Thursday, March 12, 2009

Taxes 2008

This post is analogous to last year's tax post.

Taxes for 2008 turned out to be much simpler than last year for the following reasons:
  • I only lived in one state, and so did not need to split my income.

  • I closed one of my accounts to pay for the down payment on my house in 2007, so I no longer have to worry about all those forms and trades. That account had tons of trading activity.

  • I was familiar with which sites I needed to log in to in order to get various 1099 forms - mainly Countrywide.

  • TurboTax imported last year's return so I didn't have as much data entry on my personal information.

I was actually fairly pleased with TurboTax. It still had a few problems (there was no official way to enter short sales [such as cash-secured puts], so I'm not sure I did that right, but the total profits/losses are correct), but was improved from last year overall.

In addition to TurboTax, I used Kansas' WebFile page to e-file my Kansas return. I basically just entered things in line by line from the form TurboTax generated, but didn't have to print it out or mail it. I think that will be the more environmentally friendly route, plus get me my refund sooner.

Speaking of refunds, I get big refunds! From the federal government, I get $5397 back, and I get $854 from Kansas. Governments, you're welcome for the 0% loans over the last year! Please place money in my savings account soon.

What will I do with all that money? Well, you should read this post on things I want to buy, and this post on mortgage refinancing, all while keeping in mind that a cash reserve is nice to have and build.

Why was my refund so large when I owed so much last year? Another list:
  • This was my first full year of paying my mortgage, which means a full year of mortgage interest deducted.

  • This year sucked for investments, so I had no realized capital gains. I'd rather pay taxes than not be building wealth, though.

  • This was my first full year of paying property taxes, which are deductible.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Things I Want To Buy #2

This is a follow-up post to Things I Want To Buy.

I didn't end up buying a restringing machine, and gave up the idea after my uncle said it was definitely more trouble than it was worth. I got a new primary computer, but have had some problems with it. Mainly, it runs hotter than my friend's similarly spec'd one. Rather aggravating.

Anyway, an updated list!
  • I still need my deck repainted/stained. I want to get that scheduled by the end of the month, at least.

  • I still need a new electric lawn mower. I plan on giving my old one to my brother for his rental house, and I never want to use it again. Thus, I will need this before I can mow my lawn.

  • I want a storm door for my front doorway. Storm doors are apparently rather expensive, so I may wait until the end of summer, as a warm draft is not nearly as bothersome as a cold draft.

  • At some point, I'll need a new car. My current car keeps getting something else wrong with it. Most recently, I noticed that it no longer beeps at me when my seat belt isn't buckled. This doesn't actually bother me, but it's a sign that the car is aging. I'm hoping to get another year or more out of it, though, especially since I don't drive all that much.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Raid Write Intent Bitmaps

During my last raid crash, I couldn't seem to get the damn thing to resync. I tried multiple times, but it would always lock up. I almost took the drastic step of borrowing a raid array to back things up as much as possible and then rebuild from scratch! However, in my many hours of research into potential solutions, I found that most people prevented the problem using a little thing called write intent bitmaps.

As far as I know, they are not available with hardware raid solutions, such as dedicated cards or those built into motherboards. Linux software raid, however, makes it ridiculously easy. Once I finally did get things resync'd (dumb luck, really. I didn't try anything new - it just started working), I immediately turned on the write intent bitmap feature.

mdadm --grow --bitmap=internal /dev/md0

This may reduce write performance slightly (up to 10%), but given that something is funky with my machine and it crashes during most full resyncs, I'm all for the saved resync time. Since I've turned this on, I haven't had a single problem with the array or the machine. There have been a couple blown fuses due to a space heater on the same circuit, but the machine came up and stayed up just fine, barely requiring a few seconds to resync. I can't tell you how happy I was.

So, switch on over to mdadm, add an internal bitmap, and rejoice in the short resync times.