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 EST Monday, July 10, 2006: A gorgeous weekend. Some exercise. Some rest. Some reading. Some planning. Some concern. (Why don't I play as well as Federer?) Nothing of great moment.

+ Bill Gross thinks
inflation is under controls, the Feds are almost done raising rates (maybe one more time) and the bear market in bonds is over.
+ Ben Stein thinks emerging markets make sense, e.g. EEM and DFEMX.
+ The New York Times wrote did a supplement on mutual fund performance in the first half and pretty well said if you survived in the first half, you did OK. For more,. click here.
+ No one thinks volatility in the stockmarket is going away. In fact, many (including me) think it's getting worse. The primary driving force is heated competition among hot hedge funds.

One of the huge pluses of investing in things that don't trade daily (like real estate) is they don't trade daily. This saves daily agita.

Internet advertising blossoms: Says this weekend's Economist: "Thanks to the power of the Internet, advertising is becoming less wasteful and its value more measurable." If you're in business and spending money on advertising, read this special report. Click here. If that link doesn't work, you'll need to sign up on the Economist's web site, The Economist remains my favorite business magazine.

Why I don't recommend tech stocks -- especially the big ones. My weekend was ruined by Cisco. I sat on hold with Cisco's subsidiary Linksys for two hours while I listened to messages about how the long wait was caused by the huge popularity of their new products -- one of which I was trying to install. In the end I gave up waiting, threw the busted, new Cisco/Linksys wireless router in the garbage and gave up. This is not the way it's meant to me. Their installation CD is meant to work. It didn't. Their web installation tool is meant to work. It wasn't on the web. Their help desk people are meant to answer the phone. They didn't.

Cisco going nowhere.

Problem is that all the leading technology companies -- Microsoft, Cisco, eBay, Intel, Dell, etc. -- have grown so large their management has lost touch with the basic business of creating solid new products that work for customers they can service. The problem shows up in so many ways:
1. Cisco's inability to answer its phones or to get material up on its web site.
2. Microsoft's inability to turn out a new product on time, e.g. Vista, Office, etc.

Microsoft going nowhere.

3. eBay's inability to hold onto its staff. Last week, eBay said that Jeff Jordan, 47, who was seen as a likely successor to Meg Whitman, 49, the chief executive, planned to leave later this year. The departure of Mr. Jordan, president of eBay's PayPal unit, is the latest in a string of departures among high-level executives, reports today's New York Times.
4. Intel's inability to produce a chip that excites its customers. For example, Intel's new dual core processor has -- as far I can see from using it for several months -- zero advantages over its previous incarnations. My new laptop is no faster than my previous one. And certainly not worth the money, nor the aggravation of the many hours in setting it up.

Intel going nowhere.

Dell going nowhere.

Today, Dell, the world's largest computer company, says the Wall Street Journal, will launch an advertising campaign that doesn't focus on its computers' amount of memory or processor speeds (I'm guessing there's nothing new to report). Instead, the campaign will stress more emotional elements, talking about how consumers can use their computers for fun tasks such as gaming and video-editing. This new campaign is meant to go up against HP's recent campaign which featured celebrities talking about how they use their computers (as if we all cared).

There are two morals to today's technology story:
1. Don't buy big tech. Virtually all of them are going nowhere fast.
2. Don't short them. There are still too many money managers who need to invest in big companies, irrespective of how much the big companies screw up, delay and frustrate.

USB or Firewire? External hard drives are the safest way of backing your precious work. There are two types: those that connect by USB and those that connect by Firewire. If you have the choice (i.e. your computer has a Firewire port), always buy Firewire. It's much faster.

New darling Canon camera: I love my Canon SD450 baby camera, which I've raved about in this column. Now Canon has introduced a better model -- the SD700. I'm very tempted.

The SD700.

Why the SD700 is better:

1. Image stabilization. The SD450 doesn't have it. With image stabilization, your pictures will be clearer. This technology has trickled down from big TV cameras that are now routinely hand held.
2. Six megapixels, not five as in the SD450.
3. Bigger zoom.
4. Faster speed for flash-free shooting indoors.
5. More shooting modes, etc.
6. Expanded software.

The SD700 is about $440 versus $300 for the SD450. The extra money is worth it for your camera. For your kids, the SD450 is perfectly fine.

How awful are HP printers and scanners? From my friend and reader, Ron Acher:

You are 100% correct regarding HP. Much as their equipment was world-beating 15 years ago, today it is average and their related software is just plain TERRIBLE -- bloated, unwieldy, inefficient, useless, unnecessary.

By contrast, Brother just remains a dream. You got one of their original MFCs at Telecom Library 10 years ago, and it was great. I just recently acquired a modern day version, and it is superb -- as is their related software, simple, clean, functional, robust.

They deserve a mention in the column among the list of far superior alternatives to HP.

The blogosphere lies. There are now web site blogs which routinely accept money from companies to mention their products favorably. Such monies are often not revealed to readers. There's even an advertising agency set up to organize the product placements and pay bloggers money. All this, according to the July 10 issue of Business Week. I am unhappy to report that I have never been paid money to mention a product in this column. I report this sadly, since I could use the money. Meantime I suspect I will be paying my own cash money for my new Canon SD700.

How to play golf:
This is an actual sign posted at a golf club in Scottsdale, Arizona :

1. Back straight, knees bent, feet shoulder width apart.
2. Form a loose grip.
3. Keep your head down.
4. Avoid a quick backswing.
5. Stay out of the water.
6. Try not to hit anyone.
7. If you are taking too long, please let others go ahead of you.
8. Don't stand directly in front of others.
9. Quiet please...while others are preparing to go.
10. Don't take extra strokes.

Well done. Now flush the urinal, go outside, and tee off!

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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