards – in case your credit cards are stolen.
  • Family doctor and dentist – for those medical emergencies that require your doctor’s assistance. Having Your dentist’s emergency number is a must, having a dental disaster on the weekend is horrific!
  • Car insurance broker – for car related disasters.
  • Home insurance broker – for home related disasters.
  • Private health Insurance customer service – if you have private insurance – for pre-qualification calls and insurance questions. Helpful when you’re at the hospital and run into problems.
  • Children’s school – somehow, some way, you’ll call them sooner or later.
  • Pharmacist – useful for any questions you have about your medications and for phoning in refills.
  • Utility emergency numbers – for when you are out and about and a neighbour rings up with a problem. Do you have your water, gas and electricity numbers to hand?

Have I left anything off? E-mail me and I will extend the list.

Ampers

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Government snoopers reading our emails?

If you would all like to snarl up the system if the government actually gets its way with this law, you should remember that they don’t actually read every email. That would be impossible. They would look up suspected enemies of the state (terrorists, people who put the wrong rubbish in their bins, murderers, people who don’t pay their parking fines on time) after the event.

However they would also look for keywords. And they would read the emails where the keywords turn up.

May I suggest that you put the following at the bottom of all your emails? Perhaps in your signature block?

The verb of Assassination is Assassinate – Gordon Brown is the British Prime Minister

That will ensure that every email will have to be read by GCHQ and I am sure they will soon get tired of that. I would suggest only doing this if they actually pass this accursed law.

In case you are worried about being accused of wasting time, remember the verb has two meanings…

Dictionary.com Unabridged
as·sas·si·nate
–verb (used with object), -nat·ed, -nat·ing.

  1. to kill suddenly or secretively, esp. a politically prominent person; murder premeditatedly and treacherously.

  2. to destroy or harm treacherously and viciously: to assassinate a person’s character.

Almost the entire press are guilty of the second meaning, practically every day.

Our American readers can substitute “George W Bush is the American President” of course.

There will be some who read this who will say that GCHQ will just program their computers to ignore the phrase “Assassinate Gordon Brown” if the entire sentence: “The verb of Assassination is Assassinate Gordon Brown is the British Prime Minister“ is included.

But they can’t do that, can they? Supposing they did, then real villains may use the phrase thinking that it will be so ignored. So GCHQ will have no option but to read every email with that phrase in.

Make the snoopers work for their blood money.

Ampers

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An apology

Sorry for the lack of material over the last week but I have been ill. Not quite better yet, but here’s a thought…

Lord Webber (Andrew Lloyd Webber) has been asked to write the next song for the EuroVision Song Contest. My question is, will it make a difference?

Some people are saying that it is all political now and whatever we come up with will still come last. Others say all our songs are crap and that is why we are always at the bottom.

I think both theories are correct. Our songs have certainly been crap, and nobody loves us enough to give us their points.

Personally I find the point scoring more interesting than the songs and now only tend to watch the second half. Last year nearly every score was given in English and that was enough to cheer me up immensely. And, when I heard that the French contribution was actually sung in English, my joy knew no bounds. And given the choice of having the world loving us or hating us, there is no contest.

I love it when they all hate us.

Ampers.

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Learn more about our ails.

No, I don’t mean Ales…

The art of economics consists in looking not merely at the immediate but at the longer effects of any act or policy; it consists in tracing the consequences of that policy not merely for one group but for all groups”

That is the art of economics in a nutshell. However, if you would like to learn how this is actually applied, you can read the full facts on their extremely educational web page.

But much more interesting; the Congressman, Dr Ron Paul, who has been explaining to Congress for years that our present problems are inevitable, has prepared a page of documents, video and mp3 voice files which will help you understand the crises that we are facing. For Americans, there are pages of information on the following subjects: Economics, Sound Money, Foreign Policy, Constitution and Civil Liberties. My English readers and other non-American readers need only look at the first two highlighted subjects; Economics and Sound Money. There is a contents page with the sub-headings available.

As we are both fully aware, you and I, there is nothing that can make you learn more about the calamities that face us. But, apart from the economic and monetary principles our respective governments are jointly undertaking, you may learn that they are not addressing the underlying problem. You may also learn that if they are not addressing the underlying problem, our troubles will re-occur time and time again. Learning about our problems may help you take better care of your money for the future.

And forget all my advice on buying gold. The price is now going through the roof. Do you remember me mentioning that Krugerrands were a good bet as, although the coin weighs a little over an ounce because of the alloy, the gold content was exactly an ounce? And that, as it was legal tender in South Africa, it escaped Capital Gains Tax when resold? I have wondered why you can’t buy these one ounce coins for love or money. I now have the answer. A man in Switzerland bought the entire South African mint’s supply (5,000) two months ago – before these troubles – and already has made an average of 5% per month profit on his purchase. That equates to 60% per annum. He was one smart cookie. I wonder how he knew?

Look, read, listen and learn.

Ampers

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Do you listen to the words in songs?

I think one should. Songs, really, are just poetry set to music and I want to list the words of “Search for a hero” by a group calling themselves “M People” for further discussion.

Sometimes the river flows but nothing breathes.
A train arrives but never leaves.
It’s a shame.
Oh life like love that walks out of the door.
Of being rich or being poor.
Such a shame.
But it’s then, then that faith arrives.
To make you feel at least alive.
And that’s why you should keep on aiming high.
Just seek yourself and you will shine

(Chorus)
You’ve got to search for the hero inside yourself.
Search for the secrets you hide.
Search for the hero inside yourself.
Until you find the key to your life.

In this life long and hard though it may seem
Live it as you’d live a dream.
Aim so high.

Just keep the flame of truth burning bright.
The missing treasure you must find.
Because you and only you alone.
Can build a bridge across the stream.

Weave your spell in life’s rich tapestry.
Your passport to a feel supreme.

(Chorus)

In these troubled times, the words of this song should be etched into your memory and mind. Hands up all of you who remember the little saying: “When the going gets tough, the tough get going”.

I have printed the important lines above in red.

We Brits may have to change our mindsets. Executives may have to turn their hands to working behind a shop counter, or driving a bus. Or may even have to usurp the odd Pole and dig a ditch now and again. At the moment the government is busy printing money to throw at the banks. The more money they print, the more the pound in our pocket will be devalued. If you look at the currency of other countries and see the pound is holding its own, don’t be fooled. They are all printing money as if it were going out of fashion.

And no, it won’t all equal out. For example, a lot of our goods come from Asian countries, including China. They all bought our gold when governments sold it. Their currency is not being devalued to the extent ours is so the time for lower priced goods is disappearing fast.

I am not a doom-monger, I just desperately want my readers and my friends, or both if that is the case, to look to the future and save themselves by taking stock now and putting plans to beat any problems in place now. If I am proved wrong, the worse that can happen to them is that they will be much better off!

Ampers

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Saving the planet

The jury is out in my household on just how legitimate the screams on “climate change” really are. I guess you could call me an agnostic.

Some may accuse me of being selfish and not caring. Perhaps I am. I have no children. My wife and I are in our mid to late sixties, and a warmer Britain in our remaining years won’t come amiss. But that doesn’t really stop me doing my “bit”.

I have been trying to get the great British public to wake up to how we are all manipulated by the people behind the visible reigns of government. However, people are more interested in having what they think of as “fun” rather than getting involved. Now it is almost too late for them. Terrorism, on the whole is a put up job. “Al Qaeda” means a “database” in Arabic, and in the slang patios of some Arab tribes, it means “toilet bowl”. Can you seriously believe that an Arab group of terrorists would call themselves anything that could be construed as defecating?

Have you flown lately? The harsh rigmarole you go through at the airport is not “security”. It is to make life as difficult as they can for the public to enjoy themselves. I have never travelled first class but I know these people go through different gates. I would love to know whether they go through the same pain as we do. I would assume they don’t! Wouldn’t you?

However, for purely selfish reasons, I have purchased from Amazon three “Intelliplugs” made by One Click Power for £68.06. The situation for TV and computers in my household are: the main TV and accessories in the lounge and two separate computer installations in our office.

The smaller TV Intelliplug has a special socket for the television, a special socket for a SKY box, and a spare socket for another item, or you can plug in a 4/6 way adapter here if you have many other items. The plug comes with a long wire with a sensor button at the end. You train your remote to work with it and when you turn off the computer by pointing at it, it turns off the computer, waits for half a minute, then turns off the SKY box, then resets it and places it in stand-by mode. You must have this on in standby mode all the time as software updates are pushed out to it in the early hours of each morning. It then turns off any other boxes plugged in. In other words, one click turns off all the equipment working in stand-by modes (other than the Sky box).

The larger device has a special socket for the computer and five separate sockets for your other apparatus. Like the TV Intelliplug, if you have more than five additional accessories (I do) you can plug in a 4/6-way adapter. There are sockets in the front for line in and line out if you use a modem, and a through-path for a telephone. There are also in and an out sockets for your router.

There are lots of other Intelliplugs and you can have a smaller one for the computer or a larger one for the TV, all depending on the amount of plug-in accessories you have. £20 may be sufficient for the minimum of TV and the minimum of computer accessories.

We have to bypass fitting the router as we have more than one computer but it is easy just to pull the router plug out over night. When my wife stops working the one morning a week for her old company, we will put her computer into mothballs and use mine. Then we will put the router through and have it turn off automatically.

The one bugbear is we have an HP all-in-one printer (C7280). Alas HP are not environmentally friendly as they insist you cannot turn off this printer from withdrawing current to it. You have to use the on/off button and allow it to close down properly. This is a pain.

We estimate this will save us around £51 in the first year (taking into account the cost of the Intelliplugs) and then £120 a year thereafter. This is assuming the price of electricity does not go up. And we know it will don’t we? This also assumes electricity prices won’t go down. And we know they won’t, don’t we?

As Tesco never gets tired of telling us: “Every little helps”.

I have to admit. Whilst money was in more plentiful supply, I was never interested in saving a penny here and a penny there. If I could get £50 off a £250 product, then I would be interested.

I remember a saying my father taught me (he used to change well-known sayings to make them more memorable) “Take care of the pennies and you can have fun squandering the pounds”.

I am now examining all my spending habits and cutting down where I can. I don’t really need to, but I have no idea of what is in store for us, just around the corner.

Pam and I have discussed this and we are putting a savings plan into action and our thinking runs along these lines.

Whilst the problem of the financial crises isn’t apparently hitting us too much we will put into place an expenditure cost cutting procedure with the following criteria. It mustn’t change the quality of our life. We like to go out to restaurants. We will continue to do so, but will look favourably at lower priced ones. Our holidays will be reduced by just one star. We have set up the Intelliplugs which will save us money without affecting our lives. You get the picture? Long ago we sold our car – we live in London and have free travel everywhere in an approximate area of 5,000 square miles. We can still afford to rent a car for the occasional weekend and will still be a couple of thousand pounds a year in pocket.

Don’t wait until you lose your job, or your father loses his or your child loses hers. We will all have to look to help our family, neighbours and friends in the coming five to ten years. Yes it will take that long. We have been living on borrowed time for over a century and that won’t right itself over night. Our politicians still haven’t realised it is because we run on fiat money rather than real (or commodity) money.

Start saving money. But continue to enjoy yourself. The main thing here is to know the best things in life are free. Our ancestors knew this – we have forgotten it.

Ampers

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Prime Ministers, Presidents and your wealth

Many of you have heard me on this subject before but I will bring it up again, but with a new slant.

First of all, the Prime Minister of the UK and the President of the USA do not run their countries. I often refer to the shadowy men behind the scenes who control our lives. I have refrained from naming names and have only hinted about this for fear of being seen as eccentric at best, or a raving lunatic at worse.

However, this theme is occurring more and more as people learn of this in our two countries and now I can actually name two of the families either at the top of the group, or, at the least, rather close to the top as these people are mentioned more and more, in this context, on the Internet.. These are the families of the American JP Morgan bankers and the British Rothchilds bankers.

There is a two hour video on the Internet which explains just how the monetary system is being manipulated. Although this is from the American angle, the same thing is happening in the UK and mostly all over the EU. The information to watch is during the first section. It is about twenty-minutes long and there is no need to watch the rest of the video – although the rest of the video is rather interesting. You can skip the first three to four minutes as this is just saying; “look how great we are manipulating computer graphics”!

After watching these twenty minutes of enlightenment I rather suspect that many of you who have shares in the stock market, or large amounts of money on deposit will worry. You are right to worry. Since the beginning of the twentieth century when both America and Britain came off the gold standard (we hadn’t been on the gold standard for over a hundred years when Gordon Brown sold our gold reserves a few years ago) our money has devalued, steadily, every year. Every time the FED or the Bank of England print money to get us out of a difficulty, our money devalues even further. This method of printing money happens all over the Western World.

Those who have money should think of precious metals. Gold, Silver, Platinum. No, forget Gold Mine shares. These won’t save you. It has to be a physical holding of the metal. And think of the repercussions when buying. Sovereigns are still legal tender in the UK. Krugerrands are still legal tender in South Africa. Why is this important? The law states that buying and selling legal currencies are not eligible for Capital Gains Tax (CGT). A 1.06 oz (1 oz of pure gold) Krugerrand is the largest Krugerrand made. There are smaller ones on offer so be careful. However, there is a shortage of these coins since a Swiss buyer cleaned the South African mint of its entire stock of 5,000 Krugerrands (selling in the UK at between $920 and $980 each as of this morning).

Silver is a good bet. We are approaching a world shortage in Silver. Did you know that every computer sold has one ounce of silver on its internal motherboard? This is to facilitate the low current to flow easily as silver is an excellent conductor of electricity.

Then, a second property for the purpose of letting is also an excellent buy, providing you can buy it outright. Because of all the housing foreclosures going on at the moment, and the almost impossibility of getting a mortgage, the rents now charged are rising rapidly. Now that the law allows a six month or a twelve month lease, you can easily get a rogue tenant out. A landlord who is fair and charges 20% lower than the average rent will have no trouble keeping the right tenant for long periods.

There is another alternative. That is to move to New Zealand. And before you laugh, this is one that my wife and I are seriously considering.

Ampers

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Thought for today.

Ethics in business.

Product honesty

If you came into my shop to buy a table lamp and asked which is the best one, and I told you the shop next door has the best lamp, then I wouldn’t be in business very long. As a businessman, I cannot afford to be ethical in business if I, and my staff, want to feed our families.

There must be another way.

The job market.

As a businessman, I can only afford to hire people in jobs that haven’t yet been mechanised. Once your job is mechanised, if I don’t get rid of you, the business next door would drive me into the ground. Then I, and all my staff, loses the ability of feeding their families.

There must be another way.

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Terrorism

The budget to prevent terrorism is $161.8 billion a year, this works out at $644 per person.

The budget to prevent coronary heart disease is $2.9 billion a year, this works out at $116 per person.

QUESTION
If the huge amount of money spent on anti-terrorism is not to save lives, what is it for?

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Robin Cook

“The truth is, there is no islamic army or terrorist group called Al Qaida. And any informed intelligence officer knows this. But there is a propaganda compaign to make the public believe in the presence of an identified entity… The country behind this propaganda is the US”

Robin Cook
Former British Foreign Secretary

I find this interesting. Don’t you? Fortunately it looks like Gordon Brown will not press too hard with his 42 day detention.

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The “Tesco Direct” Catalogue

I was thumbing my way through this free 1,000 page catalogue we picked up from our local branch and I do urge people to check the Internet before buying anything from it.

I am sure a lot of items are competitive but when I came across the Panasonic Lumix TZ5 (I own the older TZ3) on page 630. I was amazed at the price they were charging. The full recommended retail price of £289.97. I checked and people are selling this on the Internet for around £180 to £200. In fact Amazon UK are charging £174.70 for the silver model as shown in the Tesco Direct catalogue.

I think, in the years to come, Amazon is going to grow into the largest retailer in Britain if they are not already. The worrying thing is, what will happen if the shops and stores start to collapse in the present economical climate – will they keep their low prices.

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One Man stands alone

I saw this video on YouTube yesterday. it is only just over two minutes and shows that a medical doctor knows more about the American economy than all the experts in the White House. I am referring, of course, to the member of Congress for Texas, Dr Ron Paul.

So why, are you asking. am I taking such an interest in American politics. Some of you may remember me telling you that my Father spent 21 years from the age of three months in New York. But this really has nothing at all to do with my interest.

American is in big trouble. I mean really big trouble. And yesterday they have set in motion something that may bring about the total collapse of the economy of the USA.

I know America is hated by a lot of people in the world, including those in Europe – especially the French. But when America sneezes, we in Europe catch a cold. What will we catch if America gets the ‘flu? Will it, perhaps, be Pneumonia?

Things are going to be tough in the next two or three years for us, but nowhere near as tough as they may get if this “rescue plan” of the Americans does not work. And if you haven’t really got an idea of which way it will go. Just sit down, and quietly tell yourself that this is President Bush’s idea!

I am not going to go on about unfairness of the ordinary American citizen who is going to have to reimburse the billionaires and the millionaires who caused this catastrophe in the first place. If the plan was a good one, and it worked. And we weren’t going to suffer over here – I wouldn’t be too concerned. I am only worried about our plight in Britain.. This does not, however, mean I don’t feel very sorry for their plight.

Watch the video again, it’s only two minutes.

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Saving money with your computer

If you have a Windows computer, running Windows XP, think carefully before deciding to upgrade to Vista. This may incur more expense upgrading your hardware. And, in addition, many companies are refusing to move over to Vista for a lot of other reasons, too numerous and inappropriate, for this article on saving money. You can find more by Googling “Microsoft Vista” (without the quotes).

I want to talk here about another option for your computer.

There are three basic operating systems used on Micro Computers. The Mac OS X, Windows and Linux. Both OS X and Windows are closed systems and the respective companies impose their ideas of how you must work upon you. Linux, however, is “Open Source” and allows you to run your computer environment the way you want to. In addition OS X and Windows cost money to buy or to upgrade. You do not realise it but these costs are programmed into the price of your new computer.

Open Source” means, generally, that not only is the software free, but the source code is provided, and you are free to alter the code, recompile it, and share your new version with your friends, as long as you do not then charge a fee. It’s called “copyleft” and recently a judge upheld the term in law.

Who uses Linux? There are so many organisations, I will just mention three. Citroen are moving 250 servers and 20,000 Desktops from Windows to SuSE Linux. The French Government are moving over to Linux and recently 70,000 Gendarmes’ desktops are moving to Ubuntu Linux. It was the Gendarmes who were my inspiration for this blog as it was they who used this method to bring all their people over to Linux programs. Then there is the Spanish Government moving over to Linux and are in the process of moving 500,000 educational PCs over to Ubuntu Linux.

Apart from Linux being more secure, nothing can be done of a serious nature without using passwords, and you have to give express permission before any software can be loaded. No point in writing deadly malware for Linux, the writer would have to find the passwords for each computer the writer was trying to infect! In addition, Linux is a perfect operating system for use on a network as it is so much more secure than anything else. I never used Windows without a firewall or anti-virus package. I don’t bother with either with Linux.

At this stage I should mention that Linux can be run on both a PC and a Mac.

I chose Ubuntu Linux as it seems one of the easiest to handle for a Windows or Mac User – however, in the past I have experimented with other flavours including SuSE mentioned above.

Before I go into how to set up your computer, I would like to mention that there has been a lot of talk about the “Command Line” which frightens people. I have been using Ubuntu for six months now and I can assure you that most people never have to use the command line. Ubuntu is graphical, like Windows. Did you know Windows also has a command line? To see it in Windows, press the start button and you should see the “Run” button at around the middle on the right. Press this and in the box type: cmd. The black Command box will open in a window (type exit to close the window). But you never use it, right? Of course, this is usually used, like the command line in Linux, by the system administrator or one of your more geekish friends.

The trick for a successful move to Linux is simple, download the applications programs that work, and look, the same and are free with both Linux and Windows. Use these in Windows first – until you are familiar with them. Only then should you download Linux. If you commit yourself to using Linux today, you will only actually download the operating system after at least a six months period of familiarising yourself with the following programs.

To start to prepare for Linux……

Internet Explorer – Download Mozilla Firefox, it’s a better, safer alternative, with thousands of add-ins to make the browser perform the way you want it to. Load this up first and get to know it for a few months. You will love it. It’s free.

Then, and only then…

Microsoft Office – or whatever other word processor you use. Download Open Office and use that for a few more months. It has a Word Processor, Spreadsheet and Presentations programs, and more applications. It’s free. Get to know it as well as you know Microsoft Office.

Then, and only then…

Outlook – finally, you will need an email program that also works on both. Download Mozilla Thunderbird. It handles email and newsgroups. Like Firefox it also has add-ins to enable you to make it run the way you want it to. And, yes, it is also free.

And do you run Photoshop for your photographs? Download The Gimp it is also free. It is totally different in operation to Photoshop so you may want to run them both simultaneously until you feel at ease with it. But it is worth the effort as it does almost everything that Photoshop does and it is improving with each version. Google Picasa version 3 is in beta at the moment for Windows and is not yet available for Linux but will be very soon {Newsflash – it was released yesterday for Linux} it is superb for organising photos and for cropping, retouching and exporting via email or to their web depository or to photo companies to print proper photos for you. In addition, it allows you to change your picture by adding coloured tones, sepia, or black and white. Also you can sharpen, put in a changeable soft focus lens effect and much more.

Before I go on, let me mention the Adobe CS suite. Now over £2000 with VAT. In Linux you can use The Gimp instead of Photoshop, Scribus instead of In-Design and Inkscape instead of Illustrator. Apart from The Gimp, these programs are no way near as good as their Adobe counterparts; but for home users who want to produce their Christmas newsletters, manipulate their digital photographs, or produce local club posters, they are more than suitable.

This article is aimed at home users needing to save money in the on-coming bad times ahead, so it doesn’t apply to graphic professionals anyway.

Once you are happy with your Open Source programs in Windows, then is the time to move over to Linux and the Linux versions. Your data from your Windows programs will immediately work with the Linux editions. But do make sure you spend at least six months familiarising yourself with these programs before installing Linux. This will ensure that once you have loaded Linux, you won’t even notice you are running a different operating system.

Just imagine:

  • You will never have to purchase any more software. {save money}
  • You will have access to over 18,000 free Linux programs.{save money}
  • You will only need lower specification computers. {save money}

I am not going to explain how you load up Ubuntu Linux in this blog as you need to digest and start using the free programs that replace your normal Windows programs. But keep my blog in mind as I will write about it soon. If you use Google Reader, add my address to the Reader list and you will see each blog link as a new blog is written. Use it for news, blogs, websites you visit often – Search within “Amper’s Rants” for Google Reader(with the quotes) to learn what it is really about.

To whet your appetite I will tell you, in simple terms, what you have to do.

Go to the Ubuntu website and download the program. Burn it onto a blank CD. Restart your computer from the CD. Say you want to install Ubuntu onto your hard disk at the prompt. Answer a few questions (keyboard, language etc). Click the button, go and make a cup of tea, and come back to Ubuntu. It will be up and running, the Internet should be available, no disks to add to it. WiFi and Bluetooth run out of the box. I will spell this out in full detail in a future blog.

Firefox and Open Office will be preloaded in your new Linux system, and you can download Thunderbird with one or two clicks. That’s all there is to it. Copy your data over from a saved disk and you are all ready to go. You did save your data, didn’t you?

Ampers.

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Some more observations

Three new snippets, ideas or statements which you can take up or ignore as you so wish.


Are you a Nationalist or a Patriot?

In “The Call of the Tyrant” by Thomas J. DiLorenzo, Clyde Wilson makes an important distinction between nationalism and patriotism:

A patriot is someone who loves his country and its people. A nationalist, on the other hand, loves government and all its powers. He worships “national glory,” “national greatness,” and a myriad of other governmental schemes and crimes. All nationalists who assume political office are tyrants to some degree, since they aspire to use the coercive powers of the state to regulate, control, direct, punish, brainwash, conscript, or kill the citizens whom they rule.

There is a scale of tyranny, ranging from the mere welfare/warfare statist who taxes half of his citizens’ income to keep himself and his friends in power with the help of the poverty and war industries, respectively, to the mass-murdering tyrants like Stalin, Hitler (the National Socialist), Mao, and Pol Pot. “

Families need to hold a meeting.

My family only consists of my wife and I, but this weekend we are going to hold a formal meeting, with minutes taken. On the Agenda are things like “Home” and “The Local Community”, “Transportation” and “General”.

Under “Home” we will discuss how we can save more gas. How we can save electricity. Did you know ASUS have developed a desktop computer not much bigger than a Notebook which only burns 20 watts an hour? We will look to buy an Intelliplug which, when you turn off the item in the main socket, it cuts electricity to other devices plugged in to it, one by one. We could buy one of these for the computer as well. We buy our food from Tesco and are going to build a spreadsheet which shows prices each week we pay for various items. Then armed with a printout we will look at high street shops for vegetable and fruit, and a local Aldi for other items. These are just a few of the items we will be discussing under “Home”.

Under “The Local Community” we will discuss what we can do here instead of going further afield, thus saving fuel and other expenses. In addition, we need to socialise with people in our local community as, if things are going to get as bad as I think they will, survival will depend on local people helping each other.

Transportation” isn’t quite what you think it is. Yes, it includes travel, but it will also include reasons to travel beyond one’s local community. This could be work, holidays, to dinner parties and the suchlike. Just to give you an idea.

Finally, “General” covers future purchases and expenses. Go through your home earmarking every item costing over £100. Put them into three categories. 1, Those that have to be replaced new, without exception. Then 2, those that have to be renewed but could be second hand and finally 3, Those that we could do without if the economy gets bad. Put against each item in lists 1 and 2, the length of time you can take to replace them. A Fridge-freezer could be a few days, a new arm chair a few months. Keep a running balance of the items that are essential and those that are not. We have two computers and the first thing I shall do when Pam retires from her one morning a week doing the accounts for her boss is to mothball all her kit so we can use it when mine reaches the end of its life. We have already moved to Linux which means our computers will last for many more years and it is free (18,000 free programs to choose from). More on this in a week or so after we have had our meeting.

Many of you will laugh and think “it hasn’t come to that yet” and you are right, it hasn’t. However, should it come to that, we will be in a position to benefit from our planning, for you it may be too late.

Conspiracy websites

The Internet is awash with conspiracy websites. However, I have found there is an element of truth amongst the glaring errors of judgements made. I do occasionally read some of them when an email comes in my “Inbox” pointing out a particular one. I go, look, evaluate on the Internet and come back with a little knowledge that needs to be investigated further.

This brings me to my point. When you are Googling to check information, you also always need to check and verify the source. Many years ago, Reuters trained their correspondents never to print anything until they had verified the information with two sources. However, with the advent of the Internet, you need to take this one stage further. Not only do you need verification from two sources, but they should be from two respectable sources. So now, not only should we check out facts, but we also need to check the source much more deeply as well. And even then, you can’t be sure.

For example, when you read an article on a miracle cure in the offering, the newspaper will also often publish another scientific body which comes up with a different conclusion. Both are scientists but let me give you an example of one. One body said that coffee is bad for you. Shortly afterwards another scientific body said four or five cups of coffee a day is good for you. So that can you do? Easy, find out who financed the study. In this instance, the former might have been sponsored by the tea suppliers? And the latter, perhaps, by coffee suppliers?

The most important thing is to learn to think for yourself nowadays. Especially when searching on the Internet.

Ampers.

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The whole world’s a bit mad, ‘cept thee and me…

… and thee’s a bit funny!

Patten is a communist.

Lord Patten, the last British Governor of Hong Kong and now a chancellor at Oxford, has said that Middle Class families should agree to pay higher school fees for their children to go to University. Remember the Communist creed that begins, “Each according to his…”

The Gurkhas can stay.

The Law Courts have said that it is only fair that Ghurkas (50,000 of them have died for our country – and they have won thirteen VCs for their regiment) should be allowed to stay and the Government should think again. The battle isn’t over yet, but if the Labour Party are a decent bunch and they don’t hate dark skinned people too much, they may allow all Ghurkas who fought in the British Army, for our country and its people, to stay. But are they… ? Do they…?

Tesco’s Bank plc

Tesco are now considering offering mortgages and hope to start current accounts within the year. They say that it will be easy to be competitive as the high street banks have to recoup millions of pounds of losses and they can only do that from their customers.

It’s not just the banks!

A well known construction company has reduced prices of some of its new homes by nearly 50% as the financial crisis bites. In addition, the Telegraph reports that retailers’ sales are down 30%. We will all have to tighten our belts and I will research and try to write about the best ways to do this soon..

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