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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, Wednesday, March 7, 2007: Biotechs and oil stocks? Areas to invest? Two articles grabbed my attention last night:

1. Jim Cramer on "Crash Insurance." He likes biotechs. He writes:

... Biotech companies are all about the future, with potential blockbusters and approvals in front of them, not behind them, and limited competition for most of their current offerings. These companies have pipelines—what drugs really trade on—and trials that could propel them much, much higher than their current levels. Even if an old-line company merges or gets a bid—the only real hope for appreciation—it couldn’t produce the kind of upside that the biotechs give you. Their research bent and their ability to focus on highly specialized, low-profile illnesses keep them out of the crosshairs of the Democrats.

So what’s got the most upside? I’ve got four companies that could have years and years and years of great growth that a Pfizer or a Lilly could only dream of (Genentech, Celgene, Gilead, and Genzyme), a wild-card stock that could get a bid within the next year because of a recent successful cancer trial (Onyx Pharmaceuticals), and two companies (Altus and Exelixis) that are speculation plays. With their promising drugs still in FDA trials, they could either go boom or bust.

To read his piece, click here.

.My own preference is for smaller biotechs, including Chelsea Therapeutics, Cougar Biotechnology, Hana Biosciences, Innovive, Novadel, Vioquest, Ziopharm and even the disaster of the bunch -- Point Therapeutics, which is cheap (low market cap), has great drug potential, but horrible management. I figure these are five year investments -- the time it takes to clear the FDA -- and that one or two will make it big.

2. The New York Times on "Oil Innovations Pump New Life into Old Wells." The article basically says the peak oil theory is dead. There is more oil than we ever imagined and new technology is bringing it to the surface. Good news for the oil companies. The article begins:

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. — The Kern River oil field, discovered in 1899, was revived when Chevron engineers here started injecting high-pressured steam to pump out more oil. The field, whose production had slumped to 10,000 barrels a day in the 1960s, now has a daily output of 85,000 barrels.

In Indonesia, Chevron has applied the same technology to the giant Duri oil field, discovered in 1941, boosting production there to more than 200,000 barrels a day, up from 65,000 barrels in the mid-1980s.

And in Texas, Exxon Mobil expects to double the amount of oil it extracts from its Means field, which dates back to the 1930s. Exxon, like Chevron, will use three-dimensional imaging of the underground field and the injection of a gas — in this case, carbon dioxide — to flush out the oil.

Within the last decade, technology advances have made it possible to unlock more oil from old fields, and, at the same time, higher oil prices have made it economical for companies to go after reserves that are harder to reach. With plenty of oil still left in familiar locations, forecasts that the world’s reserves are drying out have given way to predictions that more oil can be found than ever before.

You can read the entire New York Times piece, click here.

Microsoft Vista is so seductive. But Apple may benefit. My first serious recommendations:

1. DO NOT UPGRADE to Vista.

2. Do NOT buy a PC running Vista.

Vista will need many patches and fixes before it becomes (if ever it becomes) a reliable operating system. For now, it is a work in progress. If you choose to use it, you will only drive yourself nuts and waste hours and hours of your precious time.

There's an old saying in the computer business: "If it works, don't mess with it." Stick with Windows XP, or move to a Mac which many of my friends are doing. I suspect when the word gets out how horrible Vista really is, there will be a stampede to Macs.

Apple's stock is high, but could go higher.

The background: Toshiba sent me a Vista disk for my laptop. To run it, I had to upgrade my laptop's BIOS (a pain) and reinstall Vista a couple of times. By the time it took, I discovered:

1. All the buttons had been moved, which meant I had to spend eons looking for them in their new places. For example, "Display" in control panel no longer exists. There's absolutely no logic (or benefit) to moving all the controls from their familiar XP places to new, impossible-to-find places. This, alone, will cause every new Vista user to tear his/her out.

2. Vista has no compelling new features. I have yet to find one thing I can't do with XP.

3. Vista is unreliable. It locked up on me several times last night, including when it was running the Economist Screensaver. And when I rebooted, it had lost some of its settings. This morning I can't find the buttons necessary to restore the settings. A pain.

4. Vista is annoying. Every time you want to do something, it brings up a box asking your permission. You hit Yes and off you go. But it's so annoying. It also keeps popping up boxes telling me I'm not protected or am running illegal software. More annoyances.

5. Half your old software, most of your old printers, scanners and such like won't work with Vista. They'll need new drivers. Most haven't been written yet. Some may never be written, especially for your older equipment..

Meantime the Department of Transportation has issued a moratorium on its 60,000 users upgrading to Vista, Office 2007 and Internet Explorer 7. Here's a story:

March 05, 2007 (Computerworld) -- The U.S. Department of Transportation has quietly put the kibosh on Windows Vista, Office 2007 and Internet Explorer 7 (IE7), banning upgrades to those Microsoft Corp. products -- at least for now.

Donna Seymour, CIO of the DOT's Maritime Administration (MARAD), said a July move of the agency's Washington headquarters is to blame for the reluctance to deploy Microsoft's new software. "It has less to do with technical concerns about Microsoft and more to do with the fact that with our July move, our plates are totally full and we can't take another thing on right now," she said in an interview today after a speech at the Computerworld Premier 100 IT Leaders conference in Palm Desert, Calif.

MARAD has already begun testing Vista and IE 7, according to Seymour. That testing, however, may take time because MARAD relies extensively on old, custom applications that will require long evaluation on Vista. She has not yet set an upgrade timetable, but if or when she does, Seymour said, she can add Vista and Office without spending additional money; MARAD has a Software Assurance contract with Microsoft.

Even if her department doesn't widely deploy Vista and Office 2007 until early 2009, "we would be middle of the pack among private corporations and somewhat ahead of most government agencies," Seymour claimed.

In late January, Daniel Mintz, the DOT's CIO, issued an internal memo slapping a moratorium on upgrading desktops and laptops to Vista, the Office 2007 business suite and IE7, the revamped browser Microsoft released last October. "This establishes an indefinite moratorium until further notice on desktop/laptop computer software upgrades to Microsoft Vista, Office 2007 and Internet Explorer version 7," the DOT memo read. "Microsoft Vista, Office 2007 and Internet Explorer may be acquired for testing purposes only."

The memo, which the DOT posted publicly on Jan. 22 (download PDF), went on to say that a follow-up in six months would lay out the agency's 2008 migration road map, leaving the door open to a policy change then. A similar ban will be put into place separately by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), which is part of the DOT, the memo also said.

Mintz took the Microsoft software to the woodshed, figuratively speaking. "Based on our initial analysis, there appears to be no compelling technical or business case for upgrading to these new Microsoft software products. Furthermore, there appears to be specific reasons not to upgrade," the memo read. Among the don't-bother reasons spelled out: the cost of upgrading, backward compatibility with earlier editions of Office and the planned move to new quarters. ...

Somehow this reminds me of Vista:
Each Friday night after work, Bubba would fire up his outdoor grill and cook a venison steak. But, all of Bubba's neighbors were Catholic....And since it was Lent, they were forbidden from eating meat on Friday.

The delicious aroma from the grilled venison steaks was causing such a problem for the Catholic faithful that they finally talked to their priest.

The Priest came to visit Bubba, and suggested that he become a Catholic. After several classes and much study, Bubba attended Mass.....and as the priest sprinkled holy water over him, he said, "You were born a Baptist, and raised a Baptist, but now you are a Catholic."

Bubba's neighbors were greatly relieved, until Friday night arrived, and the wonderful aroma of grilled venison filled the neighborhood.

The Priest was called immediately by the neighbors, and, as he rushed into Bubba's yard, clutching a rosary and prepared to scold him, he stopped and watched in amazement.

There stood Bubba, clutching a small bottle of holy water which he carefully sprinkled over the grilling meat and chanted: "You wuz born a deer, you wuz raised a deer, but now you is a catfish."

Best short joke of 2006
A 3-year-old boy examined his testicles while taking a bath.

"Mom", he asked, "Are these my brains?"

She replied, "Not yet, my son. Not yet."

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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