Friday, August 22, 2008

If iPhone is so hot, why TV ads and fake customers?

The iPhone launch in 2007 stir up a whole new revolution in user interface and mobile devices. By now, pretty much everybody is impressed with its intuitive, gesture-based command interface. It has been widely reported that iPhone is a hot selling item around the world. So I was surprised to see an Apple TV commercial during NBC prime time Olympic shows. More shocking news: some cell phone carriers in Poland are hiring actors to line up in front of their stores (fake customers) pretending to buy iPhone. Now, they are on the borderline of deceptive commercial practices. If this were to happen in any communist country, perhaps some media would quickly term it as "propaganda".

If it's so hot, why do they even need the advertisement?! Why faking customers? Of course, many other companies also sell TV ads, if only to boost their brand. But the implication is that some merchandises are hot selling because of their brand, not because of their innate attraction to the customers. Obviously, cell phones (and especially the iPhone) are now more of a fashion item than a technology.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Fighting SPAM

There has been an exponential increase in the amount of junk mail to one of my mailbox in recent months. Although the junk mail filter has been very efficient in filtering out these junk mail, the sheer bulk of spam means that one simply do not have time to even look at the subject lines (titles) before deleting. As a result, I routinely delete tons of e-mail without even looking at the junk mail folder, which brings up another question: what if one of those e-mail is not junk and worth reading? Well, tough luck :-)

There are a bunch of well known tips on the web for people to avoid spam, but most of them focus on the protection of your privacy and your e-mail address, i.e. the less people/organization that know about your e-mail address, the less likely that someone can spam that mailbox:
  • Don't give out name, e-mail address, phone number, (and certainly not your SSN) to any organization on the web. Unless you really know them very well, e.g. you probably have to give your SSN to your employer and your bank.
  • Don't buy/donate/click anything based on junk mail that you receive
  • Create a temporary e-mail address if you really need to sign up something that requires e-mail address. After a long period of them, if they haven't spam that temporary address, you can go ahead change that address to your mail e-mail, or simply forward from that temporary address to your mail e-mail box.
However, there isn't much progress on reducing spam once your e-mail address is known to the spammers. Telling the spammers to stop contacting you is simply acknowledging that your e-mail address exists and that you actually read their junk mail. Hence, the best way is to ignore and delete them.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Air tickets -- another reason to watch your weight

With surging fuel prices, airlines are trying to cut their costs, and perhaps pass some of this burden to passengers. Some airlines are starting to enforce rules that over-weight passengers should purchase extra tickets. Although such practices trampers on touchy issues as sort of discrimination based on people's weight, it probably has some economic justifications. I have witnessed some extremely "well built" passengers trying hard to fit themselves into the economy class seat, and the seat handles were just too tight for them. It would make sense to have them purchase two tickets, so that they and their neighbors can all sit comfortably.

Of course, where should airlines draw the line between overweight and normal passengers? Some are require you to be able to fit within the seat belt. But then just how long should the seat belt be?

Ultimately, it is yet a another reason for people to watch their weight, and perhaps loose some of the extra fats :-)

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

It's not your major, it's your school that matters!

A recent study showcased that English majors from Harvard on average earns almost the same as an engineering major from any university: $103K median pay for Harvard English major after 10 years, versus $103.8K for an engineering major (from any school) after 10 years.

We have heard all kinds of talks about promoting science and engineering education in the US. Where is the financial reward? The statistics seem to indicate if you go to the right school (Ivy League), you would do well financially no matter what is your major. Looks like schools (and perhaps the connections) are more influential than technical skills on a person's career.