- Comments: 0
- Written on: May 13th, 2015
Allen had a slow motion fall from a chair in the kitchen. He hit his head on the wall and lost consciousness. when he woke up he was bleeding from his knees, head, mouth, and elbow. He couldn’t get up move or talk. His arms were asleep from laying on them for about 24 hours.
I was surprised to learn that when people over the age of 65 fall and remain immobile, their muscles begin rapidly breaking down after the first hour. The condition is called Rhabdomyolysis and it can be deadly as the kidneys shut down from being poisoned by disintegrating muscle tissue.
My dad was able to take care of himself at home before the fall and afterward I was helping him eat and watching occupational therapists help him learn to talk and swallow again. After the fall, he lost over 50% of his body’s muscle mass and fine motor control. I started playing the “what if” game in my head wondering what I could have done to prevent this.
Would a Life Alert Pendant Have Helped?
The short answer is no, it wouldn’t have. His fall was too slow to be detected by any accelerometer-based fall detection system. When he woke up on the floor he wouldn’t have been able to push a button.
I thought there must be some technology that could have detected he was in trouble and alerted someone to help him more quickly. If I could have found him in 4 or 5 hours the damage would have been so much less severe.
The short answer is there is nothing available now that could have detected his situation and called for help. I decided in that moment I was going to change that.
The Allen Band Idea
The idea for the Allen Band is basically that if we can measure motion with devices like the FitBit, why doesn’t anyone measure the lack of motion? It is unusual for even a senior citizen to stay immobile for 4 or more hours at a time.
There are all kinds of wearables that measure all sorts of biometric data, but no one is looking for the LACK of data as an indicator there could be a problem. If my dad would have been wearing a device like the Allen Band, it would have texted me that he might be in trouble. I could have called him. He wouldn’t have answered, which would have been strange for him. I could have gone to his house hours earlier and prevented a lot of the muscle tissue damage.
My idea was to couple heart rate monitoring, body temperature monitoring and inactivity monitoring into a device that could send a message if something was wrong. That’s way too much programming to put into a simple wearable, so some kind of monitoring station was needed. I don’t have any desire to open a Life Alert-style call monitoring center, so I started to wonder if we could monitor the Allen Band with a cloud server and simply send alerts form the server to family members when an “event” was detected.
In fact, by using a computer in place of the call center I found that we could actually monitor the bands for free. The server costs are that inexpensive.
More Support Than I Could Have Imagined
As I investigated the idea, I found that many seniors don’t subscribe to devices like Life Alert because the $41.95/month monitoring cost is too expensive.
I reached out to a few factories and development companies and learned that all of the technology I needed was readily available. Sprint and other cell carriers offered to make specially priced monitoring plans at $10/month to support the new device.
I have received phone calls and emails offering personal help, financial backing, and over 170 commitments to purchase the Allen Band once it is available.
Moving Forward to Prototype
Given all of the encouragement, I started approaching factories to determine the cost and timeline of building a prototype. Specifically I was looking for:
- A reputable factory with experience in wearables
- Reasonable prototype costs
- Briefest time from design to prototype
- Ability to create an initial batch of 1,000 devices in a reasonable time frame
I narrowed the list to three factories. Of those three one stood out as the best in all categories. Their prototype cost was $22,500 with a six-eight month development timeline. After that, they needed 30 days to construct 1,000 units.
Gearing up for a Kickstarter Campaign
We are currently working on a much more technical drawing of the Allen Band to begin the prototype process. We are planning on launching a Kickstarter campaign to crowd-fund the prototype cost, and we could really use your help.
First, if this project resonates with you, please visit The Allen Band Facebook page, like it and share it with your friends. When you like the Facebook page you will get to see all of the development milestones and stay up to speed with the project.
Secondly, when we launch our Kickstarter campaign we need as many backers as possible on day 1. You can back the Allen Band for as little as $10 or as much as $1,000. There will be rewards for backers on every level, but the biggest reward will be developing a product that can help save lives, improve quality of life, and help families take care of their own.
- Comments: 0
- Written on: February 26th, 2015
Net neutrality is an elegant concept. The system we have now allows a small number of corporations who own data transmission networks to allow, disallow, or charge premiums to deliver content. That means if you are Netflix, Comcast wants to charge you several million dollars to stream video over their network. If Netflix doesn’t pay, Comcast might just “deprioritize” Netflix data so your favorite shows buffer continuously.
The original effort for net neutrality believed that corporations should not have a say over what data is sent or received over their networks. They should treat all data the same regardless of who is sending it or what kind of data it is.
If you think the FCC Decision tomorrow is going to give you Net Neutrality you might need to take off your rose colored glasses and check back into reality.
The FCC, a supposedly independent government regulatory commission (not really the case here though) is going to decide whether or not to implement a 317 page policy that regulates the Internet based on the 1934 Telecommunications Act. Don’t worry though… The act was updated to cover new technologies in 1995 when AOL was king of the dial-up connections.
Why does the FCC need 317 pages to do this? Because they can do whatever they want. Whenever they want. They can implement a new Internet tax, they could impose decency standards on content posted online, they could force cable companies to treat TV shows and internet data identically meaning your TV might start buffering the nightly news at some point in the future, and the list goes on.
Mark Cuban who is involved in business dealings with cable companies as well as Netflix believes this is going to be an absolute disaster. A couple of his bandwidth calculations are off but his general point is valid without any specifics from the FCC to discuss. Watch a clip of an interview he did here:
The best part is that no one really knows what the FCC has planned at this point because they won’t show the proposed regulations to anyone (except for Google apparently). The FCC claims that they never share proposed regulations before they are implemented. That has worked out so well in the past with things like FDR’s New Deal and Obama’s Affordable Care Act so what could possibly go wrong?
The US House of Representatives is so concerned about the new potential regulations and the impact they might have on the defacto embodiment of the 1st Amendment that they asked the FCC chairman to testify today about the new regulations. He refused.
Tomorrow morning I will be a guest on 1110 KFAB out of Omaha NE at 8:40 to talk about the pending vote. you can listen online at www.kfab.com. The sad thing is when this ruling is announced tomorrow it will be a done deal. There is no more debate and modifications can be made, but will probably be done sparingly.
Compared to a worst case scenario, the announced regulations tomorrow will probably not be as bad as they could be. My fear is that by letting the government in the door at all we are ceding the central point that the government has no business regulating this AT ALL. What gives the government the right to regulate protected speech moving across privately owned networks?
- Comments: 2
- Written on: February 25th, 2015
It’s been months and months since my last blog post. Last week on my radio show, Compute This, I mentioned that I hadn’t posted in a while and if people wanted to know what I thought about certain topics they could email me and I would start up again.
I received a few phone calls and many emails asking me to do some writing and I gave my word that this week I would post something new.
I thought it would be fitting for me to post a bit about why I stopped blogging in the first place and why I am thinking about starting up again.
The Usual Reasons
This blog was originally designed to be a place where I shared thoughts and information that were loosely related to my businesses, money making ideas and general business advice. I wish I would have had a business mentor when I started out, so I thought maybe my tips could help some others who were getting started themselves. Then life hit.
In the past 2 years we had another child, bought another business, launched a bunch of new products at Schrock Innovations, created a new web development division called Schrock Interactive, became a cub scout den leader in my son’s homeschool pack, and on and on.
It’s been a busy couple of years and writing was just not a priority for me.
The Business Reasons
I am an opinionated guy and sometimes my opinions offend people. I run a company and I do a lot of TV and radio media. My objective in that role is to communicate my company’s message to as many people as possible and bring in new customers through amazing customer service. It is hard to deliver amazing service when your customer is focused on the fact that you strongly disagree with President Obama’s policies. In fact, some people might never become customers because of my personal views.
As I am getting older my views on issues are trending more Libertarian than Conservative or Liberal. I don’t really care about gay marriage, I think our government is way too involved in our lives, I think FDR’s New Deal was a massive mistake, and if we are not careful I think we are in the beginning stages of a third global war. As you might imagine, there is no way to talk about these things without alienating someone.
I genuinely believe that people with different views can get along and work together in areas of agreement. If my computer repair shops have great service and you have a broken computer that’s covered in Obama Care stickers, I will fix it, charge you the same fair price I charge everyone else and I am just as concerned with your satisfaction as any other customer.
However, in today’s business environment why would I risk turning off a potential customer so I can satisfy my online ego by spouting off on my blog?
The Paranoid Reasons
Given everything we have learned about government surveillance, domestic law enforcement black sites (in Chicago!), and a business environment that almost requires you to do business with public sector organizations to stay in business, the incentives to sit down, shut up and to go along to get along are intense.
Posting videos about Obama being the personification of the Great Pumpkin in the classic Charlie Brown Halloween Special will probably not move the debate in any real way, will draw undue attention to myself from various official sources, and put the livelihoods of my family and employees at risk.
It’s easier to keep my opinions to myself and focus on delivering great products and services. We all make money, we all get what we need, my employees get to keep their jobs and we all go home to our family at night.
So Why Start Blogging Again???
That’s a great question. There are a lot of reasons I want to start blogging again and I am working to find the time to do it. The bottom line is that I believe that the risks posed by staying silent now outweigh the risks posed by sharing these thoughts.
For My Children
I want to write to leave information for my kids to look back on when they are adults and learn who their dad was and why he believed the things he did. I always love hearing stories about my parents when they were younger and how my grandparents survived the Great Depression.
Now that my grandparents have passed and my father’s health deteriorates, I find myself thinking more and more about who will share those stories with my kids – and their kids.
Aside from those personal reasons I believe we are moving into a period of history that will be looked back on 100 years from now as a pivotal time. Everything about our world is changing from the way we communicate to the way we think about risk and opportunity. The decisions we make today as a country – and as individuals – might not make any sense to my grandchildren without some context about how things were “in the old days.” I hope I can provide some of that in my small sphere of influence.
For My Customers
Sometimes computer and technology problems are so big they require more explanation than I can provide in a quick radio tip or a 6-minute TV segment.
These posts solve problems for real people and that is what I started Schrock Innovations to do. Granted, some of these people will never set foot in one of my Service Centers, but they are still people, they could use some help, and I can give it in a very efficient why. That’s enough reason for me.
I read a LOT of news. I listen to a LOT of audiobooks (I’m in the car a lot), and I have time to think about how things have worked in the past. While history may not exactly repeat, it certainly does rhyme.
I have some hopes, ideas and concerns that I share with my wife, my family and my coworkers at times. Some of these things sound absolutely crazy if they are said simply and left to stand without context.
However, with context and supporting documentation some of my crazier ideas and fears sound a LOT more plausible. My ideas keep me working and feed Schrock’s need for continuous innovation. My fears are about things that I can’t control but I can attempt to prepare for.
Sometimes writing helps me hone ideas and at other times writing just allows me to get something off my chest so I can fall asleep that night. A man can lose his mind worrying about things that he can’t control. I always feel better about things when I believe I know what I am up against, have an idea of what is going to happen, and can plan accordingly.
A New Direction Moving Forward
I know that some aspects of this blog are not working properly. I am aware that my theme is not responsive, it has no mobile version and that I am prone to spelling errors. Schrock Interactive is wrapping up a ton of development work for a number of local and national clients right now so maybe these things will get fixed over the course of 2015 – and maybe not.
In previous years this blog has been about the business aspect of what I deal with on a daily basis. It has offered my customers a glimpse behind the curtain at Schrock, shared my thoughts on online marketing and trends, and has served as an incubator for ideas that may or may not have come to pass.
I will still be writing about some of those same things moving forward, but the overall direction of this blog will no longer be about making money online or going from “Peanuts to Profits.” There are far more important things happening all around us right now every day.
I gave up Twitter years ago and I use my personal Facebook page VERY sparingly. I feel like I have gone through the worst of the “ego years” of my life and now I am not so concerned about what some people might think about me based on what I write.
My hope is that you will find the things I write entertaining, informative, hopeful, scary, and above all interesting. If not, you can always leave a comment telling me I am full of crap.
- Comments: 3
- Written on: May 3rd, 2014
I have been mining Litecoin (LTC) at WeMineLTC.com for a couple of months now and I noticed that the difficulty has been increasing pretty rapidly recently.
In layman’s terms, difficulty is the number of KH/s required to mine a portion of a coin. The difficulty increases as more people mine the coin. The more KH/s that go in on a macro level, the higher the difficulty goes.
Because of the increase in difficulty, my 18,000 KH/s went from earning about 5.5 LTC/day ($90.75/day) to about 3.8 LTC/day ($64.6 /day) (note that USD exchange rates changed as well – that’s why the math isn’t perfect).
That’s quite a drop in my ROI as I work toward paying off all of the equipment I invested in to achieve an 18 MH/s hashing rate. I started to wonder if it might be more profitable to mine other alt coins that offer lower difficulties but have much, much lower USD exchange rates on far more sketchy exchanges.
The Test – Multipool.us vs WeMineLTC.com
I decided to create an account on Multipool.us and test the theory.
Multipool.us is a switching pool. That means that I point my 18 MH/s at their servers and they use that mining power to mine whichever junk alt coin offers the highest profitability at that moment based on difficulty.
If you are unfamiliar with the various alt coins that are out there, check out www.coinwarz.com to see which coin offers you the best theoretical ROI for your hashing power at this moment.
I allowed my rigs to mine at Multipool for 24 hours. Through Multipool I earned LTC, Doge, AUR, TIPS, and DGC.
After the test period I withdrew all available coins to my local wallets and then sent them to the exchange www.cryptsy.com to convert them into LTC at current market rates. Obviously, I just sent the mined LTC coins to my LTC wallet.
What Were the Results?
After converting all of the coins to LTC and sending them to my wallet I netted about 1.8 LTC for the 24-hour mining period. I was actually disappointed with those results. I expected the mined total to be higher than the 3.8 LTC I would have received mining on WeMineLTC.com.
The result was 1.8 LTC in 24 hours of mining on Multipool.us when that same hash rate could have earned 3.8 LTC at WeMineLTC.com.
Besed on these results, it was obviously more profitable to generate LTC directly at WeMineLTC rather than generating the most profitable coin at any moment and then converting those coins to LTC through Cryptsy.
It is important to note that WeMineLTC.com is a 0% fee pool and Multipool.us is a 1.5% fee pool. That means 1.5% of my KH/s are given to Multipool.us instead of making their way to my wallets.
It is also important to note that I did lose multiple fees to Cryptsy through converting the various coins to LTC.
Even when those fees are added back in, it was still vastly more profitable to mine at WeMineLTC.com.
Other Considerations For Multipool.us
This article was about short-term profitability – not long-term value. BTC and LTC have established themselves at present as the most highly valued coins.
- Comments: 2
- Written on: February 22nd, 2014
I have been playing around with crypto-currency mining for the past month and one of the things I noticed is that is is still way too technical for the average person to grasp. I obviously have a technology background and access to some of the best break-fix technicians and facilities in the area, so I was able to figure it out for the most part.
Over the years I built Schrock Innovations Computer Company from the ground up by making technology understandable to the average person whenever possible.
I plan on writing more about my entrance into the crypto mining community, and those posts will have to have technical concepts in them simply because there is no way around it. I am writing this post to be a central reference point for those technical terms and concepts so that as I write, readers who find these posts have a place to look to understand what in the world I am talking about.
What is a Crypto Currency?
Crypto currency is a digital currency that does not exist in the physical world. Much in the same way you can spend digital dollars with a credit card that you never held in your hand, crypto currencies like Bitcoin, Litecoin, and Dogecoin can be – to various degrees – exchanged for goods, services, or typical fiat currencies liek US Dollars or Euros.
Crypto currencies are not stored in bank accounts like traditional fiat money. they are stored in digital wallets that can be save to a computer’s hard drive, a flash drive or even printed out on paper. Just like a real wallet, if your digital wallet is lost or stolen your money is simply gone.
Crypto currencies can be earned by selling goods or services to another party who sends crypto currency from their wallet to your wallet. It can also be “discovered” or mined by having your computer solve complex math problems over time.
Just like the Federal Reserve can release more dollars on an ongoing basis, mining releases more crypto currency into the marketplace over time as people use their computers to mine for it.
Unlike the Federal Reserve, each time a computer successfully mines some crypto currency, the next batch becomes harder to mine. This means that as more of a currency is released, it releases at an ever decreasing rate. Additionally, each crypto currency has a cap on the amount of total currency that will ever be created.
What is Mining and How Does it Work?
Mining is the process by which a computer solves a complex math problem in the hopes of uncovering a new crypto coin.
Anyone can mine with their computer’s processor, more advanced graphics cards (GPUs or ‘gaming cards’), and specialized hardware (ASIC systems).
The math problems that are solved by mining are so complex that even a top-shelf computer processor (CPU) can’t solve them very quickly (think 150+ days to solve one problem that may or may not pay out any crypto currency).
Modern graphics cards actually have much, much more computing power than a computer’s processor, so they can solve the problems more quickly (think 15 days to solve one problem that may or may not pay out).
All crypto currencies (the two different types are scrypt and SHA) can be mined with CPUs and GPUs. ASIC equipment can only mine SHA crypto currencies at this point, and they are orders of magnitude faster than GPUs (think 5 hours to solve a problem that might pay out).
No matter which option you choose to mine with you will need a mining client to look for problems to solve and begin working on them. The most popular clients are cgminer (for AMD based video cards), cudaminer (for NVIDIA cards), and minerd (for CPU mining). There re a lot of variables to consider in setting up and configuring your mining system. This post is an overview so I will cover them in more detail in a later post.
How Can You Make Real (i.e. fiat) Money Through Mining?
Once you set up a computer to solve the complex problems they can earn crypto currencies. These currencies can then be exchanged for fiat money (USD or EURO) throgh crypto currency exchanges.
When you mine your own currency, it gets deposited into your digital wallet. You then send the currency from your wallet to the exchange, convert it to whatever currency you desire (USD, Euro, or Ruble) or you can try your hand at day trading between different currencies to multiply (or lose) your earnings.
Once your mined currency has been converted into fiat, you can send it to your bank account through a wire transfer.
What are the Risks and Costs?
If you want to get serious about mining crypto currencies you will need to invest some start-up capital into higher-end graphics cards or ASIC equipment.
You are going to be mining coins that can have violent swings in their value, or become absolutely worthless in a blink of an eye.
You will be dealing with exchanges in foreign counties that are operating completely without regulation. If an exchange closes down or just disappears all of your currency (fiat or crypto) can go with it (look at what happened to Mt. Gox).
Aside from equipment and time, your only overhead costs are power and cooling. Mining equipment uses a LOT of power – as much as 300 Watts per video card and will generate more than enough heat to make a small room uncomfortably hot. With power running about .10/kWh in Nebraska, you need to keep your power costs in the equation when considering your profitability.
- Comments: 29
- Written on: April 5th, 2013
As technology gets smaller and thinner, there is a serious temptation by manufacturers to make computers more and more difficult to repair. For example, yesterday I was computing away on my couch with my Asus UX31A Ultrabook until it just quit suddenly and powered off.
The unit is still under the manufacturer warranty, but Asus is a stickler about keeping paperwork like purchase receipts. I own a computer repair company and we usually archive these invoices for customers, but I bought this one on my own and I am terrible with paperwork. I search for about 30 minutes for my purchase receipt before I gave up and took matters into my own hands.
There are several reports on the web about these technological marvels just up and quitting. They are amazing when the work but it is beyond frustrating when they just quit for no reason. When mine quit I assumed my battery had died, so I grabbed grabbed my AC adapter and hooked it up. Nothing.
Pressing the power button got no response at all. To add insult to injury, after about five minutes the light on the AC adapter indicated the unit had a fully charged battery.
Pressing and holding the power button did nothing. This unit does not have a manual “pin prick” button to reset the system.
Elsewhere online the problem could be you get a power light and the Asus unit will not boot. Same problem solved here.
Online there is a lot of worry and gnashing of teeth over fears that opening your Asus UX31 will void your warranty. While it is true if you go stabbing around with a screwdriver and destroy the thing your warranty will be void. Also keep in mind if you elect to utilize your warranty and you have the proper paperwork you will probably be without your laptop for anywhere between a week and a month.
Instead you need to grab a small TORX screwdriver set. Asus didn’t use regular phillips head screws in the base of the unit, so a special screwdriver is needed. Don’t try to make the wrong tool for the job work. You can buy a set of TORX bits and a screwdriver on Amazon for about $10. Get the right tools for the job.
STEP 1: Remove the screws from the base of your Ultrabook. This is pretty straight forward stuff, and if I would have been thinking I would have snapped pictures while I had mine apart. Don’t worry though, you are just a few screws and a plug away from victory.
There are 10 TORX screws holding the back plate on the Ultrabook. All of them are the same size except two. The two screws in the center of the unit near the screen hinge are longer. Make sure these two screws get in the correct holes on reassembly. The rest are interchangeable. Remove the back plate to expose the soft underbelly of your rebellious Ultrabook.
STEP 2: Unplug the batter from the main board. You will see a large black mass secured by three screws. This is your Ultrabook’s battery. No need to unscrew it form the unit. Leave it as it is and focus instead on disconnecting it from the main board.
Toward the upper left corner of the battery you will notice a small row of multicolored wires that terminate in a black plastic block on the bottom left corner of the main board. You need to disconnect this form the main board CAREFULLY!
Asus was kind enough to place a black plastic loop around the wires (not the harness). From looking it appears you could just pull the loop and get the plug out. DON’T DO IT. The loop is there for assembly easy – not disassembly. If you pull the loop you could tear the wires from the harness, rendering your battery useless.
Instead, use a very small screwdriver to pop each edge of the the black hard plastic harness upward. The plug lifts straight up. No twisting, no flipping. It comes straight up. It will resist. Mine took minor upward pressure on a jewelers screwdriver at each corner to GENTLY pop it up and free from the main board.
STEP 3: Plug in your AC Adapter. Once you have the battery unplugged, you have effectively removed all power from the unit (a power cycle procedure in normal circumstances).
Plug in your AC Adapter, open the unit and attempt to turn it on. It should power up! If it does not, this article will not solve your issue because it lies either in the AC adapter, a broken DC jack, or the unit’s main board its self.
Once you have verified the unit is passing its POST test and you get video on the screen, unplug it.
STEP 4: Reassemble the Unit. Follow the previous steps in reverse. Plug in the battery again (a straight downward pressure). Replace the back plate and the screws using your TORX screwdriver. REMEMBER!! There are two longer screws. These go near the hinge in the center two holes. The rest of the screws are interchangeable.
Now hook up the AC adapter again and confirm the unit works properly.
STEP 5: Update the BIOS. This happened because something ASUS made isn’t working right. When that happens and it is discovered after the fact, manufacturers issue software updates to correct the problem called BIOS updates. My UX31A unit had 4 BIOS revisions newer than the original BIOS installed on it.
Visit support.asus.com and check for a newer BIOS than the one you are running. I am not going to explain this part because it is tricky and you can brick your unit. Bricking an Ultrabook that won’t boot is one thing, but now that your does, I don’t want to be responsible for bricking it 😉
Asus provides BIOS update instructions on the website if you are so inclined.
Leave a comment below with questions or to let me know if this worked for your unit like it did for mine!
Schrock Innovations Testifies Agaiunst LB 454 – Another Bad E-Waste Recycling Bill That Needs to Be Defeated
- Comments: 0
- Written on: February 27th, 2013
The Natural Resources Committee of the Nebraska State Legislature will be considering LB 454 tomorrow to create a new government bureaucracy to handle the recycling of electronics waste like old computers and televisions.
This is the third attempt in a decade to get this bill on to the floor of the legislature, and like the two before it this one is fatally flawed. Below is a transcript of the testimony I will be submitting tomorrow at the Legislature. If you would like to register your opposition to this bill you can do so by emailing a note to the Natural Resources Committee at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can read LB 454 here.
To whom it may concern:
Schrock Innovations, a local Lincoln computer sales and service company would like to inform the committee that we are in opposition to LB 454 for a number of reasons.
We believe LB 454 will be bad for local businesses, will actually cause a net elimination of private sector jobs, and will not be able to accomplish its stated goals because the fees collected for the tonnage of electronics produced will continually decrease as devices become smaller and lighter while the costs of recycling the existing e-waste in the state will remain constant.
Additionally, LB 454 is completely unnecessary because the private sector is already taking steps to deal with the e-waste problem.
For example, Schrock Innovations already recycles 4 computers for every unit we sell into the marketplace during the course of normal business. Additionally, we hold annual e-waste collection drives at our own expense, offer trade in value for old systems that have no value to us, and offer free recycling services at all three of our locations.
As you may or may not be aware, there is little margin in new computer sales. The additional taxes and regulations imposed by LB 454 would force Schrock Innovations to reconsider the local sale of new computers and the seven full-time positions that are required to order components, construct systems, and install them in our customers’ homes could be eliminated.
The aim of LB 454 as we understand it is to shift the economic responsibility of recycling e-waste onto the manufacturers who produce it. We do not believe that tonnage of electronic devices presently sold in Nebraska would generate sufficient revenue to fund LB 454’s lofty goals and that the recycling program will rapidly become a burden to the state’s general fund.
For example, in 2000 the Metropolitan government of Nashville and Davidson County in Tennessee was force to close down a similar e-waste program because it had exhausted its annual budget in a mere 24 operating hours. As a result, the government was forced to take direct control of the recycling activities of the program, damaging the local economy even further by eliminating the roles of the existing commercial recyclers.
LB 454 is predicated on the belief that somehow manufacturers are not doing anything to resolve the e-waste problem on their own. This is incorrect.
Manufacturers, including Schrock Innovations have made strides in recent years to reduce the toxic chemicals in electronic products. That effort, coupled with a natural drive toward smaller, lighter, and thinner electronic devices is continually reducing the landfill impact of e-waste in states across the country.
LB 454 is at best another example of a vein hope that somehow government will find a way to make an economically bad idea somehow plausible. E-waste recycling is best left to the private sector without the interference of a government bureaucracy.
- Comments: 2
- Written on: December 18th, 2012
There is a black-hat cyber hacker threatening widespread bank account theft against US victims on a level never before achieved and there are some things you need to do to make sure your computer (and you bank account) stay out of what could be a record-setting cyber-heist.
A Russian hacker using an online handle that roughly translates to “Thief-in-Law” intends to steal a whole lot more than the silverware your Aunt Betty tried to steal after dinner last Christmas.
New Private Malware Testing
This hacker has developed his own malware and has successfully conducted several “trial-runs” infecting more than 500 computers with minimal effort. The latest trial concluded at the end of November 2012.
Thief-in-Law publicly claims that he is in Russia, that no one in the US can touch him and that he is going to steal millions of dollars from US banks sometime between now and the spring.
Banks have been alerted by Anti-Virus giant McAfee has issues warnings to banks and provided new signature files that they claim can detect the viruses malware.
Confusion About Attack Target
While McAfee is providing definitions to protect banks, Thief-in-Law is infecting individual peoples computers with malware.
My best educated guess is that the Russian hacker is infecting individual machines looking for online banking passwords. His software reportedly can even answer your challenge question if it knows the answer. To get that information he needs access to your personal computer.
With that information the hacker may be planning on using a list of established account numbers with verified balances. With this list he knows who to target when (or if) he successfully breeches bank security.
What you Can Do to Protect Yourself
There are some specific steps you can take to protect yourself, your computer, and your bank account from this attack.
- Update your Antivirus – If you are not running Norton 360, I strongly recommend you obtain a copy as soon as possible.
- Download all Required and Recommended Windows Updates – Many people allow Windows to install automatic updates, but they never click on Start and then All Programs and select Windows Update to see the recommended updates. Some of these are just as important and they should be installed.
- Install Secure Updater from www.secureupdater.com – Secure Updater is free for the first 14 days. That gets you through the Holiday season with one less thing to worry about. This program updates all of the third party applications on your computer that cyber criminals exploit to gain access to your data.
- Change your online banking password and challenge question – Of course it is recommended you do this often, but if you haven’t rotated your online banking passwords, challenge questions, and challenge images, this is a great reason to do so.
- Comments: 4
- Written on: November 25th, 2012
It is no secret that businesses will be entering an uncertain year in 2013. No one rally knows what the tax rates will be, how much health insurance will really cost, or how it will impact consumer spending on everything else.
Smart businesses will get as lean as they can before this period of uncertainty becomes a period of certainty and it is too late to adapt quickly. One of the things you can cut in 2013 that will save you a bundle of money is your old, outdated Yellow Pages advertising.
Where is Your Phone Book?
Ask yourself a question… Where is your most recent phone book? Do you have it? Do you use it for anything other than a booster seat at Thanksgiving dinner?
If you do have a recent phone book, when is the last time you genuinely used it to find anything important?
The truth is that the Internet is so widely available on such a wide assortment of devices it is actually faster to Google your local Pizza Hut on your smartphone, tablet, or laptop than it is to locate the phone book and look them up.
Like the buggy whip, the typewriter, the floppy disk and the Polaroid camera, the Yellow Pages was huge in its time, but is now nothing more than a novelty that collects dust somewhere or ends up in a landfill.
As fewer and fewer people with disposable income use the phone book, its benefit to your organization decreases dramatically – more than likely past the point where it makes fiscal sense to pay to play.
What Does Disposable Income Have to Do With Yellow Pages Advertising?
Demographics and disposable income are the two most important statistics in Yellow Page advertising.
Lets start with demographics. Who is using the yellow pages and who prefers the web? According to the Local Search Association, a yellow pages trade organization, 56% to 68% of those surveyed indicated they had used either the print yellow pages OR the internet yellow pages (like how they lumped the two together?)
A second statistic that might be more useful from the same survey indicated that 70% to 84% of those age 54 or younger use the search engines FIRST. They may end up on a yellow pages website eventually, but they start their search with Google and not yellow pages.com more than 75% of the time.
The only demographic who used the search engines less were those ages 55+. Usage of search engines drops to an average of about 42% while the use of the printed book or direct links to the yellow page website held steady. Assuming that these customers were adverse to using the search engines, it is safe to assume if you are looking to reach customers aged 55+ who do not have a relationship with an existing top-of-mind vendor you might get some traction with the printed yellow pages in your area, depending on industry.
With that said, that doesn’t mean that the yellow pages is a lock for reaching those 55 and older (who coincidentally are responsible for 55% of all package purchases and have 75% of the nation’s wealth (source).
Consider these facts about these cash-rich 55+ customers:
- 89% of those 65 or older have a personal email account (so they do use technology)
- 1/3 of all web users are over 50
- 36% have a smartphone and half of those use it to check email once a day
- The Internet is the most important source of info for those 55+ before making a durable goods purchase
- The top four online websites for people over 60 are Google, Facebook, Yahoo and YouTube
- 72% of those 55+ shop online
By themselves these numbers indicate that retiring Baby Boomers are using technology to get information and that necessarily means they are using the printed yellow pages less and less.
The most shocking fact that should have yellow page sales reps quaking in their boots is the rate of Internet adoption by boomers. Consider the fact that from 2004 to 2009 the number of 65+ internet users increased 55%. The web is only going to get more popular and that necessarily means the printed yellow pages will become less and less popular.
A Case Study in Failure
In 2011 Schrock Innovations Computer Company took out a yellow pages advertisement in the Dex phone book in Omaha, NE. The advertising bill came in at $1,600 per month.
We asked for a metered phone number so we could track the results of our ad through Telemetrics.
At the end of the year our final Telemetrics report indicated that we had received 24 phone calls for the entire year. Assuming that the same person did not call twice, that breaks down to a cost of $800 PER LEAD!!
Those were not confirmed customers – those were just leads. For all I know they could have been wrong-number hang-ups.
You ad could be performing just as bad as our ad did, but how would you ever know? Without a metered number you simply can’t track yellow pages leads.
Business owners who can’t track results desperately want to believe that $1,600 a month was not wasted. There must have been SOME results that helped our company, right?
The answer is probably not. We would have probably gotten more use out of our $19,200 if we stacked $20 bills in our bathroom and used them for toilet paper. Sad but true. Don’t make the same mistake I did.
How to Replace Yellow Pages Results
Although Schrock’s experience would indicate the yellow pages are a bad bet, there are areas where the yellow pages are more effective than in others.
If a business pulls out of the yellow pages and does not do something else to replace the lost leads that business may be more profitable, but revenues will go down. Revenue is cash flow and in a tough economic year falling cash-flow can be a problem.
The answer is to shift your marketing dollars away from yellow pages and then refocus a much smaller spend to get better results using the new medium that everyone is rapidly adopting. Go where the eyes are – go online.
Don’t get me wrong, Google AdWords is expensive and doesn’t really work for every industry. That’s why we recommend avoiding any ad or placement buying scheme that guarantees your ad will be seen. First of all, it is just as expensive as the print yellow pages if you add up the overall costs of maintaining the ad. Secondly, why pay for something that you can get for free?
By using basic, white-hat SEO (search engine optimization) techniques, most businesses can easily dominate LOCAL searches for their products or services. There are tons of articles online about how to get your web pages to rank, so I won’t rehash that here. The important thing to remember is that is you have good content, a winning sales model that has a compelling hook and upsale opportunities you can’t go wrong.
Save your money and ditch the Yellow Pages. Trust me, I am glad I did. Monthly budget for two phone books back in our bank account = $33,600 annually.
- Comments: 0
- Written on: November 20th, 2012
Every year my company, Schrock Innovations, builds an amazing computer called the Holiday Special that we sell at our cost. Because we sell them at cost we have to limit the quantity to 150 units and we have to watch component prices very, very closely.
Typically we price out the components for our Holiday Special PC in October, build the prototypes and start the sale in November each year . We do our best to order the hardware for the computers in 150 quantity lots to reduce the cost per unit and shipping costs as much as possible.
At times there are pieces of hardware that do not offer quantity discounts or efficiencies when shipped in large lots. These items are ordered on an as needed basis as units are sold throughout the sale.
Non-Technical Components Increasing in price
Take for example a simple plastic tray designed to allow a 2.5″ solid state hard drive to be mounted in a PC. In early October that tray cost about $4.99 in the retail marketplace on Newegg.com.
Today that same tray is retailing for $6.99 after a coupon code. That is a 40% increase in just a month and a half!
The prices of more technical components like hard drives are coming down, but are still higher than they were before the Thailand flooding that leveled much of the world’s hard drive production capacity about a year ago.
Smaller On-Hand Inventory Levels
In addition to slightly higher component prices in the fourth quarter, I have also noticed much more restrictive quantity limitations and smaller inventory levels at our suppliers.
Most of the hardware that Schrock buys for new computers is ordered in 30-100 unit lots to achieve the best efficiencies in per unit pricing and shipping costs. In some cases there are special offers or discounts available to the general public on websites like Tiger Direct or Newegg that offer lower promotional pricing.
While it is common for these companies to place a restriction on the number of units that can be ordered at the lower price, the maximum order quantities have dropped form 10, to five, and as low as 2 in some recent cases.
Even when we are ordering in larger quantities we are often waiting up to 30 days to receive monitors, cases, speakers, keyboards and the like because wholesalers are just not carrying as much inventory as they used to in the past.
While I am not an economist, it would be tough to avoid the fact that at least a portion of the price increases we are seeing are the result of a weakening dollar when compared to other currencies (aside from the Euro at the moment).
I think it is pretty safe to say that manufacturers, wholesalers and retailers are all waiting to see what will happen with taxes and budgets in the coming year. In the mean time everyone seems to be playing the “how close can I shave it game.”
Sometimes when you cut things too close and something unexpected happens, it can mean a world of monetary hurt. Unfortunately there are a LOT of threats lurking in the darkness ahead that is 2013.