Technology Investor 

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

Previous Columns
8:30 AM EST, Friday, May 25: Off to Boston. My daughter graduates today from law school. That makes her a real lawyer. She can't "practice" law until she passes the Bar Exam this summer. But I have no doubts she'll pass with flying colors. She's a bright girl and studies like a beaver on steroids. She got all her brains from her mother.

My friend, the idiot: He sprinkles PCs around his house, like his wife sprinkles Persian carpets. He had eight PCs. Yesterday he came home and two of the eight wouldn't boot. He has zero idea what happened. We're guessing a power spike. Meantime, he's reformatting the hard disks from scratch and loading all the software from scratch. Doing everything from scratch is hugely time-consuming (several hours each machine) and a genuine pain.

Coming home to dead PCs will happen to you one day. Trust me. You must have a hard disk clone of your hard disk. This is far more useful than keeping original discs from the factory. When your main machine crashes, you remove the dead hard disk, replace it with the clone, then clone the dead one (assuming it's OK, just has its data corrupted -- otherwise buy a new one). This takes minutes versus hours.

The woman who won't do the web site. A friend runs a successful retail store specializing in beautiful housewares. Her clients beg her to open a web site. This way they can see all the new things she gets in (she has exquisite taste). But the web site is in her "too hard" basket.

To repeat, a web site is the easiest and fastest way to go from a one shop retail operation to a global business. Everyone should have a web site. And these days they're trivial to put up. End of lecture.

Verizon sent me their newest BlackBerry to testdrive: And I must say I'm very very impressed.

This is the new BlackBerry 8830. The big difference in the keyboard layout is the addition of standard buttons for making and receiving phone calls and the center trackball, which is easier to use than the scrollwheel on the right side of the 7250 (and, I think, all other BlackBerries).
This is the old BlackBerry 7250 which I now own and use. It's been ultra-reliable.

BlackBerries do email. That's why people buy them. I like them because I synch my Outlook with them and see my contacts, calendar, tasks and notes. When I rush out of the house to an appointment, I can check my BlackBerry as to where I'm meant to be going. I don't have to enter all this information manually, like on most normal cell phones, which don't synch with Outlook and require you to painfully type in all that stuff. I dial phone calls with the BlackBerry using my Outlook contacts.

The BlackBerry 8830 has one major improvement. It will work overseas on all GSM networks (that's virtually everywhere, including Europe, Australia and Asia). It will make and receive both voice calls and emails. It keeps your local phone number and your local email address. The big bargain is the unlimited global email for a $65 to $70 a month. Phone calls are not a bargain, (I talked about these on Wednesday.) But it all depends on who's paying for them, and how important staying in touch is. If you're in the middle of a big deal (and who of us isn't?), then the ability to receive phone calls on your American number while you're schussing down the slopes of Kitzbühl in Austria is invaluable. It could mean getting that zillion dollar deal. One deal will pay your Verizon charges for the rest of your life.

From my preliminary testing, the 8830 is also a far better phone. For one, it has a speakerphone. I've never been able to cradle my 7250 to my ear. Finally, I can put the thing down, talk into it and take real notes, including typing on my laptop with two hands. This is a huge productivity improvement for me.

It's got some other niceties: a brighter screen, slighlty longer battery life, a trackball instead of a scrollwheel, and the standard "answer phone" and "hangup phone" buttons that all cell phones have. It's now easier to use as a phone. It's half an ounce lighter than my 7250, is a bit thinner and slides into my pocket easier. I don't use the belt cradle. That thing makes you look like messenger, attached to your boss with an electronic leash.

It's also got voice activated dialing. Lay the thing down, talk to it and it will dial your favorite wife.

It will also hold pictures of your family, play music or videos. And it will play them through the speakerphone, earbuds that come with it or (I believe) through a Bluetooth thingee for your ear. As far as I can see, if you have an 8830 you don't need an iPod.

The 8830 might well be the universal pocket-portable gadget. It's around $299, which is only $50 more than I paid for my iPod. But this BlackBerry does so much more. I'm going to buy one, instantly, if not sooner. Highly recommended.

How to build a new home. This is really useful. Reader John Eckstein emails:

Harry, From reading your column, I understand that you are building a new home.

About three years ago I started a company that provides air quality testing services and healthy home consulting in the San Francisco Bay area. We advise homeowners how they can make their homes cleaner, greener, and more energy efficient. Although many homeowners immediately assume that hidden mold is the cause of their problems, we find that problems with heating/cooling systems and ventilation is most often the source of many indoor air quality problems and energy waste. With the escalating price of energy combined with the well-intentioned efforts to make homes “greener” and more tightly sealed, homes are not as healthy or as energy efficient as they should be.

Here are some tips based on over 100 inspections:

· Size Matters: An efficient heating system needs to be sized properly, yet most residential contractors don’t take the time to do a Manual-J heat loss calculation or Manual-D duct design calculation to make sure that the system is designed correctly. Improperly sizing the system will mean years of discomfort and inefficient energy utilization. You are good at asking questions. Ask your contractor or their heating sub, to provide you with copies of their calculations. Then go find an outside heating contractor to evaluate what they gave you.

· Bigger Not Better: Bigger is not better when it comes to sizing an air conditioner; a properly sized air conditioner will operate more efficiently and will not subject occupants to extreme temperature changes between “too cold” and “too warm”.

· Think System, not Furnace: Your heating system is more than your furnace, it includes both the furnace, filtration, and duct system. Traditionally ducts were sealed with duct tape. Like most tapes, after a few years the adhesive wears out and you no longer have a sealed duct system. To make matters worse, in some homes nothing but tape was used to seal the duct system. The ducts are the delivery system of conditioned air through your home. When we test duct systems, we find typically 30-50% leakage, meaning that only a portion of expensively heated or cooled air is actually being delivered to your home, the rest is leaking out in the attic, walls, or crawlspace. Your ducts should be sealed professionally and then pressure tested to confirm that duct leakage is 6% or less than total system airflow. Most heating contractors do not even know about this, but the good ones do.

· Sealed Ducts: Duct leakage is more than wasteful, it also can create pressure imbalances in your home. I won’t go into the details here, but if you have leaky ducts in the crawlspace or attic, this can draw pollutants into your home or can cause backdrafting of indoor combustion appliances. Again, ducts needs to be tested and sealed.

· Clean Ducts: Also regarding ducts, I cannot tell you how many times I have found saw dust, coke cans, dorito bags, water, and other construction debris in brand new ducts in brand new homes. Once the duct is installed, it should be sealed to prevent the entry of all the things you don’t want to be breathing for the next 30 years in your home.

· Furnace Filters: Most filters were designed to protect the furnace from debris, they were not designed to protect our lungs from fine particulates. Have your HVAC contractor install a easy to access, disposable 4-6 inch, merv 13 or better filter. I don’t believe that cutting edge, expensive, UV, filtration equipment is necessary. But ask questions, don’t just accept the default.

· Noise Issues: Not related to the furnace, but still important is the sound of appliances. Believe it or not, kitchen range hoods do not have to be noisy. You can now purchase remotely located fans that can be placed in the attic, that will be very quite. If you don’t ask, you won’t be offered this option. For bathroom fan, Panasonic has a terrific line of very quiet bathroom fans called “WisperQuiet”

· Don’t Mistake Leakage for Ventilation: Ventilation air in a home is important. Pollutants, humidity, odors, and chemical compounds will accumulate in a home that is not ventilated properly. Homes used to be so leaky that getting enough ventilation air was never a problem. You will hear contractors say a home can be “too tight”. This is old school. A better approach is to “seal it tight, then ventilate right”. Rather than leaving ventilation to chance penetrations in a structure, all penetrations should be tightly sealed and the home should be pressure tested with a device called a blower door to confirm that proper ventilation rates are achieved.

· Insulation: I think you wrote about closed cell foam insulation in the past. This is expensive, but ideal because it provides both a thermal barrier and an air barrier. Before walls are closed up, you might want to find an independent insulation contractor to evaluate the quality of the job. Also, efforts should be made to seal all gaps around plumbing and electrical penetrations between the attic and the home.

· Canister Lights: This popular architectural feature, is also a huge air leakage pathway between the home and the attic. Air sealed canister light fixtures that are IC (Insulation Contract) rated should be used, but many contractors don’t even consider using them because they are a few bucks more expensive.

· Crawlspace: Out of sight is out of mind, yet these overlooked areas of the home have a huge impact on the quality of air in a home. Do to the stack effect in a home were hot air rising through the structure draws cool air into the home from the crawlspace, it is estimated that 30% of our homes indoor air comes from the dusty, and frequently odiferous crawlspace. If your home has a crawlspace, it should be designed for easy access for inspection and maintenance For new construction, there is no excuse for it not to be well lit, dry, clean, free of debris and dirt. It should be covered with a wall-to-wall, sealed vapor barrier. If you have a finished basement, then exterior water proofing, insulation, and drainage systems are important to be designed and implemented well.

I had no idea that I was going to write this much when I started. these are the big things to think about –they may not all apply to you. There is more information on my websites -- and

If you need any additional information, I would be pleased to help you find the right resources.

BTW, I completely changed careers three years ago. I was tempted to take a job working for someone else. Even though it has been slow going, I have never regretted taking your advice to build my own business. Hopefully some of this information will be of help to you. Thank you for your daily thoughts!

John Eckstein, The Performing Home,

Why does this amuse me? This came from a web site advertising a new laptop.

Actual writings from hospital charts (maybe)

1. The patient refused autopsy.

2. The patient has no previous history of suicides.

3. Patient has left white blood cells at another hospital.

4. She has no rigors or shaking chills, but her husband states she was very hot in bed last night.

5. Patient has chest pain if she lies on her left side for over a year.

6. On the second day the knee was better, and on the third day it disappeared.

7. The patient is tearful and crying constantly. She also appears to be depressed.

8. The patient has been depressed since she began seeing me in 1993.

9. Patient had waffles for breakfast and anorexia for lunch.

10. She is numb from her toes down.

11. Occasional, constant infrequent headaches.

12. Patient was alert and unresponsive.

13. Rectal examination revealed a normal size thyroid.

14. She stated that she had been constipated for most of her life, until she got a divorce.

15. Examination of genitalia reveals that he is circus sized.

16. Patient has two teenage children, but no other abnormalities.

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.
Go back.