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Software The Almighty Buck

Has Intuit Made Good on DRM Removal? 79

M-G asks: "It's tax time again in the US. Last year, Slashdot and other sites were abuzz with Intuit's use of activation software in TurboTax. As a result, many long time TurboTax users, myself included, sought alternatives last year and wrote Intuit to tell them so. After tax season, Intuit said they would drop DRM from future TurboTax releases and other products sold in retail packaging. While I have no reason to assume that Intuit lied, they did violate my trust last year. So, has anyone confirmed that this year's TurboTax is indeed free of DRM? What about products like Quicken?"
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Has Intuit Made Good on DRM Removal?

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  • I haven't personally used it, but many many people I have talked to have said they took out the DRM and are allowing multiple installs from one CD (especially since they can't track it by CD-key anymore). I would probably wait to see the reaction of someone who used it firsthand, however.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      I haven't personally used it, but many many people I have talked to have said they took out the DRM and are allowing multiple installs from one CD (especially since they can't track it by CD-key anymore).
      Federal isn't protected. They encourage you to spread it around and are letting stores give away "free" and $5 copies. After you're done with Federal it then tells you that you can't do state without paying. You have to buy state, and state is node locked to one PC.
      • You have to buy state, and state is node locked to one PC.

        In what way? I haven't tried it yet, but now I'm curious so I'll have to try it even though my taxes are long since done and filed.

        • State is a terrible creation.

          I live in one state and did some work in another state. Then my wife moved to my state (after the wedding) from another state. Three states represented, on with partial year residency, one with full, one with non-residency.

          Their solution: 3 copies of TT:State at 29.99 each.

          Luckily most states are getting their acts together and have the whole thing online.
    • by Otter ( 3800 ) on Tuesday March 30, 2004 @12:51PM (#8715170) Journal
      Out of curiosity, are your friends all in this supposedly huge group of users who do their taxes on multiple computers? Or are they "violating the trust" that Intuit has now placed in them?
      • by Anonymous Coward
        Out of curiosity, are your friends all in this supposedly huge group of users who do their taxes on multiple computers? Or are they "violating the trust" that Intuit has now placed in them?

        Parent comment should be ranked "Score:-1, Assumes that criminal intent is the only valid reason for opposing DRM."

        Are you still using the same computer you did your taxes on in 1999? No? Well, neither are most people. If you need to install an older version of TurboTax to print or revise an earlier return, then you
      • It's called a family of 3 people who all have taxes to do and only one of whom can cash in a mail-in rebate, or spouses who file separately, boyfriend/girlfried living together, group of friends in the same house.....

        Not all are technically using it to the full intent Intuit has, but it's sort of ridiculous to have 5 people in one house filing returns and buy 5 copies of the software at $30 or so each.
  • by TheRealMindChild ( 743925 ) on Tuesday March 30, 2004 @12:33PM (#8714942) Homepage Journal
    Intuit, as well as H&R Block I think, offer an online version of their software. For, visit []

    It's free to use, you simply pay for submission. You always know you are working off of their latest "updates", and no DRM will get in the way. It is Non-IE browser friendly too... and you don't have to buy an upgrade every year.
    • It's only "free" if you don't mind turbotax knowing the details of your finances.
    • "It's free to use, you simply pay for submission."

      Uh, yeah, movie theaters are free to use, you just have to pay to watch the movies. (?)

      Anyway, I checked that site, and they charge $39.95 to use their TurboTax Basic. What a rip! You can buy that retail for about $30, and lots of places have rebate deals, where it ends up being free, or you get a free CDRW drive or something with the rebate. Intuit sent us one of their TurboTax CDs in the mail this year, where you have to go to their website and pay to
      • by admiral2001 ( 518452 ) on Tuesday March 30, 2004 @01:14PM (#8715489)
        What a rip! You can buy that retail for about $30,

        Or much cheaper. It's been around $20 at staples for a while. Type=1&Sku=521733 []

        And for reference, I bought it because:
        • I don't feel comfortable putting all my financial information online in one place
        • I like playing with my taxes a lot playing various 'what-if' scenarios which I may not quite want to put out there
        • I want to make sure that if I reopen my tax return from the past year(s), they will stay the same, using the same program, etc.
        • I don't feel comfortable putting all my financial information online in one place

          But, in fact, when you file your return you are transmitting that information to Intuit, who acts as the clearing house prior to forwarding the return to the IRS. So if you don't trust Intuit's on-line program, what is the basis to trust it's off-line program? Unless you don't file electronically, which doesn't make much sense IMHO

          I used to use TaxCut. Then one year they completely changed the UI, some might say simpli

    • "TurboTax for the Web does not work with the Web browser you are using."

      Using Firebird 0.6
  • I switched to TaxCut when they pulled these shenanigans and I am quite happy with the program. The only down side is I have to run it on an old Windoze computer. Perhaps someday they will have a Linux port. Anyway, so long Intuit. You blew it and I am not coming back!

    • I switched to TaxCut, too, and I think it's a better program: It's cheaper, the online help is better, and it can do comparative analysis for things like filing jointly vs. separately.

      It still, unfortunately, does stupid things like ask you thirty questions to determine whether you are required to pay AMT when you clearly and obviously aren't, but the expert-systems design approach can only take you so far.
    • I switched to TaxCut when they pulled these shenanigans and I am quite happy with the program. The only down side is I have to run it on an old Windoze computer.

      I switched to TaxCut last year (because of the DRM fiasco) and found it to be absolutely horrible. I've gone back to TurboTax this year and saved myself from pulling out my hair. Any piece of crap software can do a basic 1040-EZ, but if you start getting complicated deducations and business income then TaxCut takes a shit on you and sucks.

    • I also switched to taxcut last year because of the drm thing. I love it. It handles all my deductions and everything else just as well as turbotax did. I have no plans to switch back. I don't pirate software and I expect companies to trust me with the product that I pay my money for.
    • I used TaxCut last year as well. But for whatever reason, I didn't like the way it worked at much as TT. So I want to go back to TT, but hadn't seen any further info beyond Intuit saying they were removing their DRM, hence my submission.
  • TaxAct (Score:4, Informative)

    by Mr. Darl McBride ( 704524 ) on Tuesday March 30, 2004 @12:37PM (#8714988)
    I'd like to pimp TaxAct []. It's pretty much a clone of TurboTax with a much sexier & cleaner UI and a cool tax reference book attached.

    I love it because the developers are accessible and willing to listen and respond to feature requests, it runs under wine, and for straightforward taxes, it imports the previous year's data, asks if you've done any of a few major things this year, takes your W2 data, and completes the current year in no time flat.

    You can buy and download the thing online, and there's zero copyright protection. They even encourage you to do multiple returns with it, so you can split the cost with a few coworkers without really breaking the rules.

    • Re:TaxAct (Score:4, Informative)

      by Mr. Darl McBride ( 704524 ) on Tuesday March 30, 2004 @12:39PM (#8715016)
      and there's zero copyright protection

      I meant zero copy protection -- no mechanical means of twarting duplication. Yes, there is copyright protection, as in someone owns and doubtlessly enforces the copyright.

    • Re:TaxAct (Score:3, Informative)

      I used TaxAct this year, but now as we get closer to April 15, I've started receiving spam pimping their product (NOT based on the fact I used their product this year, I've seen it last year too).

      I'm not sure if I can support a company that uses spam to advertise their product. I doubt I'll be using it next year if they continue.
      • I've used TaxACT for two years now. (Just filed my taxes today.)

        The '03 version (this year's) actually has a check-box -- unchecked by default -- when you specify your email address, so they did the right thing this time around.

        I was getting that email as well, from when I used it for my '02 returns, but it stopped when I followed the unsubscribe link. Yes, it was a breach of netiquette for them to send it in the first place, but they did honor the unsubscribe requests.
        • Unfortunately I had deleted it no more then an hour before I noticed this Ask Slashdot with related comments, and being spam I didn't read it (was sent to my spam folder @Yahoo).
  • by Anonymous Coward
    It doesn't install in the boot sector anymore. It now uses protection like Microsoft Windows XP. It generates a unique ID against your CPU or hard drive serial number and MAC address, and you need to activate your copy with that and the original serial number. You can't print or file until you activate your copy, and you can't run it with WINE because it needs to modify kernel.dll to enable its curtained code area, which WINE doesn't yet support/use.
    • Wait a min.

      I bought TurboTax Basic, as I do every year. (I guess I didn't have my tinfoil hat last year) I opened the box, took the CD out of the paper sleeve, installed it, and started my taxes. They have been finished and printed a month ago.

      I didn't bother to look at any of the papers inside, so a quick check... There is no Key or serial number.

      Just how does a hash of my hardware lock an install to one PC?
  • by Deagol ( 323173 ) on Tuesday March 30, 2004 @12:49PM (#8715133) Homepage
    I've been a long-time user of Turbo tax (since early '90s). Last year, after the whole copy protection thing, I switched to TaxACT (per a recommendation here on Slashdot -- good advice, BTW).

    This year, I decided my time was just too scarce, so I went to H&R Block. It cost me about $200 (which I can write off next year), but I got a lot more back than I would have otherwise. I even paid for their little audit guarantee (I'm sure it's about as valuable as an extended warranty at Circuit City, but the $27 seemed reasonable).

    Now I'm not endorsing H&R Block specifically, but I'd say most of us profressionals here on /. would be better served by simply having a professional do their taxes for them, whether it be a tax return mill like H&R Block, the neighborhood CPA, or someone else. I can tell you that I'll never go back to doing it myself.

    And yes, I'm the type of guy who's more than willing to take his car to the local shop for a oil change and lube for $30 than waste the time on it himself.

    My wife and kids see far less of me than I like already. Life's too short to piss it away on oil changes and tax returns. :)

    • I use my accountant and TaxCut. I tend to view their returns as more conservative and my TaxCut as a double check mechanism. In the end having an accountant familiar with your business/personal taxes is good in case the audit monsters attack.

      Everyone should vote for me as the next president. I'd eliminate the IRS and go to consumption based taxes (sales based) on the federal level.
      • Everyone should vote for me as the next president. I'd eliminate the IRS and go to consumption based taxes (sales based) on the federal level.

        Dude, you've got my vote! Seriously, if you could manage to get it through Congress. Where do you stand on property taxes and tarifs?

        • Seriously, if you could manage to get it through Congress.

          Tax reform will never pass, becuase the Federal Income Tax is a hallucinagenic addictive drug for Congress. They get to take 1/3 or more of my income and then use it to pay someone else's rent in L.A. or make sure a big-name Senator doesn't have to pay for the flood insurance on his beach house. If not that, then I'm sure there is a nice road to nowhere that needs to be built or a few more pork projects that could get funded.
        • Remove all property taxes with the exception of purchase/sales based fees (filing costs money, not to mention verifying title, etc).

          Tariffs would mirror the country we trade with (visas, work-visas, etc... as well).

          Consumption based taxes would have to be given a minimum that people don't pay taxes on. For example the first $200 of food per family + $100 per extra family member (documented). Although the numbers for Food, Electricity, Natural Gas/Heating Oil, etc... would be regionally based. In Oklahoma
      • Yeah, but isn't a side effect of a pure sale-based tax system one of people banking their money. When people have to pay obvious taxes on something they spend, they frequently choose not to. If everything is income based tax, they once they paid the taxes, there is no reason to bank it... so, they spend it. In the first case, no one spends money and economy suffers. In the second case, everyone spends money and there is nothing out there to recover from issues, like losing your job.

        Now, not everyone follow
        • Tax avoidance is easy in my system, buy less. It incentivises saving which our country has no idea how to do.

          The federal banking system is there to create money and monitor the monetary supply.

          The positive side effect of taxing everything sales based is there is no easy way (outside of black markets) to avoid taxes if you're an illegal alien, drug dealer, waiter, or any other job that is cash based.

          The government doesn't have to operate at strict break-even, a surplus is better than a deficit in my opini
    • Me too! Not H&R Block, but a different tax expert. "Damn it Jim, I'm a programmer, not a CPA".
    • (I'm sure it's about as valuable as an extended warranty at Circuit City, but the $27 seemed reasonable)

      It is worth exactly as much as an extended warranty at Circuit City, i.e., $-27 to you. Extended warranties are of value only to those people who are so bad at planning their lives that they need to spend more to insure themselves against all the small problems in life.
      Extended warranties prey upon the poor and the stupid, just like the Lottery and Presidential Canidates.
      • A stereo stops work. Small problem in life.

        IRS audit. Not a small problem in life.

        Obviously the tax prep company has done the math and figured out it costs them less than $27 per customer to insure against audits. But they are tax professionals. Self-insuring against an audit may well cost more than $27 at year. This is a simple transfer of risk, and for the person who won't miss $27 it might be a good buy.

        The extended warrnties are different because they cover items easily replaced. Their cost imp
        • IRS audit. Not a small problem in life.

          People are prepared for their tax liability, yes? No, they spent all their money and then some? Then they have a few lessons to learn about life and living within their means. Also, if the IRS really comes down hard on those who lack foresight and are unprepared, they are usually nice enough to do payment plans.
    • Right-on bro.

      My wife and I used to do our taxes ourselves, with either the latest tax software or pencil/paper.

      In 2001 we had our friendly neighborhood CPA do it and we got back way more money than if we'd done it ourselves.

      I have a tiny side biz doing web sites/programming etc. and she's a counselor (independent contractor in a private group/practice) and our acct. was able to help us get a lot of breaks on business expenses (computer stuff for me), etc. that we NEVER would have thought of ourselves.

  • I have a vague recollection of hearing that Intuit planned to stop using activation in their Canadian QuickTax products as well.

    Does anyone know if there is progress on that front?
  • Yes. (Score:4, Informative)

    by afabbro ( 33948 ) on Tuesday March 30, 2004 @12:51PM (#8715164) Homepage
    I've installed it and used it. No activation. As it happens,
    • I installed it on my laptop in January
    • laptop was going to be reimaged so I installed it on my home PC a couple weeks later
    • upgraded home PC to SATA drives and started from clean disks
    So although I haven't pirated it, I've installed it three times on two different machines. It's worked each time. There was a minor bug with one of the installs, but I went to Intuit's web site and the problem and resolution was listed in the FAQ.

    I did the math this year, and

    Retail boxed Fed at Costco + Retail boxed State at Costco - purchase rebates + filing fees - filing rebates
    was less than
    TT for the web Fed + TT for the web State + filing fees
    YMMV. Of course, it would been even cheaper to do it all on paper...
    • Re:Yes. (Score:3, Interesting)

      by /dev/trash ( 182850 )
      Don't forget that you can itemize the cost of Tax preparation as well. It dones't help me, but it's something to think about.
  • by Talonius ( 97106 ) on Tuesday March 30, 2004 @01:21PM (#8715626)
    Someone else said they had GUID based protection but as far as I could tell that's complete bull.

    I purchased TurboTax in January while I was on the road. I installed it onto my laptop and put all the preliminary information in place. February 2 my state was ready for download and purchase and I received my second mortgage statement so I installed TurboTax onto my desktop, moved the file over, purchased and downloaded TurboTax State, efiled, and had my refund on February 6th from the state and February 9th from the Federal.

    No protection on TurboTax on either Federal or State that I saw.

    As for Quicken I've been using it since Quicken for DOS and I've yet to see copy protection on it. The downloadable trials have protection on them ala you can purchase it; and the Quicken Basic version comes with the ability to upgrade to Deluxe by purchasing a key from Intuit, but I've never had a problem with copy protection.

    I think in THAT arena it would be suicide. If I lost a computer and had to fight a software company to get my finances back I'd be ticked.
  • Maybe TurboTax has cleaned-up, but others have not:

    I bought MathCad to assist with my Calculus homework. Much to my dismay, it also uses the same DRM that TurboTax used. There is a service that has to be running for Mathcad to work, and it created a few surrepticiously hidden directories under system32 and the root. I would not have bought the product if I knew it wanted a service running all the time.

    For now, I just enable it when I'm working, and disable it otherwise. And to boot (no pun intended),
    • Quote: Do I call the company and complain?

      Duh. If *you* don't complain to the company, and the next person doesn't complain ... then there is no groundswell. Heck, tell them precisely what you told us, "I would not have bought the product if I knew it wanted a service running all the time," and "I feel like I've unknowlingly funded the digital mafia."

      And find their forums and Usenet news group, and post the same thing in those places. That might set off the groundswell that you want.

      One person can m

    • by Animats ( 122034 ) on Tuesday March 30, 2004 @04:49PM (#8718377) Homepage
      Ah, yes, the infamous "CDAC11BA.EXE". Tha's Macrovision's C-Dilla, also known as SafeCast.

      Actually, this is an improvement. Mathsoft's first try at copy protection complained if you had a debugger installed on the machine. If you had Visual C++ installed, Mathcad wouldn't run. I screamed at them about that, and they "fixed" it. People who do number-crunching work are quite likely to use both.

      AdAware considers C-Dilla OK. It does some annoying things, hiding data on your hard drive, though. But it seems to be well enough constructed not to mess stuff up.

  • You'll never know if they or any other software proprietor removed the spying software because their software's complete corresponding source code is a secret, all you get is a binary. Tax software doesn't need to be proprietary, people should be willing and able to pay for the guarantee and be able to share and modify the program. If you don't pay someone willing to sell you a correct tax computation guarantee, you would have no recourse if the program messes up your taxes. For a reasonable fee I think most people would be willing to buy the insurance.
  • I was satisfied (Score:3, Interesting)

    by FreshMeat-BWG ( 541411 ) <bengoodwyn@m[ ]om ['e.c' in gap]> on Tuesday March 30, 2004 @01:49PM (#8716011) Homepage
    I purchased last year and was bitten rather harshly by the activation scheme which prevented me from submitting my return from behind a proxy w/ pwd authentication. Obviously, I could not install at home after that so I had to mail my return.

    This year, I purchased the software and found no problems with activation at all. The software installed without connecting to the Internet just fine.

    My purchase was especially inspired by a company responding to consumer feedback and I choose to reward such a decision with my $.

  • Free TurboTax (Score:3, Informative)

    by Lish ( 95509 ) on Tuesday March 30, 2004 @01:54PM (#8716085)
    For the masses out there that are students, you can use the web version of TurboTax for free (including filing, and some states are also free) if you are 22 or younger (or in the military, or over 62). Check here []. I've used TurboTax for the Web for the last few years and it's very nice. Even if you don't qualify you can try it out for free, they don't charge you until you either print or e-file.

    There are also other web-based places that have different qualifications for free filing (eg. income restrictions, etc.). Go to and click on "Free File".
  • DRM is gone. (Score:2, Informative)

    by ant1832 ( 680141 )
    I work for Intuit and can confirm that the DRM in turbo tax in definately gone.

    I think long time users who left should give Intuit a little credit for listening to their loyal customers and come back, afterall most other companies would have just ignored the complaints and left the DRM in.
    • I've been using TurboTax for about six years. I had absolutely no reason to change. All that Intuit needed to do to keep me as a customer was not do anything to tick me off.

      Last year, because of the product activation nonsense, I switched to TaxCut. I discovered that the products, while not quite clones, are very, very similar in operation and feature sets. Apart from DRM, there would have been very little reason to choose one over the other.

      Now I'm a TaxCut customer, and I have absolutely no reason to c
  • From my experience the DRM is still present to a degree. Rather than tieing a single install to a single machine via some sort of server registration they have gone to some sort of on disk DRM. The criteria for triggering it has also gone up, but eh conseqence has changed. Instead of hosing your license they make you re-install from the disk. It happened to me. Start tax regurn, realize you are missing some forms, save, close, install free* norton anti virus, start up turbo tax, get message about confi
  • My Dad uses Quicktax (made by Intuit) here in Canada, and it still requires activation. I guess there wasn't enough of an outcry here.
  • Installed with no annoying hoops to go through. I didn't try to pirate it. Get the $20 cheaper version. It sometimes hard to find at Best Buy but it is there. Nothing really useful in the expensive versions. Who needs some guy in a video telling you how to save money on your taxes if you make 6 digits? I would think 6 digit salary types have accountants.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      I would think 6 digit salary types have accountants.

      Six digits really isn't a lot of money. Everyone I work with makes six digits and none of us run around lighting cigars with $100 bills. A lot of people making $100k still clip coupons, still buy used cars, still shop at Costco to buy in bulk, still look at the prices of the restaurant items before they order, still travel an extra mile to save 5 cents per gallon on gas. And yes, still do their own taxes.

      I wish people would stop acting like those who mak

      • I agree with you, and if you're married, it's even worse. There are a lot of people in Washington that would put you in the rich category and raise your taxes to boot too.

        They should change the election to the Tuesday after Tax Day.

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