Thursday, March 23, 2006

TaxFreedom Not What it Seems

Last year I discovered a way to file my federal income tax return electronically for free using the online income tax forms on the intriguingly-titled website (Please see this post.) This year Intuit improved the website to support non-IE browsers. But it also imposed a fee for individual taxpayers whose adjusted gross income is greater than $50,000.00.

This fee seems to flow down from the IRS. It's discussed on their Free File page.

Intuit offers two other options. The first is called "Essentials," which costs $9.95. The second is "Deluxe," which costs $19.95 ($39.95 after March 31.)

Unfortunately, after I filled out the free form and was ready to submit the data, Intuit informed me I'd have to upgrade to the "Deluxe" version. It didn't offer "Essentials" as an option.

I suppose it might have something to do with the complexity of the return. I needed to enter some extra 1099 forms of an unusual nature. And as a home owner, I chose to itemize deductions. I later found out that a $9.95 package can be used only for 1040EZ returns.

Well, I need to use an online service. I have little choice. Microsoft stopped supporting Windows NT 4.0 quite a while ago. As a result, tax preparation software no longer supports Windows NT. And paying an H & R Block moonlighter $200 to enter data into their program is an outrage.

Anyway, good luck with your tax-filing endeavors!

Saturday, March 11, 2006

One Step Closer to the Computerized Brain?

In testing my link to IEEE Spectrum, I was intrigued by this month's feature article, Psychiatry's Shocking New Tools, by Samuel K. Moore. The article describes how "electronic implants and electromagnetic pulses are picking up where psychoactive drugs have failed."

Medical science is still in the dark ages as far as I'm concerned. True it's not unscientific to poke at something in a systematic way and observe a result. If it can be repeated enough times, a scientist can establish a new method for obtaining that result. But this is terribly inefficient and inelegant. How long will it be before we know how the brain works and can correct the root causes of mental illness?

The new tools described in the article seem to be nothing more than modern day leaches and lobotomies. I can't wait to see what eventually "picks up where electronic implants and electromagnetic pulses fail."

Friday, March 10, 2006

Bogged Down Blog

Why is this blog so devoid of new articles? My head is full of ideas. But my calendar is full of _____ .

Yet I've struggled to keep the sidebar up-to-date, especially the reading list. Today I'm excited to announce two blog-like items for the list: a link to Clair Ching's tech blog and a link to editorials by Robert Lucky.

Robert Lucky is the Art Buchwald of electrical engineering's flagship periodical Spectrum. If you have the time, I encourage you to read his latest column, "Wordsmithing." It's real. It's funny. It's crazy. It's life as an engineer.

And what of Clair Ching? Well, I came across many of her posts in the emacs-wiki-discuss list and finally decided to check out her blog. When I read Getting acquainted with stuff on the CLI: Mplayer, my heart went pitter-patter with devotion. Could she be my soul mate? Don't tell my wife.