Category archive - Software

Free Tax Filing Online

Turbo Tax 2011So right now we are all about to celebrate the holidays and its all warm and fuzzy, right? But soon after that the reality of what we really spend is going to sink in and the bills for all that fun is going to come in our mailbox. As we move from the warm and fuzzy to the financial reality the tax man also comes knocking on our door as well. So it’s time to get your mind wrapped around what you tax burden is going to be this year as well. Not to mention if there are things you can do during the year to reduce what you are going to owe then you have just a couple weeks left to do it.

Free Tax Filing Software

When it comes to filling you taxes with your computer online Turbo Tax is king, although there are other competitors out there as well. In recent years it has become popular to offer this tax calculating and filing service for free. Typically as far as I have seen it is just the very basic tax returns which are offered for free. These returns are so very basic that it would be hard to justify charging for them anyway, and I’m sure the software makers hope is that you’ll get working on it and then realize you need to upgrade the software to a pay version because of some complication with your tax picture. It’s the same business model as the garage that offers free inspections on your car in hopes they will find something in need of repair which they can charge for.

So if you are looking for free tax filing online I would highly suggest Turbo Tax. If you are one of the folks that have a very basic return and can get away with the free version then you are in luck. If not then you were going to have to pay anyway, so you are no further behind. The free tax filing year that is coming up with be for calendar year 2011 and is due April of 2012. However if you are looking to file for past years you can search for any of the following:

Free Tax Filing 2009

Free Tax Filing 2010

Free Tax Filing 2011

Data Storage

One really nice perk that Turbo Tax (and other tax software makers) now offer is data storage. So you can put your return together online, print, and send it, but then they will also offer to store your return. This is nice for two reasons. One, if for some reason you need a copy of your return down the line you can just log on and print it out. So no more searching through filing cabinets or piles of paperwork in your basement in hopes of finding a tax return from years ago. Also, if you choose the same tax software maker in future years they will carry you information forward so that you can complete the process of filing much quicker. For example, it’ll carry you address and employers forward on future years returns. This can be very convenient and time saving. Also it might save you some money too as some deductions will depend on past years filings, which the software can catch as well!

Soft Games Data – ZD Soft Game Recorder

soft games downloadVideo games have come a long way since I first started out playing the Atari 2600. Pac Man, Q Bert, and Pitfall were totally awesome, do doubt. But the games of today are about as close to being there as they have ever been. I’d love to see them remake Pitfall on one of the new gaming systems or for the current computer and see what that would look like, but I’m just not too sure it would keep the interest of today’s kids. If they can remake Transformers I won’t give up home yet though.

Record Your Games

There is a new concept though for today’s online and computer based games. Recording your soft games data or basically capturing the game you are playing for future review. Now in fairness this isn’t totally new as I invented in in the late 80’s. Back in my day I was playing around with our home’s cutting edge A/V equipment and put this all together. By this I mean I figure out how to wire the Nintendo through the VCR, and record my game onto a VHS tape. I of course had no real use for this recording other then to say I had done it so it went no where. That’s the difference today though. These games today are just so involved and you can play with people who aren’t even in the room (across the globe for that matter). When you really get into these games it can really be worth recording the game for future review so that you can see where you went wrong and get better.

Proof of How Awesome You Are

Now that I think about it I also remember back in the day the other reason you might want to capture at least one screen of you game. Before home gaming systems we all went to arcade and when we got the high score we could put in our initials for bragging rights. Then once we all started playing at home I remember seeing in magazines how they were having high score contests and to prove that you got the score you claimed you need to take a picture of the screen showing you score. This is of course before the days of digital pictures and photo shop so the picture itself could be trusted.

Ahh the good old days! ūüôā

News Apps – USA Today

When I think about the apps that I use most I have to include the USA today app I downloaded shortly after I got my Droid X. It is a really nice working app which is really well done and is a great reflection of what you think an app should be that would reflect the USA Today newspaper.


Headlines

The main tab which comes up when you load the app is for Headlines. It will scroll through about two screens of the top news stories, usually with a thumbnail pictures. If you click the story it’ll take you to the detailed news story and you can usually blow up the pictures when you click on it as well.

You can also click on any one of a listing of the sections of the newspaper as well to get a detailed list of all the stories for that given section as well.

Scores

The next tab is called scores, and as you can imagine it is for getting the sports scores. Sure there are lots of other apps for getting game scores which do a great job but when I just want to check a specific score or the days results I always find myself going to the USA Today app to find them. Its just a nice basic layout of all the scores which you can flip from screen to screen for the different sports quickly.

Weather

Just like the print version I find that I don’t use this section very much. Not that it’s not good information, it’s just that I don’t travel that often so I don’t need the weather for the whole country. And I live in a big state so I’d rather get the weather for my regional area not the whole state. If I travel though I usually will flip to the weather in the USA Today app to see what to expect.

Pictures

This is a cool section that I’ll check out on¬†occasion¬†when I have some downtime. If you are sitting on the train or waiting in a line and are looking to pass the time this is a great way to do it. You can look at the pictures of the day by category. So you can see all the headline type photos with captions, or space pictures, sports, or pictures of celebrities as well.

Snapshots

This is a great little tab which is an electronic version of the great infographics that USA Today is really known for in their print newspaper. If you choose to have you GPS activated then it’ll also incorporate geographic factors into the results as well.

 

The Groupon App – Don’t Miss Another Good Deal

Deals with AppsSo just in case you have been living under a rock and don’t know what Groupon is, here is a basic definition. Essentially they are a company that finds restaurants, spas, and other companies that are looking to advertise. They they work out a deal with that company which they present to Groupon members. It’s often something like a $20 certificate for food at your local restaurant, which you can buy for $10. They key is that the offer is only good once a certain number of people buy the certificate for $10. This is how Groupon can get advertisers so easily. They say we are going to sell a bunch of certificates to your restaurant for $10, but none of them are good unless we sell 200 of them. The restaurant gets a bunch of people to come in and use the certificates and they get known. It really is a great concept and Groupon is doing quite well. The trick is that it’s not that had a concept to understand so many competitors have entered the market as well, but that is a conversation for another blog.

The Groupon App

So I have the Driod X the Groupon offers an app for the Iphones as well as most of the Android smart phones as well. You download and install it and once it is running on your phone, it is basically a notification system for Groupon. It’ll pop up once a day and let you know that the Groupon of the day is available to view. You can then click in and see what the deal is for today. During your first purchase on the app you will need to enter your credit card information, which you can safe if you like. I did and it makes it so much easier. I can do it on the fly now.

So if the Groupon of the day pops up I’ll hit the botton. If it’s a restaurant I like or know I’ll go to I click to buy button. Since my credit card info is all ready saved it asks if I want to use that card. I say yes, and with one more confirmation it is purchased. Done.

The information is saved, and when I’m ready to go to the restaurant I’ll log in to Groupon at home or work and print out the deal to bring along. There are also options now for some advertisers where you can do everything right on your phone. I haven’t tried this yet but I believe a bar code will come up on your phone and the vendor can just scan it and you are done. Couldn’t be easier.

So if you have a smart phone and like good deals, then you need to download and install the Groupon App. Do it today and you’ll thank me tomorrow!

Soft Download Stuff – Mostly Free Software Online

enter games softI remember when I was young and computers were still kind of a new idea (well lots of people had computers at this point, but they were still rare enough that a family would share one big PC). I’d periodically trek down to the COMPUSA or some other computer store to find some software. Maybe it would be a game that I had in mind, or some application that I needed (OK wanted), or maybe I would just stroll through the long aisles of software boxes (which contained 3.5″ disks) to find something interesting, the same way I’d look for a movie at Blockbuster.

Although I think there is one long aisle of software in the local Staples store, those days are mostly gone. I mean you can find everything you need online and then download it and have it installed by the time you’d warm up the car and leave your driveway!

It’s Usually Free

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not at all advocating stealing software. If it has a price, then you should be paying it. But there are just so many free options out there that if you are willing to look around a little bit then you can usually find an option that is free for you to download and install. Soft download stuff can really be found with just a quick Google search most of the time. When you get looking, if you are like me, you’ll often end up finding options that will cost you a fee, but as you look into them you decide that they are worth the money.

These downloads are really getting more and more like smart phone apps everyday. Just like on your phone you do a search for some software (app) that will do what you need. When you find it you will find some free options and some pay options. Often the free options will do everything you need just fine. However sometimes you’ll find a pay options that is just so function and slick that it’s worth spending the money.

The Keyword Academy – Make Money With Google Adsense

 

If you have a website then you are interesting in Internet Marketing. What you might not know is that you might be interested in internet marketing even if you don’t have a website currently. There are more and more people that are beginning to create websites and blogs so they have a place to serve Google Adsense ads and can start making a profit. This is where The Keyword Academy comes in.

Passive Internet Marketing

There are two ways to market a website, passive and active. Passive internet marketing is much like old school brick and mortar marketing. If you have a business in the real world that you want people to know about you might buy an ad in a newspaper or a billboard. Passive internet marketing is the same thing basically, where you buy space on another website that you feel has people visiting that would be interested in your site. So for some fee that website will place a banner advertising your site and you hope that people will click it and come to see what you are all about.

Active Internet Marketing

Active internet marketing is a whole other animal all together. This is going to take much more time and thought but has the potential to be much more effective. Once you realize that other then word of mouth, and an occasional banner ad click, search traffic is the way that people find out about sites on the internet, then you realize how powerful active marketing can be! You need to be the search results when people type in keywords that relate to your site.

So the question is how do you get to the first page of the Google results for keywords that relate to your topic? First you need to understand what keywords you need to be chasing, and this is a really important time not to ASSUME! There is much research and stat available to help you with this if you know where to look! You might think you know the search terms that relate to you site but there could be very few people actually typing those terms into Google each month. You need to find popular search terms that relate to your topic in order to start bringing people into your site.

You also want to work you content around so that it is search engine (Google) friendly. This can pretty easily be done without effecting your overall message if you know what you are doing. In other words you are going to have the same message and say the same thing on your site or blog but you are going to get more traffic. That’s never a bad thing!

You also can create backlinks to your site which is a key element in how Google decided which sites appear in what order for search results. The more you know about backlinks the quicker you can move up the results page of Google, which is what is going to bring you traffic in a hurry!

This all sounds really hard and complicated if you haven’t been exposed to the concepts before. The good news is that thekeywordacademy.com is a site dedicated to teaching you these very concepts, and it’s geared toward the beginner.

Build My Rank – The Best Shortcut To Easy Powerful Internet Marketing

There are a lot of reasons that internet website owners would want to market their site. Maybe they are selling a product and want to sell more of it. Maybe they are a charity and want to get the word out and be able to do more good. Maybe they use Google Adsense ads on their site to make extra income. Or maybe its a combination of all of the above. No matter the reason there are a few solid and proven ways to market a website. The online world is different then the real brick and mortar world and therefore the marketing techniques need to be different. The same concepts are at the core, but the methods or applying them are just different.

Word of Mouth

Just like in the real world one great way to get attention for your website is word of mouth. If you are putting out something really great that is just totally useful for the site visitors this will just take care of itself. Think about the last time you saw a really cool website. Maybe it was just so funny, or was really interesting, or really got the core of that question you have been trying to answer for a while. After you enjoyed visiting the site what is the first thing you did? You probably told someone about it right? If you are the website owner you really like this kind of stuff because you now have people out there advertising your site for free!

Backlinks

If you were marketing a business in the real world and you were new and wanted to get the word out, what would you do. One of the easiest ways to get your name out there is to spend a little money and get a few ads in the Yellow Pages. If you are in the online world the electronic equivalent of the Yellow Pages is Google. Sure there are other search engines out there but nothing with the power that Google has. When someone wants to find something on the internet they don’t say, “I’m going to Bing it”, or “I’m going to Ask Jeeves it”! They say, “I’m going to Google it”. End of story.

So there is two ways that you can get some exposure through Google. One way is to actually buy ads through Adwords. This is a system that Google offers that allows you to bid on certain keywords. If you are one of the top bidders and someone types your chosen keyword into Google, then your link will be displayed as an advertised result on the results page. The cost of doing this is going to be highly dependent on what keywords you choose to go after. Some keywords are less popular with less bidders and will therefore be cheaper, and how some are very popular with lots of bidder and they are going to cost you.

The other way to get exposure on Google is to get natural organic results for keywords in Google searches. So this means that Google has decided that a page on your site is a good fit or the search keywords that someone has typed in. If this is the case then you are going to appear on the results page as a link with a very brief description of the page (this is usually a snippet of text from the page). The algorithm that Google uses to make the decisions as to which page is a good fit for a keyword is very long, very complicated, and very secret. From doing research over the years there are certain things that are known about how the decision is made though.

One of the key factors in the Google¬†algorithm¬†is backlinks to your site from other sites. ¬†Backlinks are links from other sites to your site. Part of the equation is how many of these backlinks you have, and part of it is how good Google thinks the sites that link to you are. You can’t specifically control how good the sites that link to you are, but you can control how many there are. You can of course start asking sites you link to you which can sometimes work and help out. You can write content for other sites with links to yours and ask that site to post your content which is commonly knows as a guest post. Or you can find a service that will allow you to post short articles with links to your site to a network of sites they own and control. This way you know your work will definitely get posted and you’ll get the link you are after so you can show up in more Google results pages.

This is where Buildmyrank.com comes in. It is a service that you pay a monthly fee for access. You can then submit unlimited posts with links to your site. The posts just have to be intelligible and at least 150 words each. I’m here to tell you that if you think 150 words is a lot, it isn’t. You can often write 150 words just getting set up to talk about a subject. My best advice for these buildmyrank submissions is to just start writing and before you know it you’ll all ready have more then 150 words! Stay at it and submit as many articles as you can partially because you get to do an unlimited amount per month once you are a¬†member, and partially because the more you do the more you will see yourself move up in the Google rankings, and increase your market share!

Mickey Puzzle – Entertain the Kids with Your Phone

kid pix free downloadIf you have kids then you have been there before. You are at a restaurant with them and the food is taking a little longer then their attention span can handle. They are getting a little too fussy to handle and you are starting to get frustrated. I have two boys and my wife and I have both downloaded a few kids appropriate games on our phone for just such an occasion.

Micky Puzzle

One such kid game app that we use a lot at times like these is called Micky Puzzle. It’s Disney character based and works great. Essentially it’s a series of pictures of Disney scenes. When you hit the bottom it splits the picture up into nine equal boxes and shuffles them around the screen. You then need to slide the nine panels around until you have put the picture back together again. My little guys are 4 and 5 and it keeps them entertained long enough for the food to come without being too hard as to frustrate them where they don’t want to play (which has happened with other game apps we have tried).

Both my wife and I have the Driod X which has a big screen which helps, but I’m sure they offer a similar or same app on the IPhone as well.

How Much is Too Much? 

We really try to not let the boys play with the phones too often though. They are young and don’t need to get addicted to them yet. But for times when they are fuzzy and just need to pass some time it works out perfect. So at restaurants, or on long trips, it really can be a life saver!

Beware the Free Online Virus Scan

virus scannerMost anyone that has ever accepted something for free in life now understands what it means when people say that nothing in life is free. You never get something for free unless it is expected that you’ll do something else. So when you see an ad for a free online virus scan you need to think twice about what the real cost is going to be.

What is really happening?

At best you are actually going to get a virus scan with the results of all the known viruses on your computer but you’ll need to buy the software to actually be able to remove them. At worst you won’t get a scan at all, but it’ll just be installing viruses onto your computer while you think it’s conducting this free online virus scanner. This is a very common scam that you should be aware of.

This is why you also see ads from time to time for a free virus scan and removal. It’s such a common scam that there are companies that just focus on showing you how to remove the junk you get when you tried the free virus scan. The trick here is often it’s the same company that gave you the first set of viruses when you tried the free virus scanner. Only this time you got set up again. Instead of getting the solution to the viruses you got, it is just installing new ones!

Microsoft Virus Scan

There has been a lot of talk ever since Windows 7 came out about the Microsoft Virus Scan solution. It actually is free (typically with a paid copy of Windows 7 of course) and can be installed very easily. It really works very well actually, and it what I run on my system.

Windows systems were starting to really get slammed quite a bit by computer people because of all the viruses and issues floating around for Windows PC’s. Apple was really getting traction because there really aren’t viruses on the Mac’s. I’m not sure if this is because they are better at protecting against it or that Mac’s were less common and programmers tend to be PC folks. Either way, Microsoft had to come up with a way to combat that argument when people were ready to buy another computer. Their answer was to offer a really solid virus protection for free. For now it seems to be working.

 

So the next time you see an ad for a free virus scan you’d be better off to pretend that it says free offer to steal your car. The intent of the folks behind the ad is the same!

Mint – A Website And App To Keep Track Of All Your Finances

small business financial softwareMy new favorite financial site is Mint.com! I used to use Microsoft Money for years and years. I liked it but I didn’t like that it was specific to just my computer. If I wanted to check something and I was away from my house, or my¬†computer¬†was down I couldn’t get to it. I know Money was supposed to have some functionality where it would go web based but I just never got into it.

One the Cloud

Mint however is 100% on the cloud. So as long as you have an internet connection you can get to everything that Mint has to offer. Any place, any time, as long as you know your user name and password. I love it.

You also basically never have to enter transactions anymore either. With Money I would often not trust the link with banks websites, or it wasn’t working. So I’d end up entering all the transactions manually. What a pain! It got at the end where I was really not using any of the Money functionality other then the bills section.

Recently Mint added a bill reminder that I don’t like quite as well as Money’s but it is close enough, and everything else is so much better that I finally scraped Money all together and exclusively use Mint.

It doesn’t just sinc up with my banking account either. It will link up with almost any account that I can think of that has something to do with my finances. So it hooked up to my auto loans and tracks them over time. It hooked up to all my checking and savings accounts obviously. It also hooks up to my retirement accounts, as well as my kids college plans, so I can get a good snap shot of what is going on there too.

Reporting

One aspect that I really like is the budgeting and reporting options that Mint offers. The one I use all the time is the net worth over time. To me that is really the measurement of your true financial health. Your net worth is what you have left over, or still owe, after you closed all your accounts and cashed in all your chips. You want it to be obviously positive, and continuing to grow over time (unless maybe you are in retirement and are starting to spend your savings). So it’s a great way to keep track of your financial health.

The budgeting is great too. You can set up as many categories as you want and set up monthly budgets for them. Then Mint will automatically track you spending in the accounts you link up, and tell you through out the month how you are doing on your budget. It’s a really great way to keep track of how you are doing and where you need to be!

Cool Web 2.0 offerings

One really cool aspect of Mint is the 2.0 social functionality. So it’ll keep all the the information it gathers without and personal data and can track and trend. If Mint notices something that might be out of whack with your spending it’ll give you a notice. So when you log in you might get a popup that saying something like, “You are spending 35% more then other people in your area on auto insurance”. It’ll give you a link to get a quote for auto insurance and see if you can save some money. It’s a great way to save money you didn’t even think about, and this is also one big way that Mint makes it’s money as well, on these kind of referrals.

So sit down and sign up for Mint.com and get your finances on track and in control.