There’s been some discussion recently about whether taxis should be forced to accept card payments.
When arriving at an airport you would have thought it would be especially important that taxis accept credit and debit cards – but it seems there’s no requirement on the taxis licensed to pick up at Dublin airport to take cards.
One obvious way to ensure you can pay by card is to book a taxi using one of the hailing apps such as myTaxi. But there doesn’t appear to be anywhere in Dublin Airport for passengers to get picked up by app-hailed taxis.
Only certain pre-approved taxis are allowed to join the official airport taxi rank, and so app-hailed pickups often take place at other random parts of the airport – at the departures drop-off area, at the bus stops, or on some random side-street. The taxis aren’t allowed to wait in these areas, so they circle the airport until their passengers are in position and then swoop in collect them.
I tweeted Dublin Airport to ask them if they had a designated area for pre-booked taxis to pick up passengers, but they never replied to me. I guess their answer would be that they would prefer that taxis park up in the short-term car park, and come into the terminal to collect passengers – but they would say that, because they generate a lot of revenue from their car parks!
Also as a passenger I don’t really want to pay the additional parking fees for my taxi.
So what’s the solution?
Maybe Dublin Airport needs to think about providing a designated area (perhaps where all the buses park up and wait) in the airport for app-hailed taxi pickups – one that allows taxis to wait for a few minutes for their passengers to arrive.
N26 is an innovative fintech providing mobile-first online banking, based in Berlin Germany, but serving customers from across Europe – and soon to launching in the UK and USA as well.
I’m based in Ireland and have been an N26 customer for over a year now, and I thought I’d share my experience for anyone considering signing up.
N26 pride themselves that you can open a new current account in just 8 minutes. All you need to do is download the app, sign up for a new account, gather some ID to prove who you are (for anti-money-laundering purposes), and then the account opening will be completed through an in-app video call with one of the N26 staff.
There’s no pieces of paper to sign or documents to post to them. It works pretty seamlessly, and they appear to have put a lot of work into this on-boarding process. It’s certainly a lot more convenient than having to spend a lot of time filling in forms in the branch of your local bank!
You get your new IBAN straight away, but you do have to wait a few days for your new Mastercard Debit card to arrive from Germany – but that happens with all banks.
Beyond the sign-up process, you use the mobile app to perform all your day-to-day banking operations – although you can also use a web portal on their site.
You login using either a password or your fingerprint – and there’s an additional security measure to bind your account to a specific mobile device.
In the app you can:
View your current balance and recent transactions
View a statistical breakdown of your transaction by month/type
Amend the security settings for your card, including resetting your PIN, locking the card if it’s lost or stolen (and ordering a replacement), and deciding whether your card can be used for payments abroad, online payments, and cash withdrawals
Setting up transfers to other bank accounts
View the location of ATMs on a map
The app will also send you an alert on your phone every time a transaction happens (unless you turn it off), or if the transaction needs an authorisation, so you can keep track of all payments in and out of your account.
Current account features
N26 will send you a Mastercard Debit cards depending on the account you have:
N26 Free (no monthly free) – a semi-translucent card
N26 Black (€9.90 / month) – a black card
N26 Business (no monthly fee) – a semi-translucent card (same design as N26 Free but with “Business” written on it)
In Germany, France, Austria and Italy (and coming soon to other countries) there is also an even more premium “metal” card! (yes it’s really made out of metal)
The premium account options attract a monthly fee, but have additional features such as travel and mobile phone insurance, and lower foreign currency transaction fees. All accounts have a set number of free ATM withdrawals (normally 5 per month) after which you get charged per withdrawal, so you should bear that in mind if you use ATMs a lot.
I use the free account, and I’ve got to say that the card design attracts many favourable comments. I like the fact that N26 also prints my BIC and IBAN on the back of the card – so I don’t need to login to the app to find that information.
All the accounts have chip-and-pin and NFC for tap-to-pay transactions. In Ireland there’s also support for Google Pay and Apple Pay.
N26 also partners with TransferWise to give you the best exchange rates for foreign-currency payments and transfers directly from within the N26 app.
Along with all the product innovation, there are some down-sides to having your current account entirely online and based in a different country:
There are no branches to visit. If you need help with something that’s not covered within the app then you can either use the in-app chat or telephone one of their support reps – but they don’t yet support video conferencing, despite using it for account signup. Also the support lines are only available 9am – 6pm (German time) Monday to Saturday.
There have no means to accept or issue cheques. Most of the time that’s not an issue, as most people have now moved to electronic payments – but some organisations still issue cheques in the post or demand payment by a cashier’s cheque.
There are some Irish companies that can’t accept (or have great difficulty with) direct debit transaction from overseas banks. That’s not the fault of N26. SEPA regulations should allow all companies to accept payment from any bank account in the EU, but not all Irish companies are SEPA compliant!
N26 aren’t that great in dealing with fraudulent transactions. It would be better if they had a 24 hour phone line to deal with fraud and emergencies, and a process for reporting fraud that didn’t involve filling in a 4-page document for each transaction.
As long as theses limitations aren’t show-stoppers for you then I’d recommend N26 to you. I don’t actually use it as my only bank account. I still have an account with one of Ireland’s more traditional banks that’s used to pay the mortgage and the main bills – but I use N26 for my disposable cash, and it works very well.
I like the idea that fintech companies are innovating and pushing the boundaries of banking all the time – and I think that traditional high street banks should be worried for the future, as it won’t be long before online banking becomes the norm rather than the exception.
How fast does your WordPress blog load? Have you tested performance on mobile as well as desktop? Did you know that performance is one of metrics that Google uses to rank sites?
When talking about performance its important to remember that around half of all traffic these days comes from mobile devices, and these devices can often be on limited data connections. So when you look at site performance (as with web design these days) you should adopt a mobile-first strategy.
I used a tool https://testmysite.withgoogle.com/ to check on the performance of my WordPress blog, and it reported that my site takes 7 seconds to load over a 3G connection – which apparently results in me losing a quarter of visitors that simply give up before the site ever loads!
Google has a goal that its sites should all load within half a second. That level of performance might not be achievable for everyone, but we can all do better.
So how do you optimise your WordPress site to load more quickly?
1. Keep pages small
A testing tool like GTmetrix can tell you how fast your page loads, and how big your page is. If you are loading lots of images, videos and scripts, then the size of your site could be huge – and therefore slow – without you realising it.
My site comes in at just over 1MB which is actually pretty good. If yours is more in the range of 3-5MB (or even more!) then you need to start thinking about page size.
Reduce the number of posts displayed on your page. Do you really need to show 10 posts at a time? I have my site set to only show 5 posts at a time, and by halving the number of posts I also halve the page size!
Also think about whether you need all the content served from 3rd-party sites, such as Facebook or Twitter, that could be slowing down your site.
2. Minify your code
3. Optimise images
A picture paints a thousand words, but it can also slow you down!
Loading lots of large images can be one of the primary causes of poor site performance. So consider the number and size of any images you display. Obviously for a photographer’s portfolio site you’re going to need to show large high-quality images – but you don’t need to show them all on one page.
Use a plugin such as Smush to automatically optimise images as you upload them to your site. It will reduce the file size of your images without losing any of the quality.
4. Eliminate unnecessary plugins
It’s tempting to keep installing more and more plugins to help add new features to a site – but every time you add a new plugin, it’s more code for WordPress to have to run before it can render your site. So have a clear out and get rid of any plugins you don’t need.
It’s also a good idea to minimise the number of plugins and themes you have installed for site security. The more plugins and themes from different authors you have installed, the higher the potential sources of vulnerability to hacking.
5. Select your hosting account carefully
Not all hosting providers are the same, and although most will allow you to run WordPress from your account the performance of sites can vary wildly from one host to another.
If you’re shopping around, look at hosts that have specific WordPress optimised hosting. I like SiteGround as they have optimised their hosting to serve WordPress sites as fast as possible.
And if you’re getting a lot of traffic to your site, then ditch the shared hosting and get your own virtual or cloud server. It will give you a lot more resources to serve a lot more people at once.
6. Upgrade PHP
PHP is the programming language that WordPress runs on, and many hosting providers use an older version of it by default. However if your host allows you to upgrade to a newer version (or they can do it for you) then your site will get a good performance boost.
When upgrading from PHP 5.6 to version 7, WordPress performance doubles!
On the 25th May 2018 the Irish citizens will be asked to vote on repealing the 8th amendment of the constitution to allow legislation to be created to legalise abortion.
A lot of the discussion ahead of the referendum has been about Irish women and men. But there is a significant portion of the population that has been left out of the debate, and are not allowed to vote in the referendum next week, but are none-the-less affected by its outcome.
According to census data for 2016 there are around 535,000 foreign nationals living in Ireland – that’s 11.6% of the population. These are people who work, make their lives, pay their taxes, contribute to society, send their children to school, and access health care of Ireland.
And yet only Irish citizens are allowed to vote in the referendum.
Non-Irish nationals face the same crisis pregnancies as Irish women – but potentially face bigger problems accessing safe abortion services. They may not be as wealthy as Irish people, face language barriers, and may also be restricted from travelling to countries like the UK because of visa problems.
And so, for the one-in-ten that have no voice in the referendum, we call on the Irish citizens to vote YES for us. For yourselves. For all the people of Ireland.
It’s heartening to know that a group of enthusiasts at Rebble.io are working hard to keep Pebble watches working after the servers are switched off in June. And if their efforts pay off, I could keep using my Pebble with pretty-much all of its functionality still intact.
The only problem is that the Pebble is now old technology. There’s never going to be an updated version of the hardware, and with the best will in the world the good folks at Rebble.io are probably not going to do more than keep the lights on. They’re not going to have the resources to innovate and add new features.
And that’s the heart of my concern. Pebble watches are only ever going to decline in usage. You can’t buy them any more, except for the odd one that pops up on Amazon or eBay at inflated prices. So when my current watch breaks, or the battery becomes too old to hold a charge, I won’t be able to get my Pebble repaired or replaced.
Fitbit Versa as an alternative?
So I’m looking at the Fitbit Versa as an alternative. There are plenty of good things going for it. It seems to have a decent 4-day battery life, and the fitness tracking would probably be a step-up from the Pebble. But there’s one or two things holding me back from buying:
It doesn’t support Spotify. Fitbit seem to have done a deal with Pandora and Deezer as their music streaming partners, and have no plans to support Spotify.
The screen doesn’t stay on. I would need to flick my wrist or press a button to get the screen to light up and see the time. And because its motion-enabled the watch screen has the potential to come on when I don’t want it – say in the cinema or in bed at night.
The smartwatch features aren’t very mature. Support for quick replies to messages is coming for Android phone users (but not iOS) later this year, but this will be limited to picking from a pre-defined list. There is no support for voice dictation of replies. Also I’ve heard that the range of watch faces and apps available is still pretty limited.
On the other hand, I like the fact that I will be able to wear it 24 hours – due to it being waterproof and having a 4-day battery life. The Wear OS watch I tried ran out of juice after a day’s usage, so I could never use it for sleep tracking.
I also like the Fitbit dashboard for viewing health tracking stats. I’m not exactly an athlete, but I do like to track my daily steps and my cycle commuting to make sure I’m getting some exercise. I used to use a Fitbit Charge HR (until it literally fell apart), and liked checking the Fitbit app and website.
So I don’t know. Should I go head and try out the Versa? I’d be interested to hear from people who are using one – especially if you have migrated from using a Pebble!
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