Thursday, February 27, 2014

Bitcoin & Mt.Gox Implosion


So Mt.Gox – only a few months ago the largest Bitcoin online exchange – imploded, and it may possibly bring down the entire Bitcoin world along with it.  People, naive investors who saw the meteoric rise in the bitcoin exchange rate, lost millions of real dollars worth of virtual assets investeddeposited in the exchange.  I guess it has been an quite a ride, an interesting social/economic/cryptological/cryptographical (is that an actual word?) experiment.

I can’t claim to know much about Bitcoin.  Just from the little I read in Ars Technica, the technology is absolutely brilliant  -- so advanced, I don't think any single person (“Satoshi Nakamoto”) could really come up with it.  Using distributed computing/peer-to-peer networking (like Bittorrent) to record and verify bitcoin transactions, incentivizing people ("miners") who donate computing power (like Bittorrent's seeders) with reward of newly-minted bitcoins.  The actual cryptic calculations are way beyond the grasp of my limited brain power (and to think I graduated with a masters in computer science 9 years ago) ....

The thing is, although technology may be brilliant, but the humans using them are flawed.

What people don’t seem to understand, even with a new “currency” or “investment class”, the fundamentals of investing remain the same.  You can read a whole lot from online classes about what these are, but I just want to highlight a few things that even professionals may forget or neglect entirely:

- If you don't understand the investment, don't just blindly put your faith (and money) on it.  Derivatives, structured products, Iraqi Dinars, bitcoins.  Come on, nobody really understands how these things work, except for people who sell them, insiders, financial analysts, and maybe institutional investors; hence, nobody should invest in these things.  If you want to speculate, then that's different, because speculation means you understand the risks and are willing to lose most (if not all) of your principal.  Myself, I'd prefer to miss out on (potential?) profits, rather than realizing actual losses.  Life is just too short, I don’t want to be that sad guy protesting outside of MtGox’s Tokyo office.

- If it's complicated, you'll probably lose money.  Similar examples as above: derivatives, structured products, bitcoins.  Heck, I'll add subordinate bonds, and stocks of energy trading companies.  Stick to simple things like stocks and bonds of companies that you know, at least we know what they are, how they are priced, and how the prices correlate to the general economic health.

- Don’t forget to diversify your portfolio.  Booooring, I know.  This means not putting all your retirement fund in Apple shares.  Also means, if your job (and therefore, your income) is in investment banking, it's probably not the best idea to put your savings in bank stocks (or stocks in general?) – imagine if 2008 happens again, you may find yourself out of a job and a valuable portion of your savings.  Also means if you have an option to receive your bonus in the form of cash or company stock, always take the cash -- pay down your debt, reinvest in other stocks, do whatever but always take the cash.  Yes, I'm saying this even if you're working for Facebook and it's 2005, because you don't have the benefit of 20/20 hindsight.  (Unless if you can predict the future, then you don’t need advice in anything.)

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Going back to bitcoin, would it survive to see another day?  Maybe, maybe not – other than the ones who actually invested money, humanity is not losing much in the grand scheme.  I do believe that the underlying technology will reappear in another shape or form.  Just like Napster turned into Folding-at-home which turned into Bittorrent which turned into Bitcoin (gross generalizations, I know).  I don’t believe the legacy of bitcoin will end at drug dealings, murder for hires, and the spectacular collapse.  Perhaps Bitcoin wouldn't die with a thud, it'll just flatline while a derivative technology eclipses it and change the world.  Who knows.

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BTC mining rig
Post-Script:
Want to make money with bitcoins? Follow the 8 steps below (source: Buttcoin.org):
1. Buy an Avalon or Butterfly Labs ASIC mining rig
2. Put it up on ebay selling for US$
3. If you can’t get the selling price you want, use the ASIC to mine more BTCs
4. Pray that the BTC price doesn’t completely and permanently tank
5. Stop mining when you have enough to buy a Tesla Roadster
6. Sell the Tesla Roadster and the mining rig for USD or keep the car because it’s a Tesla Roadster
7. Currency of the future????
8. Profit.

Tesla Roadster

Sunday, February 23, 2014

A Great Leader

A great leader takes a little more than his share of the blame, and a little less than his share of the credit.”
            - Arnold H. Glasgow


Friday, February 21, 2014

WhatsApp now?


Sweet!!!  (Source: Gawker)

So Facebook (FB) is buying WhatsApp (WA), in the biggest tech deal since 2001.  If you want to know more about this deal, just go open up WSJ or Ars Technica.  I just want to add 2c, my personal view on this.


Saturday, February 15, 2014

Quick & useful batch files

Just want to share two quick and useful batch file (scripts) I've found useful.

Unprotect_PDF.bat
Ever download a useful PDF book but found out it's "SECURED" and you can't print or make any markups/highlights? For instance I'm fond of the PWC Indonesian Pocket Tax Book, but I want to highlight important sections, dangit.  Install Ghostscript and use this simple batch file and you can get rid of this "SECURED" garbage in no time.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Should we teach kids programming?

Hasna is a future geek, just like daddy
My daughter turned one a month ago.  In no time (okay, maybe in like 10 years), my and my wife will be facing the predicament that has bothered one in eight geeky parents in the world:  Should we teach her programming? Or should I instead guide her more towards music? I do want her to try either the piano, the organ, or the guitar.  But computers are becoming a more and more important part of the world, even if sometimes it's not for the better.

Technologist John C. Dvorak argued that in the 80s and 90s computers are more powerful than they are now – not because the chips carry higher MHz counts, but because of customizability.  Back then if you want to achieve something, you have the basic tools to do it (e.g. MS Word) but if you need something more advanced you tell the computer to do it (i.e. write a VBA script).  Nowadays if you want to do something, you look for an app in the App Stores, and if you can't find it, you just don't do it.   Instead of computers helping us to work, it's the "walled gardens" determining what we can or cannot do.  We are getting dumber because of technology, not smarter.  Even worse, not only are we dumber, we are also shallower; technology is trending less towards solving a problem to help humanity, but more towards getting your app to millions of eyeballs so you can flip it to Facebook or Yahoo (the Instagram paradigm: "zero to a billion dollars in 18 months or less").  This is frustrating if you've been observing technology for as long as we have.  It's up to our children, the next generation, to reverse this downward spiral.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Work hard…

…. and be kind and amazing things will happen
(Conan O’Brien)

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Helpful lightweight software


I'd like to highlight some lesser-known but lightweight and useful software that have made life that much easier.

listary
Listary
Listary  This is one such software, my personal favorite.  Upon launch, it indexes file and directory names.  Then when you're in Windows Explorer you can just start typing the name of a certain file or folder (e.g. say, "Accounting") and it will get you to the right file/folder within the tree (e.g. "My Documents\Downloads\2014\Accounting.xls").  It's kind of like Spotlight in OSX (I'm not a Mac user, so it may not just be like Spotlight….).
Free to download and use.  Pro version adds some extra features


Saturday, February 08, 2014

Walk until your feet hurt...

... Dance until your legs hurt. Act until you’re William Hurt.  (from Modern Family)

Friday, February 07, 2014

Things at home/work


Location: Jakarta, Indonesia
Profession: Financial Analyst / Investment professional / Occasional blogger / Terrible musician
Workstations: Work-issued Lenovo Thinkpad X201 (~2011); at home, a home-built Core2 Q6600 desktop (~2010) now running Windows 8
Blogs: the one you're reading, Hasna's Blog! (hope I can post more regularly)

Hardware that I use daily:

Lenovo X201 with Windows 7
I use a Macbook Air because I'm a professional blogger.Work issued laptop, not much to say. The built-in wifi no longer works (hence the TP-LINK USB adapter below).
CAM00141

Monday, February 03, 2014

Don’t argue with fools ...

…from a distance people can’t see who is who.
              - Jay-Z