Retail Dead Pool – Coldwater Creek

I’m starting a new category for postings which concern retailers that are going out of business. This morning, it was announced that Coldwater Creek filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection according to this story. Going-out-of-business sales start in May.

What happened to Coldwater Creek? There are two things which stick out. First, the store skewed towards women 35 and older. Second, the prices were too expensive while better and lower cost options existed. In other words, the market changed and Coldwater Creek could not keep up.

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Windows 8.1 Update 1

I read a lot of press concerning this update and the issues experienced by some regarding this update. Mine went off without a hitch although it took about 20 minutes to download the update.

What I like about this update is that the apps will appear in their own windows. While they show up as full-screen, there is a little ‘X’ in the upper right-hand corner to dismiss the app. This is a big improvement over Windows 8 and the original Windows 8.1. There is also a way to minimize the app. So if you’re using the Netflix app and need to minimize, you can do that too.

My thinking is that enough people with laptops and touchscreens will be somewhat satisfied by the update. Laptops and desktops will be used to create content while tablets will be used to consume content. Much to Microsoft’s chagrin, I don’t think the Start menu will go away because too many people are used to it.

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Security Breaches

Is it just me or do there seem to be a lot of card breaches today? I didn’t start seeing them until 2008. How do these things happen?

Here are a few reasons:

  • Insecure wireless networks in a business. I know of an incident where individuals performed a drive-by attack on an insecure wireless network. Then they accessed the local server storing credit card information. Once the information was taken, blank credit cards were used to make purchases and transfer money via Western Union.
  • Poor network security. Some other breaches happen because of stolen credentials (December 2013 Target breach). Others are due to holes in infrastructure. Sometimes a incorrectly configured firewall or Internet-facing device can lead an attacker to get the information.
  • Skimming attacks. Usually these happen at restaurants and gas stations. All that is needed is the skimmer to read the information and a duplicate card can be made via the magnetic stripe.
  • Physical access to cash register / POS terminal. Here, a device is attached to a certain place on the cash register or terminal to skim information. This is a variant of the skimming attack. Six individuals went into a Nordstrom store in Aventura, Florida, and placed a skimming device on the back of a cash register. (I wonder why I am now seeing iPod Touch devices with sleeves attached which read bar codes and take credit cards.)

It seems that the main types of attacks can be eliminated via the chip and pin used in Europe. I have already seen a bunch of card terminals with the provisions for chip and pin technology. Some terminals also have the contact less terminal where a contact less card or a cell phone can initiate the transaction. These later ones use the Google Wallet app or the ISIS Mobile app to mimic a contact less card.

We need three methods to counteract the fraud associated with the magnetic strip cards. First, businesses have to quit storing credit card information on a server. Yes, it sure is convenient for the customer but I think the upcoming liability shift in 2015 to the merchant will be a definite possibility. Second, the chip and pin or chip and signature has to be in widespread use. Again, the upcoming liability shift will force the issue. Third, we need a way to have a chip and pin terminal for Internet purchases which will allow the website to receive the necessary approval code for the purchase.

The upcoming liability shift in 2015 will affect US consumers for a long time. While I think we will get there by 2020, enough retailers will have to change over by 2015 for the magnetic card fraud to shrink. Will there be ways to circumvent EMV? Only time will tell.

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UAW voted down at VW Chattanooga

February 7, 2014, is another signpost leading to the end of unions in the US. On this day, workers at the Volkswagen Chattanooga (TN) plant voted down union representation by the UAW 53% to 47%. Fox News and The Hill report the results.

Unionizing this plant was important for the UAW because all of the new automobile plants in America were built in the South. BMW (South Carolina), Mercedes-Benz (Alabama), Nissan (Tennessee), Kia (West Point, Georgia), Hyundai (Montgomery, Alabama), Subaru, and Toyota (San Antonio, Texas) all have operations in right-to-work states. While Ford and GM make cars in Canada and Mexico, all of the new plants are foreign makes.

What is in common with all of these plants is that these are foreign car manufacturers, all located in the South, and the people want jobs. Unions by their very nature limit the labor market thus forcing higher labor prices. Could this be a reason why these foreign makes chose the South instead of using skilled workers in other states like Michigan? In this case, VW gave the plant UAW representation on a silver platter. The workers may have seen what happened in places like Detroit (and a billboard featuring an abandoned Packard plant) and did not want that to happen in their home.

In Germany and Japan, company-sponsored unions exist. Unlike American unions where an adversarial atmosphere is normal, company-sponsored unions actively work with management to solve business issues. The problem is that company-sponsored unions are illegal in America. VW wanted to create a worker’s council similar to the worker’s councils Volkswagen has in Germany. The only way this could be accomplished was via union representation. Now that union representation was voted down, the worker’s council can’t be formed.

Unions like UAW need to grow their membership. Unfortunately, the new growth the UAW needs is in places where unions have been restrained. In right-to-work states, collective bargaining is outlawed. Therefore, unions have a diminished capacity and cannot strike in right-to-work states. When employers are encouraged to employ individuals in an “at-will” arrangement, the unions cannot bully employers for higher wages and benefits.

Now that the UAW was voted down in Tennessee, the union has two choices. The first choice is to try an unionize another Southern plant. I don’t think this will happen based on the Volkswagen vote. The UAW will be up against unfriendly political forces with the objective of preserving hard-won jobs from the foreign auto manufacturers. The second and more likely choice is to give up on unionizing a Southern automobile plant. Since a lot of resources were expended by the UAW and there was no return on investment because of the vote, the UAW will have to stay in its current places and not expand into the Southern states. Pursuing a “southern strategy” will consume UAW resources needed by its existing membership and will guarantee a quicker demise.

Other unions may look at the vote and see a glimmer of hope. However, a lot of workers at the auto plants saw the UAW as a possible interloper and a reason jobs could be lost. History seldom repeats but it often rhymes. Now, unions will stay in their current strongholds of the Northeast, Midwest, and the rust belt. Unions may not have the resources to expand into Dixie, Texas, or the West.

I knew after 1975 unions would start fading into the sunset. I didn’t think I would see this happen this year.

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Duncan the Cat

I received word that Duncan the Cat passed away last week. He was 9 years old which is young for an indoor cat.

Here is Duncan’s Christmas Bag where Duncan plays with a bag at Christmas.

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New Site Launches

I’m launching two new sites. I’m getting the domain names now and should have the new sites up within a couple of weeks.

I haven’t written here in a while since moving out here. But that will change soon.

See you tomorrow.

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California

After some time in Georgia, I’m out in Southern California. You have to see this place in Orange County. The mountains are nice and so are the people.

More to come…

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Lightsquared files for bankruptcy

What happens when you launch a satellite first before ensuring that you can use it for its intended purpose? This is what happened to Lightsquared which filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy today.

What happened?

The idea behind Lightsquared was to use a different frequency band to deliver mobile voice and data services via satellite. The first satellite, Skyterra-1, was the largest satellite ever built. It has been in orbit since 2010.

However, there was a small problem. The Skyterra-1 satellite would use frequencies assigned to the Global Positioning System (GPS) for communication between the satellite and end users. It was assumed that the frequencies would be operated on a non-interference basis. While non-interference operation has worked in the past for non-commercial services such as amateur radio, this was the first time a commercial service would operate on a non-interference basis.

While the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) handles commercial frequency allocations, the National Telecommunications Information Administration (NTIA) handles the radio spectrum for the US Government. The head of the NTIA made a determination that the proposed Skyterra-1 satellite would cause significant interference to the users of the GPS. Henceforth, Lightsquared could not use the satellite because the interference issues simply could not be resolved.

In the filing, two of the largest creditors are Boeing Space Systems and Alcatel-Lucent at 7.4 billion dollars each. I’m assuming that Boeing built the satellite and Alcatel-Lucent built the ground segment.

So what are the outcomes of the filing? One, the creditors will have to pick over what is left of the company. This means Boeing and Alcatel-Lucent may have to write off a significant part of their respective debts.

The biggest issue surrounds the company’s satellites. MSAT-1 and MSAT-2 have experienced several anomalies and are operating in inclined orbit. While inclined orbit operation can last for years, after the bankruptcy the two satellites may be boosted to a higher orbit out of the geostationary arc and shut down.

Because Skyterra-1 cannot be used for any other purpose except for L-band communications, this satellite may be deorbited if a buyer cannot be found.

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Atlanta HDTV update for 2012

It’s that time of the year and the programmers have changed the lineup slightly. Let’s begin with the major stories.

WSB-TV 2.2 is now Memorable Entertainment TV, or MeTV

WXIA-TV 11.2 is a weather channel with content provided by Accu-Weather and 11 Alive.
WXIA-TV 11.3 is now dark as Universal Sports is off the air and on cable.

WATL-TV 36.2 is now Bounce TV.
WATL-TV 36.3 is now Antenna TV, which is similar to MeTV and RTV.

It appears that WANN-TV and WTBS-TV are diverging their programming. While the state of the lineups are in flux, it appears that we will have new channels on these stations. I’m waiting a few weeks for the lineup to stabilize.

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Vindication for cutting the cable

It looks likes “cutting the cable” is gaining momentum. While I have “cut the cable” at least a year ago, it appears that more people are jumping on the phenomenon.

I opened 11 Alive’s webpage today and there was an article entitled “Will pay TV die? The reasons cited for dropping the Cable TV service are better picture and more streaming options. Another article notes that the new generation accustomed to streaming video options will challenge the pay TV model. While live TV and live news are still relevant, breaking news stories will be carried by the regular broadcast networks. For example, having France 24 on over-the-air TV can get the average person breaking news. However, France 24 is not CNN or Fox News.

The up-and-coming Millennial generation and those coming after them will redefine many of our technologies. We’re seeing the beginning. There is always a tipping point and that point may come soon. If the economic situation does not improve over the next few years, we may see the phenomenon hit a tipping point. I see the end of pay TV within my lifetime.

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