Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Windows XP going off market in June: What it means

Microsoft originally announced over a year ago that Windows XP would be going off the market in January 2008. XP was later given a brief stay of execution, to June 30, 2008. That deadline is fast approaching, which has led to much panicking from people who aren't quite sure what XP's "going off market" means, exactly.

People are still as confused as ever. So let's take a stab at clarifying, once again, what's going to happen by answering some frequently asked questions about XP's imminent disappearance.

Will Windows XP really no longer be on sale after June 30? Sorry for the double negative, but no. All this means is that Microsoft will stop selling the OS. Finding a computer with XP preinstalled will likely be very difficult, as well. However, you'll still be able to find copies for the foreseeable future, and likely the unforeseeable one, too. See for yourself: You can find copies of just about any Microsoft product, including ancient versions of Windows and even MS-DOS, by simply searching online. But hang on to your current copy of Windows XP. You may need it down the road if you don't want to move to Vista.

Will I be forced to upgrade to Vista soon? No. But it will get harder and harder not to, especially since new software and peripherals are likely to stop working with XP. That could take years.

Will my XP machine stop working in June? No, but Microsoft will stop releasing non-security software updates to the masses on April 14, 2009. But let's be clear: XP will continue to "work" even after this point.

Will Microsoft shut off product activation for XP after June? No, that would be crazy. While no one has said this will happen, it's conceivable that Windows could shut down product activation for XP at some point. But that would only happen after XP reaches its end-of-support term (when all support plans expire). The good news for you: That happens on April 8, 2014, which should be plenty of time to get the kinks worked out of Vista-or switch to a Mac, Linux, or anything else. Bottom line: Your copy of XP will work, totally legally, for at least six more years.

What about this exception for Windows XP Home Edition I hear about? Doesn't apply to you. Microsoft will continue to sell XP to makers of ultra-cheap laptops like the Asus Eee PC until 2010 because they just can't run Vista. But it is not going to make XP Home Edition available as installable software to end-users.

What about after 2014? Well, that's unclear. But it's possible XP will stop being installable at that point. Microsoft's official policy is that these dates have "no affect [sic] on how long you can use a product," which may imply product activation will work forever. However, two things come to mind:

1) Even the most die-hard XP enthusiast will probably be ready to upgrade at that point (as XP will be nearly 15 years old, and your PC will be dead by then, I'm sure).

2) Even if Microsoft shuts off product activation, the hacker community will certainly make dozens of tools to let you continue using XP with abandon. Fret not.

Can I install XP on a PC that has Vista already on it? Yes. You can delete any partition with any OS on it (and reformat it) during the installation of XP. If you're feeling brave, you can even run both OSes at the same time by setting up a dual-boot machine.

Whew! Does that clear everything up? Feel free to continue sending your queries and adding your comments below.

Note: This post was originally created in April 2007 and updated with new and changed information in April 2008.


Is now the time to buy consumer electronics?

They say there's no time like the present, and according to Richard Glikes, executive director of the Home Theater Specialists of America, that goes doubly so for buying electronic gadgetry. The reason? Blame it on China.

Given the state of the U.S. economy, spending your disposable income on high-tech toys may not seem like the best investment in 2008. But if you've already decided to purchase a TV or a new phone, you might be inclined to wait for prices to go down.

That might be a long wait, says Glikes. China is the production center for the vast majority of consumer electronics, and the heyday of cheap labor there may be rapidly coming to a close. For starters, blame the Olympics: In order to clear the air of pollution, many factories are shutting down in June, which could put a damper on the supply of many products. Also, China is tiptoeing towards better relationships with its workers: New labor and worker protection laws have pushed labor costs up 15 percent. The price of many components and metals used in making electronics is also going up.

Perhaps the biggest culprit of all: The falling U.S. dollar. The poor old greenback just doesn't go as far as it used to. Most notably it is falling against the euro, but it's also fallen considerably against the Chinese yuan, about 10 percent in the last year. In other words, if paid in dollars, Chinese companies now earn 10 percent less than they did a year ago due solely to the falling exchange rate. One can imagine that doesn't sit well with them.

In other words: Current prices may simply not be sustainable, and thus price increases may soon be on tap in order to shore up profits. Sure enough, prices are already going up for some LCD products. At the manufacturer level, says Glikes, prices in China are already up from 8 to 20 percent, and U.S. retail prices are soon to follow.

Get ready for a bumpy 2008.

More perspective on the data from TWICE.

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Saturday, April 26, 2008

Least Expensive Vehicles to Own

I found this interesting article from Forbes Auto, if you have time please read it:

The cost of owning a vehicle goes beyond the purchase price. Expenses like insurance and maintenance can add up.

To attain absolute rock bottom ownership costs — which still tally more than $30,000 over five years, even for a $10,000 car — a vehicle must be spartan. It must be small and lightweight to maximize fuel economy. And it should skimp on features, so that maintenance and repair costs stay low.

But most of all, it must start life with a sticker price well below even the most affordable luxury cars. A low purchase price holds down insurance premiums, taxes and fees, financing costs, and, especially, depreciation.

That’s why the priciest car on our list of the Top 10 Least Expensive Cars to Own is the tenth ranked Honda Civic DX, which starts at just $15,010.

Our ranking is based on data from Vincentric, a Bloomfield Hills, Mich.-based research company specializing in automotive cost analysis. Vincentric calculates five-year ownership expenses by estimating cumulative losses from depreciation, interest and opportunity costs, maintenance and repairs, taxes and fees, fuel, and insurance. See the end of this story for an explanation of each expense.

The vehicles on our list are relatively inexpensive, but their value is rising in the current economy, especially as gasoline prices climb. Autodata, which tracks sales for the auto industry, reports that overall vehicle sales dropped 8 percent in the first quarter of 2008. But the small-car segment actually grew by 3 percent during that down period.

If small-car demand continues to grow, ownership costs could decrease even more: Higher prices for economical used cars will keep new-vehicle depreciation in check.

“It's always a matter of supply and demand,” says David Wurster, Vincentric's president. “As people want more of these vehicles, they vote up their price.”

A good resale value is critical to total ownership cost because depreciation is the greatest single part of the total. Cars with lower depreciation rates (higher resale values) will require lower total ownership expenses than peers in the same price group or model segment. Six models on our list incur higher fuel expenses, but only because depreciation takes fewer dollars from budget-priced cars to begin with.

“Depreciation is the one cost that most people forget about,” says John Paul, manager of public affairs for AAA of Southern New England. “They look at all the other costs, but they forget how much a car is going to depreciate, even over the first year.”

To gauge deprecation rates when shopping for a new car, Paul suggests researching used-car prices for models on your list. Comparing used prices to the prices of new models shows approximately how much each vehicle depreciates.

“Sometimes the cheapest car isn't always the best deal, especially when it comes time to trade it in,” Paul says.

A company’s reputation can also indicate how well a vehicle holds its value.

“The vehicles with very good reputations for quality are going to continue to do best,” Vincentric’s Wurster says. “That's why you see Toyotas and Hondas doing well year after year. They have good reputations.”

Indeed, the two Hondas on our list depreciate much less than most other models in the top 10. The Honda Fit makes the No. 2 spot on the strength of its low, 58 percent depreciation rate over five years. With a 62 percent depreciation rate, the Honda Civic DX sneaks onto the list at No. 10, even though it has a high starting price compared to other models in the ranking.

That's not accidental. Recognizing the allure of low depreciation, Honda pursues a strategy aimed at maintaining high resale rates.

“It's a very long-term outlook of protecting the brand by protecting resale value,” says Honda spokesperson Chris Naughton.

The pillars of that program include striving for high quality and durability so its models will remain desirable even after they rack up lots of miles. Honda avoids building more cars than it can sell and adjusts its factory output to match consumer demand, Naughton says. It also avoids selling to car-rental and commercial fleets. Both strategies prevent over-supplying the market, which depresses used-car prices. Balancing supply with demand also negates the need for sales incentives, which reduce used-car values by reducing new-car values.

“We avoid at all costs being put in the position of stress merchandising,” Naughton says.

Korean automakers Hyundai and Kia each have one vehicle in the ranking — the Hyundai Accent places fifth and the Kia Rio seventh. But the brands aren’t as well regarded as Honda or Toyota, which likely contributes to their high depreciation rates — 77 percent for the Accent and 78 percent for the Rio.

Another Korean-made vehicle, the American-branded Chevrolet Aveo5, made the third spot on the list and also has a high depreciation rate, at 73 percent. The Dodge Caliber SE, in sixth place, and Chevrolet Cobalt LS, in eighth, are the only other domestic models in the ranking.

Five of the least-expensive-to-own vehicles hail from Japan, including the top-ranked Toyota Yaris Liftback, which carries a five-year predicted cost of ownership of $30,820.

Models with attractive low depreciation rates exist in all vehicle categories. But if being frugal takes priority above all other automotive concerns, consider one of the 10 vehicles on this list. In the slideshow you’ll find individual model descriptions along with Vincentric’s projected total cost of ownership after five years, including a breakdown of the six components that make up that total.

All are 2008 base models. The manufacturer suggested retail price (MSRP) and ownership costs shown with each model apply only to the most basic version of the vehicle. That usually means it has a five-speed manual transmission. If you add equipment or move up trim levels, ownership costs typically increase accordingly.

Cost estimates are based on prices from March 2008. Interest expenses assume a five- year loan at current rates, with a 15 percent down payment. Opportunity costs consider what owners would have earned if car expenses were placed into certificates of deposit instead. Insurance costs are for a typical driver under age 65 with a clean record. Depreciation assumes the vehicle is disposed of in a private party transaction. To compute fuel costs, Vincentric used a five-month weighted pump-price average. Each model's five-year cost of fuel is calculated by using EPA fuel-economy ratings as published in the agency's 2008 Fuel Economy Guide.

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Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Gasoline price without TAX (25Yen) is only 120 yen / liter start from today

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