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How Do You Teach the Memristor?

Two years ago, HP Labs’ Stan Williams and Greg Snider shocked the EE community by announcing a fourth fundamental circuit design element to join the nuclear family of resistor, capacitor and inductor.

A number of news stories, including mine, cited Leon Chua--the originator of the theory of the memristor--who told IEEE Spectrum’s intrepid reporter, "Now all the textbooks must be changed.” (Nature News also contained this assessment, along with Physics World and EE Times, in which he elaborated: “All electronic textbooks have been teaching using the wrong variables--voltage and charge--explaining away inaccuracies as anomalies. What they should have been teaching is the relationship between changes in voltage, or flux, and charge."

So, two years on, what happened with all those EE textbooks?

Most appear untouched by the memristor's actualization. If MIT's Open Courseware site is any guide, Prof. Anant Agarwal’s Circuits and Electronics class makes no mention of the memristor. Nor should it—the class appears on the site as it was taught in 2007, when the memristor was still an irrelevant mathematical dalliance. At the University of California at Berkeley, instructor Josh Hug teaches an intro EE class that acknowledges the memristor in the slides that includes R, L, and C. I’m going to call that a thumbs up. At Columbia University, Prof. David Vallancourt * does not mention the memristor in his intro EE class. We’ll count that as a thumbs down.

But the 2-1 ratio revealed in my breathtakingly ad hoc survey came as no surprise to Leon Chua.

"I don't think the memristor will be taught in undergraduate courses until it is widely adopted in industry for the simple reason that any circuit containing even only one memristor must be analyzed by nonlinear techniques," he told me in an email. "Most professors are educated in linear theories, and are illiterate on nonlinear circuits." As a result, he says memristor circuits will likely be taught initially by computer simulations, like SPICE, where you don't need to know much about nonlinear circuits.  

And Chua’s prediction of the changing of the textbooks still stands, albeit on a slightly longer time scale: “It will take another generation for memristors to be taught in undergraduate courses. I have no doubt however that memristor will be included as standard topics in future textbooks because memristor is not an invention--which becomes obsolete, sooner or later. Rather, memristor is a discovery, and memristive phenomena will become ubiquitous in nano-electronic circuits.”

“Columbus did not invent America,” Chua concludes. “He discovered America.”

Tinkering with memristors. Memtinkering?
"Do you think we'll ever be able to get our hands on a memristor (in a convenient 2-lead surface mount package), or are these destined to stay in the realm of integrated devices and specialty circuits?” asked a particularly incisive poster in this ars technica forum thread the day after the memristor news broke.

"Given that the effect described here requires a nanostructure, probably not, unless someone puts a single one in a macroscale package," replied an equally trenchant observer.

So if you can't play with a physical memristor, you're left with math. "If you understand the math behind memristors, you can create superior device models, such as for SPICE, which means you can design better or more realistic circuits,” elaborates Stan Williams. (Computational neuroscience blog Neurdon has a tutorial on modeling the HP memristor with SPICE.)

This kind of modeling, then, is the only access any young engineer has to "tinkering" with a memristor. But before you can adequately tinker, don't you need to understand the math behind the memristor?

Any EE profs out there who can weigh in? Do you teach the memristor? Do you mention it as a fundamental circuit design element and then save the elaboration until finals week?

Also, given all the advances recently made with memristor logic, spintronic memristors, crossbar memory, and even their use in strong AI projects, should they be taught early on to get students amped about engineering?

* Vallancourt, the poor soul independent source I asked for comment when the story first broke, tells me, "I don’t teach the memristor at all." However, he is haunted forever by his name in my article in an Internet that never forgets. “Ironically, students sometimes mention it to me because they have Googled me and found my brief remarks from a few years back,” Vallancourt told me. "So thanks a lot, dingbat," he did not add.


Is Thorium the Nuclear Fuel of the Future?

PHOTO CREDIT: Nuclear Power Corporation of India
The Kalpakkam fast breeder reactor, near Tamil Nadu, India, is well on its way to completion by 2012. Once complete, it will usher in the second phase of India’s three-stage plan to achieve thorium-based energy independence by 2025.

Many of the reactor choices in this month’s Nuclear Redux are sure to be controversial, both in terms of what we included and what we left out. Our seven designs run the gamut, from incremental advances on existing designs to designs so new they’re barely on the drawing board.

But there’s one design that we’d surely include in a possible follow-up article (look for it sometime in 2015): By that point, it’s likely that someone will have submitted a credible design to the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission for a thorium reactor. That’s because the United States, India, Japan, and Russia (PDF) are among the countries now working on thorium reactors.

The thorium reactor has a sizeable fan base. Proponents argue that thorium provides a nuclear energy generation magic bullet: It’s clean, abundant, cheap, and safe. Now let’s quickly review each of these points.

Clean. Like all nuclear power, a thorium reactor would produce few emissions (which is not to say that nuclear power carries no caveats).

Abundant. Thorium is three to four times more abundant on Earth than uranium. “Any cubic meter of Earth, Moon or Mars has enough Th-232 to run a profligate American's energy life for several years,” says Alexander Cannara, an electrical engineer and green activist who is also an IEEE Life Member.

Cheap. Not only is thorium actually cheaper than uranium, it’s indirectly cheaper. 1) A fully functioning thorium reactor would be smaller and produce less waste. 2) In countries like China and India, where the natural abundance of thorium exceeds that of uranium, obviously the price tag for imported material would be lower.

Safe. Cannara tells us that "there are millennia of thorium atoms within easy reach, requiring no energy-intensive, proliferation-endangering 'enrichment', and no wasteful removal of delicate fuel pellets and rods before even 10 percent of their fuel is consumed."

But perhaps the most promising advantage is that a thorium reactor cleans up after itself. It eats its own waste. Proponents say the thorium reactor could function as a kind of waste disposal mechanism for plutonium and other weapons grade material, as part of its regular energy generation process. This is the miracle that proponents point to. “A Thorium-Fluoride Molten-Salt Reactor is a neutron machine that will fission down any fissile element,” says Cannara.

You’d have to be Ebenezer Scrooge himself to argue with something so amazing.

And in fact, several countries are investigating the possibility of thorium-based energy generation: India's working on an Advanced Heavy Water Reactor, Japan has the miniFuji, Russia is working on the VVER-1000 and even the United States has long term plans to experiment with commercial energy generation by thorium. Most of these plans are nebulous, but for some it’s a serious option. The country with the most specific plan is India, which has drawn up a three-stage process to rely almost entirely on thorium by 2030.

When IEEE Spectrum interviewed thorium reactor designer Ratan Kumar Sinha (who was recently promoted to director of Bhabha Atomic Research Centre, or BARC) two years ago, he explained India’s plan:

In the first stage, pressurized heavy water reactors (PHWRs)--similar to those used in advanced industrial countries--burn natural uranium. In the second stage, fast-breeder reactors, which other countries have tried to commercialize without success, will burn plutonium derived from standard power reactors to stretch fuel efficiency. In the key third stage, on which India's long-term nuclear energy supply depends, power reactors will run on thorium and uranium-233 (an isotope that does not occur naturally).

A year earlier, Sudhinder Thakur, an executive director at the Nuclear Power Corporation of India (NPCIL), told Spectrum that construction on the 500-MW fast breeder reactor, was expected to be complete in 2011. And apart from a couple of minor hiccups, that schedule is on target.

In an email update, Thakur tells me that the Kalpakkam fast breeder reactor is progressing well, with operation slated for 2012. That will take India into stage 2 of their plan. By 2020, four more such reactors will be operational.

The fast breeder reactor is only the second stage of a long-term project. “There are no defined time lines as lot of technology development, research and demonstration activities need to be completed before commercial deployment of thorium reactors for power,” Thakur told me in an email. “I think it is decades away.” First, he explains, “we need to have a significant capacity of the fast breeder reactors where thorium could be used as a blanket.” (For a good overview on what this means, read this article on thorium reactor physics at the World Nuclear Association.)

BARC's 300-MW advanced Heavy Water Reactor will test thorium as a fuel. That project is under IAEA design review, and after it obtains regulatory approval, it will take an estimated seven years to build it.
Thorium has always looked attractive theoretically, but it just has not taken off in countries that have adequate supplies of regular uranium. Despite the many features that recommend it, it's only really attractive for nations–like India and China—that have too little uranium and a big surplus of thorium.

Finally, there are a lot of objections to characterizing thorium as a promising nuclear fuel. I won’t get into the endless back and forth, but the gist of the arguments according to the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research (PDF) is that because Th-232 is not fissile, you need some kind of weapons-grade material to kick-start the chain reaction.

In addition, the IEER challenges the claim that the fuel for these reactors is proliferation-resistant. That’s because thorium is converted into (what IEER calls) fissile uranium-233 in the course of the reaction. “U-233 is as effective as plutonium-239 for making nuclear bombs,” according to the report.

I must note here that there are counter-arguments to these arguments and counter-counter-arguments to boot. If I listed them all it would just be turtles all the way down. Ultimately, we can argue all we want, but the proof will come in the most basic possible form—someone submitting a credible design to the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission or some analogous body. So far, that hasn’t happened. NRC spokesperson Scott Burnell told Spectrum that there “isn't anything on our radar for a thorium-based reactor at this point.”

Required Reading:

The history of the thorium reactor

The thorium reactor and other proliferation-resistant reactor designs

Why thorium is so green

Thorium power in China

Google Tech Talks remix: the Liquid Fluoride Thorium reactor

fMRI in Film: Take it With a Grain of "Salt"

Angelina Jolie in "Salt"I was already politely suspending my disbelief to watch Angelina Jolie's new Cold War-turned-modern thriller, "Salt." I was prepared to play along with the premise that the thin-boned CIA operative she plays could kick muscle-bound male butt for the hour and a half I was paying my $12.50 for. What got me giggling was the film's portrayal of fMRI, the technology featured on the cover of this month's IEEE Spectrum.

The movie's big question hinges on a scene in which Jolie's Evelyn Salt interrogates a "walk-in" claiming to have information about Russian spies well placed in the United States government. When Orlov states that Salt herself is one of them, the audience has to determine the truth of that statement. The CIA operatives, however, claim to be relying on fMRI. Sitting in the next room, apparently looking at brain scans, they claim that the fMRI says that he's telling the truth. So it must be true!

Having just worked on our article, I started laughing. It's always baffling when screenwriters use real technology (Image enhancement! Tritium!) but use it in a way that is futuristically incorrect. Not only was there no evidence of an actual MRI machine--and the enormous magnet that goes with one--but I could spot no wires, and nothing to show how they were pinpointing the brain functions of Orlov himself. Maybe all that acoustic tiling is supposed to be helping. Though maybe they were doing iPhone4 antenna research there as well.

Maybe one day we will be able to do MRI's without an MRI machine or wires. If you want to learn more about what fMRI's are capable of in real life, read our article.

What's the most absurd movie technology that drives you nuts?


Remembering the Dungeon Master

This week in Indianapolis, nearly 30,000 gamers will be convening on the Indiana Convention Center for the annual Gen Con:  one of the oldest and biggest gaming conventions around.  This isn't a show about videogames.  Gen Con was started four decades ago by Gary Gygax, the co-creator of Dungeons and Dragons, as a wargaming convention, and still has pen-and-paper games at its heart.  D&D fans gather late into the night to role play around one of the many tables throughout the halls. Gen Con is a testament to the passion for RPGs that can be found today in massively multiplayer online videogames from World of Warcraft to EverQuest.

Before he died a few years ago, Gygax continued to host his own summer gaming convention in his hometown of Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, the original site of Gen Con.  I fulfilled a childhood fantasy by traveling there to meet Gygax, and ended up spending a long weekend - talking about his career, and  sitting on a game which he ran.  Gygax liked to game on the screen porch of his yellow Victorian home in town.  Players journeyed from around the world to sit in on a campaign with him.  He'd take his seat at the head of the table, unroll some hand drawn maps, crack open a beer, and get going.  I'll never forget him taking a break from the game to tell us about his dream of being chased by an elephant through his backyard.   A few months later, he passed away.  

When I asked Gygax what inspired Gen Con, he said "science fiction conventions, that's what inspired me.  I was one of the three founders of the International Federation of Wargaming.  And a friend said, 'you know, we need a convention.   Gary, go out and do it.' So I said, 'OK.'  And I rented the hall, coughed up fifty bucks, which was the cost for one day.  And it was mainly IFW people that came.  The admission fee was one dollar.   I knew I had just enough to pay myself back for having the hall rented.  I was delighted.  I did all the work.  Wow, it was a lot of work - just for fifty people!"  Gygax told me that one of the early Gen Con attendees was supposedly related to a mob boss in New York, and when the FBI found out they investigated the group.  "The FBI thought it might be a subversive organization, and investigated us," Gygax said.

Before I left, I asked Gygax why he thought role-playing games like D&D continued to survive?  “I didn't realize it when I did D&D,” he said, “but it was capturing the heroic quest theme, you know, the call to adventure, all that.  And the fact that it even added something to it… It's something in the inner psyche, I think, of humanity, particularly males.  And it's so totally removed from the everyday life that it's also appealing, it's great escape.”

The Future of Social Networking is the Surveillance State

Last time I wrote about the social panopticon, I was being tongue in cheek. But today I don my tinfoil hat for real to bring you the Danger Room story of Recorded Future, a company being funded by a CIA research branch and Google to mine publicly available data (including social networking data) for event prediction. If you haven't read it, go do that now. I'll be here when you get back.

The idea is to figure out for each incident who was involved, where it happened and when it might go down. Recorded Future then plots that chatter, showing online “momentum” for any given event. “The cool thing is, you can actually predict the curve, in many cases,” says company CEO Christopher Ahlberg.

Oh, Philip K. Dick, which dystopian future development can’t you predict? Minority Report gave us the department of pre-crime, and we seem to be pretty cool with galloping toward that reality. What else do you do with the "gusher of money" U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates describes in the Washington Post’s fantastic expose of the homeland security boondoggle?


That money gusher, according to the Post, enabled nine years of boundless privatization of national security work. This amazing graphic lays out just how many organizations are newly in existence thanks to 9/11 and taxpayer money. And they all basically exist to do one thing: predict the future.
For Recorded Future, the tool for predicting the future is pattern recognition through social networking.

[Recorded Future] scours tens of thousands of websites, blogs and Twitter accounts to find the relationships between people, organizations, actions and incidents — both present and still-to-come. In a white paper, the company says its temporal analytics engine “goes beyond search” by “looking at the ‘invisible links’ between documents that talk about the same, or related, entities and events."

Unfortunately Danger Room's rare sunlit example is only a hint of what’s to come. In a New Scientist article out this week (read it while it’s hot; I think it will soon disappear behind a subscriber wall) Mark Buchanan points out that researchers are using all this publicly available information to harden what has up till now been the squishiest branch of human knowledge: social science.
Our online footprints (those thousands of baby pictures, all your "likes" and interminable retweets) are helping the social sciences become more like the "hard" sciences by stepping toward quantifying once-elusive qualities like the effects of public opinion. And why worry about the "stolen" facebook data torrent when you're already voluntarily giving up the details of your offline existence with location-tracking smart phones, foursquare check-ins, and contact lists?
The researchers Buchanan profiles "ultimately hope to discover mathematical laws that describe human behavior, and which could be used to predict what people will do."
I have two predictions.
1) After prediction comes machinery.
What kind of machinery? Consider the once soft and squishy field of "deception detection," which now has actual hardware in use by the good people at the Transportation Security Administration. Back in May, Sharon Weinberger profiled the Future Attribute Screening Technology (FAST), hardware under development that is being financed "around $10 million a year," no doubt courtesy of the gusher of money.
FAST (a latter day polygraph) measures nonverbal cues: Weinberger says "the idea is to have passengers walk through a portal as sensors remotely monitor their vital signs for 'malintent': a neologism meaning the intent or desire to cause harm." Inside the portal, thermal cameras and something called BioLIDAR purportedly measure tiny physiological signals including flickers in eye movement, pupil dilation, heart rate and respiration.
How long before “GoogleMe” means something completely different?
2) Recorded Future CEO Christopher Ahlberg is about to lose at least one of his funding sources.
After his proud chat with Danger Room about his cool new project, it’s hard to say which funding source will be the first to disassociate itself from this story—will it be Google, which wants to protect its "don’t be evil” reputation but already has two sizeable black eyes from street-view-data-gate and the Google Buzz privacy debacle? Or In-Q-Tel, which is likely roasting under the gaze of some new scrutiny in the wake of the Washington Post report?


Phil's Vid-Minute: The Chevy Volt is Still a Costly Mistake

IEEE Spectrum senior editor Philip E. Ross, feels vindicated by the high sticker price of the Chevy Volt.

 Discussed in this video blog:

Loser: Why the Chevy Volt Will Fizzle
January 2010

Article: General Motors' Chevrolet Volt hybrid car is a courageous design, but it won't make money

Nissan's All-Electric Leaf Doesn't Stint on Performance
April 2010

Article: The Nissan Leaf is limited only by the range of its battery's charge


The Race to Design a Nanopore Gene Sequencer Heats Up

I just spent the last glorious week up at Jackson Laboratory in Bar Harbor, Maine listening to researchers explain the state of medical genetics. "Next generation sequencing" was a term I kept hearing. What's clear is that being able to quickly and inexpensively sequence the complete genome of a patient will revolutionize research into, and eventually the treatment of, nearly every disease out there. We now typically look at the genome with a flashlight, sequencing those areas for which we have a reliable lead. Soon, we will be working under a floodlight.

Robert Nussbaum, a geneticist from UC San Francisco said it best. "It's going to illuminate the dark matter of the genome."

The technology to keep your eye on is called nanopore sequencing (here's a good intro), and this summer has been particularly exciting. Two groups have published variations on a similar approach to sequencing DNA by passing it through a perforated sheet of graphene. Both are described in the journal Nano Letters (here and here).

In theory, the technology would work like this: directed by an electrical current, DNA would pass through nanosized holes (about 5-10 nm in diameter) in a single layer of graphene. Because the graphene is so unimaginably thin (1-5nm thin) only one pair of bases would inhabit the pore a a given time. Fluctuations in the electrical conductance of the membrane and measurements of the ionic current will be specific to each base pair in the DNA and can be used to sequence it as it passes through.

This is, so far, the most promising approach to be described. Let me give you a couple more of the consequences of next-generation sequencing that I've absorbed in the last week. It will give us insight into why individuals respond differently to drugs and will eventually personalize drug therapy. It will make individual gene testing obsolete. It will bring new, rare gene variants to light that we can then begin studying in relation to disease.

It will also, very importantly, put pressure on companies who have large databases of the genetic information they've mined from patients and clients to make their resources public and available for research. Nussbaum estimated that only about 5% of that information is now available publicly. Next generation sequencing would make it less of a commodity.

He also emphasized however, that this deluge of data makes it even more important for us to get on track with electronic health records. "We absolutely have to have electronic records," he says.


Is Microsoft Looking to Dominate Wireless with Strong "ARM" Tactics?

By now, everyone who keeps an eye on the consumer electronics market is aware of the way Microsoft operates. It has been repeatedly taken to task by European and U.S. authorities for wielding its Windows operating system monopoly like a cudgel to prevent upstarts from horning in on its territory or as a battering ram for breaking into new arenas.

So when it was reported that Microsoft has expanded its licensing agreement with mobile processor designer ARM, industry analysts immediately began plotting out the software maker’s possible chess moves. How will Ballmer & Co. put itself in a position to reap more from the fact that wireless handset makers currently sell more than a billion of these devices a year? Though the Redmond, Wash., software behemoth is being tight lipped about how it plans to use the parts of the ARM instruction set to which it has just gained access, it is believed that the motive is to learn how to optimize software packages like Windows Phone 7 so that they run faster on chips that require less power and therefore offer longer battery life in devices designed to slip into one’s pocket. That makes a lot of sense, considering its upcoming launch of the Windows Phone 7 handset with AT&T as its primary service provider.

But if history is a reliable barometer, what Microsoft really covets is what it has enjoyed with desktop and laptop PCs: being the maker of go-to software that is so basic as to be indispensable. Imagine what it would be like for Microsoft to find itself in a monopoly position with respect to some element of the new smartphones, e-book readers, and competitors to Apple’s iPad tablet coming to market in the next few years. With that in mind, Microsoft would be hard pressed to remain a bit player in a market segment where fortunes are continually being minted. But one question remains: Will the company claim a niche because a newfound understanding of how ARM processors work will yield superior software, or will it default to strong arm tactics of the type that once had it on the brink of being broken up like AT&T?


Why Mint Doesn't Measure Up

When Intuit bought and its 1.5 million users in September 2009 for $170 million, it was widely assumed that the company would eventually transition the current users of its Web-based Quicken Online personal finance application to the award-winning Mint. Intuit kept Mint founder and new media darling Aaron Patzer and its development team on board, and it promised Quicken Online users that “good things are coming your way.” Aaron even sent note on April 29, 2010 telling me and my fellow Quicken Online users:

Dear Valued Customer,

Since Intuit acquired, our personal finance teams have been hard at work (behind the scenes) combining Quicken® Online and into the single best way to manage your money online— from the makers of Quicken.

You will still enjoy the features you know and love in Quicken Online plus so much more. It will make personal recommendations based on your spending to help find ways to reduce your bills and cut your interest rates—on average, saving people hundreds of dollars. And, best of all, it will remain FREE!

We'll let you know when we get closer to a release date. In the meantime, you can continue to use Quicken Online just like you have. Once we have completed integrating all features to Mint, you will be able to easily transfer your information and data to ensure the smoothest transition possible.

Thank you for your continued loyalty.

Wow. Mint. All those awards. All that glowing praise from the personal finance and Web press. And I'll be able to easily transfer all of my information. Maybe they'll even do it for me, I thought. Bring it on!

Then two weeks ago Intuit reversed that decision. On July 16, 2010, good old Aaron sent me and all other Quicken Online users another note, this time with bad news:

Dear Valued Customer,

For the past several months, we've been working hard to combine the best features of Quicken Online and into a single online personal finance solution— With the improved, you can enjoy the features you love in Quicken Online, plus new benefits such as connecting to over 16,000 financial institutions, including Canadian banks—as well as tracking your investment and retirement accounts. There is also a new Goals feature that takes the tool you enjoyed in Quicken Online to the next level.

As a result of these changes, Quicken Online will no longer be available as of August 29, 2010. Creating a new account is easy, but for reasons of security and accuracy, we cannot create one for you. Once you're signed in, you can add your accounts and see your financial picture in just a few minutes.

While it only takes minutes to sign up, I do urge you to make the switch at your earliest convenience. After August 29, 2010, you will no longer be able to access Quicken Online or your data stored in it.

If maintaining a record of your Quicken Online data is important to you, you can export it to a CSV file. If you have any questions, we're here to help. Click here to view a list of common questions.

We look forward to continuing to serve you with—the best online personal money-management solution available. Sign up today.

Disappointing but understandable. No doubt that migration is tough, and transitioning all the user bank, credit card and bill information set up in Quicken would be a monumental task. It would have been nice if Aaron would have been straight with Quicken Online users about those difficulties instead of telling us about all the great new features but hey, I can take a hint. And killing off my Quicken Online account certainly makes sense from Intuit’s point of view—they did pay $170 million for Mint, after all. Might as well start recouping some of those costs and shuttering Quicken Online is a big step in that direction.

So migrating my own stuff on my own might be a hassle but it will be worth it, I thought. Aaron has personally assured me that his team has been working hard to combine the best of both sites. Mint debuted at TechCrunch, got raves on this very Web site, and won a slew of awards. 1.5 million users can’t be wrong, can they?

Sure they can.

Awards are fairly easy to come by on the Web and 1.5 million users isn’t exactly a bellwether of a great site—just look at MySpace (actually, spare yourself the trouble). But Quicken bought Mint for $170 million—the more I say it, the more my head hurts—so, hey, it’s gotta be good, right?

I’m here to tell you that for many users, especially those from the Quicken Online diaspora, Mint,—and I’m searching for a really nice way to say this—Mint sucks.

Here’s why. In addition to several usability quirks—like signing you out of the application while you pour yourself a cup of coffee or the practically unusable drop-down calendars that require a surgeon’s steady hand to select dates—Mint does not let you schedule transactions in future. While Quicken Online was far from perfect, it let me schedule transactions in future, so I could budget at a very granular level of detail. Not so with Mint.

In keeping with it's Web 2.0 Weltanschauung Mint does have some very active message boards. So I went there to get some satisfaction. Judging by the posts I read, anger and frustration among Quicken Online users is rising. Open rebellion is being proposed and most shocking of all is that for months users have been complaining of the lack of the most basic budgeting functionality and have been summarily ignored:

abloxom replied 4 months ago
This is the number one reason I use Quicken 2007. Scheduled transactions allow me to see in advance how much money i'll have if I make all of my CC, Phone, and Utility Bills on time and in full. I'm able to easily evaluate how much I can spend without going over my limit. Come to think of it, it's the ONLY reason I use Quicken at all.

Amen abloxom. And the affable Jami from Mint responded:

Jami, Official Rep, replied 4 months ago
Hi wlteague4289,

As this feature is not currently available, I've changed made your question an idea so it can be considered by the product team.

Thank you,

Mint Community Manager

So while Mint’s product team has been twiddling around merely considering adding the most basic functionality for the last few months, they’ve made absolutely sure that they have some kind of business model in place to make money off the Quicken Online users they are asking to migrate. Mint has put a ton of resources into partnering with financial institutions and credit card companies to offer you alternatives to your higher interest rate credit cards, for instance. Great. But if Quicken loses thousands of customers in the next few weeks because its product cannot meet user needs in terms of the most basic functionality, all this Webby-award winning new economy goodness will be for nought. That means zero, Intuit. As in ZERO Quicken Online conversions.

Thankfully, members of the Quicken Online diaspora are more than willing to help each other. Help each other escape Mint, that is:

amysun123 replied 9 days ago
I'm thinking of migrating to a new product (GreenSherpa) that has everything I need. I am even willing to pay a small monthly amount to have useful functionality. QUESTION to fellow forum users: What do you all think of GreenSherpa: ? It seems to have everything we need and it's only $5.95/month. Does anyone have any experience with that product? Should we all do a mass migration and leave Mint in the dust?

Wizznilliam commented 9 days ago
Why pay $5.95 a month when Yodlee has everything Quicken Online had and more for free. The only shortcoming I have seen so far is that it does not automatically give the pretty cleaned op transaction descriptions that Mint is good at doing and QOL was only partially good at. Everything else is there and it is HIGHLY customizable. And Free Bill Pay so you can do EVERYTHING all in one place. I'm digging it so far. There are a few quirks. But they all have them.

I’ll be checking out Yodlee, Greensherpa and whatever else I can find and reporting back in the next few weeks. If Intuit is going to force us to go to something other than Quicken Online, then we should investigate the alternatives to the sad excuse for personal finance site that they are offering. If you have any suggestions, let me know.


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