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My Way to Paperless

This is my account of going paperless. I will update the post when there is something going on. The parts will be in reverse order so that you always have the latest first.

July 21st: Hazel

Lately I didn't have much time to spare for this project but we started to use the scanner more often. Rather than to fret what to do with a document we just throw it into the scanner and then drop it into the delayed shredder bin. We can sort out where to place it later.

For that matter doing my travel receipts is much easier now. Just scan the receipts, open the resulting PDF into PDFpen, add the electronic invoices like flight tickets and the spreadsheet with the receipts summary and I'm done.

I was briefly using Hazel to see how it works and it should do the trick even though it's probably a little bit tougher to create good rules and we might spend more time manually name the documents. For example the receipts document is very hard to create a good Hazel rule for but I think using TextExpander instead should speed up the naming process enough to keep it efficient.


July 12th: Getting Ready

If my wife hadn't started to work full time we probably would still use papers even though in my job I started to use less and less paper a few years back. The last time we bought a new house and sold our old one we started to use PDFs, Dropbox and PDFpen to sign and share most of the documents with our realtors.

With the dawn of paperless billing keeping all invoices, business paperwork and receipts in one place is becoming more and more of a challenge. What I don't want is to search all my documents in multiple places rather than just open my computer and search for it.

In the beginning of 2012 my wife and I started to talk about going paperless but it took nearly another 6 months to put it in place. I knew that my printer/scanner combo wasn't good enough to scan efficiently nor was a simple PDF image of my documents going to help us cataloging and searching the documents efficiently. When I bought PDFpen I saw the power of OCR to convert a document into searchable text. Then I started to share sensitive documents about our house transaction with our realtors over Dropbox and later used CrashPlan for an online backup. The only missing so far was how to automate the scanning, sorting, syncing and backing up of our documents.

In order to make everything work well all our documents are stored on a central location with a minimal effort to convert into searchable documents and automatically sorter based on its content, at least for recurring documents. Having already a Mac Mini Server adding a great scanner to it, scan and sort the documents into a shared folder on the server looks very promissing. Finally I can use CrashPlan to backup these folder(s) and the only thing I need to figure out if I want to encrypt the documents locally before the are backed up.

The only missing piece is the automatic sorting and for the Mac the solution seems to be simply Hazel. With this tool I can automate actions on files bases on various features like file name, properties, Spotlight comments, content and more. In order to trigger Hazel I need to place my documents into a folder no matter if it was scanned or arrived digitally. Hazel will check the content and move, rename, add tags etc on all documents it understands. The rest will remain in the original folder and we need either to create new Hazel rules or just rename / move them manually.

Even though we didn't start yet I want to collect paper documents in our office in a bin then periodically scan them except I need the documents right away like receipts. After a given time I want to check if I still can find some random documents and if found I will shred the paper.

Because the scanner is a very important piece we bought a Fujitsu SnapScan S1500M and after a few tries I can scan a document in seconds. The Fujitsu software is then running OCR in the background and places the PDF into our central folder. This is dead simple because the scanner scans both sides in one pass, uses a sonic sensor to make sure it did not scan two pages together and the OCR is pretty good. The only thing I need to figure out is how to place multiple pages in on PDF file. So far I see two solutions, either I scan one document at the time and let the software combine them into one document or I scan all pages as one document and combine them later with PDFpen manually. Even though the scanner ran obout $440 it is a great investment to go paperless.

– Andy



Guitar Shop: Still Didn’t get the Memo that Customer Service Counts


When I wrote this piece I mixed up the name of the Store. So it is the Guitar Center Murrieta from which I bought the Amplifier.

Since I bought a Taylor Guitar on my sons’ School Gala silent auction I started to look into buying a good but versatile amplifier because my JamVox is nice but cannot fill the room. On the day after Father’s Day I received a newsletter from the Guitar Shop that their $100 off for purchases over $499 I finally decided to buy a Line 6 Spider IV 150. So I drove down to my closest Guitar Shop despite the warning from the beard to test drive it. After 20 minutes I wanted to buy it but I ran into a lot of troubles afterwards and I am not a happy customer. In the current economy I would have expected a way better customer service. In every company something can go wrong and I am not someone that expects perfect service but I expect that every company puts even more effort into customer service when something goes wrong but not the Guitar Shop.

So that is what happened:

First when I wanted to buy it I was told they did not have it in store even when their website said otherwise. The salesman lame excuse was that they had the display model. So in order to buy it they had to transfer the amp from another store and I left the store about 45 minutes later.

In the store I was told that I would receive the amp within two to three days and that they would call me when it arrives at the store. Two days later no call. When I called to check on the order nobody could give me a good answer but the person on the phone told me that he will call back that day to tell me what is going on. Of course he never called. The next day I called in again and after getting a similar run-around I asked for the manager which promised to call me the same day. He called back the same day telling me that I will either shipped home or to the store and should arrive 7 or 8 days after I bought it.

Finally on Monday I received a big package with the amp in it but just the amp. No electrical plug, no manual, no disks and no registration card. Eventually I had to call Line 6 technical support to figure out what the package content is. The thing that upset me was the fact that I have no idea if this wasn’t a display model or refurbished model even though I looked new.

A few days later I decided to keep the amp and went back to the store to talk to the manager. But he was in a hurry to get out for his lunch break and didn’t bother to listen to my thoughts but rather said that I could have a cable or strings as “compensation”. At that moment I was close to just bring it back and shop somewhere else but I was too tired but I will remember this when I am in the market for my next gear.


– Andy