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AutoConscience Update 3

AutoConscience Update 3

The site is a lot prettier now. More importantly it better presents the narrative of why someone would use AutoConscience.

We’re trying to remove the anonymity of drivers. So when you a do good thing on the road you get thanked. If you do something bad someone will be there to see it and call you out on it.

There isn’t a lack of witnesses to bad driving. It’s just that the social scorn for doing something wrong on the road doesn’t get communicated to the driver so he (or she) continues the behavior.

Research backs up the notion that the anonymity of motoring encourages bad driving behavior. If you’re interested to learn more check out Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do (by Tom Vanderbilt). The book is an interesting exploration of the causes, and some consequences, of traffic.

On the development front the team is working away at both the app and the site. By tomorrow the site should be functionally complete with a report screen, log in page and community goals.

For the app we are now focusing on the gamification aspect to further encourage users to keep reporting. We’re looking for beta testers so if you’re interested drop us a note in the comments or via this link.

We’re still on target to have the app on the Google app store within this month.

Sending Bitcoin to Coins.ph

Sending Bitcoin to Coins.ph

I’ve written how easy it is to buy and sell Bitcoin using Coins.ph.

The service is also a great way to pay your bills. It offers all the mainstays such as Globe, Skycable, Meralco, Maynilad, Manila Water, etc.

If anyone wants to send me BTC here’s my address!

Recently though I had a simple question regarding sending Bitcoin to Coins.ph and I was disappointed that their customer service couldn’t give me a straight answer.

My question was if I send Bitcoin to my Coins.ph Bitcoin wallet how much do I receive?

This question came about because I noticed at the bottom of the wallet prompt there’s a discussion on the amount I send being “automatically converted.” Specifically, “Bitcoin sent to this address will be automatically converted to a specific Bitcoin Wallet value, using the current coins.ph sell rate.” Based on that text, which you can see in the screenshot, it would seem that Bitcoin is automatically converted to PHP.

I did not want that. I wanted my Bitcoin to remain as Bitcoin. Moreover I wanted to make sure that I would get the full amount of Bitcoin that I sent to my Coins.ph Bitcoin wallet (less of course the transfer fee).

So I asked, if I send .1 Bitcoin to my Bitcoin Wallet Address, how much Bitcoin will actually be credited to my wallet address?

All in all 5 different customer service reps took turns handling my question and none of them could give me a straight answer.

The answer would vacillate between the Bitcoin would automatically be converted to PHP or the Bitcoin would arrive in my Coins.ph wallet just fine. After a bit of back and forth it was clear I would not be getting a straight answer so I decided to just try it out for myself.

So, if you’re sending Bitcoin to your Coins.ph Bitcoin wallet then rest assured you will be credited the entire amount (less transfer fees). I sent .49BTC (yes I know the sign for Bitcoin is XBT but I’m old school) and I received .49 BTC.

Not sure though why customer service couldn’t give me a straight answer.

This is also my first occasion to use Coins.ph, “cash out” option where some of the pesos I have with them is deposited into an account I specify.

I’ll write tomorrow on my experience with cashing out.

 

 

AutoConscience Update 2

AutoConscience Update 2

Since last week we’ve had several iterations of the alpha version of the app. All of the basic functionality is in place but there’s still a lot of polishing to do. A lot of the work has to do with stitching all of the different parts of the app so that they all interact well each other.

Conceptually it’s a simple app but once you get down to brass tacks (What does this button do? How does the user get to his profile?) everything becomes a lot harder as every little detail is a deliberate decision.

Aside from the development of the app we’re also devoting a lot of time to getting the website up and running. In the ideal scenario our users would find value in both the app and the site as the site presents a lot more information than the app can.

Most importantly the site highlights Community Goals. Whenever someone reports, regardless if it’s an anonymous reporter or registered user, points are added to the Community Score. Once a certain score is reached a Community Goal is achieved. A lot of the Goals will be freebies for our users, such as free gas for 10 registered users.

The Community Goals will be our way of thanking users and they add further incentive to keep reporting. I would also like to add Community Goals which address the impact of motor vehicles – such as planting trees or sponsoring tune ups for PUVs so they won’t smoke belch anymore.

All our design decisions boil down to making users feel that their reports make a positive difference to traffic and contribute to a better driving experience for everyone.

We are still on track to have the app available for download via the Google Play Store sometime in October. The site will also need to have basic functionality by then as the app and the site go hand and hand. Crossing my fingers we can pull this off!

AutoConscience Update 1

AutoConscience Update 1

It’s been about 3 weeks since we pitched at Startup Summit. In that time the team has been hard at work overhauling the interface and actually coding the app.

The back end is somewhat complete and the focus this week has been the front end.

Along the way we were hit with some unsexy problems, the kind that you don’t read about in the glossy magazine write ups of startups. We had to replace one of the computers since its AMD CPU wasn’t playing nicely with Visual Studio (VS). The new computer then had to go through the usual Windows install and then VS install. The internet at the office is so slow that I had to bring the computer back home and download VS there. After the new computer was up and running some VS sync problems cropped up between our 2 work computers.

It’s basically third world development problems. I don’t think devs in the US or Singapore have to worry about slow internet or coding on budget machines.

Honestly I thought one could code on just about any computer but modern development these days isn’t like that. These IT problems are minor but annoying and really slow down the workflow of a small team.

We’ve settled on Android Kitkat as our default template OS for the Android version. This is based on the assumption that most Android devices in the Philippines are older models which will most likely be running Kitkat and not Lollipop or Nougat (definitely not Oreo).

Heck, my personal phone is a Moto X which still runs on Kitkat.

To be clear, our ambitions extend beyond the Philippine market. Crowded cities all around the world (eg. in Indonesia, China or South America) are potential markets for AutoConscience. But the Philippines will be our first market so we’re tailoring the app to suit Philippines users. If we do manage to expand overseas the app will evolve along with that change.

The current timeline is to have an internal working Alpha version in a week or 2. By October AutoConscience should be available for download from the Android Playstore.

I’ll leave you with pictures of the new interface and logo. I think they look like quite spiffy.

Philippine Startup: AutoConscience

Philippine Startup: AutoConscience

So the last business I set up an eternity ago (6 years to be precise) is chugging along nicely. It makes money. Guests are, overall, happy. But to be honest, Alcoves has become a little boring for me. Yes I’m extremely grateful that the apartments are renting well and I’ve poured a lot of hard work into the “buffet apartment hotel”. But I’ve been itching for awhile now to launch another crazy idea.

As such, I’ve gathered a small team and together we’re creating an app to help ordinary people fight Manila traffic. We want to build something that is so useful and simple that anyone on the road can use it to improve road conditions.

(Any idea that even attempts to alleviate traffic in Manila is foolhardy so I thought this would be an interesting challenge.)

The app itself is simple – it will allow you to report good and bad driving behavior. We hope that since drivers will be able to receive a lot of feedback, almost in real time, they will be encouraged to do more of the good driving (signalling, using proper lanes, not blocking the intersection) and less of the bad (swerving, smoke belching, not signalling, etc.)

AutoConscience (that’s our app) is still in development but we hope to launch it by October 2017. This early we’ve already gotten some interest – we were one of the finalists at the 2017 Startup Summit Philippines.

This is a new challenge for me – leading a team purely focused on a software product. I taught myself HTML and CSS in the past but do not consider myself a technical founder. So in short the odds are high that this will be a spectacular failure! At the very least it will be exciting.

Civilization 6 Infrequently Asked Questions

Civilization 6 Infrequently Asked Questions

Civilization 6 came out a couple of months ago and since then I’ve been in many a “one more turn” coma, plugging away at the game into the wee hours of the morning. I’ve played every version of Civ and Civ 6 is a good blend of new ideas and comfortingly familiar gameplay.

As it is a Civilization game though there are always some oddities of the rules that you wonder about. I’ll list some infrequently asked questions and add some more as I encounter them in game. I play the game on Emperor and have noticed you really make use of the ins and outs of the game mechanics more on the higher difficulty levels.

1. Is the attack range of a city affected by hills? – Yes, it is. Note in the screenshot how Liverpool  can only hit the musketman unit beside it and not the musketman two hexes away (beyond the hills with marble in them) on the right. (That darn musketman has also just pillaged one of my improvements.)

 

 

2. What happens when an enemy unit is occupying one of your airfields? You can’t build any aircraft in that airfield.

 

 

 

 

3. If you have the Venetian Arsenal and you build a fleet, do you get 2 fleets?Yup, you get 2 fleets. (Sweet.)

 

 

 

4. If an embarked land unit occupies the same sea hex as a naval unit and is then attacked by an adjacent land unit will the sea unit “cover” the land unit? – No the sea unit is useless in this case. The land unit will absorb all of the damage from the attack. This is a bit counter intuitive as in previous civ games you wanted your sea units to be in the same tile as your embarked (or transported, depending on which version of Civ you’re playing) land units so that the sea unit would take the damage. This leads us to the next question/weird Civ 6 rule.

5. Can land units attack adjacent embarked land units? – Yes. Weird, but yes.

6. Do embarked units count as land units or naval units? (This is important for attack/defense bonuses) – Embarked units count as land units.

7. Does the SAM unit have any kind of melee defense? – None. If it gets attacked by anything land based it will lose without dealing any damage. It’s like a settler or builder except the enemy doesn’t capture it.

8. Can bombard units plunder trade routes? – Yes.

Best way to get service from Skycable

Best way to get service from Skycable

Yesterday (Sunday) my cable connection went dead. I also did not have any internet as Skycable is both my cable TV and internet provider.

I first tried calling their hotline (381-0000) so I could talk to someone on the phone. Fifteen minutes later and 3 rounds of “all our agents are occupied at the moment” I gave up trying to get a real person on the phone. After all it was Sunday afternoon, the worse possible time to try to get service from a provider.

In desperation I texted Report (My Subscriber account number) to 23662. This was a hail mary play though, I didn’t expect anything to come of it and that I would have to call the hotline again the next day, Monday. To top it all off, the only response from Skycable was an automated text telling me to visit their website for common trouble shooting tips. (This text was particularly aggravating since my internet was down as well. It’s like asking a drowning man why doesn’t he swim.)

The cable went out around 4pm. I texted the hotline around 5:30pm. Amazingly at around 8pm someone from Skycable called to inform me that they had had a service interruption in the area but it was fixed now so my cable and my internet should be working. The customer service rep patiently waited while I checked both and that was that.

So, texting Skycable to get service works! (Even on a Sunday.)

To recap, if you are having technical difficulty with Skycable:

  1. Find out your account number (let’s say it’s 12345)
  2. Text Report 12345 to 23662
  3. That’s it!
  4. Hope they contact you in a couple of hours

 

Requirements for a representative to claim your driver’s license

Requirements for a representative to claim your driver’s license

So you got your license renewed but the LTO office was out of plastic licenses.

Now it’s 6 months (or a year or two) later and you figure that (siguro naman) the plastic license is available. But you’re loath to take a day off from work just to trudge over to the LTO office.

Fear not, I did the trudging for you and while I was at the LTO office I also took note of the requirements for a representative to claim your plastic driver’s license:

  1. Authorization letter
  2. Photocopy of your (the claimant) ID as well as the ID of your representative
  3. Original OR from when you renewed your license

There you go. Now you just need to find someone you can cajole into trudging to LTO.

Air conditioner keeps tripping the breaker

Air conditioner keeps tripping the breaker

I recently moved into a new house. We got it for a good deal as the owner’s immigration visa to Australia was granted suddenly and he was eager to sell his property.

Anyway we were using the air conditioner in the master’s bedroom every night for around 3 weeks when one night the AC just died and we heard the thud/clunk of the breaker tripping. I reset the breaker and the air conditioner came back on. It lasted for around 30 minutes and then died again, along with the breaker once again tripping.

I had no idea as to how well maintained the AC unit was; whether it was on its last legs or the problem was the breaker or something else entirely. That’s the thing with buying real estate second hand, you’re never entirely sure how comfortable/reliable it is until you actually live in it.

Cleaning the air conditioner and getting it checked out was the easiest thing I could do to try to address the problem. The AC unit in question is a 2HP split type air conditioner with its compressor/motor located a floor above us on the roof deck.

I have an AC service place I use regularly (for Alcoves) so they came over the next day to clean the air conditioner. Once they started cleaning it was quite apparent that the AC had not been cleaned in awhile. They would blast water into the unit and really dark, cruddy liquid would wash out. (AC cleaning is basically cleaning out the innards of the air conditioner with pressure blasted water.)

So, the air conditioner was very, very dirty. It doesn’t help that Manila air really isn’t the cleanest to begin with and the property is located somewhat close to a major highway.

Once the AC had been cleaned it resumed its normal operation without tripping the breaker.

Long story short: A dirty air conditioner doesn’t work as efficiently so it could be drawing more and more power from the mains until it trips a breaker. If you have an air conditioner which is constantly tripping a breaker, consider having it cleaned.

Cancelling a booking with Makati Crown Regency through Getaroom.com

Cancelling a booking with Makati Crown Regency through Getaroom.com

On the rare occasion that a double booking occurs at Alcoves we either upgrade the guest to a nicer room with us or find them alternate accommodations at an equal or nicer place.

This is how I ended up booking at Makati Crown Regency, in order to accommodate an overbooked guest. Booking online a room with Makati Crown Regency was painless and quick.

However the double booked Alcoves guest ended up no longer needing the room. As such, I had to cancel the booking with Makati Crown Regency. And this is where the story gets interesting.

I called up Makati Crown Regency, gave my confirmation number and asked to cancel the booking. I note that I tried to cancel the booking online but the link provided in the confirmation email had no option to cancel or modify the booking.

Makati Crown Regency  confirmed the booking but said they couldn’t cancel it as the booking had been done online. I said fine, transfer me to someone who can cancel the booking. I get transferred to the reservations manager who, after also having to call someone to check the procedure for cancellation, informed me I would have to contact the online agent from which I had booked the room from. (I had booked through Getaroom.)

Again I said alright do they have a phone number I can reach the online agency with(at this point I was already dubious since Getaroom is an international site). After some fumbling on the other end, I am informed they do not have a phone number, only an email address. A little exasperated at this point I say that it’s kind of silly that even though I am already directly talking to the hotel with which I have a confirmed booking with I can’t cancel said booking. They say they can only give me an email address.

Resigned I get the email and send a request right away. Honestly I was pretty sure I would get no reply or at best a reply a couple of days later. But in fairness someone replied within a couple of hours to confirm my cancellation.

So on one hand the current method to cancel a booking is pretty silly, Kafkaesque even. Even though you’re talking to the hotel with which you have a booking, and the hotel confirms the same, you can’t cancel the booking. On the other hand the roundabout method in place now works well, if you can get over your initial skepticism that someone will reply to your email.

After all that trouble I never even stayed at the Crown Regency.