TurboTax® 2011 Home & Business from Intuit Inc. & VIPRE® Antivirus Premium 2012 from GFI Software . March 2012 . Vol. 18 No. 3

Cyber News and Reviews is a monthly column published for parents, teachers & business owners featuring kids educational software reviews, business software reviews (small business & home business), games and entertainment articles, a free resource since 1995.

Recent Software Reviews

October 2011 --Adobe ® Premiere Pro CS5.5
September 2011 --GroupMail Business Editon V5.2.089 from Infacta Ltd
August 2011 --Adobe® Dreamweaver CS5.5 Website Design Program

TurboTax® 2011 Home & Business from Intuit Inc.
By Howard Berenbon

If you’re alive and working, and get a paycheck in the US, you’re likely required to file a Federal and State income tax return for 2011.  For most people, the approaching yearly tax filing deadline in April is not a fun date to look forward to in the New Year.  Working on taxes, for most, is usually difficult, time consuming, and can be costly if you don’t do it yourself.   In fact, when our taxes are filed away, it’s a relief, until next year.

If you’ve read any of my past reviews of TurboTax® over the years (since March 2003), you know, in my opinion, it’s the best software tax tool around to have in your arsenal of PC (and Mac) applications when it’s that time. In the beginning, it wasn’t as simple use, but it was one of the few programs around.  It beat spending days at your desk with a mass of forms and tax booklets and guides, with pencil, paper and hand calculator trying to decipher the ever changing tax rules and getting your forms filed before April 15th, and correctly.  If you made a big mistake, you could get audited, which could be your worst financial nightmare. So, if you go the do-it-yourself tax preparation route, you should have the best tool to make it happen. Of course, you want the most refund allowed and no errors that can cause complications, and possible penalties with interest, or worse.

Every year I recommend TurboTax® because it works.  At first, I was reluctant to take the plunge and rely on my personal computer for filing. Over the years, I was doing okay on my own, with the help of IRS books and tax guides, but I was getting tired of spending up to two weeks working my taxes.  With TurboTax, it’s now taking about 3 days, or less, and all the publications I’d use, and more, are available within TurboTax. I’m also a fan of Efile because it’s easy to do, and you get an acknowledgement from the IRS the next day.  So, you don’t have to worry if your letter, with completed forms, reaches the right place—there’s always a possibility it will get lost in the US mail system, and then what do you do?

By now, you’ve should have been collecting the important tax data from 2011 so you’re ready when TurboTax® asks for those numbers from federal, state and local tax records, bank and investment information, employer stats and more (1099s, W-2s, etc).  You’ll also need expense information for your deductions like property tax payments, home improvement costs, education, charitable contributions, medical related expenses, interested paid on credit cards or loans, and business expenses, if you own your own business.  Then, you can use their step-by-step interview, or if you’re more experienced, you can enter your data right into the forms (I recommend using the interview).

TurboTax 2011 installs from a single CD in just a few minutes.  Once installed, it automatically updates, and then you register. To begin, click on Start a New Return, and then you can transfer your 2010 tax information from last year’s TurboTax file, or you can just start a new return.  If you have your files from the year before, it’s to your advantage to let TurboTax to import them.  This will save you time because all the forms you used last year (1099s, W-2s, etc.), will appear so all you have to do is change the numbers.  If you need to enter a new form, or delete an unused 1099, you can easily do it. For example, if you opened a new bank account or sold some stock, you just add the new forms. Another option allows you to download your 1099s and W-2s automatically from participating financial institutions and employers, so far 100,000 participate. TurboTax will also easily transfer files and data from Quicken and QuickBooks, their popular personal and business accounting programs.  If you used another tax preparation software last year, but want to try TurboTax, it will import files from H&R Block® or TaxACT.

As you enter data for each form, you’ll see the estimated refund amount displayed at the top of the screen.  If you need help, or have a problem, you can type your question into a search box at the top of the screen, or check your question against those commonly asked help is available within the program, or access their Live Community with questions and answers by experienced users and experts.  You can stop your work anytime, and get back to where you stopped using their bookmark function.  If you’re worried about having the latest tax information, don’t, because each time you start TurboTax it checks for updates, and installs them before you continue your forms.

TurboTax 2011 Home and Business Features

The important features include Live Tax Answers, error scanning with real time checking, bookmarks to return to different areas of your return, free technical support, accuracy guarantee, updates when needed,  helps find small-business and industry-specific deductions, creates W-2 and 1099 forms, imports investment information, finds the best depreciation method, a risk meter tracks your audit risk, maximum donation deduction using ItsDeductible, free one-on-one expert tax advice live phone or chat, deductions for rental property, guidance for investments and more:

  • Guides you step by step through your self-employment and personal income taxes
  • Provides help in finding small business tax deductions and industry specific deductions
  • Free one-on-one expert tax advice live by phone or chat
  • Expanded interview walks you through entering business income and expenses to help you maximize business and personal deductions
  • Includes Free Federal E-File (up to 5) and one download of a TurboTax State product
  • Helps Find Small-Business Tax Deductions
  • Identifies Industry-Specific Deductions
  • Gets the Biggest Vehicle Deduction
  • Offers Extra Guidance for New Businesses
  • Makes Entering Income Easier
  • Creates W-2 and 1099 Forms
  • Simplifies Asset Depreciation
  • Streamlines Expense Entry
  • Helps Accurately Report Investment Sales>
  • Imports Investment Info
  • Helps Accurately Report Investment Sales
  • Determines Stock Cost Basis
  • Helps with Employee Stock Plans
  • 401(k) Maximizer
  • Helps  Find Every Rental Deduction
  • Shows the Best Rental Depreciation Method
  • Maximizes Refinancing Deductions
  • Helps with New Rental Properties
  • Maximizes Tax Deductions
  • Looks for Deduction Opportunities as You Go
  • Handles Life Changes
  • Helps with Medical Expenses
  • Tracks Your Audit Risk
  • With ItsDeductible Gets the Maximum
  • Deduction for Donations
  • Refund as fast as 7 days

Versions available: Free Edition (1040EZ), Deluxe at $29.95, Premier (Investments & Rental Property) $49.95, Home & Business (Personal & Business) $74.95 and Business (Corporations, Partnerships & LLC) $129.95

TurboTax 2011 Home & Business retails for $99.95 ($70.99 through Amazon.com).  Includes 5 federal Efiles, free audit support guarantee, and is guaranteed to get you the maximum tax refund.  Will run on any multimedia PC (Windows or Macintosh), 1 GHz 32-bit or faster processor, 500 MB hard disk space, 512 MB RAM with Windows XP/Vista/7, a CD-ROM drive and Adobe Reader 8.0 or higher. Mac – PowerPC G3 or higher processor, 512 MB RAM, 300 MB hard disk space and Mac OS X v10.4.11 or higher.  For more information, or to order, visit Amazon.com.

Intuit Inc.
2500 Garcia Ave.
Mountain View, CA 94043
Phone: 1-800-446-8848
URL turbotax.com

VIPRE® Antivirus Premium 2012 from GFI Software
By Howard Berenbon

I have been using and recommending various incarnations of the VIPRE® Antivirus Antispyware program from GFI Software (originally Sunbelt Software) since my first review in September 2008. I have to say I was skeptical about installing a program with a claim that it would effectively protect your computer while allowing you to work on your PC without disruption.  Most security programs I previously tested, with some exceptions, failed miserably (recently installed the free AVG and it just about disabled my Internet access, even after disabling have the features—running on a Lenovo Pentium desktop with Windows 7).  Some work better than others, but they all have their problems, freeware or paid ware. VIPRE®, on the other hand, is the only, and I mean, only security program I’ve installed that did not disrupt my normal daily computer tasks which include running some of my high powered applications like Adobe Photoshop CS5.5, Dreamweaver CS5.5 or even Adobe Premiere Pro (Adobe’s professional video editor), the 64-bit version. Some programs function better than others, but they all have noticeable computer slowdowns.  VIPRE, with some minor exceptions on older and slower computers (Windows XP), has proven perfect and reliable while running in the background.  If you’re a busy computer professional, and need a reliable Internet security program, then VIPRE is the one.  It can save you and your computer from the headaches of invasion or destruction from Internet predators looking to highjack your computer and steal your credit cards and possibly your identity.  It’s been reliable for computer protection and peace of mind.

Here’s How it Works

The program downloads from the Internet in about a minute (a trial version or paid in full), and installs in another minute or so.  Once you enter your key code for your one year license, it will automatically update the virus/spyware definitions, and then start watching your system in the background.  From the main menu you’ll find Scan Status, Active Protection (should be enabled), Email Protection (should be enabled), Updates (enabled and the last date updated) and Firewall (firewall and Web filter enabled). On the top right of the main screen you have access to the Manage and Tools menu.  Below those buttons you’ll see the Worldwide Threat Activity Level and your Risk Detection Statistics to date.

Under the FIREWALL menu you can access Settings, Statistics, Connections and History.  It’s auto-configured to protect against inbound and outbound traffic that may try to break into your computer and steal information and create havoc.   At the MANAGE menu you can view reports of your past scans, access any dangerous files VIPRE quarantined, view risks blocked, view  risks you allowed and schedule automated scans. From the TOOLS menu, you can run the Security File Eraser, History Cleaner and PC Explorer--allows you to view hidden settings. 

You can now try a scan. From the Scan menu, click on Quick Scan and then Scan Now, and it will start checking for known risks in areas on your computer they will likely hide.  Many of the threats, if present, will be detected in the Quick Scan. This can take 3 to 15 minutes depending on the number of files in your computer.  A full scan can take 5 to 10 hours, again, depending on the number of files in you disk drives, which includes internal and external drives (your C drive, flash drives and backup devices).  And the good news is, you can keep on computing.  I mean work on your computer as you normally do.  Surf the Internet, run your business accounting software, do your taxes (with TurboTax—see review), write that best-selling novel or phone app, talk on your voice-over-Internet phone, listen a CD, watch videos, or play games if you want, to mention a few tasks.

Usually, if anything is detected after a Quick Scan, I immediately start a full scan (from the Scan Menu).  My last scan took 390 minutes—over 6 hours, and thankfully nothing was detected. This may seem long, but I have a lot of applications on my fairly new desktop computer with a separate 500 GB backup drive.

Besides VIPRE’s Active Protection,Windows 7 is more secure than previous operating systems.  That combination keeps my computer a lot safer.  But, surfing the Internet can be dangerous, even if you’re just looking for mundane information, because lots of bad sites on any subject are waiting for someone unprotected to enter. No need to worry, because Vipre does monitor for unsafe sites and if you try to enter, it blocks entry with a full-page alert. Also, the Firewall will stop intrusions too.

Latest Features

Next-generation anti-malware technology
Detects and remediates viruses, spyware, rootkits, bots, Trojans and other malware via a single, powerful anti-malware engine.

High-performance PC security
Uses an advanced technology stack to scan large volumes of information quickly, with minimal performance impact.
Advanced anti-rootkit technology
Finds and disables malicious hidden processes, threats, modules, services, files and alternate data streams (ADS) on user systems.

Real-time monitoring and protection
Monitors and protects against malware threats including zero-day threats, in real time. It leverages multiple detection methods, including heuristics, behavioral analysis and traditional signature based technologies, to analyze malware.

Antivirus, anti-phishing e-mail security
Includes protection against email viruses and phishing scams, with direct support for Outlook, Outlook Express, Windows Mail and any email program that uses POP3 and SMTP.

Remote device scanning
Includes a remote device scanner that auto-scans removable drives and files for threats.

New for 2012

Spam blocking
Anti-spam technology that protects against spam, phishing and malicious URLs.

Smarter firewall
The firewall is auto-configured and easy to use-protecting against inbound and outbound internet traffic quickly. Advanced settings allow you to customize the firewall based on your personal preferences.

VIRPE® Antivirus Premium 2012 sells for $49.95 with a one year license for a single computer, 2 computers for $59.95 or 3 to 10 computers for $69.95. Requires a 1 GHZ PC with 512 MB RAM and 300 MB free space. Runs in Windows XP, Vista, Windows 7 (32/64-bit) and Windows Sever 2008 (32/64-bit). They offer a 30-day money back guarantee if you’re not satisfied.

GFI Software
33 North Garden Ave., Suite 1200
Clearwater, FL 33755
Phone: 727-562-0101