How to monitor online prices on Linux

Anyone who does a bit of online shopping knows that one of the most important rules to get the best deal possible is to look for the product you want on multiple shopping platforms. For example, buying a used book on Amazon is easy, and buying the same on eBay might be cheaper. You also might want to keep your wishlist up-to-date, and hope for a drop in the price of some items. But in the quest for the best deal, it is easy to get frustrated; every time you have to log in on a different platform, compare your wishlists, research individual items, add them, delete old ones, etc. If like me, your Steam wishlist is an Ikea catalog, it quickly becomes annoying to do the same on your GOG or PSN (PlayStation Network) account.

Hopefully, there is a solution: Timmy. No, not the South Park character, but freeware that centralizes and monitors the prices of online products for you. It is closed source, and only its binary JAR files are available to the public. Let's see how we can make use of this toy.

Installing Timmy on Linux

Timmy is coded in Java, which automatically makes it really easy to port to multiple operating systems including Linux. Timmy requires Java runtime environment 1.7 or higher, so make sure to install appropriate Java runtime first, or check that your Java meets the version requirement.

$ java -version
java version "1.7.0_65"

Using old Java will fail Timmy with the following error:

Exception in thread "main" java.lang.UnsupportedClassVersionError: mainpackage/MainJFrame : Unsupported major.minor version 51.0

For Debian based distributions, a DEB package is available on the official website. Install and launch it by:

$ sudo dpkg -i Timmy-2.0-1_all.deb
$ java -jar /opt/timmy/Timmy.jar

Arch Linux users can simply install it from AUR.

For all other distributions, download the binaries (Timmy_X.X-X_bin.tar.gz) from the official website, extract them, and run:

$ java -jar Timmy.jar

Usage of Timmy

The first thing that you will notice when using Timmy is that the interface is kind of simplistic. It actually looks like the default GUI for basic Java programs. However, beyond that initial look, Timmy is in fact quite user friendly.

A simple way to use Timmy is to find a product online that you are interested in, and then copy and paste the URL in "File, Add new product."

The product will then be added to the Timmy's watch list. From there, it is easy to retrieve and update information, such as a drop in price. You can update prices of the list easily via the 'F5' key or "Edit, Update all prices."

This will fetch the new data about all the products in your list and aggregate it, allowing you to consult the price history with a right-click on any line.

However, if you already have a very long Amazon or Steam wishlist, Timmy can simply import it by copy pasting your wishlist's public URL:

Finally, you can perform advanced list operations like find duplicates, import the list, or even export it regularly to Dropbox after authenticating your Dropbox account in "Edit, Settings."

If you are wondering how it works, Timmy is heavily based on jsoup and json-lib, two libraries used for parsing information from the web. To be sure that Timmy is for you, I invite to go check out the list of websites supported. At the moment, it already supports a number of major online retailors such as Amazon, eBay, Gamestop, PlayStation Store, Steam, etc.

To conclude, Timmy is definitely one of those original software which deserve more attention from the public. Yes the interface could be a lot sexier, maybe with more icons and less of a Java default GUI feel. But the concept is very good, and from the changelog, it seems that the development is headed towards the right direction. I really hope that the project will grow and get the supports from the public it deserves.

As a potential idea for a future feature, the price comparator I use the most is isthereanydeal.com which is specialized for dematerialized video game from major shopping platforms. It would be awesome to have that kind of data available from Timmy.

Anyway, what do you think of this project? Is it something you would use on a daily basis ? Let us know in the comments.

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Adrien Brochard

I am a Linux aficionado from France. After trying multiple distributions, I finally settled for Archlinux. But I am always trying to improve my system by stacking up tips and tricks.

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5 thoughts on “How to monitor online prices on Linux

  1. Timmy doesn't seem to be free software. The Bitbucket page doesn't contain source code (nor does it have any license information). Please add this information at the beginning of the post, so people don't waste time on this.

    • "Timmy is a completely free program created entirely by Red Squirrel."

      It is freeware, but not open-source as you pointed out. Article updated to clarify.
      Thanks!

      • I saw that line in their website, but without a proper license the user cannot know what is allowed to to with the program. Thank you for updating the article.

  2. You could give a bit more emphasis to the fact that it only works with a restricted list of shops.

    OK, a couple of the on-line shops are a couple of the biggies, but beyond that they are fairly eclectic. That can be a good thing if you really happen to want the same items, from the same locality as the original author, but the fact is that 99% of people won't want that and it won't be all that useful to them.

    As it seems to work by 'screen scraping' various prices from this list (17, at time of writing) shops, here is a suggestion: Document how it works, make it open source and let other people write their own 'price filters' for it, so that it works with the on-line shops that really interest the majority. Otherwise, it will remain obscure and will do exactly what the original author wanted and nothing more.

    Oh, and by the way, products of this kind are troubled by unreliability; the shop changes the format of the web page, and a decimal point in the reported price moves a couple of places, or you compare apples with oranges, so this kind of product can only really be used as a general indication, not as a definitive price finder.

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