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 Friday, September 15, 2006: Due diligence on some interesting startups. Yuch. Time. Time. Time. I guess I'm a "business angel," though a very conservative one. For more on angels, read this week's Economist. Click here.

Thank you, Dennis, for Absolute Software (ABT.TO):

Chart from Yahoo.

Thank you Harry for Qwest (Q), which keeps inching up.

Next tech gamble that looks interesting: Gateway:

You read it here first: I know why eBay spent the amazing sum of $2.6 billion buying Skype. It's because eBay wants to start video auctions. The idea is simple. If a seller can show his item visually to a bunch of online interested buyers and answer real-time questions, that seller will get everyone's juices flowing, the price will rise and eBay can charge more.

You can make video calls on Skype today. It's in beta. The quality of the video and the sound are truly remarkable. There are 6.6 million on Skype as I write this column this morning.

Meanwhile, everyone is Skyping me with stories how they use Skype for distant relatives, for traveling clients and for holding conference calls with up to five people any place in the world.

I used Skype extensively yesterday. Calls computer-to-computer in the U.S. were crystal-clear (and free). I called landlines and cell phones. Some conversations were clear. On some, the person I called couldn't hear me and I had to hang up. I spoke to my wife Skype-to-landline and she never once complained. That's a huge compliment to Skype. Normally Susan has a short fuse when it comes to Harry and his cheap phone calls.

The key to getting decent quality on Skype is a decent headset. Keep your mouth close to the mike.

What if the Internet were a real place? Comedian David Chappelle has a wonderful routine. He sees the Internet as "disgusting and intolerable." He proves his point as he searches the Internet for the score to the Nicks game. You'll die laughing. Caution there are some four-letter words. Click here.

Recalls galore:
1. Bagged spinach.
Bagged spinach was being blamed Thursday for a deadly case of E. Coli in Wisconsin and for making dozens of people sick in the Midwest and across the country. The Food and Drug Administration on Thursday warned people not to eat bagged spinach. You can get abdominal cramping, diarrhea and vomiting -- and if you're unlucky (i.e. not Popeye) you'll die. Someone has.
2. Segway recalled all its scooters. It said there was a software problem that could toss riders -- causing them to fall off, break their teeth and their wrists. Fortunately, Segways were never very popular so there's only 23,500 to recall.
3. Apple, Dell and others recalled the lithium-ion notebook batteries made by Sony. It's millions of batteries.
4. True Religion is recalling children's sweatshirts and drawstrings due to a strangulation hazard.
The product is sold exclusively by Neiman Marcus.
5. John Deere is recalling its gas barbecue grills due to fire and burn hazards.
6. Pier 1 Imports recalls 4,300 Ming TV stands because they tip over. You don't want your TV to fall on you.
7. LeapFrog is recalling 186,000 Playground Activity Centers because kids can become entrapped in the activity center's plastic tube.
8. Atco International is recalling 27,700 Patio Umbrellas because the poles contain paint with excessive levels of lead, which can seriously mess up young kids if they eat the paint.

And that's just part of September. I can't figure if all this is funny or sad, or both. If I hadn't gone out for dinner last night, I would have eaten a salad made from bagged spinach. And maybe I wouldn't have been around to write today's column.

Given luck or timing, I'll take luck every time.

Unprotecting and copying DVDs, downloaded music and movies and TiVos: The entertainment business has a million ways to stop you copying its products. The copying of CDs and music and their free distribution to all and sundry has hurt that business. Some ways to fix the movies and shows you bought legally:

+ To change TiVo downloads into normal downloads, use DirectShow Dump Utility. Click here.

+ DVD Decrypter program makes a local copy of an encrypted DVD disk's contents. You can then burn a DVD from it with any normal burning software such as Nero, Roxio, etc. and of course Unlike a disk image only copier, you can also edit or view it on your PC. Click here.

+ RipIt4me, also freeware, that extends DVD Decrypter's capabilities for some of the newer encoding schemes. Click here and here.

+ Also useful is a site called Click here.

+ Maximum PC Magazine likes DVD Copy 5 Platinum, (click here) but it doesn't include any software that will decrypt CSS-protected DVDs -- in other words most commercial DVDs. For that you'll need AnyDVD. Click here.

+ FairUse4WM will extract the personally identifiable information (description keys) from Media Player for the purpose of allowing the user to improve the interoperability of legitimately acquired media files. At least one file with an active license is necessary. Click here.

All this information applies only to backing up DVDs you have bought legitimately, i.e. paid money for. I have to say that, or the next column you read from me will be date-lined Sing Sing.

What happens if they ALL accept? Ford Motor Co. will offer buyouts to all 75,000 of its North American factory workers. Ford is also firing 30% of its salaried work force. Senior Ford execs are also bailing, probably wondering if there'll be anything left to manage. Meantime, Mr. Market loves firings.

Go figure.

Now there's a Boeing man running Ford, it will be neat to see how BIG Ford can really build SUVs!

Coming soon to a Wal-Mart near you:

These are not see-through skirts. They're prints on the skirts to make them look as if the panties are visible. These are probably a hoax, but who cares? They're fun.

Here's the perfect way to remember a BIG birthday. In June I took a zillion photos at my father-in-law's 90th birthday. I used my trusty Canon SD700 to photograph all the guests. I picked 120 or so of the best photographs and had YorkPhoto organize them into a "Memory Book." A week later, two of the most gorgeous hard cover 9" x 12" coffee table books appeared on my doorstep.

My father-in-law will love his YorkPhoto hard cover Memory Book. For more click here.

"Crikey, mates, a croc." Steve Irwin, 44, TV personality and wildlife conservationist died recently when a stingray pierced his heart. Steve was beautifully nuts. All of us will mourn him.

In its grief, Australia has gone on a stingray killing spree. (I don't make this stuff up.) Australia's FEDERAL Environment Minister Ian Campbell has appealed to Australians not to show their grief over Steve Irwin's death by senselessly killing stingrays.

Stingrays are shy, unobtrusive fish that typically rummage the sea bottom for food or burrow into the sand.

Four little animals:
A teacher asked her class, "What do you want out of life?" A little girl in the back row raised her hand and said, "All I want Out of life is four little animals, just like my Mom always says".

The teacher asked, "Really and what four little animals would that be?"

The little girl said, "A mink on my back, a jaguar in the garage, a tiger in my bed and a jackass to pay for it all."

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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