Wednesday, May 25, 2005

"My Money Blog" Tips for Free

"jp" runs a great website about personal money management called My Money Blog. The author is publicly tracking his net worth as he works to accumulate $1 million starting with basically nothing as a 20-something year old college grad. It's a brilliant idea and I wonder how long it will be before he starts earning more from his website than his day job.

It's easy to find stuff worthy of comment at My Money Blog which keeps readers engaged while presenting Google ads and promoting books for sale. I got sucked in by this post:

Through the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Open CourseWare (MIT OCW) Project, you can get free, searchable, access to MIT's course materials for educators, students, and self-learners around the world. From Aeronautics to Women's Studies, they currently have over 900 courses published online, with a goal of making virtually all course online.

Poking around for a bit, they have handouts, sample exams, lecture notes, even digital pictures of the blackboards! The only thing missing is the sound of the guy beside you snoring. I always wondered why someone couldn't just walk into most university campus classrooms, sit down, and learn just about everything I did, minus the diploma. It would take time and some passion, but you could do it...

Like I said, each of his money saving tips invokes some thought as to their practicality. In this case, I replied:

In Good Will Hunting, Matt Damon said, "You dropped 150 grand on [an] education you could have gotten for $1.50 in late charges at the public library."

There are obvious reasons why you can't get a free education, but I'll state them here anyway. First of all, most institutions prohibit outsiders from auditing courses. It may not be rigidly enforced, but I think if you started attending every lecture you'd get kicked out sooner or later.

More importantly, there is no group involvement or feedback on your progress. The professor critiques your work and you learn a lot through that process. You also learn by interacting with your peers on group projects and study sessions. All of that would be lost.

Maybe somebody would like to take on the antithesis project. Let's hear from a 60-something person retiring today with $1 mil in the bank and watch as they spend their way to $0.

Sunday, May 8, 2005

Software Patents

Could Patents Ever Be Beneficial?

Clearly software patents are not urgently needed by anyone except patent lawyers. The pre-patent software industry had no problem that was solved by patents; there was no shortage of invention, and no shortage of investment.

I have to disagree with this. Some software patents represent considerable investment. Consider compression or encryption algorithms. A great deal of research goes into creating a highly efficient compression algorithm like MP3. If there were no patent protection and no opportunity for licensing revenues, we might not have things like portable music players.

You can read more about The Case Against Software Patents from Jason V. Morgan but I still can't agree with the basic premise that all software patents should be abolished. Patents and the promise of licensing revenue drive basic research into complex algorithms and protocols.

Saturday, May 7, 2005

m-Payments Through Cell Phones

I recently got into a discussion on JavaRanch about mobile payments (m-payments). It started with a simple question.

Are there m-payment systems which are done in J2ME? Would be really grateful to know about any company which is using that kind of a technology, case studies and thesis? What about the trend of M-Payment systems.

Several others expressed interest in the topic so I added my thoughts and I'm going to rehash them here. Basically, I think that you already can use your phone in place of a credit card or a check in certain circumstances, but for whatever reason, consumers don't do it and merchants don't encourage it.