Sunday, August 19, 2012

Buying stuff

Nope - not thinking about spending money on stuff (although I do need another vacuum cleaner soon) but I feel I need to say a few things about buying stuff.

(Techie stuff mainly)

You see so many people buying things and then getting disappointed that it's not all they would have wanted. There's a sense of entitlement there, although some of that comes from feeling entitled to receiving a completed and reliable product from the people we're giving money too. And yep, I can't believe that Legends of Pegasus is still in the Top 20 Sellers chart in Steam, despite the horrific reviews that game is getting.

We have very different rules to buying things at work. They're quite strict and we have to go through a lot of hoops to firstly get approval to spend money and then to get the work on to contract. While I dislike that from an engineer "let me do my job" point of view, I can accept it from the point of view of being professional and an acknowledgement that the money I'm spending is not mine.

To give more of an idea of the hoops we'd have to go through to get support contracting in, we have to give a lot of justification.
Why have we selected that company and not others ?
How much does it cost (often based on early estimates of scope of work) ?
Do we really need it ?
Can we shave anything off the final cost ?
When is it required ?
And have we got a good contracting means

You'll notice that "can we do it better ?" or "do we get more value out of spending a little more ?" are questions that do not apply. "Can we wait for something better ?" is also not a question that's used much because, we need kit now and it often takes too long to jump through the hoops to get it through quickly. Plus, in the techie world if you keep going with the "wait for better ?" then you end up not buying anything and continue using wheezing, archaic equipment that serves no purpose.

Buying at home is much easier. But that doesn't mean it has to be frivolous. I put in a lot of research before buying techie items at home and even there, I don't make the right decisions all of the time. My amplifier is a case in point, I assumed I'd avoid the occasional bad HDMI board issue with Onkyo amps. That assumption was incorrect as I suspect that's the cause of the silent blips (I've eliminated all other causes).

There's a parallel there though. The justifications we have to include at work force us to convince others that we aren't throwing cash away. They make us look beyond "cos this is how we've always done it" and also make us look at options we may not have considered.

Home buying is rather different. If I'd gone by work rules I'd have :

Been hunting for a "what's wrong with my laptop" person (time + money)
Investigated suitable replacements
Investigated who would be the cheapest supplier
And then hunted for another person to do the switch

I have to admit, I actually followed most of those steps up top but I don't have to justify my computer/techie skills to anyone around me. People come to me for advice with techie stuff :-) I'm happy to admit that I don't know everything to do with PCs (anyone who does is a liar) but I can answer most questions by figuring out how to ask Google the right question, filtering out the incorrect, inconclusive and irrelevant.

Investigating suitable replacements was based around me knowing what I'd need to replace the suspect item (a 2.5" SATA completely standard drive) and knowing I'd have the freedom to spend a little more on an item that would boost the performance of the machine. (The hybrid SSD definitely makes for a smoother machine).

I also did an investigation on the software, trying a couple of trials before setting on Acronis True Image as the software for the job. It's easy to use (for a techie), whereas the other free/free trial options didn't apparently want to do what I wanted - clone the drive.

Suppliers is a curious one. Google shopping results help here but whereas at work, we'd be required to go for the cheapest supplier, I was free to spend a little more (especially considering fuel) on going to Novatech. I'll go through Novatech a lot for my PC bits : They're cheap, they sell good stuff, they have an excellent selection and most important - They're local. Being local means I can take advantage of flexi credit by leaving work a little early to head down the motorway to pick stuff up. Definitely better than waiting a few days for Bristol's Finest Postmen to lose your item in the mail.

It's definitely easier to buy stuff at home - but does it get you a better result ?

Not always. I've got a few pieces of cricket gear where I've effectively bought something because it caught my eye, finding that it was less than ideal when I took it on the field. Not sure if I can actually use my latest helmet.

I'm rambling again I believe.

Yes - the hoops we have to jump through at work are a pain. They're often based around convincing people who tend to be very reluctant about spending money. But ... they're worth it in the end. I put in a lot of checking out around buying my current car and minimal research into buying my last one. What I learned about Lexus in that time assured me that it would be a great car with good dealership backup (both correct). I assumed the Focus would be an almost like-for-like replacement for the Puma and was proved wrong (handling not up to it).

I'll close out with : Procrastination can be a good thing.

Applying a little patience and walking away to do a little more window shopping to check out the options lets you commit your cash with a clear head. You know more about the detail of what you're buying. If I'd believed the rumours about bad Onkyo HDMI boards, I'd have bought a Yamaha AV amp. By checking out the inside of a Prius, I saw for myself the different quality of the interior and bought the Lexus.

I'm actually quite happy with the AV amp but the dvd playback is an issue. The Lexus - is still awesome. Also happy with the laptop performance now, hybrid SSDs deliver the performance boost that WD Raptor drives don't.

PS Laptop = stable. No random 10 second frozen mouse pointer pauses since the upgrade. Desktop = stable with new firmware in the drive.

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