Sunday, February 05, 2012

Paperless

I've been slowly going paperless over the past decade. The first step on my journey started in 2000 when I signed up to use a payment service, PayTrust, to receive my incoming bills, scan them, and put them online for me to pay. The next major step was probably when I got a digital camera to replace my traditional film cameras. It might not be considered a "paperless" use case, but it has lead to very little hardcopies over the years as monitors and HDTV with screensavers and AppleTVs have become so beautiful.  Back to the paperless office, my next big step was eFileing my taxes but that didn't come until about 5 years later. Then suddenly about two years ago, I hit a real shift in my desire to go completely paperless when I got my iPad and installed Evernote.

digital notes...


If you aren't familiar with Evernote its an excellent app, available on all the major desktop and mobile OSes, that makes note-taking and organizing really simple. The killer feature is it keeps the notes in-sync across all instances, from my iPhone to my iPad to my multiple PCs.

So when I got my iPad and discovered Evernote around the same time, I realized how going paperless was finally a reality. The only problem is that I have a file cabinet full of paper! I tried to just keep up with the incoming paper in our lives using our all-in-one scanner, but sitting in my office just isn't my idea of a fun time, and so that project has stagnated and the paper continues to go into the file cabinet.

Then last week a friend on Facebook posted how he was going paperless and so I asked him his secret. He was nice enough to share that he was use a Doxie scanner. It was the first I had heard of it, but when I looked it up I knew it was exactly what I needed.  After convincing my wife that it was perfectly valid use of my unspent Christmas gift money, I ordered a Doxie Go.

portable scanning to the cloud...


My Doxie Go came four days later, yesterday. Unboxing it, I knew it was what I have been waiting for. It is small, light and battery powered. I already had an Eye-Fi X2 Connect card so in about 5 minutes I had them set up to upload all scans directly to a new Evernote notebook I created and called Import.

The reason I created a new notebook was two-fold. First, the Eye-Fi doesn't let you set which notebook it should add new scans to, and just uses the Evernote concept of a "default" notebook. So instead of having  to sort through an existing notebook for scans that need organizing, it will all go to a staging area for me to sort through.  This decision also affects the "forward an email to Evernote" feature I often use, so having both sources go to the same place for me to sift through isn't a bad thing.

a family affair...


The second reason for a new notebook, is I can share it with my wife and we both have access to new scans. Seeing the size of the Doxie Go, we'll definitely be leaving it in the kitchen so my wife can scan all incoming mail. A shared Evernote notebook means she also gets instant access to the scans without a PC and without me in the way.

Speaking of keeping it in the kitchen, I'm really excited that we have our U-Socket installed there since the Doxie Go doesn't come with a wall charger. I'm sure an iPhone charger would work too, but having the USB socket right in the wall for the Doxie is pretty cool too.

lickable...


I can't speak highly enough of the user experience of the Doxie Go, from the first impression of the site, to ordering, to unboxing and installation; the experience is buttery and wonderful. They have definitely taken a page from Apple and made everything "lickable". About the only thing I could nit-pick about to this point was the order confirmation screen was the dull grey from some third-party payment service.

...the ugly...


So nothing is perfect right? And the Doxie Go is no exception. Where it falls down is trying to bulk import a lot of paper. I have that file cabinet right? So I had planned to sit for 3 hours a night while I'm watch TV or something, bulk scanning everything we had for the next few months. Sadly the Doxie battery gave up about 40 scans after its full charge. So I said, fine I'll just keep it plugged in and stand at my kitchen counter. No go. The Doxie Go only pulls juice from the internal battery and won't stay powered off just the USB power. So I was able to scan for about 10-15 minutes, and will have to wait 2 hours for it to charge again.  This is clearly not the use case it was built for.

Another nit-pick, the marketing implies the Doxie Go has OCR built-in but its actually a software feature. So when you scan directly to Evernote you lose those additional features like auto-contrast and OCR. But its pretty moot for me, Evernote already has OCR that's pretty great.

final thoughts...


In the end, if all my incoming paper can be scanned and thrown away immediately, that's a huge improvement on what we have now.  For the file cabinet, I'll have to break it up into batches of 25 pages or so and slowly scan them over the coming years.

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Riddle: When isn't free space free?

So tonight I discovered my hard drive was slowly being choked by some mysterious process writing gigs and gigs to it. So I moved 75GB of files to an external drive only to come back a few hours later and discover my free space was back down to 23 GB.

Where did 50 GB of files come from in just a few hours!?

Idea #1

Rogue process downloading large files...*cough*iTunes*cough*

I had NetUse Traffic Monitor running and it clearly showed that there was definitely not 50 GB of downloads in that time period.

Idea #2

Rogue process writing lots of log files

In my investigation of what to move to the external drive I used GrandPerspective to get a visualization and catalog of what was on my drive. Thankfully I hadn't closed that window so I could rescan and compare what had changed.  Here's the next head scratcher, it showed only a 4 GB total difference in used space between the two scans.

Idea #3

It was something on my wife's side which GrandPerspective couldn't see since it didn't have permissions to her files.

Nope, she only had 24 GB of files on her side.

Idea #4

Google for "mysterious hard drive full"

Surprisingly this got me some new ideas, like it was hidden files, or bad Time Machine backups to a non-existent external drive. Sadly they were not the problem. I even found someone with the same problem but no solution.

Idea #5

Run 'du' to show what GrandPerspective can't see

A this point I realized that GrandPerspective was reporting 104GB of "miscellaneous used space". So Googling for more info, one of the posts I stumbled on lead me to a page about Mac OSX Tiger Problems which introduced me to the BSD disk usage command 'du'. So it seemed like a lower-level command that would take some time, but would show me what GrandPerspective supposedly couldn't. Sadly it didn't and agreed with GrandPerspective that 804GB of my 931GB drive were being used while 'df -kh' agreed with the Finder that only 23GB were free. So four tools were giving me two different answers, that I had either 23GB free or 127GB free depending on which you asked.

Idea #6

Ask Google why 'du' and 'dk' can give different answers.

Sure enough, Google had an answer to why 'du' and 'dk' can differ. Turns out a process can hold onto a deleted file and the file will be unaccounted but the disk space will still be considered used. So at this point I gave in (sorry, never figured out who the offender was) and restarted my computer. Sure enough, after the Finder came back up...I had magically cleared up nearly 87 GB of hard drive space.

Moral of the story

Try restarting first, even for disk free space issues apparently. #facepalm

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

For that rant you read...

Yesterday, I saw a stranger ranting about how my local town doesn't consistently use their call system to notify people of snow delays. He then went on to list at least four other alternative sources he could choose from and was finally "forced" to find out from the local TV station.

His rant was amusing because it reminded me of the comic Louis CK's bit about how everything is amazing, yet nobody's happy. It got me thinking that I wish someone had created a landing page that I could link a ranter like this guy to. Something in a similar tone to http://dearrecruiters.com and http://lmgtfy.com.

So that's what I did last night, I created http://yourenothappy.com