NWA-PCUG Newsletter Article, May 2003
The Deals Column
by Bob Click, The Dealsguy
Greater Orlando Computer Users Group
(click to email author)

I attended part of the FACUG (Florida Association of Computer Users Groups) weekend conference and it was again very successful. There were about 185 attendees from about 25 user groups, and 61 were first time attendees. Vendor support was down drastically this year with only ten in all. However, the whole event was just as successful. Unfortunately, the Heartland regional in Dayton, Ohio had to be canceled.

Last month I mentioned that the cheapskate would use AARP's free income tax service. Maybe that was a mistake. I took my data and papers there and was surprised to find that the volunteers in this senior center do it by hand, not with computers, but they recheck each other's work. While it was being done, I asked my volunteer about their regular profession and was told the person was an attorney and a CPA. I felt I was in good hands. When it was finished, I took it home ready to mail it out quickly. Out of curiosity, I decided to use the FREE TaxAct software just to see how close I would have come to the figures the tax person ended up with, and to see just how easy it might be that way. I also made the assumption that I might not be so squeamish about doing it myself next year.

I downloaded TaxAct and installed it, then spent a couple of hours answering all the questions, finally ending up with their version of my income tax return, but there was a big difference! Not just a few backs, but my TaxAct version showed over $2200 more income, and I used the very same W2s and 1099s that I gave the tax preparer. Also, as you might expect, about $75 less refund, and I would have to pay tax on over $2000 of our Social Security income, contrary to what I had been told. My wife and I both checked everything over and over, and could not see what might be wrong with either one. I finally decided to use the TaxAct one because I felt there must be a mistake in the preparer's, so since I had the TaxAct version all filled out, and the income was higher, I went ahead and filed my TaxAct return electronically (with much trepidation). I had my refund back in 10 days with no changes, much to my relief. I'll write a review of this experience, and about TaxAct, and post it on my Web site. I think the preparer made a mistake in the math, but have not tracked it down it yet.

Update From Linda Barlow
Unfortunately Gene Barlow was unable to make the FACUG conference because of scheduling conflicts. However, Linda says they are still busy and still represent PowerQuest. Here are their latest prices:

    PartitionMagic V8, $35.00. (MSRP $69.95)
    Drive Image 2002, $35.00 (MSRP $69.95)
    Educational CD, $20.00 (MSRP $39.95)
    Bundle (PM, DI, ED, $79.00 (MSRP $179.85)
    S&H fee (mail/web orders only) $5.00. Use the special user group order code UGMAR03 to order.

To order, get a form from your user group coordinator to fill out, and return it to User Group Relations, PO Box 275, Orem, UT. 84059-0275. For faster service use their secure Web site order form at [ http://www.ugr.com/order/ ].

Gene says he no longer gets any travel allowance from his vendors; so when they visit your user group, or regional event, give them your full support. Gene and Linda have been very supportive of user groups for years. I tried his Educational CD and it is an excellent product, even for a beginner, with a wealth of information. It goes quite fast though, so pay attention and have plenty of time because of all the information it contains. I doubt you will finish it in just one session. Gene's Educational CD is a real bargain.

How Much Hot Water Does It Take To Get Hot Water?
Does that title sound confusing? Perhaps, but when you are in your kitchen, or maybe your guest bathroom, how long is it before the water gets hot when you turn it on. My house is a very inefficient design when it comes to the hot water. My water heater is located in the garage and the only room with a close proximity is our master bath. Other areas take forever to deliver hot water, and during that time, a lot of water goes down the drain, but not if you install a Metland D'Mand system.

This is not a computer-related item, but it is a great product and could save many of you money over the long term. I wrote this item up a few years ago and purchased one myself. It was an excellent decision. The Metland D;Mand system is a small circulation pump to install just below the water faucet furthest from the hot water heater. By pressing a button (both electrical and wireless remote included), the pump starts running and circulates water in the hot water line back though the cold water line into the hot water tank until the pump's sensor detects hot water, whereon it shuts itself off. Motion sensors could also activate the pump. This small pump uses very little power and doesn't run long, preventing you from wasting water down the drain while waiting for hot water.

Both my wife and I love ours and you can find out much more about the product by checking their Web site [ http://www.gothotwater.com ]. Don't forget to read the government agency write-up about this fine product. I've had mine for four years and it's been trouble-free. I had no problem installing it myself with the kit provided, even though I was very squeamish at first since I'm not a plumber. You can hardly hear this pump work during the short period its on. Be aware that you might also need to install a new electrical outlet for it.

I saw this company again when I browsed the "Electronic Home Show" at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando. Larry Acker even remembered me and quickly said yes when I asked if he would like me to write it up again. He says my readers will get a $65.00 discount from any prices on their Web site by asking for the "Bob Click DealsGuy" promotion. Shipping is $18.00 any place in the US. Canadians must call about shipping fees. To order, call 1-800-638-5863 (also good in Canada), or e-mail Larry at [larry@gothotwater.com ] with your request.

More About the Show
By the way, the Home Electronics Show was very interesting and I sure saw a lot of wonderful automation items for the home. I was working another interesting show (Megacom, better known as the "Comic Book" Show) and managed to find a few minutes to hit the high spots in the Home Electronics Show being held in the next hall. There was a great electronic gate operator on display by [ http://www.eliteaccess.com ] for your driveway's gate, but it is not meant for a do-it-yourselfer. I saw plenty of electronically controlled home cabling, and tons of audio and video equipment for an automated home at various booths. One company is wholesale only, but you might enjoy their Web site [ http://www.worthdist.com ], which is for Worthington Distribution. They have been around for years.

I have mentioned the following before, but if you love shopping for automated gadget stuff, visit [ http://www.smarthome.com ] and ask for their catalog. There were many more interesting items, but I had to cruise fast to see it in the time I had to explore.

That's it for this month. Meet me here again next month if your editor permits. This column is written to make user group members aware of special offers I have found or arranged, and my comments should not be interpreted to encourage, or discourage, the purchase of products, no matter how enthused I might sound. Bob (The Cheapskate) Click [Bobclick@mindspring.com]. Visit my Web site at [http://www.dealsguy.com] for past columns and some interesting articles.

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