Apple's not the only company to save billions in taxes through Nevada as The New York Times reported yesterday. Here's how Microsoft's saved $4.37 billion in tax payments to Washington State and how it's led indirectly to $4 billion in K-12 and Higher Education cuts since 2008. 18% of University of Washington freshman are now foreigners (because they pay more) up from 2% six years ago. Washington State ranks 47th nationally in 18-24 yo college enrollment and 48th in K-12 class size. This hasn't stopped the architect of the company's Nevada tax dodge from writing in The Seattle Times: 'it's [Washington] state's paramount duty to provide for the public education of all children. Unfortunately, steady declines in public resources now threaten our ability to live up to that commitment.' Yes, indeed.
My open letter to the Seattle City Council about Comcast's 50% price hikes on broadband Internet access:
In the fall of 2010, I wrote of my concerns with Comcast's billing policies in TechFlash. At the time, I expressed frustration that in order to get the market rate with Comcast, I had to call every six months, threaten to cancel and only then would they offer the market price for broadband.
This week, I learned that Comcast has discontinued its $42 rate for 15 mbps broadband. They now insist on charging me $62.95 for this same level of service. They tell me that I can receive a much lower performance of 3 mbps at the old $42 rate if I wish. Or, they tell me that I can bundle services such as cable television to receive the best pricing.
Comcast is a monopoly cable technology broadband provider to my home ... so it's quite frustrating to have to call the company every six months for the market rate and now to have a 50% price increase in what I've been paying for many years.
Qwest/CenturyLink can only provide 7 mbps DSL to my home. I plan to sign up with them and terminate my Comcast account. However, the 7mbps performance does not allow for the same level of performance that cable provides e.g. higher quality streaming video, uploading large files, etc.
I know that there are a myriad of federal regulations governing what the council can do to control rates and private companies such as Comcast and Qwest. However, I do believe the council has failed Seattle customers in not flexing its muscle more aggressively in our long term agreements that grant these companies rights of way to our neighborhoods and homes. And, now, I and many other Seattleites are forced to pay more or get less.
I thought it would be useful to give you an update on one Seattle resident's experience - which I expect is about to become more commonplace for other customers.
I hope that you will reconsider more aggressively regulating these companies. Affordable broadband internet access is a keystone of Seattle's future.
This is a bit of a work in progress ... but check out The Complete Mac, which provides an easily browsable summary of all the products and accessories I recommend for Mac, iPhone and iPad users. Enjoy!
In his Everett Herald column today, John Burbank, Executive Director of the Economic Opportunity Institute, zeroes in on Microsoft's tax dodge and its harmful effects on the state's educational system. Read more
Our NewsCloud open source community-focused social media platform now offers a simple installation process. Check out the video and learn more.
Update: Thanks for the link Macsurfer dudes.
Super Fast Two-Sided Scanning to PDF
Recently, I've been trying to move to an increasingly paperless lifestyle. I'm a Mac, iPhone, iPad owner - so I write from that perspective.
The Fujitsu ScanSnap S1500M has been the key to moving in this direction. It's a fast, duplex (double-sided) PDF scanner with an automatic document feeder which really does make it a snap to quickly scan and store documents and receipts to your hard drive. Basically, you insert a document, push a button and the document is quickly stored. It's also compact and designed to easily unjam (which happens occasionally).
Remember Everything in the Cloud
The ScanSnap also works well with Evernote, a free cloud-based organizer of all your links, photos and documents. There is also a great Evernote iPhone application. If you scan a lot, an Evernote premium account only costs $45 per year (or $5/monthly).
Snapshot Notes et al. with the iPhone 4
The improved focus, speed and resolution on the iPhone 4 camera makes it an indispensable new tool in the move towards a paperless office. I regularly photograph everything from business cards to napkin scribbles for my iPhone to remember and upload to Evernote. Note: Thus far, I am not impressed with the Evernote Business Card Manager application - but I'm hoping they make the OCR features more automated.
Obviously, going paperless raises a number of other issues:
Primarily, you need to have a well coordinated backup solution. My friend Phillip Smith at Community Bandwidth wrote up this excellent post on his strategy for secure, automated backups for under $500.
Backup Your Paperless Office in the Cloud
He recommends the BackBlaze online service which seems to work well but not in my particular configuration. It's taking over a month to backup my initial primary desktop and photo library. I'm having to rethink my usage of their service. Backblaze essentially backs up one computer and its external hard drive for $5 per month. However, at least right now, it does not back up external drives that you use with TimeMachine nor network attached storage.
I also purchased his suggested Secure Western Digital My Book Studio 2 TB External Hard Drive WDBAAJ0020HSL-NESN. I especially appreciate its built-in encryption. This drive works phenomenally well with its speedy Firewire 800 interface. I've configured my ScanSnap to scan directly to the My Book Studio.
These days, I scan almost all incoming paper that I need to save and recycle the rest.
Stem the Tide of Incoming Paper
Earlier this year, I signed up for a junk mail prevention service called 41pounds - read more about it at Tales of Change. Basically, for $41, they will gradually help you eliminate catalogs, junk mail and phone book deliveries for five years. I've had good success working with them - and get a fraction of the paper-based mail that I used to.
When you stem the tide of incoming paper, it's even easier to move to a paperless office.
Now that I'm scanning so much more paper, I have more paper to dispose of...securely. I use a crosscut shredder like the Royal 16. Using a crosscut shredder is a important for minimizing the risk of identity theft.
If you want additional redundancy locally, consider a $69 Western Digital Elements 1 TB External Hard Drive to just make a snapshot of your paperless office (and iTunes library) and store it in a Fireproof Safe (yes it fits) ...or with nearby family. You can't beat the price for this additional level of locally accessible redundancy.
Taking Digital Notes
I've also begun to experiment with an iPad Stylus and Dan Bricklin's Note Taker HD. So far, it hasn't stolen me away from my beloved Moleskine notebooks . I'm a bit more curious about the Livescribe 4 GB Smartpen but haven't yet taken the plunge.
Related links that may interest you:
Why are you still paying AT&T for iPhone text messaging? Most AT&T iPhone users spend between $5 - $20 per month on SMS text messaging fees - that's up to $240 per year in unnecessary costs. Now that Apple has approved Google's Voice application, there is really no need to pay for text messaging.
Google's new Voice application now offers the same notifications as the iPhone's native SMS application, so there are few if any reasons not to switch over. And, there are many new reasons to switch.
Here's what you need to do:
The Google Voice for iPhone application still has some rough edges but I expect it will continue to get better.
With Google Voice, I've reduced my iPhone bill to about $75 monthly which is not that much more than other typical cell phone plans.
It's portable, but not meant so much for portability. While I carry it in my pack occasionally, if portability is what you're looking for exclusively, try a different stand such as the Kickstand or ten dollar Menotek Stand.