Archive for the ‘Tech’ Category

The mytaxi experience

I believe in competition, and when in London, Dublin and Spain, I don’t only rely on the Uber app, but also the Hailo app. A while back I migrated to mytaxi because Hailo got consumed by them.

mytaxi may be Europe’s largest taxi app, but it sure is weird compared to Uber or Grab. Setting it up was “interesting” as pretty much all credit cards would be declined (or my issuing banks clearly worry about fraud too much?). So the fix is to use PayPal. That “just works”.

They have partnered with Lufthansa Miles & More to give you miles for all kinds of money you spend with the app.

When you order, presumably you use WiFi, and you’ll find a cab in no time. But when its time to pay with the app, you’ll need a mobile data connection or have the driver turn on a wifi hotspot, because you’ll have to authorise the payment either via a password (?!?!), or Touch ID (better to configure this). But the whole “confirming” you’re making a payment is clearly added friction in the entire process.

I find it funny that you’re also allowed to provide a tip to the driver. In Europe, this is quite unheard of. Then its the usual rating.

Frictionless experiences, that’s what I’m after. I can’t imagine people use mytaxi and enjoy such an experience at the moment.

The Touch Bar can wow you over!

In the tech space, sometimes people can be notorious for bemoaning new technology. Case in point? The Touch Bar on the new retina MacBook Pro’s.

I’ve been using a 15″ retina MacBook Pro with Touch Bar for about six months now. I am a vim user when I SSH to servers so I do use the Escape key (and maybe find it a tad annoying that I don’t get any feedback that I’ve hit the Esc key). Otherwise, I use BBEdit. I’ve used the function keys to control screen brightness, adjust volume, and play music. I don’t find Siri useful. I’ve wondered why when I use Keynote I can see little slides appear on my Touch Bar (not like I can read the text, right?). Safari has always been odd with switching tabs via a keyboard (unlike Chrome’s shortcuts), but now you can also switch tabs using the Touch Bar (alas, I’m not really a Safari user). PDFpenPro has selection tools that I can now access via the Touch Bar, so its a bit of a productivity improvement.

So all in, I’m more or less indifferent to the Touch Bar. I don’t love it, but I don’t hate it. Oh wait, I can’t forget the killer feature: unlocking my MacBook Pro with my fingerprints! Touch ID is a killer feature especially since I use 1Password which also supports it. I think this feature alone has improved my productivity tremendously, and saved lots of time re-entering my password.

However, Sara saw my keyboard the other day and she was amazed that it could also display emoji. And this made her really like the MacBook Pro’s Touch Bar (she’s a 13″ MacBook Air user). So Apple can wow users!

Touch Bar with emojis

I presume she will find other uses for it as she’s a creative user of the Mac. I’m just a boring text/code wrangler.

How would the Touch Bar be improved? It needs to be offered across the board on Macs (even for keyboards that iMac and Mac Mini users will use). It probably needs to have haptic feedback; this I suspect will improve the touch typing experience. However even as I write this, I think to myself that when I type on my iPhone or iPad, I don’t get haptic feedback and I intuitively know where everything is…

Uber Data Extractor

This is pretty cool: Uber Trip History Bookmarklet.

It allows you to get your complete Uber trip history, download it as a CSV file, and then run the Uber Data Visualiser. You get to learn quite a bit about your trips. I’ve attached a snapshot of mine, there’s more data and you should run it too!

Would be interesting to see this kind of history for Grab rides (and all the other various ride services out there).

Uber Data Visualizer

Should I get the BlackBerry KeyOne?

I’ve been thinking that my next Android device to replace the Nexus 6 would likely be the BlackBerry KeyOne. It is apparently already selling in Selfridges, and the reviews are starting to pour in.

Verdict? Good keyboard and battery life. The good battery life should be good for the fact that I like to tether and share the Internet from my Android device when travelling. It also has fast USB C charging.

I want to increase my productivity on the go. Email on the go is something I feel like I’ve not managed to wrap myself around since I ditched my BlackBerry 9700 in 2013. I want to use Twitter (though the 3 tweets on a screen seems like a limitation; until you notice that on your iPhone 7, you also only see 3 tweets…). I want to use Bloomberg. And likely I want to blog. But maybe I also want to manage tasks on the go, like run OmniFocus. Oh, and Slack – that’s pretty crucial now.

So now I’ve spent many years in the iOS ecosystem. I don’t find my Android being too useful beyond running the occasional GMail, Gogole Maps, Swarm, Chrome. I want to use Android more clearly, hence the BlackBerry. But I also see software I like like OmniFocus that will likely never come to Android, and they don’t encourage 3rd party clients. A tad annoying.

Who says the ecosystem doesn’t matter?

Upgrade notes on macOS Sierra

I’m notorious for not updating OS X (macOS) too quickly, preferring to wait months on end for Apple to iron out bugs. I just hope that in 2017 they don’t make a major release and something sensible, i.e. that fixes usability and makes the OS much more stable.

However when you buy a new Mac, you’re more or less forced into the new OS. I did pickup a MacBook Pro 15″ with the new TouchBar, and at some stage I’ll talk about my usage (its been about 3 months of daily usage).

One thing that has annoyed me about the new macOS Sierra is that I don’t get to use GPGTools – it will not work on macOS Sierra. There is now however a beta you could try to ensure you’re signing and encrypting email just as well.

Another thing that I hit almost immediately? Some of my SSH hosts just stopped working. I’ve seen various sites talk about how ssh-agent does not automatically load pass phrases to keychain during startup to Upgrading to macOS Sierra will break your SSH keys and lock you out of your own servers.

My ~/.ssh/config now has:

Host *

UseKeychain yes

AddKeysToAgent yes

to fix things.

Everything else more or less works. I did Time Machine restore. I’m not too happy that they removed the Time Remaining from the Battery icon, and I’m not getting the battery life that I expect, but maybe when the new Mac Mini’s come out, I’ll do another Time Machine restore to that, and a clean install to the MacBook Pro.

Compression algorithms, archival

My strategy for photos is to place them in my Dropbox folder, and sync them to one box in particular but they also live on the Dropbox cloud (it also used to be that they end up on Flickr as they sometimes still do; Google Photos does backup in regular resolution stuff from my iPhone). All this gets backed up via various backup services (Backblaze, CrashPlan).

Lately, I’ve been wondering if that makes sense since Dropbox applies compression to my JPGs. I missed the announcement of Dropbox using Lepton image compression, but did read with great interest that Flickr is using it too – A Year Without a Byte.

Lepton “provides lossless, bit-exact storage for any type of photo, whether it be for archival purposes, or for serving live.” It is open source.

I understand it saves Dropbox countless petabytes. I just don’t like the idea that my images are being re-compressed without me knowing about it. It may be that other services do this too. But one thing is for sure – the moment its in my Dropbox folder, they reduce in size, and my backups are also getting said reduction. Sure it’s lossless, bit-exact storage. But I’m thinking about archival forever!

P/S: I’m going to guess this is why Dropbox doesn’t support Live Photos in Camera Uploads yet. They haven’t figured out how to save space…