I’ve been looking for an alarm clock app for my mobile phone that supports a very specific feature, but I can’t find it anywhere.
What I want is the ability to cancel the next occurrence of a repeating alarm without having to disable all future alarms.
Here is my problem. When there’s a bank holiday or I take a random day off work, and I want a lie-in, I want to be able to cancel that day’s alarm. But I don’t want to disable the whole recurring alarm, as I have to do with most alarm apps, because I invariably forgot to re-enable it a day later.
I want to be able to cancel the next morning’s alarm, but leave the alarm for the day after and all future recurring alarms untouched.
I’ve looked around the Play store and checked the description of all the alarm clock apps, but can’t find any mention of my feature.
So what do I want? Well it would be great if an app developer found this blog post and took it upon themselves to build this feature.
Flexible working seems to be a hot topic at the moment, whether it’s to juggle work with other commitments, or to achieve a better work/life balance. People have moved beyond the days of being a wage-slave, and have realised that free time is often more valuable to them than a high salary.
Some employers do have policies to consider and accommodate requests if they can. However that flexibility doesn’t seem to get translated into staff recruitment. When it comes to professional people (with the possible exception of public sector employees) every job advertised seems to be for a full-time role. If you do a job search for part-time work, the only offerings will be low-paid sales, admin, or hospitality jobs. Nobody advertises for a part-time Project Manager!
Of course, flexible working comes in many forms. There are flexible hours or compressed hours arrangements out there, where you still work the same 35-40 hour week, but you have some freedom about the exact hours you work. Then there’s reduced hours, where you might enter into some kind of part-time or job-share agreement with your employer.
It’s these reduced hours arrangements that seem the most elusive. Some employers will make concessions for working parents, and indeed parents returning to work after parental leave are entitled to ask for a change in work patterns.
However, generally flexible hours and flexible working is generally at the discretion of individual employers, and is not covered by legislation in Ireland.
So if you’re in a professional role, and you would prefer a 3-day week, what can you do:
Check if your employer has a flexible working policy. They may have one even if they don’t promote it, as some employers don’t image that anyone other than working parents would want flexible arrangements.
Ask your manager. If there’s no policy, your employer may still consider a reasonable request. It’s probably a good idea to meet with your manager armed with a bunch or reasons why flexible working would be good for both you and the company.
Keep asking. The first time you ask about it, you may be refused because the conditions to allow it might not be right. But things change over time, and there’s no harm leaving it a few months and asking again. It will give your manager more time to consider options.
Resign and go somewhere else. Unfortunately if you are in full-time employment, you do not have a statutory right to change to part-time work. And so, sometimes you need to vote with your feet and go and work for a more flexible employer.
Applying for a new job
I’d be interested to hear if anyone has experience of asking about flexible or part-time working hours during the recruitment process. I’m sure there must be some employers or hiring managers that would be open to it, but how would you know?
Maybe employers should include in their job adverts whether or not they are open to considering new employees at reduced hours. It would help avoid some of the uncertainty.
And maybe employers also need to reconsider their existing flexible working policies. I’ve seen some that state you can’t even apply for flexible working arrangements until you’ve completed a minimum length of service which seems overly restrictive to me. It may well force some people to take a new job at full-time hours, against their preference, in the hope that they can try to negotiate reduced hours later.
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!
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