Developers' Blog

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the website Woot, it’s a wonderful obsession for people who are always looking for a good deal. Every day, they have one item for sale, for normally an unbeatable price. Once it’s sold out… it’s gone. The next day, they have something completely different for sale.

Once in a while, they have a “Woot-off”, where after selling out of something, another rock-bottom deal replaces it. A Woot-off typically lasts 24 hours, but sometimes they’ll run it for 48 or 72. You need lightning-fast reflexes and a touch of OCD to keep refreshing the Woot home page and snag some of the better deals. Fortunately, I have both.

Before I even loaded my collection of morning browser tabs, a friend IM’ed me that “there’s a good deal on a Dyson on the Woot-off this morning.” So I head over and see a limited edition DC-24 (Dyson Ball) Blueprint Limited Edition, brand new for $279 + $5 S&H. That’s $150 off retail. Now we’ve had a Kenmore upright vac for about 3 or so years. It does alright, but recently we’ve had some problems. Namely, that it won’t stay in bare floor/tool mode. And we have hardwood floors. Almost all hardwood floors. In addition, it keeps burning through belts. (And let me tell you, nothing says “clean house” like the smell of burnt rubber mixed with the scent of Pine-sol.) So I did what I always do when contemplating a purchase of more than $10: I waffled.

mystuff-dyson-dc24.pngI IM’ed my wife to see what she thought. I made a pro’s and con’s list. I debated getting our current vacuum fixed. In the end I bought it. I used my credit card that adds an additional year warranty to the manufacturer’s 5-year warranty. And when I got to Woot’s “you successfully wooted” page (also known as a receipt), I hit Apple-P to print, and selected “Save PDF to MYStuff”. The PDF popped up in MYInbox, then I made a new Record and filled in the purchase and warranty sepcs. I then headed over to Google and did a Google Image search for the DC-24 Blueprint and drug the image from Safari straight to MYStuff. A quick trip to Dyson’s website, and I had a PDF of the manual saved directly to MYInbox, where I added it to the Record I created. (Quick Tip: I added MYInbox to my Finder sidebar, to make it easier to dump stuff there.)

In a nutshell, this exemplifies why we wrote MYStuff: We got sick and tired of replacing things that were probably under warranty, but the receipt and warranty information is long gone. We got sick and tired of filing and storing receipts and warranty paperwork, and having the time-wasting hassle of purging outdated stuff we don’t need anymore. We got sick and tired of rummaging around the house looking for manuals. In short, we got sick and tired of wasting our time and our money.

In total, I spent maybe 5 minutes creating the Record in MYStuff and adding things to it. Not a bad few minutes to secure the knowledge that for the next 6 years, I won’t have to worry about buying another vacuum and I’ll be able to find the manual when I need it. And our new vacuum isn’t even on the FedEx truck yet.

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When I’m not working on MYStuff (or one of our other projects), I enjoy fixing things. And nothing is more fun to fix than cars. Even a simple oil change will leave me giddy with excitement. There’s just something about getting all dirty and greasy and taking something that was broken and making it work.

So it was with great glee I noticed the telltale signs of the alternator going out in my 2004 Pontiac Grad Prix: the headlights would dim when I turned on the rear window defroster or any of the other power accessories and the RPMs would drop to near-stall levels before recovering. I happily went to my local Advance Auto Parts and told them what I needed, and after a few minutes in the back, they returned with a hefty box containing my new (well, rebuilt) alternator. It was not with great glee, however, that I paid for it. Talk about sticker shock! The last alternator I replaced was in my ’94 Saturn, and that only cost about $90. For the Grand Prix? $245.52. Ouch.

So after paying with my Visa card, the clerk hands me the receipt and cheerfully tells me this alternator has a lifetime warranty. Lifetime warranty? Great googly moogly I was happy again.

Now let’s rewind to the days before MYStuff. I normally kept receipts for such things in either a manilla folder marked “CAR”, or else they wound up somewhere in the garage, normally tucked inside the Haynes manual on the page describing the repair procedure. So assuming I could find it, there remains two very costly problems:

First, these thermal receipts have a tendency to fade over time, and by that I mean the receipt will be illegible by the time you need it.

Second, I’m not going to remember 5 years from now that my alternator even had a lifetime warranty. I’m going to walk into the auto parts store — maybe Advance, maybe Auto Zone, maybe Napa — and say “I need a new alternator”.

So now that I have MYStuff written, I simply dropped the receipt in my “In” tray with all my bills. (It’s damn near impossible for me to change old habits, so I have to kind of add new processes into my existing workflow.) The next time I did bills, there was the receipt waiting for me. I scanned it into MYInbox, and the next time I fired up MYStuff I simply made a new Record.

Picture 2I keyed in all the data — where I bought it, how much I paid, when I bought it, the model, et cetera — from the receipt scan.

A month or so later when I actually had time to put the new alternator in, I used my cell phone to grab a picture of the nice, shiny new alternator installed in my GM 3800 engine. The next time I imported the pictures from my cell phone into iPhoto, I used the FileFinder palette to browse the Last Imported library in iPhoto, and add a photo to my alternator Record.

In total, those three separate events (scanning in the receipt, making the new Record, adding the photo) probably took me five minutes. Ten at the most. But four or five years from now when that alternator needs replaced, those few minutes will save me the $245.52 a new alternator would cost.

Sure, the auto parts stores aren’t going to be happy, but when I march in with a dead alternator and a printout of the receipt touting a lifetime warranty, I sure will be. After all, I’ll be working on my car again, and this time, I won’t have to spend any money to do it.

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