Nationwide Discontinues Support for Microsoft Money Syncing

I would consider myself to be “fairly good” with money; I like to try and save, I obsessively check my bank balance, and I use Microsoft Money 2005 to keep track of where it goes.
Microsoft Money is a fantastic little tool, even though I use very little of it’s capabilities. The ones I use mainly involve graphs and trends, and if you know me at all that won’t surprise you. It will learn that transactions with Sainsbury’s are food, and Shell is diesel. Over time it will provide me with graphs to tell me “Hey, your spending on food has increased 13% to £X” or “You realise you never spend anything on computer games but you do now?”

Of course, most people cannot be bothered with the sheer boredom of entering every transaction into Money. Some people can’t even be bothered to open a browser, log into to their online banking, download the CSV, import it, make sure it all makes sense… I am one of these people.

Until the 22nd of October 2009 Nationwide were the only bank in the UK to support completely automatic downloading of all your banking data and statements into Money. They were the only bank to EVER support it. Whereas it’s very common in the US for banks to do so, for some reason it never got a lot of interest in the UK which I think it a shame; I’ve been using it for at least 5 years through different versions of Microsoft Money and it’s worked flawlessly since then. I open Money and it instantly downloads all my new transactions, and all I have to do is approve them. It will even understands the difference between savings accounts, current accounts and credit cards, and what you get out is quick and easy to understand graphs and if you want, tips on saving money/paying off debts etc.

But now, all this is no more. Tonight I was only greeted with an error. A quick search on the Nationwide site reveals that just 4 days ago Nationwide shut off this service for good. I suppose I can’t be all that surprised, given that Microsoft hasn’t released a new version of Money for quite some time. Some Googling presents a quote supposedly from Nationwide:

“The decision to stop the Microsoft Money service, after so many years
is primarily due to the provider stopping their own support for the
product. As they assist us with any technical issues and licence us to
provide a dedicated server for this system and we will no longer be able
to do so from 22nd October, the service is no longer available. Please
note this software does not access our main online bank, as you do from
our homepage, it uses a special server designed and maintained under an
agreement from Microsoft they are no longer providing.”

These words are oh so familiar and makes the cut-off even less surprising: special server, license, support… I’m sure there is a lot of good reasons behind the scenes for the cut-off and with Microsoft powering the backend the end date was always going to come.

I do wonder, however, just how many people this affected. There was no communication at all from Nationwide or Microsoft; and searching for the issue online provides many blogs and forum posts of disgruntled users, who no longer have quick and easy access to their data. I do half wonder whether I could find out the file format of the system (OFX is a standard, if it does indeed use that) and write my own proxy that logs in and turns the data into something Money can understand. This is made even more necessary because apparently Money won’t accept a CSV, it will only accept OFX (which seems reasonably given OFX is an open standard for financial data exchange) and Nationwide won’t/don’t provide this. If they did, making the few extra steps to import my data wouldn’t be such a big deal, but as it stands it’s a huge pain.

Homemade Sausage and Bean Melts

Today, Rosie and I woke up and wandered to the local Greggs for some lunch. The “Sausage and Bean melt” being our favourite we, of course, were hugely disappointed when there was none left! at 1:30pm! (I may be over emphasising just how upset we were but still.)

So we thought hey how hard can it be to make some of our own?!

We went to Tescos and purchased a simple selection of items:

1x Pre rolled Jus-roll puff pastry
1x Heinz Baked Beans with Sausages
1x Tesco Pre Grated Cheddar Cheese

Came to about £2.50.

The process was very simple. Unroll the pastry, cut into 4 (this leaves you with some nice rectangles you can fold over) and then spoon on some beans and sausages, a little heap of cheese and then fold over. We then sealed the edges using a fork, to make a sealed package.*

* Note: Whenever I say “we” i actually meant Rosie. She’s good at this kind of thing.

A good 20 minutes later, they’d risen, smelt amazing and they tasted even better. Screw you Greggs! We don’t need your stinkin’ produce.

See the pictures, step by step at Flickr

The finished product:

Sausage and Bean Melt - Rosie and Laurie Style
Sausage and Bean Melt - Rosie and Laurie Style

Fruit Pastilles

I recently went into Tesco’s and saw Fruit Pastilles… It’d been a long while since I’d had those, and I was never allowed sweets or chocolate much as a child, and at 30p I thought it was a bargin. I also happened to be quite ill with manflu at this point, so was hoping they would cheer me up. So imagine my dismay when most of the sweets were the lemon or lime flavours! Eugh! Okay I like these, but come on, nothing can beat blackberry or strawberry! (If you follow my boring ramblings on Twitter you’d already know this far)…

So I decided, you know, this is the internet age, and after having my second packet with the majority of lemon and lime, I complained. The Nestle website made it very easy to do so, and even limited you to a silly number of characters so you couldn’t rant for ages. I didn’t really expect any response, let alone an interesting one but I arrived at my parents place this evening to find a letter from Nestle, woohoo! “Blah blah blah, very sorry, we know people have favourites so we try and evenly distribute, some must’ve slipped through, blah blah” but the best bit, a cheque for £2! Woohoo! Do you know how many packets I could buy for £2?! 6.6! 😀

Hopefully with over 6 packets, I should finally be able to enjoy lots of non crappy flavours! Thanks Nestle!

Automatic Bluetooth Sync for Windows Mobile 6

My housemate dragged out his old Windows Mobile 2003 PocketPC and got it all hooked up for ActiveSync to our corporate mail server, and whilst doing it he found this awesome hack that lets you assign a single button to a) connect the bluetooth port and b) start an ActiveSync.

Handy, I thought, since at the moment with my Vista laptop and Windows Mobile 6 device you have to open the ActiveSync application and then right menu then “Connect using Bluetooth…”

I failed on the first step, however, when if you go to Menu in ActiveSync on WM6, then connections, you can only choose to automatically connect to “`USB”, not Bluetooth. D’oh! So the “replog.exe” hack kinda worked.. It was triggering ActiveSync but it wasn’t really sure what do. I tried editing the registry key (HKEY_CURRENT_USER\ControlPanel\Comm) to “`BlueToothActiveSync” which is how it worked on WM2003 to no avail.

After some Googling I found HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Comm\Rasbook.. A list of all your connections. And in there, voila, the name of my laptop. Windows Mobile 6 obviously handles it slightly differently and allows many different Bluetooth AS connections. I gave it a shot, and changed HKCU\ControlPanel\Comm\Cnct to the name of my laptop, and voila! It started the Bluetooth port, and then start the ActiveSync. The only thing is doesn’t do is disconnect again, which it does on WM2003, but no matter; it’s not too bad hitting the disconnect button 🙂

On a completly seperate note, I wish the rain would go away. I don’t like getting soaked walking to and from work! 🙁