Sears’ Terrible iDevice Checkout

February 9th, 2013 / No Comments » / by Sean

So I had a painfully long 20 minute checkout at Sears earlier tonight.  I have to say I’m appalled at how shamefully terrible their new checkout scheme is.  Talk about a nightmare customer experience.

  • I walk up with 8 items ready to buy at the register
  • I have to wait several minutes because they are trying to check out 2 other customers buying 1 or 2 items each.
  • Upon finally getting the attention of a cashier she says she needs to get the ‘ipod’ and check me out (while standing in front of a seemingly usable register).
  • After waiting yet another couple of minutes she finally starts to scan the items into the iPod.
  • This process takes much longer than it should, and it is obvious the scanner/iPod are inadequately slow.  After each scan it requires several seconds for it to register and add the item to the total.
  • She has to re-scan several of the items because they did not properly register on the ticket.
  • The cashier then asks me for my phone number, and ‘Show your way’ rewards.  I refuse to give either.
  • She asks for a phone number anyway
  • She asks for a credit card to which I refuse and say I will pay in cash.
  • Then the cashier proceeds to enter the transaction ID into the cash register to then complete the transaction.  She has to manually type from the iPod to the cash register.
  • Even on the customer keypad the total is not itemized but grouped as one item.
  • I finally pay her and she gets my change and receipt with the itemized pricing.
  • Throughout the process she blamed the technology for being slow, and apologized for the long delays.

Flaws with this system

  • The scanner is so slow, even if the barcodes were read properly the first try on each attempt it would take at least 5 seconds to scan each item.  Talk to any grocery store cashier 5 second scan times is terrible.
  • The user interface on the ipod is woefully too small.  The cashier was constantly scrolling on the device to determine if every item was scanned properly.
  • The customer has no real time feedback as to what each item cost.  And it would be cumbersome for the cashier to announce the price for each item individually.
  • Receipts have to be printed on the ‘normal’ register and takes keying in several things to get it to print.
  • Transferring a transaction to a register to pay in cash is also quite cumbersome.
  • It just takes too long for the whole transaction.  I can’t imagine on Black Friday with lines of dozens of people waiting and 5-8 minutes (assuming they improve their speed) for each customer to check out.
  • Quit pestering me about your stupid rewards program.  If I don’t want to participate don’t ask for my phone number anyway.

Why this works in the Apple Store

  • Many Apple stores often do not have formalized cash registers
  • People generally don’t buy a large quantity of items at an Apple store, since they have mostly higher priced items

I really think this is an attempt for Sears (one of the oldest retail chains in the US) to be hip or cool by copying Apple.  But, in many ways it fails to understand their business.  Sears isn’t in the same high margin sales business that Apple is in.  I don’t think there is an expectation for Sears customers to be hip and trendy. Sears if nothing else is about volume, their slow checkout will deter customers and may lead to walk outs who don’t want to wait for their slow checkout process.  I know in theory this increases the number of registers if you have an army of people with these iCheckut devices but that isn’t really reducing costs since you have to pay all those people to check people out.

This is a massive customer interface failure.  There are distinct disadvantages over the ‘normal’ cash register transaction.  You are losing features that the customer had yesterday that your new checkout scheme does not offer.

My Wish List for the United States for 2013

January 20th, 2013 / No Comments » / by Sean

So I’ve been reading through some old posts.  And perhaps a different take on my Bucket List I’m going to write a set of wishes that I wish the United States would take some action on for 2013.

  • Since the Death Star is out, can we at least think about sending a human to the Moon again?
  • Can we finally admit that Global Warming is a real without acknowledging junk science is somehow legitimate.
  • We need to fire a bunch of our elected officials.  There is no middle ground or negotiation for a certain party, so get over yourselves and quit thinking the fringe is the ‘real’ America.  The ‘real’ America never existed in the first place, let’s at least make this country better for everyone instead of sticking to rigid ideals on fiction.
  • Facebook is not real life, it’s perhaps a representation of your life, but it is not living.
  • We are no longer the greatest country in the world.  We need to accept that, and do something about it.
  • I wish the United States would pressure China into more monetary independence. American’s don’t deserve all the cheap stuff we have.  We don’t need manufactures building a new model of Microwave every year just because they are expected to.  We don’t seem to appreciate the stuff we have and are perhaps more about upgrading rather than really using it.


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Rental Car Review: Chrevrolet Aveo (2nd Generation)

January 19th, 2013 / No Comments » / by Sean


I do like the slightly bulgy body and it looks generally okay for a small car.  The interior is cheap and plastic-y


The car’s overall drivability is weird to say the least.  Oddly it feels fast.  The reason it feels fast though is the fact that you have to use most the gas pedal (I’d guess 70% of it) on a regular basis just to keep up with normal traffic speed.  There is this point in the rpm band where there is a higher torque.  So when your just driving around town your having to rev the engine up just to get above this line and actually accelerate.  As a result the acceleration is jerky.  It’s an odd car to drive because for normal commuter cars you generally only use 40-50% of the pedal but your constantly pushing it harder to keep up with traffic.


The ride is so smooth you’ll feel like your driving from the backseat.  The suspension is so soft it feels like your driving on top of a mattress.  Really it feels almost a rollover risk if you take a corner too quickly.


If I were spending my own money I’d never buy one.  I wouldn’t even buy a used one for cheap.  It is cheaply built, the ride is jerky and soft.  I can think of a dozen cheap used cars I’d rather have over one of these.

Apple’s so good they just have to show off, and we can’t help but fall for it

June 13th, 2012 / No Comments » / by Sean

I like many techies have been enthralled with the new Macbook Pro with Retina display and watching the videos something has kind of struck me.  In that the design videos have not been readily copied by competitors.

So I think slowly Apple’s secret sauce is being replicated by competitors.  Mainly because it’s hard to argue with their market dominance.  I think the Samsung mega event to release the Galaxy S III was very much inspired by an Apple’s famous keynotes.

I will note other competitors have done design videos before.  Check out this 2010 Lenovo U260 Video.

But then compare this to Apple’s Macbook Air 2010 Video.

I think it’s pretty obvious there is a clear difference in production value.  Apple sure knows how to tell us why their product is so great and make you want their product even more.  They don’t pander to us and talk about value too much (like the Lenovo video) and they focus on the positive aspect and in many cases justify their design choices instead of telling you there were 100’s of material to choose from (seems very obvious there are 100’s of choices).  The Apple video is something you are much more engaged on and will watch through the end, and the Lenovo video I find myself skipping parts just because it’s so boring and mundane.

In the end I don’t think Jonathan Ive and Yingjin Yao’s job is all that different.  They design consumer products, have to make design decisions, figure out how to build them.  However, Apple sure makes it sound so much sexier than Lenovo does.  Sure it’s marketing, but it’s marketing so good it doesn’t feel like marketing.

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How to automatically search Craigslist and notify you of new postings for free!

May 6th, 2012 / 1 Comment » / by Sean

So a good friend of mine introduced me to a curious problem that I helped him solve.  So there are a few bad commercial solutions to automatically search Craigslist for new postings and notify you in some fashion.

  • AdRavage works well enough, however the results they email out are often several hours old by the time it sends you the email (at least for the free version).
  • Ad Finder Pro which that code is horrible, and badly documented.  I tried getting it to run and got various php errors, and the php dependencies are not documented.  In the end all I got was a bunch of php errors and no emails.  The features leave a lot to be desired, such as no searching by price or by specific category.

So after failing at these various methods I dug into the problem and found a workable solution that is free.

Craigslist has had RSS feeds for a long time, and you can pull an RSS feed of nearly any category or search you can make on Criagslist.  Therefore all we need is a RSS feed reader that will notify you of changes to the RSS feed. So after a fairly short time I found RSS2Email which with the proper configuration can be easily used to accomplish this task.

  • I will assume you have a Ubuntu system/server setup and running
  • Install RSS2Email
sudo apt-get install rss2email
  • Copy example rss2email config file
cp /usr/share/doc/rss2email/examples/ ~/.rss2email/
  • Edit file, change attributes like:
    2. SMTP_SEND
    3. {SMTP settings}
  • Then run the command to create a new feed database.
r2e new {email address}
    1. Note you can use your carriers’ email to text function to get these messages on your phone! Only suggested if you have a unlimited texting plan!
  • Now you can add a RSS feed URL to be monitored. Note the added quotes around the URL are required the & will throw off the bash command.  You can get the RSS url at the bottom right of any category or search results page on Craigslist.
r2e add "{RSS URL}"
  • Add the command to your crontab to run the rss2email on a regular basis
crontab -e
  • Add the following to your crontab file
*/5 * * * * r2e run

Note the first time this runs on a new feed it will send you a lot of email!  You can avoid this by running the following the first time you add a new URL

r2e run --no-send

Have fun, you can add as many RSS urls you want by running the add command from above.  Just be careful Craigslist may ban your IP if you hit their servers too often with too many searches.  I wouldn’t recommend going below a 5 minute cron interval.

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Re-Configure Default Crontab Editor in Ubuntu

May 5th, 2012 / No Comments » / by Sean

So I ran into a fat finger situation and selected the wrong editor to edit crontab with in a fresh Ubuntu install. So run the following command in order to re-run the selection menu.

sudo select-editor

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April 12th, 2012 / No Comments » / by Sean

Found this little guy today.

The short method of installing Sickbeard on Ubuntu

December 14th, 2011 / 2 Comments » / by Sean

So there is this rather lengthy install guide to install Sickbeard on Ubuntu.  I really don’t get why it is so wordy it doesn’t take 4 pages to explain how to do this fairly short install.  If you want the hand holding sure read through the guide but for those who just want to get on with it here is a quick synopsis of what needs to be done.

1. Download sickbeard from here.

2. Make directory for sickbeard files to live.

  sudo mkdir /opt/sickbeard/ 

2. Extract sickbeard to location

  sudo tar -C /opt/sickbeard/ -zxvf midgetspy-Sick-Beard-68c5fae.tar.gz

3. Move to your directory

  cd /opt/sickbeard

3. Copy upstart script to /etc/init.d/

  sudo cp init.ubuntu /etc/init.d/sickbeard

4. Modify your upstart script

  sudo nano /etc/init.d/sickbeard

a. Change APP_PATH to:


b. Change RUN_AS to:

    RUN_AS={your os username}

4. Set permissions to upstart script.

  sudo chmod a+x sickbeard

5. Update rc.d

  sudo update-rc.d sickbeard defaults

6. Start sickbeard

  sudo /etc/init.d/sickbeard start  

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Convert Ubuntu system from physical to virtual (kvm/qemu)

December 13th, 2011 / 2 Comments » / by Sean

So I’ve had some troubles converting a Ubuntu Server from a physical system to a kvm compatible system. After trying and failing a few methods I found one that worked well.

1. Shut down your system to be cloned.

2. Install a hard drive (SATA/USB etc) to store your disk image of your boot drive.

3. Boot system up with a Ubuntu Desktop Live CD

a. Mount the disk drive to copy your image to.

b. Determine your disks, open Terminal type in…

    sudo su –

    fdisk -l

Note the location of the drive you wish to clone.  Which should be something like /dev/sda

4. Copy your drive using dd.  Change the drive location, and filename to your appropriate information.

    dd if=/dev/sda of=/media/usbdisk/sda.img

5. Reboot your machine, remove the Live CD.

6. In your QEMU or KVM virtual host.  Copy over the image file from your drive to your storage pool.

7. Create a new virtual machine using existing disk.  Select the copied image file, use the ‘raw’ format.

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Crontab Cheatsheet

December 1st, 2011 / No Comments » / by Sean

A quick something I modified and put together in order to put at the top of all of my crontab files since I almost always have to look it up.

# Crontab Quick Cheatsheat
# * * * * * command to be executed
# ┬ ┬ ┬ ┬ ┬
# │ │ │ │ └──── day of week (0 - 7) (Sunday=0 or 7)
# │ │ │ └──────── month (1 - 12)
# │ │ └──────────── day of month (1 - 31)
# │ └──────────────── hour (0 - 23)
# └──────────────────── min (0 - 59)

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