Sunday, April 23, 2017

Adam Ruins Everything - Malls - How are they tax shelters?

The series "Adam Ruins Everything" (a fantastic product) on TruTV had an episode "Adam Ruins Malls" and the episode referenced a 1996 paper, Thomas W Hanchett that makes the argument that a 1954 law, intended to stimulate the economy by encouraging business to pay less income tax by counting depreciation of factory machinery, allowed for something called "sum-of-the-years'-digits accelerated depreciation", which references a 1955 Architectural Forum Miles L Colean statement that shows how this works (and it was only for new construction, thus why there had to be new malls).

Say you buy a mall in 1955 for one million dollars. 1,000,000

You rent it to tenants and charge them enough to make fifty thousand dollars a year. 50,000.

I am literally making this up. I have no idea how much stuff would have cost then.

So let's pretend, you have decided, the entire building will only last 5 years. So here is how you depreciate it:

Add all the years it will last together, 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + 5 = 15 (remember we decided it would last 5 years).

So in the first year (1955 in our example) the "sum-of-the-years'-digits" formula, the value depreciates by 5/15. (5 is the total years, 15 was the sum of those years digits).

In the second year (1956 in our example), the value depreciates by 4/15.

Year three, 3/15.

Year four, 2/15.

Year five, 1/15.

Did you catch that the first year was a huge depreciation compared to the last year? 5 times as large to be specific.

5/15 is one third: 33.3%

4/15 is 26.6%

3/15 is one fifrth, 20%.

2/15 is 13.3%

1/15 is the remaining, 6.6%

So what's 33.3% of a million? $333,333. Remember that $50,000 you were making in rent from the tenants? Well according to the depreciation, you didn't earn any money that year. No Tax! Even though you took home $50,000.

Year two, 26.6% of a million: $266,666. Again, you took home $50,000 but again, no tax!

Year three, 20%, $50,000, again, no tax.

Year four, 13.3%

Year five, 6.6% $66,666, again, no tax.

Year 6? Sell it, for one million dollars, maybe even more!

So let's recap. Five years at $50,000 is $250,000, and NO TAX! And if you sell it for the same price as you bought it, no loss of your initial capital.

FYI: This changed in 1968, to make it better, then changed to make it worse in 1981. If you'd like to know more, I'd recommend the paper (linked above).

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Moving to a new Google Authenticator on a Microsoft Account

I couldn't find in the "Microsoft Account Security" page where to turn off my Google Authenticator so that I could move it to a new device (or just reset the existing device).

Turns out it's under the "Identity Apps", click to Remove the apps, then when you go to set it back up, it will prompt you to instead setup a Microsoft Account app.

So the trick is you aren't moving to a new Google app, you are only removing the Google Authenticator app and replacing it with a Microsoft Account app.

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Running SandboxIE on a RAM disk


A virtual machine (VM) is like a second computer running inside your machine.

This is done for security (so that if it's compromised you can delete it) but you likely see a performance decrease because it shares the same resources as the rest of the computer.

While running Chrome on Windows 10 64 bit clean install, I noticed a slow down in opening and browsing that was enough to have me contemplate buying a new PC.

32 bit OS would not be advisable since RAM is limited to less than 4 gigs

The Pieces

Super Talent USB RamDisk (but I'm sure you can find a free RAM disk software alternative, I had already purchased this previously)

SandboxIE (but I'm sure you can choose another option, even a full VM)

Google Chrome (for the saving of settings on Googles server but this is possible with other browsers as well)

The Process

Install Chrome as you normally would, run it once, login and let it sync all your settings.

Why a USB flash drive? Technically that doesn't have anything to do with this. This product touts itself as having the software to make a RAM disk (why isn't this already in Windows?) and backs up the RAM disk to the flash drive every so often and at shutdown.
Create the RAM drive. I created one of 2.76 Gigs and it works fine, not even close to being full (I usually don't have more than 10 tabs open at a time and shut off my PC every night)

In SandboxIE choose Sandbox > Set Container Folder and point it at the RAM disk
Create a Sandbox and right click on it to choose Sandbox Settings
Delete > Delete Invocation: Never remove this Sandbox or  delete it's contents
Program Start > Forced Folders: I paid $20 a year for the licensed version of  SandboxIE (I wanted to test it before purchasing a lifetime license) so that whenever any executable within C:\Program Files (x86)\Google launches, it will run within this Sandbox

The RAM disk is automatically created at every boot (this fails enough to not have me set this up on a non-technical users computer since Chrome won't open if it the RAM disk isn't there)

By clicking any Chrome shortcut, it automatically opens in the Sandbox, even in Incognito mode

Bonus Chrome Tip

Set Flash as "Click to Run". Settings > Advanced > Content Settings > Plugins = Choose Let me choose when to run plugin content; then click "Manage Individual Plugins" and click Enable to Disable them all

Monday, April 20, 2015

More research into airline safety please

So the news of the moment is about a security researcher making reference to how insecure airline systems are while on a flight. An article at ZDNet inspired this tweet from @Wh1t3Rabbit

I read the article, retweeted the tweet, and replied wondering why there wasn't more research going into this.

The response I got back was surprising, especially coming from a security researcher who knows way more about this than I do.

I find this surprising because it's not like massive security holes haven't been found and fixed in systems before, and it seemed like that kind of response is about less research, not more.

Curious, perhaps he has his reasons.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Idea - Using SQRL to authorize payments in person

What if your bank had you download an app, enter your website login and password, setup a PIN, and then when you open the app it will prompt for a PIN then display a QR code that is a link to the banks servers plus your account number, the merchant scans it and you get a prompt of "Authorize merchant xyz a one time deduction of $##.## from account ****####?". Then you click "Authorize", and the merchant gets a message that it went through.

It's kinda "SQRL in reverse" or "SQRL for in person transactions". And I would be more excited, if I didn't google "using qr code to authenticate payments" and hear about a few services that may offer something VERY similar like: "E-num", "Seamless", "SEQR", and "CardlessPay".

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Set Startup Programs for Delayed Start with Scheduled Task - Windows7

I leave my computer at home off when I'm at work, and I log off my work computer at the end of the day.
On my way home, or to work, I usually have a thought of "As soon as I log into my computer I need to do xyz."
However, I have all these programs that normally run in the background, and as soon as I log into my computer, they would all start and the computer would run a little slower right as I'm trying to do something I'm in a hurry for.

What I like to do, is to set all these "always on" programs, to wait until after I login to launch themselves. This also works great if all I need to do is change one setting and then reboot again, I don't have all those wasted cycles of launching a program, or an even longer delay if it needs to connect to the internet to check for an update.

While you are at it, go ahead and stagger the launches so 30 minutes in, you don't have the computer just freeze as it tries to launch several programs.

First I have the Instant Messenger program I use wait 15 minutes, Dropbox waits 20 minutes, Juice waits 25 minutes, and Hoekey waits 30 minutes. So by 30 minutes after login; everything is normal.

While writing this article I opened up my "Task Scheduler Library" and found that Google and Adobe have some programs that will check for updates at login, and then check every single hour for updates after that. I modified them both to wait 40 minutes after login to run their check for updates.

A description on setting a scheduled task to only trigger "After Logon" is on Microsoft's site:

When is your outfit no longer a cosplay?

Falling right into the "must label everything" trap. I got into a conversation about "professional cosplayers", and could it really be thought of as "play" if you were being paid. We finally decided that what made it "play" vs "pro" was if you picked out the costume. If someone else picks out your costume, you're an actor; if you picked it out yourself (even if you only purchased it yourself) then it could be considered "playing".

Which bring me to another point. We sure do like to label things, and then let other people know if we don't agree on the way they label something versus the way we label something. We should probably stop worrying about it so much.