For the past few years I have been using Gnu Cash to attempt to manage my money better, this worked really well and is great to use to import data from my online banking service and check against my statements. Since getting my netbook last year I now use web services a lot more and have a growing expectation that I can access all of my programs and information wherever I am. I still can’t do this with accounting so I decided to see if anything was available to use. I found five services online that I’ll quickly talk about here.
Mint looked very nice to use and provided features I wanted but was highly American orientated and required that you entered your details to sync with your banks online services. Which would be handy but it only supported US banks, and I’m don’t want to enter my online bank details to use it.
Next I tired clearcheckbook.com which spurred out of a personal project, which is what I was intending on doing with Google App Engine if I didn’t find anything. This looked simple to use and did what I wanted but it gave errors when I imported data from my bank which prevented me from going any further.
myspendingplan.com was more American again and also aimed more at budgeting than accounting, it also had adverts when you use it. Because of this it lacked accounting and simple report features I was looking for. Another service aimed at budgeting was Out of the Dark, where you can create a monthly budget.
Finally the one I chose was called Buxfer which I am now happily using. The free service limits the number of accounts and budgets you can create but it should be enough for most personal cases. It has a simple UI that is easy to use and the default reports it produces are useful to see where your money goes.
I managed to move my data from Gnu Cash with out too much hassle. I first exported the data in qif using Gnu Cash to Qif then could import this file into Buxfer. Unfortunately all the accounts were mixed up but it didn’t take long with Buxfers’ search features to move them to the right places and tidy up the tags.
So I can now access my accounts on the go and recommend Buxfer to anyone else looking for a similar service.
The heavy snow falls last week in the UK have caused quite a lot of chaos, a lot of which is due to not knowing how bad off different areas were. Ben Marsh created a mashup of a snowmap last Sunday, before snow had fallen over much of the UK, which plotted posts on twitter with the #snowuk tag against a photo and report of the snow level. This shows how quickly it is possible to directly track things over the internet using an ad hoc organised system over services like Twitter.
Contrasting to my last post, where the trend was tracked indirectly, this is directly tracking on outbreak of snow with tags from people. This is tending towards ideas from the semantic web by making information more machine readable, and twitter is encouraging this with the internet population. This is not done in a semantically strict way though but using ad hoc tags and meaning decided by people as they are needed, as we have learnt from the past with the web. This is probably more the way people would want to interact with the semantic web, but it does remove some of the key ideas of interoperability and data linking.
Mashups like this won’t be able to accurately or reliably predict anything but they do have a very fast reaction time. This makes them very useful to people, which is what matters, so how can we start using systems like this on a more global scale?