If you use Quicken 2007 on the Mac, you may have encountered a bank or broker that allows you to download Quicken data, but is not listed in Quicken’s list of financial institutions. That data presumably would load into the PC version of Quicken, but if you try to open it with Quicken for Mac, it may get paired with the wrong financial institution or not work at all. That’s because Quicken seems to charge institutions extra to license downloads for the Mac; many institutions are PC only.
Fortunately, the files are readable by Quicken for Mac and I have been successful at adding a financial institution of my own. You only have to go through this process once. After that, you simply download and open your data files like usual. I think this is an improvement on the prior art for this hack, which involved changing the downloaded file every time (possibly with the help of a script).
Here is how to set it up.
- Backup your Quicken data file. Maybe twice. We are going to do some minor surgery on it later, and it would truly suck if we lost the patient.
- Create a new Quicken data file for experimentation purposes. Choose New from Quicken’s File menu. Quicken will warn you about creating a new file, but confirm that you want to do that. Quicken will immediately want to create an account, but cancel that.
- Update the financial institutions list by choosing Financial Institutions from the Online menu, then clicking Update List. If your institution appears on the list after the update, that’s great news. You should open your original data file, update the financial institutions list there, and proceed as normal for creating a Quicken download account.
- Assuming no joy yet, quit Quicken and find the new data file in the Finder. Right-click on it and choose Show Package Contents. Open the Contents folder and then the FIDir folder, and then open fidir.txt in a text editor like TextEdit.
- Now download a Quicken data file from your institution. The download should have a .qfx extension. Find that file in your downloads folder and open it — and this is important — in your text editor, NOT Quicken. The easiest way to do this is to drag the file to the TextEdit icon in the dock.
- The Quicken download is in a format called XML, which uses “tags” enclosed in angle brackets. Search for the
FIDtags, which should be about 20 lines from the beginning of the file. Make a note of the “official” institution name and ID number.
- Switch to fidir.txt. Make the window fairly wide. You will notice that the data is in roughly columnar format. The first column corresponds to the FID, and the next column is the ORG.
- Now comes a tricky part. You need to find a financial institution that offers similar downloads to the one you just downloaded from your institution. The download types are in the third-to-last “column” of data. For my checking account, I looked for “BANKING&WEBONLY”. Also, make sure the word “ACTIVE” precedes “BANKING&WEBONLY”. You may need to try a few different download types before you get one that works.
- Copy the entire line for the similar institution. You must copy exactly one line of text.
- Determine where your institution should be on the financial institutions list alphabetically and paste the line you just copied. Replace the ID number and institution name with the FID and ORG name in your downloaded file. If the FID is less than five digits, type a zero first. You do not have to worry about the other data on the line, like the web address and phone number.
- Close both files in the text editor and open the experimental data file in Quicken.
- Find the .qfx file in the Finder and double-click on it. Quicken should offer to set up an account for you.
- Assuming all that worked, perform steps 3-12 on your actual Quicken data file.
- Incredibly obnoxious ads. Ads take up at least one-third of the mapping space when you start mapping.
- The cues are sometimes incomplete.
- Buggy user interface. It is constantly thinking that I clicked when I dragged, which re-routes the whole ride sometimes. Yes, there is undo, but that does not make up for the fact that the interface is not responsive and too busy. It feels like they decided to add a ton of features without getting the basics right first.
- No Street View.
- You have to pay $2 to print your route.
I do plan to check out their iPhone app to see if it makes up for these problems.
If you ride a bike, particularly with groups or on routes from books or bike clubs, you know about cue sheets — succinct lists of the turns you should make on a given ride. Better cue sheets also include information about convenience stores and other rest stop possibilities, as well as any road hazards or tricky sections.
Google isn’t perfect, but it is a great tool to get a perfectly serviceable cue sheet quickly. Even if you don’t print it straight off of Google, it is a great way to measure the distances between turns. Here’s how I do it.
1. Look at a Google map of the area around your route. If you are making an out-and-back or circular route, you’ll need to know either the exact address of the start/end point, or at least a nearby intersection. You will also need two additional points. It is best if your three points are as far apart as possible, but still on the route you are planning. If you are planning a one-way route, you simply need to know the start and end locations, as precisely as possible (street addresses are best).
For this example, I’ll start at the Laytons Village Shopping Center, a popular ride start location in Maryland.
We’ll ride north through Etchison and then northwest to Damascus. Then we’ll sweep east toward Woodbine before snaking our way back south to Laytonsville.
2. Go to the standard Google Maps page and click on “Get Directions.” Enter the ride start location. We’ll use “6848 Olney Laytonsville Rd, MD” for this example. The “MD” is just a hint to help Google find the place we want. It is probably unnecessary in this case, but if you start at 1st and Main, you might need to specify a town or a postal code so that Google zeroes in on the place you want.
If you end up with your start address in the “To” field, just click on the swap button (the one with two arrows) to move it to the “From” field, which is marked with an “A.”
3. Enter the first of your extra points in the form of intersections. In this case, we are going to type “MD-80 & Penn Shop Rd, MD” in the text field for “B.”
4. Now do the same for the second extra point. Click “Add Destination” and, for this example, type “Old Frederick Rd & Morgan Station Rd, MD” in the text field for “C.”
5. Next, click “Add Destination” again and enter your end point. In this case, it is the same as the start point, so we can copy “A” to “D.” Your screen should look like this:
6. Make sure “By car” is the type of directions and then click “Get Directions.” Google sometimes gets confused at this point if any of the information you provided is ambiguous (as far as Google is concerned, that is). For instance, two roads could cross each other more than once, and you would have to specify which intersection you meant. Also, sometimes Google is a stickler for a particular format. It seems to prefer “Maryland 80″ instead of “MD-80″ sometimes. Resolve all the ambiguities before moving on.
7. You’ll now get a rough approximation of your route, but cyclists rarely take the most direct route from one place to another. Fortunately, you can simply drag the line representing your route to the correct place. For instance, we don’t want to bicycle on Interstate 70, so I’ll drag the line from anywhere it is on I-70 to a convenient point on my route — say, Long Corner Road. Google will magically re-route you through the point where your mouse is as you drag. When you see the line following the route you want, let go of the mouse button.
Note: Try to stop dragging in the middle of a block, and especially try to avoid picking a point at place where you will have to turn (for example, an intersection or traffic circle). The directions Google eventually gives will be more straightforward if you follow this tip.
8. Repeat as necessary, going in the order you will ride the route. If you need to remove one of your points, right-click on it and select “Remove this destination.”
9. The route is looking pretty good.
But the directions are chopped up into segments based on our initial three points. When you are out on the road on your bike and comparing your odometer to the cue sheet, you want miles from the start point, not miles from some arbitrary point in the middle.
We can solve that problem and make the route one continuous list with a little editing. You might want to click on “View Larger Map” on the map above to follow along.
Click on the “Link” link and copy the entire first text field.
Paste it into any text editor. You will see a really long web address. Within the address, find the word “via” towards the end. You should see something like
. . . &sz=13&via=2,3,4,6,7,8,9,10,11,12&sll=39.269208, . . .
Notice that via is following by an equal sign, and then a list of numbers. The numbers refer to the points that you dragged to. Google lays out the route “via” those points, but without stopping at those points.
Notice also that the list is more or less sequential, but missing the numbers 1 and 5. Add each of those numbers to the sequence, followed by a comma. There is no comma before the first number or after the last number. Do not type any spaces. You should end up with this:
. . . &sz=13&via=1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11,12&sll=39.269208, . . .
Now copy the entire, gigantic edited link and go back to your web browser. Paste the link in the web address field and press return. You should get something like this:
10. On this particular route, Google got a little confused around MD-80 & Penn Shop Road and the new route backtracks where it shouldn’t. I fixed this by dragging one point from MD-80 to Penn Shop Road, and then deleting the original point at the intersection of MD-80 & Penn Shop Road. This also cleans up the list of directions.
11. Click on the Print link and you’ll get a nice list of turns.
- Every other turn is shaded to help guide your eye while riding.
- For smaller roads, you’ll get big symbols indicating which way to turn (and even how sharp the turn is). For roads with route numbers, you’ll get the route number in a big circle.
- The route list also shows the distance to the next turn and the cumulative distance traveled at the next turn. (If we had skipped step 9, we would have gotten cumulative distance since the beginning of the trip segment, which is a lot less useful.)
- You can add a small map or a Google Street View picture to any turn (or all turns, if you prefer). You can customize a map’s zoom level and drag the map if you need to make sure an important feature shows up. You can even rotate a Street View picture left and right by dragging. Don’t overdo it with the maps and Street Views — clutter can be a problem, too.
- You can add some notes in the box at the top.
- Finally, you can add an overall route map by clicking “Include large map.” You will probably have to adjust the zoom level and drag the map so it covers the whole route. If you prefer, you can use the large map to show only the trickiest segment of the route.
12. You can save the route by bookmarking it in your browser (you might want to change the name of the link — I find it useful to include the mileage in the name) or by saving it to Google’s My Maps feature (available if you are logged in to your Google account). You also could print the route to a PDF.
13. You can find places to buy snacks along the way by right-clicking on a point on the route and selecting “What’s here” and then clicking on “Search nearby.” A search for “convenience stores” or “food” can be really helpful.
Unfortunately, Google won’t let you add notes to individual turns or for hazards that are between turns. Also, Google’s print layout is not terribly compact. A true cue sheet artist might find those problems to be too much to bear, but I can live with them, given the time and effort Google saves.
If you ever find that your Mac is mysteriously losing gobs of internal disk space, try this:
- We are about to do some serious deleting, so take precautions. Unmount and eject any external hard drives, CDs, DVDs, network drive shares, etc. Physically remove the discs/disks or disconnect them from your Mac so you can be sure that you won’t inadvertently lose any files. To be extra safe, consider turning off WiFi momentarily or disconnecting your Ethernet connection.
- In the Finder, choose Go to Folder… from the Go menu (or press command-shift-g).
- In the dialog box, type
/Volumesand press return or click OK.
- You should be looking at a Finder listing of all mounted volumes on your computer. If you see a folder with the name of a disk that is not mounted, you can be pretty sure that OS X has surreptitiously copied all or part of an external drive to your internal drive.
- Move the suspect folder to the trash.
- Empty the trash.
I just recovered about 30 gigabytes of space this way.
I use my Apple Time Capsule as a network storage device, which allows any computer in the house to access the files on an external drive. Actually, I hooked up a USB hub and have three printers (laser, inkjet and label) and two external hard drives on my network through the Time Capsule.
Most of the time this works fine. Better than fine, really; it’s a minor miracle. However, sometimes I want to disconnect a disk and then reattach it later. To do this safely, you need to use the Airport software from a computer on the network to “disconnect all users” (a misnomer, because users can continue to connect to the Time Capsule, its printers and the Internet, just not the drives).
When you reconnect the drives, though, Time Capsule often will not see them. And don’t bother politely restarting the Time Capsule through the Airport software.
The only thing the Time Capsule understands when it gets into one of these moods is brute force. You must yank the power cord out of the wall or forcibly withdraw it from the unit. Wait for the internal drive to spin down, then restore the power. Once the Time Capsule understands who’s boss, it let’s you use the external drive.