My 2021 Amazon order highlights

As usual, I’ve reused and recycled way too many Amazon Prime packages this year. I’m going to #thread my top 10 purchases in 2021.

These are items I have actually purchased with my own money during 2021. Photos are of the actual items in my possession (I may go back and add obvious stock photos later for the items I didn’t catch in action). .

No seller or manufacturer has asked for a review, provided any incentives, or otherwise interfered with these orders or this post. If you buy through my links here, I may receive a commission.

In no particular order….

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It’s the most cable-tastic time of the year: Review some accounts you may be able to improve on

Today’s post comes with apologies to my international readers, especially my esteemed non-US Tech Field Day colleagues, who may or may not benefit from today’s quick take that ended up not being so quick again.

As my American readers will know, there are monthly expenditures that are painful and rarely decrease over time.

Some, like apartment rent and self storage, are downright predatory by design–try getting the advertised new tenant rate when you’ve lived in an apartment for a year or more. If you’re lucky, they’ll let you move into a different apartment, pay overlapping rent during the move, put a new deposit down and wait a month or two for the old one to be returned, and then get something close to the advertised rates. And in a recent self-storage experience, I was given two choices on upgrading a storage space: Pay full price (and expect a rent hike within 2-3 months of course), or get the advertised price for the new space as long as I paid full price for the old (soon-to-be-empty) space for three full months.

It’s not all bad though

But you can find unexpected opportunities to save, especially (in my experience) with cable companies, who have a suboptimal reputation when it comes to customer service. Some cellular providers can also work this way, although it can be a bit rougher.

It helps to do some homework first, so here’s what I’d suggest you do.

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Crowdfunding Hits, Misses, and Lessons Learned

Back in November 2020, I wrote about some considerations and dramatics around crowdfunding campaigns. In this post, I’ll give you my top five and bottom five crowdfunding efforts, and maybe a lesson or two to take to the future.

This post has been sitting in my draft folder for a year now, but nothing has changed in it other than the recent time references, which I’ve left as they were in November 2020. I’ll come back with photos later, rather than putting this post off another year.

It was the best of times

My first crowdfunding campaign was the LunaTik and TikTok wrist cases for Apple’s 6th generation iPod Nano (the square one). MINIMAL Design came out with the first huge campaign in 2010, with over $942,000 in backers and a super high quality product that was delivered reasonably. My red LunaTik still sits on my desk, with a functional PRODUCT(RED) Nano in it, and a couple of years ago Scott Wilson, the founder of MINIMAL, mentioned that Apple had used his band/case as part of the prototype design and testing for the original Apple Watch. The watch has come a long way, but the product is still beautiful and functional ten years later. And they’ve come out with more products for the real Apple Watch since then.

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When your corporate message is 15 years too late

This is a fun little gripe, not a particularly deep reflection on anything.

I recently dug back into my email to find the following gem:

As you can see, I’m coming up on 15 years (at least) as a customer of Woot!, the daily deal and “bag o’ crap” seller of geek fame. I’ve been a customer long enough to remember moofi, and I’m pretty sure I remember them having just one deal a day.

Well, Amazon acquired Woot! in 2010, and it’s kinda folded in nicely since then. You can log in and pay with Amazon, and Amazon Prime shoppers get Prime shipping and occasional benefits (like a $5 discount on the already marked down Woot! version of this 100-pack of Peets Nespresso-compatible capsules, which are $62 on Amazon but $39 on a recent day’s Woot! deals).

But somehow the marketing email side of Amazon doesn’t realize they have customers who are already customers of Woot!, because 40 times since 2014 (most of them in the last year), they’ve sent me an invitation to join Woot!.

Now before the Amazon login integration, I could understand it. After all, my Woot and Amazon accounts are under different email addresses, in part because when I started shopping with Amazon in 1999, Gmail didn’t exist.

Darn, I don’t need that Solaris 2.6 guide anymore, and the return window has closed.

Anyway, it’s things like this, and getting ads in my mobile games for other games I already have (even the game I found that mobile game through), that make me feel that AI isn’t quite all it’s feared to be just yet.

And I’m a bit disappointed that they haven’t offered me a new customer promo code in each of those 40 emails. That would be a LOT of deeply discounted coffee capsules and cast iron grill accessories, and maybe, just maybe, my first-ever Bag O Crap.

Where do we go from here?

Well, a new Woot email just came in, so I’m going to go look at what I don’t need from this week’s deals.

Fry’s Electronics is dead

How’s that for a spoiler of a headline?

After a day or two of rumors, a Bay Area TV news report last night confirmed that Fry’s Electronics, a mainstay of Silicon Valley electronics sourcing and more for almost 40 years, would cease operations today, February 24, 2021.

History of Silicon Valley Indeed: Is Fry’s Electronics Dying? | rsts11

Revisiting Fry’s Electronics a year later | rsts11

Fry’s confirmed this on their website early on Wednesday, February 24.

Many locals have seen the stores dry up, but there were still some goods they were useful for; I myself bought a few flash drives and SSDs for mining rigs and appliance builds earlier this months.

I’ve seen a few outlets declare that Fry’s fell to the pandemic, but people who’ve paid attention know this was not the core cause. The stores failed to adjust to competition, both local and online, over the past decade. Despite being the prime source of technology in the Bay Area for decades, they didn’t really keep up with the tech, internally or in the competitive environment.

The cascade through the consignment transition and then through the pandemic didn’t help, but there was a lot more going on long before COVID-19. A couple of friends joked that if they’d just sold toilet paper last year at this time, they would’ve been even more rich and weathered the storm, but like the failure to capitalize on the last two Black Friday sales opportunities, they missed the boat on perma-work-from-home.

Ironically, Micro Center, who are doing well in other parts of the country, failed in Silicon Valley around the turn of the century for similar reasons to Frys’s – failure to compete with what was at the time a very unique retail environment in the Bay Area. In today’s market, they might be able to make a comeback if they can find an affordable location (maybe the Fry’s building in Sunnyvale could be refitted with some windows and fewer ceiling leaks?).

For now, Silicon Valley denizens will have a choice of national websites like Amazon, Newegg, Zones, and the like; the local Best Buy stores; and Silicon Valley’s “other” local computer store, Central Computers (founded in Sunnyvale decades ago like Fry’s). For electric and electronic components, we still have options like Anchor Electronics (also a South Bay staple for around 40 years) and Excess Solutions (which has adjusted and expanded three times in the last 20 years or so).

For the past year or two, a trip to Fry’s for me has been an exercise in controlled disappointment, similar to vintage computer and car aficionados who might drive past the building where their favorite was invented, designed, built. Even more than before, I’d likely leave with nothing purchased, and the 64 empty registers would remain silent. Now they’ll be silent forever.