Quote of the Day!!!

•July 14, 2008 • Leave a Comment

From an article in a recent issue of Time Magazine Is Florida the Sunset State?

“I just got in an argument about whether we’re 50th or 45th in the nation in graduation rates,” says Florida house minority leader Dan Gelber. “What a great debate to have.”

Ouch! Unfortunately, its pretty darn close to the truth. When half of your state’s population could give a flying hoot about education, these types of budget arguments (slashing funding for schools) will continue.

For what its worth…

Southwest Flight 1455

•July 10, 2008 • Leave a Comment

On March 5, 2000, Southwest Airlines Flight 1455 overran the runway on its landing at Burbank-Glendale-Pasadena Airport, and came to rest on Hollywood Way, near a Chevron station.

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None of the 142 passengers on board were fatally wounded, although 44 were injured.

I saw this picture today, and had to laugh…

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For what its worth…

Goodbye Quicken, Revisited

•July 9, 2008 • 6 Comments

So, about 48 hours after expressing my joy for finding an alternative to Quicken, I?m sad to say that I?m sticking with Quicken. I seriously thought Moneydance (or iBank) would prove its mettle, and become my new program of choice for financial bliss. Alas, it was not meant to be. I guess I’ll be waiting for Quicken 2008 (i.e. Quicken Financial Life for Mac), which is suppose to be out Fall 08 but according to many websites isn’t even Beta software yet, meaning we may not see it until 2009 at the earliest. However, given Intuit’s recent penchant to deliver questionable software, it wouldn’t be too big of a surprise that they release their Beta as 1.0 software.

So what went wrong???
Well, a number of things. First off, I never knew a Java/Swing application could run so fast, and be rather Mac-like in its appearance!!! I loved the home page for Moneydance… at your fingertips was a lot of information, and grouped in a logical fashion… I am totally in love with the categorical hierarchy of your accounts!!!

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(from http://moneydance.com/mac_homepage)

However, its biggest drawback was what I initially thought was its greatest strength… its ability (or inability) to faithfully import my 10+ years of registers from Quicken. I was able to muck around with stuff enough to fix the errors in my bank accounts and credit cards… especially given the fact that most of the accounts from Quicken have been closed over the years (although I was a bit miffed that the only option for hiding accounts in Moneydance was if the account balance was 0). However, when I got to my investment portfolios… all hell broke loose. I think some of these errors are due in part to the way Quicken imports my .qfx files from my financial institutions, but Moneydance and iBank both decided I had 100+ investment accounts, when in reality what they were seeing were various transactions and updates from a handful of accounts. This is where I got bogged down with the Moneydance UI. I was able to successfully change the account name associated with the transactions, however, changing the transactions did not change the stock portfolios… they remained with the previous account. At that point, I thought, perhaps I should look again at iBank.

iBank to the rescue?
Not exactly. When my .qif file was finally imported (it took 12 minutes… while Moneydance took 2), I was initially thrown for a loop as an old checking account that had long been closed (but was my primary account for a number of years) showed an outstanding debt of $297,438.92. Two days ago, seeing that, I pretty much gave up on iBank. Last night, I dug a little deeper, and found that iBank had issues importing split transactions from Quicken. Rectifying this (i.e. ignoring some and deleting others) fixed the issues. The UI, while slick looking at first, wore on me as time moved on, but still was very acceptable.

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from (http://www.iggsoftware.com/images/ibank/screenshots/thumbnail.jpg)

As stated above, iBank had the same issues as Moneydance with regards to my investment accounts. However, iBank allowed for cut and paste from one account to the next… nice and neat. So, was iBank everything I was looking for. Nope. Its biggest issue is that it is dog slow. Not an exaggeration, but it takes over 2 minutes to start up, and my iBank file is only 7MB!!! Changing some of the files (i.e. cut and paste) generated the spinning beach-ball of death, and delays of 30s to several minutes. Bottom line, no matter how Mac like iBank is, no matter how slick the graphics are, usability is the first issue, and with these types of pauses, its simply unacceptable. Style over substance.

So, its back to Quicken to me. I briefly looked at Liquid Ledger at the request of a friend of mine, but ultimately decided to stay put on my financial software. Perhaps iBank v4, or Moneydance 2009, or the new Quicken package will address my issues (for Quicken, all I ask for is stability and a new UI… is that too much… I’m not even asking for feature parity with the Windows version, mainly because I’ve never used the Windows version so I don’t know what I’m missing).

For what its worth…

Goodbye Quicken!!!

•July 8, 2008 • Leave a Comment

So, after almost 11 years of using and updating my versions of Quicken (granted several upgrades came from new computer purchases… many of the iMacs in the day had Quicken as part of their initial software package from Apple), I’ve decided to break free from the Intuit realm of mediocrity. My current version of Quicken, Quicken 2007, which set me back $70, has decided for the past 6 months to quit about every third or fourth time I try to batch update my accounts. Mysteriously, the only information I receive from my crash logs is the following:

Exception Type: EXC_BAD_ACCESS (SIGSEGV)
Exception Codes: KERN_INVALID_ADDRESS at 0x00000000d0000000
Crashed Thread: 0

which, of course, is some sort of segmentation fault. Mostly, this has been an annoyance, but every time Quicken was able to restore my files.

Until last week…

All of a sudden, my accounts file became corrupt!!! Now, I have regular backups of this file (thanks Time Capsule), but the fact that this occurred suggested to me that perhaps it was a good time to look around for a new software package. You see, I’m rather anal retentive when it comes to our finances… I like to know where our money is and where its going. So Quicken was perfect for that. I had looked at alternative software a few years back, and unfortunately could not find anything on the market at that time that had the features I needed to encourage me to switch. Overall, my needs are pretty simple:

  • Be able to directly download from bank and financial websites and accordingly update my accounts (I do not want to download QFX files and import them if possible).
  • Basic report and budgeting tools.
  • The ability to import my previous Quicken transactions.
  • A decent GUI interface.
  • Good support community.
  • A program that is not buggy.

So, I set forth to see what was out there, and what had changed in the last 2-3 years for Mac financial software. After looking around, I settled on two potential replacements… iBank and Moneydance. I won’t bore you with the particulars, but thought I’d give you my initial impressions of both, and which one (I think) I’m going to buy.

iBank
I really, really wanted to like this program… really I did. Its interface is very “Mac like (whatever that means)”, but it just isn’t there yet. In its current incarnation (version 3), it is much better than when I demoed it a while back (version 2), but its still not what I needed. Of my 6 points listed above, it hits on 4 of them. Its importation of my .qif file left a lot to be desired, and it still has a lot of quirks. Plus, it was pretty slow opening my files on my PowerBook G4 1.67GHz. Furthermore, its interface wore on me over time.

Moneydance
In case you didn’t guess from my description of iBank, I really liked Moneydance. Yes, its JAVA, and therefore not a “native Mac program”. But the GUI is really nice, and quite Mac like. Furthermore, unlike some JAVA apps, this one is really responsive. Its import of my .qif files also was not perfect, but its something that can be fixed in hours, as opposed to days. The 2008 version introduces significant interface improvements that greatly enhances the overall experience of the program. Its price is reasonable ($39.99), especially considering it appears from their website that they’ve given licenses issued over the last four years free upgrades to 2008. Overall, I’m sold.

For what its worth…