Can You Spare $10 000?

March 24, 2008

Peer-to-peer loans have been making bankers into average people according to Jeninne Lee-St. John of Times Magazine. Because of the “slumping economy”, the banking system has gone into panic mode forcing people looking for loans to turn to the internet in order to ask for help from friends and in most cases, a stranger. Even people with the best credit ratings are unable to get a good interest rate… Not only is P2P for sites such as Limewire and Facebook, you can also add online loans to that list. 

This new peer-to-peer (P2P) loan industry helps any regular Joe exchange cash with the help of an “online facilitator”. In 2007, it had a $650 million dollar debt. Prosper was the first “matchmaker” which began in 2006. To date it has 600,000 users. The way this site works is “borrowers post a request, and lenders bid on how much and at what interest rate they want to give. Several – or several dozen- people fund the loan at a rate agreeable to all. The intermediary runs a credit check, calculates return and takes a fee.” So far, the company’s default rate is less than .5%!! According to Times Magazine, members are motivated to pay back or lend to an actual person rather than a big bank. A great example is Marilyn Honolulu. Mrs. Honolulu has lent a total of $30,000 to more than 100 members, most members she has never met. “I measure my returns in not just the dollar amount, but the fulfillment I get from helping people.” She makes 6% to 7% on each loan. 

How It Works From Times

1 Seeking a Cheaper Loan – The Borrowers

Borrowers need credit scores of at least 640 of 850 maximum and a debt-to-income ratio of 30% or less. For example: Even with credit scores in the 700, people aren’t able to get an interest rate below 15%.

2 Making the Connection – The Online Middleman

The average loan is $9500, funded by 22 to 25 people. For example: Lending Club, which launched May of 2007, relies on fairly strict rules and works with people in affiliated groups, matching up, say, travel agents or MIT alums with peers.

3Looking for a Higher Yield – The Lender

Lenders list the total amount they’d like to loan and the risk level they can stand. They can select individual borrowers who meet their criteria, or the site’s Lending Match program will generate a portfolio. The mean 12.32% interest rate beats the current 3% average return on a CD. For example: Bernadette Lui has $3125 spread among 13 three-year loans. She earns 14.6% and is considering reinvesting her returns with new borrowers. 

I guess this is something that’s worth a try if the bank just doesn’t like you. It sounds fairly promising and a great way for people to get some short term financial help.

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Apple and Free Music?

March 20, 2008

As we all know, the free craze has been forcing companies to rethink their business tactics. To my surprise, Apple is thinking about it as well. Apple + free music = Are you kidding me?! I guess this will be an add on to Dave’s post..

But of course there is a catch. To receive unlimited free access to the music library, customers have to be willing to pay more for the iPod and iPod Phone playing and digital media storing devices. Apple has to wake up and smell the coffee. Some of the company’s rivals are experimenting with new ways to distribute online music, even if that means giving it away. So as of now, “Apple is negotiating with record labels over a deal to offer a monthly music subscription for the iPhone, as well as an unlimited music bundle for both the iPod and iPhone” according to a cited unnamed music industry source.

As of right now, the iPod shuffle starts at $49, and the iPhones start at $399. No one is really sure as to how much prices with jump but one can only imagine. Oddly enough, approximately 10 percent of Apple’s revenues are made through iTunes. In 2007, iTunes made a 2.7 billion dollar profit for Apple. According to The Financial Times, “Apple sold $8.3 billion in iPods last year, an 8 percent increase over the year before.”

I think that it would be in Apple’s best interest to make free music available to customers without jacking up prices. Then again, Apple has become the world’s second largest music retailer in the U.S. To my amazement, Walt-Mart Stores Inc is the world’s largest music retailer.

A couple of friends of mine and I are planning a trip to Moncton for a weekend in April. So being girls, we’ve been looking at places to buy clothes from because PEI doesn’t have an overly great selection of clothes. A friend of mine found this site that has some pretty cute tops. She thinks it’s a real site because it has the Yahoo Shopping logo on it. I had never heard of Yahoo Shopping until Mr. Hyndman talked about it in class a few weeks ago.

I decided to look into this cute little store whether it was real or not. I couldn’t find the name of this store anywhere on Yahoo search. The store is called Hot Couture. You would think that if it were a store belonging to Yahoo Shopping that you would be able to find it, especially on Yahoo! Even when I looked in Yahoo Shopping, nothing came up. I’m not much of a risk taker, especially when my credit card is envolved and it looks to me like they only take Visa, MasterCard, American Express and Discover. So my question is, how do you know whether a store is real or not? I think this fits in stollen identity.. or stollen credit card number.

So right now i’m in a little bit of a pickle. I can’t figure out whether it is real or not. It does state where it is located, an email address and a phone number. I guess the easiest way would be to call this number to see if anyone picks up although I’m not sure that’s the safest. If anyone has any ideas, let me know!

How Good Is Free?

March 17, 2008

After reading Chris Anderson’s blog about Oprah and free, I starting thinking about how good free really is. I feel that in Suze Orman’s case, she was able to get a head start because of Oprah. I mean, let’s face it, whatever Oprah does, most women find it inspiring. I agree that it was a great business tactic on Oprah’s part but if it wasn’t for Oprah, I don’t think Suze Orman’s book could have increased in sales the way it did. Then again, you just never know. I think we all have to agree that you get what you pay for, especially for those who own their own vehicles. Although, free can sometimes be a good thing, especially in technology these days… or at least in Suze Orman’s case. 

I decided to look into free software such as anti-virus programs. According to Wikipedia “The free software movement was launched in 1983 to make these freedoms available to every computer user. Software that does not provide these freedoms is referred to as proprietary software or non-free software.” (Wow that was before I was born and before my family even owned a computer!) I think it’s neat that individuals, especially techies, are able to use, study, and even modify these programs without restrictions. They can also be “copied and redistributed in modified or unmodified form either without restriction, or with restrictions only to ensure that further recipients can also do these things”.

There are so many things that can destroy your computer such as Trojan, worms, Spyware and so on. Can these free security programs such as AVAST and AVG anti-virus really stand up to it all? Let the poll be the judge of that at Tech Support Alert.

Nod32

10/10 100%

 

Norton 9/9 100%

 

F-Sec     9/9 100%

 

Trend 8/8 100%
F-Prot 6/9 67%
Avast 6/9 67%
Kaspersky 9/11 82%

 

McAfee 8/10 80%

 

AVG 6/8 75%

 

Norman 7/10 70%

 

 Don’t let these numbers get you down. Most companies make a big effort ensuring their product pass the VB100 test. The VB100 test is a monthly trial that tests the product to see whether or not it can detect 100 Trojans. If a product doesn’t detect 100%, then it fails. Basically, even if it detects 99 Trojans out of 100, it still fails. That’s fairly demanding. Which in turn means that because programs such as AVG and AVAST aren’t companies, the demand for them to perform at this level is non-existent. However, the poll does suggest that AVG is a “middle man” so I guess you are getting a bang for your free buck. Unfortunately, AVAST doesn’t show that kind of performance.

In my case, if I were to invest into a computer I would purchase an anti-virus program such as Norton of Nod32 as they seem to show the best performance. However, if I were a techie, I would jump aboard the Free Software Movement. I think it’s great for people to be able to use these kinds of programs, although, I think it’s equally great that we have excellent programs such as Norton to chose from.

I’ve been thinking about the video we watched last Monday about identity and realized how scary something like identity theft can be. Not only that, it’s scary having someone know your identity who you don’t know knowing your middle name, last name, date of birth, where you live and so on. You never know whose on the other end.

As I sat down to think, I remembered when the MSN craze began during my time in Junior High. My parents were always worried about us (the kids) using it because they didn’t know who we were talking to. They didn’t realize that it wasn’t your ordinary chat room. You’re able to decide who you talk to, who would see you online, who you could block, and so on. I couldn’t understand why they were so worried until I grew up a little bit. So now I’m wondering what people can do with your identity besides stalk you and whatnot. Not that that’s not scary enough…

I guess the first thing that comes to mind is the antiphising toolbar which you can use in your Hotmail account (I use this as an example as it’s the only one I use). I have received numerous emails about not paying for an item on Ebay. First of all, I don’t have an Ebay account. But, if I did and thought that it was a real email from Ebay and decided to log in, then my password and user name has automatically been “stollen”. I can only imagine having a Credit Card number stollen..

A good example is as follows: “Research by Harris Interactive and Gartner in the summer of 2003 found that approximately 7 million people were victims of identity theft in the previous year” The sad thing is, is that this has probably increased dramatically since 2002. With that said, according to Identity Theft Resource Centre, victims end up spending 600 hours recovering from the crime as they have to contact people and work with credit cards, banks, credit bureaus, and law enforcement. This can add up to $16,000 in lost wages an income!!! That’s basically a new Toyota Corolla!!

After reading this, I now understand why my parents were so cautious about us  using programs such as MSN. Forget about stalking, you never know what can happen to you if “unknown” people know too much..

Pepsi vs. Coke

March 5, 2008

This evening while I was sitting down having a chat with my mother and father, I noticed that they were drinking Diet Coke. Personally, I don’t like Coke in general and Diet Coke..well it’s not my cup of tea. I decided to do a bit of searching on which Soda is the “best” brand. I found this video. It’s cute because I favor Pepsi.

I’ve been noticing that more and more restaurants over Prince Edward Island have been switching from Coke to Pepsi. Great move guys! Although, while in Dominican, I didn’t even see one bottle, can, let alone a sign for Pepsi. With that said, while working at the restaurant one night, two couples from the States were in dinning. While taking their drink order, they asked why most restaurants on PEI only serve Pepsi..I found that interesting considering Subway has recently switched from Pepsi to Coke.

According to Wikipedia, Pepsi’s market has drastically shot up compared to Coke. Ah ha! I knew it!

Now that I’ve put more thought into it, it seems that “the baby boomer” generation grew up on Coke which is why they prefer it. Most of my friends and I only drink Pepsi, the other half doesn’t drink pop. I find that when I’m drinking Coke, it feels like my throat is burning away. Terrible feeling. Not only that, it has a terrible taste. Some people feel that they taste the same but each to its own I guess. My mother is an Emergency Nurse and she was telling me that when patients are choking on a piece of meat such as steak, they give the them Coke because it desolves the meat. I found that disturbing…

Personally, the only thing Coke has going for them is their awesome Christmas commercials. Keep up the good work guys!!.

Mashups

February 28, 2008

After reading a post by Fred (A VC) about Mashups, I thought it was fairly appropriate as our last class was about mashups. I find this particular mashup to be funny.

I think that mashups will become really popular in years to come. The first mashup that I had ever heard was Elvis vs. JXL – Little Less Conversation. I think it’s the video I love more so than the song. Anyway, i’m beginning to hear mashups more and more as I get older and to be honest, I had never realized that this song was actually called a “mashup”. To my amazement, mashups are not neccessarily music.

I think it’s a great way for people to play with sounds and rhythms. Some mashups sound great when others sound…well..not so great but it’s the fact that people are trying to figure out what sounds the best. You never know, these people might be your next “hot” artist. Some of the best mashups make the best dance music! I hope that people will be able to continue making mashups and that these mashups continue to be popular.

With that said, I don’t see how the music industry feels that home made mashups are “taking money away from them”. As if they don’t have enough money as it is.. Anyway, I guess that’s another debate for another time.