Vele discusses investing in Macedonia, technology, digital photography, business and international affairs

Month: October 2004

Google desktop search

I downloaded and installed Google Desktop Search today and it rocks! It took a while to index everything, and I mean everything. My suggestion is to go remove Web History and AOL IM Chats from the indexing, they could take a while. When ready, it runs fast and does an excellent job of searching. I used Lookout before in Outlook, but even though I have My Documents in the index, it rarely finds files. For email, Lookout is excellent and better integrated in Outlook. Google Desktop is great for files, although since there isn’t any cross linking I wonder what’s the page rank alghorhythm.

What I found best about it is that when you search anything from the Google Toolbar for IE, it also displays your local searches on top. Excellent! This takes Microsoft and Apple in for a ride. Switching costs are a big problem here and Google’s only issue so far is that you have to open a browser to search anything on the desktop. Would have preferred a single line or toolbar next to the start button.

Will explore this more, but interested to hear opinions. My wife’s first question: isn’t this kinda invasive? Hm, is google transmitting the files/data that are locally to their servers? hm, just for the paraniod go to gmail is too creepy

eBay’s Blue Book (was Boycott Fedex, Orion Blue Book Sucks!)

What’s the point of Orion Blue Book service: determining the value of used and new equipment for wholesale, private party and barter transactions. From Econ 101, the value of such products is only as good as the most recent trade and market-based transaction. So, in fragmented markets with high transaction costs (finding buyers, inventory, uncertain information, quality issues) the volume is low and the information of actual undisputed trades is unavailable unless someone pays to discover it. That’s why a stock market works so well: it has a lot of volume, it has transparency (each share of equal quality), established transaction method which has lowered transaction costs. On the other end of the spectrum are computer equipment, unique valuables (instruments and antiques) and typically cars. It is hard to ascertain the quality of the equipment, hard to find buyers in 1 place, and hard to complete the transaction with good creditworthy parties. So, Orion Blue Book solved this problem by conducting surveys and compiling this hard to find information in a neat format to help car dealers and other pawn shop owners make sure they are paying less than needed on used stuff. Instead of getting actual transactions, this “blue book” stuff was based on estimates and these 3rd party evaluations. There’s clearly a bias here, but maybe I’m generalizing (or not!) This should have been adequate until about 1998 when eBay started growing.

At this point, eBay has the largest volume of private party transactions of new and used stuff . This means, eBay’s databases (I presume oracle, but god forbid mysql) contain unbeliveable wealth of information on these transactions. Just check out this search on Epson 1280 and find me a used $41 printer. If you take into account only valid transactions, like ones where seller claims X, highest bidder pays Y and doesn’t complain about the validity of X, then X’s value is Y. Aggregating these X’s or products by category (new, refurbished, used), age or a few other attributes, and then showing a simple distribution of cleared valid transactions (high, low, mean and median) along with volume, and even % aggregate positive and negative feedbacks in the transactions you have the most real-time eBay Blue Book service available. And here’s the kicker: this should be free online for us or at least available in a nice shiny book format to be sold to old-school insurance agents and claims adjustors.

In 1 simple move (ok, maybe 3-months work for a good web developer and DBA) eBay has displaced the Orion Blue Book crap value measure with something real that shows actual market transactions and the likelihood that your epson printer is worth what you claim it is.

Am I genius or what? Meg, are you there? We need you here, I’m sure you have someone at ebay working hard on this, but include me in as a volunteer on this project (i have heavy quant modeling skills with ability to create and market something like this, just a plug!). The biggest problem: selling to the insurance people and setting a court prescedent that ebay is true market information to be used as a substitute for the national surveys because it is based on sound economics, and since ebay makes money off sellers transactions, it has no other incentive to mess with prices except to increase overall transaction volume. Making this freely available would be another validation of this model.


Again, FedEx Ground insurance and declared value suck. Orion Blue Book sucks because working Epson 1280 can’t be found anywhere for $41 and eBay should close this gap NOW!

Boycott Fedex (aka Orion Blue Book Sucks!)

Some of you are probably wondering how did FedEx settle the damage they caused to my Epson 1280 photo printer. The title should give you a clue. In fact, I wanted to launch into a tirade of expletives towards FedEx Ground, all rightfully deserved of course, but I want to make this educational in case some of you are wondering: does a “declared value” insure my shippment, of so, how much is FedEx going to pay, how can I make sure the whole world knows FedEx sucks big time, who the fuck is Orion Blue Book and why should we care?

$41.00 that’s the amount on the check from FedEx regarding my claim about FedEx completely destroying a $400 printer. FedEx paid my claim 10cents on the dollar! I’m supposed to bask in their generousity of this “full and final settlement” based on the Orion Freaking Blue Book. That’s right, Orion Blue Book apparently says that my 3-year old used Epson 1280 in excellent working condition, with depreciation is worth $41. In fairness, I couldn’t be happier if this was true, for I’d gladly return the claim check to FedEx and buy a used Epson 1280 for $41, $51, $81 or even $91!!! But first, FedEx and fucking Orion Blue Book have to find me one. Orion Blue Book sucks!

Not that FedEx was so eager to satisfy a loyal customer for 10 years, FedEx actually denied my damage claim pretending I didn’t send “documentation.” After calling them and explaining what all the papers were in the envelope that the “case analyst” had in front of her, she quickly brushed me off “ok, I’ll pay the claim, bye!” Wow, that easy? I wanted to give her all assurances how they were doing the right thing, but she wouldn’t have any of it. Apparently, she had a secret weapon: Orion Blue Book — the biggest scam when it comes to electronic equipment. Oh, and get this: it’s based on National Dealer Surveys! Who buys this stuff? National Dealers and pawn-shops, most likely not ordinary people like me who actually buy and sometimess sell stuff. Just curious how many eBay-ers actually use this garbage?

Vele, where’s the lesson in this? Here it is: when shipping anything with FedEx, ignore the Declared Value field. It’s not insurance, just your own guess of what you think your stuff is worth. The only time this number is used is in the rarest of chances that Orion Blue Book says your shipment is higher value than what you put in the Declared Value and then FedEx pays you Declared Value, which is likely to happen when hell freezes over. Apparently, FedEx doesn’t give a shit about this number as they base every claim off the a) repair cost, b) replacement value, or c) orion blue book value which ever is less!!! If you want true shipping insurance avoid FedEx!!! Most likely you should use UPS as they actually call this insured value, but check with UPS on the phone. I hear the USPS is a little finicky as well. This puts FedEx as target of a class action lawsuit for misleading shippers on the intent and meaning of Declared Value. Imagine, I shipped stuff worth over $4000, and it meant nothing to them, I was misled (yeah, I should have read all pages of their terms of service, but what’s the point of declared value if you aren’t going to pay for it!?), and so are potentially millions of FedEx shoppers claiming declared value on their packages. Don’t use FedEx declared value, and avoid Fedex in the future.

Here are a few links of pissed off customers:
And I love this one!

So, here’s my next lesson: eBay should be in the business of Used Value books! THat’s the theme for my next blog,
For know, let me know if I should go to the trouble of filling a small claims court. All used Epson 1280’s on eBay start at around $150, because they are useful printers in working condition. All refurbished ones start at $250. New ones are around $350-$399. How do you get $41 I don’t know, but I’ll say it again: FedEx sucks and should be sued for misleading customers on shipping insurance and declared value, Orion Blue Book sucks because they are creating value to serve their direct customers: National Dealers and pawn-shops.

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