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Harry Newton's In Search of The Perfect Investment Newton's In Search Of The Perfect Investment. Technology Investor.

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8:30 AM EST, Monday, April 2: Gotchas! You get excited about an idea. You do research. You find several "gotchas" that make your idea worthless. That was the weekend. I desperately want to put up a windmill at my new, forever-in-construction house. But the economics, though improving, still suck. I need the maintenance and noise like a hole in the head.

The New York Times had a piece titled "A Nice Stiff Breeze, and a Nice Little Power Bill." Here's their photo:

Gus Sansone installed an 80-foot-tall wind turbine system, costing $32,000, outside his home in Southern California. “We’re saving barrels of oil and pollution,” Mr. Sansone said of the change.

Excerpts from the article:

The latest turbines convert wind into household energy by using wind speeds as low as 9 miles an hour, and they are smaller, quieter and less expensive than older types.

But an investment still requires deep pockets and plenty of land. Most systems require at least a half-acre, and costs can range from $12,000 to $50,000. The good news is that prices have dropped by half in the last five years.

The wind turbines — some of which measure about 12 feet in diameter — look like propellers mounted on poles 33 to 100 feet high. The turbine is connected to a home’s main circuit breaker panel.

When the wind is blowing, the spinning propeller creates power for the home; when the wind is not blowing, the house relies on energy from the power company. During times of strong winds, a turbine can produce excess energy and, depending on the utility company, can result in energy credits for the owner to use later.

The cost of putting up a wind system can take years, even decades, to recoup, depending on state incentives, available tax credits and the consumer’s utility company and location. (Parts of California, Texas and the Midwest typically get some of the strongest winds.)

More state incentives and rebates for alternative energy are helping to spur demand. Mr. Sansone’s $32,000 system qualified for a $16,000 rebate from the California Energy Commission as well as credits on his state income tax. Several other states, including Colorado, Illinois, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, offer similar incentives for wind-power purchases. A state-by-state guide with rules and incentives for alternative energy is at

Some power companies, like Xcel Energy, offer “net metering,” which gives consumers credit or pay for excess wind power generated by their systems. Some utilities install meters that literally run backward when renewable energy is being pushed into the electrical grid.

Taxpayers could soon get credit on their federal returns, too, under legislation introduced in February that would give consumers a one-time $3,000 credit for every kilowatt of their turbine’s capacity; the average size is 2 to 10 kilowatts. Another piece of federal legislation would establish rules for consumers to receive compensation for any excess power produce by wind for their power company.

“Energy is on everyone’s minds right now,” said Robert W. Preus, chief executive of Abundant Renewable Energy, a manufacturer in Newberg, Ore., that shipped its first wind turbines last year. “It’s a small market, but I expect enormous growth over the next five years domestically and internationally.”

The concept of small wind turbines is blossoming in Canada, Germany and Spain as well as in the Britain, where rooftop versions are popping up in urban areas despite debate over their efficacy.

Momentum may be building, but not everyone welcomes wind power. Some communities restrict the height of the windmills or ban them.

In San Bernardino County, Calif., where Mr. Sansone lives, some county residents compared the noise from turbines to the sound of jets revving up on a runway. Their complaints ultimately forced county officials to increase permit fees for turbine owners and to require them to notify neighbors before installing one.

Americans can also buy smaller, quieter roof-mounted wind turbines for as little as $1,000, but because these smaller turbines sit closer to the ground, they endure more turbulence and produce less power. Some of these turbines can power just a few light bulbs or perhaps a single microwave.

For the entire NYTimes article, click here.

It's easy to get in, but not always easy to get out: You can sell most shares instantly. You can sell mutual funds from one day to the next. My commodities fund needs five days notice before the end of the month. Hedge funds are all over the place. Some need three months notice. Some won't let you out for the first year or two, or three. One hedge fund wants 30 days notice, but will only give you 90% of your money back at the end of the month. It will hold another 10% Some money managers threaten you with all sorts of nasty penalties if you want fully out, but they'll let you partially out with no penalty -- but only at the end of the year. And then there are private equity funds and private companies that never let you out -- that's not true. But it may take years and years.

As I get older, I tend to like investments that I can get out faster. My own experience tells me there is no correlation between the difficulty of getting out and the returns on the investment. If anything, my experience shows the harder it is to get out, the worse the returns typically are.

Google announces free in-home wireless broadband service
MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif., April 1, 2007 - Google Inc. (NASDAQ: GOOG) today announced the launch of Google TiSP (BETA)™, a free in-home wireless broadband service that delivers online connectivity via users' plumbing systems. The Toilet Internet Service Provider (TiSP) project is a self-installed, ad-supported online service that will be offered entirely free to any consumer with a WiFi-capable PC and a toilet connected to a local municipal sewage system.

"We've got that whole organizing-the-world's-information thing more or less under control," said Google Co-founder and President Larry Page, a longtime supporter of so-called "dark porcelain" research and development. "What's interesting, though, is how many different modalities there are for actually getting that information to you - not to mention from you."

For years, data carriers have confronted the "last hundred yards" problem for delivering data from local networks into individual homes. Now Google has successfully devised a "last hundred smelly yards" solution that takes advantage of preexisting plumbing and sewage systems and their related hydraulic data-transmission capabilities. "There's actually a thriving little underground community that's been studying this exact solution for a long time," says Page. "And today our Toilet ISP team is pleased to be leading the way through the sewers, up out of your toilet and - splat - right onto your PC."

Users who sign up online for the TiSP system will receive a full home self-installation kit, which includes a spindle of fiber-optic cable, a TiSP wireless router, installation CD and setup guide. Home installation is a simple matter of GFlushing™ the fiber-optic cable down to the nearest TiSP Access Node, then plugging the other end into the network port of your Google-provided TiSP wireless router. Within sixty minutes, the Access Node's crack team of Plumbing Hardware Dispatchers (PHDs) should have your Internet connection up and running.

"I couldn't be more excited about, and am only slightly grossed out by, this remarkable new product," said Marissa Mayer, Google's Vice President of Search Products and User Experience. "I firmly believe TiSP will be a breakthrough product, particularly for those users who, like Larry himself, do much of their best thinking in the bathroom."

Interested consumers, contractually obligated partners and deeply skeptical and quietly competitive backbiters can learn more about TiSP and see installation diagrams at

How to boost EVDO reception: Portable high-speed Internet connection for your laptop from Sprint or Verizon is the greatest travel tool. These services free you from finding a local Starbucks, arguing with your hotel over their nonfunctioning Wi-Fi, or even paying money at your home for fixed cable modem or DSL service -- if you choose to use it as your primary broadband service. As wireless cell phones are replacing landlines, so EVDO service is replacing fixed cable modem and DSL lines. The EVDO business has exploded, as has the accessory business. Hence things have become more complex. There are basically four types of EVDO "cards:"

1. PC Card, which slides into an old PCMCIA slot on your laptop.
2. An ExpressCard which slides into the narrow slot on your new laptop, including the new Apple laptops.
3. A USB EVDO modem card which plugs into your USB port.
4. Some laptops now come with the hardware built in and the EVDO antenna as part of the laptop's lid.

Here's what the cards look like. The card will typically be free if you sign for a $60 a month two year service.

Two important accessories are now available: antennas and amplifiers for better reception and routers to allow several computers to share one EVDO monthly service. Make sure the card you buy has a place to plug an antenna into. A Google search on EVDO turns up oodles of information. is useful.

The correct order for rebooting your cable modem or DSL line. Sometimes your broadband connection slows or dies. Before you call and bitch, reboot. You must reboot in the correct order:

First, unplug everything and turn off your computer.
Second, count to 20.
Third, turn on your cable or DSL modem. Count to 20.
Fourth, turn on your router or firewall. Count to 20.
Fifth, turn on your local area network hubs, if you have any. Count to 20.
Finally, turn on PC. Count to 20.

Watch out for cleaners. Some of the new cable and DSL modem have ultra-sensitive on-off switches. Are you listening RCA?

Passover begins tonight:

+ A blind man is sitting on a park bench. A Rabbi sits down next to him. The Rabbi is chomping on a piece of Matzoh. Taking pity on the blind man, he breaks off a piece and gives it to the blind man.

Several minutes later, the blind man turns, taps the Rabbi on the shoulder and asks, "Who wrote this drek?"

+ A British Jew is to be knighted by the Queen. He is to kneel in front of her and recite a sentence in Latin when she taps him on the shoulders with her sword. However, when his turn comes, he panics and forgets the Latin. Then, thinking fast, he recites the only other sentence he knows in a foreign language, which he remembers from the Passover seder: "Ma nishtana ha layla ha zeh mi kol ha laylot."

Puzzled, Her Majesty turns to her advisor and whispers, "Why is this knight different from all other knights?"

+ Why did it take 40 years? What is the most reasonable explanation for the fact that Moses led the Israelites all over the place for forty years before they finally got to the Promised Land?

a. God was testing him.

b. He wanted the Israelites to appreciate the Promised Land when they got there.

c. He refused to ask for directions.

and for my favorite:

+ Moses is leading the children of the Israelites to the promised land. He arrives at the Red Sea. He calls for Moishe, his engineer. "So make me a bridge,"

"Sorry, boss. This is the desert. There is no wood. No bridge."

Moses calls for Smenkel, his best salesman. "Go gallop to the Egyptians and make a deal."

An hour later, Smenkel returns, "No deal, boss. They want us dead."

Moses calls for Yankele, his PR man. "What should we do?"

Yankele replies, "See that rock. Stand on it. Put your arms in the air. Ask God to part the Red Sea. Take your children through. When you get to other side, you'll find another rock. Stand on it. Wait until the Egyptian army is in the breach in the Red Sea. Then put your arms in the air and say 'God, close the Red Sea.' He will. Your enemies will be drowned. You can move peacefully to the Promised Land."

Moses looks very quizzical. "This is going work?" he asks.

Yankele replies, "I have no idea, but -- if it does -- I'll get you three pages in the Old Testament."

This column is about my personal search for the perfect investment. I don't give investment advice. For that you have to be registered with regulatory authorities, which I am not. I am a reporter and an investor. I make my daily column -- Monday through Friday -- freely available for three reasons: Writing is good for sorting things out in my brain. Second, the column is research for a book I'm writing called "In Search of the Perfect Investment." Third, I encourage my readers to send me their ideas, concerns and experiences. That way we can all learn together. My email address is . You can't click on my email address. You have to re-type it . This protects me from software scanning the Internet for email addresses to spam. I have no role in choosing the Google ads. Thus I cannot endorse any, though some look mighty interesting. If you click on a link, Google may send me money. Please note I'm not suggesting you do. That money, if there is any, may help pay Claire's law school tuition. Read more about Google AdSense, click here and here.
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