Tuesday, May 3, 2011

The Starbucks Principle. (part two)

I see that through many of your comments, it's good to see that most of you don't fall for marketing schemes. These advertisements are easy to do for kids stuff, whether it's toys or cereal, all they have to do is make it seem fun and exciting. As the audience gets older it gets away from that and into image, or now the new thing is saving money. So, I am going to write about marketing this time.

Insurance commercials are the big players on the saving money scheme, but they are only useful for new customers or people who haven't been a customer for very long. I've been with State Farm for almost 12 years now for car insurance, a couple of years ago I got curious and went online and called a few other companies. No one could come close to the rates I was getting, this is because if you are a new customer you are automatically a risk. This is not as in a bad driver risk, but that might be the case. New customers, not new drivers, are either fresh off their parents' insurance (still inexperienced), shopping around (flight risk), or just got their driver's privileges back (bad driver). Keep in mind what I am about to tell you is stuff at the corporate levels, any regular salesman or telemarketer does not have any knowledge of this.

For those just off their parents' insurance, the insurance companies still view them as inexperienced. There is also the view of that they may not have that stable of a job, this means that they will bump your rate up a little more. There is also credit, yes, they look at credit as well, being young your score will not be that good (even though you pay your bills on time, don't worry it will get better) and they bump it up more. If you are older and a new customer they are assuming that you are a flight risk, and that after a few months you might find a better deal and move on. Taking this into account they will bump your rate up a little just for that.  If you just got your liscence back, then you're screwed, I hope you can afford it.

Your best bet is to find a company that matches to what you want and what you can afford, stick with them, and be a good driver. Being a good driver and a used car, is the best bet to get your rates down.

The TV service companies are big on new customers, too. Cable and satellite offer great rates to new customers, but yet they screw you over when you stick with them. They regularly raise rates on people, but if you see a deal or something for an upgrade or new equipment they will say "new customers only". I am with DirecTV, and have been for over 6 years. Last year I had to plead with a customer service guy to get a DVR without paying anymore, and in the end I threatened to switch to Dish Network. Soon, I will be moving to cable anyway.

Fast food places also have ads about saving money, the difference about those guys are that they are telling the truth but the sizes are shrinking. Like at McDonald's the standard Quarter Pounder hasn't shrunk because they can't change a standard size without having a lawsuit, but the regular burgers are shrinking. Then there's the idea of that they hide information, they will advertise that a "value" fries is $1 (or $0.99, depending on where you go) and you will assume that the "value" fries is a small. No, the small is not the $1 size, but you won't know that until you pay for it.

Image is a big scheme that advertisers and marketers work for. You can see the commercials for Old Navy, Scion, Mac, and so on, all show in some sort of way that the product is cooler, hipper, faster, stylish, etc.  None of the products will change who you are, the only thing they might do is help you find people who buy the same products. The same people who fall for subliminal messages, and think they are better than others based on the products they buy, basically superficial people. People should buy products based on what they will use it for, not because they saw some ad somewhere saying it's better than product X.

Personally, I the stuff I buy is usually based on durability. I buy Levi's jeans, I have found that they last longer than others I have tried out, in fact I have some that are almost 10 years old without holes. I am not going to buy jeans based on the "style", because styles change and the manufacture takes this into account with the quality. The manufacturer doesn't need to make durable items if their product will not be used for more than a year. Same thing with cars, if you keep up with maintenance then a car will last a long time. If you don't keep up with maintenance then the car will only last about three to five years (usually about the time that people think they need a new one anyway).

There is also one more factor that the general public fall for, that is the product placement factor in TV and movies. This includes drinks, computers, food, cars, guns, just about anything you can think of. Look for labels on any TV show or movie then look at the credits and you will find that the products that you saw will be recognized by the producers. Then do the same thing and look for products that you know what they are but they don't show the name or the label, usually some sort of canned drink, and you will see that they are not recognized. This is another way that people will buy something based on some actor they saw using it on a screen, even though the actor may not use it in real life.

Basically all these little hints permeate someones mind and more or less decides for them what they are going to buy. I have seen that this affects women more than men and this only works if someone is not aware that it is happening, I hope that explaining all this makes you aware so that you can make informed decisions on what you buy.

Monday, May 2, 2011

We got him!

I know it's been a long time since my last post, it's been hectic. Nearing the end of the semester, wife over planning my life without my permission, tornadoes, mother issues, etc.

But I do want to say this:

Thursday, April 21, 2011

The Starbucks Principle. (part one)

My wife was at the grocery store the other week and one of the things we needed was coffee. She knows I like Dunkin' Donuts coffee, and she picked up a bag. There was a guy there who was also getting coffee. As she was getting the coffee the guy says, "Glad I'm not selling out like that."

She tells me all this when she get's home and I ask what coffee he got. She tells me he got Starbucks.
the oil in my hair is more expensive than the oil in your car

This is just a piece of what I call "The Starbucks Principle". I believe it stems from the idea that if something is expensive then that something is good; higher cost equals the item is better working, tasting, feeling, smelling, and so on.

Now let me explain why this is. A company wants to sell more product, with their current prices they can't really do much marketing, so they raise the price to cover for it. They launch a campaign and the sales go up even though they raised their prices. If they didn't raise prices then the company would not be able to afford the marketing campaign and would go out of business. On the other hand, if this company did not market and only raised prices to increase profit they would lose sales.

The typical consumer sees the ads, the shops, or the product popping up everywhere and starts to buy it. Even though it is equal to (or worse than) another brand that doesn't market and is cheaper. The consumer becomes convinced that what he/she buys is so much better than the "inferior" cheaper brands because if they are wrong then they are not as intelligent (and nobody likes being wrong).

This is the case with Starbucks, they became popular through marketing, not through being better than the rest. To me their coffee tastes burned, now I drink my coffee black, so, if I got one with all the cream and sugar it would cover up the taste. I also have tried coffee at Panera Bread a few times, and that tastes watered down and weak. It seems that when the store fronts arrive to sell coffee then the taste suffers. This is also a common perspective from other coffee drinkers that I know in my area.

So, $4 coffee that tastes burned (Starbucks) is better than the $1 coffee at a convenience store (Maxwell House, my number 2 pick and where I stop on my way to college)?

No. What this is implying is status, the idea that one will buy something not for the intended purpose, but for the idea that people will look at them differently because of what they buy or the feeling they get by buying something more expensive than what a common person would buy. This can be with coffee, cars, computers, food, anything.

Now, think about the guy in the beginning of this post. He didn't think of himself as "selling out" because he has justified himself in buying a better product solely on the basis of it's cost, regardless of what his taste buds may tell him. Therefore, he thinks others that buy close to his expense as selling out and of lower or common cost, like Folgers or Maxwell House being lower than him.

This is a common misconception that the more expensive product you buy the better your life will be, or the product will help you more than a lesser expensive product. If you do this you are throwing away your money. You don't need Advil, you need generic ibuprofen. You don't need a Grande Cafe Latte Mocha with light foam in the morning, you just need a cup of coffee with cream and sugar. I'm sure you can think of other examples.
it's not like you really needed that anyway

Monday, April 18, 2011

Are you a people person?

I don't have a job, so other than going back to school and taking online classes, my days are filled with looking for what little jobs there are. This makes me wish that Google would hurry up and accept my Adsense account so, maybe I can get a little cash. But, that's not what I am going to write about.

What I am going to write about is the human resources people and that one question that has no application to the job I am trying to get. "Are you a people person?" I hate that question. Inevitably I say yes, but they can see through it. HR people have taken psych classes and such to look out for signs.

The problem is HR people have been trained to look for certain things, what the applicant's experience or education is, if they can offer a lower wage or salary than the average for the area, and if the applicant is a "people person".  This question is generally asked to weed out any potential problems that may rise between coworkers.

In the HR person's mind there are only two types of people, the "people persons" and the others who show antisocial behavior who may pose a problem in the future. In the real world (under this type of thinking) there are four; the people person, the personable person, the manipulator, the antisocial.

Not antisocial, it just seems that way
The people person is the employee that does his work but as soon as he is not being watched he will strike up a conversation with anyone around, if this is not possible the cell phone comes out and under the table tapping begins. Yes, he will get along with just about everyone, but production could be better. The personable person is not the people person, he is personable, but does not focus his efforts on people, his focus is the work. The conversations are usually short, not dragged out like the people person, and cell phones are emergency or break time only. The manipulator is the one that can act like a people person but really isn't, his conversations are usually to collect ammunition against people and then talk about you as soon as you leave. The antisocial one are not necessarily the type of person the shrinks say are bad, those are dissociative people, I am meaning the people who separate work friends from other friends. They probably never or rarely see or talk to coworkers outside of work and usually remain private individuals, this does not make them bad it just means they like to compartmentalize their life, they have work, then they have others. Typically it will go farther than that with work, family, friends, church, school, etc., and rarely if ever will any of them meet.

The manipulator's view of HR.
In only looking for one type of person, this creates a type of work environment that lowers production. If HR people only look for people persons then everyone will want to chat whenever they get the chance. They ruin production for the sake of everyone getting along well and having a social environment. Another issue is that the manipulators usually end up in this category because they make themselves look like a people person. But the manipulators are the worst of all, they make others look bad in order to make themselves look good, even though they really suck at their job (they usually make their way into an undeserved position of power and still refuse to take any responsibility). The personable people, are usually considered antisocial because they end up being short with people, even though they are nice and pleasant. They don't carry on long conversations after the initial start, they know that they are here to work, not to be part of a social club. With the antisocials the big difference between them and the personables is the compartmentalization of their friends, although to any single group it looks like he has few friends but then he may have many groups. Also, the antisocial may be a little more of an ass along with being short with people.

Myself, I fall somewhere in the antisocial/personable range, I can get along with just about everyone until I realize that someone is a manipulator, then I will do whatever it takes to stay away from them. And, no, I am not going to school as a psych major, I just observe and group (compartmentalize).

Hope this may be of some use to those who follow me. I am going to watch some Tom and Jerry now.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Putting it to rest.

Today I will be talking about the Mac vs. PC thing.  So, if you are a die hard fan of either one, turn away now if you do not want your truth shaken, because this is going to be a rough ride.

Myth 1: A Mac and a PC are completely different machines.
Truth: They are not, although this might have been true a few years ago when Apple was still using the PPC (PowerPC) platform. But they have moved on from there and are using the x86 (32 or 64 bit) platform, a.k.a. Intel processors. With this at the core of the machine they are the same, and many of the components that are in Macs are also compatible with other operating systems. This means the video cards can be found in both, the hard drives are the same, the wi-fi is the same, everything that you can find on the inside of a Mac can be found in a PC. At this point they are both PCs, and if you didn't know PC stands for Personal Computer. If a Mac is not a Personal Computer then that marketing directors need to do a little reading.

Myth 2: A Mac user is different than other people.
Truth:  It's a computer, just a computer, it does not carry who you are or your sense of purpose. An object does not make you different, and differences do not cause you to buy certain objects. If you really think that Mac users are different than everyone else, then let me offer some insight. If you are now, or ever have been part of a group that follow a certain trend, then you will look at all others outside of that group as the same. If you have ever been a jock, prep, goth, grunge, emo, hipster, etc. then you stick to others in that group and you end up calling everyone else the same (or robots, sheep, cattle, clones, etc.). But, if you reverse that and take one person out of everyone using a "PC" and they look at the Mac group they will notice a uniformity and a conformity of the Mac users. So, yes they are different but still the same in their own niche.

Myth 3: Macs run a different operating system than PCs.
Truth: This is true but in 2001 when Apple released OSX they became more like another small minority of computer users out there, the *nix crowd. Windows is Microsoft's incarnation, OSX is not Apple's baby. Apple OSX is derived from Unics (now Unix), an operating system conceived and incarnated by AT&T in 1969. The majority of *nix users (Unix and Linux) would be the hackers, geeks, nerds, etc. and Apple just jumped right in with them. I think this is because of stability issues, Unix and it's derivatives are known for stability an with Mac OS 9 and earlier they did have problems when the CPU was under heavy loads. But, the point is that I know many people that run Linux or Unix on their computer, myself included. This means that OSX is not different than other operating systems on PCs. Also, with other manufacturers building computers with some sort of Linux on it (Asus, Dell, HP, and other smaller names) they are becoming more and more similar.

Myth 4: Macs are more secure.
Truth: Really? People actually believe that? Any Operating System can be hacked, any computer can be hacked. Computer security is up to the person using it, if the user has the operating system open, has easy passwords, or has entire hard drives or system folders shared then they will be easy to hack. Or if the user does not have good virus protection (more on that later). I use FreeBSD 8 for my firewall/router at home, it is very secure. It can be hacked, though. It will be hard to do, password is a seemingly random combination of letters, numbers, and special characters, and if someone tries to guess it, they only get three tries then their IP address gets black listed. Then they have to change the IP address and they can have another three tries. But with many operating systems there are exploits, known as work arounds or back doors, the more programs that can connect to the internet the more chances of exploits there are. With this in mind, my laptop might be easier to hack (even though it's Linux) than my firewall because the firewall is stripped down to only what it needs to do its job. Same thing with OSX and Windows, if one of those systems is hacked then it depends on the permissions of the user that got hacked whether or not the system can be brought down.

Myth 5: With Macs I don't have to worry about getting viruses.
Truth: This is also laughable, this is more of a demographic thing really. Say I want to take up a life of crime, would I do this in a small rural town, population 500, where 300 of them are farmers? Or would I do this in a large city where there are many more targets and there are more places to hide? Go for the large city. This also applies to operating systems. Windows has about 90% of the market, almost all of the viruses, trojans, and malware is written for Windows. This does not mean that there are none written for OSX, Unix, or Linux, but with the file permissions that those operating systems have they will do little damage to the actual operating system. Another point of this is the possibility of carrying a virus. If a virus is written for Windows and you get that virus in an email (along with a cute, heartwarming story), and then you are so touched that you send it off to your entire contact list and of course 90% of them are Windows users. Well, guess what you just did. Always, have an anitvirus no matter what your operating system is.

So, the point of all this comes down to a simple formula: preference = needs * (performance/price) = operating system you use. Using a 10 point scale, for me was 10*10/1000=0.1 Linux. I need it to do just about anything including booting to Windows (10), I needed good performance (10 but leaning to 9), and I wanted no more than $1000. Again, what you want to do with your computer, how well you want it to perform at those tasks, and how much you want to spend.

There is more to this like the psychological aspects of computer buying and operating system of choice but that is for a later post.

Joke: Linux Commands:
unmount       any question?

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

My Little Helpers and a small how to.

I like little programs that run in the background.  I like USEFUL little programs that run in the background. Many Windows users are familiar with the long string of background programs in the right side of the toolbar in Windows XP. Many of these are not useful. Microsoft came to the realization that they should hide these better in XP sp2, Vista and 7, so instead you only have a few and a button to show more. I have moved on from Windows, though, (still have one XP computer for legacy stuff) and gone to Linux years ago. But, I would like to point out three little helpers that I use regularly, two of which are cross platform.

Granola is a power management program that adjusts your CPU voltage according to what it needs. I must reverberate this: it can ONLY adjust your CPU and nothing else. But, the CPU typically uses the most power, unless you have one of those massively powerful video cards*. This little helper runs on Windows and Linux (sorry Mac users), personally my laptop gained an extra 40-45 minutes of battery life. This means that not only do I save money off my electric bill, it didn't cost me anything to do it. That's right, granola is free for up to five computers, I have it on four. www.grano.la

*Before arguing that the power supply or the motherboard takes more energy than the CPU, the power supply is a necessary part and should not be counted. The motherboard is basically a power distribution system where everything is plugged into. Just like any electrical system expect lost power and resistance with every break in connection.

Prey like a free low jack for your computer. This can work in two ways, either you can use their control panel (free is limited, you can pay for the extras), or you can set it up to email you when a file on the internet is missing. I have it set up for the latter, I linked it to a file on the internet, then I renamed the file and it proceded to collect the IP address, a geolocation (according to the IP), a webcam shot, and a screenshot. Then it emailed it all to me. Worked very nicely, and I suggest it for any one who has a laptop. This one works for Windows, Mac, Linux, and Android. www.preyproject.com

The last little helper is openSSH, an open source Secure SHell server/client. For those of you on Linux, BSD, and even OS-X you may know about ssh, it is just a way to connect to the terminal of another machine. I use this regularly on my home network, not only doing command line stuff but by using "ssh -X" I can run graphical programs on my file server in my basement, but have it displayed on my laptop. SSH is also good for creating secure tunnels if you are on an unsecured (or less secure than you like) network, also in this way getting around pesky content filters at school. www.openssh.com

The How-To:
Purpose: To create a secure connection on an insecure network.
Reason: To prevent packet sniffing or man in the middle attacks (people seeing what you do), bypassing filters.
Requirements: A computer with an internet connection with an ssh server running. Another computer with an ssh client that is on a separate network than the server.

1. Set up your ssh server with a username and password other than a superuser or root.
2. Open up your ssh client by using the command "ssh user@server -D 8080" (change user to what you set up and server to the IP address of the server or TLD). What his does is ssh into the server as the user, -D binds the port (8080) to the address.
3. After it connects you should be promoted for a password, fill it in and hit enter. After you get the $ prompt, you are almost there. Leave the client running.
4. Open your favorite browser settings, and find the proxy settings. Set the Socks proxy to "localhost" or "" and set the port to the number you used in step 2. Click Apply, OK, Confirm or whatever your browser has and enjoy your secure connection.

Explanation: Normally your browsing is not secure (unless you are on a secure site), this means that anyone can sniff out of the air what you do online. This is also how content filters work, it looks for keywords or sites and blocks them. If you want to go to www.torproject.org, but can't (my school blocks it) then this is how, the filters don't see www.torproject.org on port 80 because you aren't using port 80 to get to it. Instead, they see something like "jksdfl;jaionc89wp4ni286v55659+ew" on port 8080. So, what the ssh tunnel does is make a tunnel through the connection you are using (insecure), through the internet to your ssh server (secure), then to where you want to go and back to you. This means if anyone is sniffing out what you do they will only see jumbled characters, it also means that any key words or sites that get blocked can't be because it can't see what you are actually getting to. More details can be found here.

Caveats: Be sure to change your settings back when you close the connection. I remember telling a guy this and then he yelled at me when he didn't change it back, so when he tried to use the browser again he got nowhere. If you are using Putty as a client the command to connect may require a "-d" not "-D".

Good luck. Be smart, Use knowledge wisely.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Spring, what a miserable time of year.

I just realized today, that I would be having to do yard work again, soon. Not too soon, but soon. the grass is growing, the woodline is encroaching to my yard, bugs, squirrels, heat, and the horrible sun.
The sun. hmm. A massive spherical chain reaction of nuclear explosions, emitting radiation on everything facing it. Not only that but this time of year he likes to wake you up earlier. "Get up, get up, there's a lawn to be mowed. You have to mow it because I helped it to grow. HA! Look at what I can make you do."

I think the only thing the sun is good for is making the female side of the human race shed clothing, I enjoy a good clothing to skin ratio. I mention ratio because I don't enjoy seeing a 250 lb. whale in a bikini. So, the more skin you have means the more clothes you wear, see?

This brings me to another topic sun worshipers. These are the people that have time just to lay around in the sun for hours. These are mostly women and they intend to look good, which is fine on the short term but will reverse on the long term. I had a conversation with one of these women once, it went something like this (edited for clarity, she was young):
Me: Why do you lay out so much.
Her: Because it looks good being tan.
Me: But it won't look good in the future, it will make you look haggard and wrinkled.
Her: No it won't, and if it does then make up will fix that.
Me: Not if you do it so much.
Her: Then I'll get plastic surgery.
Me: If you can afford it, and if you do it so much you will get skin cancer.
Her: You'll get cancer, too, you smoke.
Me: Yeah, but you won't be able to see my cancer. Everyone will see yours.

I didn't make any impact but I do feel better that I at least gave a warning. I should have explained about the Islamic Woman Dilemma*.

If you work outside I am not against you being out in the sun, that is noble. You are doing something while being beat down by the evil sun, not just being lazy and "catching some rays". I commend your farmer tan, your hat line, your salt stained shoes. I have been there, too, but I will not just lay there to bake my skin.

* if you want to know about the Islamic Woman Dilemma, let me know in a comment and I will write it up.