Using VLC to Train Employees

If your company has been shelling out money to send employees to training seminars, then it may be time for you to rethink your training methods. You may be able to offer the same level of training and include more employees for less than it would cost to send one person to a seminar.

What’s the secret to this cost-saving technique? Videoconferencing. This might sound like a great idea to you, but you may think it will cost thousands of dollars to get the equipment you need to implement the technique. If you were to purchase commercial software, that might be true. However, VLC media player is a free open source media player that works on multiple platforms.

VLC doesn’t require you to purchase a license or pay any hidden fees. Your IT department can set it up on as many computers as necessary, and your employees can even download the media player onto their home computers, tablets, or laptops. You may even be able to link one monitor to a larger screen so employees can gather in a conference room for the training.

Once you have the media player in place, you just need to determine what type of media file you want your employees to see. You can purchase training programs from national speakers, set up a web seminar, or record your own expert. Have your employees save the files so additional employees can access the information later.

If you have concerns about problems occurring during training, you can elect one person from each office or group to learn how to use the media player prior to the training. You can also schedule your IT team to be on call during training just in case problems arise.

With a little planning and free open source software, you can build a videoconferencing environment that will save your company time and money.

Can You Believe this Online Game is Free?

If you’ve been searching for a new online game, take a look at Assault Cube! Even more addicting than the Tower Defense apps, this first-person shooter, multi-player game will take over your life if you’re not careful. Just take one look at the realistic online environment, and you’ll begin to wonder what form of insanity has taken hold of everyone out there who’s paying for online play!

Assault Cube Will Play on Your Machine

As an open-source project, Assault Cube has been tested on every computer system its set of developers could find. It’s guaranteed to run on Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux, but the creators have provided instructions just in case you’re running a different OS flavor. Unlike many other games that actually cost a substantial amount to purchase, Assault Cube will run on older machines with slow CPUs. It does require a Pentium III or higher, but you’re probably still relying on your old Atari for fun if your chip is slower than the minimum requirements for this program. If your machine is rapidly aging, take a look at the recommended performance tuning instructions to improve a slow game.

Become Part of the Game!

Unlike the games sold in the local stores, open-source online games encourage their players to become part of the game. Assault Cube has a built-in map editor for gamers to use while they’re playing to create original environments for an unique look. If you’re a real team player, check out the cooperative edit-mode. This feature allows a group of Assault Cube players to work together in real-time to design a whole new world. Of course, if you don’t play well with others, you won’t be left out of the fun. Simply enjoy the game in solitude with the single-player mode.

Download Assault Cube today to feed your craving for online gaming excitement!

Robert Samuelson takes on China’s economic tactics

It’s obvious to most people that China isn’t playing fair on global trade, but few people can get to the heart of the problem like Robert Samuelson. He describes how China uses tactics like subsidies, currency manipulation and technology transfer to gain advantage. Then he closes:

It’s important to make several qualifications. First, Americans shouldn’t blame China for all our economic problems, which are mostly homegrown. Indeed, the ferocity of the financial crisis discredited U.S. economic leadership and emboldened China to pursue its narrow interests more aggressively than ever. Second, the point should not be (as Chinese allege) to “contain” China’s growth; the point should be to modify its economic strategy, which is predatory. It comes at others’ expense.

The U.S. response has been mostly carrots — to pretend that sweet reason will convince China to alter its policies. Last week, Presidents Obama and Hu exchanged largely meaningless pledges of “cooperation.” Alan Tonelson of the U.S. Business and Industry Council, a group of manufacturers, says U.S. policy verges on “appeasement.” We need sticks. The practical difficulty is being tougher without triggering a trade war that weakens the global recovery. Still, it’s possible to do something. The Treasury could brand China a currency manipulator, which it clearly is. The administration could move more forcefully against Chinese subsidies. America’s present passivity encourages China’s new world order, with fateful consequences for the United States and everyone else.

I think the current administration is in a bind, as the economic crisis has made it much more difficult to take a hard line with China and risk a trade war. Perhaps President Obama can reset the relationship and alter China’s behavior. If not, he will soon need to get tough with them.

GE’s Jeffrey Immelt says open access to China is crucial

Jeffrey Immelt.

In an interview with Reuters last week, General Electric CEO Jeffrey Immelt said that he believes China and the United States need to open up their borders for trade and abandon protectionist thinking. The interview came after Immelt attended a White House meeting with President Obama and Chinese President Hu Jintao.

Just this week, General Electric signed $2 billion worth of deals supply electric turbines, railroad locomotives and aircraft components to Chinese companies.

From Reuters:

It also agreed to work with Chinese companies on gas and coal-powered turbines in China, on high-speed rail in the United States and formed a joint-venture company with China’s AVIC to develop electronics for a new single-aisle commercial jetliner being developed by a Chinese state-owned company.

“We want to make sure we see the evolution of free trade and transparency,” Immelt said. “From China, how can they invest more in the United States? How can they grow their companies here? There’s a little bit of angst on both sides, but on balance there is comfort that over time a lot of these things will get solved.”

It’s certainly an interesting take in the age of ‘Buy American’ campaigns. For the full story, head over to Reuters.

How Much Longer Will China Accept Low Returns On Treasury Bills?

Hank Coleman is a staff writer for the Credit Score Blog.

China is, by far, the largest holder of United States debt. According to the latest numbers available, China owns approximately $900 billion worth of US Treasuries, T-Bills, and government bonds. Interest rates in the United States have been stagnant for the past several years on Treasuries. So, the question remains, how much longer will China who these bonds and sit idly by earning an anemic rate of return? The answer may be a good long while but only because there are so few other options for China.

China Appetite For U.S. Debt May Be Dwindling
For the past couple of years, many of America’s political leaders have been worried that one day China will not buy as much U.S. debt as they have in the past. America is a country that is run in the red, and it constantly needs people to continue to purchase or repurchase its debt in order to keep operations flowing. But, one day, China may not be there to buy the debt when America needs to sell. China has its own monetary worries at home that include stimulus bills, slow recovery, lagging tax revenue, and a slowing economy. There are also new roads and other projects ongoing in China that are diverting money from the potential to purchase U.S. debt. There is a diminishing appetite for US dollars and subsequently a declining desire for U.S. Treasuries.

The US Dollar Is Still The World’s Reserve Currency
The 10-year bond year bond yield is only 3.35% which is barely above the inflation rate. While that is not very appetizing, China would much rather have its money invested in a financial product valued in dollars rather than Euros or some other currency. The Euro has continued to fall against the U.S. Dollar since the recession and mortgage crisis began, and the fiscal policy of European countries have international investors on edge. The United States does have its own financial problems from a monetary aspect, but the currency is backed by a stable government and the American greenback is still a safe haven for other countries of the world.

It Is The Lesser Of Two Evils
One financial analyst recently called the United States and its currency the best house in a bad neighborhood. It truly is the lesser of two, three, or maybe more evils for China. And, being the lessor of two evils is why the Chinese government will continue to invest in U.S. debt until a better option comes along. For the Chinese government, it is better to earn a 3% return than to lose a lot of their money betting on a different world currency. The U.S. dollar has a history of being stable, and that is what China is looking for in an investment.

It all comes down to alternatives, and fortunately for American lawmakers, China does not have many good options for their money. China still has valid concerns about the low rates of return on U.S. debt, but the alternatives are even less appealing. So, until a better option for China comes along, the United States debt and the U.S. dollar will continue to be the investment of choice for China.

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