Article, April 2009
The Deals Column
by Bob Click, The Dealsguy
I finally received the necessary data to prepare and file my 2009 federal income tax. I had download TaxAct when it was only $12.95 in preparation. I entered the data and when the program computed my taxes, I printed the pages to study them. It showed I was only paying a small income tax and would get back most of the withholding taxes as a refund. My return was relatively simple with five W2s, three 1099s for interest received, and two 1099s for dividends received, neither of which amounted to much this year.
I also had a capital loss for the almost worthless GM stock I sold and I also had insulation installed in our attic which was deductible. The fact that I would be getting back almost all of the money that I paid in made me suspicious. Iíve always had excellent results using TaxAct in previous years, but getting most of my money back didnít look right. I decided to do it all over again with another free tax product, to compare results.
I decided to try the popular free Turbo Tax to double check. Itís done right online. I studied my way through it and found some interesting features; and a few confusing items. When I was almost finished, I discovered that the free Turbo Tax would not handle a capital stock loss transaction unless you paid $14.95 for its other features, (I may have missed something in it). However, it did ask for information about loss carry forwards from my Ď08 tax return (naming the line numbers) and I could probably use that part by substituting some figures to accomplish what I wanted to know. I tried it and ended up with a result that was somewhat different than I expected, but I thought ďit was possible it could be right and maybe TaxAct was wrong.Ē I liked Turbo Tax, although the W2 importing feature didnít work for me in either of the free products I tried.
After considering my valuable time, I decided to try a free tax preparation program from the IRS Web site. There were many free ones listed there, but only four worked for Florida Residents. I choose one called ďComplete TaxĒ and had to do that one on line. I entered the data and it was continuously computing and showing my refund as I entered the data, with a few wild refund numbers. This one allowed my capital loss transaction and asked for loss carry forwards, but when I was done; my refund was more than I had paid in. I rechecked it and found several insignificant omissions, but had to do trial and error to see if they fixed anything. Some were places I hadnít put a check mark for the page being finished, and two were minor data errors.
After an hour of checking and rechecking numbers and check marks, it finally showed a refund that was within $20 of what TaxAct had come up with. Again, I rechecked most of the figures in both programs. I was unable to figure out how to get Turbo Tax to print the pages, or even look at them on the screen, which made comparisons tough. However, Complete Tax did let me print the return and I could easily study the printed pages from Tax Act and Complete Tax to compare numbers. I was finally convinced I could submit the Tax Act return after I input the $250 Stimulus checks I had originally missed. Complete Tax had easily shown me I should enter our stimulus checks, which I missed in the other two. I had to call Tax Act tech support to find where to make that entry, but they answered immediately and walked me through it quickly. They have great tech support.
Itís been submitted and the refund should be here in ten days, unless the IRS finds fault with my work. Tax Act did its job again and Iím happy, although Complete Tax was good. Iím already considering what to do with the funds. Spending it seems like a good idea to help the economy. Maybe Iíll call the cruise line!
FACUG (Florida Association of Computer User Groups) is having great success with the 2010 spring conference. Holding it on a cruise ship is certainly different, and I applaud Sam Wexler and the other officers for taking on such an enormous task. There are about 250 conference registrants and, considering the spouses, there will be over 350 attendees. APCUG is not a cosponsor this year because of differing opinions. FACUG has always used the same time frame for this conference with continued success year after year. Why fix something that isnít broken. Iím happy that there will be several attendees from APCUG and a few are doing breakout sessions which Iím looking forward to. Thereís going to be so many breakout sessions that attendees will have problems making choices. More next month.
Perhaps some have wondered just what files, DLLs or other things are being used by a particular program. The folks in the local Technology SIG were talking about ďProcess ExplorerĒ which tells you that information. The CFCS (Central Florida Computer Society) technology SIG is interesting because anything and everything might get discussed and you always come away with new knowledge. I canít attend because I donít drive at night, but I am on their Googlegroups so I can keep up. Process Explorer is free at http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/sysinternals/bb896653.aspx. CFCS is not the only group with that kind of SIG. I read many newsletters and noticed a few other user groups have a SIG like that.
This One Does A Lot For Your Videos and Photos (I edited this announcement to shorten it.)
STOIK Imaging announced the release of the Premium edition of Imagic, a video and image processing solution with enriched functionality. The standard edition is distributed free of charge and provides the advanced features of the Premium edition for 30 days. Features include creation of stereo images, panoramas, slideshows and collages, sophisticated photo editing tools and more. Both editions support direct uploading of photos to Google Picasa and Flickr. A combination of various functions allows working with one versatile solution instead of purchasing and installing several programs.
The built-in photo editor features a Retouch Brush, Skin Makeup, Lens Correction, Color Variations, and many automatic correction functions. It is easy to align and crop photos as well as apply various artistic effects, frames, and clipart images. Besides photo processing, the photo editor also features creation of different kinds of puzzles.
In addition to support for .MPO files (available in the previous edition), Imagic Premium now features creation of stereo images (anaglyphs, .JPS and .PNS files); extending a photographers' opportunities. Another useful feature is Dark Room editor for processing of .RAW and flat photos. The original image remains unchanged, as all adjustments are saved as a set of parameters. The .RAW files can be converted to a variety of formats, while .JPEG files can be optimized in quality and reduced in size.
The convenient browsers of Imagic Premium allow the user to find any file quickly and easily due to fast indexing algorithm scans and their ability to search by EXIF attributes. There are three browser types; a common Folder Browser, a Calendar Browser for organizing files chronologically and the Tags Browser for organizing by categories. However, the browsers are not intended just for organizing photos and video files, but they can automatically detect all matching photos and seamlessly create panoramas in a single click. Other sophisticated browser features are Batch processing, Geotagging, Slideshow creation and more.
The built-in video editor offers other features; frames can be cut, trimmed and rotated, adjust brightness and contrast, apply effects and transitions, use various titles and captions, and add audio files or record narration. The results can be exported to a variety of popular formats. The program supports multiple ways of sharing images; e-mailing, creating slideshows, uploading images to Google Picasa, Flickr and other web photo albums, as well as direct printing with advanced options.
STOIK Imagic Premium is compatible with Windows XP/ Vista/ 7 and costs $49.00 USD for a single-user license. User group members get a 25% discount on all STOIK products by using the coupon code ďDEALSGUYĒ in the appropriate space when ordering; good through May 2010. Direct download link: http://store.eSellerate.net/sti/dg (Check the calculated closely when ordering) Company website: http://www.stoik.com/
That's it for this month. Iíll have some more new product announcements on my Web site that didnít offer discounts. Meet me here again next month if your editor permits. This column is written to make user group members aware of special offers or freebies I have found or arranged, and my comments should not be interpreted to encourage, or discourage, the purchase of any products, no matter how enthused I might sound. Bob (The Cheapskate) ClickClick here to return to top
. Visit my Web site at http://www.dealsguy.com