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Archive for January, 2008

Reverse colonization

Tata purchased British car icon Jaguar and Land Rover from Ford.  I am sure Ajit have been waiting for this day for a long time.

1 comment January 28th, 2008

Microsoft photosynth

Microsoft did this prototype product where you can navigate a set of 2D photos photos in 3D. http://labs.live.com/photosynth/video.html  Pretty interesting application I have to say, esp for street maps and battle field recreation.  Imagine taking a series of photos, upload it and have a halo map of your house back.  I thought about what would it take for you to do that.  Basically you’ll need:

  • longitude
  • latitude
  • altitude
  • point
  • tilt
  • zoom length (angle of view)
  • time (optional)

You just need to stick the first 5 into the data link of your camera.  I search online.  Currently there is no hand held GPS device that has a both a compass and a tilt sensor, although Garmin has a patent out for one.  I thought about hacking the Wii Remote to hijack it’s motion sensor and strap it to the camera, reset to base when camera boots up. But most camera out there doesn’t have bluetooth input capability either…

Add comment January 3rd, 2008

the economics of ticket scalping

Like everything else, tickets has a supply and demand. A ticket is an option to redeem something valuable (i.e. a pleasant experience) in the future. For a particular concert, supply is govern by the number of seats in the venue.

Let’s ignore the artist and the social implication for the moment. From the event organizer’s economic perspective, it’s goal is to maximize profit by selling the highest number of ticket at the highest possible price before the ticket expires. Much like a good IPO, a perfect ticket price is one that won’t have much secondary demand at a higher price immediately after the sale. It means everyone who is willing to pay up to and more than the ticket price for the experience is satisfied. There is no one else willing to pay more than what the ticket is being sold for. Of course this never happens. That where ticket scalper comes in. The put in capital ad buy up these futures, provide a liquid secondary market that picks up the pricing inefficiency by the event organizer so everyone can be satisfied.

One of the problem is the complication that comes with non regulated scalpers. There is no way to determine if the ticket is legit, leaving the secondary ticket buying in a vulnerable situation. Another one is the common view that it is the social responsibility of the event organizer to offer the experience to the public who can’t afford the high ticket price by subsidizing it with it’s own potential profit. But nonetheless, economically speaking ticket scalping improve the efficiency of ticket pricing.

Now comes this site. http://nyc.tablexchange.com/ It’s a market place for people to buy and sell reservations. There is just something wrong about it. When you make a reservation at a restaurant, most of the time you don’t need to put any capital in. There is no mechanism to prevent someone from taking up the entire restaurant at no cost, then reselling it for a profit. Unless the restaurant start charging for reservations, which it won’t, since that will likely turn customer away.  What they could do is to ask for a credit card at the time of the reservation, do a $1 auth, and charge the card a fix amount at no show.  That does not prevent scalpers, but does present a form of identification and opportunity to reject the reservation if the card has been blacklisted.  But unlike ticket scalpers, honestly I don’t see any value that this site has for the restaurants if the reservation is indeed demand.

Add comment January 3rd, 2008

It’s another recall, yet again from China

That was the headline from one of the reporters in the evening news.  Yes, it was a toy recall.  This time for safety reason, because the beads were too small that a young child can swallow.  What the hell does it have to do with China?

When 95% (or some ridiculously large percentage) of our toys are made in China, of course when problem happens, there is a ridiculously high chance that the
product is manufactured in China.  Some problems such as this one are not even manufacturing error at all.

The recent public finger pointing at China is a result of various political engine at work.  Various lobbying group is taking the opportunity to get what they need to get done.  China problem sells paper, design flaw doesn’t.  The media is happy to cooperate.  if a statistical study of percentage of problem cause by the lack of governance and inspection as a result from manufacturing in China, minus those that are designed to be quality controlled in the US, I bet the numbers are not interesting at all.

As a matter of fact, the recent recalls are examples of consumer consciousness and the check and balances at work.

Add comment January 3rd, 2008

American media on subprime crisis

A while ago I was watching some news magazine program on TV.  They were exploring subprime “victims” where they borrowed beyond their means to pay back.  The 60 year old “victim” bought a townhouse in Brooklyn for $30K some 20 or 30 years ago.  The property is now valued at $750K.  He should have made a fortune.  He took out a balloon mortgage of $300K last year from a lender; and when the Adjustable Rate Mortgage resets, this retired man would be facing a $2500  monthly payment he can’t afford.  He will be evicted from the house he has been living in for 30 years, a place which he intended to pass on to his son.

So basically it’s the bank’s fault.  The banks were pushing all these deals to the consumer at low initial rate.  They care less if the customer can afford it or not.  Wait a minute.  First take a look at what happened.  The “victim” had $300K sitting somewhere.  Whether he spent it or hid them under his mattress, he took out $300K.  He borrowed more than what he initially paid for the townhouse, with the town house as the collateral.  From the bank’s point of view, they are lending $300K to someone who put down a collateral valued at 200% of the loan as a lien.  Why should they care if the guy can pay or not?  They are going to make the loan whole by liquidating the lien.  If he can make the payment, it’s a bonus.  If he can’t, the bottom line is protected.  It’s a sound business decision.

What is this “victim” complaining about anyway?  He walked away with $300K!!, $270K more than what he had paid for the place.  Of course a 60 year old man tricked by the evil banks that toold his house sells more paper.

Add comment January 3rd, 2008

The weak US dollar

I put together this Greasemonkey script that looks up product price from Amazon’s US site from it’s JP, CA and European site and convert the price to local currency. It currently support Book, Music and Video and the price account for single item shipping. You can download this user script here.

Grease Monkey


3 comments January 2nd, 2008


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