Software & Hardware Reviews

Software Reviews

Monthly software reviews and hardware reviews for business owners, parents and educators since 1995. Note: some of our product reviews will appear on Amazon.com.

 

May 2021 Reviews

Maono AU-A04 Studio USB Streaming Microphone Kit with Boom Arm

I am testing a few different inexpensive quality streaming/podcasting/gaming/singing microphones and tested the Maono AU-A04 kit. I really liked the boom arm and mount. The microphone had a solid feel, made of metal, and seemed well designed. Testing seemed to work well at around six inches from the mic. But, varying the distances, it didn't sound as good at 4", so I'd suggest for best results don't get closer than 6" when streaming or singing. However, I found the sound had more bass than I liked, with very little treble. I guess you could put the audio through Audacity or Adobe Audition to add little crispness to your voice. But, when going live, you'll need some type of equalizer device, and they're available at Amazon starting around $25.

The AU-A04 goes for around $50 on Amazon, which is a great value for what you get. If I had to choose between this model or a more expensive model like the AU-PM422, I'd go with the PM422 because it has a volume/gain control on the mic and a headphone jack. I did not test the AU-A04 for recording music, but it does have the frequency response to work well for music. Some of the USB studio microphone kits include a desktop microphone tripod along with the boom arm. They're about $10 more if you need to switch between desktop stand and boom arm.

Follow the link below for my Youtube video review:

https://youtu.be/eCLSgHH3mTg

March through April 2021 Update

Bendable 3-Legged 12" Tripod for Your Youtube Videos

April 25, 2021. If you're a product reviewer on Amazon, Youtube or Facebook, you might be interested in a cool accessory for your video toolbelt. I found an inexpensive 12" bendable tripod that makes it easy to take those close up views when doing product reviews. Here's the link to my Youtube channel video:

https://youtu.be/TqWNH0kWC8A

TurboTax Home & Business for Year 2020

I’ve been using and reviewing TurboTax since I discovered the program in 2003. And from then on, I can say it changed my life for the better. Wow, let the computer do much of the work, and I’d be done faster. For the past seventeen years I’ve been letting Intuit help me save time, and money using my personal computer to get my taxes done. What a pleasure. Over the years, I’ve seen vast improvements including online filing, which is incredible, and answers to questions that used to require, sometimes, extensive research to make the correct entry. Though TurboTax promises to get you the best refund, that really wasn’t my reason for using it. My main reason was to get my taxes done on my own, and correctly. And Federal filing is always free.

So, here we are facing the April 15 tax filing deadline during, I hope, the end of this crazy and scary pandemic. But taxes are due, so I started TurboTax to complete my filing requirements. Once I start, at the most, I’m done in 2 or 3 days maximum. I always use TurboTax Home & Business, because of my Limited Liability Company: I ran a mail order water filtration business for the past 20 years, but now I’m retired.

Installation, as in the previous years, went fast and well. Before entering my product key, I waited for TurboTax to update. When you’re using TurboTax, it will update frequently, usually when you continue your return. With TurboTax Home & Business 2020, you get one state, but, you won’t request the state download until you finish your Federal tax return. If you need a second state, you can add that later. They charge $45 per state, and you can pay online via credit card when and if you need it. In my case, I help withmy daughter’s return. She's a Michigan resident, but works in Ohio. That’s a complication, but TurboTax takes care of both states.

If you used TurboTax last year, or in previous years, and your TurboTax files are on your computer, TurboTax can find them and update your information. If not, you’ll need to enter all required personal information before you begin (name, address, date of birth, social security number, dependents, etc.). You can begin entering data using their step-by-step entry approach or pick what you want from sections within specific categories. You may also enter data directly into the forms, but it’s best to let TurboTax populate the forms. They’re the experts! Sometimes, I do go to the forms to double check certain entries, but not often. I like the step-by-step, walk me through everything, approach. This method can take a little longer, but it covers everything you need to enter for filing. You may answer No to many of the sections, but you’ll get an overview of what you need to enter, even if it doesn’t apply.

After the required personal information is entered, you’ll go on to the next section. In Home & Business, they start with questions about your business income and expenses. Next, you’ll go into the Personal section and step through your Personal Income, Deductions & Credits, Health Insurance, Other Tax Situation, Federal Review and Smart Check (for errors). When you’re done with your Federal return, you can go on to the state. I often save my return and take a break. No need to worry about lost data, because TurboTax will automatically save your return if you don’t. In comparing my experience with TurboTax 2019, I don’t see any real difference in TurboTax 2020, and that’s good because it worked well for me in 2019.

While entering my data, I have no real problems. And, I loved the fact that you can ask TurboTax to populate your W-2 forms right from your workplace. In my daughter’s case, TurboTax downloaded the data from her Ohio State W-2. I did double check the printed W-2 and the data downloaded was correct. I expected that, but had to double check.

I did find a slight problem when going to file my Federal (or state) return, which also occurred when using TurboTax in past years. Just before filing they say “we’re going to require your driver’s license.” I know that was for security, but I didn’t think I needed to enter that information. I was ready to file and was interrupted. In fact, you can skip it, but it’s not clear. If you move your cursor down to the bottom of that page and click CONTINUE, you can go on without that entry. Another very minor problem, and this applies to only business owners who enter estimated tax payments: the dates next to the first two quarterly payments were incorrect. But that didn’t affect the tax return because the estimated tax is totaled, and it was correct on the forms.

When done entering your income with the maximum deductions allowed, and no errors are found, you’re ready to file. TurboTax allows you to e-file your Federal return for free, and state returns cost $24.95. This year I chose to e-file both my Federal and state returns. You should print a copy of your returns before filing. They also allow you to save it as a PDF file. I do both. I completed my returns on the weekend, and after filing the Federal return, TurboTax send me an immediate confirmation. Then, an hour later, I got the acceptance from the IRS. What a relief. Next, I filed the state return, and again got an immediate notification of receipt from TurboTax. However, I didn’t get the state acceptance until Monday. But, I expected that delay.

TurboTax Home & Business 2020 includes 5 free Federal e-files and one state download.

For more information, or to order, visit Amazon.com. It currently costs $80 with free shipping for the PC/Mac disc.

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

HB

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