Deal Talk

Time Warner / Comcast Cable Internet rip-off

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Do you have cable internet? Do you own your cable modem or do you lease it from Time Warner or Comcast?
I never paid much attention to this item on my Time Warner Cable Internet but I was shocked when I found out something few days ago!

While shopping at Costco, I saw a new Motorola cable modem SB6141 for around $75! I bought that one and then I checked online on Time Warner website that this modem works with their service. I was happy that in one year, I would cover the cost of the modem. Every month, I have been paying $6 for the modem lease. Not a bad deal, right?

MotoralModemArris 502g

However when I was returning my old Cable modem to Time Warner, I realized how big of a fool I was! Not that $6 matters that much in my life but it didn’t go well with my engineering background and finance profession once I tried to find out the value of the modem that I had leased from Time Warner for the last 5 years! The modem that I was returning was Arris and the model was TM502G! When I checked online, the cost for a brand new modem was around $25 and there were plenty of sellers of used modem of this exact model number for $15-$18!!!

So this was like I was paying 40% of the current price of the modem every month!!! What a fool of me!!! If you are also leasing your modem from Time Warner cable internet or from Comcast, click on this link and buy your own modem. Stop paying every month for your modem.

Best Deals on digital cameras

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Buying the right camera is more important in my opinion than searching for a great camera deal.
A good value at a good price is a deal.

Ask yourself these questions:
* What is the primary use of the camera you are buying? (photos of kids, friends and family, using it mostly while traveling/vacation, taking photos is a hobby, passionate about photography, etc)
* What will be the primary use of the photos you will be taking (Share them with family and friends online, print them and put them in album or hang them on the wall, Get wows- great feedback from viewers for your photos, make money with photos you take, etc)
* What is important in your camera purchase (price, image quality, camera size, brand-name, HD-Video, something special- what is it?-, etc)

Every digital camera is a small computer- a computer with hardware as well as software. When we buy a computer, we pay attention to hardware first (CPU speed, memory, graphic card etc) and then to software (operating system, browser, word processing, etc.)
Same thing goes with a digital camera.

In my opinion, try to look for the best hardware in your camera. Besides its built quality, look and feel, the most important parts in a digital camera are- Sensor (type and size) and lens. Try to buy a camera with large enough sensor. The larger the sensor, the better image quality and more situations where your camera can work. Same thing about lens. The bigger the better. Have you seen most compact and subcompact cameras do a miserable job with a night shot or a low light situation? or in an action shot? Have you seen them fail miserably when you are tying to shoot your son’s basketball game or your daughter’s soccer game? These are the situations when a tiny sensor and a small lens can’t do much for you.
Above these two important hardware pieces are the software parts which manipulate what the ‘the light passing through the lens in x amount of time with (xxx iso) sensitivity and falling on the sensor’ has captured. The digital processing adds brightness, contrast, sharpness, etc. Remember you can play with all these things with Photoshop or free software like Picasa.  I am not trying to underestimate the importance of the software part of the camera.  I am just saying that if you do not like something in the photo you took with your camera, you cay most of the time fix that in your computer with software provided with your camera or with free software like Picasa. You can also buy some software like Photoshop CS or Portrait Professional that will let you do so many things.

So here is my camera buying guide:

1. Compact cameras: Cameras you can keep in your pocket or purse. They have 3 to 4x zoom.
Great fit for:
* Portability- keep in your purse or pocket so you can shoot a photo whenever you want.
* Works great if all your photos are taken with ample day light.
* Most of the photos are of people/faces
* The use of the photos are for uploading on facebook or Picasa to share with family and friends

These cameras cost from $50 to $200.
Personal hint:  Do not spend more than an hour in deciding which camera to buy.  Save time in research.  You do not need more than 6MP camera in most situations.

2. Compact Camera with ultra-zoom. The zoom is from 10x to 20x

* These cameras are easy to carry but sorry, you can not fit them in your pocket.
* So if you like to go out in the nature and you like to travel, then I would recommend you to buy this cameras instead of tiny cameras.
* Usually they have better/bigger lens than the compact cameras so their picture quality is normally better.
My personal favorites: Panasonic cameras with Leica lens.

(to be continued)

Are Hybrid Cars Good Deals?

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Are Hybrid Cars Good Deals?
Let us compare Toyota Corolla to Toyota Prius.

Hybrids are hot these days. Seems like they come with many benefits. So let us drill down and see if they are good deals.

One of the most famous Hybrids out there in the market these days is Toyota’s Prius. So let us concentrate on it. A model of Toyota that compares well in size, power, look, feel to Prius is Corolla. So let us compare two of them *quantitatively*. Purely in terms of money. Qualitative factors are hard to measure and they are left for blind-lovers or hard-code-haters so they can justify their love or hate for something! So we are concentrating only on the monetary aspect of these two vehicles here.

* Cost of Prius Vs Corolla:

Toyota Corolla is listed at around 15,000USD but you can mostly get if for around 13,500$. Thanks to the competition by Honda Civic, Nissan Centra and hundreds of other similar models.
On the other hand, Prius is listed around 23,000USD for 2007 model. Because hybrids are hot (thanks to tax benefits and high Gasoline prices), it is very difficult to get any discounts. At one point, they were sold at premium to the MSRP!!!

So the price advantage is roughly around 9,500USD.

* Tax Advantage:

Used to be pretty good for Hybrids but it is going to go away completely from October 1, 2007.
Click here for details:”The tax credit for buying a Toyota hybrid vehicle will begin to fade away October 1. Federal law requires that the tax credit for buying a hybrid vehicle begins to phase out during the second calendar quarter after the quarter in which the company sells its 60,000th hybrid. Toyota reports its cumulative sales of qualified vehicles to retail dealers has reached the 60,000-vehicle limit during the calendar quarter ending June 30, 2006, according to the Internal Revenue Service. Vehicles purchased before Oct. 1, 2006, qualify for the full credit. For Toyota hybrid vehicles bought on or after October 1, 2006, and on or before March 31, 2007, the credit is 50 percent of the otherwise allowable credit amount. Taxpayers buying vehicles on or after April 1, 2007, and on or before September 30, 2007, can only get 25 percent of the credit.

For Prius, credit amounts for April 1, 2007 to September 30, 2007 is $787.50
Beginning October 1, 2007, taxpayers who buy a Toyota hybrid cannot claim the related tax credit.

So after adjusting tax benefit, the net cost difference is 8,500$.

* Gas Mileage MPG

Hybrids are sold on two things: Environment and Savings in Gas. As gas prices go up, Hybrids seem more and more attractive.

Let us do a 2 minute quick analysis:

Toyota Corrola gives 30/38 so assuming 50% street and 50% highway, we get 34 miles per gallon.
For Prius, it gives 60/50 mpg so assuming 50% on street and 50% on Highway, we get around 55 miles per gallon for Prius.

Now let us assume that you drive 1,500 miles per month.(This is on the higher side as normally people drive around 1000 miles per month) If you drive Corrolla, you will need 44 gallons of gas per month and if you were to have Toyota Prius, you can expect to need 27 gallons of gas per month. So the savings is 17 gallons if you are driving 1500 miles per month (and if you are driving 1000 miles on average, the savings is 12 gallons per month)

Let us assume gas price per gallon. If we look at last two years prices, they are around 3$ per gallon. (If you look at last 10 years prices, the average price is I guess 2$ per gallon)

Now we need to make another assumption: How long do you expect your Hybrid or Corolla to last? Let us assume 10 years.

So monthly savings of 17 gallons will be 200 gallons per year so for over the life of the car, we can expect to save 2000 gallons. So if we assume average gas price of 2.5$, we are saving 42$ worth of gas in a month and 5000$ of gas over 10 years in nominal terms. And remember, we have to pay 8500$ upfront for this 5000$ savings over 10 years!!

Now let us assume that we borrowed 8500$ for Prius at 10% per annum. If we were to look at the interest rate/return at 10% per annum on the excess 8,500$ that we are paying upfront, it turns out to be 71$ per year. So you savings in gas of 41$ per month does not even meet the 71$ that you are paying per month for the 8500$! So on the net level, by going hybrid and selecting Prius over Corolla, we are losing 30$ per month and 8500 upfront!!!