Thoughts From My Life
Nov
14
Written by Neil Galloway
 

I went to use my Blu-Ray player to load on my recently purchased Lenovo A720 all-in-one PC and found it not working. It is running Windows 8.

I opened the Device Manager from the Control Panel and the Blu-Ray player was showing with a yellow warning sign in the device lists. The name of the device was PLDS DS-6E2SH BD-COMBO.

When I double clicked and examined the device, the exact error message was:

"Windows cannot start this hardware device because its configuration information (in the registry) is incomplete or damaged. (Code 19)"

I tried uninstalling and re-installing the device using the automatically discovered drivers (with and without rebooting). I tried to update the drivers as well, but still had no luck.

Solution That Worked For Me

I searched around and found a variety of possible solutions, but only one I could get working.

  • Open the registry editor. Press WindowsKey + R or search for the Run app. Then type regedit and hit Enter.
  • Naviate to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Control\Class\{4D36E965-E325-11CE-BFC1-08002BE10318}
  • Double click on the key "UpperFilters"
  • Delete whatever value it has for it and then exit out of registry editor.
  • Go into the Device Manager (Control Panel) and uninstall the device.
  • Click "Search for New Hardware" and let it re-install the device.

References to Other Potential Solutions

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Apr
22
Written by Neil Galloway

Well, I finally purchased a Raspberry Pi. If you don't know what that is, you can check it out on the Raspberry Pi Wikipedia page.

Basically, it is a little computer about the size of a credit card that runs linux, has network connectivity, and general purpose input/outputs on it. Great for people who want to do hobby type stuff.

It cost $35 for the one I bought (they have a slightly cheaper one for $25). I will describe my current setup as I begin to set things up. Currently, I have a webserver running to I can access my network storage devices remotely and a torrent application running so I don't have to leave my main computer running. It draws around 5W of power so quite different than my main computer (up to 300W).

Simply mounted on the wall in my furnace room.

First project is a temperature data recorder. The plan is to utilize the cat5 cables already wired in my house to put temperature sensor on all 3 levels, record the data periodically, and provide a web interface to see a graph of it. Totally useless, but will get me back in the game of doing input/output and force me to get the basics set up on the raspberry pi (webserver, database, programming).

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Jan
13
Written by Neil Galloway

Another piece of news is the Air Miles Cash program. It is inline with their recent announcement that air miles expire. From what I understand, you can use your airmiles like a pre-loaded gift card at some retailers. Currently it appears to be only Shell and Rona, but hopefully that changes. It might help a lot of air miles members to use their miles up at a quicker pace.

You can watch a video and get more details on the Air Miels Cash Rewards page on their site.

Cash versus Dream

The odd thing is that they have divided your miles into two concepts. The Cash air miles and the Dream air miles. The Dream miles are what you use to get rewards like travel or vouchers. So what it has always been. The Cash represents miles you can use like money.

When you log into your account, they will ask you to set a preference. You can collect them all for Cash or set a percentage of cash versus dream that you want to collect. By default, if you haven't set a preference, they have you collect all miles in the Dream account.

The cash value is 95 air miles for $10 worth of credit at a store. This amounts to a value of 10.5 cents/airmile. This is quite a bit on the low side of the value as I have written about in my Collecting Air Miles and their Value article. So I have chosen to continue collecting 100% towards my Dream account at this point in time. However, if you have a hard time using your miles up, it is a convenient method to purchase gas at Shell or items at Rona.

How Does Cash Compare to a Gift Card

Interestingly, you get a little bit less at Shell than if you used a gift card. Maybe that is a slight charge for the convenience of using your airmiles like cash when you are there. You get $10 for 95 airmiles using the Cash program. Currently they offer a Shell gift card that is $20 for 175 air miles. You would have to use 190 air miles to get the same $20 using Cash program then. So I find that a bit strange.

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Jan
10
Written by Neil Galloway
 

This news is a week or two old now, but Air Miles announced that your air miles will expire after 5 years.

This similar to the route Aeroplan went a few years ago with their points program. I imagine they are carrying too many on their books and this will force members of the program to use them up within the time span. So from the point in time the miles were earned you have 5 years to exercise them.

For myself this shouldn't be an issue as we tend to burn them up at a decent pace, but for those of you sitting on a ton of these, make sure you log in to your account and be aware of when those will expire.

There is a FAQ on expiry that has been posted as well.

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Jul
28
Written by Neil Galloway

I have recently discovered that you are able to get an Aeroplan credit card through American Express here in Canada.

I do already own one of their Air Miles cards which worked out great as it had no fees. I would be tempted to switch to one of these, since they provide some decent looking cards. Unfortunately, I do not see any "no fee" cards, so for infrequent usage or if you do not want the added insurance benefits, you may want to stick the American Express Air Miles options.

Card Options

If you look at the American Express Aeroplan credit card options there are a few cards listed there starting at $60/year and up. If you are doing it to strictly collect the points, then you need to do the math on each one to see if you will recoup the annual fees.

They do come with a few different travel insurance offerings which may more than make up for the fee if you travel a bit.

How Much Money Should You Spend

The big question with these cards is how much money do you need to put through on them before you recover the annual fee you paid. For example, if I'm paying $100/year for a credit card that earns Aeroplan points, then I want at least $100 worth of points back each year before I even consider it.

Like I mentioned though, the insurance packages are good on some of these, so if you are spending more than the annual fee in travel insurance from other providers then it is almost a no brainer that you at least recover your money.

The formula I use for determining how much money I need to spend to at least recover the annual fee is: "Annual Fee" divided by the "Rate of Accumulation" and then divide that result by the "Value of an Aeroplan Point". I personally value an Aeroplan point at around 1.6 cents/point. You can can read about how I value an Aeroplan point for further details. It does vary if you use it for different things or are picky.

At the time of this writing there are 5 cards listed on the American Express site and here is the breakdown of annual spending on the cards to just break even on points (at 1.6cents a point).

Credit Card Annual Fee Earning Rate Breakeven Spending
American Express AeroplanPlus Platinum Card $499 1.5 points/$ $24,950
American Express AeroplanPlus Gold Card $120 1.25 points/$ $6,000
American Express AeroplanPlus Card $60 1 point/$ $3,750
American Express Gold Rewards Card $150 * 1 point/$ (double points in select locations) $9,375 or $4,688 **
Platinum Card $399 1.25 points/$ $19,950

* The fee for the first year is waived, but it does cost thereafter.
** This varies depending on where you spend your money. Since you can earn double points at some stores, you could earn at a higher rate.

Which Card for Me?

First of all, answer if you use Aeroplan points or not. Second, look at the other features of the cards like insurance, interest rates, and so on. Third, you can compare your spending habits and what you think you can get out of each card in terms of points. Just ballpark what you would put through a year (i.e. $20,000), multiply for the earning rate, and then multiply by $0.016 (my value on a point). So for the AeroplanPlus Card, I would earn $20,000 x 1 point/$ x $0.016 = $320. So subtracting the fee of $60, you are $260 in the plus for the year. Do it against the rest of the cards to get a comparison for the returns.

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Jan
03
Written by Neil Galloway

I just finished reading Stupid to the Last Drop: How Alberta Is Bringing Environmental Armageddon to Canada (And Doesn't Seem to Care). It is a very interesting look at the oil industry in Alberta and I would recommend it for anyone who lives in Canada or is from here to read.

It covers a lot of history as to how the industry developed and is also very critical of the Alberta government and industry in general in terms of the environmental policy (or lack thereof).

Be warned: it is very critical and does not portray a very positive image of the province in general. Regardless of your opinion though, it is a worthwhile read with a lot of interesting points to consider and debate.

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Nov
03
Written by Neil Galloway

I got myself a new watch. The Bulova Automatic 96A107. I was basically looking for something with the following attributes:

  • Dressier
  • Silver in color
  • Automatic - because I'm a geek and like the concept
  • Gears showing on the front - geek comment again

Anyhow, I quite like it so far. Nice looking timepiece and the gear movement looks so cool. FYI, I found it on Ebay so paid a fraction of the price than what it retails new for (mine was a store display model).

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Oct
31
Written by Neil Galloway
 

Another recap of what I was doing in October on my trading adventures. I had written a September Recap previously. FYI, I have gotten more involved in the past and this is just my latest attempt. I find this stuff really interesting, so it is easy to put an hour into it here and there.

Super Trader - Van Tharp

I read this book next. It has a number of short chapters about a variety of topics for people wanting to trade actively, techniques, controlling emotions, creating a plan, etc. Not a great book to start with, but a nice easy read if you already have some good background knowledge.


The Complete Trading For A Living - Elder

Another read recommended by someone. Quite interesting and discusses a lot of different strategies in depth. He also proposes his own strategies. Worth a read and you will find it quick to read if you already have read similar books first (like Van Tharp's).


Continued Paper Trading

Same as last month. Used a few techniques and the TradeScores website. Decided I will publish my results. You can read more about it my Paper Trading Results, which also has a link to my spreadsheet where I kept track of them. If you care to try and decipher what I did...haha.

Interesting profit/loss behaviour at this point too. Because you get stopped out of bad trades earlier, I had losses for the first while in terms of actual closed out trades. Now I'm left with my winners which are slowly getting stopped out as I've adjusted the stops higher, so the P&L is starting to get back to even and my spreadsheet doesn't show it, but the increased stops are locking in quite a bit of the "fake" profit.

All trades in here were done using the "Basic Long" and "Basic Short" market scans available for free from StockScores website (basically just a way to filter down some stocks to ones that might be of interest to you...you still have to do your own analysis after that point).

Overall, the markets were stronger in September and October for what I was trading. So I do believe my performance was skewed a bit as I rode the general market.

Wrote Down My Plan

Created documents on Google Documents for the following things:

  • Trading Objectives - What do I really want out of this and what do I think is realistic in terms of risk, time I can allot (I do work), and other criteria.
  • Self Assessment - What are my strengths and weaknesses and how can I leverage them for the better or reduce their impact if they are negative.
  • Strategy #1 - Detailed description of my system to find stocks in a bullish trend and the criteria they need to pass to be trade-worthy.
  • Strategy #2 - Detailed description of my system to find stocks in a bearish trend and the criteria they need to pass to be trade-worthy.
  • Spreadsheet for tracking the performance of my "real money" trades and calculating the statistics on them as a whole.

Lower Commissions Trading Account

Opened a trading account with Disnat and transferred over my existing self-directed portfolio. There is a promotion to receive materials from Stockscores, plus there platform is a little more full-featured with very cheap commissions.

Membership at StockScores

Got "Pro" access to StockScores. Reviewed strategies and watched all the "Advanced" videos and a few of the "Pro" strategy videos. Received the book in the mail too, which has a bit more depth and is just easier to read in book format too. A lot of it is similar to the book "Trade Your Way to Financial Freedom", but it is a bit simpler so is a good refresher. The value in Pro membership are the more detailed 'market scans' you can use on their site to find stocks trading in an unusual way that may indicate an opportunity.

I've gotten through 1/3rd of the printed book, so still have some time to spend there.

Started Trading Again

Did my first "real money" trades using either of my two strategies.

Trading Journal

Created a binder to serve as a "journal" that contains the following:

  • Objectives
  • Strategies
  • Instructions on how the journal works.
  • Two page layouts of each trade. First page (left hand side) is chart with lines drawn on it and basic information about why I did the trade. Second page is the chart on exit with analysis and final metrics. Google Documents is a great way to do this as you can write everything in there (even put the chart images) and just print off the pages for the binder as needed.
  • Lessons I've learned at various points and changes I will make to my strategy.

Helpful Software

Installed SnagIt. A great tool to take a screenshot of a chart and then mark it up with areas, lines, and some text. I use these in my journal entries.

Mentorship

Email conversations with the StockScores group. They will answer educational type questions, which has been helpful.

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Oct
30
Written by Neil Galloway

I wrote about starting to paper trade again in September. I had developed a good little system for myself and was using the sight TradeScores as the helpful tool to manage it all.

I ended up creating my own spreadsheet to review numbers the way I wanted too. If it looks confusing, it is probably because I created it and I like a lot of numbers. Check out my Paper Trading Results. Note: This gets updated occasionally, so you may notice the figures change from what is stated below.

The Quick Summary

Anyways, as of the end of October, this is the quick review of how it went and what I noticed:

  • I had 38 trades throughout September and October. Several factors get to this number. One being how often I took the time to sit down and look for trades. Second, I was using two simple strategies for filtering so was limited by what it was able to find. Third, I did try to not trade too much to simulate what I would be able to do with a real account size (only so much money to invest with). Fourth, I did want to clear 30 trades to get an realistic view of the strategy (for this market).
  • My expectancy, as of October 29th, is 0.42. That means that on average, I would expect a return of 0.42 x my risk across all my trades. So if I risk $200 a trade. Then I would get $84 a trade. Across 30 trades that would have been $2,520. I like that it is a profit, but the number should definitely be higher. If you don't understand this concept, you should read Trade Your Way to Financial Freedom. I prefer thinking in these terms vs. percentage.
  • If I analyze profit/loss for closed out trades (I no longer own them), I was negative up until today. Because I closed out my losers (stopped out) early so thus took early losses. While my winners take longer to form and I'm still in a lot of them (though I have stop losses in place to protect a lot of the earnings). So the lesson being, when starting out, you would definitely need some buffer room to protect yourself until you start to get out of the winners.
  • Some of my trades were actually bigger than what I could do. I was using risk technique to say how many shares I should buy. That would be larger than what I could actually do in some scenarios. So that can help rule out a stock sometimes.

Conclusion

I like the system and learned a few things from it. I will continue to use it. I find that I am doing some real trading now, so stocks that make the final round of consideration, but not the cut have been going in there to keep track of. I also use it for testing alternative strategies I'm looking at.

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Oct
26
Written by Neil Galloway

I have a hard time reading books the past number of years, but I have managed to get through 4 in the last month. One thing was landing on some really fun reads (for me), but secondly, I purchased an Amazon Kindle earlier in October that has made reading during the random 10 minutes of free time so much easier.

FYI, I am talking about the Kindle 3 (the latest version).

If you haven't heard of it yet, the Amazon Kindle is an electronic book reader (e-reader). It is a pretty neat piece of technology. You download books (either free ones from on-line somewhere or you purchase them from Amazon itself). After that, you sit down and read.

It is a pretty amazing piece of technology. Some of your are probably asking why not just buy an iPad or use a laptop. Here are a few reasons why you may want to have a Kindle.

  • Really easy on the eyes as the screen is not backlit and the LCD technology almost looks like ink on paper.
  • Crazy battery life. They say around a month with the wireless turned off and I don't even know. I read 2 complete books plus fooled around with it looking at different features and the battery was only at 70%. You literally don't even think about charging it. You could easily leave on a trip and leave the charger at home and be 99% safe.
  • A fraction of the price compared to a laptop or iPad. I paid $160 in total by the time it arrived on the doorstep.
  • Very lightweight and can fit in most jacket pockets.

Now I only purchased the basic "wireless" version, but there is a version that supports 3G and one with a larger display.

It is so easy to carry around, I find myself reading for 10 minutes here and there. Next thing I know, I am through a book.

I also find it as a very cool portable library. I have reference books, the manual to my wife's car, random fiction novels, some pdf's, anthology of Calvin and Hobbes as well as Far Side, and a few other things. Makes it easy to just take a break and read whatever.

Extras

Some things you may not know that is does.

  • Plays mp3's.
  • Has a web browser (very basic).
  • Will "read" books as it has text to speech built-in.
  • Built in dictionary. As you are reading you can just move a cursor down to the word and the definition pops up.
  • Add notes and annotations to books and pdfs.
  • You can add bookmarks, categorize, and it remembers the last page you read to across all the books.

Negatives

Only thing I don't like about it so much right now is that that viewing PDF's is not the best. You have to play with the size and usually switch the screen orientation to widescreen to get the best viewing situation. Large PDF's can take a split second to load to the next screen too.

It isn't an iPad! They almost aren't comparable however. An iPad is a full featured device for apps, video, and web browsing. The Kindle is not very good at any of these, but it excels at reading.

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