Archive for the 'Personal' Category

Matt’s Whisky Trivia

Thursday, March 3rd, 2011

Due to popular demand I decided to share a collection of random notes I have assembled from various sources over the years on the topic of whisky – with a focus on Single Malts. Some of the trivia on specific whisky's or distilleries may be out of date at this point – leave a comment and I will update things as required.

Enjoy!

Whiskey or Whisky?

Let's get this out of the way first. Which is it? "Whiskey" or "Whisky"? Well – bottom line is that these spellings are used interchangeably by most people. However to keep the semantically oriented happy I thought I better look into this a bit further. It seems that the Scottish maintain a clear distinction here. What they make is "whisky". What everyone else makes is "whiskey".

So there you go. I better use "Whisky" then…

Types of Whisky

There are two major categories, single and blended. Single means that all of the product is from a single distillery, while Blended means that the product is composed of whiskies from two or more distilleries. Traditional practices define five types:

  • Single malt whisky is a 100% malted barley whisky from one distillery, distilled in batches in pot stills
  • Single grain whisky is distilled at a single distillery from water and malted barley, with or without whole grains of other cereals; it must not meet the requirements of a single malt whisky
  • Blended malt whisky is a blend of single malt whiskies, from more than one distillery
  • Blended grain whisky is a whisky created by mixing grain whiskies from more than one distillery
  • Blended Scotch whisky is a mixture of single malt whisky and grain whisky, distilled at more than one distillery. Blended Scotch whisky constitutes over 90% of the whisky produced in Scotland. Notable blended Scotch whisky brands include Dewar's, Johnnie Walker, Cutty Sark, J&B, The Famous Grouse, and Chivas Regal.

Casks

By law, all Scotch whisky must be aged for a minimum of three years in oak casks; though many single malts are matured for much longer. The whisky continues to develop and change as it spends time in the wood, and maturation periods of twenty years or more are not uncommon. The selection of casks has a profound effect on the character of the final whisky.

A common source of casks is American whisky producers, as U.S. laws require that bourbon and Tennessee whisky be aged in new charred oak casks. Bourbon casks impart a characteristic vanilla flavour to the whisky. Sherry casks are also commonly used. This practice arose because sherry used to be shipped to Britain from Spain in the cask rather than having been bottled, and the casks were expensive to return empty and were unwanted by the sherry cellars. In addition to imparting the flavours of their former contents, sherry casks lend maturing spirit a heavier body and a deep amber and sometimes reddish colour. Stainless steel shipping containers, however, have reduced the supply of wooden sherry casks, to the extent that the Macallan Distillery builds casks and leases them to the sherry cellars in Spain for a time, then has them shipped back to Scotland.

Wood Finish

The late 1990s saw a trend towards "wood finishes" in which fully matured whisky is moved from one barrel into another one that had previously aged a different type of alcohol (e.g., port, Madeira, rum, wine, etc.) to add the "finish".

Angels Share

Each year spent in the wood results in the evaporation of between 0.5 and 2% of each casks' contents, depending on the ambient conditions at which the casks are stored. Because alcohol is more volatile, the alcohol content of the remaining whisky also drops over time. The 0.5–2.0% lost each year is known as the angel's share.

Cask Strength

Cask strength whiskies are rare and usually only the very best whiskies are bottled in this way. They are bottled from the cask undiluted. Rather than diluting, the distiller is inviting the drinker to dilute to the level of potency most palatable. If you are "nosing" a cask strength whisky, it's best to add a little water to help release the flavours and to avoid anaesthetising your nose.

Single Cask

Many distilleries are releasing "Single Cask" editions, which are the product of a single cask which has not been vatted with whisky from any other casks. These bottles will usually have a label which details the date the whisky was distilled, the date it was bottled, the number of bottles produced, the number of the particular bottle, and the number of the cask which produced the bottles.

Triple Matured

This means that the whisky has been aged in three separate casks. For example The Macallan Fine Oak range is initially matured in European second fill sherry oak casks which help to impart a rich character with hints of dried fruits, spices and chocolate orange. The whisky is then transferred to American second fill sherry oak casks to help add delicate hints of citrus lemon, coconut and a toffee-like sweetness. The final maturation period is in ex-bourbon American oak casks which help to deliver floral aromas and sweet notes of vanilla and fresh fruits. This unique triple cask combination delivers an rather extraordinarily smooth but delicate and complex Single Malt whisky.

Peat

Peat is an accumulation of partially decayed vegetation matter. Peat forms in wetlands or peatlands, variously called bogs, moors, muskegs, pocosins, mires, and peat swamp forests. By volume there are about 4 trillion m³ of peat in the world covering a total of around 2% of global land mass (about 3 million km²).

Under the right conditions, peat is the earliest stage in the formation of coal. Peat may contain traces of heavy metals such as mercury. The source of mercury may be related with methane upwelling that migrate from great depths and of interacts with the peat. Peat is soft and easily compressed. Under pressure, water in the peat is forced out. Upon drying, peat can be used as a fuel. It has industrial importance as a fuel in some countries, such as Ireland and Finland, where it is harvested on an industrial scale.

In many countries, including Ireland and Scotland, where trees are often scarce, peat is traditionally used for cooking and domestic heating. Peat fires are used to dry malted barley for use in Scotch whisky distillation. This gives Scotch whisky its distinctive smoky flavour, often called "peatiness". Bruichladdich Octomore is the most heavily peated whisky ever produced. There has been two batches, one produced in 2002 and a second one in 2003, even more peated than the first batch. The 2002 batch of 6000 bottles was sold out before it was released.

Distillation

Distillation is used to increase the alcohol content and to remove undesired impurities such as methanol. There are two types of stills in use for the distillation: the pot still (for single malts) and the Coffey still (for grain whisky).

All Scotch malt whisky distilleries distill their product twice except for the Auchentoshan distillery, which retains the Lowlands tradition of triple distillation. Springbank Distillery in Campbeltown is unique in that it distills two and a half times. This is achieved by distilling half the low wine (1st distillation) for a second time, adding the two halves together and then distilling the complete volume a final time. Note: From my experience other distilleries will triple distill select batches or ranges of whisky (eg Macallan does this).

Malting

Malt whisky production begins when the barley is malted – by steeping the barley in water, and then allowing it to get to the point of germination. Malting releases enzymes that break down starches in the grain and help convert them into sugars. When the desired state of germination is reached the malted barley is dried using smoke. Many (but not all) distillers add peat to the fire to give an earthy, peaty flavour to the spirit. Most distilleries use different water sources in the various steps, and this becomes a crucial part of the character of the end product.

Today only a handful of distilleries have their own maltings; these include Balvenie, Kilchoman, Highland Park, Glenfiddich, Glen Ord, Bowmore, Laphroaig, Springbank, Tamdhu, and Edradour. Even those distilleries that malt their own barley produce only a small percentage of the malt required for production. All distilleries order malt from specialised maltsters.

Chill Filtered

Whisky can also be "chill filtered". Chill filtration is a process whereby naturally-occurring fatty amino acids in the whisky are grouped together by chilling the whisky, and then filtered out. Most whiskies are bottled this way, unless specified as "unchillfiltered". Unchillfiltered whisky will turn cloudy when stored at cool temperatures or when cool water is added to them, and this is perfectly normal. Unchillfiltered, cask-strength whisky is generally regarded as whisky in its purest form.

No Age on Bottle

If Scotch whisky is from more than one cask, and if it includes an age statement on the bottle, it must reflect the age of the youngest whisky in the blend. Many cask-strength single malts omit the age as they use younger elements in minute amounts for flavouring and mellowing.

The Macallan

Originally, The Macallan was only matured in oak sherry casks brought to the distillery from Jerez, Spain. Beginning in 2004, The Macallan introduced a new main product, the Fine Oak series, with the whisky mellowed in bourbon oak casks as well as sherry ones. In 2007, a bottle of 1926 vintage The Macallan was sold at a Christie's auction for $54,000, making it one of the most expensive bottles of liquor ever sold. The Elegancia, a 40% ABV (as opposed to 43%) 12-year-old, is available only at duty-free shops. The Macallan is one of the ingredients of The Famous Grouse blend. The Macallan Distillery builds casks and leases them to the sherry cellars in Spain for a time, then has them shipped back to Scotland.

Classifying Single Malt Whisky

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The conventional way to classify Scotch malt whiskies is by region – Highland, Lowland, Speyside, Islay and Campbeltown. But knowing where they are made doesn't explain how they taste.

Some whisky writers try to assess the "quality"of single malt whiskies – they award marks-out-of-ten and construct league tables of "top" whiskies. They are often looking for depth, balance, layered complexity and length of finish – criteria that are very personal to them. But your tastes may be different – you may actually prefer lightly peated, fruity and fresh malt whiskies, in which case their ratings may not be very helpful. It's an anachronism that the best-selling malt whiskies are generally not rated very highly by these pundits.

The Whisky Flavour Map

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A relatively new and innovative way of classifying single malt's is using a "flavour map".  The map has four quadrants based upon tastes – smoky, rich, delicate, and light.  It has different  single malt's ranked by taste.  This is a great way to choose a whisky you might like – or even to add whiskies to the map as you try them and categorise them yourself.

"If I like this malt whisky, what other whiskies might I also enjoy?"

A classification of single malt whiskies has been developed which attempts to answer this question: http://www.whiskyclassified.com/classification.html

  • Cluster A – Full-Bodied, Medium-Sweet, Pronounced Sherry with Fruity, Spicy, Malty Notes and Nutty, Smoky Hints: Balmenach, Dailuaine, Dalmore, Glendronach, Macallan, Mortlach, Royal Lochnagar;
  • Cluster B – Medium-Bodied, Medium-Sweet, with Nutty, Malty, Floral, Honey and Fruity Notes: Aberfeldy, Aberlour, Ben Nevis, Benrinnes, Benromach, Blair Athol, Cragganmore, Edradour, Glenfarclas, Glenturret, Knockando, Longmorn, Scapa, Strathisla;
  • Cluster C – Medium-Bodied, Medium-Sweet, with Fruity, Floral, Honey, Malty Notes and Spicy Hints: Balvenie, Benriach, Dalwhinnie, Glendullan, Glen Elgin, Glenlivet, Glen Ord, Linkwood, Royal Brackla;
  • Cluster D – Light, Medium-Sweet, Low or No Peat, with Fruity, Floral, Malty Notes and Nutty Hints: An Cnoc, Auchentoshan, Aultmore, Cardhu, Glengoyne, Glen Grant, Mannochmore, Speyside, Tamdhu, Tobermory;
  • Cluster E – Light, Medium-Sweet, Low Peat, with Floral, Malty Notes and Fruity, Spicy, Honey Hints: Bladnoch, Bunnahabhain, Glenallachie, Glenkinchie, Glenlossie, Glen Moray, Inchgower, Inchmurrin, Tomintoul;
  • Cluster F – Medium-Bodied, Medium-Sweet, Low Peat, Malty Notes and Sherry, Honey, Spicy Hints: Ardmore, Auchroisk, Bushmills, Deanston, Glen Deveron, Glen Keith, Glenrothes, Old Fettercairn, Tomatin, Tormore, Tullibardine;
  • Cluster G – Medium-Bodied, Sweet, Low Peat and Floral Notes: Arran, Dufftown, Glenfiddich, Glen Spey, Miltonduff, Speyburn;
  • Cluster H – Medium-Bodied, Medium-Sweet, with Smoky, Fruity, Spicy Notes and Floral, Nutty Hints: Balblair, Craigellachie, Glen Garioch, Glenmorangie, Oban, Old Pulteney, Strathmill, Tamnavulin, Teaninch;
  • Cluster I – Medium-Light, Dry, with Smoky, Spicy, Honey Notes and Nutty, Floral Hints: Bowmore, Bruichladdich, Glen Scotia, Highland Park, Isle of Jura, Springbank;
  • Cluster J – Full-Bodied, Dry, Pungent, Peaty and Medicinal, with Spicy, Feinty Notes: Ardbeg, Caol Ila, Clynelish, Lagavulin, Laphroaig, Talisker.

The Taste Experience

Describing a Whisky

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The aromas sensed in whisky can be categorised as follows:

  • Phenols – peat and smoke
  • Esters – fruity or solvent
  • Floral – grass and flowers
  • Cereal – malty, yeasty smell
  • Winey – sherry and nutty
  • Woody – vanilla and toast
  • Sulphury – gas and rubber
  • Feinty – tobacco and leather.

It is very difficult to put words to a smell or taste – especially if we are not used to doing so, and are not familiar with the vocabulary typically used to describe smell and taste. We may find we tend to use similes and metaphors. Or we may use words such as "heavy", "light", "smooth", "fresh" – but these terms are relative to what?

One accepted method used today is to describe aromas and flavours is to use the language and terms as defined in "The Whisky Wheel" (image shown). The wheel has eight segments and three tiers. Begin from the outside rim, with the kind of vague aroma description which often arises spontaneously during a tasting, and then work inwards to the core aromas on the first tier, or vice versa.

Adding Water

Adding water to even regular strength whisky before drinking will help to stop the strength of the whisky anaesthetising your senses and reducing the taste you will enjoy.

Add a little water at a time to get the right dilution. Expert tasters recommend diluting most whisky with a fifth water or more, although this can be too much for old whiskies. Individual tastes will vary, so experiment with what you prefer – some whiskies will be best without any water.

The water you use to add to the whisky is not too important, with a few exceptions. Make sure that the water is still rather than carbonated and not chilled (cooling the whisky prevents the release of flavour). It is ideal for the whisky to be at room temperature. Try to avoid chlorinated tap water if it tastes too much of chemicals – in this case still mineral or even distilled water might be a better option.

Tasting it

If you haven't added water to a cask strength before drinking it, it's worth trying a little to see how it tastes. The strength of the alcohol might not allow too much flavour to be tasted – a little water will help to make the drink less fierce. Take a little into your mouth, swirl it around and concentrate on the sensations. There are three elements to look out for if you really want to evaluate the whisky.

  1. The taste itself is perhaps the most obvious element – does the whisky taste sweet, bitter, salty or sour?
  2. The 'mouth feel' which occurs before the whisky is tasted – is the whisky astringent, drying, fizzy, mouth watering?
  3. Finally there is the 'finish' of the whisky – does it leave an aftertaste; how long does the flavour last for?

 

Letting it Breathe

One often overlooked question is that of how long you should leave your whisky to breathe; that is letting it sit it the glass for a certain period of time, undisturbed.

It may seem an unusual concept but it soon becomes obvious that this little consideration can have a large effect on the taste of your whisky. Oxidisation, the process that occurs when your whisky is exposed to the air can dramatically change the initial taste from the moment you pour until you drain the last dregs in your glass. Many whiskies can come into their own just by being allowed to sit for a little while before being tasted. On the other hand another whisky can reach its peak very early after pouring and will not benefit from the extra exposure to the air.

It's difficult to predict how each whisky will behave, but fun to experiment!

 

If you have any other trivia you think I should add to these notes please leave a comment and let me know.

Online Budgeting Software for New Zealand

Wednesday, December 30th, 2009

Recently a good friend asked me if I had heard of "Mint.com" – which turned out to be a free online budgeting tool. I hadn't heard of it, and further investigation into the topic of personal finance management software opened a whole new world to me. I had no idea that there were so many online tools out there to help us with personal finance, and many of them are free.

In the wake of the recession, and acknowledging that most New Zealanders are not the best at managing their personal finances, I frankly cannot believe how little attention these tools have received.

And so I thought I would share some of my findings – with my primary focus on tools that are relevant to New Zealanders.

There are six tools that I will highlight:

  1. PocketSmith
  2. Xero Personal
  3. ANZ MoneyManager
  4. Buxfer
  5. ASB Track My Spending
  6. Kiwibank heaps!

Why is Mint.com (mentioned at the outset) not on this list? Mint is probably the most widely known and popular tool in this area, but not in New Zealand. Mint requires automatic feeds of transaction data from banks before you can use their software – and they have not enabled support for any New Zealand banks yet for various reasons. With their recent takeover by Intuit (who make Quicken) who knows how long it will be before they look at supporting New Zealand.

I should also mention at this stage that each of the tools I am reviewing support transaction files from New Zealand banks. Some via manual import. Some via additional tools like a Firefox plugin to automate the process of exporting and importing data from your Internet Banking website. And yes, some do offer automatic transaction feeds from the bank.

Automatic transaction feeds are of course the ideal world, but traditionally online budgeting tools have not integrated with New Zealand bank feeds. But that is changing. You will find that one or more of the tools I review offer automatic transaction feeds for ANZ, ASB, BNZ, Kiwibank, Westpac, National Bank and TSB. I would recommend however that you do not limit your personal review of these tools to only those that offer automatic data feeds for your bank. Each of these tools are quite different in how they approach the problem of budgeting and personal finance. The basic concepts are of course the same, but I suggest you look at each one to see which interface and approach seems most logical and appealing to you.

So, on with the reviews…

PocketSmith

Price: Basic: Free, Premium: NZ$8/month, Super: NZ$19/month

NZ Bank Feeds: None

Based in Dunedin, New Zealand, PocketSmith was launched in 2008 and is very popular. The secret to PocketSmith is its focus on budgeting events around your calendar, a familiar and intuitive interface to most users. By entering in your current, future and recurring financial events, PocketSmith can start to forecast and predict your spending and financial position at any point in time.

PocketSmith supports manual imports of OFX, QIF, or CSV files from your bank. It can then match your planned spending against your actual spend – allowing you to closely monitor your spending behaviour and learn from it.

One feature I really like about PocketSmith is ability to set goals – for example "Save $1000″ or "New Suit $500″. PocketSmith will tell you how long until it will be until you can afford the suit, or until you achieve your goal based on scheduled spending.

PocketSmith also offers optimised interfaces for the iPhone and any device that supports the Opera Mini browser.

PocketSmith Website: www.pocketsmith.com

Xero Personal (Coming early 2010)

Price: Unknown, estimates are less than NZ$5 per month

NZ Bank Feeds: BNZ initially, other banks to follow

Put your hand up if you have not heard of Xero? Xero was launched in 2006 and is one of the fastest growing online companies in New Zealand. Their primary focus has been on online accounting software for small businesses, and they have been very successful in this area. The good news is that Xero is currently building a new package, "Xero Personal", that is to be released "early 2010″. You can read the press release here.

What will Xero Personal offer in terms of functionality? Let Xero answer:

"In terms of what the software does, we wanted to go past the initial hit of just classifying transactions and seeing the depressing reality of what you spend your money on. We want to create a new service that people use each week to set their goals and track progress. We want to change how people save and how they act with their money. All of us were blown away when our interaction team walked us through the early designs several months ago. We think we’ve built a tool that people will enjoy using again and again."

Not very specific, but looking over the main Xero software certainly gives us an idea of what they can achieve. I am looking forward to seeing what Xero Personal will offer when it is released – but the reality is that I bank with ANZ, so the lack of automatic transaction feeds from ANZ will be a show-stopper for me in the short-term.

You can get notified when Xero Personal is released by registering your interest: http://www.xero.com/personal/

ANZ MoneyManager

Price: Free

NZ Bank Feeds: ANZ, ASB, Westpac, TSB, National Bank

ANZ MoneyManager was launched in Beta in October 2008, and went live in February 2009.  OK so this one blew me away when I found it. I could not believe the functionality offered, the fact that it was free, and that it automatically pulled transaction data down from five mainstream NZ banks. Since I am an ANZ customer I was initially incredulous that I had not heard of it before.

So what's the catch? Unfortunately there is one. ANZ MoneyManager has been targeting the Australian market, and so all transactions and dollar amounts are shown in AUD – even for New Zealand bank accounts. Fortunately this limitation is about to be fixed. I received an email from the Support Team at ANZ MoneyManager just today:

We are currently investigating having the option to change the base currency – and we endeavour to have this available early in the new year.

So – moving past the current AUD issue, what does this software offer in terms of functionality? Well the key features I like are:

  • Categorise and colour-code your transactions to see where you are spending your money
  • Set budget goals and category spending limits
  • Receive automated Budget Alerts when you have an upcoming bill, when you are close to your budget limits or have spent over budget
  • View a multitude of reports to analyse spending, expenses, planned vs actual spending

I like the fact that ANZ MoneyManager integrates with so many different New Zealand banks, not just ANZ. In reality many households use more than one bank and there is a definite advantage in being able to pull all accounts together into one system to get a combined view and manage them centrally.

Unlike PocketSmith however ANZ MoneyManager does not have a strong focus on forecasting and setting financial goals. Perhaps we will see this in the future.

ANZ MoneyManager Website: www.anzmoneymanager.com

Buxfer

Price: Basic: Free, Plus: US$2.79/month, Pro: US$3.79/month

NZ Bank Feeds: ANZ, Firefox plugin for other banks

Moving outside of New Zealand and Australian development efforts, there is a plethora of online budgeting tools. I found at least 20 very quickly. However it does not take long to narrow down the list based on features required and user feedback.

One tool that I zoomed in on is the very popular "Buxfer" – a name derived from the amalgamation of "bucks" and "transfer".

What attracted me to Buxfer?

  • Security – Buxfer offers a lot of flexibility around how it handles your login credentials and how it stores your transaction data. You can have Buxfer encrypt and store your details on their servers, which is what most tools offer by default. Or you can optionally use Google Gears to store your bank account details and transaction data on your local computer, with nothing stored on Buxfer's servers. You can also optionally login to Buxfer using your existing Google, Yahoo, Facebook, Windows Live, AOL, or OpenID – your login is entirely processed by the corresponding service, and your password for that account is not stored by Buxfer.
  • Automatic Transaction Feeds – Yes, Buxfer offers automatic data feeds for ANZ bank accounts. These are incredibly simple to set up inside Buxfer, which will then pull down the transactions each night. But what if you are not with ANZ? Buxfer also offers a Firefox Plugin called "Firebux" that can automatically pull down transaction data from any bank account. And it securely stores the sync details on your local computer – not on the Buxfer servers. And of course it allows manual import of data files from your bank as well.
  • Simple Transaction Tagging – Buxfer shines at the simple way that it allows "tags" to be added to any transaction. And it remembers which tags were used for different transactions – so the next time you purchase food at McDonald's it will automatically tag it with "Food" or "Takeaways" or whatever you choose. It is quick and easy.
  • Budgeting – You can create weekly, monthly and yearly budgets in Buxfer. Set per-category spending limits and Buxfer will help you stay within those limits by monitoring your expenses and sending real-time alerts on your mobile device. You can also receive a weekly Budget Report which gives a quick breakdown of your budgeted vs actual spending for the week.
  • Bill Reminders – It is incredibly handy to be able to see a list of when your next bill is due, or to look at your Calendar to view bill payments for the month or week. Buxfer also optionally sends out email reminders when your bills are due.
  • Forecasting (Pro version only) – You can pick any point in time, say 5 months away, and Buxfer will show you your forecast financial position based on today's balance, projected income, pending transactions, and scheduled bills.
  • Reporting – Any budgeting tool needs solid reports, and Buxfer has all the basics covered and more. The ones I use on a daily basis include the Budget Progress, Income Breakdown, Expense Breakdown, Trend Report (Income vs Expenditure) and the Projections report. I also enjoy zooming in on the transaction categories and sub-categories to see where my money is going.
  • Interfaces – You can interact with Buxfer in a multitude of ways – from any mobile, iPhone, Blackberry to using Twitter, Facebook, or SMS. There is a Google Gadget that can be integrated with your personalised iGoogle Home Page and other tools. There is even an API for developers to work with.

I am using Buxfer as my personal finance manager for the above reasons, so forgive me if I went into more detail on Buxfer than I have some of the other tools I am reviewing. The only feature I really miss from Buxfer is the ability to set goals such as a purchase, or savings goals – a bit like PocketSmith offers. The Projections/Forecasting functionality partially fills this gap in the meantime.

Buxfer Website: www.buxfer.com

ASB Track My Spending

Price: Free to ASB Customers

NZ Bank Feeds: ASB

In August 2009 ASB released the new "Track My Spending" functionality to their existing customers. The functionality offered by Track My Spending is very simple:

  1. Code items via your online bank statements into Categories
  2. View graphs that show exactly where your money goes (by Category)
  3. See whether you are getting ahead each month or spending more than you receive via the "Money-In vs Money-Out" report

I have wondered for a long time why this type of functionality is not offered by default on Internet Banking websites – they are after all supposed to be helping us with personal finance, so it seems a logical fit. So congratulations to ASB on being the first New Zealand bank to get this under way.

You can read the press release here: https://www.asb.co.nz/story18179.aspx

Kiwibank heaps!

Price: Free to Kiwibank Customers

NZ Bank Feeds: Kiwibank

heaps! was launched on 26 November 2009, and is available to Kiwibank customers who are being progressively invited to participate. It is being developed Kiwibank in partnership with Social Capital.

heaps! has all your Kiwibank account and transactional information from internet banking, and it helps you to organise your spending into categories. You can then set and easily manage a budget, and also create and track your progress on goals.

Again, it is fantastic to see a bank offering this service to their clients.

heaps! Website: www.heaps.co.nz

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It is very exciting to see this type of software becoming available, and at a price-point that there is no excuse for people not to budget and manage their finances better. Please spread the word!

Are there any other tools out there that I have missed? If so, please leave a comment and let me know.

It's Been A While…

Saturday, August 19th, 2006

As regular visitors to this site will have noticed I have not posted any articles for a while. But I am still alive and well! My wife and I have successfully relocated to Wellington, New Zealand, and I am now settled into my new role as Systems Delivery Manager for Database Communications.

I have been working on some pretty interesting projects for companies like BP, Castrol, and Australia Post. The projects have involved the use of several of the tools I have discussed on my weblog over past months. In particular I have been actively using jQuery and the Zend Framework and highly recommend them as a key part of any web developers toolkit.

So … now that I have shown my face again I hope I can return more often. In the meantime, perhaps you would be interested in reading a new 18 page tutorial to help get started with the Zend Framework. Or maybe you would like to check out the new improved jQuery website (still in beta) and some of the great jQuery plugins that have been released over recent weeks.

Until next time…

Uploaded Wedding Photos to Flickr

Monday, January 9th, 2006

F1010018I have set up a Flickr account and just finished uploading our wedding photos. In the future I will integrate the Photo Albums (Sets) from Flickr with my weblog. So far quite impressed with Flickr…

Welcome to my first post!

Tuesday, December 27th, 2005

I have just completed the installation of my weblog "Hello.World". Stay tuned over the next few days as I experiment. To find out what this weblog is all about have a look at the About this Weblog page. If you have any ideas on what you want to see here then please let me know :)