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What a night....

2/27/2007 in ClearCheckbook News
Where to begin... I might as well start from the beginning so you'll know where we're coming from with this.

What happened:
Back in September we were hosted on a really bad host that had horrible down time. Back then, we had about 300 members using the site. We got featured on LifeHacker.com and our traffic blew up overnight. Unfortunately, the server also blew up (not literally, figuratively) so we were forced to switch servers and spend hours making sure the transition was painless. We finally got settled into our new server and things were going great.

Over the next 6 months our traffic grew very fast as we approached 2,600 active members. This afternoon, ClearCheckbook was featured on the "Tips for Life" blog DumbLittleMan.blogspot.com and our traffic shot out the roof. In keeping with tradition, our new host couldn't handle the traffic and shut us down... literally. They simply pulled the plug on our site and said "you've outgrown a shared hosting plan."

By now I've grown livid as I can't stop thinking about everyone who is now trying to access their finances and is getting strange errors and is unable to do so.

Acting quickly, I contacted a friend who has a Virtual Private Server (VPS) that we could set up shop on for a week or so until we can buy a new dedicated server. So over the last 4 hours, we've been scrambling to transfer everything over to the new server, test everything to ensure it's working properly on the new site, set up email accounts, make sure CheckBot is still active, etc.

What we're waiting on now is for the DNS servers to update so everyone will see the site on the new server.

Lingering Issues:
Because our old host abandoned us and our dedicated IP address, the SSL certificate isn't working properly. We set up a new certificate, but it's going to ask you to accept it before you can use the site. Please know that your information is still being encrypted and is completely secure.

Reports are taking a lot longer than usual to generate. If you don't need to generate your reports right now, please hold off for a while until we get a few more things situated. (CSR 342 students, please be patient when generating your reports. There were a few issues with them earlier, but right now expect to wait upwards of 2 minutes... just be patient :) )

What's next?
Over the next week or two, we will be searching out a new Dedicated Server plan. This means we will be the only site on the entire server and means you will see an extreme improvement in load times.

Buying a Dedicated Server is not cheap, so we're doing our research on finding the right one for the right price. If anyone knows of a great host, please post about it in the comments.


Again, I can't express how sorry I am that this had to happen again. I give you my word that once we're on our own server, things will be soooooo much better.

Thanks for sticking with us!
-Brandon O'Brien

ClearCheckbook founder Brandon O'Brien interviewed

2/27/2007 in In The Press
I was interviewed last week for the "It's Your Money" website by Michael. He seemed very impressed with the site and all the features, especially that we're offering it for free.

Here's an excerpt regarding the interview:
"For anyone who's interested in reading a pretty long article, swing over and check out my interview with Brandon O'Brien. He's the guy who created Clear Checkbook, a pretty new site that allows folks to track and manage their financial accounts, track their spending, and set up reminders ... for free.

And to think I actually used to use a paper checkbook register.

Sheesh."

To view the whole interview, check it out here:
http://www.mdmproofing.com/iym/interviews/clear-checkbook-brandon-obrien.html

If you come across an article/blog post/story about ClearCheckbook, shoot us an email (using the contact us form at the bottom of the page) and let us know. We'll post it here in the Press section of the blog.

[CLOSED] Win $100 or an iPod Shuffle for talking about ClearCheckbook?

2/20/2007 in ClearCheckbook News
The contest is over now per the rules posted in their blog.

Yes, you heard me right. Financial blog Dumb Little Man is holding a contest where they're asking for everyone's methods for managing their money and personal finance.

Here's a quote from their post:

"On your website or blog, create a new post with your absolute best personal finance advice. This could be something that pertains to credit cards, mortgages, budgeting, etc. It doesn't matter, but it has to be a new post with 250+ words. We are not mandating that you link to Dumb Little Man in your post but it would certainly be appreciated so your readers know about the contest. Maybe they want in!"

You can read their post and more information about it here:
Win $100 from Dumb Little Man: Personal Finance Tip Contest

If you have a blog of your own and 5 minutes to spare, you should take the time to write about ClearCheckbook and how it's helped you manage your money. Who knows, maybe you'll win the $100 or an iPod Shuffle. The deadline for submission is February 23, 2007 at midnight EST.

If you do decide to enter the contest, post a link to your blog post here in the comments so we can see!

Good luck!

New Site Update: Accounts Overview

2/20/2007 in ClearCheckbook Updates
Many people were sending in emails asking for a way to view an overview of all their accounts easily and in one place. After spending some time determining the best way to execute this, we're proud to announce the Accounts Overview feature on the Accounts page.

Accounts Overview Screenshot

Accounts Overview Expanded.



Now you can easily and quickly show or hide your accounts overview by clicking a single button. By default, your accounts overview is displayed. To shrink it, you can click on the "Shrink" link. If you decide you want to see all your account balances again, simply hit the "Enlarge" link and it will come back.

The reason we're giving you the option to shrink it down is that not everyone wants to see their account balances or they only have one account and don't need to see it. This will give them the option to hide it while it will give other people the option to display it.

The Enlarge / Shrink feature is also a great way to give yourself some extra screen real estate and allowing you to view more of your entries without having the Overview at the top of the page.

Try it out and let us know what you think about it in the comments!

Weekly Update: February 10 - February 17

2/19/2007 in Miscellaneous
There have been a few updates this week. We released the Help Documentation / FAQs so everyone can have a quick reference if they have a question with the website. The other addition is a way to add new categories and accounts directly from the Add Entry page. This will help make it easy for everyone if they want to add a new spending category without leaving the Add Entry page.

The site still continues to grow quickly as we now have over 130,000 entries and almost 2,400 active users. Thanks to everyone who is actively spreading the word about ClearCheckbook to your friends!

On a side note, we're probably going to change the Weekly Update post to a Monthly Update post as there will be more information to give.

New Site Update: Add Accounts & Categories on Add Entry Page

2/17/2007 in ClearCheckbook Updates
This feature has been requested many times by our users and we're happy to announce it's here. When you're adding entries on the "Add Entry" page, you can now create new Accounts and Categories on the fly. Previously you would have to go to the Settings page and add your new accounts or categories there.

This new feature will help you save some time when you're adding your purchases and deposits and realize you want to set up a new category or account.

If you're having problems with the new accounts or categories loading, try refreshing your browser a few times. The old javascript file might have been cached by your browser and isn't loading the new code that allows the new accounts and categories to get added.

Help Documentation / FAQ's Unveiled

2/14/2007 in ClearCheckbook Updates
The long awaited help documentation has been completed and is now available from anywhere on the website by clicking on the "Help" link at the top right in the navigation bar. You can browse through the help topics as a list or search by tag / keyword.

There are currently around 70 help topics and that list will grow as new features are added to the website. If one of your questions isn't answered in the help section, as always, feel free to use the Contact Us link and let us know.

Weekly Update: February 3, 2007 - February 9, 2007

2/12/2007 in Miscellaneous
Things have been going well for ClearCheckbook again. We're over 2,200 active users now which is great! I've started working on some documentation for the website, so expect to see that up within a few weeks.

There were a few minor updates made to the site, but nothing major. At the end of this month I plan on working heavily on some much needed updates to the site. I'll be sure to keep everyone posted on what those are and when they're released.

In the mean time, keep spreading the word of the site and help the ClearCheckbook community grow!

Weekly Update: January 27, 2007 - February 2, 2007

2/2/2007 in Miscellaneous
This week has been a very big week for ClearCheckbook. We finished a major upgrade with the spending limits as well as some other minor updates to checkbot, account handling and the login. In addition to those updates we finally broke the 2,000 active user mark today. This is a great achievement for ClearCheckbook. Just to give something to compare, back in September 2006 we had around 350 members.

As a previous post this week stated, the Purdue University CSR 342 Personal Finance course is once again using ClearCheckbook in conjunction with the spending exercises. There has also been a large influx of Spanish speaking members joining in the last few hours. If someone could link us to the article or publication that talks about ClearCheckbook, that would be great! We love being able to see the stories that talk about our site.

As usual, continue telling your friends about the site and help spread the word!

Tip: Using the Reminders System

2/2/2007 in ClearCheckbook News
The reminders system is a great tool for helping you remember those recurring monthly bills or any other event you think is important. With the different settings, you can set ClearCheckbook to send you an email between 1 and 7 days before your event occurs to help remind you. In addition to the email, a message will appear on your main accounts page keeping you informed of your upcoming event.

To use the reminders, log into ClearCheckbook and click on Tools. When the tools page loads, click on Reminders. This will bring up the main reminders page. Here you will see two calendars on the left plus some instructions and reminder box on the right.

Adding a Reminder
To add a new reminder, click on the "Add" link in the reminder box. Here you can enter the date the event will occur. You can also click the "Repeating" checkbox to bring up some options on how the event repeats through the week, month, or year. Another great feature with the reminders is the ability to set a stop date when you repeat an event.

The next option when you're adding a reminder is the ability to set a notification. You can click on the "Notify Me" checkbox to bring up the options. To set a notification, select the number of days before the event occurs that you would like to be reminded. This will make a message appear on your main accounts page. In addition to that message, you can also have us send you an email by clicking on the "Also, email me" checkbox. All emails are sent at 7:00am EST.

When you are finished with the settings, click the "Add Reminder" button and your reminder will be added. If it is set to happen within the next two months, the calendars on the left will update to show you your reminders.

Editing / Deleting a Reminder
To edit or delete a reminder, use the calendars on the left to move forward or backward through the months to find the event you want to edit. Each day that has a reminder will have a yellow background. If you move your mouse over the day it will tell you how many reminders are occuring on that day. To edit the reminder, click on the day and the reminders box on the left will load that reminder. From here, you will see an Edit and Delete action. If you want to delete a reminder, click on the Delete link. A pop up message will appear asking if you want to delete this specific reminder or all of them. This is a good way to modify events that might not have a weekly or monthly recurring rate. When you make your choice it will remove the specified reminder from the system.

If you would like to edit the specific reminder, click on the Edit link. This will bring up the same box that you saw when you added a reminder. You can change any of the information you desire and then click the "Edit Reminder" button to save it. This will save the changes for every reminder if it's repeating.


It's that easy. All you do is tell us when you want to be reminded and we set everything up for you. If you haven't tried the reminder system and have some monthly bills (like the credit card, rent, loans, car payment, etc) give it a shot and we're sure you'll love it.

If you use the reminder system, let us know what you think in the comments!

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