Entries Tagged as 'Software'

MoneyDance

A little over a year ago Microsoft announced the end of Microsoft Money…

In the beginning I used a program written by a friend of mine to manage my check book (he actually marketed it), it was basic, and worked reasonably well.

Then I switch to Quicken… which never worked reasonably or well… but did the job (sort of like hammering a nail with a screwdriver rather than a hammer).  Obviously from what I’ve said I never liked it and never wanted to contemplate going back — financial management is about function, not form (or in Quicken’s case, pretty pictures, graphics, and selling as much of your information to anyone who will pay anything for it they can).

One of my friends used MoneyDance, and I’d pointed him that way when he decided gnucash just wasn’t what he wanted… so at the end of last year when I decided to make a decision to move to a financial management (tracking) software that was a little more current I paid for MoneyDance… and honestly, I’ve regretted it ever since.

The program basically works, and works on OS-X, Linux, and Windows… but one of the whole reasons to use financial management software is to be able to download transactions from your financial institutions and them just basically automatically match up with what you’ve entered and be done with balancing your records with your statement in a matter of a very few minutes…

And there in is the problem.

If you just let MoneyDance import and process those imported transactions you will have the biggest mess you’ve every seen — and the more accounts you have and the more transfers between accounts you do — well, let’s just say “exponential” growth only give you an idea of how bad it gets.

But, of course, like most “commercial” pieces of software, MoneyDance recently released a new version (I’m never in a hurry to upgrade to anything — even if I’m having minor problems I like to wait and make sure there’s no major regressions).  I did, however, install the update this weekend.

All I have to say is: are you F^(#ing kidding me… how is is possible to make an almost completely broken “feature” worse???

Now the transaction matching not only seems to do a worse job, but it’s on the side now rather than the bottom, so it obscures most of the (wrong) transaction it wants to match to so you have no idea what the F^(# it’s about to screw up…

My personal feeling is that you’re better of using crayons in a drawing book to track your financial records than wasting your time or money on MoneyDance… this has to be one of the absolute worst products I’ve ever seen, and based on the “features” that actually work you can stick with Microsoft Money, a 20 year old version of Quicken, or use a free program like gnucash… or a spreadsheet, because at the end of the day all you’re going to get with MoneyDance that works well enough to trust is a simple ledger.

Needless to say at the end of the year, I won’t be using MoneyDance, and if I can figure out how to get this years financial data out of it I will delete it (of course, this years data has very little value since to really “fix” the issues I’d have to go back and manually re-key everything).

Do before you reach for your credit card; consider saving your money and trying something else.

Originally posted 2011-08-08 02:00:00.

ISO Recorder

Alex Freinman offers a very useful and very free tool that allows you to write ISO images directly to disc without needing to go through several steps.  MSDN as well recommends it use (not exclusively).

Originally posted 2008-12-02 12:00:21.

avast!

A couple weeks ago my avast! anti-virus popped up a Window that wanted to reboot the machine, then indicated to me I had NO protection.

Apparently my one year (actually fourteen month) free subscription was up, and it wanted to enter a new registration code.  The software takes you to a screen where you can purchase a subscription, or you can navigate to the free avast! site and request a new registration code (that’s good for another fourteen months).

Now I think a great deal of avast!, it seems to find more mal-ware than most of it’s competitors, is clean and easy to use,  doesn’t try to take over your computer, and you can’t argue with the price.  But I think it’s a HORRIBLE thing for a anti-virus program to just stop working.  I don’t have any problem with it prohibiting updates of the program or signature file until you update; and I certainly don’t have a problem with it popping up a warning every time you boot (or even including  a warning right above the systray like it does when it detects a potential virus) — but to stop providing the service that you depend on it for without any warning before hand… that’s just wrong.

I certainly hope the avast! people reconsider this draconian behavior; I can’t continue to recommend avast! as a good anti-virus solution if it’s just going to leave you high and dry without a reasonable warning.

Originally posted 2009-02-25 01:00:39.

VMware Fusion

Last week I decide to upgrade my copy of VMware Fusion 1.1.3 (Build 94249) to Fusion 2 (it was free, and looked like a pretty compelling upgrade, and I already decided I wasn’t going to spend more money with Parallels).

I downloaded VMware Fusion 2.0.1 (Build 128865) and installed it on my Mac Pro and upgraded my Windows XP machine (following all the instructions).

Then I launched my Windows XP virtual machine, it seemed to run just fine, so I shut down — and my Mac rebooted.

I tried this a few more times; and yep, every time I shut down the virtual machine (that had been working perfectly for a very long time) it reboot my Mac Pro.

So I decided to give it a try on my MacBook Pro.  Well, at least it didn’t reboot my MacBook Pro — but on both the MacBook Pro and on the MacMini I got an error when I shutdown the virtual machine and ended up rebooting before I could run it again.

Four machines, all four of them exhibit problems that ten minutes of QA should have uncovered (of course I probably have run Fusion 2.0.1 on more machines that VMware has).

There is absolutely no excuse for publishing software like this… if I had actually paid for the upgrade I’d be looking for a refund.  Instead I’m just going to remove this crappy software from my Macs and go with a much better overall virtualization solution — VirtualBox.  And if I decide I want a commercial solution, I can always upgrade my copy of Parallels Desktop.

At least when software is FREE you stand a chance of getting what you pay for.

NOTE:

The only reason I was interested in trying Fusion 2.0.1 is that it includes “experimental” support for running OS-X as a guest.  But if it won’t run something that’s supported, I’m not sure I care to even try something “experimental” — glad I waited until it was out of BETA to take a look at it.

Originally posted 2009-02-05 01:00:17.

Cyberduck

For those who like the “keep-it-simple” model, and don’t need advanced control of a FTP, SFTP, SCP connection, you might want to consider a long term Mac solution now available for Windows as well.

It’s a very simple, clean interface.  On the Mac it’s a pretty seamless experience, but not integrated into finder.  On Windows the interface isn’t completely Window-like, but quite easy to use and navigate (it leverages a bit much off the Mac version)

While I think this is a very good, and certainly good value (free) I tend to use FileZilla; but I probably have more specific needs for file transfers than many users.

http://cyberduck.ch/

Originally posted 2011-09-14 02:00:27.

Ubuntu – Creating A Disk Mirror

A disk mirror, or RAID1 is a fault tolerant disk configuration where every block of one drive is mirrored on a second drive; this provides the ability to lose one drive (or have damaged sectors on one drive) and still retain data integrity.

RAID1 will have lower write performance than a single drive; but will likely have slightly better read performance than a single drive.  Other types of RAID configurations will have different characteristics; but RAID1 is simple to configure and maintain (and conceptually it’s easy for most anyone to understand the mechanics) and the topic of this article.

Remember, all these commands will need to be executed with elevated privileges (as super-user), so they’ll have to be prefixed with ‘sudo’.

First step, select two disks — preferably identical (but as close to the same size as possible) that don’t have any data on them (or at least doesn’t have any important data on them).  You can use Disk Utility (GUI) or gparted (GUI) or cfdisk (CLI) or fdisk (CLI) to confirm that the disk has no data and change (or create) the partition type to “Linux raid autotected” (type “fd”) — also note the devices that correspond to the drive, they will be needed when building the array.

Check to make sure that mdadm is installed; if not you can use the GUI package manager to download and install it; or simply type:

  • apt-get install mdadm

For this example, we’re going to say the drives were /dev/sde and /dev/sdf.

Create the mirror by executing:

  • mdadm ––create /dev/md0 ––level=1 ––raid-devices=2 /dev/sde1 missing
  • mdadm ––manage ––add /dev/md0 /dev/sdf1

Now you have a mirrored drive, /dev/md0.

At this point you could setup a LVM volume, but we’re going to keep it simple (and for most users, there’s no real advantage to using LVM).

Now you can use Disk Utility to create a partition (I’d recommend a GPT style partition) and format a file system (I’d recommend ext4).

You will want to decide on the mount point

You will probably have to add an entry to /etc/fstab and /etc/mdadm/mdadm.conf if you want the volume mounted automatically at boot (I’d recommend using the UUID rather than the device names).

Here’s an example mdadm.conf entry

  • ARRAY /dev/md0 level=raid1 num-devices=2 UUID=d84d477f:c3bcc681:679ecf21:59e6241a

And here’s an example fstab entry

  • UUID=00586af4-c0e8-479a-9398-3c2fdd2628c4 /mirror ext4 defaults 0 2

You can use mdadm to get the UUID of the mirror (RAID) container

  • mdadm ––examine ––scan

And you can use blkid to get the UUID of the file system

  • blkid

You should probably make sure that you have SMART monitoring installed on your system so that you can monitor the status (and predictive failure) of drives.  To get information on the mirror you can use the Disk Utility (GUI) or just type

  • cat /proc/mdstat

There are many resources on setting mirrors on Linux; for starters you can simply look at the man pages on the mdadm command.

NOTE: This procedure was developed and tested using Ubuntu 10.04 LTS x64 Desktop.

Originally posted 2010-06-28 02:00:37.

You’ll find “it” at Fry’s…

One of well known slogans from Fry’s Electronics… but from what I’ve seen over the past 25 years all you’re really likely to find at Fry’s is pathetic customer service (maybe that’s the “it” they’re talking about).

Sure, Fry’s tends to have good prices on their lost leaders (their normal prices are just retail)… and if they put it in their ad you can get it from any one of a number of other retailers at the same price (or better) by exercising a competitor’s price match policies and not have to deal with the horrendously bad experience of walking through the doors of a Bay Area Fry’s (Fry’s in other parts of the country actually have reasonable customer service… though I’m still not sure I would want to reward a company that trusts it’s employees almost as little as it trusts it’s customers and locks up completely random selections of items in order to force you to get a “quote” and have to deal with  even more incompetent employees).

For me I’ve decided I just will not buy at Fry’s… and when more people reach the same conclusion that if you stop supporting businesses that don’t deserve customers businesses with have to care about consumers and won’t do what ever they feel they can get away with.

After all… I’ve had to sue Fry’s a number of times in small claims court (and won); and they’ve lost a number of much larger law suits.  Is that the kind of business you want to encourage?

Originally posted 2008-08-31 18:54:49.

Virtualization Solutions

On windows there’s basically three commercial solutions for virtualization, and several free solutions… wait one of the commercial solutions is free (well when you buy the operating system), and the other is partially free…

  • Microsoft Virtual PC (runs on both servers and workstations)
  • Microsoft Virtual Server (runs on both servers and workstations)
  • Microsoft Hyper-V (runs only one Windows Server 2008)
  • Parallels Workstation (runs on workstations)
  • Parallels Server (runs on both servers and workstations)
  • VMware Player (runs on both servers and workstations)
  • VMware Workstation (runs on both servers and workstations)
  • VMware Server (runs on both servers and workstations)
  • Citrix (aka XenSource)

For Intel based Mac you have commercial solutions

  • Parallels Desktop
  • Parallels Server
  • VMware Fusion

And for Linux you have the following commercial solutions, and many free solutions (Xen being one of the leaders)

  • Parallels Desktop
  • Parallels Server
  • VMware Player
  • VMware Workstation
  • VMware Server
  • Citrix (aka XenSource)

And for bare metal you have

  • Parallels Server
  • VMware

 

I’m not going to go into details on any of these, I just wanted to give at least a partial list with a few thoughts.

If you’re new to virtualization, use one of the free virtualization solutions.  You can try several of them, and many of them can convert a virtual machine from another vendor’s format to it’s own, but learn what the strengths and weaknesses are of each before you spend money on a solution that might not be the best for you.

Microsoft Virtual Server has some definite performance advantages over Microsoft Virtual PC… there are some things you might lose with Virtual Server that you might want (the local interface); but Virtual Server installs on both desktop and workstation platforms, so try it.

For Mac I definitely like Parallels Desktop better than VMware Fusion; but you may not share my opinion.  VMware claims to be faster, though I certainly don’t see it.  And I might add, that if you have a decent machine you’re running virtualization software on, fast isn’t going to be the number one concern — correctness is far more important.

Also, with each of the virtualization systems, hosts, and guests there are best practices for optimizing the installation and performance.  I’ll try and write up some information I’ve put together that keep my virtual machines running well.

For the record, I run Microsoft Virtual Server 2005 R2 (64 bit) on Windows Server 2003 R2 x64 SP2, and on Windows Vista Ultimate and Business x64 SP1; works well.  And I run Parallels Desktop v3 on my Macs.

For the most part my guests are Windows XP Pro (x86) and Windows Server 2003 (x86); I don’t really need 64-bit guests (at the moment), but I do also run Ubuntu, Debian, Red Hat, Free Spire, etc linux…

Like I said, figure out your requirements, play with several of the virtualization systems and spend your money on more memory, perhaps a better processor, and stick with the free virtualization software!

Originally posted 2008-05-18 20:25:18.

Foxit PDF Editor

I’ve used PaperPort since it was a Xerox product; and I’ve depended on a fairly old version of it for manipulating PDF files for a very long time.  I’d looked at Foxit’s PDF Editor when it first came out, mainly because I’ve used their free PDF Reader.

Like most people I started with Adobe’s free reader, and I used their Acrobat suite for awhile (until I got tired of paying for upgrades).  Then I tried out PrimoPDF (a reader and a printer for free, the professional version worked OK, and it’s probably time to take a look at it again)… but I moved on to Foxit’s reader for both my Windows desktop and my Windows Mobile phone. I’ve used BullZip for printing to PDF for a long time.

But I digress…

So I decided to take a look at Foxit PDF Editor 2.2 — and my “need” is fairly simple:

  • Stack PDF documents together
  • Remove pages from a PDF document stack
  • Reorder pages in a PDF document stack
  • Fill in forms (including just adding text objects to a PDF)
  • Save the new PDF

Certainly nothing major; and mostly I can do it with OpenOffice or on my Mac without worrying about spending money on a piece of software I’ll only use occasionally.

FoxIt PDF Editor seemed to work fairly great — it was a little clunky adding text to a PDF (I was filling in a rebate form), and it wouldn’t let me to a multiple line text object (one line at a time — which is a little tedious for putting a note on the page).  I really thought I was going to like the program until I scanned in a receipt (and I scanned it as a whole page PDF rather than letting the scan software crop it) and tried to crop the region of the receipt.  FoxIt PDF Editor certainly will crop an image in a PDF; but it’s modal (I hate modality in software that’s targeted for productivity, that always means that the software vendor is dictating a flow to my work — and that might not be the way I want to do it).  I guess I could have lived with the fact that it put me into an edit mode to do the crop, but the region I needed to crop was larger than my screen, and FoxIt PDF Editor wouldn’t allow me to zoom out in edit mode nor would it allow me to auto-pan while I was using the crop tool to select… so while it would crop, it wouldn’t crop what I needed to.

Then I did the exact same thing in my ancient copy of PaperPort.  No problem, it worked like a champ and the resulting PDF file was 31KB from PaperPort verses the 536KB from FoxIt PDF Editor!

I was over it — FoxIt PDF Editor wasn’t worth $9.99 to me, much less $99.99…

If you sell software that has a “professional” price tag, you really need to provide professional quality software, not some POS that doesn’t work as well as shareware a hacker wrote in his basement and gives away for free!

Here’s a run down of alternatives for manipulating PDF files on Windows.  PaperPort is my current favorite; but you really need the Professional version to do everything you’d likely want with a PDF — and I certainly don’t feel it’s work the price.

I’ll take a look at Nitro and see what it has to offer; but for the time being I’ll just stick with my old PaperPort I run in a virtual machine along with OpenOffice to do what I need.

PaperPort 12 $99.99
PaperPort Professional 12 $199.99
Nitro PDF Professional 6 $99.99
FoxIt PDF Editor 2.2 $99.99
FoxIt Phantom PDF Suite 2.0 $129.99
FoxIt Reader 4.0 FREE
FoxIt Reader for Windows Mobile FREE
PrimoPDF 5.0.0.19 FREE
OpenOffice FREE
BullZip PDF FREE

NOTE: With “FREE” products pay close attention when performing an install, many will default to installing third party software (browser toolbars, etc) or resetting your browser’s home page.  Just make sure you select the options you prefer, and none of the require the addition of any third party software to function.

Originally posted 2010-07-21 02:00:04.

Disc Image Software

Here are two useful Windows utilities that you’ll want to consider…

ImgBurn will allow you to convert discs (CDs and DVDs) to ISO images on your hard drive; it has additional capabilities and options.

DaemonTools will allow you to directly mount an ISO image as a “drive” (you can configure up to four simultaneous drives with it).  Another option (but less flexible) is the Microsoft Virtual CD-ROM applet.

http://www.imgburn.com/

http://www.daemon-tools.cc/

 

Originally posted 2008-06-20 11:00:28.