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21 Jun 21:03

We bought Walmart’s $140 laptop so you wouldn’t have to

by Jim Salter
The cheerful purple chassis is by far the best thing about Walmart's cheapest laptop.

Enlarge / The cheerful purple chassis is by far the best thing about Walmart's cheapest laptop. (credit: Jim Salter)

One glance at the specs on Walmart's cheapest laptop—the EVOO EV-C-116-5—makes it clear to any technical enthusiast that the device is not exactly going to be a powerhouse. But the little laptop only costs $139, and its stats appear to stack up well with $200-$250 Chromebooks. So recently, I ponied up my credit card and ordered one. In purple.

Amongst us Arsians, it's obvious that the EVOO is not going to be a good choice for a Windows laptop. With only 2GiB of RAM, the EVOO won't be able to run anything without hammering virtual memory (swapping data from RAM to disk and back again). Beyond that, a 32GB SSD simply is not enough room for Windows itself, let alone any applications. The first time the EVOO tries to upgrade to a new build of Windows 10 (for example, Windows 10 build 2004, which just released last month), it will fail due to lack of space.

That doesn't necessarily mean the laptop is entirely useless, though. Perhaps it could be reloaded with Linux—even "heavyweight" distributions like Ubuntu are considerably easier on both RAM and storage than Windows is. Heck, maybe even the assumption that a 2GiB RAM, 32GB SSD laptop can't run Windows 10 well isn't quite right. There was only one way to find out.

Specifications

Specs at a glance: EVOO EV-C-116-5
OS Windows 10 Home (S mode)
CPU dual-core AMD A4-9120
RAM 2GB DDR4
GPU integrated Radeon R3
Wi-Fi Realtek RTL873B—2.4GHz only, 802.11n + Bluetooth
SSD Foresee 32GB (29.8GiB) eMMC
Battery 4500 mAH @ 7.6V (34.2WH)
Display 11.6" 1080p
Connectivity left side:
  • Barrel DC jack
  • USB3 type A
  • HDMI out

right side:

  • 3.5mm headset jack
    USB2 type A
  • MicroSD slot
Price as tested $139 at Walmart

The first thing any prospective shopper should know about cheap laptop designs like this one is that 32GB is absolutely not enough to sustainably run Windows 10. The second thing shoppers should know is that 32GB doesn't, unfortunately, mean what they think it means—when the specification says GB, it means GB.

Windows measures storage in GiB, not GB—and 32GB is only 29.8GiB, of which another 1GiB is consumed in restoration directory, 3GiB is consumed by the Windows pagefile, and a few hundred MiB more are devoted to the hibernation file and swapfile.

If you're wondering why there's both a pagefile and a swapfile, it's because of Windows UWP apps. They (and only they) use the "swapfile" rather than the "pagefile" in order to cache themselves for rapid opening on system reboot, among other things.

The 2GiB of RAM specified is also criminally low: even in S mode and on first boot, the system had only 300MiB of headroom in RAM. That means there's effectively no memory to devote to operating-system caching, and the system is continuously hitting the pagefile hard enough to seem criminal.

The one part of this system that looks legitimately suited for purpose—the AMD A4-9120 CPU—also turns out to be a problem. Normally, the A4-9120 would be an excellent choice for a budget laptop or netbook, and it would compete strongly with Intel's Celeron counterparts. The EV-C-116-5, unfortunately, is anything but "normal"—and the A4-9120 can't perform up to its normal specifications.

First impressions

  • This is the 11.6" EVOO, freshly booted into Windows 10 Home, sitting atop my Moft Z folding laptop stand. [credit: Jim Salter ]

I knew better than to have high hopes for the under-specced EVOO as a Windows machine, but I really wanted to like the little laptop. Its brightly colored plastic case is appealing but unassuming, and I had high hopes that it might still make a solid Chromebook alternative for Linux users.

The display on the EVOO is FHD 1080p, not the 1366x768 typical of many cheap laptops. This is a major plus for power users who need more screen real estate. Unfortunately, those same power users will want to defenestrate the little laptop, due to its strange rehoming of the backslash key. EVOO decided that the backslash, normally located directly above Enter, would be better off sandwiched between right-Alt and right-Ctrl.

Relocating this key is a problem on Windows, because the backslash is the directory separator when typing out paths on the command line or in the Explorer address bar. It's also a problem on Linux command lines, where the backslash is the "escape" operator used to nullify special use-cases of characters. For example, one might cp \!folder /tmp/ to copy a folder named !folder, since otherwise Bash would interpret the bang as an event.

The lack of silk-screening on the laptop's side-mounted ports is yet another problem—the gray-on-gray bas-relief labeling is almost impossible to make out in normal lighting. When I first set this laptop up, I naively plugged the charger into the headphone jack, and it felt perfectly fine there. I didn't realize my mistake until checking the battery and wondering why it wasn't charging.

The USB ports on the laptop were very tight. I needed both hands and some determination to get a USB thumbdrive or wireless mouse radio inserted on either side of the laptop. I needed both hands and plenty of determination to get them out again, as well.

The plastic used for the EVOO's chassis is unusually soft. The plastic is fairly thick and the laptop is small and light, so it doesn't feel flimsy. But the soft plastic doesn't bode well for scratch resistance, and it makes dealing with the stubborn USB plugs even more annoying.

Windows 10 on the EVOO

  • Good ol' Device Manager shows us that the "internal" Wi-Fi is really a cheap Realtek USB device. [credit: Jim Salter ]

The first thing I noticed while looking through the Windows install is that our "internal" Wi-Fi is actually a cheap USB 2.0 Realtek adapter—and it's 2.4GHz-only 802.11n, at that. The second thing I noticed was the fact that I couldn't install even simple applications, because the laptop was in S mode.

For those unfamiliar, S mode locks a system into using only the Edge browser and only apps from the Microsoft Store. Many users end up badly confused by S mode, and some unnecessarily buy a new copy of Windows trying to get out of it.

Fortunately, if you click the "learn more" link in the S mode warning that pops up when you attempt to load a non-Store app, you are eventually led to a free Microsoft Store app which turns S mode off. On my first try, this app crashed. But on the second, it successfully disabled S mode, leaving me with a normal Windows install.

  • On our brand-new system, we've already got 11.4GiB of approximately 28GiB used... and we haven't hit Windows Update yet. [credit: Jim Salter ]

On first boot, with absolutely nothing changed or installed and no Windows Update checks done yet, we only have 11.4GiB free. This is obviously going to cause problems down the road, so I installed Windirstat to generate a treemap and get an overview of where all the data was going.

The largest directory is Windows itself, and the largest individual files are the pagefile, swapfile, hibernation file, and the usmt.ppkg file used for push-button factory restores. When we took this first glance, the pagefile was 1.1GiB—but it would soon balloon out to its maximum size of 3GiB.

Normally, I'd dive right in to disable the page file entirely—I don't really care about crash dumps, and I don't want the system paging things in and out of virtual memory. My normal preference is to simply keep my application budget inside the physical RAM available to the system.

But the EVOO is trying to run Windows 10 on only 2GiB of RAM—it needs that pagefile, and it needs it bad. I didn't feel comfortable removing or downsizing the pagefile in these extremely constrained circumstances, so I left it as it was.

Resource monitor shows only 324MiB of RAM available on the system, at idle with no running applications aside from Resource Monitor itself. Even that 324MiB isn't really freeit's the filesystem cache.

Opening programs, creating documents, or doing just about anything on this system requires it to purge some of what little filesystem cache it can maintain. The 32GB Foresee eMMC SSD isn't anybody's idea of a speed demon, so losing cache hurts.

This system was so constrained in both RAM and storage that when I installed PCMark10 in order to perform its Modern Office battery test, I changed up my normal procedure. Typically, I copy the installer from a thumb drive onto the C: drive, and then run it—but with the installer weighing in at 3.56GiB, I decided just this once to run it directly from the thumbdrive instead.

Battery testing

  • Well, this was a first—it took the EVOO so long to start the battery life test, that the battery was too low to actually run the test once it had. Yikes. [credit: Jim Salter ]

Running the battery test turned out to be unexpectedly challenging. As usual, I unplugged the DC power immediately before clicking the "Run test" button. But the poor little EVOO struggled so hard to even start the test, that it had consumed more than 20 percent of the battery by the time the test was ready to run.

This in turn caused the test to complain that it needed at least 80 percent battery in order to run—so without clicking anything else, I plugged the DC power back in and waited a couple more hours, until it was again at or near 100 percent. With that done, the test ran overnight.

Normally in my experience, a system either hibernates or suspends after reaching low battery; restoring power and turning it on brings you to the completed PCMark battery test results. This was not the case with the EVOO, which apparently either shut down or simply crashed. Luckily, PCMark recovered gracefully, and the program showed me the results when started again manually.

The EVOO's five and a half hour result wasn't great—these days, I'm used to results in the nine to eleven hour range. But it was frankly better than I expected. In the immortal words of Hoggett, "That'll do, pig—that'll do."

Performance testing

  • I didn't realize it was possible to get a PCMark 10 performance score of zero. [credit: Jim Salter ]

Meaningful benchmark results were impossible to attain on this laptop, since it was too slow and quirky to even run the benchmarks reliably. But I didn't let a silly thing like "being obviously inappropriate" stop me from slogging painfully through the benchmarks and getting what numbers I could.

The first suite up, PCMark 10, eventually produced a score of zero. I didn't know that a zero score was even possible. Apparently, it is.

Next up was Passmark: Despite being a bit of a softball test, this failed and needed to be restarted (or have errors ignored) multiple times. When it finally did complete, the score was anomalously low—the average CPUMark score for an A4-9120 is around 1,255 multi-threaded, and 1,064 single-threaded. But the little EVOO only scored 639 / 494—roughly half of the expected values.

For the moment, we chalked the anomalously low value of the Passmark score to fractally poor hardware specs and moved on to Cinebench R20. This also took several tries to complete successfully, and eventually the test produced a jaw-droppingly bad score of 118. During the Cinebench run, we fired up Resource Monitor to check on pagefile usage, and sure enough, the system was hammering the absolute crap out of its on-disk virtual memory during the rendering sequence.

We concluded it was impossible to validate our results here—a normal system is almost entirely CPU-constrained in both Cinebench and Passmark CPU testing. But with the machine thrashing the pagefile to within an inch of its life, there was no way to tell which potential bottleneck any given test might be hitting.

Windows upgrade

  • During our day or so with the EVOO, the Windows directory bulked up from 6.3GiB to 9.5GiB... after we cleaned out the Temp directory, mind you. [credit: Jim Salter ]

With only 29.8 GiB of raw space available on our SSD—less a couple GiB more of restore partition, and three GiB of page file, and another GiB of pushbutton restore file, and so forth and so on—I knew Windows Updates would be a serious problem for long-term users of the EVOO.

So, after finishing all benchmarks, I uninstalled every application I'd installed—up to and including the 1MiB or so that Windirstat itself required. Then I deleted the contents of C:\Windows\Temp, and the Temp folder under Appdata in my user folder, and otherwise trimmed the fat from all the usual places.

With that done, I verified that I was on an older version of Windows 10—build 1903, from March 2019—and initiated an upgrade to build 2004, from April 2020. Windows 10 was having none of it. It wanted at least 8GiB of free space on C:, and I couldn't even get to 6GiB free, after only a day of using the system.

A sufficiently determined person could have fed the machine a 32GiB or larger thumbdrive or USB portable SSD and allowed the Windows 10 Upgrade Assistant to store its temporary cruft on that. By this point, I was not sufficiently determined—it was obvious that this was never going to be a decent Windows system, and I was ready to see whether a more resource-efficient Linux installation might redeem it.

Fedora 32 to the rescue?

  • Installing Fedora 32 on the EVOO was pretty simple—the touchpad didn't work during the installer, but plugging in a USB mouse solved that. [credit: Jim Salter ]

I'd never tried to run Windows 10 on such a horribly under-specced machine before—but I have run Linux on similar systems, for many years and with great success. My first Chromebook was an Acer C720P—and it ran Ubuntu all the way up to 16.04 quite well indeed, even with the full Unity desktop rather than a lighter-weight variant such as XFCE or LXDE. I have a small fleet of newer Samsung Chromebook 3 systems, running the GalliumOS spinoff of Ubuntu, and they work quite well also.

Like the EVOO, my old Acer C720P had only two cores, 2GiB of RAM, and a 32GB SSD. On paper, the newer EVOO should wipe the deck with it—the A4-9120 sports nearly double the multi-threaded and single-threaded performance of the Celeron 2955U in my old Chromebook, and its 2GiB of RAM is DDR4, not DDR3.

Unfortunately, those theoretically better specs didn't pan out in reality. Under Fedora 32—selected due to its ultra-modern kernel, and lightweight Wayland display manager—the EVOO was incredibly balky and sluggish.

To be fair, Fedora felt significantly snappier than Windows 10 had on this laptop, but that was a very, very low bar to hurdle.

The laptop frequently took as long as 12 seconds just to launch Firefox. Actually navigating webpages wasn't much better, with very long pauses for no apparent reason. The launcher was also balky to render—and this time, with significantly lower memory usage than Windows, I couldn't just blame it on swap thrashing.

In fact, for a little while I turned swap off entirely, with the command swapoff -a. This didn't noticeably improve performance—and trying to run fio with swap disabled invoked the dreaded oom-killer, so I gave up and enabled it again.

Testing the Foresee 32GB eMMC with fio produced 1MiB random write of 92.8MiB/sec, 4KiB random write of 2.6MiB/sec, and 4KiB sync write latency of 0.16ms avg / 116ms 99.99th percentile. Most of these numbers compare well with the 64GiB eMMC in our $200 Pinebook Pro laptop—but the 99.99th percentile latency is off-the-charts bad; the Pinebook got by with 2.4ms to the EVOO's 116ms.

It's impossible to be certain, since the laptop is so woefully underspecced, but I suspect the high 99.99th percentile latency on the EVOO is a demonstration of what happens when you need to blip the swapfile in the middle of an fio test.

The eMMC in the EVOO didn't seem to be deficient enough to explain why both my ancient Celeron-powered Acer C720P and new ARM-powered Pinebook Pro perform so much better than it does when running desktop Linux. At this point, I decided it was time for a little exploratory surgery.

Reading the entrails

  • The EVOO is relatively easy to get into—remove eleven identical teeny-tiny Phillips-head screws, then gently pry it open from the back hinge with a spudger or very fine flathead screwdriver. [credit: Jim Salter ]

At this point, I decided to take a look at the EVOO EV-C-116-5's guts—so I broke out the tiny screwdrivers and flipped it over on the laptop stand. This exposed 11 Phillips-head screws dispersed fairly evenly around the underside of the EVOO's chassis, which submit to removal easily enough—if you've got a tiny enough screwdriver, at any rate. You absolutely will need either a jeweler's or specialty electronics screwdriver set to get into this laptop.

With the 11 screws removed, I rotated the chassis around so that the back hinge faced me and gently pried the cover off using a spudger. There were several clips spaced around the chassis that  needed "gentle encouragement," but I've certainly seen far balkier cases. So far, so good.

With the back cover off, the next step is disengaging the battery connector and setting the battery off to the side. And now, with the laptop completely open, several questions are answered—the reason I hadn't heard any fan noise up until this point is because there is no fan, and the horrible CPU performance is because the CPU can't perform any better than it does without cooking itself in its own juices.

  • We in the PC business refer to this as "load-bearing electrical tape." [credit: Jim Salter ]

Not only is there no active cooling system in this laptop, there isn't much of a passive cooling system, either. The CPU sits beneath a thin sheet of plain copper, roughly the thickness of a cheap business card. That sheet of copper is not connected to some larger heat sink.

The chassis of the laptop is thick plastic, so there's no relief there. The only ventilation holes are on the bottom of the laptop, with roughly a tenth of an inch clearance—and that assumes that the laptop's rubber feet are on a clean, hard surface.

Finally, the performance delta between this laptop and cheap Chromebooks is explained. Chromebooks have active cooling systems and run their CPUs at the full rated clock speed. This laptop must limp along as best as it can without dying of waste heat that it has no way to vent.

My Pinebook Pro, which is also passively cooled, is in far better shape than the EV-C-116-5. Although the Pinebook Pro also has no fan, its own heat is dumped directly to the magnesium alloy chassis, giving the system an opportunity to cool to ambient temperatures.

At first, I mistakenly assumed that the A4-9120 was just thermally throttling itself 24/7. After re-assembling it and booting back into Fedora, I found the real answer—the normally 2.5GHz chip is underclocked to an anemic 1.5GHz. The system BIOS confirms this clockrate but offers no room to adjust it—which is a shame, since the system never hit temperatures higher than about 62C in my testing.

On the one hand, it's nice to see that there's a safety factor in the system's design. On the other hand, it really can't afford to give up any performance margin. Another few hundred MHz might have offered some badly needed additional performance—or it might have caused the laptop to fry itself in a hot car on a summer day.

Although the A4-9120 is specified at both a TDP up of 15W and a TDP down of 10W, I was unable to find any other examples of it being underclocked this far. I reached out to AMD to inquire whether this was a standard, supported configuration for the CPU—my AMD rep declined to comment initially and suggested reaching out to Walmart PR instead. We'll update here if we receive further information.

What is it good for?

First of all, let's talk about this laptop's real target audience: non-technical bargain shoppers, who want a cheap "normal" laptop to run Windows and Windows apps on. That audience is not being served with this hardware, period. It doesn't have either the RAM or the storage to do an even vaguely reasonable job for normal people doing normal things under Windows, even when limited to S mode. The laptop comes with a one year subscription to Office 365—but it struggles even to run Windows itself, let alone an office suite.

A typical consumer who wants an under-$200 "normal laptop" is almost always going to be better off with something used and cheap than they would be with the EV-C-116-5. An i3-3217U powered 2013 Fujitsu Lifebook I bought used for $140 from a local PC store in 2017 was twice as fast in raw CPU testing as the EVOO—and it also offered twice as much RAM, and twice as much solid state storage.

The typical consumer, clearly, is out of luck—but what about us geeks? Personally, I use low-powered Linux laptops in many different roles—including but not limited to airplane entertainment, "backup laptop" for presentations at conferences, and small fleets of them as Wi-Fi test devices. I had high hopes that the EVOO might be able to fulfill that role.

Although standard Chromebooks work reasonably well as dirt-cheap Linux laptops, they need a fair amount of finagling to get there. If you don't take them apart and change a hardware setting to allow permanent installation, they have a distressing tendency to occasionally "forget" how to boot into Linux. When this happens, you can get stranded with working ChromeOS. It takes an hour or two of work before you can get back to your "real" operating system.

I would have loved for this EVOO laptop to fit that niche and finally free me from fighting the ChromeOS hardware ecosystem. Unfortunately, this device is just too underpowered to make that reasonable—and that's even before you get to the weirdly rearranged keyboard or the anemic USB2 "internal" Wi-Fi, which only supports 802.11n at 2.4GHz.

There may be a purpose this laptop is well-suited to—but for the life of me, I cannot think what it might be.

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24 Oct 04:15

The Wall Streeters who actually like Elizabeth Warren

by Emily Stewart
Senator Elizabeth Warren takes the stage during a town hall event in Norfolk, Virginia, on October 18, 2019.  Elizabeth Warren’s Wall Street fans back her because of her policies, not in spite of them. | Zach Gibson/Getty Images

“I’m fully on board with soaking the rich, 100 percent, and if that involves me paying more taxes, let’s go.”

On Wall Street, there are rich guys, and then there are very rich guys. And in the first camp, there are a surprising number who think an Elizabeth Warren presidency would not be the apocalypse.

“You know what I like about Warren? Warren doesn’t want my money, actually,” said one mid-level hedge fund executive who has already maxed out on his donation to the Massachusetts Democrat in the 2020 presidential primary. “My firm is great, but some people in the industry are scumbags.”

Warren is a longtime critic of the financial industry, and she has made her fair share of enemies among some of its major players. There has been a litany of stories in recent months — including one I wrote — quoting finance executives and bankers on how disastrous they believe a Warren presidency would be: Deciding between Donald Trump and Warren is a “decision between sickness and death.” Major Wall Street Democratic donors will sit the election out. Warren is the one candidate who is “toxic for the business community.”

But not everyone on Wall Street hates her. In fact, there are plenty of people who believe the idea of Warren in the White House sounds pretty good. And it’s not a grudging acceptance of her worldview but instead genuine support for it.

Some in the industry believe that the excesses of the financial system continue to be a problem in the wake of the Great Recession and that corporate concentration, wealth inequality, and lax regulation are still issues that need addressing. Do they think she’s 100 percent right on everything? No. But they know she’s smart, and they think she’s approaching policy with a scalpel, not a sledgehammer. They believe Warren when she says she is a capitalist and are on board with her brand of capitalism.

“A place like mine chooses winners economically,” said a Goldman Sachs vice president. “Is that right? It doesn’t seem like that is right.”

I spoke with more than three dozen people from across the financial sector — professionals who work at hedge funds, big banks, and private equity funds, in asset management, financial advice, investment banking, trading, research, and compliance — who support Warren’s presidential bid. They know if she lands in the White House that may make their jobs a bit different, their companies a little less lucrative, or mean they’ll pay more in taxes. And they think that’s great. They support Warren because of her policies, not in spite of them.

“Even though, on a personal basis, Elizabeth Warren may be bad for me economically, she would be better for society, which I want my kids to grow up in,” a director at Citi told me.

Elizabeth Warren’s “plan for that” appeals to a lot of people on Wall Street

Warren’s plans have become a signature of her presidential campaign. She’s got a lot of them, including multiple that would have a significant impact on the financial industry, major corporations, and the wealthy.

She has laid out proposals to overhaul private equity, restructure American capitalism, jail corporate executives, implement a lobbying tax, and get big money and donors out of politics, among others. She says that her first priority, if elected, will be a sweeping anti-corruption package that would seek to reduce corporate influence and the sway of special interests in Washington, DC.

“Corruption has put our planet at risk. Corruption has broken our economy. And corruption is breaking our democracy,” Warren said at a September rally in New York City. “I know what’s broke, I’ve got a plan to fix it, and that’s why I’m running for president of the United States.”

Many of the people I talked to said that the big structural change Warren talks about and her plans — even the ones that might not be best for their pocketbooks — are what draw them to her. They believe that parts of their industry, or other parts of the political system as a whole, need changing.

“I might not always agree with every move that she makes, but it would be hard to argue that she hasn’t done her homework on it,” said Charlie O’Donnell, a venture capitalist at Brooklyn Bridge Ventures.

That’s also why some Wall Streeters are so concerned about her. They know how the system works and they know she knows, too. When billionaire Leon Cooperman goes on CNBC and predicts a Warren presidency would cause the stock market to fall by 25 percent, he’s not just thinking of his stock portfolio — he’s also thinking of his bank account and what Warren’s wealth tax would mean for that, or how aggressive Warren-installed financial regulators would be.

 Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call
Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren at a news conference about tax cuts at the Capitol on October 18, 2017.

While a lot of Warren’s Wall Street supporters felt their particular firms or areas are doing things right, they think a lot of others in corporate America are doing things wrong. The hedge funders wondered about the big banks; the private equity people complained about monopolies and the bank bailouts. An investment adviser said he was doing right by his clients but his competitors were engaging in behavior he considers “borderline criminal.” The Dodd-Frank Act had already cleaned up the big banks, but what about Big Tech?

“I’m not so worried that we’re going to blow up the financial system,” said one junior executive at a large quant hedge fund. “I’m worried that banks aren’t very good at deciding who is and who isn’t going to blow up the financial system. So if she wants to regulate them more, I’m not going to complain.”

O’Donnell invoked the debacle surrounding WeWork, the coworking startup that was forced to cancel its IPO and saw its CEO and founder step down, but not before cashing out $700 million from the company and reportedly walking away with nearly $2 billion more. “That’s not capitalism, that’s just theft,” O’Donnell said. “And I’m not for theft. If that’s the kind of reform that Warren puts in, that’s great, that’s awesome, that’s better for everybody.”

There was also a sense among those I talked to that if you can’t make money under Elizabeth Warren’s rules, maybe you’re not very good at the game in the first place. Wall Street has its egos, and there’s an attitude that they don’t need the government’s help to make money.

“To the extent that a business was regulated out of existence, isn’t that the ultimate form of capitalism?” said one New York investment banker. “If your business can’t succeed, it should die.”

“The truth of the matter is, I don’t need the government’s help to make money doing what I’m doing,” a private equity executive said.

Warren’s Wall Street supporters trust her

Warren has made a point to emphasize that she’s a capitalist and that she doesn’t want to destroy markets altogether, she just thinks they need rules. And her supporters in the industry agree with her.

“I can convince myself that it is a service we provide — we are effectively taking on risk where other people don’t want to,” said an associate director in the high-frequency trading division of an options firm. “But it’s a long way to convince myself that it’s a net gain for the world.”

“Customers need protection. Corporations have so much at their disposal and an individual customer has nothing,” said a portfolio manager in the credit card division of a major bank.

One managing director at JPMorgan Chase acknowledged that the commercial banking sector had been “beaten and pounded” by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which Warren first conceived of as a Harvard professor and helped launch during President Barack Obama’s administration, and it wasn’t the end of the world. “I don’t want to say we got used to it, but we adapted,” he said. “We survived, and we’re now more profitable than ever.”

 Mark Wilson/Getty Images
Warren speaks during a protest in front of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau headquarters in Washington, DC, on November 28, 2017.

Warren’s Wall Street backers don’t buy into the notion that she will tank the stock market or do catastrophic damage to the economy. Instead, they think her formula works in the long term, and the Trump-induced whiplash is more detrimental.

“If there’s any kind of correction associated with a Warren presidency, I think it would actually be short-lived,” said a Fidelity portfolio manager. “So much of Wall Street is Republicans, and if it is conventional wisdom that it’s going to be a shit show, then that does become self-fulfilling for a period of time. But ultimately, what will matter is the economic data and company results.”

Supporters also trust her in the event of a potential recession. They see her as an experienced economic hand who would seek to spend more money at the lower ends of the economic spectrum rather than at the top, and they assume the deficit is going to continue to balloon whoever the next president is, Republican or Democrat. “At the macro level, the redistribution of wealth back into consumer’s pockets will positively impact equity markets,” said a State Street vice president. “It’s just what side of the ledger you want to look at.”

While in the wake of the financial crisis, Warren trained much of her ire on the big banks; on the campaign trail, she’s specifically gone after private equity. She’s characterized the industry’s practices as “Wall Street looting,” invoking private equity’s role in the demise of companies such as Toys R Us, Payless, and Shopko, and proposed revamping the way firms do business and closing the carried interest tax loophole many in the field take advantage of.

Finance professionals not in the private equity industry said they had it coming, and her supporters within the industry said that while the attention was a bit of a nuisance, on a lot of fronts she was probably right.

The day I spoke to one private equity associate, he told me he had just been at an industry conference where the speaker had dedicated part of his presentation to Warren. “They framed it as private equity has a public relations problem and we as an industry should try to show that we are not as bad as we are sometimes portrayed to be,” he said.

“At the end of the day, it’s hard to justify why these things exist and everybody knows it, they just don’t want to pay it,” one private equity executive said of the carried interest tax loophole.

In a statement to Vox, Warren spokesperson Saloni Sharma highlighted Warren’s record on going after the financial industry, including her calls to break up the banks, her work setting up the CFPB, and her public criticism of Wells Fargo and its executives. “She is not cozying up to Wall Street at fundraisers,” Sharma said. “She’s been the leader in holding Wall Street accountable and getting results for decades. They know she will do the same as president.”

Not everyone in finance is rolling in money

Miles’s law says that where you stand depends on where you sit, and not everybody is sitting in the same place in the world of Wall Street. The prospect of an Elizabeth Warren presidency means something very different to the Lloyd Blankfeins and Jamie Dimons of the world from what it means to your average Goldman Sachs or JPMorgan employee.

“It’s a pyramid, and the people at the top are very wealthy and everybody else is trying to rise to the top,” said one hedge fund portfolio manager.

One compliance officer at a major investment bank recalled a pep talk her boss used to give at meetings at her previous firm. “His metaphor was how much juice can you squeeze from a lemon? Because if you squeeze it a little bit more, you can always get more out of it. I really do feel like a lemon,” she said.

In her current position, she went for seven years without getting a raise. “It’s very hard to take when you know that the company just initiated a $100 million stock buyback and we have one of the highest-paid CEOs on Wall Street,” she said.

 Spencer Platt/Getty Images
People walk outside of the New York Stock Exchange in New York City on May 29, 2018.

And it’s not just problems with how their companies sometimes treat them, it’s also with how they treat consumers.

A mortgage specialist who works for a Wall Street bank — Wells Fargo — not on Wall Street but in Iowa told me about his dealings with an elderly couple who had a home they couldn’t afford. They were unable to pay for the repairs required in order to turn it over to the government and Wells Fargo was unwilling to foot the bill for the repairs itself. The house will probably be foreclosed on and the couple has moved into an assisted living facility. “We are making billions upon billions of dollars a year, and for us to quibble over thousands of dollars on a property is tough for me to swallow,” the employee said.

He caucused for Republican Marco Rubio in 2016. He plans to caucus for Warren this time around.

One of the most headline-grabbing proposals of Warren’s presidential campaign thus far has been the wealth tax. She wants to levy a 2 percent tax on fortunes of over $50 million and a 3 percent tax on fortunes of over $1 billion. One Deutsche Bank economist laughed off the idea that this would affect broad swathes of Wall Street. There are a lot of people who might envision themselves as the real-life Gordon Gekko, but very few actually get there. “There’s something very aspirational about pretending that you’re going to be impacted by the wealth tax,” he said.

But even if they did hit the $50 million net worth mark, the Warren supporters I talked with said they would be fine. “If the prospect of losing 2 percent of your wealth would get you to let Trump win, did you ever have any principles at all?” said one researcher at a major hedge fund.

One trader was more cutting in his assessment: “I’m fully on board with soaking the rich, 100 percent, and if that involves me paying more taxes, let’s go.”

Warren has a lot of supporters on Wall Street, but they’re still not shouting it from the rooftops

Many of the people I spoke with for this story were leery about announcing their political leanings, and it makes sense. Corporations don’t want to risk alienating customers and clients of any political stripe, and typical workplace politeness can keep politics talk to a minimum. Some people knew many others at their workplaces who agreed with them on Warren, but they also knew people who disagreed.

At many financial companies, employees face strict rules around campaign contributions and have to get them cleared by compliance, if they’re allowed at all. Brent Jerolimic, now a consultant at a fintech company, waited until leaving his job at UBS before donating to Warren’s campaign. “I didn’t necessarily need that on my record, that I donated to Liz Warren,” he said.

 Barry Chin/The Boston Globe via Getty Images
Warren campaigns at a town hall event on the Student Union Lawn at Keene State College in Keene, New Hampshire, on September 25, 2019.

Warren may not be the most popular candidate on Wall Street, but she’s not the least popular one, either; it’s not as though the financial industry is immune to her rise in the polls. And her supporters acknowledge that while not everyone in their field will agree with them, they want them to give her a chance.

They believe that if people sit down and actually look at her policies, they will see she’s not going to turn the United States into Venezuela. The big structural change she’s talking about, they think is a good thing. And presidents don’t get everything — or often most things — on their agendas done. They’re not scared, and they don’t think others in their position should be scared.

A director at Bank of America Merrill Lynch said he’d seen all the stories about Wall Street loathing Warren and reached out to show that it’s not everyone. “There are some of us who think that fairness is important and not just maximizing how much money I have,” he said.

And if their colleagues or those higher up on the totem pole aren’t on board with Warren, well, that’s just too bad.

“My old bosses were good guys,” said Tamar Katz, a former analyst at Citi. “I see that they don’t get Elizabeth Warren, and they’re wrong.”

Just because Warren’s backers don’t announce their political preferences doesn’t mean they aren’t listening. A private equity associate told me he had heard the CEO of a major private equity firm refer to Warren as “Pocahontas” at a reception during a 2018 conference. A research analyst told me that this spring he had been present in a meeting where an investment relations director from a major defense contractor joked about getting Warren and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) onto a Bombardier jet, the laugh being because it would crash and they would die.

“I have yet to be at a dinner or a luncheon or a meeting where she does not come up among these wealthy fund managers or CEOs,” he told me. “Publicly, they may dismiss her as a socialist with no chance. Privately, I think it’s keeping them up at night.”

12 Jul 22:56

Qui a dit qu’il fallait être nue pour être Madame ?

by bap

30 Aug 06:26

80% of Americans took a week's vacation in 1976. Just 56% will in 2014.

by Matt Novak on Factually, shared by Matt Novak to Paleofuture

80% of Americans took a week's vacation in 1976. Just 56% will in 2014.

In Australia every full time worker is guaranteed four weeks of paid vacation each year. In Japan, it's 10 days. Canada? A minimum of 10 days of paid vacation. Here in the U.S.? Zero.

Read more...

11 Aug 01:46

#299900

<@pyna> i read a survey of all the ways they spell khadafi
<@pyna> theres dozens
< pgp> the only thing gadaffi is good for is testing regular expressions
< pgp> M[ou]'?am+[ae]r .*([AEae]l[- ])? [GKQ]h?[aeu]+([dtz][dhz]?)+af[iy]
07 Aug 20:24

Self Reflection

Self Reflection
03 Aug 13:17

#310199

<Phantom_Hoover> You know what annoys me about Deep Space 9.
<Phantom_Hoover> It wasn't in deep space.
<Phantom_Hoover> It was orbiting Bajor.
01 Aug 23:10

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29 Jul 09:34

#310205

Infinull

The Circle of Life!

<kmc> the other day I bought a recycling can from amazon
<kmc> it came in a cardboard box
<kmc> i took the can out of the box, broke down the box, and put it in the can
<kmc> it was amazing
29 Jul 05:36

poopinthespeedforce: this remains the least funniest thing...



poopinthespeedforce:

this remains the least funniest thing anyone has ever posted on the internet and I want to repost it here so we can reflect on how low humanity can go

it is so unfunny that every time I look at it it actually steals future laughs from things I will later find funny

27 Jul 06:31

10 Amazing Bets You Will Always Win

Infinull

You are terrible people (watch to the end).

Submitted by: (via Quirkology)

Tagged: bets , Video , g rated , win
20 Jul 22:20

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20 Jul 00:47

Microsoft: 18.000 layoffs, but were they the right ones?

by CommitStrip

20 Jul 00:46

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20 Jul 00:35

marathemara: iizanimeaddict: My dad just came into my room and shouted at me in Klingon. Am I more...

marathemara:

iizanimeaddict:

My dad just came into my room and shouted at me in Klingon.

Am I more embarrassed that he did that or that I know he said I was a disappointment to the empire?

You should be most embarrassed that you’re a disappointment to the empire.

17 Jul 02:58

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17 Jul 01:06

Caught With Their Pants Down

Office | TX, USA

(Company policy requires us to lock our computers when we walk away from them. Thanks to our office prankster, if someone leaves a computer unlocked, we have a running joke of sending an email from their computer to the rest of the IT staff along the lines of, ‘I seem to have lost my pants.’ One morning, we receive such a message from the prankster’s computer.)

Prankster’s Computer: “Has anybody seen my pants? I had them on this morning, but now I can’t find them anywhere. If you find them, please let me know where they are!”

Coworker #1: “Have you checked in the fridge?”

Coworker #2: “You should really be more careful with your pants. I think they were in the training room.”

Me: “I saw some guys walking by wearing pants earlier. Maybe they took them?”

(Everyone gets a chuckle, and we get on with our work. Half an hour later, the employee in question walks out of his cube wearing only his shirt, socks, and boxers.)

Prankster: “Seriously, has anyone seen them? Anyone?”

(It’s a good thing we have such a laid-back boss, and no female coworkers…)

16 Jul 23:30

Baby Platypus Squee

Baby Platypus Squee

Submitted by: (via Energy-Dragon)

Tagged: Babies , cute , platypus , squee
15 Jul 06:51

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13 Jul 22:02

How to Buy a Car Without Interacting With a Human

by Nicole Cliffe

fried-green-tomatoes-driving3It’s true. I have recently (yesterday!) purchased a motor vehicle. It was a pleasant and invigorating experience, and my car is very beautiful and full of confusing technology and excessive purse storage. I have named him Dracarys, and he will serve me well. Having accomplished this task in less than 48 hours with only a brief flurry of emails, one telephone call outsourced to A Man, and a ten-minute in-person visit merely to sign pre-arranged paperwork and receive a bucket of swag and two sets of keys, I now wish to share with you the lessons I have learned along the way. They’re applicable to those of you who might want to purchase a new or certified pre-owned vehicle, I will not pretend to know anything about the niceties of used-car-haggling. I hear Roxane Gay’s dad is who you should bring along for that. Otherwise, this is what you should do.

Step One: 

Figure out exactly what car you want to buy. Do this online. Do not walk into a dealership. The internet is literally stuffed with rankings and reviews and Best Mid-Price Blue Sedans lists. “Shouldn’t I test drive some cars?” No. Can you drive a car? You’re set. After you’ve been driving it for a week, you won’t be able to imagine driving a different car anyway. Why spend a couple hours of your life trying random cars like you’ve flown into Phoenix for business and are trying to figure out where the parking brake is on your rental? It’s a new or certified pre-owned car. They drive. They go vrroooom. I am glad you have picked a car.

Step Two:

Discover who sells this car in your area. Let us now move to my beautiful, personal story of triumph. I decided on a particular car, as per Step One, let’s call it a Dragon. There are two Dragon dealerships in Salt Lake City. I went to the dealership websites.

Let’s get one thing straight: I do not talk on the phone.

You don’t have to! You never have to talk on the phone if you don’t want to. That is because you can…

Step Three:

Contact the internet sales department! There will either be an email address for this, or a generic “Make an Inquiry” box, into which you type “please email me, I would like to buy a car.” Then you wait. You will probably wait about four minutes, because car dealers are like travel agents were fifteen years ago: hungry, and aware the end of their industry is upon them. Okay, you have received an email from a person. Ideally, you have received emails from a minimum of two dealerships. If there is only one in your town, email one in the NEXT town. You need two to tango, trust me.

towandaStep Four: 

Say “Hi! I’ll be doing this over email. I would like to purchase a 2014 Model X with the extra-fire package. What is your best price on that?” At this point, I received a very rapid response from each of my two dealers. Dealer One said: “That model is retailing for Money, I can offer you a discount which will bring it down to Money – $1000.” Dealer Two said: “I would have to order that in for you special, so it would probably cost Money.” NOW THE DANCE BEGINS.

SIDEBAR: In lieu of offering you a PRICE, you may hear “I can offer you 0.9% financing over 60 months!” Pay no attention to these words. You want the best price, not to be distracted with what your monthly payments will be. And, if you are actually planning on paying cash, do not tell them until the very, very end, because they make a lot of money off financing, and you will probably not get as good a deal if they know upfront they will not be making said money. Speaking of not mentioning things, if you have a trade-in, keep it to your damn self until I tell you it’s safe to mention it.

Step Five:

Email Dealer Two (or whoever made you the inferior offer) and say: “Oh! I’m talking to Dealer One, and they have one on the lot they’re willing to offer me for Money-$1000.”

SIDEBAR: The beauty of this system is you need speak only truth! You are merely a CONDUIT for the truth to be passed back and forth between two dealerships. You are not the enemy, the other dealer is. It is they with whom they do battle. You will drink the blood of the fallen.

Now, in my case, Dealer Two responded instantly to that message to announce that HE HAD FOUND a 2014 Model X with the extra-fire package, right there on the lot, like magic! Isn’t that incredible? And I could have it for Money – $1200!

Step Six:

Email the Dealer Formerly Known As The Best Deal and say “I’m talking to Dealer Two, and he can do Money – $1200.” Wait. Dealer One can now do Money – $1400! You’re no fool. You know we’re going to email Dealer Two and tell him that Dealer One has countered with Money – $1400. Wait.

Step Seven:

This is a great time to take yourself over to truecar.com, plug in the model and year and package info, and see: 1) the MSRP (what you would pay for this car if you just showed up like a yokel and handed them your money no questions asked) 2) the invoice price (probably what the dealer paid for the car and will basically never go below – I mean, it can happen, but I’m not a WIZARD) and 3) what other people in your area have wound up paying for this car. It will also say things like “a good price for this car is below X,” “a great price for this car is below Y,” and “a YA GOT SERVED price for this car is F for FOOL.” Then you know these things, it’s nice. Back to the dance.

5518689_stdStep Eight:

Obviously, this elaborate gamesmanship could go on forever. It will not, though, because one of two things will happen!

Scenario One: Eventually, one dealer will just give up. You have taken him to the ragged edge of invoice pricing, and he can go no further. In this scenario, you will buy from his competitor. We’ll come back to this part. But you have won!

Scenario Two: Both dealers will have gone through the basically inevitable step of saying “I have to go talk to my GM to see if I can go any lower on this car.” (Spoiler alert: when the alternative is losing the sale to another dealer, the GM will tell them they can go lower on this car.) At which point, they will say to you “I am authorized to do whatever it takes to beat the other dealer.” This is great! This is not helpful, however, to your dance. You want numbers. Again, you will speak only truth: “Hahahaha,” you type, “that is exactly what Dealer One is saying to me! What is your absolute bottom dollar on this car?” They may not tell you. They may simply repeat that they will beat the other guy. What do you do now?

Step Nine:

Those numbers you ran earlier on truecar.com? Now you’re going to use them. You are probably in “great price” territory already, having brought these two dealers to their knees. Whatever increments prices have been dropping by ($200, $400, etc), double up, and make sure that the amount you are about to offer is ASPIRATIONAL and BOLD. Email your favourite of the two dealers. Trust me: you will have a favourite by now. Mine was Dealer One. Email him and say “Okay, I’d really like to buy this car from you. If you can give me this car at Most Recent Best Offer – 2x The Usual Drop We’ve Been Doing As We Go Back and Forth, I will not email Dealer Two and ask him to beat it.” He will probably say you have a deal. If he does not, you’re not an idiot, take it to Dealer Two.

NOW, if he says yes, you could theoretically still email that number to Dealer Two, like a jerk. It’s probably fine. I couldn’t do it! I gave that nice man my word, and we barely scraped above invoice, and I was very happy.

The important thing is, one of these two dealers is going to give you the absolute lowest price you can get away with paying for this car. You have won.

Optional Step Ten:

Do you have a trade-in? THIS IS WHEN YOU MENTION IT. Trade that lil fucker in. In our case, we had already unloaded our 1999 Chevy Tracker for a thousand bucks to a nice young couple and wished them luck.

kathy-batesOptional Step Eleven:

DISASTER STRIKES. Because you cannot talk on the phone, but want to pre-do most of the paperwork (again, you want no surprises when you walk into the dealership to sign), you pass this phase off to your husband, A Man. (Gay women would never be so silly, I do not include them in this disaster scenario.) While your husband is on the phone, he remembers that you need a roof rack. Because he is not engaged in THE DANCE, he finishes the call, walks into the room where you are working on your misandrist blog, and says “we’re good to go! Oh, I had forgotten we needed a roof rack.” It transpires that he has paid MSRP for the roof rack, and thus eaten into some of your hard-won gains. You will hold this against him for at least a day, probably less if your misandrist blog money is not paying for the majority of said car. But it’s the PRINCIPLE.

Step Twelve:

Go pick up your car (do not buy an extra warranty, do not buy magical sealing paint, do not buy anything extra.) It is yours now. Finance, pay cash, who cares. You have forced men to the breaking point and beyond. You are a feminist hero. Play Liz Phair very loudly on the trip home.

towanda2-e1385342883947

Special thanks to John Adams of Jody Wilkinson Acura of Salt Lake City, who was a really nice guy. Additional thanks to Twitter user Pete Gaines, who spent many years in the car business and told me I didn’t have to talk to someone if I didn’t want to.

Read more How to Buy a Car Without Interacting With a Human at The Toast.

12 Jul 20:19

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11 Jul 15:51

July 11, 2014


Come see
Come see me today, at GaymerX!
10 Jul 22:28

Your Scientific Guide To Camping

10 Jul 20:54

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