Archive for November, 2013

I like to buy things with money.

Thursday, November 21st, 2013

That probably sounds a little antiquated at this day and age.
In the good old days after money was invented but before credit and contracts were, if you wanted something, you went to somebody selling what you wanted, and you gave them some money and they gave you some stuff. A thing. Something tangible.
Then you went to work where you performed some service or provided use of a skill or something like that and you got paid money for your effort. You then took this money and went to the store and you bought more things.
So the cycle goes. Or went.

Nowadays, it’s harder to buy things with money. And I don’t mean cash versus credit and debit cards, I mean COD. Cash On Delivery. You pay money, you get something, that’s it. Remember that? You provide money and the other party in the exchange provides a service or goods.

There’s less and less of that nowadays, and more and more of the subscription service or contract, or leasing going on.
And it’s gotten to the point where it’s difficult to just plain buy something.

The most obvious common example is the ubiquitous cell phone.
They’ll give it to you for a dollar if you sign a contract promising them X amount of future dollars over the next N years. In the short run, you get a phone for almost nothing
out of pocket, and in the long run, the phone company makes a profit off of all the money you promised them, including a clause saying if you bail early, you basically have to pay for the phone.

Sure you can still buy a phone outright without a contract, but is far less common, and there are less good deals to be had this way because there’s so little turnover with this type of transaction, thus little competition, so no deals. You can only get a deal if you sign the contract.

Another one I mentioned recently is domain names. You can’t even buy a domain name. You can only rent it. They say you’re buying the domain name, but you’re only buying it for a year or two at a time, they take it back if you don’t pay the protection money.

Internet service and cell phone service are much the same way, you don’t pay for what you use, you pay a flat monthly fee for some limited-all-you-can-eat-up-to-a-certain-point service. Again, there are some pay as you go plans, but I find they’re getting less and less worthwhile as they keep raising the prices to make them comparable with or more expensive than the flat contract fee.

But all that is piddly in comparison to my next example. The one that really gets my goat is home heating oil boiler service contracts.

I simply can not get somebody to come to my house any time day or night to fix my boiler unless I have an oil delivery contract AND a boiler service contract.
There are some places that will sell me oil COD which is nice. But any place that offers service requires that you have an oil delivery contract with them.
Why? Because they lose money on the service contract.
Well here’s a dumb idea: don’t sell something that loses you money. It’s bad for business.
I know, you have to compete with everybody else who is racing to the bottom of the service pool.

It’s amazing to me that everybody’s gotten so caught up in this make a deal via contract to lock you in
so that it’s hard to switch to the competition, that it’s actually becoming hard not to do it that way.


Another thought on ipv6

Friday, November 15th, 2013

So about 2 years ago I went on some rant about how unneccesary ipv6 is.

I still think everything I said flies now as well as it did 2 years ago.

But I thought of something else.

You can’t nat forever because of port exhaustion on the internet facing machine.

I concede the point.

But, I also don’t know anybody who has only 1 ip address.

You write some fancy software, put your network card in promiscuous mode and now you can nat out from 64k ports times the number of ip addresses you have, all with one computer.

There are lots and lots and lots of unused ports on those existing 4 billion ip addresses out there.

We really don’t need ipv6 yet, and won’t for a long long time.



Speaking of protection money…

Friday, November 15th, 2013

I don’t know why it took me so long to think of this, but I realized today that paying for domain names is like paying protection money.

Maybe I’m having a slow day, but I can’t think of anything else off the top of my head, that you own, but you pay repeatedly for as if you were renting.

Maybe you don’t actually own domain names, I failed to read the fine print, forgive me.

Domain names are somewhat unique in the world of purchasable goods in that they are by definition world unique. You can’t go somewhere else and get the same thing for less money. There’s only one domain name and it’s mine.

Except it’s not mine. It’s my registrars, and every year I have to pay them not to take it away from me.

Sounds like protection money.

So I was trying to think of other things like that. Diamonds are world unique. No two are the same. They’re pretty expensive but once you own one, it’s yours. And you don’t have to pay anything once you’ve bought it. Except insurance. Read back a few to see my latest rant on insurance.

What else is world unique that has some value to people. Land. That’s a good one. Once you buy land, it’s yours. You have to pay property tax, unless you manage to buy your own country, but still, you actually own the land and don’t have to pay anybody repeatedly not to take it away from you. Tax notwithstanding.

But I’m not paying tax on my domain name. I’m paying to own it for a year.

So there’s a market there, becoming a registrar that let’s you own your domain name forever.

Maybe what you’re really buying is the registrar’s service. After all they’re really just hosting the resolution (resolvation?) of the domain name for you.

I suppose if I could run my own dns server and become a registrar, I wouldn’t have to pay anybody to keep my domain.

But then I expect I’d probably have to keep paying somebody to keep being a registrar.

I think I get it, but something sounds a bit fishy.

Copper pipe heater without fire.

Friday, November 15th, 2013

So I had this brilliant idea.

I recently became an unlicensed master plumber. I can plumb anything in my house.

I’ve done it the harder way with copper, and the simpler way with pex.

Sure there’s black iron and probably other sorts of materials I don’t even know about, but I know enough to run copper and pex. That will solve any problem I will ever have.

Copper is obviously better than pex. It’s more expensive, it’s harder to work with, it lets you play with fire. It’s a MAN’s materal. GRRRRRRRR! METAL! FIRE!

Once you get over yourself however, you realize what a pain in the ass it is to have to worry about setting various parts of your house on fire by blowing a torch near flammable things like insulation and wood joists  when you’re trying to solder pipes resting on those joists, or near that insulation.

So they invented pex. And crimps and sharkbites that take all the effort out of plumbing. If there’s any question that it’s simpler easier and cheaper, just check out any discussion board where real plumbers talk to each other and by their inherent fear and poo-pooing of pex and sharkbites, you know it’s gotta be good.

But there is value in copper. You can pull it out of your house and sell it and retire.

But let’s say you still wanted to work with copper. The torch is the problem. I know there’s something manly about playing with open flame, I get that, I like setting things on fire more than most people. But in all the decades people have been using copper pipes, I don’t see why nobody’s come up with a less risky solution.

I only wonder this because it took me about a day to come up with something better.

Imagine an electrically powered hand held tool much like a soldering iron who’s electrically resistant tip (the part that gets hot) is a semicircle of the size that would fit around a 1/2″ 3/8″ 3/4″ pipe or whatever you want to solder.

If you could press a stick against the pipe you want to solder, you could press this thing.

You cup the heating element of this tool around the pipe, wait for it to heat up to 480 degrees Fahrenheit, apply solder, and voila. Plumbing.

No open flame, it contains the mess, no singeing any nearby wood, no need for tin to protect behind whatever pipe you’re working on.

Yeah it may draw a lot of amperage, but it would make it so much easier and safer.

Well. It seems it already exists. Google is truly amazing. Gotta get me one of those.


There should be two kinds of insurance.

Friday, November 15th, 2013

There should be two kinds of insurance: insurance that covers random acts of god and insurance that covers the expense of protection money.

If you own a car and it’s parked in your driveway, and there’s a storm, the wind blows, and knocks the tree onto your car and damages it, this is a random act of kindness on god’s part, as you probably wanted a new car anyway, or at least an excuse to buy a new car.

This kind of loss should be covered by one kind of insurance, it would insure against accidents where there was no intentional effort on anybody’s part to cause the loss, it was just a random sequence of occurrences that ended in your losing out.

The other kind of insurance would be for protection money. Consider the guy who, instead of wrecking your car by having a tree fall on it, steals your car.

In this case, with traditional insurance, you would be compensated (poorly) for the loss of your car. But unlike an accident, somebody is profiting from the loss. When a tree falls on your car, I suppose there’s some satisfaction god gets by laughing at your loss because he knocked a tree on your car, but there’s really not much you can do about it, and god can’t spend that. There’s no financial gain on anybody’s part.

But when somebody steals your car, you are out the car, the insurance company is out the lesser of the fair market value of your car, or whatever they can get away with paying you, whichever is less. But the guy who stole your car gets a free car out of it.

If you remove all the middle layers of the transaction what’s actually going on is that people who pay insurance premiums are giving the thief a pile of money.

Okay so this isn’t exactly protection money, but it’s close. God can’t be stopped from knocking down trees unexpectedly, but people don’t have to steal cars and cause this loss.

It seems to me these are two very different problems that should be treated differently.

The cost of theft insurance (the random acts of paying thieves) should be separated from the cost of random acts of damage. So if you have a strong belief in the wonderfulness of humanity, and don’t think your car will ever be stolen, you shouldn’t have to pay the theft insurance. And indeed, you don’t have to get theft insurance on your car, but because all insurance companies lump them together, it seems to me people who don’t want to pay for theft insurance are paying via the rest of
their premium.

There are obviously grey areas. If a hurricane blows down a house that’s on beach-front property, and you rebuild, and then another hurricane blows that one down, and then you build AGAIN, it’s hard to say you had no intention of collecting insurance money.

I don’t think that would fall under act of god. That would more be an act of stupidity or an act of selfishness, because you’re building the house again at other insurance-premium-paying-people’s expense.

But it seems to me, there’s something unfair about the way all kinds of loss, whatever their cause is lumped together under the same insurance umbrella, when in fact some types of loss are man made and possibly can be prevented.



Sunday, November 3rd, 2013

So I had to do a plumbing job at my house where I needed to run pipe from my basement to a crawlspace that would not accommodate 10 foot lengths of copper, and I didn’t want to cut a 4 foot length feed it down the hole then solder another 4 foot length, that would take forever. So it was time to try pex.
Pex is basically a really big hula hoop that isn’t in a loop. And you run water through it.
It’s flexible and can go places copper can’t.
It’s got lots of downsides, but for small things it’s handy.

But that’s not where the magic is. The sharkbite connector thing is the magic. A copper fitting elbow or straight connector costs like 30 cents or something like that, whereas a sharkbite connector costs $7. Interestingly the elbows cost $7, the straight connectors cost $9. You are penalized for being cheap and not buying a longer piece of pex.

But it works. It really does. No solder, no torches, no worrying about catching the insulation on fire. You just snap it together and you’re done. Takes less than a minute. You spend all your time hanging the pex, but the connection itself is trivial.

The best part is that these connectors work on pex and copper so you can make a junction between old and new plumbing with these things.

And if you weren’t convinced by me saying nice things (which I never ever do) go look on all the plumber’s boards and read about how they rag on it left and right. They’re angry and afraid, and they have every reason to be.

There will always be a need for plumbing and there will always be plumbers, but there’s no question sharkbite takes the bottom out from under plumbers for the easy work.

Plumbing is one of those technologies that hasn’t progressed in decades because everybody making money liked the status quo, but these silly little things are game changers for do it yourself work.

Any idiot can do plumbing with these. The only thing you can do wrong, is not push it on all the way. There’s nothing to screw up.