Time to (play? fight?) with TurboTax 2007

Even though the deadline for filing US Income Taxes is still a week and a day away, I decided to procrstinate no longer and get it taken care of tonight.

On the way home for work I stopped at an office supply store and bought TurboTax Deluxe, which I've used in years past. It's usually been pretty painless, but this year I had to fight with it before I even got started on the actual tax stuff...

Since I did last years taxes I've upgraded to a MacBook Pro and "trickled down" my PowerBook to Shauna. Once I bought the new machine I hooked the two laptops up with a cross over cable and rsync'ed the contents of ~michael/ off of the PowerBook and onto ~michael/PowerBook on the MacBook.

As needed I've had ready access to saved files & data and haven't had any problems with the rsync approach. TurboTax, however, doesn't believe it can open last years return (which I want since it'll speed things up for this year since I won't have to re-enter a lot of information that hasn't changed, etc.)

I went to the TurboTax website, but it wants me to "login" before it'll let me read the search results whose titles seem like they might plausibly be of help. I'm fairly sure I have a login but since I can guarantee it'd be a fairly complex password (and one that I've never used anywhere else) I know it'd take me a while to remember or find it.

So I ask Caleb to let me use his mother's laptop, login, go to Finder and see that it lists last years saved return as being a "Turbo Tax File" in Finder. On the MacBook finder shows it being a "plain text" kind of file. Running the Unix file command on both laptops reports that the file is data.

So I wonder; how does Finder know to associate the file on the PowerBook with TurboTax? And why on the PowerBook does it think it is a text file? The first thing that comes to mind: rscyncing the file wouldn't have preserved the resource fork.

In OS X you can examine the resource fork of a file using standard Unix tools using the filename/rsrc. That is, for my file "2006_Return" I can ls -l 2006_Return/rsrc.

That, however, only showed me that the resource fork was 0-bytes (i.e., empty) on both laptops.

Back to square one. Googling on "kind" (what the Finder column-label calls the file type it displays) is a bit difficult since kind is rather generic and people don't normally talk about a "kind of file" as much as a "file type."

I finally found a very detailed post on the Mac OS X Hints forums that laid out the algorithm Apple uses to associate a given file with a given application in the Finder.

From those clues I did some more searching on file type and creator signature codes and came up with a very helpful Indiana University Information Technology Services knowledge base article entitled "In Mac OS and Mac OS X, what are file types and creators?".

In old (pre-OS X) versions of the Macintosh operating system the file system mainted various pieces of metadata (apparently separate from the resource fork) for every file. Specifically a 4-character "file type" code and a 4-character "creator" code. Most new OS X software doesn't carry on this tradition, apparently, but might TurboTax?

Next question: how to check what the file type and creator codes are? (The Indiana U. KB article had links to some shareware/freeware tools that let you set & see them but I didn't think I should have to download or buy additional software.)

I fired up tclsh trying to remember if, on the Mac, there were any extra file subcomands for dealing with such things. I didn't see any; (file stat $file var, for example, did not have any legacy-Macintosh values in it. I'm pretty sure Tcl on the Mac could have solved it for me, but rather than dig up that arcane knowledge I decided to search and find what installed Unix tools might be up to the task.

I found that there were two helpful utilities available since I'd installed Apple's Developers Tools on both laptops: GetFileInfo and SetFile.

Running /Developer/Tools/GetFileInfo on the PowerBook showed me:

file: "/Path/to/return"
type: "TaxR"
creator: "MIT6"

On the MacBook the type & creator were the empty string. I was able to set these values with:

$ /Developer/Tools/SetFile -t TaxR /Path/to/return
$ /Developer/Tools/SetFile -c MIT6 /Path/to/return

I restarted TurboTax 2007 and this time it saw my 2006 return and so I'm able to start finally...

Perhaps this blog post will be helpful to some future TurboTax Macintosh user who has transfered files from one machine to another...

— Michael A. Cleverly

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