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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.

Review: Coins.ph

Review: Coins.ph

I’ve written before how much easier it is now to buy Bitcoin in the Philippines.

In my quest to explore all the local options for dealing in Bitcoin I signed up to Coins.ph. As a platform for Bitcoin trading, Coins.ph is fast, convenient and trustworthy. Moreover it has the best BTC/XTC prices I’ve seen in the local market. But Coins.ph is more than just a Bitcoin trading platform. In fact, based on the feature set it currently has, it would be accurate to say it aspires to be the Paypal of the Philippines.

Here’s my experience in kicking the tires of the site’s various offerings.

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Alcoves – Airbnb Guest Performance for June

Alcoves – Airbnb Guest Performance for June

Alcoves had more than 250 guests from Airbnb this June.

Always a pleasure and an awesome responsibility to host strangers from around the world in our Makati apartments.

 

 

Online Booking at Manila Peninsula is a mess

Online Booking at Manila Peninsula is a mess

Considering Manila Peninsula is a 5 star hotel, it’s surprisingly difficult to book with them online.

The booking process starts out like most online bookings. You input the dates you need and the room type you want and give basic details such as your name, address, credit card number, etc.

Once you submit the data you’d think the booking would be complete and that you would get a confirmation of the same. A summary of your booking is emailed to you right away but buried in the details is that if you want to complete your payment online (as opposed to paying when you check in) then a link will be emailed to you to complete the process.pen email

It took 3 days for the email with the payment link to arrive.

And this was after I followed up with the hotel. (I also requested for other things in my follow up email but Peninsula’s reply did not address my other concerns.)

To complete the booking I had to click on a link in the email, which led me to a payment processor, where I had to again input my credit card details.

This was the second time I had to give my credit card details. The reason given in the email was that this was to prevent credit card fraud. However many hotels in the Philippines (Alcoves among them) allow direct booking straight from the website. One doesn’t need to fuss around waiting for an email link to be sent before one can confirm the booking.

Yet Manila Peninsula, a hotel which prides itself on excellent customer service, has to ask its customers to undertake a multi stage booking process before a room can be booked online.

In summary the online booking procedure is:

  1. Slow – You have to wait for the hotel to email you the proper link. This took 3 days in my case. Moreover I’m always wary of clicking links in email as many phising scams start out with this simple action.
  2. Redundant data entry – You have to enter your credit card details twice, at different stages of the booking process.

To be fair you can just reserve a room online and then pay when you arrive. This isn’t true online booking though; online booking with full payment becomes a much more involved affair.