Showing posts with label Excel. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Excel. Show all posts

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Finished my taxes, Thank God

Doing taxes gets worse and worse, year by year.  Our friendly IRS keeps adding tax forms, Turbo Tax cranked out 32 pages of Federal income tax forms this year.  You can't just list stock sales on Schedule D anymore, they want half a dozen different forms, with different rules and gobble-de-gook for each form. 
   I don't understand why some presidential candidate doesn't promise to clean this up.  I know there are rabid special interests ready to leap to the defense of every loophole and deduction, but there gotta  be a lot of regular taxpayers who dread  doing all this scutwork every year. 
  I used to do my taxes with an Excel spreadsheet of my own construction.  But craziness connected with sale of foreign stocks is just to much for me, I can't write the spreadsheet when I don't under stand the rules.
There has gotta be a better way.
   The better way is Turbo Tax.  It's straight forward to use but you gotta watch it.  Accidentally hit a comma, when you meant to hit period for decimal point  can drive the program, and you crazy.  You want to double check this year vs last year, assuming  you used Turbotax last year.  Deductions you took last year you ought to be able to take this year. 

Friday, October 30, 2015

Cyber Security Law, just passed Senate

After the horrible hacks lately the Congresscritters have decided to DO SOMETHING.  It is unclear just what they are doing, the newsies haven't talked much about it, but it sounds like a deal to allow companies and the government to cooperate, share information about hacks and attacks with out fear of prosecution for collaboration and price fixing.  We now have a House version, and a Senate version in need of "reconciliation" (quick rewrite to make them both the same) and Obama says he will sign it. 
   I suppose it's worthy, although I'd like to know what it really says, how many pages, and what damaging little clauses got tucked into the darker corners. 
   It isn't what we need.
   We need to close the gaping holes in Windows that allow any hacker, even grade school hackers, to take over Windows computers, remotely from the Internet, and suck every thing off them.  Microsoft deliberately created these vulnerabilities with the idea of increasing sales.  We need somebody or some organization to publicize these gaping holes and create public pressure on Microsoft to close them.
   Number one gaping hole is a Windows feature (bug?) called autorun.  Autorun has been causing trouble since Windows 95.  Autorun makes music CD's inserted in the drive start to play, automatically, hands off, no keystrokes or mouse clicks needed.  That part isn't too dangerous, but the dark side of Autorun loads and starts any code found on the CD.  When USB and flashdrives came along, autorun was extended to load and run any code found on a flash drive.  Just insert a flashdrive into a USB port, and zap, the machine is infected.  Autorun spread the Stuxnet virus in Iran.  Agents merely tossed a few flashdrives into the parking lots at Iranian nuclear facilities.  Iranian workers saw them, picked them up, took them into work, plugged them into their computers, and Zap Bang, the Stuxnet virus started blowing up Iranian centrifuges.  Set the Iranian nuclear program back a year or more. 
  Number 2 gaping hole is the Basic interpreters built into all the Micosoft Office products.  Basic is a full powered computer language.  Malicious Basic programs can be inserted into Office documents (Word .doc and Excel .xls files) and Word or Excel will execute them.  Worse, if you click on such an Office document attached to an email, Windows starts up Word or Excel and passes the attachment in.  Bam you are infected.
   Until we force Microsoft to close these two gaping security holes, we will continue to get hacked.  These aren't the only holes in Windows, but they are the worst ones that I know of.  And Microsoft can close them, in an afternoon.  All Microsoft needs is some incentive to pull up its socks.