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As Christmas Bonus, Google Hands Out "Dogfood" 366

theodp writes "You know times are tough when the best place to work in America replaces holiday bonuses with a request for unpaid labor. Blaming the economic crisis, Google management has canceled the traditional cash holiday bonus — reportedly as much as $20K-$30K per Googler — and substituted an unlocked Google Android cell phone, retail price $400. An accompanying email calls for employees to celebrate the 'chance for us to once again dogfood a product and make it even better!'" Update: 12/23 01:09 GMT by KD : A reader pointed out that comments to the article note a couple of inaccuracies: the Android phone being offered is an unlocked dev model, which goes for $400; and the reporter may have confused holiday bonuses with performance bonuses. The former have traditionally been in the range of $1,000, according to two comments.

Mediterranean Undersea Cables Cut, Again 329

miller60 writes "Three undersea cables in the Mediterranean Sea have failed within minutes of each other in an incident that is eerily similar to a series of cable cuts in the region in early 2008. The cable cuts are already causing serious service problems in the Middle East and Asia. See coverage at the Internet Storm Center, Data Center Knowledge and Bloomberg. The February 2008 cable cuts triggered rampant speculation about sabotage, but were later attributed to ships that dropped anchor in the wrong place."

Drilling Hits an Active Magma Chamber In Hawaii 251

Smivs writes "The BBC are reporting that drillers looking for geothermal energy in Hawaii have inadvertently put a well right into a magma chamber. Molten rock pushed back up the borehole several meters before solidifying, making it perfectly safe to study. Magma specialist Bruce Marsh says it will allow scientists to observe directly how granites are made. 'This is unprecedented; this is the first time a magma has been found in its natural habitat,' the Johns Hopkins University professor told BBC News. 'Before, all we had to deal with were lava flows; but they are the end of a magma's life. They're lying there on the surface, they've de-gassed. It's not the natural habitat.' It is hoped the site can now become a laboratory, with a series of cores drilled around the chamber to better characterise the crystallisation changes occurring in the rock as it loses temperature."

Comment Re:Can somebody 'splain this? (Score 1) 361

Actually, the land a house sits on goes up because land is a scarce item (there is a finite amount of it and a largely infinite number of uses for it).

In most parts of the world land is not really scarce, only in certain locations (such as California and Hawaii) where weather, business, and local conditions push up demand beyond supply.

Comment Re:Can somebody 'splain this? (Score 1) 361

How can he make zero sense?

Cash in the bank IS sitting idle. There is no way else to describe that. However, just because it is sitting idle doesn't mean it's wrong, either.

So you are now using your cash, it is no longer sitting idle, you are purchasing gear cheap. You happen to have a different strategy, but you are doing the exact same thing the other guy is describing except you aren't using debt to power your business.

PS, he's not right, either, there are companies out there, publicly held, without debt. Apple comes to mind. I'm sure Microsoft and Google are also (largely) debt free. You know, the hugely successful companies despite the downturn?

Comment Re:Can somebody 'splain this? (Score 5, Insightful) 361

I am not an economist but I have owned a couple businesses and consider myself a reasonably practical person.

I have always believed that the vast majority of today's financial instruments have been invented out of thin air for no reason other than to ultimately ensure the employment of bankers and brokers.

Actually, probably not. I suspect (I'm a programmer by nature, so my experience with code may apply here) it's more of each institution and "network" offering redundant services until multiple institutions mature to the point where these services collide and become confusing.

For example, lots of people have a checking account, savings account, credit card, personal line of credit, HELOC, brokerage account, and more.

That wasn't true one generation ago. My parents had only a checking acount, savings account, and credit card.

I see absolutely no reason why a single account could not offer all those features.

With the advent of computers and networks, now it is possible. But 20 years ago? Not possible.

How would a bank know how much equity you had in your house? How would your credit card company know how much you had in the bank? How would your mortgage company know what your investment amount was?

Today, you actually have one company that handles all of it (and in cases where they don't, they can still trade information). So now I can have a HELOC, personal line of credit, credit card, savings account, etc, all tied together, in that credit from one reduces the amount of credit available on another, and all paid from the same account.

The only reason you "need" all that is because the banks created all these funny rules so that they could introduce more and more products and services.

In this case I actually disagree. Different people have different had different "collateral", so different kinds of credit were available to them. That explains why different products exist. Someone with a house vs someone with a strong credit rating vs someone who had lots of money all had access to different products. Now a single person has access to all of them.

This is done so they can charge you more for each of those things, and also to differentiate them from their competitors.

Besides consumer banking, can somebody explain to me why we NEED "commercial paper"? Yes, I've read the wikipedia page and I know how it's used, but I don't understand why it's needed. If you can't make payroll then you're pulling from your credit one way or another - why do we need separate instruments for a 2 week loan versus a longer term loan, or a credit card, or whatever?

As before, commercial paper was "invented" before credit cards (or business lines of credit or whatever) existed. It satisfied a market need that probably doesn't exist today.

And don't even get me started on real estate lending...

It's like freaking starbucks - you can get your banking services just as special as an upside-down triple no foam half calf non fat 160 degree two splenda mocha. But it's one thing for a coffee company to cater to every individual snowflake's desire, and quite another IMHO for something as important as our financial system to become as absurdly complex and fragile as it is.

It's this statement that brought me to this answer. Software is flexible (soft), so it can be molded quite easily to different needs according to different usages. The problem is that after four versions needs have evolved, but the original code has not, so now you have something complex and fragile that was originally quite simple and straightforward.

As for the people who are really benefitting from all this complexity - well, it's only during recession that we all collectively take a good hard look at who's making a contribution to society and who isn't.

So like software, it's only when something breaks when it's actually worth fixing the code. To fix the code before it breaks is almost a waste of effort as you are more likely to break it in the process!

Unfortunately the powers that be think they can beat a recession by tweaking some rates, stealing from taxpayers, or shuffling money from one hand to the other. That's just going to hurt us more in the long term. We need to clean this shit up now - get rid of unnecessary products and overhead, and let the unproductive companies go bankrupt. Let the UAW strangle themselves to death. Just get it done.

I'm not sure how to fix this, however, as there are still people I know that don't own credit cards, don't have savings accounts, don't have checking accounts, don't have homes, etc, so there still remains a need for HELOCs for people with homes, checking accounts for people with paychecks, savings accounts for people with a little money, credit cards for people without lots of money, personal lines of credit for people without homes, etc.

Comment Re:Cultural influence (Score 3, Interesting) 773

My daughter loves pink and Hello Kitty, but she loves cars and train sets too. I think it's more about not restricting her access to boys toys than anything else.

My mother in law was kind of upset when I bought her a train table... she thought I was pushing my toys onto her!

Comment Re:Figures. (Score 2, Insightful) 181

I fail to see the connection to your shopping habits and Steve Jobs's personality.

Is there some kind of grudge where if someone who acts like a dick ever gets associated with a product, you will never buy it?

Cause that rules out Windows and all Microsoft products, most Chinese made products, most Korean made products, most Japanese products, etc.

Comment Re:Please... (Score 2, Informative) 139

Why? What business model would you suggest they follow?

It's not like they can pull a Microsoft and require a license fee for every single phone shipped by AT&T and all their other iPhone vendors (that is what got Microsoft their millions from the PC manufacturers).

Can you name another vendor that sells hardware that monetizes their software, and manages to grow handsomely?

Sun isn't it, they give away their OS that isn't tied to their hardware AND they happen to be going down.

IBM isn't it, they sold their hardware PC divisions, and their computing divisions they do have they aren't monetizing their OS (AIX).

HP isn't it either; HPUX isn't "monetized".

Even Microsoft doesn't do it (for their Zune, their XBox, and XBox 360).

The closest I can think of is Android, but that's still "free", with the monetization coming in from advertising dollars as more handsets connect to the net.

There is no likelihood man can ever tap the power of the atom. -- Robert Millikan, Nobel Prize in Physics, 1923