Moving Back to Quicken from Banktivity (Long)

TLDR; I moved from Quicken to Banktivity a little over 3 years ago and now I’m going back. I basically don’t trust the Banktivity registers and it takes WAY too much time manually inspecting, auditing, and repairing to be worth my effort.

I have tracked my finances in detail since my university days in the mid-80s when I created a complicated set of macros in Quattro to handle the basics required to record, track, and reconcile all of my accounts. This continued until I got my first job and decided I wanted a more polished system, whereupon I migrated over to Intuit’s Quicken product.

I continued to use Quicken for a little over 25 years when they started faltering and appeared about to go out of business. Their support had gone very much downhill, updates to the product were unspectacular and, frankly, it seemed as if Intuit regarded the Quicken product as just an advertising means to push their TurboTax product.

I was disenchanted and looked around for a native MacOS product that could handle my personal finance needs. In late 2018 I decided that Banktivity (which had *just* rebranded from “iBank”) had the comprehensive set of features that I needed, and so I migrated to this platform.

Banktivity was still a bit rough around the edges, but it had just been overhauled and they looked like they were eager to build a world-class personal finance solution so I tolerated some of the fairly glaring shortcomings and found workarounds with the assistance of their support folks.

Continue reading Moving Back to Quicken from Banktivity (Long)

Sengled Window & Door Sensor Review

Sengled Window & Door Sensor Box

I picked these up for a decent price from Amazon. Most of my contact sensors are Z-Wave so this was my first foray into Zigbee sensors.

I was a bit uncertain about them after reading so many reviews that said the devices would report in for a while and then kind of stop.

As of this writing I’ve had these Sengled Smart Door sensors installed for just under 2 months and I couldn’t be more pleased.

Setting them up was simple, I took to heart the warnings that the battery protector tab might leave behind some residue which caused issues for some other reviewers, and just popped out the button batteries to remove the tab instead of just tugging on it.

I then popped the battery back in, put the case back together and then set my hub to “Zigbee Discovery” mode. After pressing the reset button with a paper-clip, each one of these sensors paired immediately.

Mounted on TOP of the door just under the slide

I have 2 of these installed on lesser-used hall closet doors (maybe used once a day), one on a much more used wife-primary closet door (half dozen times a day) and a final one installed on one of my most-used doors which leads to my garage / workshop (maybe 20-30 times a day). This replaced a previous sensor that was acting up. I just attached the Sengled and it worked fine. I didn’t immediately remove the old sensor bracket while I was evaluating the Sengled as you can see in the image, but I’ll clean that up next month.

Sengled Sensor on door to garage
Kinda messy temporary installation replacing an older sensor.

None of these have ever failed to report their status IMMEDIATELY and consistently. They are all used to primarily activate lights – 3 of them activate Philips Hue bulbs, and the garage one activates a GE Enbrighten paddle switch, all via Hubitat’s Rule Machine logic.

Even without being on sale (Currently $70 for 4 sensors), these are among the least expensive Door/Window sensors I’ve found. When I bought them in December they had a 40% off sale which made them THE most cost-effective sensors I’ve purchased. Combine that with their great reliability (so far…) and these are really a great deal.

You definitely HAVE to use a hub with these. I’m using them with a Hubitat Elevation, but I know that SmartThings’ hub also works with Zigbee. So that should cover a pretty substantial portion of the hub user’s demographic out there.

I will be buying more of these both for new projects and to backfill some less reliable older sensors on my property.

McDonald’s Rewards Best Redemption Value

McDonald’s is.. well, McDonald’s. Famous world-wide for, perhaps not the best food on the planet, but certainly among the most consistent food available.

If I’m ever traveling and have had just a *wee* bit too much local cuisine or, as I found on my honeymoon in Germany, that my high school German should not be counted upon to understand a menu and order when visiting that country, I find McDonald’s to be a reliable, familiar taste haven. More than once have I scurried to a local McD’s while abroad to erase the memory of a regretful food choice or just to reset my palate back to my bland North American expectations.

They are available almost anywhere I go. They are open just about any time I would want to eat. Their fries are “good enough”. Their hamburgers are “good enough”.
This is perhaps not lofty praise, but nobody is going to fast food restaurants because they are after Michelin Star level cuisine.

McDonald’s recently started a points reward program, presumably because of the success of other fast food chain rewards. One reason to switch from dollars to tokens or points is because the math can be annoying for figuring out the best value

McDonald’s point redemption is nowhere near as flexible as that of Chick-Fil-A (See my article on Chick-Fil-A Best Redemption Value here) in that, as of this writing, you can only choose a single item to buy with points OR you can use one of their other deals. But, Chick-Fil-A almost NEVER offers any deals so that does somewhat mitigate their reward offering.

So, as of December 8, 2021, here are some of my favorite McDonald’s rewards in order from best to worst value per point.

McDonald’s Rewards in Value per Point oder

Keep in mind that pricing can vary dramatically depending upon location. A quarter-pounder can cost as much as 30 cents more if I pick it up 15 miles North of me where I work vs near my home. But I’ll use this to guide my point purchase whenever they do not have a better deal on offer at that restaurant.

Microsoft Intune “Defer software updates” and iOS Patch releases

Right now I’m trying to allow my fleet of devices to access iOS 15.0.2 but I do not want them to have access to iOS 15.1 yet (being released later today). Typically I like to allow a couple of weeks before upgrading devices to new minor releases to allow other folks to uncover any issues that might be introduced before my fleet tries to use them.

Intune has implemented, as part of their Device Configuration policies for iOS, the ability to take advantage of Apple iOS’ ability to defer a software update by up to 90 days.

This is potentially a great feature and has worked so far on Major and Minor releases. However, this is the first time I’ve attempted to use it to limit folks to a specific patch release (Major.Minor.Patch i.e. 15.0.2).

In my testing I find that just having the “Defer Software Updates” option set to Yes regardless of how many days delay specified causes iOS’ Software Update to completely ignore the patches.

If I watch closely, I sometimes see a ghost “iOS 15.0” zero byte offering that will disappear on a subsequent refresh. I find it appears immediately after I Check Status of my device in Intune Company portal. Then goes away after I refresh the Software Update page until the next time I refresh.

I cannot say for sure if the flaw is with Microsoft’s Intune implementation or in iOS’ Implementation, I can only say that I cannot take advantage of this feature for Patch versions while trying to safeguard the integrity of my iOS fleet.

One other thing – a defect in the Device Configuration policy. It seems if you EVER set and save the Defer Software Update setting, even if you subsequently set it to Not Configured, this will permanently enable the number of days parameter. This parameter defaults back to 30 when you set the Defer parameter to Not Configured and still be sent to the devices…

Tesla Firmware Update 2021.24.5 Resolves My Car’s Sleeping issues

As you probably know, today’s cars are almost more like our smartphones than like the cars we knew and loved from the 70’s and 80’s. Electric Vehicles (EVs) even moreso.

I have a 2017 Tesla Model X. Most of the time I have it parked at home where I can leave it plugged in as much as I want to ensure that it’s always topped up and ready to go with a full tank of “gas”.

One big difference between EVs and Internal Combustion Engine (ICE) cars is that, unless you leave your headlights on, there is very little that will impact your ICE car if you leave it just sitting somewhere like an airport parking lot while you are traveling to some far away destination. EVs, or at least Teslas, have a relatively low power “Idle” mode that they enter immediately after you lock the car and walk away.

They also have an ultra-low power consumption mode referred to as “sleeping” that they are supposed to enter soon after that. They are supposed to remain in this sleep mode most of the time they are not in use, waking now and then to check for software updates or to perform some internal housekeeping.

Since I’ve owned my car, it has be very reticent to actually sleep. This didn’t affect me much except to be concerned for what the long-term impact of the car basically staying active all the time might do to its components. This was dramatically exacerbated when I upgraded my Full Self Driving computer and Media Control Unit (MCU) to the latest and greatest versions.

When I was at home any drain was not an issue since the car could be plugged in all the time if I so chose. But I found my “Phantom Drain” (as the excess power consumption caused by not sleeping is called) was pretty impactful when away from home. I was on a cruise a while ago and lost just under 30% of my battery state of charge just sitting in the hotel parking lot for a week.

Anyway, this is all just a preamble to say that the latest firmware update – called 2021.24.5 (I get these, on average, about every 18 days) seems to have absolutely addressed the sleep issue for my vehicle.

I mean it’s night and day. Where it was alternating 16 minutes sleep, 45 minutes idle for much of the day, ever since the update it sleeps for literally HOURS at a time regardless of whether it’s plugged in or not!

It even sleeps when it’s not at home (Sentry mode off, of course) which was a rarity before. But now it appears to be the norm.

I imagine this does not affect a lot of people, but I’m pretty pleased with this update.

Oh, and as a sidenote, as of about 3 software updates ago (2021.12.25.7 or 2021.24.2) I was finally able to log into YouTube in my Tesla’s entertainment system.

So somebody on Tesla’s engineering team seems to be fixing these ancient issues…

Wemo Smart Plug – Not there yet

I have a love/hate relationship with Belkin’s Wemo products. When they work they work very well but when they decide to misbehave, they are miserable to get working again.

Wemo Smart Switch

I already have 9 Wemo switches in my smart home. These took a long time to settle down but back when I first got them they were at the “bleeding edge” so, like everything else at the time, things were expected to be somewhat rough around the edges.
I credit creating DNS reservations on my router for most of their current stability and improvements in device driver code for much of the rest.

When I added the first of these new smart plugs to the Wemo app it seemed to work perfectly. So I went ahead and added the other two and had them distributed throughout the house.
By the next morning I found the first one was no longer responding (just flashing orange LED) and it had to be reset – after that it worked perfectly, it even integrated with IFTTT just fine.

The other two were not so good, they just kept losing connectivity, regardless of where I located them in the house.

A real deal killer for me, and something I had not initially considered was that these were not recognized by SmartThings (which is not a problem for the Wemo Smart Switches). Likewise, Hubitat Elevation – which was going to be my primary hub for these new plugs – only has a user supported device driver for Wemo switches, dimmers, etc. and these new ones apparently do something funky (respond unexpectedly or on random ports, who knows) such that they cannot be identified for use as a device with this hub.

The real kicker is that, in introducing these to the Wemo app, it started doing all sorts of interesting things both with these plugs and my existing stable of switches. Random switches / plugs would show up as disconnected at different times. Never less than two and typically no more than four even though the switches were still working just fine with my existing hubs.

So I have returned these and am going to instead use Ikea’s Tradfri Wireless Control Outlets. I have 5 of these controlling various lighting fixtures in my house already and do you know what has never given me any problems? These Tradfri outlets! They are somewhat more limited in that they do not have an on/off switch on the unit to override them if things go awry or if you just feel like manually turning something on or off. But I’ve ordered a bunch more and am unlikely to look back at the Wemos for a long long time.

Even now, days after removing these Smart Plugs from my Wemo app, one of my Smart Switches still shows as disconnected, even tough my SmartThings hub can still control it just fine.

tldr; don’t use with SmartThings or Hubitat Elevation and beware the Wemo app. If you do get these working, don’t ever, ever change your setup…

Lamicall Tablet Holder

Super Versatile Tablet or Phone Holder

Apparently I’ve gone a bit mad for this stand. It’s called the Lamicall Tablet Holder I counted back and, since early 2019, I have ordered a dozen of these great little tablet holders. Every time I see it come on sale I think of another person or another use for these.

Quality control is impeccable, I inspect everything I receive from Amazon immediately when it arrives and every single one of these Lamicall Tablet Holders has been scratch-free and works perfectly (the hinge on the stand is neither too stiff nor too loose).

My day job is working with mobile phones and tablets so I have 4 of these stands on my office desk alone. They fit Samsung Galaxy S and Note class phones, Pixels, iPhones, and iPads (10″ & 12″ Pro and not) perfectly. It gets them up off the desk so they don’t take up as much space (especially the tablets) and can be easily canted to whatever angle makes sense for the testing I’m doing. Sometimes I’ll have an iPad in one of these holders and be demonstrating another device in a second holder using the back camera while on a teams meeting or a zoom or Webex call.

Around the house I have a couple on my kitchen island so my wife and I can keep our iPads out of any foodstuffs that may be on the counter. This keeps the screen visible to me whether I’m looking at a recipe or viewing a youtube video.
I also have one I keep on a smallish end-table in my media room as there is just not enough room there to lay down a tablet (barely enough room for a phone) with the remotes, Kleenex box and dishes that are invariably already there.

Most of my devices are wireless these days, but for those that aren’t (I maintain legacy devices for backward compatibility purposes), you can feed the charge cable through the back and the gap in the actual device holder allows you to easily plug it in to your device. Also this is MUCH more attractive and less cluttered than having the cable snake its way around the phone to the bottom if you’re laying it flat on your desk but want it oriented properly toward you.

This is an inexpensive, simple and satisfying accessory that makes a great gift for people who already seem to have everything. You really don’t know you need one of these until you’ve already got one. My mother has already commented on hers several times and uses it whenever she is Facetiming with either us or her grandkids.

Oh, be sure to get the “Tablet” holder and not the smaller “Phone” version. I haven’t tried the smaller one but this works just fine for phones and why limit yourself?

So color me a bit obsessed, but I really can’t say enough good things about this tablet holder.

Oh, and I don’t get anything for linking to this product, so it doesn’t matter if you use my link or not. I just want to share something that just… works and works well.

Evernote Android Photo (Document) doesn’t do OCR

This is as of 20210131

I was fooled by this. I’m using a Samsung Galaxy S20.

I create a new note in Evernote by taking a photo and specify that it is a color document.

I can then never find it via OCR.

Using iPhone 12 Pro Max and Scannable with the same document results in an Evernote note that is perfectly searchable OCR works fine.

eMail to AOPA regarding why I am no longer a member

I have been a member of AOPA since around 2004 when I did my flight training.

They are a worthwhile organization that lobbies hard for general aviation pilots and they do a lot of education and outreach.

Over the years, the cost of membership has gone steadily up and this was fine with me, the increases were in keeping with inflation and growth of AOPA generally.

I honestly cannot recall if I was notified about the price increases in the past but I know I was not about the more recent, much more aggressive increases.

One thing that will lose my trust really quickly is people changing things materially on me without the transparency of notifying me. It was one reason why I disliked Comcast – the bill was different every month.

AOPA’s member retention services seem to focus on sending me a new email every 3 days offering me this great one-time deal which is that they’ll knock the price down (for that one renewal) to what I paid last year.

I’m still trying to figure out, do people really receive the same notification over and over and eventually just fall for it?

Anyway, my trust has been eroded and I sent them the below message in response to their latest missive.

I get one like this every 3 days

Does this really work? In the past 30 days you’ve sent me 12 exhortations offering me the EXACT. SAME. ONE TIME. “DEAL”.

I dropped my support for AOPA when, after many years of fairly reasonable price increases (5% in 2009, 13% in ’11, 9% in 2015) even a 20% hike in 2017 which was a bit galling but, whatever, fine.

But I got annoyed when, without any warning you hiked the price by a whopping 33% in 2019 and then proceeded as if nothing had happened. I have to guess many of the pilots are older people and they just don’t notice the increases.

AOPA does a *lot* of good work, but I do not trust anybody that is not transparent. When you are going to raise prices, let me know ahead of time and why (even “due to inflation”).

All I see is that you are now increasing the cost of membership because you can.

I am disappointed.

Regards,

Marc

I dunno, am I wrong here? Being petty? It’s only a $20 increase but it grates when a company seems like they can act with impunity.