26 February 2015

Score!

The SCSon is on an 8 hr bus trip today.  It's a nice travel bus with video but the trip rules require G & PG movies only.

He dug around the attic and came up with an original copy of Star Wars episode IV on VHS.

Han shot first!  Greedo never fired.

20 February 2015

Doin' my Taxes

I mean,what else would I be doing on a Friday night?

Here is the outrageconfusion of the day:  I'm entering a 1099-B manually.  Here's the question posed:
Box 3 makes sense:  Was the basis reported to the IRS?  I can reasonably infer a checked box means Yes.  But what about "Box 2  Type of gain or loss".  The possible answers are "Short Term" and "Long Term".  Which one does a checked box mean?

The more I use HRBDeluxe, the more I like Glenn Reeves' spreadsheets!  They have already given me the answer.  I'm still trying to figure out how to get my data into HRBD :-(

Update 20Feb2015 2140: I had to experiment  to learn how it works.  If box 2 is not checked, it doesn't ask any further questions.  But if box 2 is checked, it takes us to another page where it asks the short/long term question.

Com'on guys.... a) you could have put these two questions on the same line of the first page and b) if not, for any reason, at least throw me a bone and give me a hint on how I should check the original box.

19 February 2015

Tax Software Update

Last rant noted how Turbo Tax screwed the pooch by changing support levels without making it plainly obvious, enraging the user base in the process.  Meself included.

HR Block came recommended by people I respect and the third seemed to have it's own issues.

Strike one came when HRB wouldn't (past tense)  import my 2013 return,  The program just crashed, no exceptions, no nothing,  Just bang, you're dead.

I "solved" that problem by upgrading my windows computer from XP to 7.  Yeah, MSFT dropped XP support last year so is it reasonable to expect another company to support XP?   Maybe not.  Table the question for now.   The Win7 upgrade was in the plans, the CD & new hard drive were on site, I just needed to take the time to do the build.   2 hrs install + 6 hrs baby sitting win7 updates later + another week of daily updates, now Win7 is finally up to date.  Oh and the old hardware that ran XP just fine is crawling running Win7.   I see an upgrade in my future.

HRBDeluxe Strike 2:  It won't (present tense) import my DayJob(tm) W2.  Importing data is more than just the time savings.  Manually entry risks a data entry error.  Easy to do and hard to detect.  Keeping the data in the digital domain reduces these errors.   Apparently my S&P500 listed DayJob(tm) uses a payroll processor not supported by HRB.  GAH!!

HRBD Strike 3: it also won't (also present tense) import 1099's from my bank.  The error code 2000 suggests the login information is incorrect.  But it is correct and several others have reported the same error so it seems the problem is in the software.  I need a fix this week, not "mebbe next month!"

I'm also not crazy about having to enter the 1099 details in line by line.

HRB - Dudes... Intuit did a full on face plant giving you a free shot.  Don't blow it! You need to react quickly and fix these problems post haste!

Is this Whiffle ball?  How many strikes are they allowed?  Intuit-don't get cocky..  That little de-support sleight of hand cost you 527,692 strikes.  There is no coming back from that.  Get back to your corner of shame.   But HRB isn't really making the grade either.  Mebbe I should take another look at TaxAct.

Another option just popped up on the radar:  I was about to start recreating a spreadsheet.  But a cursory internet search showed someone else has already done the work:  Glenn Reeves has posted Free taxform spreadsheets.  I used to create my own spreadsheets to do my taxes but decided the time involved wasn't worth the $40 savings.  So far, they look great!  I'm going to give them a try.

The download is free but if they are useful I'll contribute.

23 January 2015

Sheer Gall

Imagine your have a business selling a product that consumers purchase every year because it's the goto standard for years and years. Would you quietly change it by taking away features forcing paying customers into a higher cost version?  And then tell them we did it to improve your experience.

That's what Intuit did with TurboTax(tm). Some IRS forms supported at the basic and deluxe levels are no longer supported, pushing users to more expensive products. Worse, they didn't make it clear up front.    Hold onto your socks Intuit, your arrogance not only pegged the  "how to alienate loyal customers" meter, you bent the needle around the peg!

I have used the deluxe version for the past 15-20 years because a portion of the DayJob(tm) compensation is in the form of company stock. This is an incentive to employees to do everything possible to see that the company does well, but adds an extra step at tax time. The benefit easily pays for the extra paperwork.  Trading stocks means filing a schedule D. The deluxe version has handled schedule D for as long as I've needed.  But no more. Intuit removed schedule C, D, E and F from the deluxe version so users needing any of those forms now have to upgrade to the Premier version (+$30).

The Amazon reviews have been scathing.  Wish I'd read them before purchasing.

Intuit released a "we screwed up" letter (excerpt):
We messed up. We made a change this year to TurboTax desktop software and we didn't do enough to communicate this change to you as proactively and broadly as we could or should have. I am very sorry for the anger and frustration we may have caused you.
They don't even come close to understanding the breach of trust.   And the VP responses "We did it to improve your experience" exude that "I'm sorry if you were offended" non-apology apology.

To atone for their "mess up", they offer a $25 rebate for users that purchased the deluxe version last year and had to upgrade this year.  Hmmmm...  a promised $25 rebate towards a $30 upgrade I didn't need last year is not even remotely a fair deal. For one thing, it builds the price increase into next year's product, not to mention the whole "bird in the hand" thing.  You could have just fixed the Deluxe version, but no.

I'm going to avoid the rush and switch now.  Intuit, you've seen you're last nickle from me. buh-bye!

The trust broken is enormous.  TurboTax served my needs for nearly a score and now they change support under the table.  That's dishonest,  low.  I have a long memory.  And lots of friends.   And if I tell 10 friends, and they tell 10 friends, and they tell 10 friends....  And a blog...

So I'm out.  Nice job Intuit, this is how you lose long time loyal customers.  I predict you are well on your way to becoming a textbook case study in how to destroy a business.  Sure glad I don't have any shares of Intuit.

I spent the better part of an hour on the phone tonight explaining why they have lost a customer.  All they would offer me was to sign me up for the $25 rebate.  Tonight I'd have settled for a free upgrade to Premier and a free version next year.  Since then, we were able to return our CD and I've uninstalled the product.  TurboTax won't be filing my return this year, Or ever,  Again.  AMF/
She, of Intuit customer support,  said she'd have to escalate to a manager level to do any better so sure, do it.   I don't know what it will take to repair the trust now, But the price just went up.  A couple years Premier level won't cut it anymore. I am gone!

Bottom line:  Caveat Emptor, Baby!   If you are a TurboTax user, read the fine print before you buy this year so you understand exactly what you are getting and understand what you are buying.

FTC disclaimer.  Does anyone in their right mind really believe Intuit would pay for a "review" like this.  I haven't yet chosen nor recommended a replacement program but early research shows TaxAct has a "free for everyone" option.  This should be the default, provided by the IRS,  It's to their benefit!  So I'll look closely there.  But I'll look at the HRBlock version as well.

Update 25Jan2015:  There are a lot of bad reviews for TaxAct.  Only thing worse than not filing a return for a customer is not filing that return but telling them that it was filed!

OldNFO reports good experiences with HR Block so we'll give it a try.  Also it's on sale at WallyWorld this week:

List price from HR Block is $44.95.

Update 2 25Jan2015  Block is not off to a good start.  The program crashes when importing my 2013 return.  After waiting ~2.5 hours for tech support tech all he could offer was "It's a known problem with no workaround and no ETA for a fix"  :-(


11 December 2014

November ePostal results

Thanks All for  your entries in the November ePostal match.  Thanks for playing along!

 Sharp-eyed readers may notice a glaring lack of participation of a couple usual suspects - Neither the SCSon nor I have entries as yet.  Though that's not for lack of trying.  We had a range trip on 11/30 specifically to shoot the match.  The targets were in the SCSon's range bag and somehow they ended up left on the stairs.
Good thing there is a special rule associated with this match - extended entry time!  This being the last match of the year, I will continue to accept entries and update the scores until the next match is posted in March 2015.  So fear not, we will get our entries in.  And so can you!

(For the record, this is not a new rule because we blew our chance to shoot.  Refer to last years match results where the same rule was in effect)

- no title specified

Class

Shooter

Bangstick

score

Sandwich order

 

Rimfire Pistol, Iron sights

   
 

Mrs True Blue Sam

Ruger mk III, Red Dot sight

16

Turkey, Canadian Cheddar & Swiss Cheese, Tomatoes, Green Peppers, Shredded Lettuce, Deli Mustard & Mayo

 
 

Mike B

S&W 617

16

Turkey, Canadian Cheddar & Swiss Cheese, Black Olives, Onions, Green Peppers, Yellow Mustard & Honey Mustard

 
 

Robert

Ruger .22/45

16

Ham & turkey, Canadian Cheddar & Swiss Cheese, Black Olives, Green Peppers, Tomatos, Mayo

 
 

Pat Butler

Remington 617

14

Turkey, Swiss Cheese, Shredded Lettuce+tomatoes & onions,  Deli Mustard & Mayo

 
 

Billll

Ruger 12

12

Ham Swiss, Onions, Tomatos, Green Peppers, Mayo

 
 

Engineering Johnson

Ruger .22/45 Red Dot

10

Turkey, Swiss Cheese, Tomatoes, Green Peppers, Deli Mustard

 
 

Merle

Ruger SSS .22Mag 9 ½

4

Ham Canadian Cheddar, Tomatoes, Onions (no condiments)

 
      
      

Rimfire Pistol, magnified optic sights

   
 

True Blue Sam

Ruger mk III, 2x scope

12

 Ham & Turkey, Canadian Cheddar, Black Olives & Onions, Deli Mustard

 
 

Merle

TC .22LR 2x scope, 10” bbl

4

Black Olives, Onions, Deli Mustard & Mayo

 
      

Rimfire Rifle, Magnified Optic sights

   
 

Billll

Marlin 795, 3x sight

14

Ham, Turkey, Canadian Cheddar, Tomatoes, Green Peppers, Onions, Deli Mustard

 
      

Center Fire Pistol, Iron sights

   
 

Pat Butler

S&W model 19

16

Turkey, American Cheese, Shredded Lettuce+tomatoes& onions,  Yellow Mustard + Deli Mustard & Mayo

 
 

Billll

Rossi .357

12

Ham, Swiss, Tomatoes, Onions, Green Peppers, Mayo

 
 

Merle

Dan Wesson 4” vent heavy BBL

12

Ham, Swiss, Shredded Lettuce, Tomatoes, Black Olives & Yellow Mustard

 
      

Center Fire Pistol, Magnified optic sights

   
 

Merle

TC 9mm 2x scope

8

Roast Beef. Swiss Cheese, Black Olives,

 
      

Center Fire Rifle, magnified optic sights

   
 

Billll

Hi Point Carbine, .40 cal 4x scope

18

Ham, Turkey, Canadian Cheddar, Swiss cheese, Black Olives, Onions, Tomatoes, Green Peppers, Deli Mustard

 
      

Fun class

     
 

Billll

Pedal Powered air gun

18

Ham, American, Onions, Black Olives, Green Peppers, Shredded Lettuce, Mayonaisse & Stoli

 
      
      

04 December 2014

USAF Band does it again!

We posted last year's USAF band performance at the Smithsonian Air & Space museum.

They did it again, this time at Udvar-Hazy center.


Magnificent!  I wish I were there to see it first hand.

01 December 2014

Thanksgiving Weekend at the SandCastle

Thanksgiving weekend was pretty quiet here at the SandCastle.  We didn't go anywhere and no relatives came to visit which is too bad because we had some really nice 80+ weather with clear skies.  So sorry for those digging out from record snows and freezing tail in other parts.  This is merely our payoff for putting up with a summer of triple digit temps.

Friday the SandCastle Crew collected on a Groupon deal for go-cart racing.  K1 Speed had a groupon deal that worked out to free signup & half price racing.  I thought it would be fun for the SCSon and I to do.  When I mentioned it to the SCQueen, she whimpered "what about me?"  Ok.  fine, lets buy two.

With the deal set to expire in the next week we had to act.  We signed in and waited to be called to race.  They first gave a briefing on the car.  These are electric carts.  ~20Hp with torque from 0 RPM.  "Go" on the right, "Stop" on the left.  Brakes only on the rears so if you step on them in the middle of a turn, don't be surprised at the resulting spin!  And don't step on the steering push-rods.

I'll skip the gory details but I had a blast.  We had two red flags in the 1st race and the SCQueen decided she'd had enough.  The 2nd race was cleaner, one yellow and no reds.  Good fun!  But Alas, I don't fit the cars... I'm about an inch too wide :-(  And I think it's a bone issue rather than a weight issue.  So I'll burn off the last races but that'll probably be it for me.

Today we took in the Trans Siberian Orchestra show.  I haven't been to a concert in many years.  A week or so ago the SCSon made an offhand comment "they'd be nice to see".  Which got me thinking "Hmmm... I've wanted to see them too" and to the internet to learn they are on stage this week!  YOLO, lets go!



With computer controlled and synchronized lights, lasers, sparks & flames, the show was an audio and visual assault on the senses.  The colored floods aimed at the audience were a "light too far".  The SCQueen shielded her eyes a couple time at the floods.  Just because you can do something with computer controlled lights, doesn't mean you should!  Cool it guys!  Otherwise the show was very enjoyable.

FTC disclosure:  eat it!   Venues/shows mentioned here provided no compensatory value.