October 20, 2004

Cellphone + PDA + camera

I am in search of a cell phone, after years of being the only human without one. Here is a formalization of things I look for in the phone:

(***) - must have
(**) - should have
(*) - would be nice to have

The gadget should integrate cell phone, PDA, camera, and desirably MP3 player, FM radio, and a USB keychain.

Cell phone

  • (***) Should be one-piece. Not a clam-shell design or anything that have movable parts that can crack in my back pocket when I sit down.
  • (***) Should have buttons for dialing (please no stylus and screen dialying only)


  • (***) Full keyboard - I think this would be faster than stylus
  • (*) Trackwheel navigation a'la BlackBerry. I assume that the BlackBerry trackwheel is patented, so nobody else offers it.
  • (***) Ability to upload and run new applications.
  • (**) the API should be open and free so that I can write applications for it.
  • (***) Synchronization with PC
  • (*) Wireless syncrhonization
  • (**) IMAP e-mail through a service
  • (*) Web browsing and e-mail through WiFi


  • (**) Megapixel resolution
  • (*) Optical zoom
  • (**) Pictures should be downloadable without special software (e.g. should act as a USB drive when connected to a PC)

(**)MP3 Player and Radio

  • (**) Music should be uploadable without special software (e.g. should act as a USB drive when connected to a PC)
  • (***) Must support MP3 format
  • (*) Ogg format
  • (**) Radio should have memory presets

(**)USB Keychain

  • (**) When connected to a PC by a USB cable, the device should appear as a USB drive and be ready to copy files from and to the device.

Posted by laza at 04:33 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Abolishing FDA

In his post "I do not approve", and other posts including FDAReview.org, economist Alex Tabarok advocates abolishon of FDA. Although I agree with almost all of his assumptions, I am against disolving FDA.

Background: FDA (Food and Drug Administration) is a government agency that aproves medical drugs and devices after a torturous, overly bureaucratic, often irrational process that makes sure everything has been done in order to make the device or drug safe and effective.

I have worked for two medical device companies, and I can tell you that the pressure on engineers to make the product available for sale can be enormous. If you have CEO's one million dollar bonus (or stock option) hinging on delivering the product by the end of the year, a lot of decisions are being made to justify using an unsafe device on a patient.

The reputation system Mr.Tabarok proposes is a nice idea, but it is subject to the same problem as our political voting system: how will reputation of a drug (or a politician) scattered among patients and doctors spread througout the country affect other potential buyers (voters) when confronted with centrally coordinated, extremely well funded media campaign of the drug producer (politicaly party)? You will find out that buyers will listen to TV comercials with doctors claiming that the drug does wonders. Just as you find that the political party with more money wins elections (otherwise Ralph Nader would take more than 3% of the vote).

Drugs are different from consumer electronics, and the same free market principles cannot be easily applied to maintain safety. People are forced to buy drugs, otherwise they die. Denying oneself of a drug has much graver consequences than not buyin a new flat screen TV.

I recommend reading proposals at FDAReview.org. They go into more depth than my assertions here. In spite of my skepticism, I sincerely hope that we could live safely without FDA.

Posted by laza at 03:12 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

October 18, 2004

Privatization of Social Security, and why not to do it

I have been following discussions about economics and privatization of Social Security. What might be a streight forward economics, it was a revelation to me that Social Security is no better and no worse economically after being privatized. (In short, Arnold Kling explains that obligations would just shift from future's taxpayers to today's retirees). So the reasons for or against privatization cannot be based on economics.

So here are my reasons why NOT to privatize Social Security:

  • Corporite Crime: under privatized system a lot of money WILL be stolen by financial institutions in Enron-like machinations (Citigroup, CFSB, Merrill Lynch, Salomon Smith Barney will not pass up this oportunity). Proponents of privatization say that the stock maket will go up at 7% per year, and that the returns invested in stocks will be higher than Social Security payments. Even though the stock maket can go up at 7% per year, financial institution fees will eat up a significant portion of earnings (if any).

  • Inflation: if we are hit by a large inflation or devaluation of the dollar currency, than all the investments would be severely affected. On the other hand, Social Security would be adjusted for the inflation, standard of living, and the ability of the government to pay. In this case, Social Security can be viewed as diversification - do not put all the eggs into the same (stock market) basket.

  • Forced Savings: Having in mind tendency of the consumers to charge everything on credit cards and get in debt,
    Arnold Kling sumarizes it better than I could:

    Also, we have very different propensities to save. Given the huge need for savings, what this could lead to is a world where the savers subsidize the spendthrifts. I don't think it's fair that if I consume temperately and save carefully for future contingencies that I should then be viewed as a "soft target" for soak-the-rich tax policies. I want to force other people to save, so that they do not come whining to me (or to the government) when they don't have money to pay their health bills when they get older.

Posted by laza at 05:48 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack