Saturday, April 26, 2008

Why does my Wi-Fi have limited or no connectivity?

The built-in Wi-Fi on my Toshiba notebook computer is fairly decent and reliable, but every once in a while I get this little popup message that informs me that I have:

Limited or no connectivity: The connection has limited or no connectivity. You might be unable to access the Internet or some network resources.

The Wi-Fi status shows that I am "Connected" and maybe even that the signal strength is "Good", "Very Good", or even "Excellent" (or maybe simply "Low"), but email and web browsing simply do not work.

I happen to be running Windows XP (still).

Sometimes the problem occurs after my computer has been sitting idle for some time. Sometimes the computer may have gone into suspend mode. Hard to say. Who knows.

Disconnecting and reconnecting my computer to the wireless network does not seem to help.

Turning the Wi-Fi switch on and off does not seem to help.

Powering down and back up may work, but I am always in the middle of doing something and do not want that hassle.

What to do...

Now, I do not know precisely what the technical problem is, but it has something to do with "stale" IP addresses, I think. In any case, the fix or at least the workaround is simple...

Whenever you get that "Limited or no connectivity" message, do the following quick and easy steps:

  1. Turn your computer's Wi-Fi switch OFF. This may not be required, but do it just to be sure.
  2. Open a Windows Command Prompt window.
  3. Enter the following command at the command prompt:

  4. Turn your computer's Wi-Fi switch back ON.
  5. Wait a few seconds, and connectivity should be restored, unless there is an actual connectivity problem

If you ever run into this problem, trust me, I can feel your pain.

-- Jack Krupansky

Monday, April 21, 2008

Why I never buy a computer from Dell

I have never purchased a computer from Dell (although I did buy my Sony Clie PDA from them.) I have no general animosity towards them, but I seriously object to their sleasy price promotion. Just now I saw a display ad for a $499 notebook PC, but by the time you customize the default configuration to make it reasonably usable for mid-range computing tasks, the price jumped to over $1,400. Well, maybe it really didn't need some of those additions, so maybe the price would only jump to $1,200. Still, that is a very serious gap between promotion and reality.

I go over to and start at $783 and end up at about the same price. Toshiba used to be even better at giving realistic configurations up front, but competition with Dell has led them to stoop to similar sales tactics, although as not extreme and the starting configuration tends to be much more reasonable.

Toshiba does still do a fair amount of up-front promotion of very reasonable configurations that do not require massive Dell-like customization to make them reasonable. For example, the Satellite A305-S6845 for $1,250. It does not have Ultimate, but does come with 3GB of memory and a 200GB disk.

The key things that push the price up for me is to get to Vista Ultimate and to get a processor that is a reasonable leap forward from my current mid-range Toshiba notebook PC which will be three years old in June.

I am disappointed that disk and screen technology are not significantly better than my current machine.

I am not actually looking to buy a new machine just yet. I would like to spend my money on moving to New York City in a month or two and maybe get at least another six months if not a year out of my current machine.

If you want to know what my computer looks like, see the new movie 88 which is actually set in Seattle. There is a scene where the FBI agent is using his computer. It has a blue ("Peacock Blue") lid that says Toshiba. That's the same as my machine.

-- Jack Krupansky

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Ahhh... Now I know what that dome is!

For a number of years, every time I took the took the bus and train between Washington, D.C., and New York I would see this huge colorful building dome off in the distance and wonder what it was. I always made a mental note to look it up when I got off the train, but I would always be overwhelmed by the energy when I arrived in Washington or New York and promptly forget that task. Then, tonight, I was reading about the Pope's visit to Washington in USA TODAY and his visiting the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, and I tried to imagine where that shrine might be and it suddenly dawned on me that maybe it was that mysterious dome I would see north of Washington. I did a quick image and map search in Google and sure enough, it in fact was "my" dome. Mystery solved. Personally, I always imagined it was a mosque since it was so brightly colored. So much for first visual impressions.

Even this picture does not do the dome justice:

Or this one:

The full name is Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.

I am not religious, but I do find dramatic architectures interesting.

-- Jack Krupansky

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Blogger failed to confirm one of my emailed posts

Blogger has been quite reliable for some time now, but occasionally it does hiccup. Just today I emailed a post and it posted fine, but Blogger failed to email the confirmation of the post. A second post (different content) 90 minutes later worked fine and Blogger emailed that confirmation within a matter of seconds.

-- Jack Krupansky

Saturday, April 12, 2008

iPod touch

I was in the local Apple store and the iPod touch was getting a lot of attention while the iPhone and Air were getting much less attention. One of the sales dudes came over and asked me if I had any questions about the touch and I said that I was waiting for the price to come down to $199. His response was that he was too and that he would have one himself right now if it was.

That is the story of me and all Apple products. They insist on pricing them just high enough so that I am able to resist buying them. I am in aw of their uncanny anti-marketing ability.

The iPhone and Air are great products and get most of the fanfare, but I see the touch as a super-great product with a truly amazing collection of computing capabilities built into even a smaller form factor than the iPhone.

I know absolutely zero about design ("ID" or Indiustrial Design), but I like the iPod touch better than the iPhone because it does not have that annoying shiny edge around it. The touch has a more subtle gray that does not distract my eye and makes the color icons seem to really be floating in a sea of black rather than contained by that silly chrome (?) border that feels to me as if it makes the screen smaller and more cramped.

The touch does not have a cell phone or camera, but does have Wi-Fi and the full Safari Web browser and most of the same software applications.

The display screen is the same size as the iPhone (3.5" diagonal), but the physical device is significantly smaller, 8 mm thick as compared to 11.6 mm for the iPhone (1/3 thinner!), 61.8 wide as compared to 61 mm for the iPhone (slightly wider), and 110 mm high as compared to 115 mm for the iPhone. And it weighs 4.2 ounces as compared to 4.8 ounces for the iPhone. Oh, and you can get a whopping 32GB of storage, as compared to a max of 16 GB for the iPhone.

Oh, and I am not even looking at this for playing music, but as a next-generation PDA device. A true handheld computer. In fact, a true Internet in your pocket.

For some reason, I cannot find a link to get to the specs from the Apple store web page, but here are the iPod touch Technical Specifications. Or start from the main iPod touch page.

-- Jack Krupansky

Is Windows really collapsing?

Talk about making a mountain out of a molehill. Is Windows collapsing? Well, of course it is, and always has been! Duh! So why is this suddenly such great news? I never cease to be amazed at how many people seem to think that Microsoft, its products, and its business are static and unchanging. The simple truth about Microsoft is, will be, and always has been: constant change. That is what Microsoft is all about, but so many people refuse to accept or believe it. Or maybe the problem is that it galls Microsoft's critics that Microsoft, The Great Copier, is in a constant and ceaseless state of change. Microsoft is constantly refactoring and repackaging and repurposing its products, but somehow that "elephant standing in the middle of the room" evades so many people.

Fine, a couple of analysts choose to put their own spin on how Microsoft and Windows may evolve in the years to come. That is their right, a path they have chosen to make money for themselves, but to somehow paint all of Microsoft as stuck in the mud and "collapsing" was going a bit to far. I do not blame those analysts per se, but I did not read any rebuttal by them of the gross "reinterpretation" of their presentation that was done by so many in the media.

Is Microsoft really collapsing under the weight of Windows? Hardly.

As Larry Dignan, Editor in Chief of ZDNet, puts it on his blog:

How fast will Windows collapse under its weight? It'll take longer than folks think.

And I would suggest that by then, Microsoft (and hardware) will have evolved far beyond the current state of affairs.

Now if all that the Gartner folks meant to say was that any Windows upgrade typically requires an upgrade of memory and compute power, why didn't they simply say that?! Maybe the problem is that so many people have been making do with old hardware for so long that they somehow forgot that new software might need improved hardware. Duh!

As far as virtualization and running more than one operating system on a single end-user PC, I would be skeptical, not that advanced users and professionals might not want to do so and be fully capable of doing so, but that it is a recipe for disaster for large-scale organizations with thousands of PCs and users to support. Sure, individuals or select groups can in fact use it effectively, but expecting average users to be multi-lingual and constantly bouncing around between operating systems is a bit of a stretch. That said, Gartner is free to promote their own proposals for how computing could evolve, but the Gartners of the world have traditionally delivered their best value to their customers when they stick to hard-core research and comparisons and guide people through the minefields of competitive technology rather than try to play product designers on their own.

I'll give the Gartner guys a semi-free pass on their presentation, but the media and the blogosphere get a distinctive black eye for how they mishandled this story. It was not one of their prouder moments. OTOH, it may in fact be that they were quite proud of the cheap and sleazy way they spun it out of control... what fun!... almost like they were spinmeisters for a presidential campaign and could get away with twisting even the simplest words any way that they wanted! Sigh.

OTOH, I actually was surprised that a number of blogs did feel the need to leap to Microsoft's defense, for example, Dave Methvin in "Windows Is Collapsing!" does write:

But "collapsing" is harsh, Gartner-analyst-dudes, and most likely way off base. This is one of those presentations where you hope that the news reports have it wrong, just to spare Gartner the embarrassment of looking so lame. I'll just touch on a few of the strange take-aways from reports on this session.

And he concludes by saying:

I'm willing to bet that there will still be plenty of uncollapsed Windows in companies a decade from now.

Still, I do have to ding him for failing to resist going for a cheap shot when being a tad more professional in headline design is called for.

OTOH, I almost went for that same headline myself. Anything to get a few more clicks in this blog-eat-blog world.

-- Jack Krupansky

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Why did the text on web pages suddenly become so tiny and unreadable?!

Every few months I run into this same problem... everything is fine and then I navigate to a web page and suddenly I realize that the text on the page is tiny and barely readable. WTF?!?! What happened?

Well, I am not exactly sure what mis-typed key sequence does it, but somehow Microsoft Internet Explorer (IE) feels that it was instructed by you, The Operator, to zoom out to show more text albeit in a smaller font. You can tell that this happened because in the lower righthand corner of the IE window there is a little magnifying glass with a percentage next to it and the percentage is now less than 100%. Normally, that percentage is 100%. In my case just now, it was down to 90%. If you accidentally set it above 100%, then your text will be larger than normal, which may or may not be a good thing for you.

The fix is simple... Click on the little down arrow to the right of the percentage and select 100% from the menu. Presto! Tiny text is gone!

Hmmm... The menu says that Ctrl+<minus> zooms out, so maybe I pressed the Ctrl key instead of the Shift key when entering an underscore AND the IE window had the input focus when I thought I was typing in some other window. That would do it, but I do not recall having that situation.

Another situation is that I am fast typing in email and my notebook trackpad sometimes generates a spurious click event and the mouse point is outside the email window and over an IE window and that causes some of my keystrokes to go to IE before I realize what happened. I may have mis-keyed an underscore. That might have been what happened this time for me.

-- Jack Krupansky

Monday, April 07, 2008

Yahoo to Microsoft: We're still seriously F'ed up, so go ahead and do ur thang

So, Yahoo receives yet another wake up call from Microsoft and responds as would any self-respecting college student being woken up after too much partying and not having a credible plan for their life: Go away and leave us alone, unless you want to give us more money than even a stupid person would give us. See Yahoo!'s Board of Directors Responds to Latest Microsoft Letter. Microsoft's implied auto-answer: Fat chance, go ahead and get a few more winks of your beauty rest, but then be prepared to meet your fate. I suspect that Microsoft may send one more letter before their deadline, but more likely we will see a series of public and private statements touting the value of the deal to "shareholders." Whether Yahoo finally wakes up and smells their dying roses remains to be seen.

To be clear to Yahoo shareholders, Yahoo may have a much greater future value, but that is true for a lot of companies, including Microsoft. The price for a stock is supposed to be based on future value discounted to present value. If Yahoo stock feels as if it is discounted too heavily, that is probably simply because investors do not share the mistaken vision of management and its current strategy. You were already offered a significant premium. The financial markets and economy have deteriorated since then. Sure, everything will bounce back, eventually, but put simply, Yahoo has been damaged goods for quite some time, so any transaction will of course be at a discount to management's perceived "full" value.

The Yahoo letter makes it sound as if price was the major impediment, but I am deeply skeptical. Unless, Yahoo management really is truly lost off in the weeds, they have to know in their heads and hearts that it will be a lot easier to monetize the current value of Yahoo within the context of Microsoft than their current strategy or any of the "alternatives" that they may be considering. Microsoft gives them an opportunity to scale that they would not otherwise have. If they play their cards right, they can take control of MSN and build a new Yahoo that is much beefier and grander than anything else they could do as a standalone company. They now have an excellent opportunity to negotiate the terms of their integration. I suspect that they do know this, but ego, image, and pride in their brand are probably the major impediments to simply letting the deal go forward.

So, wake up you sleepy-headed Yahooligans and get yourselves a real job!

-- Jack Krupansky

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Is America seriously headed off on the wrong track?

I half agree and half disagree with the poll conclusion given by the New York Times article entitled "81% in Poll Say Nation Is Headed on Wrong Track". Sure, I am confident that 4 out of 5 Americans are unhappy with a lot of what they hear and see and feel about "the direction of the country", whether it be Iraq, the so-called "War on Terror", the economy, big banks, Wall Street, health care, education, crime, government (too big or too small), etc. OTOH, the idea that there is some general consensus as to what "the" direction or "the" track should be is complete nonsense. There are over 300 million of us Americans and each one of us is entitled to our own personal view of what we think the direction of the country should be. In truth, each of us heads our own direction and the "direction" or "track" of the country is "the sum of all curves", the sum and average of all of our "tracks" and "directions" put together. Maybe what this poll really tells us that that we are all becoming much more self-centered (our selves, our families, our neighborhoods, our peer groups) and less oriented towards the concept of a nation. We see it most emphatically on the far right and far left, where compromise, a time-honored American tradition is now considered a base evil.

One question I wish the Times had asked: Do you personally feel that you know what the right track of the country should be? I'm confident that the number of "Yes!" responses would be quite high. That is the problem. Without a renewed conception of compromise, little progress can be made to get the country onto "the right" track.

Another question I have is the role of the Internet in our current state of affairs. Originally, the thought was that the Internet would help to break down boundaries and facilitate communications, but now it seems that there is a very dark side to both of those "improvements." Enhanced communications is now used as a weapon to attack and destroy your opponents. Sure, boundaries are gone, but only in the sense that online combat between opposing groups is now hand-to-hand.

Somewhere along the way we forgot that "the pen is mightier than the sword", and now we are seeing so many more "pens", whther they be blogs, tabloid editorials, talk radio shows, cable TV shows, or other forms of "New Media" being utilized first and foremost as weapons to beat down and destroy your opponents, rather than being tools for seeking understanding, reconciliation, peace, and harmony.

Sure, maybe America is in fact "on the wrong track", but who provided all these wonderful new tools to help fellow Americans push the country so far off of a common, compromise view of what a "common track" should be?

-- Jack Krupansky

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Death by blogging?

Can blogging kill you? Maybe not, but an article in the New York Times by Matt Richtel entitled "In Web World of 24/7 Stress, Writers Blog Till They Drop" chronicles the stress that prolific blogging can inflict on bloggers.

I guess there is an upside to not being an all-out prolific blogger: you get to keep your health and your sanity.

Now, that said, how can I ramp up my page views and ad clicks by a factor of ten? Not enough to cost me my health, mind you, but just a little bit more.

Are there any foods that help you become a better blogger and boost your health? Maybe there is a market for a "Blogger Bar", something that is so tasty (and healthy) that it briefly takes your mind off blogging.

-- Jack Krupansky

Microsoft formally informs Yahoo that they remain impatiently patient

Microsoft just sent Yahoo a letter that essentially informs Yahoo that Microsoft remains impatiently patient, but that their patience is wearing thin. Microsoft published the letter from Steve Ballmer to the Board of Directors of Yahoo on the Microsoft PressPass site. I originally read about the letter from a Reuters article entitled "Microsoft CEO sets deadline Yahoo to agree to deal" which I found on Google News. And I originally saw the headline when I got a stock alert when I logged into I will excerpt the salient points directly from the letter:

  • It has now been more than two months since we made our proposal...

  • ...the pace of the last two months has been anything but speedy.

  • ... there has been no meaningful negotiation to conclude an agreement.

  • ... we've seen no indication that you have authorized Yahoo! management to negotiate with Microsoft.

  • ... our proposal is the only alternative put forward that offers your shareholders full and fair value...

  • ... two months of inactivity...

  • ... the public equity markets and overall economic conditions have weakened considerably...

  • ... public indicators suggest that Yahoo!'s search and page view shares have declined.

  • By any fair measure, the large premium we offered in January is even more significant today.

  • We believe that the majority of your shareholders share this assessment, even after reviewing your public disclosures relating to your future prospects.

  • ... now is the time for our respective companies to authorize teams to sit down and negotiate a definitive agreement on a combination of our companies that will deliver superior value to our respective shareholders, creating a more efficient and competitive company that will provide greater value and service to our customers.

  • If we have not concluded an agreement within the next three weeks, we will be compelled to take our case directly to your shareholders, including the initiation of a proxy contest to elect an alternative slate of directors for the Yahoo! board.

  • If we are forced to take an offer directly to your shareholders, that action will have an undesirable impact on the value of your company from our perspective which will be reflected in the terms of our proposal.

  • We think it is critically important not to let this window of opportunity pass.

Note that the letter is to the board and not to management or the current executives.

It is important to note that Microsoft has not yet reduced their bid price. In fact, they have reaffirmed the original bid and are giving Yahoo a generous "window" to contemplate the bid. This is a reasonably "friendly" carrot and stick approach.

Seriously, if no white knight steps forward, Yahoo's board really has no excuse not to agree to the deal and gain more generous non-financial terms than if they stand idle and allow the "window" to close and then watch the "bear hug" proposal go outright hostile.

I know what advice I would give to Yahoo's board, but I honestly cannot fathom what fantasies might be buzzing around in their heads right now. Who knows, maybe they think Apple, Sun, Oracle, Time Warner, Rupert Murdock, and the Chinese Government will join forces and "rescue" them from The Evil Empire. Or maybe they are working on a plan to auction themselves off on eBay.

-- Jack Krupansky

Google movie search does not indicate matinee shows

Now that I have switched from MSN/Live Search to Google as my primary search engine I start to notice little things where Microsoft is in fact better. For example, just today I did a search for "movies in bellevue" and I was astounded that Google does not mark show times that have matinee discount pricing. MSN/Live indicates matinee shows by putting the time in parentheses. How could Google miss something so obvious? Probably because they cater to "The Elite", the kind of people for whom a couple of bucks is total noise and who are more annoyed by cluttering their screens with all those parentheses. You can always count on Microsoft to cater to "The Masses."

Hmmm... I just noticed another problem in Google... it is not showing any movies for the Bellevue Galleria theater! But wait... neither is MSN/Live! What's going on?!?! Oh well... a search for the theater by name and a click on "show times" brings up this message:

Hallett Cinemas would like to thank our Bellevue and Seattle customers!
After 2 years of helping people "Escape to the movies," Bellevue Galleria 11 closed its doors on 04/03/08.

Sigh. But at least I am relieved that this was not yet another bug in Google.

I am not surprised that this theater closed. In fact, I am surprised it stayed open so long. At least on a Saturday afternoon I would frequently find only a few people in the theater. The Lincoln Square theater two blocks away is much nicer, but having two theaters guaranteed a wider range of movies being shown.

-- Jack Krupansky

Friday, April 04, 2008

Should Microsoft lower its bid for Yahoo?

There are news reports that Microsoft is considering lowering their bid for Yahoo. I am skeptical, but who knows. Even as a Microsoft shareholder I am of mixed mind. On the one hand doing the deal for less money is great, but OTOH the ultimate business value of the deal could be seriously damaged if the employee shareholders of Yahoo feel like they are getting completely screwed. There has to be some balance.

The Bloomberg article entitled "Microsoft May Cut Bid for Yahoo, People Familiar Say" strongly suggests that a cut in price is under consideration:

Microsoft Corp. is examining whether to cut its $44.6 billion offer for Yahoo! Inc. because a U.S. economic slowdown has hurt the Internet company's business, according to two people with knowledge of the matter.

As does the Reuters article entitled "Microsoft evaluating Yahoo bid: sources" which says:

Microsoft Corp is evaluating its bid for Yahoo Inc because the Internet company may have lost value since Microsoft made its offer, people familiar with the matter said on Friday.


The sources told Reuters that Yahoo has lost key personnel, making the company less valuable, while generous severance packages it handed out to executives and full-time employees in the case of a takeover have made it more expensive.

Meanwhile the New York Times article entitled "Microsoft Said to Be Standing Pat on Yahoo" suggests the opposite:

... Microsoft is not considering lowering its offer or withdrawing it all together, the person said.

I have no idea what is really going on, but for now, as a Microsoft shareholder, I would like to see the original offer kept intact. OTOH, if the economy and Yahoo's business deteriorate a lot further, then a new value should be worked out for the deal, at a significantly lower value.

In other words, there is a positive incentive for Yahoo to get the deal done sooner.

And as I have written before, I do not think that money is the real obstacle, but how to protect the value of the Yahoo brand and image and how to deal with the egos of the founders.

-- Jack Krupansky

Should Microsoft walk away from Yahoo?

I am no longer an employee of Microsoft but I do still own a modest chunk of their stock, which means that I am not completely unbiased, but who is these days? Anyway, my opinion is that Microsoft should continue to remain "impatiently patient" and give Yahoo management a bit longer to let reality wear them down so that they can finally accept the inevitable, that a merger of some sort makes a lot of sense for both parties and all shareholders.

I suspect that the remaining stumbling block is twofold: 1) how to preserve as much of the Yahoo brand as possible (while hacking off the deadwood), and 2) how to enable the egos and images of the Yahoo founders to live on in some significantly productive way within the impersonal culture of Microsoft.

As far as money, although that is always a big deal for Wall Street and some shareholders, I do not think that is the deal-breaker here. In fact, if anything, I think Microsoft could lower their big and it would still be quite attractive. I do not think Microsoft will or needs to restructure the financial terms to make the deal work.

Although walking away from the current proposal you allow Microsoft to come back later and pick up Yahoo at an even cheaper price, I think they are too sincere and intent on making the deal happen as soon as realistically possible.

Besides, if Microsoft tormented Yahoo in that way the ASPCA would likely come after them for cruelty to animals. Yahoo is definitely looking a lot like a stray dog wandering the streets looking for a good home.

The good news, the silver lining of the dark cloud of letting the deal string out, is that it is giving both sides a nice quiet period to contemplatively examine any and all issues that would interfere with integration.

My own view is that although there may be a short list of "easy" integration issues that can be taken care of in the first year, both operations (e.g., high-profile Yahoo services and high-profile MSN services) will likely operates in parallel for a couple of years. Duplicated services will not compete for profits per se since all profits go to the parent company, but will compete for survival and that will ensure that staff remains on their toes and does not fall into complacency on either the Yahoo or Microsoft side of the fence.

As far as the major technical integration problem of the differing cultures of Windows and Unix (with some Mac thrown in to spice it up), I would simply note that the world is filled with a mixture of technical cultures (including proprietary versus open source) and the faster and sooner that Microsoft works out an accommodation to bridge the two cultures, the stronger they will be to face the future of a diverse culture landscape. Being forced to bridge the "culture gap" is a really, really good thing for Microsoft and its shareholders. A Windows "mono-culture" has always been a technical and business risk for the company and its shareholders.

I am assuming that online services will finally be separated from the Windows operating system division and run as a relatively standalone business unit in conjunction with Yahoo. In other words, Yahoo and current Microsoft online services run as distinct business units (brands) but in a new online services division on a par with the current top-level divisions. I am hoping that one or both of the Yahoo founders will serve as co-presidents of such a new division, at least for the first two years. This would enable the Yahoo brand and the founders' egos and images to survive in some form as the new division gradually finds its feet.

Yes, the deal faces a lot of challenges, but that is what Microsoft has always been all about.

I think the deal will ultimately be made, once the brand and ego and image issues are addressed, and will work out extraordinary well for all parties, including customers, consumers, and businesses.

Let be hedge on that claim... I have a very low-level of confidence that Google will benefit in the long-run from this deal going forward. But... a Microsoft/Yahoo deal will force Google to "get real" rather than continue to coast on the success of their one big success.

-- Jack Krupansky

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Budgeting for moving to New York City

Since I resigned my job at Microsoft in February, I have been working part-time remotely for a stealth startup on the East Coast from home here in Bellevue, WA since my apartment lease runs through May. Soon I have to decide whether to renew my lease for another year, go month to month for another $300 a month, or move on.

My big interest is to once again live in New York City. Places like Bellevue and Boulder, CO are certainly "nice" if you like the suburban small city lifestyle, but I really enjoy the energy level of Manhattan. Affording life in "The Big City" is a separate question. I have looked at my budget carefully and decided that although it will be tight, I can (barely) swing it. My short-term savings rate will fall to near zero, but I expect to increase my income level gradually over time.

There are two big costs associated with a move to Manhattan: 1) higher apartment rent, and 2) New York State and City income tax. There are plenty of things in Manhattan that are more expensive, but a little budgeting can keep most of the other expenses under control.

On the other hand a big expense is eliminated for me by moving to Manhattan: the cost of budgeting two trips a year to Manhattan. In fact, a big advantage for me living in Manhattan is that I can take trips by train and bus to Boston and Washington, D.C. much more cheaply. Also, I can enjoy life in Manhattan without the need to travel expensively just to get to some place where I can enjoy life more than I can in Manhattan. Sure, I would eventually like to do some world travel, but I am unable to afford that today anyway, so it will have to wait until I (eventually) strike it rich.

I am hoping to get a studio apartment in Manhattan for $1,400 or $1,500, but I may have to pay $1,650. Ouch. But, that included utilities. In fact, if I were to renew my lease here in Bellevue, I will be paying $1,060 once I add in utilities, so the incremental rent is not totally outrageous. In truth, a lot of people will spend a lot more than $590 a month for entertainment and recreation out here in the Seattle area while I simply get a lot of entertainment and recreation for free simply walking around the streets of Manhattan.

I haven't finalized my decision to move back to New York City, but I am almost "there."

Incidentally, I have lived in Manhattan twice before, back in 1994-1997 and 2000-2005.

My next step is to contact my old real estate broker and see what prices and availability are like. I have already been scanning Craigslist for a couple of weeks now, so I know roughly what apartments are going for.

I will probably gravitate back to Tudor City which is in Midtown East, at the east end of 42nd Street across First Avenue from the United Nations, since it is convenient, safe, economical, and has a reasonable level of service.

I will need to budget for a "house hunting" trip, the cost of moving my stuff back East, and a final, one-way trip to Manhattan. I have been thinking about taking the bus or Amtrak train for that final trip. I was originally planning on a trip back to New York City in May or June anyway, so the money I will save by not having to pay for a hotel for 10 days (at $250 to $300 a night) will actually pay for a big chunk of my move.

Other options I have for comparison purposes are moving back to Boulder, CO, to Washington, DC, or to San Francisco. The latter would be interesting, but the simple fact is that as much as I like visiting San Francisco (or Seattle for that matter), I simply really, really enjoy living in Manhattan much better.

The basic downside of moving to Manhattan is that I will be forced to budget myself extremely tightly, but that is probably a good thing in any case. As I said, the nice thing about Manhattan is how much I can enjoy for free.

-- Jack Krupansky

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Back to Google Web Search

I use a variety of Web search engines, but have been using Microsoft MSN/Live Search as my primary search engine for a number of years. My initial bias towards it was because it was easier to start a search by using auto-search by simply typing keywords into the Internet Explorer address box. Search bars came along, but I was not interested in cluttering up my browser. Then IE 7 added a search box next to the address box and even allowed you to both configure a different default search engine and to specify a list of search engines and choose from them for individual searches. I still enjoy the productivity of all these features, but that is independent of which search engine I specify as the default. Today I just switched from MSN/Live back to Google. Not that MSN/Live Search is not a competitive search engine, but I am more of a hard-core power user. The most recent two versions of MSN/Live Search have dramatically narrowed Google's technical lead for most users and will give great results for the average user, but I am not an average user.

Lately I have found that MSN/Live Search gives me decent results for two out of three to four out of five of my search queries, but for that one out of three or four or five I end up less than thrilled or wanting a second opinion and follow up with a Google search (and others sometimes as well.) But these are usually highly technical, non-consumer searches.

I did just run across a consumer search where Google comes out ahead. Search for your flight number by entering the two-letter airline code and the flight number and Google will actually give you the flight status right there at the top of the result page. MSN/Live does not do that. Yahoo does give you a shortcut link but doesn't actually display the status on the result page. That said, I would be surprised if Microsoft does not add that feature within a release or two.

Another reason I am switching to Google is that even when MSN/Live Search does give decent results, I frequently want to see what results pop up higher on Google simply due to search engine optimization (SEO) that focuses primarily on Google. In particular, I want to verify that my own Web and blog pages are ranking as high as possible since Google is still the #1 search engine.

Although I am no longer a Microsoft employee, I am still a shareholder and I do believe that MSN/Live Search really is a seriously competitive search engine for "normal" users. I will be periodically checking search query results on MSN/Live Search to see how they are progressing and will keep them on my "search provider" list in IE, but Google is now my default search engine.

Incidentally, IE 7 is still my default Web browser, but I do have Firefox and Safari installed on my system as well.

-- Jack Krupansky