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Monthly Archives: January 2013

As of this month, there were 30,000 applicants to law schools for the fall, a 20 percent decrease from the same time last year and a 38 percent decline from 2010, according to the Law School Admission Council. Of some 200 law schools nationwide, only 4 have seen increases in applications this year. In 2004 there were 100,000 applicants to law schools; this year there are likely to be 54,000.

Such startling numbers have plunged law school administrations into soul-searching debate about the future of legal education and the profession over all.

“We are going through a revolution in law with a time bomb on our admissions books,” said William D. Henderson, a professor of law at Indiana University, who has written extensively on the issue. “Thirty years ago if you were looking to get on the escalator to upward mobility, you went to business or law school. Today, the law school escalator is broken.”

Responding to the new environment, schools are planning cutbacks and accepting students they would not have admitted before.

A few schools, like the Vermont Law School, have started layoffs and buyouts of staff. Others, like at the University of Illinois, have offered across-the-board tuition discounts to keep up enrollments. Brian Leiter of the University of Chicago Law School, who runs a blog on the topic, said he expected as many as 10 schools to close over the coming decade, and half to three-quarters of all schools to reduce class size, faculty and staff.

After the normal dropout of some applicants, the number of those matriculating in the fall will be about 38,000, the lowest since 1977, when there were two dozen fewer law schools, according to Brian Z. Tamanaha of Washington University Law School, the author of “Failing Law Schools.”

The drop in applications is widely viewed as directly linked to perceptions of the declining job market. Many of the reasons that law jobs are disappearing are similar to those for disruptions in other knowledge-based professions, namely the growth of the Internet. Research is faster and easier, requiring fewer lawyers, and is being outsourced to less expensive locales, including West Virginia and overseas.

In addition, legal forms are now available online and require training well below a lawyer’s to fill them out.

In recent years there has also been publicity about the debt load and declining job prospects for law graduates, especially of schools that do not generally provide employees to elite firms in major cities. Last spring, the American Bar Association released a study showing that within nine months of graduation in 2011, only 55 percent of those who finished law school found full-time jobs that required passage of the bar exam.

“Students are doing the math,” said Michelle J. Anderson, dean of the City University of New York School of Law. “Most law schools are too expensive, the debt coming out is too high and the prospect of attaining a six-figure-income job is limited.”

Mr. Tamanaha of Washington University said the rise in tuition and debt was central to the decrease in applications. In 2001, he said, the average tuition for private law school was $23,000; in 2012 it was $40,500 (for public law schools the figures were $8,500 and $23,600). He said that 90 percent of law students finance their education by taking on debt. And among private law school graduates, the average debt in 2001 was $70,000; in 2011 it was $125,000.

“We have been sharply increasing tuition during a low-inflation period,” he said of law schools collectively, noting that a year at a New York City law school can run to more than $80,000 including lodging and food. “And we have been maximizing our revenue. There is no other way to describe it. We will continue to need lawyers, but we need to bring the price down.”

Some argue that the drop is an indictment of the legal training itself — a failure to keep up with the profession’s needs.

“We have a significant mismatch between demand and supply,” said Gillian K. Hadfield, professor of law and economics at the University of Southern California. “It’s not a problem of producing too many lawyers. Actually, we have an exploding demand for both ordinary folk lawyers and big corporate ones.”

She said that, given the structure of the legal profession, it was hard to make a living dealing with matters like mortgage and divorce, and that big corporations were dissatisfied with what they see as the overly academic training at elite law schools.

The drop in law school applications is unlike what is happening in almost any other graduate or professional training, except perhaps to veterinarians. Medical school applications have been rising steadily for the past decade.

Debra W. Stewart, president of the Council of Graduate Schools, said applicants to master of business degrees were steady — a 0.8 percent increase among Americans in 2011 after a decade of substantial growth. But growth in foreign student applications — 13 percent over the same period — made up the difference, something from which law schools cannot benefit, since foreigners have less interest in American legal training.

In the legal academy, there has been discussion about how to make training less costly and more relevant, with special emphasis on the last year of law school. A number of schools, including elite ones like Stanford, have increased their attention to clinics, where students get hands-on training. Northeastern Law School in Boston, which has long emphasized in-the-field training, has had one of the smallest decreases in its applicant pool this year, according to Jeremy R. Paul, the new dean.

There is also discussion about permitting students to take the bar after only two years rather than three, a decision that would have to be made by the highest officials of a state court system. In New York, the proposal is under active consideration largely because of a desire to reduce student debt.

Some, including Professor Hadfield of the University of Southern California, have called for one- or two-year training programs to create nonlawyer specialists for many tasks currently done by lawyers. Whether or not such changes occur, for now the decline is creating what many see as a cultural shift.

“In the ’80s and ’90s, a liberal arts graduate who didn’t know what to do went to law school,” Professor Henderson of Indiana said. “Now you get $120,000 in debt and a default plan of last resort whose value is just too speculative. Students are voting with their feet. There are going to be massive layoffs in law schools this fall. We won’t have the bodies we need to meet the payroll.”

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: January 31, 2013

An earlier version of this article misidentified those at the Vermont Law School who would be subject to layoffs and buyouts. It is the staff, not professors.

WASHINGTON — American consumers increased their spending in December at a slower pace, while their income grew by the largest amount in eight years, the Commerce Department said Thursday. Income surged because companies rushed to pay dividends and bonuses before tax increases.

The 0.2 percent rise in consumer spending last month was slightly slower than the 0.4 percent increase in November.

Income jumped 2.6 percent in December from November, the biggest gain since December 2004.

Economists expect consumer spending, which accounts for about 70 percent of economic activity, to slow this year. That’s because consumers are receiving less take-home pay starting this month.

Congress and the White House reached a deal on Jan. 1 to prevent income taxes from rising on all but the wealthiest Americans. But they allowed a temporary reduction in Social Security taxes to expire this year. That means a person earning $50,000 a year will have about $1,000 less to spend in 2013. A household with two high-paid workers will have up to $4,500 less.

The diminished pay could slow consumer spending and economic growth at a precarious moment.

The economy unexpectedly shrank in the October-December period at an annual rate of 0.1 percent, the government said Wednesday. The dip was a reminder of the economy’s vulnerability as automatic cuts in government spending loom.

Some analysts have estimated that the roughly $120 billion in higher Social Security taxes could subtract up to 0.7 percentage point from growth this year.

Separately, the Labor Department reported Thursday that the number of Americans seeking unemployment aid rose sharply last week but remained at a level consistent with moderate hiring.

Weekly applications for unemployment benefits leapt 38,000 to a seasonally adjusted 368,000, the government said. The increase comes after applications plummeted in the previous two weeks to five-year lows.

The volatility reflects the government’s difficulty adjusting the data to account for layoffs after the holiday shopping season. Job cuts typically increase in the second week in January as retailers dismiss temporary employees hired for the winter holidays. Layoffs then fall in the second half of the month.

The department attempts to adjust for such fluctuations but the January figures can still be volatile. The four-week average, a less volatile measure, ticked up to 352,000, just above a four-year low.

On Friday, the government is scheduled to issue its January jobs report. Analysts forecast that it will show employers added 155,000 jobs, the same as in December. The unemployment rate is expected to remain at 7.8 percent for the third straight month.

The revival of the private equity industry remains in full swing, as the Blackstone Group reported a 43 percent jump in fourth-quarter earnings from the period a year earlier.

The alternative investment giant said on Thursday that it had earned about $670 million for the quarter, as almost all of its businesses showed gains. For the year, the firm earned about $2 billion, up 30 percent from 2011.

The firm’s quarterly profit, which is reported as economic net income and includes unrealized gains from investments, amounts to 59 cents a share. That handily beat the average analyst estimate of 47 cents a share, according to Capital IQ.

Blackstone also reported $493.8 million in distributable earnings, a 177 percent gain from the period a year earlier. The metric, which is becoming popular among publicly traded private equity firms, tracks how much is paid out to the limited partners

Over all, Blackstone’s assets under management rose 26 percent in the fourth quarter, to $210.2 billion.

The announcement on Thursday could augur well for other private equity firms preparing their latest quarterly results. The industry has continued to benefit from low interest rates and improvements in the stock and credit markets, which have bolstered the value of Blackstone’s holdings and brightened the outlook for deal activity.

Stephen A. Schwarzman, Blackstone’s co-founder and chief executive, praised the results as the firm’s best since becoming a public company more than five years ago.

“We’ve generated consistently strong investment performance for our limited partner investors across market cycles since our inception 28 years ago, and 2012 was no exception,” he said in a statement.

The strongest performers at Blackstone included its fund of hedge funds business, where earnings climbed 163 percent, and its core private equity arm, where profit rose 86 percent. The only laggard appeared to be real estate, the firm’s biggest division, where profit fell 2 percent despite an increase in assets under management.

Jürgen Fitschen, left, and Anshu Jain, the co-chief executives of Deutsche Bank, spoke in Frankfurt on Tuesday.Michael Probst/Associated PressJürgen Fitschen, left, and Anshu Jain, the co-chief executives of Deutsche Bank.

FRANKFURT – Deutsche Bank, Germany’s largest lender, reported a surprise net loss of 2.2 billion euros ($3 billion) for the fourth quarter of 2012 on Thursday, hurt by the diminished value of some assets as well as costs related to numerous legal proceedings.

The results underline the task ahead for Jürgen Fitschen and Anshu Jain, the co- chief executives who took over the bank less than seven months ago and have declared their intention to deal more severely with the legacy of the financial crisis.

“This is the most comprehensive reconfiguration of Deutsche Bank in recent times,” Mr. Fitschen and Mr. Jain said in a statement. They warned that “deliberate but sometimes uncomfortable change” lay ahead, adding that “this journey will take years not months.”

Deutsche Bank avoided a government bailout during the financial crisis, but has faced numerous lawsuits and official investigations, including a tax-evasion inquiry that led to a raid on company headquarters last month by German police.

“Significant” charges related to legal proceedings contributed to the loss, Deutsche Bank said, without providing specifics.

Analysts consider the bank to be among the most highly leveraged in Europe, and bank management has promised to reduce the number of risky activities, a process that sometimes requires it to recognize the reduced value of assets and book losses.

Despite the loss, Deutsche Bank said fourth-quarter revenue rose 14 percent, to 7.9 billion euros, from the period a year earlier. The bank also said it had increased the amount of capital held as insurance against risk, and reduced the amount of money it needed to set aside to cover possible bad loans. The bank said it had reduced total employee pay to the lowest level in years.

The bank had warned in December that it would incur major charges in the quarter, without saying how much.

Opinion »

Room for Debate: Why One Parent Is ‘in Charge’

Why is that one parent always seems to play a more dominant role in raising children?

But that same executive, it turns out, had supervised the implant’s introduction in the United States and had been told by a top company consultant three years before the device was recalled that it was faulty.

In addition, the executive also held a senior marketing position at a time when Johnson & Johnson decided not to tell officials outside the United States that American regulators had refused to allow sale of a version of the artificial hip in this country.

The details about the involvement of the executive, Andrew Ekdahl, with the all-metal hip implant emerged Wednesday in Los Angeles Superior Court during the trial of a patient lawsuit against the DePuy Orthopaedics division of Johnson & Johnson. More than 10,000 lawsuits have been filed against DePuy in connection with the device — the Articular Surface Replacement, or A.S.R. — and the Los Angeles case is the first to go to trial.

The information about the depth of Mr. Ekdahl’s involvement with the implant may raise questions about DePuy’s ability to put the A.S.R. episode behind it.

Asked in an e-mail why the company had promoted Mr. Ekdahl, a DePuy spokeswoman, Lorie Gawreluk, said the company “seeks the most accomplished and competent people for the job.”

On Wednesday, portions of Mr. Ekdahl’s videotaped testimony were shown to jurors in the Los Angeles case. Other top DePuy marketing executives who played roles in the A.S.R. development are expected to testify in coming days. Mr. Ekdahl, when pressed in the taped questioning on whether DePuy had recalled the A.S.R. because it was unsafe, repeatedly responded that the company had recalled it “because it did not meet the clinical standards we wanted in the marketplace.”

Before the device’s recall in mid-2010, Mr. Ekdahl and those executives all publicly asserted that the device was performing extremely well. But internal documents that have become public as a result of litigation conflict with such statements.

In late 2008, for example, a surgeon who served as one of DePuy’s top consultants told Mr. Ekdahl and two other DePuy marketing officials that he was concerned about the cup component of the A.S.R. and believed it should be “redesigned.” At the time, DePuy was aggressively promoting the device in the United States as a breakthrough and it was being implanted into thousands of patients.

“My thoughts would be that DePuy should at least de-emphasize the A.S.R. cup while the clinical results are studied,” that consultant, Dr. William Griffin, wrote.

A spokesman for Dr. Griffin said he was not available for comment.

The A.S.R., whose cup and ball components were both made of metal, was first sold by DePuy in 2003 outside the United States for use in an alternative hip replacement procedure called resurfacing. Two years later, DePuy started selling another version of the A.S.R. for use here in standard hip replacement that used the same cup component as the resurfacing device. Only the standard A.S.R. was sold in the United States; both versions were sold outside the country.

Before the device recall in mid-2010, about 93,000 patients worldwide received an A.S.R., about a third of them in this country. Internal DePuy projections estimate that it will fail in 40 percent of those patients within five years; a rate eight times higher than for many other hip devices.

Mr. Ekdahl testified via tape Wednesday that he had been placed in charge of the 2005 introduction of the standard version of the A.S.R. in this country. Within three years, he and other DePuy executives were receiving reports that the device was failing prematurely at higher than expected rates, apparently because of problems related to the cup’s design, documents disclosed during the trial indicate.

Along with other DePuy executives, he also participated in a meeting that resulted in a proposal to redesign the A.S.R. cup. But that plan was dropped, apparently because sales of the implant had not justified the expense, DePuy documents indicate.

In the face of growing complaints from surgeons about the A.S.R., DePuy officials maintained that the problems were related to how surgeons were implanting the cup, not from any design flaw. But in early 2009, a DePuy executive wrote to Mr. Ekdahl and other marketing officials that the early failures of the A.S.R. resurfacing device and the A.S.R. traditional implant, known as the XL, were most likely design-related.

“The issue seen with A.S.R. and XL today, over five years post-launch, are most likely linked to the inherent design of the product and that is something we should recognize,” that executive, Raphael Pascaud wrote in March 2009.

Last year, The New York Times reported that DePuy executives decided in 2009 to phase out the A.S.R. and sell existing inventories weeks after the Food and Drug Administration asked the company for more safety data about the implant.

The F.D.A. also told the company at that time that it was rejecting its efforts to sell the resurfacing version of the device in the United States because of concerns about “high concentration of metal ions” in the blood of patients who received it.

DePuy never disclosed the F.D.A. ruling to regulators in other countries where it was still marketing the resurfacing version of the implant.

During a part of that period, Mr. Ekdahl was overseeing sales in Europe and other regions for DePuy. When The Times article appeared last year, he issued a statement, saying that any implication that the F.D.A. had determined there were safety issues with the A.S.R. was “simply untrue.” “This was purely a business decision,” Mr. Ekdahl stated at that time.

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: January 30, 2013

An earlier version of this article, in the summary, described the start of the DePuy trial incorrectly. It began last week, not this week.

After surreptitiously tracking the intruders to study their movements and help erect better defenses to block them, The Times and computer security experts have expelled the attackers and kept them from breaking back in.

The timing of the attacks coincided with the reporting for a Times investigation, published online on Oct. 25, that found that the relatives of Wen Jiabao, China’s prime minister, had accumulated a fortune worth several billion dollars through business dealings.

Security experts hired by The Times to detect and block the computer attacks gathered digital evidence that Chinese hackers, using methods that some consultants have associated with the Chinese military in the past, breached The Times’s network. They broke into the e-mail accounts of its Shanghai bureau chief, David Barboza, who wrote the reports on Mr. Wen’s relatives, and Jim Yardley, The Times’s South Asia bureau chief in India, who previously worked as bureau chief in Beijing.

“Computer security experts found no evidence that sensitive e-mails or files from the reporting of our articles about the Wen family were accessed, downloaded or copied,” said Jill Abramson, executive editor of The Times.

The hackers tried to cloak the source of the attacks on The Times by first penetrating computers at United States universities and routing the attacks through them, said computer security experts at Mandiant, the company hired by The Times. This matches the subterfuge used in many other attacks that Mandiant has tracked to China.

The attackers first installed malware — malicious software — that enabled them to gain entry to any computer on The Times’s network. The malware was identified by computer security experts as a specific strain associated with computer attacks originating in China. More evidence of the source, experts said, is that the attacks started from the same university computers used by the Chinese military to attack United States military contractors in the past.

Security experts found evidence that the hackers stole the corporate passwords for every Times employee and used those to gain access to the personal computers of 53 employees, most of them outside The Times’s newsroom. Experts found no evidence that the intruders used the passwords to seek information that was not related to the reporting on the Wen family.

No customer data was stolen from The Times, security experts said.

Asked about evidence that indicated the hacking originated in China, and possibly with the military, China’s Ministry of National Defense said, “Chinese laws prohibit any action including hacking that damages Internet security.” It added that “to accuse the Chinese military of launching cyberattacks without solid proof is unprofessional and baseless.”

The attacks appear to be part of a broader computer espionage campaign against American news media companies that have reported on Chinese leaders and corporations.

Last year, Bloomberg News was targeted by Chinese hackers, and some employees’ computers were infected, according to a person with knowledge of the company’s internal investigation, after Bloomberg published an article on June 29 about the wealth accumulated by relatives of Xi Jinping, China’s vice president at the time. Mr. Xi became general secretary of the Communist Party in November and is expected to become president in March. Ty Trippet, a spokesman for Bloomberg, confirmed that hackers had made attempts but said that “no computer systems or computers were compromised.”

Signs of a Campaign

The mounting number of attacks that have been traced back to China suggest that hackers there are behind a far-reaching spying campaign aimed at an expanding set of targets including corporations, government agencies, activist groups and media organizations inside the United States. The intelligence-gathering campaign, foreign policy experts and computer security researchers say, is as much about trying to control China’s public image, domestically and abroad, as it is about stealing trade secrets.

Lanny A. Breuer has led the Justice Department's criminal division for nearly four years in the wake of the financial crisis.Gary Cameron/ReutersLanny A. Breuer has led the Justice Department’s criminal division for nearly four years in the wake of the financial crisis.

1:42 p.m. | Updated with formal announcement

Lanny A. Breuer, the federal prosecutor who led the Justice Department’s response to corporate crime in the wake of the financial crisis, announced on Wednesday that he is stepping down after nearly four years in the post.

As head of the Justice Department’s criminal division, one of the most senior roles at the agency, Mr. Breuer tackled corporate bribery and public corruption. But it was his focus on Wall Street that received the most attention, from supporters and critics alike.

While he has come under fire for a dearth of prosecutions on Wall Street in response to the crisis, Mr. Breuer also oversaw an aggressive crackdown on money-laundering and interest-rate manipulation at some of the world’s biggest banks. In two weeks last month, he joined a nearly $2 billion case against HSBC for money-laundering and a $1.5 billion settlement with UBS for rate-rigging. Next week, he is expected to take a similar rate-rigging action against the Royal Bank of Scotland.

“I think the criminal division is a fundamentally different place than it was four years ago,” Mr. Breuer said in an interview on Tuesday. “It’s the highlight of my professional career.”

His departure, effective March 1, was widely expected. Mr. Breuer had told friends for weeks that he was ready to leave the public sector. While he has not announced his next step, it is expected that he will return to private practice. He was previously a partner at Covington & Burling, a white-shoe law firm.

By virtue of his perch at the Justice Department in Washington, Mr. Breuer became the face of Wall Street prosecutions in the aftermath of the financial crisis. But when few such cases materialized, critics like the Occupy Wall Street protesters turned on him, portraying him as an apologist for banks at the center of the mortgage mess.

In contrast, he drew praise for the sweeping crackdown on rate-rigging in the banking industry, which has largely involved international benchmark rates.

In a rate manipulation case last month, Mr. Breuer’s team secured a major payout from UBS and a guilty plea from the bank’s Japanese unit, making UBS the first big global bank in more than two decades to have a subsidiary plead guilty to fraud. Mr. Breuer, who announced the action after rejecting a last-minute plea from the bank’s chairman, also filed criminal charges against two former employees at the bank.

The deal sent a strong signal that the authorities wanted to hold banks responsible for their wrongdoing.

Following the UBS model, the Justice Department is now pursuing a guilty plea from a Royal Bank of Scotland subsidiary in Asia over its role in the interest rate manipulation scandal, people briefed on the matter said. That settlement, which could come as soon as next week, is likely to include more than $650 million in fines imposed by American and British authorities, two other people with direct knowledge of the matter said.

In an interview, Mr. Breuer said the rate-rigging case amounted to “egregious criminal conduct.” He struck a similar tone about two other major financial cases — the convictions of executives from Taylor, Bean & Whitaker, a now-defunct mortgage lender, and the 110-year prison term imposed on R. Allen Stanford for his Ponzi scheme.

Mr. Breuer has also focused on money-laundering, creating a task force in 2010 that has levied more than $3 billion in fines from banks, including the record fine against HSBC. He stopped short of indicting HSBC after some regulators warned that doing so could destabilize the global financial system.

Mr. Breuer argued that the charges he did not bring — for example, against Goldman Sachs and other banks suspected of fraud after selling toxic mortgage securities to investors — could not have been proved. It was not for a lack of trying, he said, noting that United States attorneys across the country, after reviewing the same evidence he did, also declined to act.

“It’s important for me to hold the financial institutions accountable,” he said. “There’s never been a time that a prosecutor said we should bring a securitization case and I said no.”

Under Mr. Breuer, the division has also increasingly used a 1977 law, the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, to prosecute corporate bribery.

He also helped run the Justice Department’s investigation of the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, resulting in the company paying $4.5 billion in fines and other penalties and pleading guilty to 14 criminal charges related to the rig explosion in 2010.

In a statement, Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. praised Mr. Breuer. “Lanny has led one of the most successful and aggressive criminal divisions in the history of the Department of Justice,” he said.

Mr. Holder stood behind Mr. Breuer when questions arose about his involvement in the botched gun-trafficking case known as Operation Fast and Furious. The pair, who were both largely cleared after an inspector general investigation, worked together at Covington.

For years, Mr. Breuer moved in and out of government. The son of Holocaust survivors who fled Europe and settled in Queens, he landed at the Manhattan district attorney’s office after graduating from Columbia Law School. In between stints at Covington, he worked as a White House special counsel, defending President Bill Clinton amid federal investigations and impeachment proceedings.

In the interview on Tuesday, Mr. Breuer reflected on his unusual path to the Justice Department.

“The fact that I got to go from Elmhurst, Queens, to the criminal division is remarkable,” he said.

A version of this article appeared in print on 01/30/2013, on page B3 of the NewYork edition with the headline: Top Federal Prosecutor of Corporate Crime Will Resign.

Raspberry Pi may sound like the name of a math-based dessert. But it is actually one of the hottest and cheapest little computers in the world right now. Almost one million of these $35 machines have shipped since last February, capturing the imaginations of educators, hobbyists and tinkerers around the world.

The story of the Raspberry Pi begins in 2006 when Eben Upton and other faculty members at the University of Cambridge in Britain found that their incoming computer science students were ill-prepared for a high-tech education. While many students in the previous decade were experienced electronics hobbyists by the time they got to college, these freshmen were little more than skilled Web designers.

Easy-to-use, modern PCs hide most of the nuts and bolts behind a pleasing interface. Mr. Upton posited that parents did not want their children to destroy their expensive computers by experimenting with their insides. But a cheaper machine would be fair game for messing around.

The Raspberry Pi — about 3 inches by 2 inches and less than an inch high — was intended to replace the expensive computers in school science labs. For less than the price of a new keyboard, a teacher could plug in the Pi and connect it to older peripherals that might be lying around. But because Pi initially ran only Linux, a free operating system popular with programmers and hobbyists, students would have a learning curve.

The Raspberry Pi Foundation began selling the computers in February of last year. They soon could not keep them in stock.

“We honestly were thinking of this as a 1,000- to 5,000-unit opportunity,” Mr. Upton said. “The thing we didn’t anticipate was this whole other market of technically competent adults who wanted to use it. We’re selling to hobbyists.”

One Pi owner, Dave Akerman, of Brightwalton, England, even sent a Raspberry Pi to the upper atmosphere, floating it 40,000 meters up using a weather balloon. There he was able to take live video, photos and measurements.

“Now every primary school in the world can take pictures from near space,” Mr. Upton said. “You give people access to this tool and they do great things.”

Picking up a Raspberry Pi is not as easy as popping into a store. The Pi is so popular that many distributors are constantly out of stock. It is also difficult to find them online.

“The old phrase ‘selling like hot cakes’ needs to be updated to ‘selling like Raspberry Pi’s,’ ” said Limor Fried, founder and engineer at Adafruit Industries, a distributor of the Pi. “We’ve sold tens of thousands in weeks.” Ms. Fried is actually using a few Raspberry Pis and custom software to streamline her receiving and shipping system.

The Pi costs $35, or $25 for an older model, and comes as a bare circuit board. Leaving the defenseless little thing unclothed is tantamount to Pi abuse, so you should also pick up a plastic enclosure. Adafruit sells clear plastic enclosures for $15, and Polycase.com sells a solid, opaque plastic case for $17.

The Raspberry Pi works best with an HDMI-compatible monitor and USB keyboard and mouse. It is powered via a standard USB cable — just like the one that charges your phone — and it includes an audio-out port for connecting a set of speakers, plus an RCA jack if you don’t have a digital TV or monitor available.

There is no on-off switch. To turn it off, you simply pull out the power cable.

The Raspberry Pi will not do much out of the box. Because it has no onboard storage or operating system, you will need to copy the necessary software to a high-capacity SD memory card. A four-gigabyte card usually works well, but you may want more if you plan on loading applications or games.

There are a number of available operating systems for the Raspberry Pi. On the official Web site, raspberrypi.org, you’ll find something under downloads called Raspbian, a Raspberry-flavored version of the Debian operating system that includes tools for beginners. Raspbian uses an interface that will be familiar to users of Windows or Linux.

Adafruit has its own version of the Pi operating system called the Raspberry Pi Education Linux Distro at learn.adafruit.com. It comes with a child-friendly browser.

Also available are programs that you can use to add additional features to the Raspberry Pi, including Wi-Fi support (an add-on peripheral is required) and hardware controllers for connecting your Pi to sensors, motors and more.

Truly adventurous Raspberry Pi fans can even turn the product into a small home media center. Because the Pi has a powerful graphics chip on board, users have been able to stream video and photos to their big-screen TVs using little more than a Pi and a Linux program like RaspbMC at www.raspbmc.com. This fully-featured media center lets you stream video from a hard drive on the network and supports AirPlay, Apple’s proprietary video and audio streaming system.

Mr. Upton said the plan was to develop the Pi’s software rather than the hardware. “If you improve the software, everyone can use it,” he said. “If you change the hardware, you leave a million buyers behind.”

Mr. Upton said he was “blown away” by the reception the Pi had gotten online.

“I’m not aware of a company that has gone from a standing start to a million in a year,” he said. “It’s quite a wild ride. I don’t get a lot of sleep at the moment.”

When asked if he planned to give a Pi to his children, Mr. Upton said he and his wife, Liz, who works with him on the project, had not had time to start a family.

“We’re busy, so we’re glad we haven’t had kids yet,” he said. “It’s Pi and then kids, not kids and then Pi.”

It’s just not easy to do. Luckily there’s a way to help track your spending without fussing with receipts: expense apps on your ever-useful smartphone.

Of all the apps for monitoring spending, one of the hardest to beat is Toshl Finance. Free on iOS, Android and Windows Phone 7, the app is all about making managing personal expenses an easy and almost lighthearted affair. It does this through user-friendly design and cute graphics that include animated cartoon monsters.

The app’s main interface is a simple menu bar at the bottom of the screen. This gives you access to expense data entry, income data entry, a summary screen, a budgeting screen and settings. Entering expenses couldn’t be easier: Tap on the expenses button, press “+” and a large calculator-style keypad appears.

Toshl lets you tag each expense as you like (cafeteria lunch, for example), and maintains a handy display of all your tags for future access. The income entry screen is similar. The summary screen gives you a plain bar chart display of monthly income and expenditures, and a readout of your balance. It also reports on how your balance compares with the previous month and how you’re performing against a budget. Toshl can also e-mail data as a text file so you can enter it on a spreadsheet on a computer.

The app lets you plainly see if you’re spending too many pennies compared with what you’re earning. And that’s about it — Toshl’s best feature is simplicity. To enter more than one income amount per month, or to access other features like the ability to export your expenses data as a PDF or display more complex graphs, you’ll need to buy the annual subscription for $20.

A similar but more powerful app is Expensify — also free on iOS, Android and Windows Phone. This app is more formal, although it too revolves around an artfully designed user interface. Clearly labeled pages make it straightforward to enter an expense, identify a merchant, tag the entry for later reference and so on. The app also offers you the chance to track your time spent on a project, which could be handy for the self-employed.

If your expenses involve traveling by car, there’s a system to enter your mileage, including automatically tracking your journey by GPS. There’s also the option to enter a photo of a receipt into the app and have it scanned automatically. Ten receipt scans are free each month; after that, they’re 20 cents each.

This app is a mobile interface for the Expensify Web site, so you need to set up a free account, but you can manage your finances from different devices easily. It’s a powerful app, suitable for personal expenses or perhaps for small-business users. But it’s not always good at automatically scanning receipts. And because its menu system is so plain, it’s sometimes easy to forget where you are in the different layers of menus — as, for example, when you’re editing details in a previous expense entry.

Users of Apple devices may prefer the $2 app My Wallet+. It balances an easy-to-use design with some powerful features. Entering expense data is easy, and the app has clever calendar dials to make entering recurring expense information simple. It also delivers its transaction summary data in a neat list of income and outgo above a sum total, similar to the way you may write expenses by hand.

There are many options for exporting your data (as in Excel-ready format or as a Web browser-ready file); and you can back up your data to Dropbox’s cloud service. You can even protect your info with a password. If this app has failings, it’s that it’s a bit pedestrian, and not as quick to interact with as some alternatives.

On Android, the free EasyMoney — Expense Manager app is similar to MyWallet+, with the added options of tracking different accounts (like credit card versus daily spending), measuring spending against different budgets and tracking which bills you’ve paid. Its plain design is much more text-based than the alternatives, and this may put you off if your interest is in more casual expense tracking.

Apps like these may even help you save the $500 a smartphone can cost — one penny at a time.

Quick Calls

Temple Run 2, sequel to the hugely popular original, is now out and free on Android. It’s a great way to pass time while commuting. … Nokia Drive+ is available as a test version for all Windows Phone 8 devices. A navigation app with turn-by-turn directions with voice guidance, it works without needing a mobile data connection and it’s free.