Technology Investor 

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 Friday, January 13, 2006: It's Friday the 13th. Walk under as many ladders as you can.

The Wall Street Journal's Heard on the Street column today says Whole Foods shares are pricey. Click here. Dah! The last time I thought they were pricey I recommended we take a little off the table. I did. And the stock went higher, much higher. Fortunately I kept most of my shares.

Is the Journal right? The stock is richly priced. But my Google Alerts "buzz" meter is still inundating me with stories every day. If ever that flow of hype, buzz and publicity ebbs, I'll know it's time to loosen up more. But for now... The latest story is about Whole Foods getting into -- of all things -- wind energy to power its stores. Nice touch for an organic food purveyor.

GM The Ultimate Cockroach stock: It's time to short GM again. GM is going broke. But it still pays a hefty dividend. Jerome York, an adviser to Kirk Kerkorian who owns 7.8% of GM's shares, is pushing the board to cut its ridiculously high dividend by half. The dividend gives the shares a huge 9% yield. I bet the board will cut its dividend shortly. As the Wall Street Journal wrote yesterday, "If GM's Big Yield Vanishes, Investors May Do the Same."

The story gets weirder.

The stock has risen recently because Goldman Sachs raised its rating to "in line" from "underperform." Yet the analyst told the Journal, "Our long-term view of GM fundamentals remains squarely negative, due to severe revenue and cost pressures related to ongoing share loss and onerous labor-related costs."

Now, you tell me, how can you upgrade a stock whose fundamentals you believe remain squarely negative? For only one reason, Goldman Sachs smells some investment banking deal.... Or am I being unfair? Wall Street makes me sick.

TiVo's basic problem: Everyone loves the product, but hates the stock because it's done so badly. That makes playing with the stock difficult. It should be the world's second greatest short (after GM). But ... yesterday David Miller, an analyst at Sanders Morris Harris, (whoever they are) upgraded TiVo shares to "Hold" from "Sell," (that's an upgrade?). Miller said the the stock is down measurably (16% in 2005 alone) and has "drastically underperformed most of the indexes" (really!).

Miller wrote, "We now peg the shares to trade at what we consider fair value given the headwinds TiVo is currently facing." Miller said TiVo shares have taken a hit because of price elasticity in the hardware business, the phasing down of DirecTV Group Inc. as a promotional partner and a "poorly communicated" management shift to Chief Executive Tom Rogers, the former CEO of Primedia Inc., who replaced TiVo co-founder Mike Ramsay. Miller maintained his earnings estimates for TiVo, forecasting a fourth-quarter operating loss of 21 cents per share, on service and tech revenue of $45.6 million.

So, get this, he's upgrading the stock because it's "taken a hit," not because its losses are going to improve, or, God Forbid, it's going to show profits. And TiVo actually rose 20 cents (3.7%) on this nonsensical Wall Street "logic."

TiVo's TiVo-To-Go CAN be fixed: You program your TiVo to record shows. Then you play them back when you wish. That's TiVo's basic usefulness. That's why we all bought TiVo. But you'd like to do more:

1. Offload some of the shows from the your TiVo to something else -- because your TiVo's hard disk is full and erasing all your favorite shows.
2. Move some shows to your laptop or a DVD, so you can take the shows with you and watch them on a plane or at your country house. Or send them to a friend.

TiVo doesn't make this easy. But, after many hours of screwing around, I've figured the solution:

1. Buy a Linksys 10/100 Compact USB 2.0 Network Adapter. Click here. Buy a seven foot Ethernet cable. Click here. Those are for connecting your TiVo to your laptop and to the Internet.
2. Download TiVo-To-Go software from TiVo's web site. Click here. You must have a TiVo series 2 machine. Most of us do. For information on how to install it, go here.
3. Plug the USB network adapter into your TiVo and the cable into the adapter. Plug the cable into the router or hub your laptop is connected to. I'm guessing this router or hub is connected to your cable modem or DSL line. This will allow TiVo to pick up its program information over the Internet, rather than wasting a phone line.
4. Install the TiVo-To-Go software on your Ethernet-equipped laptop. Run the software. With luck the TiVo-to-Go software will recognize your TiVo and say everything is wonderful. By starting TiVo Desktop (which is what it's called on your laptop) and hitting "Pick recordings to transfer, you should "see" the shows that you have recorded on your TiVo.
5. With luck you may be able to highlight a show and "start transferring" it to your laptop. But, it probably won't transfer. Many hours later, I figured the solution. You need to plug your TiVo's Ethernet cable directly into your laptop, bypassing the hub or the router. I don't understand why you need to do this. I stumbled on it by accident -- TiVo's support group is useless.
6. OK. Now you have your shows on your laptop. You can take that laptop with you and play the shows on that laptop. That works. You can even burn DVDs of the show. But you can only watch the DVDs on your TiVo-To-Go equipped laptop. That's because TiVo encrypts the shows -- don't ask why -- and they appear as a file with a TiVo extension which no movie playing software (QuickTime, Windows Media Player, RealPlayer) can play. There is a solution...
7. Download a free piece of software called DirectShow Dump. Click here. Install it on your TiVo-To-Go equipped laptop. Next time you have a show with a TiVo extension, you simply run DirectShow Dump, pick the TiVo show you want to convert and say "Do it." The software converts the TiVo show to a standard MPEG format which any computer (PC, Mac, laptop, etc.) can play. You can't watch it with a DVD player. That's a different animal. But frankly, watching TiVo shows on your laptop is perfectly acceptable. I'm assembling a small library or Roger Federer tennis matches. This way I can check if he's mastered everything I taught him. (I wish).
8. You can also use video editing software and remove all the commercials. But you didn't read that here.

Honda's Big Ruckus is cute and useful:

This thing gets 60 miles to a gallon, makes highway speeds with its 250 cc engine, has a frame strong enough for New York's potholes, has automatic transmission, a passenger seat with backrest, is cheap to park and costs only $5,500. Which is a lot cheaper than your gas-guzzling SUV. Honda has an array of what it calls scooters. My friend has one. He loves it.

Old people
A distraught senior citizen phoned her doctor's office.

"Is it true," she wanted to know, "that the medication you prescribed has to be taken for the rest of my life?"

"Yes, I'm afraid so," the doctor told her.

There was a moment of silence before the senior lady replied, "I'm wondering, then, just how serious is my condition because this prescription is marked 'No refills'."

Blessing the new sports car
A man who has finally made it in business treats himself to a new Lamborghini! After buying it, he feels guilty so he goes to the Orthodox Rabbi and asks for a mezuzah for the Lamborghini.

"You want a mezuzah for what?" the Rabbi asks.

"It's a Lamborghini,"

"What's a Lamborghini?" asks the Rabbi.

"A sports car."

"What? That's blasphemy!" the Rabbi shouts. "You want a mezuzah for a sports car? Go to the conservatives!"

Well, the man is disappointed, but goes to the Conservative Rabbi and asks for a mezuzah. "You want a mezuzah for what?" the Rabbi asks.

"For my Lamborghini", the man replies.

"What's a Lamborghini?" asks the Rabbi.

"A car, a sports car."

"What kind of sports car?" asks the Rabbi.


"What? That is blasphemy!" the Rabbi shouts. "You want a mezuzah for a Goyishe car? Go to the Reform!"

Again, the man feels guilty and disappointed,! but goes to the Reform Rabbi.

"Rabbi," he asks, "I'd like a mezuzah for my Lamborghini."

"You have a Lamborghini?" asks the Rabbi.

"You know what it is?" says the man.

"Of course! It's a fantastic Italian sports car... What's a mezuzah?"

Recent column highlights:
+ Munich, the movie. A must-see. Click here.
+ Identity Theft precautions. Click here.
+ Dumb reasons we hold losing stocks. Click here.
+ How my private equity fund is doing. Click here.
+ Blackstone private equity funds. Click here.
+ Manhattan Pharmaceuticals: Click here.
+ NovaDel Biosciences appeals. Click here.
+ Hana Biosciences appeals. Click here.
+ All turned on by biotech. Click here.
+ Steve Jobs Commencement Address. The text is available: Click here. The full audio is available. Click here.
+ The March of the Penguins, an exquisite movie. Click here.
+ When to sell stocks. Click here.

Harry Newton

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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