Archive | December, 2013

Best Windows 8.1 Ultrabooks with Retina Display

30 Dec

This Holiday season the MileLogr team decided it was time to upgrade our laptops. For many years we’ve been loyal to ThinkPads which are quite popular among professionals. Stefan, in particular, was hanging on to his ThinkPad T60p which is so old it still bears the IBM logo! Apparently it’s the last model where the screen has a 4:3 aspect ratio which is great for coding. Nevertheless, we pried it from his hands and went shopping.


We were impressed with the fantastic choices that are available now and faced a new reality where ThinkPads are not anymore top-of-mind for professionals who use PCs. We fell in love with ultrabooks because they are sleek and powerful especially the ones with “retina” displays which are simply stunning. Retina is a term introduced by Apple not too long ago to indicate high resolution, high DPI screens. They achieve an incredible text and graphics sharpness by packing in around 220-250 DPI (dots per inch) as opposed to the traditional 72 DPI which LCD screen have had thus far. Once you go retina you don’t want to go back . And since the PC ecosystem is cool again PC manufacturers are also using such screens now.

Here’s our shopping guide and recommendations for those of you looking to get a new laptop.

Budget Ultrabook ($800-900)

This is the ~$800 range which, frankly, is a bargain for the kind of computing power a laptop packs these days (a thousand Apollo 11s). At this price range what you usually get are the ugly ducklings in the traditional laptop category. But aside from supplying some  of those traditional designs Dell, does a take on the Apple unibody design in the incarnation of the Inspiron 14″ 7000 Series Touch with 6GB RAM, 500GB traditional hard disk and a 1920×1080 resolution.

Pros: touch screen, premium feel, comfortable keyboard, upgradable (unlike most ultrabooks which are not)
Cons: doesn’t have an SSD, but since you can self-upgrade not a problem
Reviews: CNET

Affordable Sleekness ($1100-1400)

This is the ~$1200 range which makes us nostalgic because in 1990 we bought our first “286” PC for this much money. A dishwasher has more computing power these days . Two ultrabooks stand out at this price range:

1)  Lenovo’s Yoga 2 Pro with 4GB RAM, 256GB SSD and a gorgeous 3200×1800 resolution is on the lower end of the mid-range price spectrum. This would have been our laptop of choice had it had 8GB RAM  but unfortunately you can’t upgrade the memory since it’s soldered onto the motherboard. We feel we need 8GB to code all the awesome features we have planned for you. But unless you know you need this much RAM it’s the best laptop of the bunch.

Pros: 360⁰ flip-and-fold design: what a convertible laptop should be (when they say “yoga” they mean yoga); touch screen, great value for money, great performance, modern design in two colors
Cons: keyboard is crammed with an extra row of keys that makes “return” and “backspace” too narrow and easy to miss; it’s a pity since ThinkPad/Lenovo set the standard for best keyboards for decades.
Reviews: Engadget

2) MacBook Pro 13″ with Retina display with 4GB RAM, 128GB SSD and a 2560×1600 resolution is on the upper end of the mid-range price spectrum. Yes, you read that right. We are recommending a MacBook for running Windows 8.1. You can install Windows 7 or 8 side-by-side with MacOS and Apple has very good driver support that conforms to Windows’ paradigms. For instance, the Command key functions as the Windows key and clicking on the right edge of the single-button track-pad acts as a right click.

Pros: hipster status in coffee shops, unbeatable battery life, great performance, can also runs Mac OS X
Cons: no touch screen, Windows users still need to keep MacOS around because there’s no other way to install firmware upgrades and that takes up 28 of the 128GB
Reviews: Engadget 

Splurge

This is the ~$1800 range which admittedly is expensive given all the sub-$500 tablets and sub-$1000 laptops out there. But you do get a lot of sexiness for the money. In particular, we liked the Samsung ATIV Book 9 Plus with 8GB RAM and 256GB SSD. It has a gorgeous screen with a 3200×1800 resolution.

Pros: best looking, great performance, touch screen, “Side-Sync” with Samsung Android smartphones
Cons: You can buy tablets for the entire family for the same money
Reviews: Engadget

Enjoy and do share your thoughts. May you have a productive 2014!

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Automatically Create Mileage Log for 2014 Tax Return

1 Dec

As the year came to a close we asked the good folks at Summit Accounting and Accounting and Financial Women’s Alliance for their thoughts on 2014. Their message was simple: make sure you have a proper mileage log prior to filing your taxes. It might seem obvious but many folks guesstimate which leads one to think the mileage log can be reconstructed from the guesstimation at the time of an audit. But that’s not the case!

Over the past several years, the IRS has continued to refine audit points to find taxpayers that are not compliant with the Internal Revenue Code (”IRC”).  Record keeping is becoming paramount in defending the values reported as deductions to the Internal Revenue Service (“IRS”).   In 2012, there were several cases that went to Federal Tax Court addressing mileage logs used to claim the mileage deduction.  Most notable is the Moore case (Moore, T.C. Summ Op 2012-16).  The taxpayers had mileage logs, but those mileage logs did not meet the IRC requirements and thus a component of the disallowed expenses was the mileage reported.  In 2013, the Tax Court addressed mileage logs generated after the return was filed (Longino T.C. Memo 2013-80 and Daniel-Berhe T.C. Summ Op 2013-33), in each case the mileage deduction was disallowed or substantially reduced.

Additionally, there has been an IRS audit memorandum in regard to the preparation of mileage logs after the federal tax compliance has been filed.  In other words, if the IRS auditor thinks you generated the mileage log after you filed the return, they may disallow the mileage deductions.  If your return was prepared by a third party, the IRS may subpoena from the third party a copy of the documentation you provided for the mileage deduction.

To ensure that your mileage deduction meets the requirements of the IRC, our accountants are asking all clients to provide a mileage log to
substantiate their mileage deductions for 2013.  While this sounds ominous, it doesn’t need to be to administratively difficult.   There are several methods for tracking mileage, from a piece of paper that states the date of the mileage, the business purpose and the number of miles to more complex electronic systems.  Since most business mileage goes through appointments on your calendar, using an electronic interface to your calendar makes the mileage log easier to compile.  Of course we recommend using MileLogr to easily create your mileage log, but regardless of the method or program you use to track your mileage, please be informed that without a mileage log that meets the IRS requirements, your mileage deduction is at risk.

Even though few return have had inquires from auditor, it’s much safer to take the position that every return will be audited.  Having the documentation readily available to respond to the IRS is critical to making a challenge of your deductions successful.  Therefore, plan ahead and supply your accountant with a copy of your mileage logs for the preparation of your 2013 federal tax compliance.