Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Guaranteed 3.6% Savings Yield - Simple, Safe, Long-Term with EE Bonds

Guaranteed 3.6% Compounded Interest? Where!?
Look to EE Bonds

[Note that as of January 1, 2012 banks and other financial institutions terminated their sales of bonds, in case you were only familiar with the old way of buying them at a Bank.  Go to Treasury Direct instead.]

Seriously, consider EE Savings Bonds!

Yes, savings bonds... those "old fashioned" instruments for putting money away for the future. Why is it you never hear "investment advisers" or "financial advisers" talking about how USA Government Savings Bonds are still a damn-good option for long-term saving, especially for people that are not otherwise financially savvy or blessed with "extra" time to manage their investments? Simply put: there is no money in it for the advisers!

I argue that savings bonds should make up a portion of almost every investor's financial portfolio.  You should never have to worry about them... just put your money in and wait.  For anyone that wants to argue about hypothetical situations like "what if the US Government goes under",... well, if it does, do you really think ANY investment is going to be worth squat? (and that includes gold; chaos will make that useless too... you would be better off having stockpiles of food and oil)

So, read on, and give EEs some consideration...

3.6% Annual Interest Rate? That sure beats the bank!

Not only does the 3.6% EE yield potential beat anything (of recent) you could get in the bank — and that includes long-term products like 5-year CDs — it nearly matches the current 30-year US Treasury Bills rate (3.86% as quoted currently on Bloomberg US Government Bonds rates).  So, what is the catch?

Patience is required to obtain this yield!

If you visit the Treasury Direct website page on EE Bond Rates, you may first be scared by the currently posted quoted rate of 0.2% (as stated in the paragraph titled "What interest will I get if I buy an EE Bond now?").  But, have no fear and keep reading... you can get the 3.6% rate I am referring to if you are patient and buy these EE-bonds with a 20-year investment horizon in mind.

Now, look further down the page for the section / paragraphs with a heading of "When will my paper bond be worth its full value?".  This is where the IMPORTANT INFORMATION is contained that leads to the 3.6% minimum guaranteed annual compounded interest rate if you hold the bonds for 20 years.  Quoted from that section:
"Electronic bonds are sold at face value (not half of face value). They start to earn interest right away on the full face value. Treasury guarantees that for an electronic EE Bond with a June 2003 or later issue date, after 20 years, the redemption (cash-in) value will be at least twice the purchase price of the bond. If the redemption (cash-in) value is not at least twice the purchase price of the electronic bond as a result of applying the fixed rate of interest for those 20 years, Treasury will make a one-time adjustment at the 20 year anniversary of the bond's issue date to make up the difference."
So, if you HOLD the EE Bonds for full 20yrs, you can forget that "0.2%" stated current rate, as you are guaranteed a minimum of 3.6%-annual-compounded-interest (using rule of 72), since your money has been guaranteed to double in that 20yrs.

Briefly, the "rule of 72" helps us compute the approximate annual interest-rate over a period of time by dividing the interest-rate into 72 in order to obtain the term (length in years) in which that interest rate will cause an investment to double.  So, in this case: 72 / 3.6 (rate) = 20 (year term).  I.e., basically 3.6% annual interest has been guaranteed in one of the most historically safe investment options ever, so long as you can think long-term!

You think you can do better elsewhere?

Sure, you may obtain higher (historical) yields elsewhere — perhaps in the stock markets, commodities, or corporate bonds.  But, you had best know what you are doing and have 1) the time to actively manage such investments, and/or 2) the nerve to ride out massive downturns like what we saw occur during the Financial Crisis that really shredded most investments in 2008 (to the point it took years to get back to pre-crash levels).

And, if you consider putting money in "the bank" as a savings strategy, consider the fact that for over 5 years now, interest rates in the bank have been terrible!  And, think about it,... 5 years is a full quarter of the duration you would have have to leave your money in the EE Bonds (toward that 20-year term to get the doubling of EE funds).  In the current preceding 5 years, banks have paid essentially ZERO interest while you could have been getting 3.6% in your EEs.

Bank rates may ultimately rise, but I would not count on it changing quickly or holding higher rates for any length of time.  And, keep in mind: interest on savings accounts and CDs is taxed every year whereas savings-bond interest compounds pre-tax (i.e., you are only taxed on the interest when you redeem the bonds).  This can make a substantial difference in compounded returns.

The bottom line is this: If you think you can maintain a higher-average-annual-return elsewhere, go for it. I simply look at EE's as just a very simple "no brainer" hands-off way to save some money for retirement in about as safe of way as possible.  And, you do not need to hold paper bonds anymore: use the TreasuryDirect electronic bond-buying system (in fact, paper bonds have nearly gone extinct and I have no idea why anyone would want paper to have to place in a safe deposit box or whatever).  Signing up at TreasuryDirect is super-simple and can be done in just a few minutes.

There is perhaps the issue of what happens if you die within the 20-year term (I'd rather not think about that), but even that is covered by way of beneficiary-designations and survivorship terms.  A survivor beneficiary does not have to cash in the bond right away, so they can continue to hold the bond until that 20-year term is met if they choose (and, income taxes on the interest remain deferred until redemption just like they would have been for the original holder).

Give those EE bonds a look.  You never know, it may turn out to be a very wise long-term investment to hold.  FYI: also note that the government currently limits annual savings bonds purchases to $10,000 per individual, so it is not like you are going to be able to take the proceeds from selling a house and put them into savings bonds all at once. Feel free to consult with your "adviser" or accountant on any of this, as I am NOT acting in either capacity here... I am just putting forth an opinion for you to consider.

Continue to read this Software Development and Technology Blog for computer programming articles (including useful free / OSS source-code and algorithms), software development insights, and technology Techniques, How-To's, Fixes, Reviews, and News — focused on Dart Language, SQL Server, Delphi, Nvidia CUDA, VMware, TypeScript, SVG, other technology tips and how-to's, plus my varied political and economic opinions.

Friday, September 06, 2013

Windows Server 2012R2 Free Book Download (PDF, MOBI, EPUB)

Get a FREE Microsoft Windows Server 2012R2 Book

LEARN WHAT'S NEW IN Windows Server 2012 R2

If you are considering migrating from Microsoft Windows Server version 2008, 2008r2, or 2012 to the latest Windows Server 2012 R2 release, you may wish to see what's new in this operating system before making the move.


Microsoft Press was good enough to provide a downloadable Free ebook — Introducing Windows Server 2012 R2 — to help you catch up on their latest upgrade to the Windows Server product line.

I quickly read through the Introducing Microsoft Windows Server 2012 R2 (Preview Release) book, and as you may expect, a lot of it reads like marketing material, in my opinion, as the authors will try among other things to convince you that this latest Windows Server is ideal for all your "cloud" operating system needs.  Regardless, the book is fine for getting an overview of what's new in Windows Server 2012 R2, by major areas of interest within the product — like virtualization, cloud computing, networking, etc.

Just because the book exists (in some part for sure) to help promote Windows 2012R2, that does not mean there is not reason to truly be excited by new features in Windows 2012 R2 — there are!  I for one was especially impressed by the recent SMB 3.0 enhancements in Windows Server 2012; in particular, I was amazed by the performance improvements demonstrated with SQL-Server 2012 run against a database hosted on this new SMB 3.0 platform.  Win2012R2 builds on that...

Basically, Win Server 2012 implements SMB 3.0 File Servers that can support SQL-Server databases on file shares without a performance hit (with hardware config of course)!  This is a great alternative to dedicated and costly SAN (Storage Area Network) devices.  If SQL-Server on Windows 2012 SMB 3.0 is of interest to you, here is a link to a technet blog page full of useful information.  And, I expect the further updates to SMB 3 within Windows Server 2012R2, like the following items (as quoted from this e-book), will be quite useful for SQL-Server applications and more:

  • ...the performance of SMB Direct has been enhanced to provide a 50 percent improvement for small IO workloads when used with RDMA-capable network adapters...
  • ...increased efficiency and density of hosting workloads with small I/Os, for example when running an online transaction processing (OLTP) database workload inside a virtual machine...
  • ...SMB connections can also now be managed per share on SoFS instead of per file server as in Windows Server 2012...
  • ...Another new feature of SMB 3.0 in Windows Server 2012 R2 is SMB Bandwidth Management. Because SMB now has so many different functions in a network and storage infrastructure built using Windows Server 2012, it now represents a common infrastructure component in many environments. That means it’s important to be able to control how much bandwidth SMB uses when it’s performing many different tasks within an infrastructure...

The book also offers some decent discussion of enhancements to the data-deduplication features, Hyper-V enhancements, IIS 8.5 new features, and more.  Hey, the book is FREE, so there is not too much to lose other than some time spent perusing it for useful content.  Download it for yourself and share your thoughts here if you have a chance.

Continue to read this Software Development and Technology Blog for computer programming articles (including useful free / OSS source-code and algorithms), software development insights, and technology Techniques, How-To's, Fixes, Reviews, and News — focused on Dart Language, SQL Server, Delphi, Nvidia CUDA, VMware, TypeScript, SVG, other technology tips and how-to's, plus my varied political and economic opinions.

Thursday, September 05, 2013

VMware Workstation 10.0 New Features

VMware Desktop Virtualization Products Updated


Another year, another set of "new product releases" (new versions of VMware products).  And, by now it should be very clear that VMware's software marketing goals, presumably to help product predictable and continual cash-flow, are to push annual full-product (read: paid) version releases of their core products, regardless of how significant the new features are in those products. Last year around this time, I wrote about the new features in VMware Workstations 9.0, and just a year before that I wrote about the new features in VMware Workstations 8.0.

There is a definite pattern forming here with regards to both timing and the fact that each release is a paid version upgrade (as opposed to a perhaps free "point upgrade"). It is not just VMware doing this — it is an industry-wide norm now that tries to force customers to keep pumping cash out for small features and bug-fixes that probably should have been included for free. Oh well, time to give up and take it (because this trend is NOT going away).

New Features in VMware Workstation 10.0

I am having a difficult time getting overly excited about this latest version of VMware workstation, especially since it is a paid release and I do not see many changes that I care about or plan to use.

Key New Features: Windows 8.1, tablet sensors, and expiring VMs (do you care?)

Windows 8.1 Features

Seeing that I have yet to even use Windows 8, I do not care about Windows 8.1 support from VMware Workstation either.  But, I will admit, I find it more likely I will perhaps actually take time to evaluate Microsoft Windows 8.1 final — as soon as Microsoft releases it and makes the trial download available — but that alone gives me little reason to consider paying for Workstation version 10.0.

I personally hope to stretch as many years out of Windows 7 (a very solid product) as possible until I can migrate everything to Linux.  Had Microsoft not turned Windows into what looks like some goofy smart-phone UI (that I am not to force upon desktop users and/or that I have to learn a whole new application-development and programming model for), perhaps I would think differently about this.

But, if you use Windows 8.1, the features of interest in this Workstation 10.0 release are bound to be handy for you: Unity mode has been enhanced to seamlessly work with Windows 8.1 UI changes and Workstation 10 can now convert a Windows 8.1 physical PC to a virtual machine.  Yay, I would expect that even in a "point release", but whatever.

Tablet-Sensor Support (in Virtual Machines)

Next, there is the new tablet-sensor (pass-through) to virtual-machines — accelerometer, gyroscope, compass, and ambient light sensor data available to VMs.  Great! (sarcasm... again, I do not care).  Call me old-school: I do not use a tablet, nor a smart-phone or whatever, for my daily applications... I still prefer a desktop with a big monitor for everything from email to spreadsheets to programming and so forth.

I do not currently need to pass tablet touch-sensor-data or gyroscope-data to a virtual machine.  But, I can see how tablet-software-developers would like this new tablet-sensor-virtual-machine-pass-through feature for testing their varied "apps" under different operating systems, web browsers, and other configurations.

Expiration Dates for Virtual Machines — something useful!

This feature got my attention. As a custom software developer, the ability to set an expiry-date on a virtual machine has quite a bit of potential. Consider the case of demonstrating a custom application to a client where the entire application may reside in a virtual-machine.  The client wants to evaluate it for a period of time, but you (the developer) wants at least some level of assurance the software will not function in perpetuity without you receiving some compensation for your product.

I will need to experiment with this feature in detail.  I want to see whether, in combination with other virtual-machine administrative-lockdown options, this will provide the security I need in order to leave an entire Virtualized application "stack" (an app, fully self-contained in a VM) with a client or potential client "safely".  Since the new expiration date can even require synchronization with a specified time-server (which should prevent the old "set the clock back" circumvention methods), this sounds like a good start for securing one's intellectual property.

Next, I would think that by locking down the VM hardware configuration (and any contained-operating-system's administrative rights, etc), I could prevent someone from gaining access to files via network-copy and such.  Coupled with diligent use of code obfuscation and so forth, this may all add up to a nice way to help guard intellectual property while giving clients a great way to evaluate a software product for a limited amount of time.

Other New Features in VMware Workstation 10

Some other miscellaneous features were mentioned in the VMware Workstation 10 release information, like:
  • Power Off Suspended Virtual Machines — at least, I hope that made the cut from the 2013 technology preview version of Workstation 10; that can be quite handy.
  • Support for 16 vCPUs, 
  • 8 TB SATA disks and 64GB of RAM
  • New Virtual SATA (vSATA) disk controller 
  • Now supporting 20 virtual networks 
  • USB3 streams support for faster file copying, which provides the following, per release notes:
USB 3 Streams have been implemented to enable high speed transfer of files from USB 3 external storage devices that support this technology. For customers running Workstation 10 on laptops with small hard disks, large data files, video files etc., can be stored on an external USB 3 storage device and accessed quickly from within the virtual machine.
  • VMware has also addressed issues Intel, NEC, AMD, TI and Linux Kernel host xHCI drivers to improve overall USB 3 compatibility and performance.
  • Improved application and Windows VM startup times 
  • SSD Pass through
  • Multiple monitor set-ups are easier than ever, whether you are using 2, 3, or 4. 
  • VMware-KVM provides a new interface for using multiple virtual machines
I need to find more information about the SSD Pass-through, as I wonder if that will help with both speed and SSD longevity; I believe this is limited to operating systems (inside a VM) like Windows 8 that can optimize themselves for running from an SSD.  I am also interested in speed-testing any USB3 devices; in the past, there seemed to be a lot of restrictions on USB3 use, and perhaps this is no longer an issue?  Time will tell.

New Operating System Support for:

  • Windows 8.1
  • Windows 8.1 Enterprise
  • Windows Server 2012 R2
  • Ubuntu 13.10
As well as for the latest Fedora, CentOS, Red Hat and OpenSUSE releases.

BOTTOM LINE: As always, the choice is yours as to whether the upgrade price (around $119) is worth it or not.  I have learned (the past few years) to wait for "Cyber Monday" sales that tend to knock $20 or $30 off this price via VMware's online store.  Since I am in no hurry, I plan to do that this year again if I decide to invest in this version to gain the expiring-virtual-machines feature or one of the other smaller updates.  The full release notes are available online at VMware site (took me a while to locate, too).

Continue to read this Software Development and Technology Blog for computer programming articles (including useful free / OSS source-code and algorithms), software development insights, and technology Techniques, How-To's, Fixes, Reviews, and News — focused on Dart Language, SQL Server, Delphi, Nvidia CUDA, VMware, TypeScript, SVG, other technology tips and how-to's, plus my varied political and economic opinions.