Sunday, January 22, 2012

Tax Time - TurboTax Still the Best Game in Town

The annual carousel of paperwork rolls round inevitably, as it must, to tax season. The world over, people start preparing their wits and financial records for the date with the Tax man. For most, its actually quite easy, and yet, last minute scrambling seems more the norm than the exception, the world over.

In the United States, tax submissions are due April 15 each year, and April 17 this year. While most people will take advantage of e-filing, and this can be done for free at the IRS website, no two tax situations are alike. To address the wide disparity of tax filing cases, and particularly to look for that elusive deduction, most people resort to tax preparers or tax software. Most of the time, the tax prep software and preparer would give one the same result that one might get if one filled out the forms oneself, but as in medical diagnosis, there's a tendency to fear one's own assessment.

Intuit's TurboTax Deluxe Federal + E-file + State 2011 for PC [Download] software is almost the default choice each year. While H&R Block promises a more formal experience, the TaxCut software now branded as H&R Block At Home Deluxe + State 2011 Win [Download], doesn't have the same level of user-friendliness and personalization that TurboTax does. While the functional accuracy is probably the same, people are used to an interactive experience that simulates the human touch, and TurboTax, with its e-friendliness, beats the competition in this regard. There is one aspect that might appeal to some, especially those who are the tech-savvy amongst their family. H&R Block At Home allows the user up to 5 free e-files from a single licensed install.

Both products can be downloaded directly, instead of waiting for CDs to arrive, and the resultant hassle of storing physical media. Amazon prices vary through the tax season. Websites like camel allow you to track the trend and save.

Happy hunting, and don't blow that refund!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Moon Satellites

Why don't we have moon satellites yet? It would help with interlunar communications and the inevitable cities on the dark side. It would also be good practice for the Mars missions.

Sunday, January 01, 2012

Netflix Instant - Not Quite Perfect

The New York Times had a good article in 2011 on the state of affairs in Netflix Instant, where the gems are hard to find, especially for cinephiles who watch 100+ movies a year.

The shelves of the two leading services, Netflix Instant and Hulu Plus, seem to be full of films you’ve never heard of, arranged in no particular order. The latest hits haven’t arrived yet, and there’s no one around to help you out except for the digital equivalent of the surly, underpaid clerk

Instantwatcher is of course your best reference to Netflix Instant. It indexes all Instant movies in an easy to browse categorized format, particularly new releases and upcoming flicks. Netflix Instant is frustating, with its blending of available and unavailable films for streaming, and most of the popular movies being unavailable.

Confession: I added on the DVD option to Netflix again this week. It seems like the best deal, even compared to Amazon Instant Video pay-per-view deals.

We had great fun watching Cowboys and Aliens on Amazon for New Years' Eve. It is a perfect blend of the classic Westerns and modern alien invasion flicks, even if the aliens get too little screen time.  

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Time traveler, world traveler, book reader