Thursday, October 16, 2008

Joe-the-Plumber Demonstrates Business and Tax Ignorance in America

I am not picking on "Joe the Plumber", though I need to start with this very current and in-your-face example that both candidates used in yesterday's presidential debate (quote from Fox news article link above):
Joe Wurzelbacher, 34, told Obama that he was preparing to buy the plumbing company he works for, and that its revenues come to more than $250,000 a year.
Does everyone realize how sad it is that people do not understand the difference between REVENUE and INCOME?! There is no income tax plan in America (whether presented by a Democrat or Republican) that sets tax threshold based on *revenue* of a company.

I could not believe it when Obama did not jump right on this fact and clearly say something like, "you know John (McCain), nobody is proposing taxing revenue, but rather *income*. It is only the business *income* that matters, and I will only increase taxes on the *income* over $250K/year. And, nobody is taxing a purchase of a business either, so the purchase price is irrelevant (except for the seller, who is presumably getting a favorable cap-gains rate already)." But, Obama and McCain, like most Americans, obviously lack the understanding of our current tax-code, even as they propose changes to it to improve it.

In addition, people incorrectly seem to think that if a tax-rate increase goes into effect for >$250K earnings that it raises taxes on dollars #1 through #250K, which is NOT the case. Our tax-tiers are additive bands, and the money earned in each "band" is taxed at that band's rate and that rate only, and have always been so. I.e., even if you make $300K, and taxes are raised by 3% on any income over $250K, you are paying 3% on the 50K beyond that 250K threshold, which is $1500/year. You are NOT paying 3% more on the entire 300K. No tax plan EVER has implemented such a thing. Again, I fault Obama for not pointing this out CLEARLY to everyone so as to dismiss the McCain fear-factor approach regarding Obama's plan to raise taxes on the income earned that EXCEEDS the $250K threshold, and ONLY on that amount. This is simply trying to return tax-band-rates on the upper-most tax-bands to rates similar to the Clinton era (which, if you noticed, we experienced a prolonged economic expansion during such times, and had much smaller deficits - it surely did not punish business or job-creation!)

American ignorance (in general) when it comes to understanding business and taxes is sad. It should be a requirement that we ALL learn about how a small business operation works, and about income taxes and how they are structured, so we know the basics. This should be a high-school class. The basics can be learned in just a couple weeks. And, it needs to be taught without regard to politics: we do not need teachers saying that either the Democrat's or Republican's version of taxation is "better" or "more fair" or whatever. Let people learn the tax code, and about how revenues, expenses, tax-credits, incentives, and all that come into play, and how it is net-profit (i.e., income) that is what matters most when it comes to taxation at a Federal level.

But, for now, the average American remains absolutely clueless with regards to taxes (in general), and especially in regards to taxes as they apply to small businesses. As such, John McCain can use the fear of taxes as a weapon against Barack Obama. And, because Barack seems to not command the details behind our tax-code, he is ill-equiped to stave off these attacks even though doing so should be SIMPLE.

Out candidates both prove that THEY are clueless in the matters of business and taxation, especially in regards to the "little guy"... they talk about education in America, but show they have no knowledge of how business and finance work for most of America. So, please candidates, get on the ball. I doubt John McCain really cares to learn (since his policies target large business and the absolute upper-few percent of incomes more than anything), but certainly Obama should be able to get some people onboard with his campaign to help him counter the fear/scare tactics of McCain. Talk to me Barack, I will GLADLY help your campaign with small-business issues... I own a few small businesses, and have for many years. I understand this all rather well, and can help explain to others that your plan really is not going to hurt small business AT ALL.

Sure, you have Warren Buffet and Robert Rubin as advisers, but you need someone that also represents the "small guy", the small business owner, and the concerns of the average American business owner. I will join your advisory board, and I do not expect compensation. I will make the same offer to McCain, but I really do not believe his interests lie in helping those that make less than $250K/year (income! not revenue people... income!), and as such, this would exclude 98% of small businesses from his target audience (though he surely has tried to scare ALL small business by misrepresenting tax-code and Obama's tax plan).

And, I have not even started on how insanely stupid McCain's health-care proposal is... he is incentivising me to drop the health-care plan I currently offer my employees and sticking my employees with the burden of acquiring healthcare for themselves at (I guarantee) a MUCH higher price than what I, as a business owner, get group-rates for. But, that is another issue.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Intel X-25M SSD Benchmark Results (NASDAQ:INTC)

I just purchased an Intel (NASDAQ:INTC) X-25M 80GB SATA SSD (Solid State Drive) from (search for:X25M80GB) for $638.00 (a splurge, but I really wanted to speed up my primary software development desktop system!) I am pleased to report that, even with this "investment" coming at a rather steep price compared to traditional SATA hard-drives, I think it is worth it because of the massive productivity improvements I am seeing.

This "disk drive" (or, more appropriately, RAMDISK), is tiny and has no fan and makes zero noise because there are no moving parts. It is 2.5" form-factor drive, like a notebook drive, with a standard SATA interface and SATA power-cable (low-profile) connection. It installs just like any other SATA disk, and all I had to do was open up my machine, connect the cables, boot Windows (I still use XP Professional, as I have a dislike for Windows Vista still), and format the drive from Disk Manager utility.

I performed my tests on my Dell Dimension 9150 Desktop which has an Intel Pentium D 2.80Ghz Dual Core, 4GB RAM, Gigabit Ethernet, and SATA drives.

I do nearly all my work inside virtual machines, and as such, it is the performance of launching those VMs and running applications within those VMs that I have compared. For my Virtual-Machine testing, I am using VMWare Player 6.0 to run the VMs I created with VMware Workstation 6.0.

I especially do a lot of development in the Borland Delphi (aka, CodeGear Delphi, aka Embarcadero Delphi) IDE application. So, I have Delphi 2006 (D2006) Enterprise running under Windows 2003 Server with SP2 inside a VM, with a few Delphi component-sets installed that load into environment on startup (like Rave Reports, Raize Components, MustangPeak listview and treeview components, and QuickReports).

The Virtual Machine used in any benchmark below resides fully on whatever device it is that I am testing.

For the speed comparison, I tested the same features and functionality with my test Virtual Machine running from either 1) a local Western Digital 7200 RPM SATA drive, 2) a QNAP NAS RAID-1 Gigabit-Ethernet connected device, or 3) the new Intel SSD installed on my local machine.

I saw INCREDIBLE RESULTS with the Intel SSD delivering MASSIVE SPEED IMPROVEMENTS for every operation I tested, as you will see in the table below. My tests were limited, as the speed-improvement trend was quickly apparent in everything I tried. In general, execution/load times when using the Intel SSD device were reduced by 50-80% as compared to the other devices - WOW! My tests included:
  • Booting WindowsXP to login prompt. Just like it sounds.
  • Starting Delphi 2006 "cold" after Windows first booted up, with D2006 loading the last-used project (same for each test) and to the familiar Delphi "Welcome" page.
  • Using D2006 to compile my largest project - that project is my own custom software that is 50+ units and 50,000+ lines of my own code, not to mention 10's of 1000s of lines of linked in code.
  • Using the BDS (Borland Developer Studio) Help System to "filter" the results in help to a particular language (in this case: language = Delphi), since Borland also includes other Help for C++ and Windows APIs and all sorts of stuff I don't normally want my search to encompass. Though this may sound trivial, just selecting the "filter" operation drove me nuts in the past due to how slow it was. Thankfully, the SSD speeds this up INCREDIBLY!
  • A "Find-in-Files" operation, where I search my large Delphi project for instances of various words, including searching files that are not already open in the IDE.
Here is a table showing how long the same operation took to perform in one of three configurations.
Elapsed times are in SECONDS(Lower is better!)
QNAP SATA RAID over Gigabit Ethernet
Local WD 7200RPM SATA
Boot Windows XP to Login Prompt
Delphi 2006 : Launch IDE
Delphi 2006 : Compile a large project
Delphi 2006 : Filter Help by "Lang : Delphi"
Delphi 2006 : Find-in-Files operation

As I expected when I wrote about the Intel X-25M, X-25E, and X18M SSD Specifications on my blog recently, Intel's new Solid State Drive delivered a substantial performance boost to my desktop. I am now limited only by the throughput of my somewhat outdated desktop CPU and the bandwidth of the SATA bus that I have the SSD installed on. If cost were no concern, I would definitely install a SATA RAID card and RAID 4 of these SSDs together to achieve insane throughput rates. But, that will have to wait until prices fall dramatically to become an option that is more affordable.

I do expect the price to fall somewhat quickly by the second quarter of 2009 as other competitors come on line with SSD offerings, and as production is ramped up in general. In the short term, I actually noticed that Buy.Com increased the price by $30.00, perhaps due to strong demand, to $668.99. I will be waiting for a price drop or promotion before getting a second one for my primary Windows XP boot / OS drive.

I think there is certainly potential for ROI (Return-On-Investment) justification for this Intel SSD already. Fact is, if you find yourself spending a fair amount of your day waiting for your computer to keep up with you (due to slow disk drives), the Intel SSD will deliver outstanding improvements and make your day more productive and tolerable. If the drive saves even 15minutes/day of a $40/hour employee's time that is otherwise wasted sitting there while a disk-drive does something, that is $10/day of savings if the newly found time is used for more productivity. As such, the ROI period would be only 2 months!

Sure, many people will not save 15minutes per day unless they do a LOT of disk-intensive work, but even 5 minutes per day savings (loading office applications and such) would pay for the Intel drive in 6 months, not to mention the MTBF (Mean-Time-Between-Failure) should be VERY low thanks to the fact there are no moving parts - so, less maintenance or down-time = money saved too. And, this device uses nearly ZERO POWER, and you will save there too (and, you will save on cooling costs, as thermal footprint is much lower than a standard disk). Consider this Intel SSD either now or in the near future... it may save you a bundle.