Five Picks: 2014 is the year of ________

My five picks for 2014…

The Middle Class Comeback

Finally, after 6 years, the middle class will start to see rising wages and more opportunities for jobs. The linchpin that determines the strength of the comeback is the quality of jobs created. Minimum wage jobs don’t help much, they just allow corporations to push part of their wage cost to taxpayers. They need to be factory jobs and well paying jobs with benefits. It might not be the best job (its not a doctor, lawyer, or successful app developer) but it’ll work. What worries me is if we have another recession before the middle class recovers – that spells social strife and civil unrest.

Public EV Charging

From standard public charging to Tesla’s SuperCharger network, charge station installations are set to grow, and with increasing EV/PHEV sales in North America, usage of these stations will increase enough that they’re no longer just a blip on the radar. The growth of stations will be what to look at for 2014 – and instead of being token installations, they’ll be more functional, with installations at places you 1) actually want to park your car for an extended period of time and 2) free or reasonable rates to charge your car. The latter one may take some effort in some states that only allow utility companies to sell electricity by the kWh, which forces charging stations to charge by the hour (not the best deal usually).

LED Light Bulbs

LED light bulbs are going to make a big impact in 2014. They’re finally becoming cheap and good enough that you’ll want to replace your regular bulbs. Beyond that, high-usage CFLs that were installed during the CFL boom are starting to hit the end of their lifespan. I now have six CFLs in my garage that are burnt out and have run out of my spare CFLs, so now each time a CFL burns out I’m ordering these $20 Philips 13-Watt (65 Watt Replacement) BR30 Dimmable Indoor Flood Lights. They’re really good so far. I haven’t tried any regular light bulb replacements yet, but I’m sure I will sometime in 2014.

“Over the top”

“Over the top” is a phenomenon where a company that provides several consumer services including internet access finds that some of its services are being cannibalized by similar services over the internet. The most familiar examples are using Netflix over a cable-based internet connection (instead of going to cable TV for entertainment, you’re consuming Netflix), as well as iMessage or some other internet-based chat/picture service instead of SMS/MMS services. For incumbent internet providers, this will be a difficult transition to manage because they will be faced with decreasing revenues from core products and increasing usage of internet data. For the cable industry – get ready, people are cutting the cord. More data, less everything else.

Gay Marriage

If its now legal in Utah, one of the most conservative states in the union, I don’t see how other states are going to face the legal challenges of their laws or constitutional amendments. I hope Nevada (my home state) has their constitutional amendment overturned quickly, as it would be a boon as a gay wedding destination. I should look into buying the old Liberace Museum! I can add a chapel and boom!


Everyone is wrong about cell phones on planes

(Except Runway Girl)

Recently, the FCC looked to drop its technical reasons for prohibiting cell phone calls and texts on planes above 10,000 feet.

First, lets take a look at how the system works to understand why everyone is wrong.

Each plane that will allow cell phone calls above 10,000 feet will be equipped with a microcell that will connect (through GSM and CDMA) at very low power to all the cell phones in the cabin. These cell phones in the cabin will then be connected, via the microcell and a ground link, to a cellular network that is run by the airline and their equipment partners – not their own carrier (AT&T, Verizon, etc.). This will put the cell phone into roaming mode – just like if you were in another country.

And what happens when you’re in another country on your cell phone? If you make or receive a call, you rack up sky-high (no pun intended) roaming charges. And thats why you won’t end up next to a chatterbox for hours – the cost of being a chatterbox on an airplane would likely be around $2-3 per minute, or $150 per hour to talk on the phone while flying. For example, Vodaphone UK charges 1.99 GBP per minute to make an in-flight call, that is currently equal to $3.26 per minute.

Why is it setup this way? Because then the airlines and equipment and service provider can charge exorbitant roaming fees for cell phone calls placed when the aircraft is airborne. Would you pay $150/hour to talk on the phone from an airplane? Unless its an emergency, I doubt it. A few texts might be sent, but thats no longer abnormal because people can use data-based messaging services on aircraft Wi-Fi now (Facebook Messenger, iMessage, Google Chat, etc).

These sky-high prices will prevent people from chatting the entire way from LA to NYC. A phone call placed for the eligible duration of a five hour flight would cost around about $700.

If you happen to have a chatterbox next to you, just pull out the in-flight magazine and show them the various charges for in-flight calling and watch their eyes widen as they hurry up to end the phone call.