Tuesday, June 7, 2011

QuickBooks Payroll Service Alert - endless reminders

The Problem
I do manual payroll... no service... no tax table download... all manual (I created a little Access application to help with the calculations). Anyway, after upgrading to QuickBooks Pro 2011 from my old QB Pro 2006, every time I went to Pay Employees, I got this annoying dialog. If I clicked Remind Me Later, it went away and let me do the payroll but it just came back again the next time. I could not figure out how to make it go away permanently.

I had to call Intuit anyway to register the product (dumb that you have to do that) and it took about 30 minutes and about 5 transfers but they helped me get rid of the pop-up. The problem was that way back in 2006 when I originally purchased Pro 2006, apparently I had signed up for the service for 2 days (a trial?) but ended up doing it manually. Well, the company file remembered that I had service and when I upgraded to 2011, it could not comprehend that perhaps I had been doing it manually for the last 5 years and so it figured I needed to reactivate, verify or be reminded endlessly.

The solution
It is pretty easy once you know what to do. Go to Help>QuickBooks Help. Do a search for 'manual payroll', somewhere in the one of the first articles will be a link titled manual payroll calculations. Follow the directions (just a couple clicks) and voilĂ ! You should get the following:

There is probably a more direct way to get to that option but I do not know where it is. If you do, please comment and I will update the post. Have fun doing your payroll manually! I know I do.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

QuickBooks on Windows 7 - Why 2 icons when running?

I finally decided to upgrade my QuickBooks to a version that is 'officially' supported on Windows 7. I bought QuickBooks Pro 2011. Don't get me started on the registration process... maybe another article.

This issue
For now, I was disappointed by the fact that this version, which is officially supported on Windows 7, does not behave on the Taskbar as well as the 2006 version (which is not officially supported) that I had to manually install (see old post). Unlike every other program that I currently have a Taskbar shortcut for, when I open QuickBooks from the Taskbar icon, it creates another icon to let me know that it is running. It is supposed to use the same icon and thus save space on the Taskbar but it doesn't.

The Fix
The fix is pretty easy. If you look at the properties of the shortcut, it points to an executable file QBW32Pro.exe. But if you look in the Task Manager when QB is running, you will see that the file QBW32.exe is actually running. So, presumably, when QBW32Pro.exe is launched, it does something and eventually launches QBW32.exe. What that something is, I don't know. But, knowing QuickBooks, it is probably something I don't care about. Possibilites: looking to see if an instance is already running, checking to see if there are multiple versions of the program installed or possibly just a way of enforcing the particular version. So, I just browsed to the folder where the QBW32.exe lives (C:\Program Files\Intuit\QuickBooks 2011 for me) and created a TaskBar shortcut for that file and removed the one for QBW32Pro.exe. It works fine. Whatever QBW32Pro.exe is doing before it launches QBW32.exe doesn't seem to be necessary on my machine. Your results may vary.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Capacitive touch console in the Chevy Volt

Capacitive touch doesn't make sense in a car.
The other day I test drove a Volt. The exterior is nice, the interior is nice. The only thing I really disliked was the center control panel because of the capacitive touch sensor 'buttons'. To me this makes no sense in a car. The whole point of this technology is for use in things like touch screens and smart phones where the display changes. With these interfaces, the action resulting from touching a particular spot on the sensor depends on the state of the display at the time. In this case you are viewing the display and can easily determine the state and thus you have a good idea what the 'touch' is going to do (launch an application, open the keyboard, type a letter etc.)
In a traditional car control panel, the interface is made of buttons, knobs, sliders etc. all of which have very good tactile feedback and a certain level of resistance. I.e. you can feel the control without activating it. Typically, once you have had your car for a while, you have a good general idea of how it is laid out and you can reach for a control without taking your eyes off the road. Or, you can make a quick glance to pick a target and reach while your eyes go back to the road. If you 'miss', you won't necessarily activate anything, you can feel that your hand is in the wrong spot and can navigate by touch. While you are driving, it is easy to miss because everything is shaking (not saying the the Volt isn't smooth but it is moving). I have the same issue with my smartphone navigation system when it is mounted in the car. I need to the grab the phone with my thumb and pinky so that my hand is not moving relative to the device. In the Volt, you cannot 'grab' the center console.
In a traditional car, when your hand gets to the correct control, you just apply a little more pressure in the appropriate manner (push, twist, slide) to activate the control you want. In the Volt, if you 'miss', you have probably activated something you did not intend. Now you may have to deactivate whatever it is you messed up and find the right control to do what you want. If you try to do this by touch, you may inadvertently make more incorrect choices. Most likely you will have to take your eyes off the road to find and touch the correct control. This is an obvious safety concern. It is like trying to dial your phone while driving, it can be done but it is generally not a good idea (and illegal in some places?).
On touch screens, a touch sensor makes economical sense too because instead of having a bunch of different controls which might not cover every situation, you can have a single 'all-in-one' control that can be reconfigured on the fly. Again, this works because you can see the display before you make your decision. In the Volt, there are a set number of controls anyway and their positions never change. So why use this technology? It isn't necessary. It would be much simpler to just have buttons with actual tactile feedback so that you do not accidentally tap the wrong thing. What is the advantage? Weight reduction? Cost reduction? I can't imagine that a set of 'regular' controls would add more than a half a pound and/or a few dollars and probably would have saved on the R&D. It seems to be a solution for problem that does not exist (although it is probably easier to clean, I'll give it that).
Volt engineers: You did a great job with styling, aerodynamics, power management, requirements (I think the 40 mile electric range was a good compromise) and a bunch of other stuff, but I really question the thinking on this interface, please reconsider for future models.