I Did a Bad, Bad Thing

Hat tip to Chris Isaak

A New OS
So as many of you know, Apple released its latest operation system, OS X Lion, in July. Apple boasted that OS X 10.7 “the world’s most advanced desktop operating system,” with the addition of over 250 new features. Most of us who’ve embraced Apple, know to look upon such declarations as part hyperbole part fact.  There are indeed plenty of welcome additions in Lion, including aesthetic tweaks and attention to mounting privacy concerns. Some of my favorite features include multi-touch gestures, airdrop, icloud, multiple desktops, full-screen apps, resume, auto-saves, and versions.

As with many of Apple’s OS updates, there was concern that some third-party apps might not be compatible. So before purchasing Lion from the App Store, I did some research. After pursing discussions on several different forums and reading my trusty sources Mac/Life, Macworld, and The Unofficial Apple Weblog, I determined there were very few Lion incompatible applications on my MacBook Pro, and the few that were I could easily live without.

I found adapting to the changes in Lion while working on my laptop was easy, and I was making lots of use of the new features. I’d opted to begin using the system on my laptop because that’s where I do most of my work and so was the place where I learn the most in the least amount of time.

The Big Fuck Up
This past weekend, I decided to install Lion on my iMac. I went to the app store and was delighted to find that the download was free since I’d previously purchased the OS for another computer. The download and installation went smoothly as they had with my laptop. I did a little disk clean-up after installation and began grading papers. MS Word worked well with Lion, and I was happily zooming along. Before shutting down, I decided to balance my checkbook and WHAM: Quicken wouldn’t open. I immediately searched the web and found hundreds of sites where this issue was being discussed. I read and read and read in the hope of finding a quick and easy solution, but there were none to be found. The problem, of course, was that Quicken files used proprietary data and so could not be accessed by other programs.

What possessed me to simply load Lion on my iMac without doing some reach? How could I risk the loss of 11 years of financial data with a click on the mouse? I was pissed–pissed at Apple, pissed at Quicken, and most of all, pissed at myself.
After stomping around and swearing and scaring the crap out of my cats who had been sleeping on their fancy scratching post/tree, I settled down and began researching new financial software options.

iBank, Mint, MoneyDance, iFinance, and See Finance kept popping up in reviews, so I downloaded trial versions of each and did a little test driving. Each had features I liked, but in the end I went with MoneyDance because it looked and worked the most like the Quicken 2004 I’d been using for years. I downloaded the 6 months of bank statements, and set up my new program. I wasn’t giving up on finding a way to get back my 11 years of data, but I needed to get something up and running before I was overdrawn and even more pissed off.

Frustration Central
Whenever I found time over the next few days, I searched the web for a solution. The best option it seemed was downgrading to Snow Leopard, using Quicken to export the data in an accessible format, and then upgrading back to Lion and moving on with my life. The problem was, while I was able to locate the flimsy cardboard box for Snow Leopard, I couldn’t find the damn disk. I hated the idea of paying $29 for software I already owned, but it soon seemed that was my only option. It was then I discovered Snow Leopard was only available from the online Apple Store; I couldn’t purchase a digital download, and I didn’t want to wait any longer than I had. Then another problem surfaced: it was so easy to back down to Snow Leopard; some people argued, in fact, it was a royal pain in the ass.

Enter the Genius
Finally I decided to try a long shot. In most cases, I would have turned to the Genius Bar at my local Apple Store as soon as I discovered I couldn’t solve the problem. But this time things were a bit complicated: I couldn’t prove I owned a copy of Snow Leopard (although I had to have had it installed to upgrade to Lion) and we were dealing with personal financial data. But I figured it was worth a shot, so this past Thursday, I dropped by my local Apple store to chat. I worked with a very helpful fellow who went off to do some research, came back and said, “we can take care of this. Let’s get you a Genius Bar reservation so you can bring in your iMac and take care of this problem.”

I was psyched. This way I wouldn’t have to purchase another copy of Snow Leopard, and I wouldn’t have to risk making my problem worse by losing all my data in a down grade. So Friday I grabbed my iMac (well, actually Mr. Desert carried it for me) and headed to the Apple Store. I sat down at the bar with a lovely young woman who listened to my problem with a puzzled look on her face. “Hmmm,” she said, “you really can’t just go back to Snow Leopard.” I told her I’d read about problems with that, but the guy I’d spoken to the day before said it could be done. She thought about it a bit, then turned to the computer next to her and started typing. As she did, I explained to her that what I needed to do was to be able to use Quicken to convert the data files into a .gif format and then export the files so I could access them with MoneyDance or any other program they recommended. She looked up from the computer as she said “I got it.” She turned to the guy next to her who said, “we can’t do it. We can’t deal with financial data.”

“But,” she said, “if we just boot her computer from our Snow Leopard server, we could work from her computer. No data would leave her computer.” He agreed but didn’t think it would work.

But, it did work, and now my 11 years of financial data are saved in a format almost any program can access, and it’s set up in MoneyDance so I can do what I want with it.

As I thanked the young genius for her help, she turned to thank me. “I’ve had several people come in with this problem,” she said, “and now thanks to your research, I have a way to help them.”

I guess great minds really do think alike.

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One Response to I Did a Bad, Bad Thing

  1. Doc says:

    Good thinking. And I admire your tenacity. Problems like this can be so frustrating.

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