Tax Software for 2009

Tax season is coming up.  I started looking at my oh-so-fun-tax software purchase decision.  (Why are our laws so complex that I have to buy a new version each year?)

turbotax Intuit did a great thing this year – they simply sent out the install CD in the mail without my ever purchasing it (Intuit learns from AOL)!  I put it into my computer and almost installed.  But when I saw the price for TurboTax Deluxe 2009 Fed + State was $59.95, that seemed a little high.  So I decided to look online, and it was a good thing I did!

I was pleasantly surprised to find Amazon carrying the exact same product (TurboTax Deluxe 2009 Federal + State) for only $46.54, with an electronic download.  That’s a quick $13 savings if I just install from the net instead of the CD they sent me.  I almost bought that too…

taxcutBut then I thought I should check H&R Block’s TaxCut price.  I’ve used TaxCut before and find it nearly identical to TurboTax.  The H&R Block website sells TaxCut for a little less than TurboTax, at $44.95.  That’s not enough cheaper than Amazon to be significant.  So, I decided to check Amazon again.

And wow! TaxCut Deluxe (Federal + State + eFile) is selling for only $23.75 if you download online!  Clearly this is a winner – less than half the cost of Intuit TurboTax.

As I wrote this, I bought and installed TaxCut.  So far, so good.

TCP Slow Start and the Web

As part of my SPDY work, I published an informal slide deck about the effect of TCP’s slow start on HTTP performance.

Cliff notes:

  1. It has been known that TCP’s slow start adversely effects performance in high-latency, high bandwidth networks for years.
  2. Increasing cwnd (reducing slow start) has been slow through standards due to concerns about internet collapse.
  3. But web servers and browsers have already worked around TCP’s slow start by pummeling the net with excessive connections – effectively making slow start irrelevant.
  4. If slow start has already been worked around, and the internet has not collapsed, it is time to seriously look at changing how slow start works so that we don’t have to open 30 connections in order to have a low-latency transaction.

Feedback is welcome!

Operating System Install: FreeBSD

I installed FreeBSD for the first time in a long time today.  I had to install it twice.  That sounds really bad, but it was for a surprising reason.

The install was pretty simple from the DVD; it kept asking me questions, and I answered them quickly, and after about 5 minutes, the entire process was complete.  Because the process was so fast, that I thought I had done something wrong (perhaps I had been bit by the cluky ANSI installation interface), so I installed again.  But again, it was a quick process and only took 5 minutes and then it returned to the main install screen.  Puzzling.

After a minute of thinking, I decided to try to boot.  And it worked!

So the entire from-scratch install process only took 5 minutes!  I certainly didn’t expect any sluggish Microsoft-like install times, but 5 minutes was amazing.  I guess they needed a bigger “I’m done” screen so that idiots like me won’t have to install twice.


OpenSecrets is a great site.  Find out for yourself where the money is flowing in politics.

Interesting was reading about Scott Brown (highly publicized Senate race in Mass) and also where healthcare companies donate their money.  You might be surprised to know that it’s mostly going to Democrats right now, but I suspect that is due to their large majority population in congress.

For tech fans, reading about Microsoft’s PAC is also interesting.

Of course, if we really want to control our own government, we need to nix all political PACs and lobbyists.  Then OpenSecrets wouldn’t be such an interesting site.