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Friday, January 30, 2009

Poor Exxon Mobil -- hey wait a minute!

After reading this article on Bloomberg, I was thinking the shareholders of Exxon Mobil were sharing some of the pain of the other corporate tumblers...

Exxon Mobil Profit Falls 33%

Jan. 30 (Bloomberg) -- Exxon Mobil Corp., the world’s largest company by market value, (...)

Fourth-quarter net income tumbled 33 percent to $7.82 billion, or $1.55 a share, from $11.7 billion, or $2.13, a year earlier, the Irving, Texas-based company said today in a statement. Per-share profit was 8 cents higher than the average of 12 analyst estimates compiled by Bloomberg.

but wait... it turns out the news wasn't so bad:

Exxon Mobil sets record with $45.2 billion profit

HOUSTON (AP) - Exxon Mobil Corp. (XOM) (XOM) on Friday reported a profit of $45.2 billion for 2008, breaking its own record for a U.S. company, even as its fourth-quarter earnings fell 33 percent from a year ago.

The previous record for annual profit was $40.6 billion, which the world's largest publicly traded oil company set in 2007.

It all makes you wonder what really is going on in those corporate offices, and who is spinning the PR.

So before we distribute any more bailout $$, here's another vote for wanting to know the true story of the company's economics and just how they are going to use those $$.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Is Quality Job #1?

When I met my wife she was driving a '69 Mercury Cougar. Though the car was over 10 years old, it was built solidly and ran great at over 100k miles. Those were the days that American cars = great quality.

Who knew that when I bought my '94 BMW 740 that I would still be driving, and loving, the car in 2009. The car has classic good looks, is in great condition and drives great. I've looked at new cars, but none feel as solid or as comfortable as my Bimmer.

Our family also has a 2002 Buick Rendezvous. We don't drive it that often... it only has 50,000 miles, however it's showing its age. The interior is constructed of cheap plastic; it's sun-worn and the paint is peeling off many of the knobs and controls. The cup-holders have come loose and small parking lot smacks have left very visible dents in the fenders.

If the Big 3 in Detroit want to compete with Japan, Germany and Korea, they are going to have to build cars that last. Do they have what it takes to return to their glory days of the '60s?

Monday, January 12, 2009

Ok Detroit -- take this! Third-gen Prius arrives with 50 mpg combined rating

By Sam Abuelsamid on ToyotaPrius

Click above for high-res image gallery of the 2010 Toyota Prius

After teasing us for months with photos of switches and boot up screens, followed by a leak of the whole car, Toyota finally dropped the third generation 2010 Prius today in Detroit. We already heard many of the mechanical details over the past year or so, but today it was confirmed that the Prius will get a combined EPA rating of 50 mpg. That's 50 mpg under the new tighter EPA testing method, mind you. The engine has been up-sized to 1.8L with an output of 98 hp and the total net output of the hybrid drive system is 134 hp.

The basic design is still instantly recognizable as a Prius, but the body does have a bit more character than before. Nonetheless the shape is smoother with a drag coefficient of just 0.25. The peak of the roof has now been moved back 4 inches giving the car a slightly less egg-shaped profile and increasing rear headroom. Aside from optional extras like LED headlights and lane departure prevention, the most interesting new option is the solar roof. A roof-mounted photo-voltaic panel will power the air recirculation system when the car sits in the sun, reducing the internal temps and the subsequent load on the air conditioning system. The Prius goes on sale later this spring but pricing hasn't been announced yet. Hit the jump to view video of the live press conference.

Would you buy this post-bailout car?

This Taurus is one ugly car. Does Ford think this will compete with Toyota, Honda, BMW... or Hyundai?

Detroit 2009: Ford announces full pricing for 2010 Taurus

By Sam Abuelsamid on FordTaurusPricing

Click above for high-res live images of the 2010 Ford Taurus

After Ford revealed the new 2010 Taurus this morning at the Detroit Auto Show, it sent out a press release with full pricing information for each model. As we mentioned earlier, the base price of Ford's new flagship sedan in SE trim is the same $25,995 as the 2009 model. For those looking for more toys in their car, Ford is still offering the SEL and Limited models at $27,995 and $31,995 respectively.

Does quality suffer as programming becomes easier?

Software development has become very easy, especially for the web. You type in a line of code, refresh a web page and there are the results. Back in the good old days, coding was done on punched cards. After making a coding change, you waited long hours to see the results. This led to careful planning about code strategies, and code quality.

Working with younger software developers, I notice less emphasis on code quality. When a bug crops in, a developer changes a line or two and the behavior changes. However, this approach does nothing toward solving program problems that are dependent on a specific user behavior. I see more issues with software or web components that are "press this and that breaks".

Today's developer seems happy to rely on their users as beta testers to fix program bugs. I don't like the message that this sends for overall software quality. I'd like to see a little more time spent on code planning and quality testing, and a little less on repetitive "line changes".