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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, September 26, 2007:
The three most powerful words are "Please help me." The most powerful word is "NO."

Questioning invoices is useful: More and more vendors are following the banks, the cell phone companies and the package delivery guys and adding spurious charges they didn't tell you about: Fuel taxes. Internet access charges, government taxes (which don't exist), etc.

Your job is to root out the charges, question them and say "NO!" It's a pain checking every invoice. But pretty soon the savings add up to real money. Most vendors will take the charges out -- if you ask.

ShareSleuth picks 'em going down. Here's the story: Mark Cuban funds a site called The writer of the site called Chris Carey investigates questionable small-company stocks, usually pointing out their failings. Cuban trades on the findings -- typically by selling short -- before the results of Carey's investigations are published are the site.

The site has had some notable "successes," including Utek (UTK) and Xethanol (XNL). Carey does not publish every day. He publishes only when his extensive research finds something awry and after Cuban, his boss, edits and approves the copy. But, to save you visiting the site, you can sign up for an email alerting you to when the site has been changed.

There is a long story on ShareSleuth in the October issue, page 136 of Wired Magazine, now on the newsstands -- but not (ironically) on the Internet.

The October issue of Wired Magazine.

Don't use Microsoft's Office 2007: Excel 2007 -- part of Office 2007 -- is buggy. Here's an example: When you multiply 850 by 77.1, Excel says the answer is 100,000. The real answer is 65,535 -- and that's the answer you get in Excel 2003 -- the previous version.

I don't know if this is the only problem with Excel 2007. I don't have other examples.

I sent this bug to my friend who's senior at Microsoft. He told me his Excel people are "all over" it. But he did not say if or when Microsoft might release fix.. And Microsoft's web site makes no mention of the problem.

If a spreadsheet can't do maths, something is seriously wrong at Microsoft.

I repeat my warnings:

+ Do not use Office 2007.

+ Do not use Vista.

Fred Boness writes the insider rumor among computer techies is that Windows Vista Service Pack 1 (just released) installs Windows XP. (That's a geeky joke.)

Save as you go along: This morning my PC locked up -- the first time in months. I don't know why -- perhaps Microsoft read my words above and sent the devil my way. Suffice, follow my rule. Hit the Save button every time you change something.

Good news for airline passengers: No Limit for Waits on Runways. From today's New York Times:

Months after thousands of passengers were stranded for hours on airport runways last winter, airlines still have not agreed on how many hours confined passengers would have to wait before they can demand to be released from a plane, the Transportation Department’s inspector general has found.

My favorite new business idea: Pudding Media, a start-up in San Jose, Calif., is introducing an Internet phone service today that will be supported by advertising related to what people are talking about in their calls. The Web-based phone service is similar to Skype’s online service — consumers plug a headset and a microphone into their computers, dial any phone number and chat away. But unlike Internet phone services that charge by the length of the calls, Pudding Media has free calls.

The trade-off is that Pudding Media is eavesdropping on your phone calls in order to display ads on the screen that are related to the conversation. Voice recognition software monitors the calls, selects ads based on what it hears and pushes the ads to the subscriber’s computer screen while he or she is still talking. A conversation about movies, for example, will elicit movie reviews and ads for new films.

This is vulgar, disgusting, but funny. The more I look at it, the more I can't stop laughing. What will he do to win? Are they all hoping he'll do it? Is the cartoonist making some deep moral point?

The world's worst Jewish "joke"
Two Jewish men, Sid and Al, were sitting in a Mexican restaurant. Sid asked Al, "Are there any people of our faith born and raised in Mexico?"

Al replied, "I don't know, let's ask our waiter."

When the waiter came by, Al asked him, "Are there any Mexican Jews?"

The waiter said, "I don't know Senor, I'll ask the cooks."

He returned from the kitchen in a few minutes and said "No sir, no Mexican Jews."

Al wasn't really satisfied with that and asked, "Are you absolutely sure?"

The waiter, realizing he was dealing with dumb "Gringos" gave the expected answer, "I will check again, Senor!" and went back into the kitchen.

The waiter returned and said "Senor, the head cook said there is no Mexican Jews."

"Are you certain?" Al asked once again. "I can't believe there are no Mexican Jews!"

"Senor, I ask EVERYONE," replied the exasperated waiter, "All we have is Orange Jews, Prune Jews, Tomato Jews, and Grape Jews."

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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