Category Archives: Investing

Windows Freedom Round 2: HomeBank and JStock

This is just a stub of a future post regarding more progress in ditching MS Windows altogether. In a prior Windows-freedom post I covered my list of remaining programs that keeps me booting a virtual machine installation of Windows XP in order to get things done.

That post included my list of remaining programs that I’d yet to find effective Linux alternatives for:

  • Quicken
  • TurboTax/HR Block at Home
  • GoToWebinar

Well now Quicken is crossed off the list as I’ve found HomeBank (banking) and JStock (stock accounting, basis tracking). More info on using/configuring these will come later.

Silencing a Harbor Freight Item 93575 Safe

Harbor Freight sells a pretty decent safe for secure storage of selected items in the home, their item number 93575. With the right discount coupon the cost was about $24, just a couple of dollars more than their smaller safe but, IMO, of much better quality/construction.

I wanted to use this for a discreet situation where the safe’s very loud keypad beep would be a distinct disadvantage. Others had posted solutions on the product review pages that involved totally silencing the beep through squirting super glue into the speaker or de-soldering it from the board.

Mine is a simple solution with what I believe are two distinct advantages: ability to adjust the volume to retain some of the feedback capability, and reversibility – the ability to undo the change and return the safe to factory condition in case you’d need to return it for some reason.

What I did was to insert a small screw into the opening in the speaker housing, which I screwed down carefully and slowly until it reached the volume level I wanted. This worked great and has remained the same for several weeks now. See the following photos for how to do it.

Motley Fool: Immoral or Incompetent?

I have to say I feel quite let down.

When I first started investing to save for my retirement (quite some time ago) I came across material from the Gardiner brothers, a.k.a. the “Motley Fools”. The information was funny and empowering, helping me to learn more about this important topic. One of their key principles was that you could get your best performance using low cost mutual funds/index funds and bypass all the shenanigans that Wall Street tried to sell you. They were lauded for their ethical approach to investing and straightforward talk.

Well over the years they seem to have strayed from this index fund advice, and I was riding along with them by becoming a member of fool.com. They had a good privacy policy and claimed to not give away your email address. However, they started sending out these incredibly long emails pitching their own various newsletters and advisory services, and I still hung on despite starting to feel uneasy. Others have written about this change and some took them to task for it. But their “CAPS” experiment was interesting, and I could easily delete the emails, so I still stuck around.

Well, a short time ago I started getting SPAM messages sent to the email address I gave them. Owning my own domain, I am able to give out unique virtual email addresses to anyone I wish — in doing so, I can track down just what I’m ticked off about and going to relate to you here. So understand that my email address with fool.com is only known by me and them.

These new SPAM mailings are coming from very shady pitches for penny stocks, etc. They are the standard dregs of the internet masking as investment advice at best, and are potentially identity theft schemes at their worst. And here’s the kicker: these are being sent to the unique address I gave fool.com – which exists in reality in no place but their own servers.

So I dutifully sent an email to their provided address for such things (PrivacyPete@fool.com), and waited. And waited. It has now been a loooooooong time (nearly a year ago now) and nobody has got back to me about this. So this leaves me with just two possibilities (is there any other?):

  • Motley Fool is violating their own privacy pledge and has starting selling their mailing list, or
  • Motley Fool’s account management has been hacked, proving their incompetency in protecting subscriber information.

Either of which is totally unacceptable. I’m a Fool no more.

CSV File Import to Quicken 2007

Tonight I was spending some time catching up on many (more than I care to mention) months’ worth of finances. A couple of accounts had significant transactions which needed entry into Quicken. Due to Intuit having disabled direct connection with my financial institution (because they want me to buy something newer than what I’d already paid them for), I was stuck with the prospect of having to enter many things by hand. Ugh!

Well, a bit of googling later, I came upon http://xl2qif.chez-alice.fr/calc2qif_en.php . This is an OpenOffice.org spreadsheet macro to convert csv data to QIF format. Unfortunately, Quicken 2007 will not support QIF import to bank accounts (yet another planned “feature” vs. it working successfully in a prior version) but there is a workaround… you can simply import the QIF into a “cash” account and then cut and paste the transactions over to the correct account from there.

It worked almost perfectly. I downloaded the csv files from my financial institution, opened them in OO Calc and then applied the macro to map and save the selected data to QIF for import into Quicken. The only issue was that I could not get the amounts of the transactions to import for some reason. In all fairness, it is late and I didn’t spend much time trying — it was much easier to just type the figures by hand into the otherwise complete entries. Way better than doing it all by hand!

This may be the final shove to move me to an open source finance program. Intuit’s business model of breaking SW features I’ve already paid for is problematic. This, coupled with the complete uselessness in the past few years of the Quicken to TurboTax import, takes the cake. I guess they can’t compete on new features alone? I would routinely and willingly pay for updates before, when features got better. But now that MS Money is dead as competition, I don’t expect things with them to get any better soon.