Why have Marx toys dropped in value?

“Why have Marx toys dropped in value?” you ask? Blame Millennials. Well, actually, my generation bears more of the blame for this one. Blame Gen X. The value of vintage toys tends to follow trends, and those trends don’t necessarily pass from generation to generation.

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Make your own null modem cable

Make your own null modem cable

One of my coworkers needed to make a null modem cable last week, and most of the sites he found made it far, far too difficult. Here’s how to make your own null modem cable.

Most of the time, you only need three pins. In fact, I never needed more than three pins, no matter what I was connecting. Usually, a 3-wire null modem cable is more than sufficient.

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Twelve percent.

Last week, a former classmate shared a Dave Ramsey article about early savings. Ramsey stated a teenager could save a couple thousand a year, stop saving in their 20s, and still retire a multimillionaire. I agree with the sentiment completely, but I’m concerned that Ramsey overstates how rich that person can expect to become.

Ramsey’s favored investment vehicle is a mutual fund that tracks the S&P 500.

The problem with the article is that he assumed an annual return on investment of 12 percent, which is well above every reasonable historical estimate I’ve ever heard of S&P 500 rates of return. Forbes agrees. Ramsey is basing his number on a subset of history, not all available history.

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Why you need a hobby

As security professionals, we deal with a tremendous amount of stress. Like my new boss told me about a week into our tenure together, we tend to be perfectionists, and frequently we’re asked to deal with the most cavalier people in our organization. It’s a toxic combination.

One of the first things my boss asked me after we met was what I think about at home. In all honesty, I can’t help but think about work sometimes–I apologize for being crude, but I have a thinking chair at home and it doesn’t look like the one on Blue’s Clues–but I have a lot of other things I think about at home too. Important things like my family of course, but other important things too, like trains and baseball and baseball cards.

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Read this before you buy a car

My former classmate Judd Slivka, now a journalism professor at Mizzou, pointed me to Long-Term Quality Index, a long-term study of the reliability of used cars co-created by our fellow Mizzou alumnus Steven Lang. Judd called it an outstanding example of data-driven journalism, and I agree.

The results are enlightening. Read more

Larry Page’s exile and rebirth

A lot of people really dislike Google the way I’ve been known for disliking Apple and Microsoft. It never really occurred to me that all three are related, until I read this piece on Google cofounder Larry Page. Much of what I disliked about Apple and Microsoft were their founders. I found the Bill Gates of the 1980s and 1990s childish (even when I was still a child myself) and a jerk. I didn’t know much about Steve Jobs in the 1980s–back then, people talked about Steve Wozniak more than they talked about Jobs–but as he resurfaced from his exile, I didn’t especially like what I was seeing then, either. Jobs, you see, didn’t come back to Apple as a demigod. He was still a little rough around the edges and, from my outsider perspective, for those first few years at Apple when he was trying to turn Apple around, he was still turning himself around to a degree as well.

I always saw Larry Page as different. He and his classmate, Sergey Brin, developed this great search engine that actually presented the results you were looking for on the front page, and it was fast. And he had this motto that said, “Don’t be evil.” It sounded good to me. And I guess it doesn’t hurt that Page isn’t much older than me. I found him easier to relate to than Gates or Jobs, who literally were getting their start in computers a year or two before I was born. Read more

How long does a hard drive last?

How long does a hard drive last?

If you’re asking how long does a hard drive last, I found this study on hard drive longevity last week.

I take issue with the opening paragraph but the rest of the article is very good. The opening paragraph is a bit deceptive—hard drives were anything but common 30 years ago. Even 25 years ago, they were a serious status symbol. I remember in 1988, a classmate told me his dad had just bought a computer with a hard drive, and swore me to secrecy. Why? Because in today’s dollars, a computer with a hard drive in 1988 cost around $2,000, minimum, and given that his dad was working towards his master’s degree at the time, he probably had a really hard time affording that. If you had a hard drive even in the late 1980s, you were either very rich, or you took your computing very seriously and were willing to make some serious sacrifices somewhere else.

But, like I said, the rest of the article is very good. I’m being a curmudgeon. Read more

Forget the word “should.”

After talking with another former classmate/newsroom-mate, I wanted to bring out the highlight from yesterday. I’m not saying this would have saved Brian, but it was life-changing for me, and I’d say there’s probably a 10% chance it can be life-changing for you, too. If you’re one of the 90%, it’s more likely to be merely helpful.

The problem is the word “should.” And while I generally think striking words from the English language is a bad idea because language control is thought control, this is one instance where I don’t think thought control is a bad thing. “Should” is a club that we use to beat ourselves up with far too often. Read more

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