GnuCash – Financial Package for Personal and Small Business Use

According to the wiki, GnuCash is a leading Desktop Financial Manager Application appropriate for personal and small business use meant to be easy to use and full of features – it’s also open source and free.

If you use online banking it is possible to import bank transactions, assuming your bank or credit card company supports one of three import methods; Quicken Import File (QIF), Open Financial Exchange (OFX) and Home Banking Computer Interface (HBCI). If you have trouble connecting the application to your online bank, as I did, there is the option to download your bank statement in csv format and have it converted to OFX via Ed Wilde’s converter . The OFX file can then be imported into GnuCash.

Amongst the features of GnuCash are;

  • Auto-Completion – and other entry shortcuts which help speed up data entry and reduce errors.
  • Statement Reconciliation – helps you catch any discrepancies between your data and statements you receive.
  • Investment Tracking – offers a host of ways to track your investment portfolio. Special investment accounts simplify data entry, and on-line tools allow you to update the price of your holdings as the markets change. Reports complete the picture, allowing you to analyse your investment decisions.
  • Currency Support – allows you to track multiple currencies and monitor bank accounts, investments or other financial data in different currencies.
  • Reports and Graphs – give you valuable information for filing taxes, budgeting, or simply figuring out where your money goes. Offers a variety of easy-to-use reports and graphs to help analyse your financial position and customize your own reports.
  • Double Entry – to provide complete records GnuCash uses the double entry method of bookkeeping. Double entry simply means that money doesn’t just appear or disappear – an equal amount must come from one location and go to another location. By tracking the transaction in both locations, GnuCash will give you detailed reports from the perspective of either account.
  • Tip of the Day – gives helpful tips to new users about available features.

The wiki has further information including an FAQ.

The Disappearing PC?

Are PCs as we know them about to disappear? Well, maybe not completely but they will become a lot thinner on the ground if the hype around new virtualisation and ‘zero-cost’ thin client solutions is anything to go by. One supplier in particular appears to be shaking up the market – Ncomputing, who already sell virtual desktops – have announced that they will be selling their Numo chip for use in a range of devices used in both business and the home. The chip contains a dual-core processor based on an Arm design that will allow multiple users access one PC for their work simultaneously. Only one set of hardware and applications is required on the PC side with each user connecting via a small dumb terminal that allows connections to monitor, keyboard, mouse, Ethernet, audio and USB. One company that NComputing will supply is LG Electronics who plan to sell monitors containing the Numo chip sometime this year. This will negate the need for a separate dumb terminal and simplify setup even further.  NComputing’s client devices cost around 70 USD which makes them a viable option for many organisations including those in developing countries where there can be lower user-to-PC ratios. Another big plus in going with thin clients like these is reduced power consumption with Numo devices drawing 1-5w only compared to 80w-90w for a medium-spec PC and this this would also be an important factor where power supply is unstable. Numo devices currently work with Microsoft XP only with support for Windows 7 imminent and are best suited where video demands are low (not for gaming or video streaming at the moment).

Another company supplying virtual solutions is Pan Logic of California who have recently produced one of the thinnest clients available in the Pano Device. Sleek and sexy, this cube-like device is only 3.5 inches square at it’s base, 2 inches tall and weighs only 1.1 pounds. It is also considered a zero client in that it contains no software (well, that’s the claim but it must hold a tiny bit at least to be managed). Pano Devices are typically being used with VMware in business environments and have good results with video-intensive applications. As usual, careful consideration has to be given to Desktop licensing requirements.

Concerns Over New Digital Economy Bill

How would you feel if your Internet connection was disconnected because someone somewhere thought copyright legislation was being breached (whether by you or anyone using your Internet connection)? Will you be happy to pay a tax to the government for Broadband use? How about nipping to your local coffee shop or library for a spot of free Internet browsing and finding it’s no longer available? Will you mind ISP staff monitoring what you’re doing online to ensure that certain legislation is not being breached?

All of these, and more, are possibilities contained within the new UK Digital Economy Bill which has now completed all stages in the House of Lords and is due for a second reading in the House of Commons. Although the final bill may look very different once it’s passed, many people are concerned that it will be rushed through committee stage without proper examination. The government is keen to get it on the books before the next general election is called but there could be wide-ranging implications for an unsuspecting public including giving unlimited power to the First Secretary of State to bring into law any legislation relating to file sharing on the Internet, without the consent of Parliament.

According to freedom campaigners such as the Open Rights Group the entertainment industry has most to gain, especially large copyright holding companies, whilst individuals and small companies have the most to lose through the threat of legal action based on what their friends, colleagues and customers do online. Even YouTube could face closure for hosting ‘unsanctioned’ footage of artists. An often-cited Ipsos-mori piece of research indicates the Film and TV industry is losing around £500m annually through online and physical piracy. How much of this would filter down to artists/employees is not known but the industry does claim that there is less money for things such as experimental projects that would bring greater variety to the mainstream.

Although there may be a need to address illegal downloading and breaches of copyright many see the new Digital Economy Bill as a very big hammer to crack a very small nut whilst others are concerned that this is the start of government getting involved in censorship of the Internet.