Review: Deduct home mortgage, investment income, and more with H&R Block's Deluxe Web site

H&R Block's Web-based Deluxe tax preparation service lets you easily include your home mortgage, investment income, charitable giving, and other credits and deductions. The Deluxe option includes everything in Block's Free and Basic services, such as the ability to import data and documents from other tax software and online storage and access of your tax forms. But the Deluxe service adds expert guidance for your mortgage and other deductions, live and real-time technical support, and other extras. You can try H&R Block Deluxe for free without filing or paying until you're satisfied. We … Read more

Florida, Carolinas getting smart grids in $500M push

Progress Energy is moving forward with its plan to spend $500 million to upgrade two of its electric utilities in Florida and the Carolinas to a smart-grid system.

Together the two utilities provide electricity service to over 3.1 million customers. The Raleigh,N.C.-based company is paying for the upgrade in part with a $200 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). The grant came out of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, and is part of the high-profile push by the Obama administration and many state leaders to upgrade U.S. electric grids.… Read more

BlackBerry Starter Kit: Essential apps for newbies

The holidays present a fun time for many of us, whether your form of enjoyment is snowy activities, hot boozy beverages, or new gadgets released specifically for the Q4 buying season. If you count yourself in that last category, you may have been lucky enough to acquire a shiny smartphone recently. It's a BlackBerry, you say? Well, you've come to the right place.

Once you get that sucker out of the box and power it up, the first thing to do is download BlackBerry App World. Now, you have a gallery of apps just waiting to fill up … Read more

Top 10 Black Friday tech deals

Every year, the Black Friday online circulars hit the Web, and lots of sites round up every Black Friday tech deal under the sun. If you want to see massively long lists with loads of models names that make no sense to you, go over to our friends at ZDNet or Gizmodo. They've done an excellent job compiling everything.

However, if you're trying to sort the real deals from all the crap that's being advertised to lure you into the stores, I've done my best to surface some of the more attractive options out there. The … Read more

FBI reports auto thefts, recovery rates down

Although the FBI reports that vehicle thefts are down, you are still unlikely to recover your stolen car if you don't have some sort of electronic recovery system.

According to the 2009 Crime Statistics report, out of the 794,616 vehicles stolen that year, only 343,274 vehicles (43.2 percent) were recovered. This is the lowest recovery rates have been reported in 25 years.

Stolen vehicles are notoriously used by thieves to commit other crimes, or taken to chop shops and stripped for parts. A number of vehicles each year are shipped out illegally overseas.

In a news … Read more

System Info Central

Windows offers a lot of sources of PC information, most of it scattered throughout your system. Gabriel Topala's SIW (System Information for Windows) gathers all that information in a single interface. SIW Technician's Version displays detailed specifications for your hardware, software, and network, including real-time monitoring of CPU, RAM, and network usage. It includes several useful extras, such as the ability to retrieve and display passwords and software serial numbers and key codes. Best of all, it's free for noncommercial users. It doesn't access or make any changes to your properties or settings; it just displays … Read more

Fearless file management

We try to keep our computer organized, but every few months we've realized that it's gotten out of hand again and that it's time to tidy up. Fortunately for us, there are programs like FreeCommander Portable, a basic file management utility that lets users easily move files between different directories.

To be honest, FreeCommander Portable is quite similar to many other programs of this type, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. The interface is plain, consisting of two panes that can be split either horizontally or vertically, with a toolbar and menus across the top. … Read more

Task master

For some professionals, keeping track of what's going on in the workplace is as simple as using the calendar and to-do list in Microsoft Outlook. For others, there are numerous employees, clients, projects, tasks, and details that need to be managed. Easy Tracker 2009 Enterprise - Time & Billing Manager is a comprehensive project management tool that gives both employees and supervisors the tools they need to keep track of what needs to be done and the time spent doing it.

Easy Tracker is actually comprised of a suite of applications, including the Pro and Lite versions and a … Read more

Bare-bones sudoku

We've reviewed our share of sudoku games before, and most of them are quite similar, with subtle variations in interface and features. Power Sudoku 2009 stands out for being among the most bare-bones versions of the popular number puzzle that we've come across. The game is playable, but it really supplies the bare minimum of sudoku features.

The program's interface is quite plain, just a gray rectangle with the traditional sudoku grid. Four buttons allow users to start a new game, submit their completed puzzles, reveal the answers, or quit. When we tell you there aren't … Read more

E3 2010--deja vu all over again

LOS ANGELES--Can someone please tell me why we've spent the last two days rehashing the highlights of E3 2009?

If you were here for last year's video game mega-convention, you will recall that the big news from Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo was the true dawn of the motion control wars. Microsoft unveiled Project Natal, Sony showed off its prototype system, and Nintendo pulled back the wraps on some new improvements to the Wii Motion Plus.

All told, these innovations were going to take us to the next level of video game play, where it's all about gesture-based control and traditional button-based controllers became a thing of the past.

Flash forward to this week, though, and the highlights of the press conferences, at least Sony's and Microsoft's, seem someone familiar. Let's recap. At Microsoft's event on Monday, the biggest news was the formal unveiling of Kinect. This, of course, used to be known as Project Natal.

Microsoft announced that the device would be available November 4 and was able for the first time to name some actual games that will be Kinect-enabled. There will be 15 launch titles, including Ubisoft's Michael Jackson game, as well as six that were featured during the press event, Dance Central, a dancing game from Rock Band developer Harmonix; Kinect Sports, a game that offers soccer, bowling, track, and more; Kinect Joy Ride, a racing game; Kinect Adventures, a game for navigating down rivers and railroad tracks while trying to hit targets; Your Shape, an exercise game; and Kinectimals. However, the demo was very much like the one from a year earlier. … Read more