Saturday, 20 December 2008

Hedge Funds and the Financial Market

George Soros (from Flickr)

The Committee on Oversight and Government reform held a hearing titled, “Hedge Funds and the Financial Market” on Thursday, November 13, 2008.
Here you can read some interesting excerpts:

Testimony of Professor David Ruder (Professor of Law Emeritus, Northwestern University School of Law, Former Chairman, U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission 1987-1989)

The definition of hedge fund is unclear. The SEC has acknowledged that the term has no "precise legal or universally accepted definition". The President's Working Group on the Financial Markets has called a hedge fund "any pooled investment vehicle that is privately organized, administered by professional managers, and not widely available to the public".
[...]
Hedge fund managers do not want their investment strategies to become known.
[...]
Although hedge funds have been active participants in the financial markets during the past years, they do not seem to have played a major role in the events precipitating the crisis. [...], the market participants central to the credit crisis were loan originators, investment banks, rating agencies, and sellers of credit default swaps.

Testimony of Professor Andrew Lo (Director, MIT Laboratory for Financial Engineering, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Sloan School of Management)

If hedge funds are forced to reveal their strategies, the most intellectually innovative ones will simply cease to exist or move to other less intrusive regulatory jurisdictions.

Testimony of Houman Shadab (Senior Research Fellow, Mercatus Center, George Mason University)

First, hedge funds did not cause the financial crisis and are in fact helping to mitigate its damage and save taxpayers money. [...]
Second, hedge funds' short-selling activities have helped draw attention to the poor management and investment decisions of financial companies in recent years. [...]
Finally, existing laws and regulations should be strictly enforced against hedge funds and their managers, but changing how hedge funds are regulated could actually undermine the interests of investors and increase economic instability.

Testimony of Philip Falcone (senior managing director and co-founder of Harbinger
Capital Partners Funds)

Our investment philosophy is very simple; we study, often for months, the fundamentals of companies to identify those that are undervalued or overvalued, and we act decisively when opportunities present themselves. We are not momentum traders, nor are we day traders; we are investors. It is not magic. My analists perform thorough due diligence, rather than relying on ratings agencies or other research reports -- like many of the reports that improperly valued securitized mortgage products over the past few years.

Testimony of Kenneth Griffin (founder and CEO of Citadel Investment Group)

I am proud that in the 18 years since I founded Citadel, it has grown into a financial institution of great strenght and capability, with a team of over 1,400 talented individuals. Citadel manages approximately $ 15 billion of investment capital for a broad array of institutional investors, endowments, high-net-worth individuals and Citadel's employees.

Testimony of James Simons (chairman and CEO of Renaissance Technologies LLC)

Renaissance's investment approach is driven by my background in mathematics. Before I ever entered the business world, I was a mathematician. I have a PhD from Berkeley, won the 1975 Veblen Prize of the American Mathematics Society (given every four years for work in geometry and topology), and taught mathematics at the MIT and Harvard before becoming the chairman of the Mathematics Department at the State University of New York at Stony Brook. Along the way, I spent four years as a code cracker for the National Security Agency. Renaissance, an SEC-registered Investment Adviser since 1998, manages what are termed quantitative funds - funds whose trading is determined by mathematical formulas designed to predict market behavior. Individual trades are generated by computers, based on work continually developed by our researchers. Naturally, human beings carefully monitor the trade execution process, making sure that all parts of the system are behaving properly. We operate in only highly liquid, publicly listed securities, such as stocks, bonds, currencies, and commodities, and do this on exchanges throughout the world. This means, for example, that we do not trade in credit default swaps or collateralized debt obligations, neither of which satisfies the above criteria. In the stock trading of our Medallion Fund, we hold balanced portfolios in each country, i.e., portfolios very close to being equally long and short. Our trading models tend to buy stocks that are recently out of favor and sell those recently in favor.

Testimony of John Paulson (president and founder of Paulson & Co. Inc)

Paulson & Co. Inc is an investment advisory firm that was founded in 1994 and has been registered with the SEC since 2004. We currently manage assets of approximately $ 36 billion using event-driven strategies. We are based in New York and also have offices in London and Hong Kong. We have approximately seventy employees. Prior to founding the firm, I was a Managing Director in Mergers & Acquisitions at Bear Stearns. I am a summa cum laude graduate from New York University and graduated with high distinction, as a Baker Scholar, from Harvard Business School in 1980. Our investors include pension funds, endowments, banks, insurance companies, family offices and high-net-worth individuals in the U.S. and around the world. All of the investment funds we manage are open only to "qualified purchasers", which are highly sophisticated investors with $5 million in investable assets if they are individuals, and $25 million in investable assets if they are institutions. Our investors look to us to protect their capital, and to show positive returns in both good and bad markets. We do this by going long securities that we think will rise in value and going short securities that we think will decline in value. By constructing a diverse portfolio of both long and short positions, we have been able to operate profitably in 14 out of the last 15 years, including this year and the 2000-2002 periods when the NASDAQ index lost 78% of its value. [...] We share profits with our investors on an 80/20 basis where 80% of the profits go to the investors and 20% remains with us. We only earn performance allocations if our investors are profitable. All of our funds have a "high water mark", which means that if we lose money for our investors, we have to earn it back before we share in future profits. Some of our funds also have a "claw back" provision, requiring us to return profits earned in prior periods if we lose money in subsequent periods. In addition, we invest our own money alongside that of our clients, so we share investment losses along with gains.
We are a private company and have no public shareholders. We receive no taxpayer subsidies. All of our investors invest with us on a voluntary basis. We also use very little leverage. Over the past five years, for over half the time our base portfolios were not funded with any borrowed money, and our maximum borrowing as a percentage of equity capital over this period was 33%.
In February 2004, we voluntarily registered with the SEC as an investment advisor.

Testimony of George Soros

The crisis was generated by the financial system itself. This fact - that the defect was inherent in the system - contradicts the prevailing theory, which holds that financial markets tend toward equilibrium and that deviations from the equilibrium either occur in a random manner or are caused by some sudden external event to which markets have difficulty adjusting. The severity and amplitude of the crisis provides convincing evidence that there is something fundamentally wrong with this prevailing theory and with the approach to market regulation that has gone with it.

Friday, 12 December 2008

Zeitgeist of the year 2008

Sarah Heath Palin: she lost election but she won the Google Zeigeist


One year ago, i wrote about Google Zeitgeist of 2007. Now it's time to write about the Zeitgeist of they year 2008.

Zeitgeist is a german word and it could be translated as "spirit of the age" or "spirit of the times", it is best known in relation to Hegel's view of philosophy of history.

From Google Zeitgeist site:
As the year comes to a close, it's time to look at the big events, memorable moments and emerging trends that captivated us in 2008. As it happens, studying the aggregation of the billions of search queries that people type into the Google search box gives us a glimpse into the zeitgeist — the spirit of the times. We've compiled some of the highlights from Google searches around the globe and hope you enjoy looking back as much as we do.

Actually, in US Zeitgeist they are more specific:
"Fastest rising" means we looked at the most popular searches conducted for 11 months of 2008 (we compile this list by early December) and ranked them based on how much their frequency increased compared to 2007.

Fastest Rising (Global)
  1. sarah palin
  2. beijing 2008
  3. facebook login
  4. tuenti
  5. heath ledger
  6. obama
  7. nasza klasa
  8. wer kennt wen
  9. euro 2008
  10. jonas brothers

1 Tuenti is a Madrid-based, invite only private social networking website (launched on May 2006) that has been referred to as the "Spanish Facebook". The name Tuenti, pronounced in Spanish, sounds like Twenty in English. Tuenti is targeted at the Spanish audience. The site is currently accessible only to those who have been invited
2 nasza-klasa.pl (Our Class) is a large social networking platform for people in Poland, a social networking site bringing together a school's students and alumni; launched on november 2006, today has 11 million registered people
3 wer kennt wen is a german social networking website created on 2006, today has 4.9 million of users
4 Jonas Brothers are an american boy band active since 2005

---

Google.com - Fastest Rising (U.S.)
  1. obama
  2. facebook
  3. att
  4. iphone
  5. youtube
  6. fox news
  7. palin
  8. beijing 2008
  9. david cook
  10. surf the channel

5 att should be AT&T: the largest provider of both local and long distance telephone services, DSL Internet access and wireless service in the United States with 71.4 million wireless customers and more than 150 million total customers
6 David Cook (1982) is an American singer-songwriter. On May 21, 2008, he won the seventh season of the reality television show American Idol
7 SurfTheChannel is website for TV fans

---

Fastest Rising UK

  1. iplayer
  2. facebook
  3. iphone
  4. youtube
  5. yahoo mail
  6. large hadron collider
  7. obama
  8. friv
  9. jogos
  10. wiki

Most Popular UK
  1. facebook
  2. bbc
  3. youtube
  4. ebay
  5. games
  6. news
  7. hotmail
  8. bebo
  9. yahoo
  10. jobs
8 friv is Friv.com: a site with 200 flash games online
9 large hadron collider (LHC) is the world's largest particle accelerator

---

You can't miss the Techcrunch article about the Google Zeitgeist and you can read the TOP 10 searches for 2008 by Yahoo (but it's so similar to the 2007 list!):

1 Britney Spears
2 WWE (World Wrestling Entertainment)
3 Barack Obama
4 Miley Cyrus
5 RuneScape
6 Jessica Alba
7 Naruto
8 Lindsay Lohan
9 Angelina Jolie
10 American Idol

Where are the techno-enthusiasts who were telling us "Mankind will enter a new era with Internet!" ??

Monday, 1 December 2008

The battle of (mobile)phones goes on

pic from Flickr - iPhone

Last year i was writing about phone business: iPhone and Android, let's see what happened in the last 12 months.
On 14th November 2007, i wrote about Android Developer Challenge: a contest for the most innovative application for Android, 10 million US dollars distributed between two phases of the competition.

First phase - 12th May 2008 - The top 50 applications are announced, click here to know 46 of them (4 teams decided "to continue their efforts in secret"); each team received a $25,000 award to fund further development
Second phase - 25th September 2008 - 10 teams received a $275,000 award each and 10 teams received a $100,000 award each. Click here to know all the projects

The winner of $275,000 award are:
cab4me
cab4me enables you to easily call a cab to any location worldwide
CompareEverywhere
Compare prices, read reviews, and connect with local stores
Ecorio
Ecorio automatically tracks your mobile carbon footprint, suggests transit and carpooling alternatives and lets you stay carbon neutral by offsetting your trips easily
GoCart
Scan a product's barcode with your phone's camera and view all the best prices online and at nearby, local stores
Life360
Life360 uses a multi-channel messaging system and neighborhood-centric social network to keep you up-to-date and in contact with your family and local community
Locale
Locale is an advanced settings manager that automatically changes your phone's settings based on conditions, such as location
PicSay
Easy to use image editor that enables you to quickly personalize your pictures and share them with friends or photo sites
Softrace
With Softrace people around the world meet online to compete against each other in different physical activities
TuneWiki
TuneWiki Social Media Player, is an advanced player, featuring synchronized lyrics for audio or video, translation, music maps and a social network
Wertago
Find the hottest parties in town and connect with friends and others all night long

Since 21 Oct 2008, Android is available as open source, the source is approximentely 2.1GB in size

The first phone in the market running Android is the T-Mobile G1, released on 22nd October 2008, it came preinstalled with Android 1.0

pic from Wikipedia - T-Mobile G1 (made by HTC)


And what happened to the iPhone?
iPhone has been a big success but iPhone 3G has been a HUGE success:

picture from Wikipedia
Q1 Oct-Dec; Q2 Jan-Mar; Q3 Apr-Jun; Q4 Jul-Sep

iPhone was realeased on 29th June 2007, iPhone3G was released on 11th July 2008. Apple sold more iPhones in 92 days (July-Sep 2008) than in the previous 12 months!! 6.89 million of iPhones in July-Sep 2008 and 6.124 million from 29th June 2007 to 30th June 2008.
Apple might win the battle of business but isn't winning the battle for climate leadership.

From the site of Greenpeace:

The Guide to Greener Electronics is our way of getting the electronics industry to take responsibility for the entire lifecycle of its products. We want it to face up to the problem of e-waste and take on the challenge of tackling climate change.

First launched in August 2006, the Guide ranks the leaders of the mobile phone, computer, TV and games console markets according to their policies and practices on toxic chemicals, recycling and energy. Since June 2008, the Guide has ranked companies on five climate and energy criteria. In this current edition we're focussing on climate leadership - not only because the global climate needs it but because electronics firms have a big role to play in the low-carbon economy of the future.

Nokia is the best one: ranking 6.9/10
Apple ranking 4.3/10

Saturday, 22 November 2008

Complete results of 2008 US presidential election


pic from Wikipedia - popular vote by county


pic from Wikipedia - red denotes states/districts won by McCain/Palin, blue by Obama/Biden. Numbers indicate the number of electoral votes allotted to each state


Election results
  1. Barack Obama 67,981,686 votes--------52.77%--------365 electoral votes
  2. John McCain 59,082,002 votes--------45.86%--------173 electoral votes
  3. Ralph Nader 720,227 votes-------------0.56%----------------------------
Barack Obama/Joe Biden (democratic party) won in 28 states + DC + NE2
(California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, DC, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachussets, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska2, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, Washington and Wisconsin)

John McCain/Sarah Heath Palin (republican party) won in 22 states
(Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Georgia, Idaho, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississipi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska1, Nebraska3, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, West Virginia and Wyoming)

Barack Obama is going to be the first president (since John Fitzgerald Kennedy) who has been neither a governor nor a vice president. If John McCain had won, it would have been the same (but McCain spent 4 years as a member of House of Representatives and 22 years as a member of Senate)

The night of 4th November 2008, Obama gave his acceptance speech:



McCain gave his concession speech (click here)

It's impossible not to talk about another famous speech:
28th August 1963 - Martin Luther King's speech (I have a dream) in Washington during the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom



MLK: "I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character."

If MLK had been alive today, what would he has said? Is his dream real today??

Thursday, 20 November 2008

Best DJs of 2008!!


record needle on technics 1210 (pic from Flickr)

I talked about it one year ago and I can't miss it this year!
DJ magazine wrote the TOP 100 DJ of 2008, the first two positions haven't changed:

1 Armin Van Buuren - (Netherlands)

2 Tiësto - (Netherlands)

3 Paul Van Dyk - (Germany)

4 Above & Beyond - (England)

5 David Guetta - (France)

6 Ferry Corsten - (Netherlands)

7 Sasha - (Wales)

8 Markus Schulz - (Germany)

9 John Digweed - (England)

10 Infected Mushroom - (Israel)

11 Deadmau5 - (Canada)

12 Carl Cox - (England)

13 Sander van Doorn - (Netherlands)

14 Paul Oakenfold - (England)

15 Richie Hawtin - (England)

16 Hernan Cattaneo - (Argentina)

17 James Zabiela - (England)

18 Andy Moor - (England)

19 Eddie Halliwell - (England)

20 Axwell - (Sweden)
--
To know the whole TOP 100, click here

Friday, 14 November 2008

Investment banks and financial crisis 2007-2008

Leverage ratios of investment banks (from Wikipedia)


US Gross Federal Debt, unadjusted for inflation (from Wikipedia)


If we want to try to understand the global financial crisis going on now, we need to try to understand the role of investment banks in USA.
There is an interesting paper about investment banks, the paper was written and it's called
The Demise of Investment-Banking Partnerships: Theory and Evidence
written in 2004 by Alan D. Morrison (University of Oxford-Said Business School; University of Oxford-Merton College) and William J. Wilhelm Jr (University of Oxford-Said Business School; University of Virginia-School of Law)

Abstract:
Until 1970, the New York Stock Exchange prohibited public incorporation of member firms. After the rules were relaxed to allow joint stock firm membership, investment-banking concerns organized as partnerships or closely-held private corporations went public in waves, with Goldman Sachs (1999) the last of the bulge bracket banks to float. In this paper, we ask why the Investment Banks chose to float after 1970, and why they did so in waves. In our model, partnerships have a role in fostering the formation of human capital. We examine in this context the effect of technological innovations which serve to replace or to undermine the role of the human capitalist and hence we provide a technological theory of the partnership's going-public decision. We support our theory with a new dataset of investment bank partnership statistics.

This is a very important issue: before 1970, the New York Stock Exchange (the famous Wall Street) prohibited investment banks from going public (in USA "going public" means starting an IPO in order to enter the stock exchange).

We can read from the official site of NYSE:

Public Can Own Member Firms
March 26 1970
Public ownership of member firms is approved for the first time

And, maybe, it was the beginning of the end...

James Surowiecki wrote (29 September 2008; The New Yorker):

[...] All, then, seemed good. But, for Wall Street firms, going public was a deal with the devil, because it meant exposing themselves to what was, in effect, a minute-by-minute referendum, in the form of the stock price, on the health of their operations. This was fine as long as things were going well—the higher the stock price, the richer everyone got—but, once things started to go bad, that market referendum started to look like a vote of no confidence. And that made the problems that the companies were already facing much, much worse. [...]

and

[...] All companies, of course, worry about how their stock is doing. But for most the stock price is a product of performance, rather than a cause of it. If Procter & Gamble’s stock plummeted tomorrow, people would still keep buying Tide. By contrast, if an investment bank’s share price tumbles, it not only wrecks people’s confidence but also can lead to credit-rating downgrades, which provoke a further decline in the stock price, and so on. The downward spiral can be stunningly fast and near-impossible to escape. [...]

After 1970, investment banks could enter the stock exchange, and theese are the dates when they decided to do so (NYSE):

1971 Merrill Lynch
1985 Bear Stearns
1986 Morgan Stanley
1994 Lehman Brothers
1999 Goldman Sachs

What happened to the 5 investment banks that we can see from the first image?

Merrill Lynch: acquired by Bank of America
Bear Stearns: acquired by JPMorgan Chase (with the help of the Fed)
Morgan Stanley: changed its status from investment bank to bank holding
company
Lehman Brothers: bankruptcy
Goldman Sachs: changed its status from investment bank to bank holding
company

On 23rd September 2008 we heard:

The FBI is investigating Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc and insurer American International Group Inc and their senior executives for potential mortgage fraud, CNN reported on Tuesday.

Well, who is going to investigate the role of the Sec about the subprime crisis??

Monday, 3 November 2008

35 innovators


Last year I already talked about this (35 beautiful minds) and I'm glad to write about it again.

Since 1999, the editors of Technology Review (magazine of Massachussets Institute of Technology) have honored the young innovators whose inventions and research they find most exciting; today that collection is the TR35, a list of technologists and scientists, all under the age of 35. Their work--spanning medicine, computing, communications, electronics, nanotechnology, and more--is changing our world.

Theese are the winners of 2008.

2008 Innovator of the Year: JB Straubel
2008 Humanitarian of the Year: Aimèe Rose

Blaise Aguera y Arcas (33 years old - Microsoft Live Labs)
Building immersive 3-D environments

Theodore Betley (31 - Harvard University)
Re-creating photosynthesis

Martin Burke (32 - University of Illinois)
Molecular diversity

Dries Buytaert (29 - Drupal)
Simple, flexible Web publishing

Cristopher Chang (33 - University of California, Berkeley)
Probing chemical reactions in the body

Michelle Chang (31 - University of California, Berkeley)
Designing microbes to make fuels and drugs

Jenova Chen (26 - Thatgamecompany)
Gaming with the flow

Tanzeem Choudhury (33 - Dartmouth College)
Inferring social networks automatically

Peter L. Corsell (30 - GridPoint)
Making the electric grid smart

Jack Dorsey (31 - Twitter)
Personal updates made simple

Stefanus Du Toit (25 - RapidMind)
Programming for parallel processors

Nicholas Fang (33 - University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign)
Superlenses for watching cells

Ric Fulop (33 - A123 Systems)
Energizing rechargeable batteries

Julia Greer (32 - California Institute of Technology)
Revealing how materials behave at the nanoscale

Hossam Haick (33 - Technion-Israel Institute of Technology)
Sniffing out cancer

Seth Hallem (28 - Coverity)
Deconstructing software to find bugs

Donhee Ham (34 - Harvard University)
Portable nuclear magnetic resonance

Konrad Hochedlinger (32 - Harvard Medical School)
Turning adult cells into stem cells

Xian-Sheng Hua (34 - Microsoft Research Asia)
Enhancing video search

Sundar Iyer (31 - Cisco Systems)
Making memory at Internet speed

Jeffrey Karp (32 - Harvard-MIT Division of Health Sciences and Technology)
Gecko-inspired surgical tape

Farinaz Koushanfar (32 - Rice University)
Locking microchips to prevent piracy

Johnny Lee (28 - Microsoft)
Streamlining human-computer interactions

Meredith Ringel Morris (29 - Microsoft Research)
Searching websites jointly

Andrew Ng (32 - Stanford University)
Building household robots

Kostya Novoselov (34 - University of Manchester)
Two-dimensional transistors

Milica Radisic (32 - University of Toronto)
Patching damaged hearts

Aimèe Rose (34 - ICx Technologies)
Ultrasensitive detectors to sniff out explosives

Bilal Shafi (34 - University of Pennsylvania)
Preventing congestive heart failure

Adam Smith (23 - Xobni)
Making sense of e-mail madness

JB Straubel (32 - Tesla Motors)
Engineering electric sports cars

Joo Chuan Tong (31 - The Singapore Agency for Science, Technology, and Research's Institute for Infocomm Research)
My vision: Personalized vaccines

Eric Wilhelm (31 - Instructables)
Putting DIY projects online

Robert Wood (31 - Harvard University)
Building robotic flies

Ronggui Yang (34 - University of Colorado, Boulder)
Efficient electricity from waste heat

Thursday, 9 October 2008

First birthday of the blog



This blog is one year old! The first post was sent exactly one year ago (rather silly post!) and now you can read other 215 posts (but i have to admit that most of the posts of the first 2 months were copy & paste). I can't complain about the visits (22,614 visits so far; the first country is USA, then Italy and UK). Beside the numbers, i hope that somebody finds interesting stuff here, feel free to comment. Keep tuned, more to come!

Monday, 22 September 2008

Top 2008 brands

1901 Coca Cola calendar

Interbrand announces the 2008 best global brands, they listed the top 100. Here you can see the top 10 (i added the year):

Brand - year - 2008 brand value $ mil - country of origin

1 Coca-Cola - 1886 - 66,667 - USA
2 IBM - 1924 - 59,031 - USA
3 Microsoft - 1976 - 59,007 - USA
4 GE (General Electric) - 1878 - 53,086 - USA
5 Nokia - 1865 - 35,942 - Finland
6 Toyota - 1937 - 34,050 - Japan
7 Intel- 1969 - 31,261 - USA
8 Mc Donald's - 1940 - 31,049 - USA
9 Disney - 1923 - 29,251 - USA
10 Google - 1998 - 25,590 - USA

the first british is
27 HSBC - 1865 - 13,143 - UK
the first italian is (actually today Gucci is owned by french PPR)
45 Gucci - 1921 - 8,254 - Italy

year means the year when the name was adopted

in the press release we can read:

Coca-Cola (No.1) remains the best global brand for the eighth year in a row. Yet, a notable shift in this year’s rankings was made by IBM, which took over the No. 2 position from Microsoft (No. 3). Google also moved into the top 10 brands, at No. 10, after ranking at No. 20 in 2007.

It's possible to download the full report (pdf file, 85 pages)

The brand Google: in 10 years from nothing to number 10!! It would be interesting to know how much money the corporations spent for advertising. How much money has Coca-Cola been spending since its foundation?

Tuesday, 16 September 2008

Tag cloud of Obama's and McCain's acceptance speeches

Tag cloud of Barack Obama's acceptance speech, 23 August 2008; Denver, Colorado
You can read and watch the speech (about 42 minutes) here



Tag cloud of John McCain's acceptance speech, 4 September 2008; Saint Paul, Minnesota
You can read and watch the speech (about 50 minutes) here



Scheduled debates between Obama and McCain:

- 26 September 2008 - foreign policy and national security
- 7 October 2008 - anything
- 15 October 2008 - domestic and economic policy

The tag clouds were created using Wordle net
Click on the images to enlarge them

Sunday, 7 September 2008

Telecom Italia in trouble


ownership of Telecom Italia on August 2008


value of Telecom Italia stocks from january 1998 to 5th september 2008

Telecom Italia entered in Milan stock exchange on 27th October 1997, when the government (Prodi was PM) decided the privatisation. The highest
value was on 13th March 2000, during dot-com bubble. The last trade on 5th september 2008 was made at 1.037 Euro per stock, the lowest value since 12th January 1998 (1.009 Euro). Somebody thinks the Telefonica isn't unhappy about this: they'll be able to buy Telecom Italia at a cheap price... Anyway, something is going to happen soon...

Dab and Dab+ test in Rome


Now it's possible to hear DAB test of Rai (in 2008!!) in Rome.
In channel 9D they are testing DAB+ (DAB with new codec) as well.

Channel 6A 181,93 MHz

ClubDab - RaiWay

Radiouno 160 kbps stereo
Radiodue 160 kbps stereo
Radiotre 160 kbps stereo
Rai Fd4 96 kbps stereo
Rai Fd5 96 kbps stereo
Isoradio 96 kbps mono
Grpr 48 kbps mono
Radio Radicale 64 kbps stereo
Radio Maria 64 kbps mono

It's also possible to hear:

Channel 9D 208,06 MHz

Eurodab

Radio Radio 128 kbps stereo
Radio Radio +
Rtl 102,5 128 kbps stereo
Rtl 102,5 +
Radio Vaticana +
Radio Padania +
Rtl Italian Style
Rtl Clas +

Wednesday, 27 August 2008

Secret tool of iPhone


On 6th August, the site iPhone Atlas wrote:

iphone can phone home and kill apps?

Apple has apparently included a blacklisting mechanism in iPhone OS 2.x via
which the device can phone home, check for unauthorized applications, and
disable them. The OS includes a URL that points to a page containing a list
of unauthorized applications, specifically:

https://iphone-services.apple.com/clbl/unauthorizedApps

Jonathan Zdziarski said:
"This suggests that the iPhone calls home once in a while to find out what
applications it should turn off. At the moment, no apps have been
blacklisted, but by all appearances, this has been added to disable
applications that the user has already downloaded and paid for, if Apple so
chooses to shut them down. "I discovered this doing a forensic examination
of an iPhone 3G. It appears to be tucked away in a configuration file deep
inside CoreLocation."

That post was like opening Pandora's box: all conspiracy theorists were
happy, they had found a trendy scapegoat. The next day Zdziarski wrote in his
own blog:

So I post one little comment to a geek blog site about an "unauthorized
apps" list downloaded by the iPhone, and every wanna-be-watergate journalist
in the northern hemisphere emails me with conspiracy theories.

It's worth reading the whole page because he explains how it is possible to disable this infamous
functionality entirely.

On 11th August Steve Jobs (chairman and CEO of Apple) gave an interview to WSJ saying:

Apple raised hackles in computer-privacy and security circles when an independent engineer discovered code inside the iPhone that suggested iPhones routinely check an Apple Web site that could, in theory trigger the removal of the undesirable software from the devices.

Mr. Jobs confirmed such a capability exists, but argued that Apple needs it
in case it inadvertently allows a malicious program -- one that stole users'
personal data, for example -- to be distributed to iPhones through the App
Store. "Hopefully we never have to pull that lever, but we would be
irresponsible not to have a lever like that to pull," he says.

Hopefully, mr Jobs, we would never like to buy something that has secret
levers! How many other levers are built in iphone? Hopefully, are you going
to tell us or do we have to wait for the next geek?

Wednesday, 30 July 2008

Decline of payphones in Italy

Telecom Italia payphone in Vatican State, 2008


In Italy payphones are less and less used by people: in the last 10 years mobile phones have been a huge success.
How many millions of minutes were spent in payphones?
The answer is in the reports of italian authority.
It would be interesting (but they didn't write it) to know how many sms are sent from those payphones.

2005
800 millions of minutes (1)
2006
600 (2)
2007
300 (2)

If you go to worldpayphones you can see photographic pictures of payphones of all the world

1 report 2007 pag.50
2 report 2008 pag.48

Monday, 28 July 2008

Controversial survey about muslim students in UK


In UK the "Centre for Social Cohesion" interviewed 632 muslim students and 831 non-muslim students.
Is it fair having 632 muslim people interview and the newspapers writing "Killing for religion is justified, say third of muslim students" ? The same article says "The YouGov poll was conducted for the Right-wing think tank, the Centre for Social Cohesion" but you need to reach the end of the article (how many times do we stop earlier?) to read "YouGov polled 600 Muslim students and 800 non-Muslim students at universities with a high number of Muslims."


You can read the full report:
Islam on campus - a survey of UK students opinion (126 pages, pdf file)
or read an executive summary here (3 pages, pdf file)

A third of muslim students back killings; Abul Taher
Killing for religion is justified, say third of muslim students; Patrick Sawer
Guardian:
Radical Islam gains ground in campuses; Jamie Doward

--

FOSIS is the umbrella organization of student groups in colleges and universities throughout the UK and Ireland, representing over 90,000 Muslim students

FOSIS condemns the report:

The Federation of Student Islamic Societies (FOSIS) in the UK and Eire today condemned the publication of a report published by the Centre for Social Cohesion entitled "Islam on Campus".

Faisal Hanjra, President for FOSIS, said today, "This is yet another damning attack on the Muslim community by elements within the academic arena whose only purpose seems to be the undermining of sincere efforts by mainstream Muslim organisations to tackle the threat of terror which wider society faces. The report is methodologically weak, it is unrepresentative and above all serves only to undermine the positive work carried out by Islamic Societies across the country. Unfortunately, the views espoused by the CSC in tackling extremism involves the creation of an "Islam" outside the Muslims, which, to begin with is a sure way to failure, and far from empowering the Muslims, perpetuates a patronising tone of "we know better than you do"."

He further added, "FOSIS has been a recognised cog in delivering consistent, mainstream opinions and by maligning it, CSC has shown itself to be an unreliable and marred think tank. Muslim students have had a tough time since the dreadful attacks on 7/7, they have faced numerous challenges with courage and perseverance, it is evident that those challenges have yet to go away and what is equally evident is the resilience of Muslim students to face those challenges. The message though to those who seek to cause this mischief is clear, we will not be deterred, our work will continue and the results of our efforts are clear for all to see.

Thursday, 26 June 2008

Communication breakdown during semi-final Euro 2008


Yesterday, during the second half of the semi-final Germany - Turkey (european football/soccer tournament called Euro 2008), the live feed from the host broadcaster went down at the Vienna's International Broadcast Centre (IBC) and most viewers missed about 15-18 minutes of the match.
What happened?

It's interesting to read the official statement from UEFA:

26-06-2008 communiqué aux médias n 095
Statement on the television interruption during UEFA 2008 semi-final, Germany Turkey
At a press conference held this morning in Vienna, UEFA Media Technologies SA CEO, Alexandre Fourtoy, explained the problems encountered yesterday at the International Broadcast Centre (IBC), precipitated by a violent electrical storm that triggered a power outage and a loss of image for a number of minutes during the second half of the first UEFA EURO 2008 semi-final in Basel.
"The IBC of Vienna is using the power grid of the city of Vienna, and the provider of our power solution here has also installed, on top of it, a protection system which is designed to detect cuts of power and to switch automatically to a back-up power on site, which is provided by generators. Yesterday we have been affected during the storm in Vienna by three micro-cuts of less than 1 millisecond, but this millisecond is enough to cause our Master Control Room to re-boot and that takes several minutes, and this is why the signal was off air. The protection system has been defective in detecting the cuts, to switch to the back-up power.
You should know that we have selected the best providers to build-up our IBC and the power system - the providers which have built up the IBC and the power system for the World Cup 2006 - and this power has been fully tested according to industry procedure before the event and it was working perfectly well up until yesterday.
What is important to know is for tonight (the second Semi-Final Russia - Spain in Vienna) and for the Final, we have switched the power of the IBC to the fully independent generator power which has also a back up on its own, because what we want to do is to avoid any external factor affecting the power and therefore the transmission of the signal.
The issue of yesterday was purely linked to electricity, nothing to do with transmission, nothing to do with our partners Telekom Austria and Swisscom, and what i'd like to add as well is that we are, of course, extremely sorry for everyone watching television yesterday for the minutes they have missed. We have however been re-feeding the missing material to all broadcasters afterwards."

It's also interesting to read Reuters:

UEFA's director of communications William Gaillard told a news conference: "This is not normal summer weather for central Europe. It was exceptional and there is no forecast of a repeat."

Pictures were lost for two separate six-minute spells and UEFA then decided to manually take the system down, causing another six-minute break, to switch to the back-up power supply.

Swiss TV was able to show continuous pictures as there was a separate fibre-optic feed from the Basel Stadium. Other broadcasters including Germany's ZDF, used the Swiss pictures with their own commentators, slightly off the pace, tagged on.

Were broadcasters (such as german ZDF) allowed to use pictures from Swiss tv?

From Times:

There is also uncertainty whether it was a breach of contract when broadcasters took pictures from Swiss television, which was reported to be unaffected, as a result of the loss.

"I don't know exactly the terms of the contracts, I don't think there is an obligation to take the signal from Vienna because broadcasters have several capacities to manage a signal," Alexandre Fourtoy, chief executive officer of Uefa Media Technologies, said.

One thing is having an obligation to take the signal from a place, another thing is not having an obligation and using other tv's effort without any compensation.

Tuesday, 10 June 2008

Much rumour about nothing


above: the last 12 months of AS Roma stocks

UPDATE about globalization of football (soccer) ownership post

On 1st May i wrote:

"There are several rumours that George Soros (hungarian-born US speculator and philanthropist) is going to buy Roma ; Steven Horowitz of Inner Circle Sports has been recently seen in Rome more than once, therefore someone does want to buy the club. Some newspapers wrote Soros offered about 210 million Euro for 67% of shares, which is 2,37 Euro per shares, more than double the current price. Will it be enough for the family that now owns the club?"

I was wrong because on 3rd June MF-Dow Jones (one news agency for italian stock exchange) wrote that Michael Vachon [director of communications at Soros Fund Management (SFM). Mr. Vachon serves as spokesperson for the Fund and for Mr. Soros personally] told them that Soros isn't interested about buying that team.
It might be usefull to ask some questions:
1) Was it true that George Soros (before June) wanted to buy As Roma?
If not, who started the rumour? If it was true, what went wrong?
2) Why don't the current owners (Sensi family) explain what happened in the past months?
3) The current owners need to pay back (reports talk about 370 mil of euro) some banks. Do they know how to do that without selling the team?

Tuesday, 20 May 2008

Grid: innovation or marketing?


In the overdose of information that we experience everyday, in April i found the following news:

Coming soon: superfast internet called "Grid"

Most of the articles about Grid are based on one article (April 6, 2008) of british Times. In the article you can read the words of David Britton, professor of physics at Glasgow University and a leading figure in the grid project: "With this kind of computing power, future generations will have the ability to collaborate and communicate in ways older people like me cannot even imagine". It's a kind of sentence that can mean everything and nothing at the same time, it sounds like an advertising of a new product. Have scientists become expert of marketing?

Not huge difference of information since another article of Guardian (July 3 2003)
Welcome to the grid: unlimited PC power at your fingertips

another article full of hype:
The Internet's over ... here comes the Grid
Daily Mirror, 7 April 2008

What is the Grid?

A very fast speed network is obviously a positive invention but what is the
content of this network? What could be the benefit for "common" people? They
didn't tell us, but they (Ian Bird, project leader for Cern's high-speed
computing project) said "It will lead to what's known as cloud computing,
where people keep all their information online and access it from anywhere".
And the privacy? Who can guarantee that corporations won't search through my
private information that i could store online?

I'm not saying that the Grid is useless, probably it could be very useless,
but could anyone explain the usefulness to normal people instead of using
trendy slogans?
Is it possible to see the day when some journalists ask simple questions, instead
of just repeating/translating what they saw on the net?

In another site, at last we can read some specific information:

The EGEE Grid consists of 41,000 CPU available to users 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, in addition to about 5 PB disk (5 million Gigabytes) + tape MSS of storage, and maintains 100,000 concurrent jobs. Having such resources available changes the way scientific research takes place. The end use depends on the users' needs: large storage capacity, the bandwidth that the infrastructure provides, or the sheer computing power available.

You can see the blog of David Britton (don't expect much because he
started blogging 1 month ago)

Wednesday, 14 May 2008

Al Gore tours for launching italian Current TV



from the left: Carelli (director of italian Sky news), Al Gore, translator and Marc Goldman (US Current)

Few days ago (8th May 2008) Al Gore (do i have to write he was vice president of USA from 1993 to 2000 and he won the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize?) was in Rome to talk about the new tv channel: italian version of Current Tv. Bloggers met Al Gore in a theatre and asked him 15 questions about the new channel (but i think that italian director Tommaso Tessarolo will have much autonomy for italian Current); i took some pictures and i listened to the "dialogue".

The italian blogosphere is full of comments about blogger's reaction to Al Gore, if you know italian language you can read the opinion of
(my friend) Antonio Pavolini
Michele Colitti
Valeria Gentile
Kay Rush
Mario Tedeschini Lalli
Vittorio Zambardino
Francesca "LaFra" Casadei
David Orban
Telemac0

I'm not going into a deep debate about the philisophy of brand-new Current Tv Italy (is the name correct?) but i have an easy complaint: not everybody (from 18 to 34 years old) can afford an annual contract with Sky Italia; less viewers, less impact on society.

The risk is that we'll have a smarter version of YouTube, as somebody already has said.
I don't know what kind of clip (or pod, like Gore said) we'll be able to see in Italy but from the blog of Foreign Policy i saw that the american version of Current has shown very interesting clips such as:
- Lost in democracy (18 minutes)
Christof Putzel travels to Bhutan to find out how young people are dealing with democracy, westernization, and other challenges to their unique national culture
- City on steroids (almost 28 minutes)
American filmmaker Adam Yamaguchi tours the little-known megacity of Chongqing, China. Growing at a rate of nearly 200,000 people per year, Chongqing is the one of the fastest growing cities on the planet and an emblem of China's rapid urbanization. The clearly overwhelmed Yamaguchi takes viewers on a quick tour of this modern boomtown from brand new yuppie apartments to factory floors
- A civil war ends? (6 minutes and half)
Short documentary on the conflict in Uganda that includes an interview with a former top Lord's Resistance Army commander who says he has no regrets about his actions

The first 2 videoclips are Current Vanguard, which means are special video not sent by "normal" users; users are only allowed to send video from 2 to 8 minutes. If italian Current will show this kind of video (which i can NOT see from the website!), i would say: two thumbs up! Anyway, doesn anyone know what's the social impact of 3 years of Current TV in USA??

Thursday, 1 May 2008

Globalization of football (soccer) ownership



This season we've seen 4 teams in Champions League: 3 english teams (Man utd, Chelsea and Liverpool) and 1 spanish (Barcelona); and we now we can be sure we'll see 2 english teams (Man utd and Chelsea) for the final, scheduled on May 21st 2008, Moscow.
Who are the owners of theese teams?
Barcelona is owned by its members, they are more than 150 thousands and every four years they have the right to vote in the club’s presidential elections.
Let's see what happened in english football in the recent years:
1997 egyptian billionaire Mohamed Al-Fayed bought Fulham FC
2003 russian billionaire Roman Abramovich bought Chelsea FC
2005 US businessman Malcolm Glazer bought all of the shares and delist Man Utd from
London Stock Exchange
2006 US entrepreneur Randy Lerner bought Aston Villa FC
2006 irish Niall Quinn bought Sunderland AFC
2006 icelandic billionaire Björgólfur Guðmundsson bought West Ham United
2007 US businessmen George Gillett and Tom Hicks bought Liverpool FC
2007 thai businessman and politician Thaksin Shinawatra bought Manchester City

All the most important teams (except Arsenal) today are owned by foreigners, probably there's a connection between the foreign investors and the first final with two english clubs.

There are several rumours that George Soros (hungarian-born US speculator and philanthropist) is going to buy Roma ; Steven Horowitz of Inner Circle Sports has been recently seen in Rome more than once, therefore someone does want to buy the club. Some newspapers wrote Soros offered about 210 million Euro for 67% of shares, which is 2,37 Euro per shares, more than double the current price. Will it be enough for the family that now owns the club?

If you don't have any idea why people like football (or soccer, if you are from USA), you can have a look at this research:
Parity and Predictability of Competitions - 2006
(you can view and download the 6-page pdf file)
3 US researchers (Eli Ben-Naim, Sidney Redner and Federico Vazquez) studied the results of nearly all regular season competitions in 4 major American professional sports leagues (Major League Baseball, National Hockey League, National Basketball Association and National Football League) and English Premier League; they analized more than 300,000 games in over a century.
It is hard to say whether to rely on this study (they admitted "home and away games are not incorporated into our model, but game location does affect the outcome of games") or not; anyway at the end they wrote "soccer and baseball are the most competitive sports while basketball and [US] football are the least"
 
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