Hailo

I’ve had the Hailo app on my iPhone for a while now, but it’s only in the last couple of weeks that I’ve started using it, and I’m already a covert!

Hailo App Dublin
Hailo App Dublin

Available for free on both iPhone and Android smartphones, Hailo will help you hail a taxi more quickly, more easily, and more safely.

When you launch the app, it automatically works out where you are, and also where all the nearest taxis are – and displays them all on a map. If you then decide to book a cab, it’ll send out a message to the nearest car, and let you know as soon as it’s booked – all within a few seconds – and will continue to track the taxi as it makes its way to you.

The service relies upon taxis signing up to the service, and it seems that more and more of the city’s drivers are using it. Over the last few weeks, I’ve talked to several drivers about their experiences of using Hailo. Without exception, they love it, as it gives them more work – and it’s also much cheaper for them than using a traditional radio booking system. Some drivers are using Hailo to supplement the jobs they get over the radio, but in one case a driver told me that he had cancelled his ties to a cab company (and the associated fixed cost of €150 a week – regardless of the amount of work it yielded) and was using Hailo exclusively.

For the passengers too the Hailo app had lots of advantages. As I said, the app can identify where you are – and it’s a simple matter to pinpoint the exact address by typing in the house number. You can also specify what size of taxi you want – with options for 1-4 passengers, 6 passengers, 7 passengers, 8 passengers, or a wheelchair accessible cab – and so, if you have a big party, you can filter your search for taxis that meet your requirements.

Another big advantage of Hailo is that you can pre-define one or more credit/debit cards, and select to pay by card as part of the booking. The removes the worry about having enough cash to pay for your journey. Most taxis will take payment by credit/debit card already, but it can seem like a bit of a faff to pay by card, as it takes a while to process. But not with Hailo. As soon as you arrive, the driver can take payment with a single press (and you can decide to tip your driver), and an email receipt is sent out straight away.

When you book the cab, you get told the details of the driver that’s coming to get you, including their name, badge number and car registration – which makes it a lot safer, as you know you’re getting into the right car. Hailo vets drivers themselves, so you also have that added sense of safety, so that if something does happen during your journey it’s possible to trace who your driver was.

And finally, if you accidentally leave something behind in the cab you can report the loss through the app.

Data Roaming Costs in Europe

I’m due to go away this weekend, and like any smartphone user, I want to stay connected. But as I’m leaving Ireland, what are my mobile data options?

The following prices are accurate as of now (information from each network’s web site):

  • Meteor – on both billpay and prepay it costs 86 cents per MB when roaming in Europe, or you can buy a 50MB bundle that lasts for 30 days for €19.99.
  • O2 – the same 86 cents per MB, or 51 cents per MB if you sign up to a billpay promotion, or also on billpay you can buy a daily allowance of 25MB for €2.
  • Vodafone – the same 86 cents per MB, or a bundle of 50MB per day for €2.
  • Three – if you’re going to a country with another Three network, then you can use Three Like Home and not pay anything extra for data – it comes out of your existing bundle.

I’m not entirely sure why the Meteor bundle seems so expensive in comparison to the others. I know their bundle lasts for a month, as opposed to the daily bundles of O2 and Vodafone, but I suppose if you’re away for more than 10 days then the 30 day bundle would save you money if your daily usage was light.

Of course, if you can avail of the Three Like Home offer then you get charged as if you were still in Ireland – so if you have a data bundle at home, your usage abroad comes out of that.

Moves iPhone app

For the last few days I’ve been trying the Moves app on my iPhone 4.

Moves iPhone app
Moves iPhone app

The app tracks all the walking, cycling and running you do during the day; working a bit like a mix between a pedometer and a GPS tracker, but all presented in one very slick bundle.

Other apps work on the basis that you need to start and stop them manually when you perform any activity.  Moves, on the other hand, sits quietly in the background recording all your different activity, using a combination of the accelerometer (to measure movement) and GPS (to measure distance) to work out what you’re doing, for how far, and for how long.

It then presents a daily summary back to you of your minutes, distance, and steps (walking only) for each activity. It also plots a timeline of your activity throughout the day, showing where you went, how you got there, and how long it took.  It’s very clever of course, and I’m not entirely sure I quite understand how it all works, but I don’t care. It manages, somehow, to distinguish when I’m cycling (as opposed to in a car or bus) – and that allows me to track how much I ride each day.

The only downside I can see to the app is related to the battery life of your phone. As the app runs constantly in the background, and taps into the GPS signal a lot when you’re moving, it uses a fair bit of juice. The developers say that they’ve tried to minimise the battery drain, and say you should still get a full day’s usage with an iPhone 4S or above. However, I’m noticing that iPhone 4 is running down somewhat faster than usual, such that under moderate usage I’m down to about 30% battery by mid afternoon – meaning that I need to recharge it at work to get a full day’s usage out of it.

Having said all that, I’m still a fan of the app, and it’s especially good for people who build their activity into their daily routine to be able to track what they’ve done.

Tour

It was, perhaps, the most undemanding choir tour I had ever been on. Usually these tours are organised to try and cram in at least three or four different concerts. But in Loreto, our only commitment was to sing a single concert on the Thursday evening.
We were performing with a local Italian orchestra, orchestra, and conductor. And we would need two rehearsals on the proceeding evenings with them, to ensure that everything would gel on the night. But apart from that, the rest of the time – during the day – was our own.
Now Loreto is quite a small town, and apart from the magnificent basilica and the picturesque cobbled streets, there’s not an awful lot to see or do – particularly in March when it’s off-season for tourists. But we managed to find a rather pleasant café to sit outside and watch the world go by. The coffee drinkers in the group, of course, were in 7th heaven – gulping down those expertly-made espressos as if there were no tomorrow. And the shopping wasn’t bad either, as long as you’re keen on religious memorabilia.
The music was very satisfying too (well our part anyway – I didn’t hear any of the other choirs singing in the festival), and the orchestra was excellent. We started our concert with a short selection of contemporary pieces, but the main event was an abridged rendition of Handel’s Messiah.
Every seat in the basilica was taken, with quite a few people standing at the back. A whole load of the town’s dignitaries were also in residence – indicating that this was a really big deal. And they were a very appreciative crowd. Our standing ovation at the end seemed to go on for ever. And as we were leaving the building afterwards, I think we were all being stopped by people offering congratulations (I’m assuming it was congratulations, as my Italian is none-existent… in response I just smiled, nodded, and said “grazie” a lot!).
It was a brief first taste of Italy for me, and I must say I thoroughly enjoyed it. I would definitely love to go back in the near future and see a bit more of the country.

Off the rails

Despite the very best efforts of National Express East Anglia to try and delay me on Tuesday morning, I did eventually make it Stansted Airport in time to catch my plane to Italy and join the rest of Christ Church choir on tour.
My timetable allowed me just over 3 hours before check-in closed, to make the 90 minute journey from Peterborough to Stansted. And I ended up needing every single spare minute. The train out of Peterborough was late arriving, and then got cancelled in Ely; throwing its passengers off onto the platform with little clue how to proceed. The next train then got us as far as Cambridge before that terminated too. And the third train was a good 20 minutes late leaving for Stansted – although it did manage to make it all the way to its destination.
In the end it took us a full 2 hours and 45 minutes to get there. And from some of the phone calls I overheard from my fellow passengers, some of them had completely missed their flights.
I was lucky, however, and made it with 20 minutes to spare. However, the whole experience probably took a couple of years off my life; what with the stress of it all.
In contrast, the two trains we caught in Italy itself (on the other end of the flight) both ran exactly to time – to the minute. And the Italian ticket inspector even waived the €50 fine we should have paid, when we failed to validate our train tickets before boarding.