Getting Started - Encryption

Michael Wagner mikepwagner at
Sun May 10 02:17:01 EDT 2015

Here's what I do with encryption (I run gnucash on a Linux box and use 
the Postgres backend):

1) Install gpg
2) Every so often, use pgAdmin to back the DB up to a file in my home 
3) Encrypt that backed up file.
4) Delete the unencrypted version of the file.
5) A local backup of my home directory will store the encrypted file.
6) I also upload a copy of the encrypted file on Google Drive (I think - 
but I don't know - that google encrypts whatever I upload, so those 
files are encrypted twice).

That's pretty geeky solution, but my sense is that's I have a world 
class tool for encryption freely available gpg - and I don't see the 
point of gnucash replicating that effort. I'd rather let the pgp guys 
working on encryption issues whether its bugs in the algorithm or NSA 
back doors on Intel chips, etc. I'd rather let the gnucash guys focus on 
financials than to have them focus on financial issues and also have to 
worry about encryption issues. I feel the same way about back ends - I 
realize that gnucash needs some flat file option for practical reasons - 
but I have world class tool for data storage and retrieval - Postgres - 
freely and easily available. I'd rather let the Postgres guy worry about 
bugs in ACID properties, backup and distribution, etc and let the 
gnucash guy work on the financial stuff.

I cut my teeth on UNIX platforms, and the model there is collaboration 
between excellent tools, as opposed on tool trying to do an OK job of 

The cost is that I had to learn how to use each tool. I had to learn how 
to use Postgres. Early on when I posted a question about gnucash and 
Postfgres, someone made a silly assertion that if I used Postgres, I'd 
need to hire a DBA and pay six figures. Horse puckey! I had to buy a 
book on Postgres, and spend 10-20 hours understanding how to set up a 
Postgres DB so that gnucash could use it. It probably took me 4 or 5 
hours to figure out how to use PGP to encrypt data.

Two more general points:

I really find the double accounting model much clearer - after a 
learning curve - than Quicken (though it's probably been ten years since 
I used Quicken).

This may well be a matter of taste, but the kind of transaction that I 
find easier to model and understand in gnucash than in register-based 
tool with categories: money goes from my checking account to a 529 plan, 
sometime later money flows back from the 529 plan to my checking account 
and then from my checking account to my daughter's university. I feel as 
though that's all crystal clear in gun cash, and not so clearly modelled 
the way I'd have to do with a register and category tool. When I get 
around to it, I can track the movement of the cash in my 529 account to 
and from the mutual funds that make up the account.

Last week, I also realized that I could enter a transaction from either 
account involved in the transaction. The tutorial points this out, but I 
wasn't really clear to me why anyone would want to do that. Then I was 
entering some transactions in a credit card account, and I realized that 
I had forgotten to add a payment (ie, a transfer from my checking 
account to my credit card account), and for the first time I realized 
that I didn't need to go the the checking account register and to enter 
the payment. The transaction isn't owned by an account, it's a 
relationship between two accounts, and can be entered from the register 
for either account.

I think a lot of people on this email list are accountants of one stripe 
or another, and this is old hat to them, but it's pretty interesting to me.

 From what I have learned in using gnucash - and I have only been using 
it for 2 months - there is a subtle, but extremely powerful difference 
between gnucash and Quicken. My sense is that with Quicken registers are 
what I would call "first class objects" and "categories" are sort of 
decorations on those objects. In essence, you could enter all the 
transactions in a register, and not categorize them at all, the 
categories are not fundamental to Quicken.

The way I would describe the gnucash model, transactions and accounts 
are first class objects - every transaction is fundamentally a debit of 
one account and a credit of another account. The core of data model of 
gnucash looks to me to be a list of transactions.

This was all new to me - I'd suggest working through the tutorial pretty 
carefully, at least the first couple of chapters (I know that I needed to).

On 05/09/2015 01:49 PM, jake togiveout wrote:
> Hi john, thanks for the reply! Comments inline
> On Saturday, May 9, 2015, John Ralls <jralls at> wrote:
>>> On May 9, 2015, at 6:12 AM, jake togiveout <jaketogiveoutemail at
>> <javascript:;>> wrote:
>>> So I'm making the switch from quicken to this. Had looked at
>>> and they look nice but I don't like somebody else
>>> having my data.
>>> Can I encrypt the files which store this information? What about
>> switching
>>> types of DB files later from local to mysql?
>> Please use the current 2.6 documentation and please study thoroughly the
>> Tutorial and Concepts Guide; both are available for online reading or
>> download at GnuCash works rather
>> differently from Quicken.
> That's my problem ok thanks!! I'm not sure so far they are so different
> Jake
>> Regards,
>> John Ralls

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