Monthly Archives: January 2005

Out of Options With TurboTax

Out of Options With TurboTax.

You'd
think TurboTax would be the one Intuit product that wouldn't be subject
to any sunsetting tactics, since customers have to buy the new version
every year anyway. So I was a bit surprised when my recent story
about Quicken sunsets prompted some TurboTax 2004 customers to report
that Intuit seems to have retired a few features of the tax program.

One TurboTax feature that's apparently no more in the 2004 version
is the ability to automatically import files from sunsetted versions of
Quicken. “I use Quicken 2002, and I received the Intuit letter advising
me I had until April 19th to convert,” one reader wrote. “I thought I
was fine. Then, I installed my TurboTax 2004 — Premiere edition, no
less. As I started my return, the program asked me if I wanted to
import my data from Quicken. Well, of course I did. After beginning the
import function, the program then told me, in no uncertain terms, that
it was 'unable to import data from Quicken 2002 or earlier versions.'
Well, I guess April 19th comes early this year. Now, not only will I
not be able to use online services, but also I must print out my entire
2004 expense profile and then manually enter the data. I have been
using TurboTax for over ten years and have been very happy with it.
Until now.”

Another loyal TurboTax user found Intuit limiting his options in a
different way. “I have used TurboTax since 1993, even through their
notorious registration/spyware problems, because I trusted the
product,” the reader wrote. “I don't run my own business, so the Basic
version is all I ever needed or wanted. In the fall of 2004, I had a
unique opportunity to do a same-day sale of stock from a stock option
plan from years ago. No problem — I even tried a 'test' return using
my 2003 copy of TurboTax, and the program worked flawlessly. All the
questions I needed popped up, numbers went into the appropriate forms,
even a series of help items — everything I had come to expect from
TurboTax. Great; just buy the 2004 version in January and I'm all set.”

When the reader bought the Basic version he noticed a list of
features on the back. “Under 'stock options' is a bullet that indicates
the Premier version has 'Extra help for stock options.' Well, I don't
need extra help, just what was built into the Basic version. Wrong!
When I told the interview session I had stock options, it immediately
popped up with a message that this feature was only available in the
Premier version and would I care to upgrade online for $40? Of course
not. But I guess I'm stuck.”

What really bothered the reader was not the $40 upgrade but the
elimination of actual functionality in the Basic version. “My previous
experience with TurboTax has been that differences between the versions
were that Premier and Deluxe just offered you more bells and whistles,”
the reader wrote. “They had extra features that were nice, but you
could always do everything with Basic. Given that last year's package
contained the stock option functionality in the Basic version, and this
year's does not, I wonder what missing functionality we'll find is
'extra help' next January?”

Read and post comments about this story here.  [Ed Foster's Radio Weblog]

Ouch

Ouch.

The
hard disk on the Tinderbook dropped a block in a very inconvenient way,
at a mildly inconvenient moment. Nothing important is lost — backups
are good — but workflow is a muddle while Disk Warrior rebuilds the
directory, ever so slowly.

Meanwhile, read Jack Baty:

“My recent experiment with Getting Things Done
has been a huge success. With it, I know that everything that needs
doing will get done, and sometimes even on time.”

He uses an interesting mix of tools — DEVONthink, Tinderbox, Moleskines, 42 folders. Using each tool for its strength is a Good Idea,  [Mark Bernstein]

Web-based habit changers?

Web-based habit changers?.
What I really meant by my last entry was
any kind of coaching/reminder/inspirational processes that were Web-based,
not so much action management (though I appreciate the thoughts and feedback
on that, too). Like, ever had something that you could plug in that actually
got you to do something more regularly, consistently, completely…. and
that you stuck with it?…
[David Allen]

Web-based self-management?

Web-based self-management?.
I'm investing heavily right now in people
and systems to build in highly leveraged support mechanisms for people
who want to stay connected to black belt and beyond, in our game. We're
adding a whole top-end component to the business this year that will offer
those kinds of tools. As I'm still in r&d mode, I'd love to hear
from anyone who has actually used any Web-based stuff for personal- and/or
organizational behavior change, and what your experience has been. Good,
bad, ugly… doesn't matter, it's all good fodder for us right now……
[David Allen]

Really Getting Started in Rails

Really Getting Started in Rails.

Amy Hoy is a designer, programmer, and writer
digging into Rails. She read Curt Hibbs’ great introduction article on
Rails at O’Reilly’s OnLAMP, but decided she’d like to decorate it a bit
with why’s:

The only thing is, like all
tutorials, it doesn’t always explain why. Why is that the syntax? What
does that line mean, exactly? Why is the application designed so it
fits together that way? Me, I like to know why—in reality, because of
my designer brain, I have to know why to really grok it and retain it.

That decoration turned into a whole article entilted Really Getting Started in Rails that works very well as a companion to Hibbs’ original article. Great work, Amy! 
[Riding Rails]

The 80/20 Rule for Web Application Security

The 80/20 Rule for Web Application Security.

The Web Application Security Consortium has released a guest article
written by Jeremiah Grossman (CTO of WhiteHat Security) on “The 80/20
Rule for Web Application Security: Increase your security without
touching the source code”.

In this article Jeremiah discusses ways to make your website more
difficult to exploit with little effort. It's a short, but interesting
read.

His basic points include:

  • Supress information in default server error messages to
    prevent information disclosure. Give to much info, and an attacker will
    use it against you!
  • Remove or protect hidden files and directories. (in the face
    of the Google Hacking books and stuff.. this has never been more
    important)
  • Use web server security add-ons like IIS Lockdown, URL Scan, mod_security, and SecureIIS. This should be a no brainer.
  • Add httpOnly flag to sensitive cookies to reduce the risk of cross scripting attacks (only works on IE currently)

All good points, and easy to do. If you work on web apps, you should take a moment to read this article
[Dana Epp's ramblings at the Sanctuary]

Intuit can't be trusted

Intuit can't be trusted.

Count me in with Norvy and Cory; I've been successfully using Quicken 2001 for the past three and a half years, and if Intuit really intends to disable my ability to use it online come April, then what I interpret that as is telling me that I can't trust them to sell me a product that I can count on. Intuit says
that they retire products in this manner in order to “focus resources
on enhancing our products and providing support for more current
versions”; my version of that statement is that I'm going to retire my
patronage of Intuit in order to focus my support on companies that
don't pull the rug out from under me.  [Q Daily News]

Current Atlantic is a must-read

Current Atlantic is a must-read.
I'm about through reading the current issue
of Atlantic (my first to-read – and often only – monthly rag), and though
they're all good, this one's got some articles I have to mention, and I
hope you read.

The whole issue is terrific, but If
nothing else, read my friend Jim Fallows' “Success
Without Victory”,
which
is also online, if you're a subscriber (please do subscribe – I'd sure
like to know more and more people are getting tapped into that pipe). Stunning,
in every sense. I have to profess to knowing just enough about politics
to figure I'll never know what the hell is really going on until twenty
years later anyway, so I often just cop out of the responsibility of staying
informed. Thanks to Jim and others at the Atlantic, I feel like I'm at
least partially tapped into some objective analysis in current time. And
I'm afraid Jim's article this month just validates the gap between intelligence
and policy.

And if that's not enough, try William Langewiesche's article in the same
issue, “Letter
from Baghdad,”
for
a gigantic taste of reality vs headlines.

And with just enough similarities to my own college-age experiences, Walter
Kirn, in one of the most well-written stories I've read in a long time,
“Lost
in the Meritocracy,”
rattled
my cage with a brutally honest and vulnerable expression of the angst of
being cleverly bright, ambitious, and with a desire to escape the
lower middle class to “be somebody” in the vague world of the
intelligent elite…. brrrr….
[David Allen]

A Path to Victory for GOP Challengers

A Path to Victory for GOP Challengers.

One
of the many biggest mistakes the Dem. Party made over the last 4 years
was Terry McAuliffe. Terry was an attack dog, and he partially set the
standard and tone of the Democratic opposition to the GOP. One does not
attack a campaign of a rival who claims compassion, inclusion, and
respect by attacking their character. In 2000, I was working with a
local Dem. group on a local water issue. I told the Pres. of that group
that Terry McAuliffe and those like him would lose the elections in the
future. He of course, disagreed. The proof was in the pudding.   [Third Party & Independents:]