How to become a millionaire in 10 years (safely)

I saw a blog post today called How to become a millionaire in 10 years. The majority of commenters dismissed it outright.

I don’t like that attitude. The plan makes some assumptions that aren’t always true. But having the plan is an important first step. What’s impossible now might not be impossible in a few years, so it makes sense to do what you can now.The plan, in brief, is this: Invest $996 a week, get a 12% return, and in 10 years, you’ve got a million bucks.

Let’s look at the first objection. It is optimistic. Unfortunately, the guy who floats that figure the most frequently is exaggerating. But you can come close by tweaking your strategy a bit. Twelve may be a bit optimistic, but it’s probably close enough. If you’re pessimistic, use a figure of 7% and adjust the rest of your math.

It may be tempting to try to do better. I suggest not. Average returns are all you need. Warren Buffett has said repeatedly that it’s better to spend your energy increasing your earning power rather than trying to outperform the market.

The second objection was that the numbers were just too unreasonable, so how do you become a millionaire in 20 years?

That’s easy. Save less. According to this handy calculator, $1,100 a month for 20 years at 12% more than does the trick.

Or you can save $2,000 a month for 15 years and pass the million mark.

So the math is sound. Let’s tackle that really big objection: How in tarnation do you come up with $996 a week to save? (And no, you don’t have to already be a millionaire in order to do it.)

The key is the same as paying off debt quickly. Don’t try to do it all at once. Take some baby steps. If the best you can do is half that, you still reach the goal in 15 years. Start by saving what you can, then ratchet it up when you can.

I set out to find a large number of common ways that people can save $996 per week (or more). Step one is the big kahuna, which will save most people a cool $24,000 a year right off the bat.

Step one: Pay off your cars and your mortgage. Between a house and two cars in the driveway, it’s safe to say most families are spending $2,000 a month. Some are spending a little more, others a little less. The trick here is the debt snowball. Look at your statements, pick the car you can pay off the soonest, then scrape together whatever extra cash you can and pay that much extra every month until you have that car paid off. Then take what you were paying on that car, and apply all that money to the other car. After that, apply all that money to the house.

Chances are very good that you can pay all of that off in less than seven years. The biggest reason why is because banks generally won’t loan you more money than you would be able to pay off in that timeframe. The reason for the subprime mortgage crisis was because banks started ignoring that rule and giving loans to pretty much anyone.

If you are a middle class family that manages to pay the bills somehow, some way every month, I’m reasonably confident in saying that you can pay off all your debt in seven years, then dump that car and mortgage money into an index fund and be a millionaire in another 20.

What about cars in the meantime? Drive the paid-off cars as long as you can, then replace them with the least expensive vehicles that are practical. Given a choice between driving a Lexus and looking like a millionaire, or driving a Toyota Corolla and being a millionaire, personally, I’d choose the latter.

So this gets you roughly halfway there. Let’s see if we can nickel and dime our way to the other half.

Step two: Live off one salary. If you’re married and your spouse works, try as much as possible to live off one salary and bank the other. This was the strategy my in-laws used to pay off their debts (rather than the debt snowball). If one of you brings home $26,000 a year or more after taxes, that gets you the other half immediately. Congratulations.

If step two is impractical or impossible, or doesn’t quite get you there, here are some smaller steps to get you there.

Step three: Put your raises and windfalls towards savings, rather than lifestyle changes. Someone I know was talking just yesterday about a job opportunity that paid a cool $30,000 more than he makes currently. “Lifestyle change!” he said excitedly.

Personally, I’ve never been able to make that kind of a jump, although I’ve made a couple of much smaller jumps since 2006.

Unfortunately it’s often difficult to get much of a raise from a current employer–the money comes when you change jobs. If you’re able to, say, move to a new employer and get a raise of around 10 percent, that takes care of a few of your 52 weeks. Do that every 2-3 years, and you can work your way towards the goal.

This strategy can take care of about four weeks.

Step four: Bank your tax refund. If you get a tax refund every year, instead of using that money to buy something, put it towards the goal.

In most cases, I would think the tax refund takes care of anywhere from 1-3 weeks.

Brown-bag your lunch. Early in my career, I ate out pretty much every day. My day started with a cup of coffee and a doughnut in the cafeteria ($2), and on a good day, lunch cost another $5. Eventually I realized these habits were costing me almost $1,400 a year. Brown-bagging isn’t free, but I figure brown-bagging every day costs less than $400 a year.

That’s another week, or possibly two.

Cut the cable and phone. My local cable provider charges up to $70 per month for some of its packages. Basic cable costs $40, which is still outrageous. If you can live without cable altogether, you can get anywhere from half a week to 3/4 of a week right there. If not, cut back as much as possible.

So how do you live without cable? My wife and I rent movies from Red Box about once a week. It costs a dollar. Other than that, we watch over the air TV. Sometimes there’s nothing on, but when I visit people who have cable, a lot of times there’s nothing on at their house either. The DTV changeover means there’ll be more local channels–many PBS stations are broadcasting on several frequencies, and DTV stations have a range of about 120 miles, so there’s a decent chance you’ll be able to pick up stations from nearby cities that you couldn’t get before.

So try it. If you can’t live without it, cut back as much as you can.

The same goes for your phone line. Are you paying for Call Notes? Cancel it and get an answering machine. Call waiting? Cancel it unless you can’t live without it, but in this day and age when everyone has cell phones and e-mail, I’ll bet you can. Call forwarding? Cut. If you buy everything Southwestern Bell tries to sell you, you can easily pay $50 or more per month for your phone line. When I ordered phone service, I asked for just a dial tone, and repeated the request every time they tried to upsell me. I pay just a shade over $20 a month for my dialtone. I can receive all the calls I want for free, and make all the local calls I want for free too.

By cutting back on cable and phone, most people should be able to save another $996 a year.

Take a long, hard look at the cell phone. Do you have two cell phones with $99 ulimited talk plans? Do you really need two?

Cricket offers an unlimited talk plan for $35 a month. But you may be able to save even more by cutting down the number of cell phones you have, or just getting pay as you go phones for emergency use and sharing phones as much as possible.

And keep in mind that a landline lets you make all the local calls you want. Ditching the land line and going all cellular may be trendy, but it’s not always economical.

My wife and I have one cell phone with a plan that costs us $30 a month, plus a pay-as-you-go phone that we refill as needed, for $25 a pop. It ends up costing us $10 a month, on average.

I can see how someone could potentially save another week’s worth by getting stingy with the cell phones. Maybe more.

Save on your utilities. Buying a programmable thermostat and setting it to not work as much at night and to minimize heating/cooling during the hours when we’re not home saved us a bundle. To the tune of $100 a month.

Weatherproofing the house helps too. Put film on the windows during the winter, and put weatherstripping on all the doors. I also went into my basement, where the utilities come into the house, and found a number of holes for wires that are much larger than they need to be. I filled those in with putty to keep the elements out.

If you really want to be a stingy Scottish miser, invest a few hundred dollars in a whole-house fan. These fans can replace all the air in your house in a matter of minutes. So in the morning when it’s coolest, you can open some doors and windows, run the fan for a few minutes, then shut off the fan, close the house back up, and give your air conditioner a big head start.

Also, for some reason society says we should keep our houses at 70 degrees in the summer and 80 degrees in the winter. Why? We keep ours at about 75 during the summer and between 70 and 75 in the winter. Once you get used to it, it’s comfortable. The savings aren’t exactly peanuts.

Using fans can help keep the air moving, making those temperatures more tolerable.

Squeezing the utilities ought to take care of another week or two.

Go out less. I know some people who easily spend $100 a week going out on Friday nights. Rent a movie from Redbox, have a couple of drinks at home, and save the difference, which is five weeks’ worth.

Cut the Starbucks habit. Do you start off your day with the stereotypical $5 cup of coffee at Starbucks? That’s $1,050 right there. Bank $996 to cut off another week, and you have $54 left to buy a coffee maker (if you don’t have one) and a year’s worth of reasonably good coffee.

Cut the bottled water habit. If you drink three bottles of water a day, that’s commendable because it’s healthy, but you’ve also fallen for the biggest scam in recent memory. Cut the bottled water, buy a water filter, and bank a thousand bucks.

Cut back on expensive hobbies. I’d rather not think about what I used to spend on my Lionel train habit. I know some people spend five figures a year on theirs. I was never that bad, but at its peak I know I was spending more than $1,000 a year on it. I’ve cut back, and the last two or three years I’ve probably spent a couple hundred.

I think it’s safe to say that most households have at least one or two expensive hobbies that could be cut back and still be enjoyable. Buy less and try enjoying what you have. Or buy used instead of new.

Or perhaps they could (gulp) be eliminated, for the time being at least.

Call this one another week’s worth.

Use the library. I know someone who is a voracious reader, which is admirable. She reads a couple of books a week, easily. That’s admirable, but the problem is she buys all these books at retail. A book collector might perk up and call it an investment, but there’s very little collectible interest in Nicholas Sparks and Nora Roberts. She buys the books, reads them once, and then they sit on the shelf until she gives them to someone.

She probably could save $1,000 a year by using the library instead.

Eat out less. Eating out once a week at $20 a pop easily works out to $1,000 a year. Cut that back, whether it’s by eating somewhere less expensive or just eating out one less time, and you’ve got another week’s worth of $996.

Use public transportation to go to work. The average person commutes about 20 miles a workday. That’s $2,436 a year if you go by the IRS standard mileage rates, which factors in depreciation and maintenance on top of gas. The savings wouldn’t quite get me a full two weeks’ worth due to the cost of a monthly pass, but it would get me close. Call it two weeks.

Buy used and generic when possible. I’ve read that the poor are less likely to buy generic than the wealthy, out of fear of being ripped off. The fear is usually unfounded. Generics usually are made in the same factory right alongside one of their brand name competitors, and the only difference is the label that gets put on in the end.

But let’s talk used. Last week my wife and I bought my son about $80 worth of toys, but we paid $4 for them. They came from a church rummage sale. They were a bit dirty, but we ran them through the dishwasher to clean and sanitize them (they’re plastic). The swing was missing the strap to strap him in, but we replaced it with a belt from a thrift store, which cost another dollar. It fits perfectly.

At the same rummage sale, I bought myself a button-down shirt for a dollar. It looked new. I remember paying $20-$25 in a store for something comparable.

I bought the shoes I’m wearing right now at an estate sale. They didn’t look like they’d ever been worn, and I checked the fit before I bought them. I’ve been wearing them for more than a year now. I paid $3 for them. They would have cost me $50 in a store.

Most people buy a new computer every three or four years. I buy off-lease business computers every three or four years instead. They’re better built so they’re less likely to break (I’ve never had one break on me), and a $100 business PC that’s a few years old will be about as fast as a new computer that costs about $500. So I figure this practice saves me about $400 every three or four years.

I once saw someone in line ahead of me at a department store try to drop a thousand dollars on new clothes. He had several nice shirts, some nice pants, socks, some nice ties. I was pretty impressed with his haul. The problem was he tried to buy them on credit, and was denied. My work clothes mostly come from secondhand sources. They don’t look as nice as what that guy had, but what good does it do to look nice if you can’t pay your bills?

I figure it’s pretty easy to save a thousand or two a year by buying generic and used stuff.

Be careful with the flex-spend account. Back when I was single, I was annoyed because every year HR made us attend a meeting trying to coerce us into signing up for a Flexible Spending Account (also known as a cafeteria plan). These plans made no sense for me whatsoever. Some years my medical expenses were $100. Some years they were $200. Other years they were $20. So if I put $1,000 in, as they tried to convince me to do, I would have been wasting a lot of money. Being in the 14% tax bracket, at best I stood to save $28 if I had a $200 year. But if I put in $200, then I might turn around and have a $20 year and waste $180.

Now I’m married and my wife is diabetic. In this case it’s a no-brainer. We sat down and figured out how often she goes to the doctor, and what she spends on supplies in a given month. Her expenses are predictable, and high enough to make it worth doing. Between her expenses and having a son, I put the maximum in, since babies are always needing various FSA-eligible things, and they go to the doctor on a regularly scheduled basis.

If you’re in the 28% tax bracket and you put $3,000 into an FSA, being able to use pre-tax dollars for those medical expenses saves you about $840 a year. Not quite a week’s worth, but close. You can probably scrape up the other $156.

But if your medical expenses are always really low, you can save a bundle by not putting anything in such a plan. Employers love these plans because people frequently don’t track them very well, and anything left in the kitty at the end of the year goes to the company. It’s a great way to steal from your employees, frankly, and that’s why HR departments push them so hard. If you don’t need one, don’t put the money in, and pay yourself instead.

I think it’s safe to chalk up judicious use (or non-use) of an FSA as another week’s worth.

Be careful with AFLAC. AFLAC is a similar thing. My employer’s HR loves to push AFLAC on us. “I have three kids. I know I’m going to make at least one trip to the ER every year, and that pays for my AFLAC,” the pitch goes.

Think it through. I have a peculiar talent for injuring myself with sharp objects. But I’ve found that my best bet is to go to urgent care when it happens and put it on my FSA. Urgent care always gets to me faster than the overburdened ER, and it costs half as much. I did the math, and AFLAC just didn’t make sense. One trip to the ER didn’t cover a full year’s worth of AFLAC.

Maybe when my son gets older and starts playing sports and stuff, AFLAC will make sense. I’ll revisit it then. But do the math yourself, rather than just taking HR’s pitch. They’re salespeople. Their job isn’t to help you, their job is to make the company money by taking back as much of your salary as possible.

Making the right decision on AFLAC isn’t going to save you a full week’s worth, but it can make up for a shortfall.

Get a side gig. I’ve come up with more than 26 week’s worth of common ways to save $996, but not all of them will necessarily apply to everyone. Having a side gig is a good way to make up the shortfall. I can tell you to mow lawns or fix bicycles or make quilts, but I’d rather let you find something more ideal, since the best thing for you to do probably isn’t the best thing for me. Here’s a series of questions to ask yourself to help you find a side gig.

What do you enjoy?
Is there some service that you can provide at a better value than your potential competitors, whether it’s because you’re cheaper, or because your work is higher quality?
Is there some product that has resale value that you know how to find and then resell some way, after making any necessary repairs?

Basically, you need to find a product or a service that you already know well and enjoy that allows you to add value to it. Don’t quit your job to do it; do it on weekends or evenings with the goal of making a bit. If you can make $50 a week, that works out to $2,500 a year. That’s a reasonable early goal, then build it up from there. Some side gigs grow into full-time jobs but others don’t. Your chances of succeeding are much better if you don’t try to rely on it as a full-time job.

Start small, then let it grow (hopefully) to fill whatever number of $996 shortfalls you have in a year. And as you gain skill and experience, it could potentially grow beyond that, either allowing you to reduce some cutbacks, or achieve the ultimate goal more quickly.

So there you have it. Not everything in this list applies to everybody. But I would say the majority of these things do apply to anyone who can call themselves upper middle class. Such a family can take this list, find 52 things, and join the ranks of the wealthy in a decade or two, if they’re willing to let savings take priority over keeping up appearances.

But I also suspect that pretty much anyone who owns a home and two vehicles can probably take this list and find lots of things they can cut. They might not be able to find a full $996 a week for all 52 weeks of the year. So it will take them longer, but it’s possible. Making some sacrifices now in order to have financial independence later is worth it.

The most important thing is to put everything on the table. The year 2005 was my turning point. I lost my job, and it seemed like everyone who needed IT people couldn’t afford them. Stretching the pennies was necessary for us to stay afloat when I was in between jobs. Eventually I found one. The cutbacks that allowed us to make ends meet while my best source of income was doing odd computer jobs also allowed us to pay off our house early after I regained steady employment.

With the house out of the way, financial independence certainly is my next goal. I’m not sure that this formula is precisely what I want to follow in order to get there. But it’s important not to dismiss such formulas immediately just because they seem difficult or nearly impossible.

The key to success, financial or otherwise, is to take difficult problems and find solutions, rather than dismissing them immediately as impossible. One strategy is to break the problem down. This problem conveniently breaks down into 52 smaller problems. I’ll admit I had to sit and think a very long time to come up with 52 smaller answers.

I just have one more thing to say. Please try. I’m currently reading a financial book written in 1975 that said the average U.S. household headed by someone aged 24-34 had $2,500 in savings. In today’s dollars, that’s a shade over $10,000. Today, the average household has zero savings and around $10,000 in credit card debt, on top of car payments and rent or a mortgage. That has a lot to do with why our economy is such a wreck right now. We can’t buy any more stuff because we’re paying too much in interest.

It’s not too late for one or two generations to rise from these ashes and buy our country back. So let’s do it.

Telemarketers, go away

I spent the night fighting off telemarketers. I lost count of how many calls I got. It might have been as low as three. It seemed like a lot more though. Two different companies wanted to sell me alarm systems. Well, right now I can’t really afford an alarm system.
I thought about getting caller ID, or call-block on anonymous calls, but that’s like $7 a month. That’s not a lot, but I think I’m paying $20 a month for basic phone service (I called the phone company and told them I wanted two things: a dial tone and DSL. Nothing else.) so raising my phone bill by 33% to avoid telemarketers doesn’t quite seem right. I’m better off stashing that $7 a month into a repairs fund.

Then I remembered that at the apartment I got about five telemarketing calls a month. Missouri has a pretty liberal no-call law that eliminates most telemarketing calls to those who put themselves on a list. I signed up months ago, when it was first offered, and then I forgot about it. I just enjoyed not getting the telemarketing calls my friends always complain about. Those I do get usually are during the day, so my answering machine gets them. You can report the infringements and Missouri will go after them, but I’ve never bothered.

So, in between calls, I went and put my name on the no-call list.

I’ll have peace and quiet soon.

All in no particular order…

U2. I couldn’t help but notice during U2’s halftime performance yesterday how much Bono has aged. Now, granted, he’s 42 or 43 now, so he’s not going to look 22 anymore, but last night he didn’t look 42 to me. His voice didn’t seem terribly strong either, but that’s something he’s battled for more than 20 years. During their famous Sarajevo gig in 1997, Edge had to sing a few numbers (including Sunday Bloody Sunday) because Bono had lost his voice.
Above all else, it was a show. The band showed up on stage, sans Bono. He was walking through the crowd. They played one obvious song (Beautiful Day), then in a flash of showmanship, projected the names of 9/11 victims as they played an obscure song off The Unforgettable Fire, the haunting MLK (one of two tributes to Martin Luther King Jr. on that album) before segueing into Where the Streets Have No Name, with a few improvised lyrics (including a chorus from All You Need is Love, a nod to Paul McCartney).

Very typical U2. U2 fans undoubtedly loved it or at least enjoyed it; not-so-big fans probably weren’t so impressed (they sounded worse than, for instance, Mariah Carey, but a musician I work with is convinced she was lip-syncing) and U2 haters probably found something else to hate. I was impressed that they didn’t sell out by playing three songs off their current album. They played a hit from a year ago, then they played an obscure song, then they played a minor hit from 15 years ago, but it wasn’t one of the two huge hits off that album.

Heartbreak. That was what the game itself was. The Rams didn’t show up to play for the first three quarters. I have to wonder how badly Warner was hurting, because he definitely didn’t look 100% (and if I can notice a difference, there definitely is one). I have to wonder what if he hadn’t taken those hits late in the game three weeks ago against Green Bay…?

Security. I see from this story that Linux is less secure than Windows, based on counting reports at SecurityFocus.

SecurityFocus reported a total of 96 Linux vulnerabilities, versus 42 Windows NT/2000 vulnerabilityes (24 for Windows 2000 and 18 for NT4.0). Buried deeper in the article, you see that Mandrake Linux 7.2 notched up 33 vulnerabilities, Red Hat 7.0 suffered 28, Mandrake 7.1 had 27 and Debian 2.2 had 26.

So, first things first, James Middleton seems to think 2=4.

Now, math aside, those 26 Debian vulnerabilities were in all likelihood present in all the other distributions. So there’s a lot of triple- or even quadruple-counting here.

I remember a good number of those Linux vulnerabilities. Some of them were buffer overflows in utilities that would be difficult or impossible to exploit without shell access to the machine. Some of them were in daemons (services) that may or may not be running at any given time. Very few were in the kernel itself. Bottom line is, a typical Linux-based Web server sitting behind a firewall with only port 80 exposed probably didn’t have anything to worry about. The same goes for a typical Linux-based Samba server.

This isn’t like Windows, where you get the components Microsoft deems necessary, whether you want them or not, and you fear removing or disabling them because you don’t know what else will break and have no way of knowing. With Mandrake, you’ll get some services you don’t want, but you can disable them without breaking stuff. Red Hat has reformed and installs surprisingly little in its minimum installation these days. Debian installs even less.

So, the dirty little secret this article didn’t tell you: Not all the security problems affected any given Linux server. Chances are most of the security flaws affected any given Windows server.

I hate it when technology journalists blindly spit out numbers without having a clue what they mean.

I may publish again. I was mad enough to fire off a proposal to one of my former editors to see if he’d be interested in a few magazine articles. It’s time there was some stuff out there written by someone who has a clue what he’s talking about.

Useful link. For once I saw a banner ad that halfway interested me today. At LowerMyBills.com you can compare different utilities services available to you. Long-distance rates include both the interstate and intrastate rate (important if you’re like me and rarely call out-of-state). Alas, they don’t list local phone service providers, and their high-speed Internet listings aren’t complete, but it’s better than nothing. They also do listings for loans and debt relief, neither of which I need right now.

If the site’s useful to you, you’ll know.

12/04/2000

~Mail follows today’s post~

I’d forgotten how many telemarketing phone calls you get during the day. Blimey or something! How are you supposed to get anything done?

I had a classmate who used to mess with them. “You want to sell me windows? My house doesn’t have any windows, you see, because it’s a cardboard box. Sure, you can get phone service to a cardboard box. You can get cable TV too. I thought about a mini-dish but I’m not so sure my walls could handle the weight.”

He really enjoyed the roofing people, because he could tell them, in all honesty, “I don’t have a roof.” Hey, when you live in an apartment building, if you’re not on the top floor, you don’t.

The guys over at Junkbusters have a different solution. Make ’em sweat. They’ve even got a script with questions to ask. Visit them at www.junkbusters.com/ht/en/telemarketing.html if you’re sick of the bother.

Print it out, then keep it by the phone. And when you pick up the phone and get that tell-tale delay, followed by an unfamiliar voice who mispronounces your name, pounce. “Is this a telemarketing call?” (That question weeds out the other annoying phone calls, like Chrysler and MCI Worldcom calling up because of billing problems–sorry, you’ve gotta deal with those on your own.) If the answer is yes, then keep going. ” Could you tell me your full name please? And a phone number, area code first?” And they’ve got 12 other questions, where those came from.

I’m vacationing in beautiful Mehlville, Mo. as I write. Before you get too excited, I live in Mehlville. (It’s a St. Louis suburb.) My boss’ boss e-mailed me a while back and said, “Go on vacation!” so I did. Gives me a chance to catch up around the place–there’s a lot I’ve been neglecting.

Plus it gives me a chance to work on that last article for Shopper UK.

I’ve been reading Guts, the business strategy book by former Chrysler #2 man Robert Lutz. Lutz was the driving force (or a major driving force) behind all of Chrysler’s bold experiments in the 1990s before Daimler-Benz swallowed them. Interesting reading for anyone interested in business or the auto industry, though I’d have liked to see more of a memoir from him. Lutz didn’t graduate high school until age 22. How do you go from graduating high school at 22 to No. 2 man at Forbes’ 1997 Company of the Year? No matter how successful you are, there are lessons to learn from this guy. Obviously there’s more to him than an MBA, a stint in the Marines, and an interest in cars, and I want to know what that is.

I’m guessing there’ll be more later. No idea when. I’ve got a really hairy question from an Optimizing Windows reader to figure out.

~~~~~~~~~~

From: “Rodrigo Zamora” <rzam@nospam.cox-internet.com>
Subject: Sound Blaster Value
From what I have read the SB Value is exactly the same thing as the more expensive models except that it does not include the daughter card which has extra connections.  And it obviously didn’t have the LiveDrive which only comes with the Platinum.  However, this is not an issue since you can purchase these devices as add-on upgrades either from Creative or clones from another company.

The newer Values came with a Digital output which the older versions did not have.  In fact, it appears that even the AC3 Dolby Digital feature supported in the newer 5.1 seems to be only a  software (driver) update.  In other words, it seems that ANY SB Live! can do AC3 support with the right driver.

By the way, where did you hear that the Values have been discontinued? Creative still sells them on their site.

Rodrigo Zamora

~~~~~

The Value is a slightly different card, see http://www.byte.com/feature/BYT19991020S0006, and also http://alive.singnet.com.sg/features/products/. The main difference seems to be the quality of jacks used; when doing voice recognition or recording, you’ll notice the difference. Chances are you’ll notice a difference in output quality as well, though I haven’t tried the two cards side-by-side myself to confirm. They do use the same chipset, and some of the Value cards seem to have digital output capability, while others don’t. (My Live! MP3+ makes even a cheap pair of desktop speakers sound really good; connected to a stereo it’s nothing short of awesome.)

I’m pretty sure that I read in the Dragon NaturallySpeaking forums that the Value was discontinued and replaced by the MP3+ and Gamer (the difference in those cards is the software bundle). And the Value, though listed on Creative’s site, is out of stock there. I did find the card over at www.mwave.com priced at $47.

So for some uses, there’s little difference and the Value may be a way to save $40. But I will say the software that comes with the MP3+ is definitely worth the extra money if it’s at all useful to you.

I found a third-party daughtercard, at www.hoontech.com; any idea who makes the LiveDrive clone? Creative’s is pretty pricey; if the clone is less expensive, I’m sure there’s a huge market for it.

Thanks.

~~~~~~~~~~

From: “Gary Mugford” <mugford@nospam.aztec-net.com>

Subject: This and that

Dave,

   I actually saw, on the shelf for the first time, your book at Chapters, Friday. Still full price. Bought it anyway as a Christmas present. Worked wonders for my tech guy’s appreciation of his software guy, if you know what I mean. I’m sure it’ll be appreciated by its intended recipient, too.

   Dirty333 crashed rather spectacularly last week. It’s been a week of getting Tookie up and running to take its place. (segue to explain the names: The machine was an Win95B AMD K6-333. There was a famous player in the Canadian Football League named Jim Young, nicknamed Dirty 33.  I’m a lapsed jock journalist. Tookie’s a Win2K machine born in 2000). I lost a day’s worth of work to the crash and four days re-installing everything and getting the settings just so. All in all, I’m happy about the move, save for the switch over to a modern Logitech keyboard from the old 84-key keyboards that I’ve used since forever. Just why the hell is that damned capslock key STILL being put there long after the alternative for emphasis became font and style changes, rather than capping? Not to start a holy war, however.

   On the other hand, as a disinterested third party, I still have some reservations about the American election just past. I have no quarrel with the basic concept that a lot of people voted for an agenda they prefer. I do have a problem with some people who voted AGAINST one candidate or the other, as that’s an incredibly stupid way to cut your nose off. Better to waste the ballot, then to do that (I’ve probably wasted half the ballots I’ve ever cast, because nobody earned my vote. And to make it obvious, I would mark off EVERY box). But it seems a lot of people voted against Gore. And I think that had a part to play in the Bush victory.

   We don’t directly vote for Prime Minister in Canada. So, I’m never put to the task of deciding I like my local guy and hate his leader, or vice-versa. I’ve got no choice. And so, apparently, did you [G]. One’s supposed to be a ding-dong (my one meeting was pleasant, brief and non-opinion-forming) and the other was so stupid, he blew an easy victory by wanting to be his own man. One’s supposed to be a leader, but has never been anything more than a figurehead, except when he was losing money looking for oil in Texas, while the other was a very active partner in running the country (and the back room). The nitwit Nader was right in one respect, both of them were the same guy with slightly different accents.

   The difference was in the political apparatus behind them. That’s all. Bush will be a one-term president, as his father was. And the family failure to not keep promises will be his undoing. That it was the gridlock in Washington that will have forced him into recanting, will be forgotten in ’04. Gore will also go the way of the Quayle and nibble away at the fringes. Whether Gephardt or Kerry or whoever runs, they will beat Bush. They will be repeating the winning mantra of the ’90s, “It’s the economy, stupid!” And the American populace, longing for the good old ’90s will march to the polls and reverse the error of 2000.

   As far as Florida is concerned, it’s hard to see how either side can pretend to the moral high ground. The Democrats actually put in WRITING how to deny overseas ballots. And Gore’s supposed to be the bright one, right? But that was balanced by the Republicans delaying legal recounts, going to court first, arranging for out-of-town ‘ordinary folk’ to show up repeatedly to exercise their fully-paid for First Amendment rights and they repeatedly made mistakes over-reaching whatever was in their grasp at the moment.  The election day-after cabinet posing was designed to fool the umpire, but there was no umpire. The citing of Nixon’s consession to Kennedy despite Daley’s dad’s malfeasance in Illinois overlooked the fact the state’s electoral votes didn’t affect the outcome one way or the other. Calling the hand count tabulators all kinds of names, including suggesting illegalities when monitors from both sides were there, was assinine. Arguing against standards for assessing a questionable vote that were no less forgiving than that of the Texas law signed by Bush was the equivalent of Gore’s absentee ballot crushing screwup. But the rallying cry in ’02 will be the Republican refusal to recount the whole state and after-the-fact attempt to squash the recounts that DID take place.

   Even I could run that PR campaign. “Make it clear to the Republicans, your vote DOES count… this time!”

   So, on behalf of all Canadians, we say to you Americans, “Thanks for the entertainment! [G]”

   Regards, Gary
  ~~~~~

Thanks for the purchase! I’ve yet to see the book in a store myself. Of course it won’t sell if people can’t find it… O’Reilly needs to get it into stores before they have any right to complain about its lack of sales. Sandy McMurray’s review and the subsequent run on the book up north should have said something, I would think.

You just gave me an idea on machine names, and how to remember their IP addresses. This computer’s name is George Brett, and it’s 192.168.0.5; this one’s Mike Sweeney at 192.168.0.29. Problem is, I don’t know that there are five Royals whose uniform numbers I remember quickly, and do I really want to name my gateway after Buddy Biancalana or Rey Sanchez? But I’ll definitely name the Packard Bell I deny owning (I didn’t buy it new!) after Johnny Damon since he’s being the biggest putz since Jose Offerman. He deserves to have a piece-o’-junk computer named after him.

As for intelligence in U.S. politics, Gore’s supposedly the brighter one, but I remember seeing a video clip where he and the esteemed Mr. Clinton were touring Monticello, and Gore pointed to a picture on a wall and asked, “Who’s that?” The tour guide replied, “Well, that’s George Washington…”

I’ve never met a flunkie who didn’t recognize Washington (his face is all over the place, after all, including the one-dollar bill and the quarter, so you can’t spend money without seeing him occasionally), let alone any intelligent person who’s been in the United States more than a week.

General consensus is that Dan Quayle is smarter than both of them.

~~~~~~~~~~

From: “James Cooley” <c_closet@nospam.dnai.com>
Subject: Yer Mom’s Great!

Dave,

Ah, your mom is great! Has Jerry Pournelle seen this? Would make a splendid addition to his stumping against ADD in the classroom.

As a computer repair guy myself I have a motto to share: “Focus on the solution, not the problem.” Regards,

Jim
~~~~~

Thanks.

I’m sure there’s not much room on Jerry Pournelle’s reading list for my site. Of course, with psych being one of his PhDs, he’s certainly qualified to talk on the subject.

Hasn’t Jerry said before that he probably would have been diagnosed as ADD in his youth, and in reality his “problem” was that he was better-read than a lot of his teachers and was just plain bored and unchallenged? (I’m doubly fortunate in that regard; I’m not as bright as Jerry and my teachers always bent the rules and let me work above my grade level to make sure I was adequately challenged.)

Good motto, especially if you remember that the easiest solution often involves cable connections and system logs.

~~~~~~~~~~

From: “Michal Kaznowski” <michalkaznowski@nospam.yahoo.com> Subject: DPMI error while zipping windows

Hello David,

If you have the time, might you be able to point me to the easiest solution of a problem I have been having when using info-zip to zip a windows installation.

I get:

load Error no DPMI – Get csdpmi*b.zip

I am aware that Protected mode is required, but what is the easiest way of obtaining this.  I am mostly using 98SE (And Slackware 7.0 and SuSE) to install for friends, family and some that pay(!) and would prepare boot disc just to be able to run zip and unzip on the backup as described on page 201/2 of your guide to life and computers.

Your book is a raving success with my friends (what few I have as I like computers) and numerous copies have been purchased.  We are all looking forward to your definitive guide on a version of Linux so that we can all use it without the pain we have at present

-Best regards, Michal                         

~~~~~

Try downloading ftp://ftp.simtel.net/pub/simtelnet/gnu/djgpp/v2misc/csdpmi5b.zip. Put the executable files from this archive into the same directory as your Info-Zip executables. Let me know ASAP if that doesn’t fix it. (This is as painful as some Linux programs’ installations!)

Thanks for your encouraging words on Optimizing Windows. Unfortunately, O’Reilly cancelled the Linux book, so for now I’m just writing Windows optimization articles for Computer Shopper UK and taking a few months off from book writing while I decide what to do next.

~~~~~~~~~~

 

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