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View Full Version : Keeping Up With The Joneses: PerfectHome v1.2 Reviewed

Tim Allen
04-25-2003, 04:00 PM
How confident are you that you have enough home contents insurance coverage? How much would it really cost to replace everything in a worst-case scenario? These questions have always nagged at me come insurance renewal time, and picking a rough figure out of the air just didn't seem very accurate. PerfectHome looked like it might help to provide a more scientific approach to the problem, so I was keen to try it out.<br /><br /><img src="http://www.pocketpcthoughts.com/images/web/allen-mar03-perfecthome-0.gif" /> <br /><br /><!> <i>PerfectHome, from Two Peaks Software, is a collection of home-related tools: inventory/asset manager, room/location manager, task/shopping list manager, video/DVD/CD manager and loan manager. These can be used independently if you like, but obviously you gain the most benefit if you make use of them all. I looked at version 1.2.</i><br /><br /><span><b>Home Alone</b></span><br />The first thing you need to do is enter some basic information about your home (or homes if you're lucky enough to own more than one).<br /><br /><img src="http://www.pocketpcthoughts.com/images/web/allen-mar03-perfecthome-1.gif" /><br /><i>Figure 1: Entering basic information about your home</i> <br /><br /><span><b>A Room With A View</b></span><br />The next task is to setup all the rooms and other locations in and around your house that you want to record information about.<br /><br /><img src="http://www.pocketpcthoughts.com/images/web/allen-mar03-perfecthome-2.gif" /><br /><i>Figure 2: The room/location list</i> <br /><br /><img src="http://www.pocketpcthoughts.com/images/web/allen-mar03-perfecthome-3.gif" /><br /><i>Figure 3: Entering room information including dimensions</i> <br /><br />You can also log the colors of the walls, curtains, floors, etc - by choosing the actual color rather than just entering a description. The neat idea here is that you can then take your Pocket PC out shopping to make it easier to match furnishings in the store.<br /><br /><img src="http://www.pocketpcthoughts.com/images/web/allen-mar03-perfecthome-4.gif" /><br /><i>Figure 4: Selecting the actual color of a wall or floor</i> <br /><br /><span><b>Needful Things</b></span><br />Once you've specified all the rooms in your house, you can go about filling them with all your stuff. Unfortunately this is a major chore that no application is going to relieve you of doing. Whilst you may start off keen by cataloguing every single little item, you'll quickly discover that for even the smallest home this is a huge undertaking. I ended up grouping things together and estimating the total value.<br /><br /><img src="http://www.pocketpcthoughts.com/images/web/allen-mar03-perfecthome-5.gif" /><br /><i>Figure 5: The inventory</i> <br /> <br /><img src="http://www.pocketpcthoughts.com/images/web/allen-mar03-perfecthome-6.gif" /><br /><i>Figure 6: You can specify custom categories for an asset, and which room it's in</i> <br /><br /><img src="http://www.pocketpcthoughts.com/images/web/allen-mar03-perfecthome-7.gif" /><br /><i>Figure 7: Details of where and when you bought it</i> <br /><br /><img src="http://www.pocketpcthoughts.com/images/web/allen-mar03-perfecthome-8.gif" /><br /><i>Figure 8: You can even add your own photo if you like</i> <br /><br />Even if you only enter basic asset details - like I did - it's a very slow process, not aided by the fact that you can't make the location and category sticky: you have to select these each time you add a new item. Two Peaks says you should use the accompanying desktop version (see below) for the bulk data entry, but to me this seems to defeat the whole purpose of a handheld application that you can take round with you from room to room.<br /><br />Once you have a complete inventory (I ended up with roughly 150 entries), PerfectHome will give you the magic number - how much it's all worth in total.<br /><br /><span><b>Videodrome</b></span><br />As an extension of the home inventory, PerfectHome provides a more customized asset screen to enable you to catalogue your video, DVD and CD collections.<br /><br /><img src="http://www.pocketpcthoughts.com/images/web/allen-mar03-perfecthome-9.gif" /><br /><i>Figure 9: Entering a video, DVD or CD</i> <br /><br />This only allows you to enter the most basic information and doesn't go into anywhere near enough detail for the serious collector. Similarly there's a simple 'Recommend Movie' feature, but all you can do is search by genre.<br /><br /><span><b>The Odd Job</b></span><br />You can also use PerfectHome as a simple to do list for DIY items as well as a shopping list.<br /><br /><img src="http://www.pocketpcthoughts.com/images/web/allen-mar03-perfecthome-10.gif" /><br /><i>Figure 10: The task list, showing shopping tasks only</i> <br /><br />Pre-defined tasks and shopping list items are supplied, but you can easily add your own.<br /><br /><img src="http://www.pocketpcthoughts.com/images/web/allen-mar03-perfecthome-11.gif" /><br /><i>Figure 11: Creating a new shopping item</i> <br /><br />Whilst these features may be useful, they are pretty simplistic and are unlikely to replace the many more advanced to-do list or shopping list applications on the market. Even worse, there's no attempt to link the tasks to the rest of the home data you've entered. For example, I'd expect to be able to add a task such as 'Buy paint for study' and have the application tell me how much I needed based on the room dimensions I've already entered.<br /><br /><span><b>The Loan Ranger</b></span><br />There's also a loan management tool that allows you to track your mortgage and any other loans you may have. This includes amortization, loan comparison and basic 'what if' analysis of the impact of making extra payments. This is all fine if you have a repayment mortgage where you're actually paying off the principal, but I'm saddled with an endowment mortgage so this feature is not a great deal of use to me.<br /><br /><img src="http://www.pocketpcthoughts.com/images/web/allen-mar03-perfecthome-12.gif" /><br /><i>Figure 12: The loan manager</i> <br /><br /><span><b>O Brother, Where Art Thou?</b></span><br />PerfectHome is also available in an identical desktop version, although this does cost extra. You can synchronize your home data between the desktop and Pocket PC versions.<br /><br /><img src="http://www.pocketpcthoughts.com/images/web/allen-mar03-perfecthome-13.gif" /><br /><i>Figure 13: Synchronizing with the Pocket PC</i> <br /><br />Whilst we're on the subject of data, it's worth noting that you can store your home data file on the Pocket PC in your My Documents folder, so it gets backed up automatically.<br /><br /><b><span>Gotchas</span></b><li>I found inventory data entry quite slow and cumbersome. It should be possible to enter assets by room or by category without having to re-select these every time.<br /><li>Also on the inventory, you can't filter the list by location and get a subtotal value of items in a single room.<br /><li>Similarly you can't sort or group rooms and locations by floor or region, such as indoor/outdoor.<br /><li>When specifying room colors it's difficult to match them to the actual color as you have to drag individual RGB sliders rather just picking from a color chart.<br /><li>To edit an asset or location, you have to tap and hold on the item in the list, wait for the pop-up menu and select Properties. The ability to double-tap or a simple properties icon would be so much easier and quicker.<br /><li>The application did crash on me twice in the shopping list section, but having reported it to the developers I was unable to reproduce it, so can't really say what the cause was. It could have just been my setup, but having said that I can't remember the last time I had a crash like this.<span><b>Where To Buy</b></span><br />The software can be <a href="http://www.handango.com/PlatformProductDetail.jsp?siteId=311&platformId=2&productType=2&catalog=0&optionId=0&productId=25806">downloaded from Handango</a> or purchased for $19.95 for the Pocket PC edition only or $35.00 for PerfectHome Suite which includes both Pocket PC and Desktop editions (affiliate link). A trial version is available.<br /><br /><b><span>Specifications</span></b><br />This program will work on any Pocket PC or Pocket PC 2002 device and takes up 577Kb of RAM on the device. It can be installed to a storage card, but this does significantly affect performance.<br /><br /><b><span>Conclusions</span></b><br />Whilst PerfectHome did enable me to meet my initial objective - I discovered that I was under-insured to the tune of 10,000 - I can't say I really enjoyed using it, and I could have achieved the same end with a spreadsheet. Similarly the other tools in PerfectHome really don't add enough 'bundle' value to compete with more specialized shopping list managers, video catalogue managers or financial calculators.<br /><br />I'm always a bit wary of suite-style applications like this which bundle together a number of relatively simple tools and attempt to position the resulting whole as something a lot more than the sum of its parts. Now maybe there's just not enough meat in the home-related application space to warrant a killer application, but with a bit more effort on the usability front to speed up data entry, the addition of more advanced features in the existing tools and more integration between them, PerfectHome could be so much better.<br /><br />So if you're serious about DIY, or you make a living out of renovating properties, or you're a landlord with many houses to look after, then PerfectHome could be worth a look - but even so I suspect you'll find it wanting. For the average home-owner like myself, though, I think it's just too expensive for what it offers.

Jason Dunn
04-25-2003, 04:39 PM
This is one of those programs that I absolutely, complete, and utterly adore the concept of. I just wish it came with the time and discipline to actually use it properly. :roll: When I look around at all the crap I've collected in my house, I shudder to think of cataloguing it all. I need a robot to do it all for me. :mrgreen:

Great review Tim!

04-25-2003, 06:05 PM
Thank you for a great review, Tim.

I was looking for apps similar to this. May be the next version.

04-25-2003, 07:16 PM
Thanks for the review. I've been looking for something along these lines, but with more features, such as:
--tracking of household/project costs and their impact on home value
--tracking of utility usage (heat, elec, water, etc)
--estimating what "behavior" (which appliance & how long/often is it used) is driving utility consumption
--recommending changes in behavior or efficiency improvements that would make the biggest impact on the bottom line
--control of X10 via Wifi/bluetooth

Basically, I'd like to have a server that monitors and runs my house--everything from controlling thermostats, lights, the stereo and the TV to security, ordering groceries, and paying bills. As soon as I get this in place, I want to be able to control it via PPC. Is that too much to ask for?

I currently use MS Money to take care of the financials, and I'm baffled why they don't provide the ability to record utility usage every time I pay a bill, then use that for reports. After all, it's just a front end to an access database... oh well. I got on this topic after setting up X10 (with a PC interface) to turn my Christmas lights on and off every day. Then I started writing down consumption for each appliance so that I could figure out what circuit breakers were overloaded. It then occured to me that if I could monitor when and how much each appliance was using (especially easy if my computer is already turning them on and off), I could get a report each month on *why* my electric bill was so high.

You'd never know where every dollar went, but if it worked like a cash account in MS Money, you'd be recording some of it, and at least be able to bound how much was unknown and make estimates later to improve the accuracy of reports.

Since ipaqs already can act as remotes, X10 can measure temp and control thermostats, X10 does security cameras/sensors, Intel will soon be making computers with independent simultaneous audio systems, and HP already makes a pretty good Media Center PC with a better one on the way, I don't think it's that far off.

Did I mention I plan to do the same thing with my car, using Ipaq/webcam combos as side-view mirrors, vag-com.com to monitor the car's health and fuel consumption, and a pc to distribute sound / dvd movies, with an Ipaq controlling the whole bit?

Anyone else have fantasies like this?

Pocket Solutions
04-25-2003, 11:12 PM
Does anyone else see the irony of a gentleman named "Tim Allen" worrying about the amount of insured value of his home?


Jason Dunn
04-26-2003, 03:17 AM
Anyone else have fantasies like this?

You're about 20 years ahead of your time Andy, but it was really fun to read what you're trying to do - the technology industry just hasn't evolved to keep pace with you. :D

Tim Allen
04-26-2003, 09:09 AM
Does anyone else see the irony of a gentleman named "Tim Allen" worrying about the amount of insured value of his home?


Yeah, the movie business ain't what it used to be... :wink:

Jason Dunn
04-26-2003, 07:02 PM
Oh yeah, another feature I always wished Perfect Home had was the ability to draw out a room and speficy wall sizes. Rooms are never perfect squares as the application seems to indicate - I want the ability to draw lines and attach dimensions to each of those lines to I know exactly how long each wall is. That would be so cool!