Fate of Buxfer: The Expected

Buxfer (www.buxfer.com) is the free online personal finance software that I’ve been using for the past two years. It offers budgeting, planning and online money management. This is one of the best online finance tools for those who live outside US and/or prefer imputing bank transactions manually. The great and unique feature of this is the ability to track split bills and IOUs with friends and roommates, and this became very useful after I started sharing a house with friends.

Buxfer co-founders
From left, Ashwin Bharambe, Amit Manjhi,and Shashank Pandit, co-founders of Buxfer. (A 2006 photo from Post-Gazette by Lake Fong)

Buxfer was launched in 2007, but due to unknown reasons (may be loosing popularity) the founders abandoned the project and left to work for Facebook. When this news got public I emailed one of the founders Shashank Pandit, and asked about the fate of Buxfer. His reply was,

From: Shashank Pandit
Date: Fri, Nov 5, 2010 at 4:41 PM
Subject: Re: Buxfer Closing Down
To: Nimal

Hi Nimal,

Rest assured, we will notify you if we were to shut the service down and give you the chance to download your entire data. For now, we don’t have any plans to shut down. Curious: where did you hear this from?

Cheers,
Shashank.

It was not until late 2010, I started having major problems with Buxfer. Random short outages were happening time to time, but it was acceptable until that point. But during the last week of 2010 things got messy and the website went down for more that two days. I thought this is my time to move on, and switched to a simpler Google Spreadsheet. I tried other similar websites, but only a few of them support non-US accounts and non of them have proper IOUs as Buxfer has. Managing too many transactions on a spreadsheet can be a pain, but it can be more reliable and in control than these cloud services.

Buxfer suffered another long outage during last week for four days, and even lost some of their data. They posted an update on my account that some transaction details were lost as a result of this. I checked my account to find that all my transactions after December 26th were lost. Luckily I downloaded all transactions on December 31st and started using Spreadsheets to manage my transactions from 2011.

Buxfer was offline for the last four days. Our hosting provider had severe availability issues because of which our servers were down. We had to migrate our service to new servers in order to get the site back up. In the process, some data might have been lost and we sincerely regret that.

One would not expect this from a finance software, but it’s explained by the following statement, which shows the current state of Buxfer as a company. For the first time they have accepted (even though it was already known) that this is now a part-time project for them.

Since the past year, Buxfer is being maintained part-time by one of its original founders. The goal of Buxfer is no longer to make a profit, but to continue to serve its users the best way it can. The membership fees we charge are barely sufficient to cover the costs of running this service. Many of you have written to us saying that it might be better to shut down the service instead of providing a service with lack of proper support. If that’s what most of our users feel, we are planning to shut down Buxfer in the near future.

I guess its time for another great service to part from the Internet. I believe this project could be open-sourced and live long as a personal hosted service. It’s unfortunate that a useful product like this is going to die, but its the way things are on the Internet, and we learn to live with it.

Free calls to US using Google Voice & Gizmo (with IPKall or a Friend in US)

[Update: Gizmo5 has been acquired by Google and so new user sign-up has been suspended. Use CallCentric.com to get a SIP number instead of Gizmo5 and Express Talk instead of Gizmo5 client. Gmail can also be used as a client for Google Voice. An updated guide can be found at Digital Inspiration, titled Get Google Voice from Outside the U.S.]

So how did I get my Google Voice number from outside US… Yeah I live in Sri Lanka, and I have registered my Google Voice number and use it without any restrictions…!

Google Voice is a wonderful service that functions like a virtual phone switchboard, and you can manage calls and route them to your various phones, voice mail, etc. It gives you a free phone number that can receive regular phone calls and route them to any other actual phones you have connected to your account.

Unfortunately, currently its forwarding abilities are limited only to US phones. Also you are not allowed to access service registration when you are outside US. But I was able to do some workaround with the help of couple of online guides to create my own Google Voice number.

How to signup to Google Voice?
Currently its only by ‘invite mode’ but you can get an invitation within a week or so. During the signup process you will be required to verify your account via a US telephone number.

How to access the Google Voice website for signup from outside US? (After you are signed-up you are allowed to access even from outside US)

  1. Get a friend of your’s in US to do this.
  2. Use a SOCKS Tunnel to access. (I won’t suggest this as its risky, also web based proxies won’t help)

How to get a US number and verify it when you are outside US?

  1. Get a friend of your’s in US to add his home number and verify it for you.
  2. Buy a US number as a CallIn number on Gizmo, or any other similar providers, (priced around 10 – 20 $). (Callcentric, Voxalot)
  3. Get a free US number from IPKall (forwarded to Gizmo or any other VoIP service) that can be added to Google Voice signup.

How to connect this with Gizmo?

  • Register for a free Gizmo account and get your Gizmo number (which is a SIP number, that can be used on any SIP client, on PC, on mobiles, on ATA devices)
  • Add your Gizmo number in your Google Voice settings page.
  • Add your Google Voice number in your My Gizmo page.

What I have got now?

  • I have a Gizmo account I can add to any SIP enabled device.
  • I have a IPKall number which is also a US phone number forwarded to my Gizmo account, but I’m not going to use that at all.
  • I have a Google Voice number (thats what we wanted to have…!).
  • Any one can call my US number 540-IMN-IMAL (540-466-4625), and it will ring in my Gizmo phones, SIP applications or any other device. Its free for me.
  • I can call any US (& Canada?) numbers for free, (at least for 3 minutes).

Thats how I got my nice Google Voice number. I’m ready to help you if you want to get your own Google Voice number, just leave a comment.

Further Reading:

  1. Gizmo Voice – A mashup using Gizmo5 and Google Voice
  2. Adding a Gizmo number to Google Voice
  3. Taking calls from Gizmo
  4. Google Voice from Wikipedia

Geocities web sites to Internet Archive – An Effort to Save the History of Personal Web

GeoCities has been an important platform for personal web sites since the early days of Web. With the recent news from Yahoo that GeoCities is going to be discontinued on October 26, 2009, the Internet Archive, a nonprofit founded to build an Internet library and archive the public Web, is working over the next few months to ensure their collection of GeoCities sites is as deep and thorough as possible.

We can help in this effort by suggesting know Goecities sites, which are no more maintained, but have useful content of value or even your own historical Geocities page!

See details or submit your site for indexing!

Why the YouTube logo changed to Green?

I was just creeping through YouTube, just to find something interesting to watch,what got my attention was the changed YouTube logo.
Just a little Google search revealed that this green logo is to celebrate the Saint Patrick’s Day.

Saint Patrick’s Day is celebrated worldwide by the those of Irish descent and increasingly by non-Irish people (usually in New Zealand, Australia, and North America). Celebrations are generally themed around all things Irish and, by association, the colour green. – Wikipedia

YouTube goes green for Saint Patrick’s Day…! So I am with making this post in green font… 🙂



Happy Saint Patrick’s Day to all…!