Thursday, September 18, 2014

Considering a Moped

I just wrote a blog post on +RGV Life about riding to McAllen on the bus. I am a willing bus rider. I enjoy driving a car on occasion; but, most of the time, I don't really like driving. Even so, I think there is a place for having multiple modes of transportation available to you.

I'm not a hipster or save the planet type of guy. I am more inclined towards using the right tool for the job. If, for example, you need to go buy a six pack of beer at the convenience store, you don't need to drive your car or truck over there when you could just jump on a scooter and pppppppppp your way over there, and back.

If you want to visit somebody across town, you could ride your motorcycle over and back. Unless you are expecting to have a passenger, you don't need a four-wheeled vehicle.

To drive the point home, you use a bike, moped, motorcycle, or car depending on your particular needs. Using a car for everything seems to me like overuse of a single asset. You can reduce wear and tear on your $30K vehicle by using your $300 bike, $2000 moped, or $3000 motorcycle. And, if you spread the use out by actual need, you prolong the lives of each.

So, as a part of a family's multimodal arsenal, I think bus riding should also be an option. You save yourself the driving, parking, and maintenance troubles by riding a bus.

But, let's circle back to the moped thing. Biking to work is out of the question. It is too far to ride there without being drenched in sweat. You're damn right I'll get there; but, I won't be presentable. I can ride the bus; but, it takes 2 hours.

I don't want to drive our van to work because it's just me.

A motorcycle might work; but, I don't think I'll get the full benefit in stop and go traffic. A motorcycle would be great for highway driving, in my opinion.

A moped would be better for stop and go driving. The downside is that mopeds are slow and not suited for major streets. So, assuming that I avoid the major streets and take the back streets, I may be better off. The back streets have lots of stops, slow speed limits, and fewer vehicles. I think I could easily put-put my way to work on a moped on days that I need to divert from bus routes and schedules.

I don't intend to replace bus riding entirely. I just want an option. Having options isn't bad, right?

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Why Apple's Tap to Pay Will Not Change Commerce

I believe that habits will ultimately make Apple Pay not so revolutionary as it is being made out. They are essentially repackaging what has already been done; but, beyond that, the reason it won't be ubiquitous is low tech in nature, human nature, rather.

+Google Wallet already does most of what Apple Pay proposes. The technology is different, given that mobile carriers did not want to allow access to a phone's secure element. Yada yada. In any case, my problem with Google Wallet, specifically tap to pay, has been that it doesn't work everywhere. I'll come back to this.

It is great that Apple has partnerships with 200K merchants and Target. The problem for Apple, however, is that I don't use Apple products, nor plan to use them anytime soon. Having merchant partnerships isn't compelling enough reason for me to buy an iPhone 6. There are millions of people like me who really don't care to enter the Apple ecosphere.

Given the reluctance of millions to use Apple products, there must be an alternative payment system available to us. I don't see a merchant turning my business away because I don't have an iPhone. So, this means that Apple Pay will only be an option for merchants.

This opt-in is what gives me trouble using Google Wallet. I do business with local merchants, mom and pop shops and restaurants. Not every business uses tap to pay of any sort. And, those merchants that do have a tap to pay terminal do not always have it enabled. This means that on the chance you enter an establishment that has a tap to pay terminal, there is a good chance you'll find one that doesn't have tap to pay service, only the terminal. You don't find out until you spent a little time looking like an ass trying to get it to work.

If you look like an ass trying to get tap to pay to work often enough, you stop trying. It's much more efficient to whip out your trusty old debit card and pay with that.

Apple Pay will be no different. 200K merchants sounds impressive; but, like Apple, they are most likely the overpriced and chain establishments, not the average local business that relies on the lowest common denominators, cash, check, and swipe.

I'm not saying Apple Pay will fail. I'm sure it will do very well among Apple fans; but, they will only have to look like an ass trying to tap and pay somewhere unsupported a few times before they become reluctant to whip out their phone first.

Telling you from experience, on the chance that you do find an establishment that has working tap to pay, it's not a compelling reason to return. I go to a restaurant because I'm hungry. I go to the grocery store because I need groceries. And, so on. I won't deliberately visit an establishment more often so I can use my Jedi payment trick.

Tap to pay is cool; but, it's not compelling. It doesn't make me spend more. It doesn't make me choose one merchant over another.

Having said that, what really has modified my shopping habits is having rewards cards on my phone. It makes it so much easier to take advantage of rewards programs to have them on my phone. I never used to sign up for them because I hated having to carry their stupid little cards in my wallet. But, now, I actually do sign up for rewards programs and use them when I shop.

I think that for technology to be useful and widespread, it has to have some common denominator and even have alternative options. So long as we have swipe payments, I see those as being the predominant payment method because they work reliably and almost everywhere.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Will Evernote and Other Apps for Android Kill Chromebooks?

+Google Chrome announced the first Android Apps ported to Chromebooks today. Personally, I am a big fan of +Evernote. Over the years, it has proven itself a great service where I can manage information. Naturally, when I read that Evernote is one of the first apps ported, I was excited.

I don't know if this is a big "however". In the past, I have not used the web version of Evernote because of the number of notes that I have in it, around 4,000. My Evernote database is somewhere north of 2 GB. This is not very much data, considering that I have hundreds of GBs of data in other products, especially +Google Drive. Back to my point, using the browser version is slow given the volume of HTML necessary to render my account.

The slowness is understandable. At one time, I experimented with single file Wikis that ran in an html file. They worked OK up to a point. As the HTML file grew larger, browsers struggled. I have a demo Evernote account that I use for workshops, which has fewer notes. It runs considerably faster than my own personal account on the browser.

The Windows and Android apps have been my go-to ways of accessing Evernote. Even the Windows Phone version is rather slick.

The Windows and Mac versions download your entire Evernote database and store it locally on your drive. This gives you quick access to all your information. The Android version stores thumbnails of your notes locally and downloads the data as you need it. This also means that you need an Internet connection to access notes that aren't cached, unless you select a Notebook to store locally.

Chromebooks and Android devices have similar problems in that they only have a few GB of storage available. My Android Evernote database is 500 MB. Presumably, the Evernote for Chromebook will also take up 500 MB on my Chromebook since it is a port from Android. And, as the database grows, it will take a larger percentage of my 16 GB SSD.

One of the options I mentioned earlier, is to allow a Notebook in Evernote to keep local copies of your notes on your phone or tablet. The Chromebook port also offers the option to keep local copies.

I can imagine somebody with much a much larger database than me will at some point choose to sync a multigigabyte database on their Chromebook. My full database is a meager 2 GB, so I'm still safe if I were to sync all my Notebooks. However, imagine shared Chromebooks in which users are also Evernote fans. If you have multiple users with Evernote installed, it can really eat up your local storage.

But, this can also apply to every other app you install on your Chromebook, as they become available in the future. As users, we will have to start buying larger SSDs and upgrading our Chromebooks to make room for the apps. Otherwise, we'll start seeing problems as our Chrome devices run out of storage.

In my title, I don't mean that running Android apps will kill off the Chromebook. Rather, I mean that there is the strong possibility that we'll bog down our machines with apps to the point that they become unusable. I certainly hope not. But, having apps on my Chromebook could mean a little more freedom from my other devices.