Stuff Yaron Finds Interesting

Technology, Politics, Food, Finance, etc.

Open permissions matter for an open web

The key to an open social web is permissions. There is data we don’t want to share and data we do want to share, permissions let us create the appropriate barriers. Closed networks like Facebook have reasonably rich permission infrastructures but what about open networks? How should Google and Microsoft enable document sharing across Google Docs and Sharepoint Online? Sure WebDAV can handle the actual mechanics of listing out documents, editing, etc. But how do the permissions get put into place in an open manner directly between users of the two services? This is a hole in the standards infrastructure and it’s time to fill it. Read More

FirstTechPrivacyFailure

For more years than I care to count I have been a happy customer of First Tech credit union. Their website has always been top notch and the service I received from them was the best. But now I find myself looking for a new bank and would welcome any suggestions.

My unhappiness started when First Tech's website was down for 5 days, worse yet, a scheduled 5 days, so they could upgrade their online banking. In this day and age to have a 5 day downtime for an upgrade is unacceptable. This is not the 1990s. This isn't even the 2000s.

Things only got worse when, according to their own notice the upgrade failed because after 5 days of being down they got three times their normal traffic and couldn't handle the load. Huh? You were down for 5 days, what the heck did you think was going to happen? Of course you're going to get a load spike! Their solution was to roll all of their website back to the old website so they could get back up and running while they figured out what to do about the extra load. The planning screw ups this situation called for are, well, concerning.

All of this was irritating but then there was the final straw. Their new on-line bill pay system wouldn't work for me. It kept saying my login failed. I sent mail to their help desk and they quickly responded (still good customer service). Their instructions were for me to reset my browser's security settings to accept third party cookies. What? I have to commit one of the most basic privacy mistakes and let everybody on the Internet trivially track me just so I can use your bill pay service?

This is a bank we're talking about. An institution which is supposed to be all about privacy. And they are so clueless that they think it's o.k. to require third party cookies? Their previous behavior already gave me good reason to question their technical competence but this is just over the top.

So does anyone have a recommendation for a bank with a solid web banking system that has a clue about privacy?

Asset Location for College Savings

Asset location is not so much about what investment to buy as where to locate it. A typical asset location problem is - do I put money in a taxable account or a tax exempt account? In the case of saving for college there are at least four different ways to save money for college that have some kind of tax exemption. Below I explore the five options (taxable and various tax exempt ones) that I could find and explain why we settled on using a 529 savings plan. Read More

How much will it cost to send our daughter to college?

The short answer is that we don’t know. And before someone says ”what about the 529 prepaid plans?!?!” (which I will discuss in a future article) please keep in mind that those plans only track instate tuition fees and so don’t cover expenses like room and board, books, etc. So bottom line is - we don’t know, in fact, I would argue, we can’t know. The guiding light of finance being ”the future’s not our’s to see.” So I’m going to guess. My guess, assuming our daughter goes out of state for college in 15 years and attends college for 4 years is that our total bill (tuition, fees, room, board, etc.) at the end of her undergraduate education will be $320,000 in 2010 dollars. Oy. Read More