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Technology Q&A

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1. Searching for privacy  

BY J. Carlton Collins, CPA
Q: I’ve heard that search engines such as Google and Yahoo! keep a record of your searches and the websites you visit and that they often share this personal information with other companies. I don’t do anything illicit on the internet, but I’m still not comfortable with these search engines recording my every move.

2. Substantiating trust  

BY J. Carlton Collins, CPA
Q: When introduced to new privacy solutions (such as DuckDuckGo or Disconnect), what assurances do we have that these solutions aren’t themselves stealthily tracking our computing or internet activities?A: Before trusting a lesser-known privacy solution, at a minimum make sure that it meets the following criteria:The company makes definitive public statements confirming it will not collect your data (which could subject it to lawsuits if it does).The company undergoes annual or periodic security audits by reputable auditors, and those findings are made public.The company is endorsed by well-known, high-profile companies that have a vested interest in protecting

3. Shortcuts for evaluating a QuickBooks candidate  

BY J. Carlton Collins, CPA
Q: When hiring a new QuickBooks bookkeeper, what’s a good way to evaluate a candidate’s proficiency with QuickBooks?A: It is easy to evaluate the knowledge of a QuickBooks consultant, because Intuit makes his or her history of certifications public. You can access this information from the QuickBooks Help menu by selecting Find a Local QuickBooks Expert, the results of which are pictured below.

4. How well do you know PivotTables?  

BY J. Carlton Collins, CPA
Q: I was recently asked by a large client if I considered myself an Excel PivotTable expert, and I wasn’t sure how to respond. I have used PivotTables extensively, but by definition, it is difficult for anyone to know what they don’t know—if that comment makes sense. Is there some way for me to self-assess my PivotTable skills?A: I am not aware of any official PivotTable accreditations, but just for you, I created the questionnaire in Exhibit 1 to help assess your knowledge of Excel PivotTables.Scoring.

5. Whiz kids  

BY J. Carlton Collins, CPA
I frequently receive questions from CPAs concerned about their children’s use of computers. It is true that children can become overly obsessed with playing computer games, or worse yet, use their computers to access inappropriate content on the web. These risks can be easily mitigated with parental control software, firewall settings, and, of course, proper parental supervision.

6. Excel reader challenge  

BY J. Carlton Collins, CPA
August is traditionally a lighter time of year for CPAs, and in that spirit I’m offering another reader challenge designed to test your Excel skills. I’ve published an Excel workbook at carltoncollins.com/stockchallenge.xlsx that contains weekly stock price information for 10 stocks during 2013. Here’s the challenge: Download the workbook, start the 2013 year with $10,000 in cash, and identify no more than 10 buy trades and 10 sell trades that will produce the maximum growth by Dec.

7. You Gantt do that  

BY J. Carlton Collins, CPA
Q: Does Excel 2013 provide the option to produce Gantt charts?A: No, Excel does not produce Gantt charts out of the box, but you can create one with a bit of Excel trickery, as illustrated in the following example.1. List your tasks. Start by entering a list of tasks including start dates, duration of each task, and end dates, an example of which is pictured below.

8. Press Alt+P for pizza  

BY J. Carlton Collins, CPA
Q: What technology would you like to see more of?A: I expect technology to make my life more convenient, and I find that Amazon’s 1-Click Ordering option does just that—by clicking a single button, my order is placed, payment is tendered, and the product arrives the next day on my doorstep.

9. Tech-less-ness  

BY J. Carlton Collins, CPA
Q: How should I deal with people who don’t have a clue what they are doing with their computer but constantly want me to help them resolve their petty computer issues?A: Being known as a tech-savvy professional has its drawbacks. Specifically, we are frequently expected to help novice computer users fix their computer, printer, and internet problems.

10. Sweeping formats under the rug  

BY J. Carlton Collins, CPA
Q: I received an error message in Excel stating that my workbook had “Too many cell formats, Excel encountered an error and had to remove some formatting to avoid corrupting the workbook.” What would cause this type of error, and how do I avoid it in the future?A: Copying and pasting data between Excel workbooks with multiple formats and styles duplicates these formats, so they can accumulate over time.
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