Monday, May 4, 2015

Uber Could Be Shutdown in 30 Days

The latest news in Austin, is Uber is not complying with data requirements that the city is expecting to be reported quarterly and Uber agreed to do when a temporary ordinance pass in October of 2014.  The city transportation department has sent city council the following letter.  If Uber does not comply within 30 days, then it could be shutdown.



KEYE news first heard of the letter on May 2nd and asked for my comment.  I was on the 6pm and 10PM news.


10PM News on KEYE:

6PM News on KEYE:

The data where the Uber data was disclosed was during a Feb 10th Austin transportation committee meeting.  Below is the video and a summary of what was discussed.

Summary of the report:

- 138,000 Total Uber Trips in December 2014
- 66% in Austin Downtown + surrounding areas 78701-5
- Most trips in 78701 zip code
- 86K trips Start or end in 78701 downtown area
- 12min average trips length
- They believe this is new trips, since no drop in Taxi ride numbers
- 10,457 Uber drop off to Airport
- 25K average Taxi rides per month
- 5,624 Uber pickups from Airport
- 3,000,000 total trips for Taxi rides in 2014


To me this is a question of privacy.  Why does the city of Austin need to know the names of customers and their start and end destination?  The city also regulates restaurants and hotels, but they don't ask for customer names and where they are going.  Once this information is own by the city, then it is subject to the Federal Open Records Act and has to be disclosed to the public.  I don think passengers will like to know that there personal information could be kept by the city and open to anyone to view.  

When the city workers were asked why they needed this information, the below was there response 5 years ago.  They basically eluded to prevent 'fake trip tickets' and potentially preventing a Limo business for being a money launder?







Sunday, April 19, 2015

Paying by Phone - LoopPay



Started using a new gadget called LoopPay.  It allows you to pay wirelessly from your phone or with a removable 'card'.  I actually started paying with my Android Phone a couple years ago with Google Wallet and an NFC chip inside my Google phone.  It worked in many places, but the vendor needed to have an NFC reader.  Most just fast food restaurants had these readers.  It was neat, but never really gain much mass adoption.  

I switched back to an iPhone, two years ago for work and that ended my experience with 'paying by phone.'  Apple did not have an NFC chip in the iPhone 5 series, so there was no way to pay by phone.  Starting with the iPhone 6, Apple has finally included an NFC chip and introduced ApplePay, but is only supported by 2% of vendors currently.  It is probably another year, before I can upgrade to the iPhone 6, so I went searching for other alternatives.

I discovered LoopPay as i was researching the simulated credit card players like Coin and Stratos.  These guys are coming out with a  credit card that you can link many card numbers into.  You can change the credit card account and hand the card over to be swiped at any traditional credit card reader.   I gave $50 to Coin over a year ago and still waiting for them to send me my card.  Coin was an early kick starter campaign and they have had production delays.  It was suppose to be out Spring of 2014 and now it is Fall of 2015.  It sounds like it only works in 85% of the readers and they are trying to perfect that.  In the mean, another competitor is beating Coin to the market. Stratos has come out with their programming credit card and say they will start shipping at the end of April 2015.  Eventually, magnetic strip cards will be replaced with smart chips, so I'm not sure how much longer this technology will be useful.  In almost every other country besides the USA, they are using smart chips instead of magnetic strip.  It is only a matter of time.

These cards do sound pretty cool, but I think they will not gain mass adoption either.   They cost about $100 for the card and contain a non rechargeable battery.  Once the battery power is consumed, then you need to buy another card.  Estimates say that they should last 2 years.

The LoopPay technology is different than the NFC or credit card  approach.  LoopPay essentially creates the same magnetic field that swiping a card does and sends the information within a 3 inch radius to any credit card reader.  I even got it to work on my square reader.  No need to swipe anything, just get it close to the credit card reader.  No NFC chip is required.  No ApplePay account is required.   Virtually, all credit card machines will work so long as they don't need to detect a real swipe, like at ATMs and gas stations.  They say it works at 95% of readers, while ApplePay only works on 2%.  My testing does show that it works in most places and people are very surprised how it works.

I originally got the Card Case for $60.  It fits only my iPhone 5 and the transmitter slides on and off.  They used to make a ChargeCase that would also charge an iPhone 5.  They have since discontinued that, but I like the idea of having extra power to charge my iPhone.  I found the ChargeCase on Ebay for $15 and won it at auction.  I was the only bidder.  This package also includes a fob that is used to scan in new cards and also is a stand alone transmitter.  So you are really getting to devices in one. 


The older ChargeCase also included a key chain fob.  I forgot my wallet and phone today, but had the fob and was able to pay McDonalds for my breakfast without issues.  The cashier was like, what was that?




Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Lyft Legal At Airport, Uber is not

I got hit up by 2 local news stations today for interviews.  KVUE first called me to ask to comment on Uber not being legal at the Austin airport.  A friend of mine was asked to be interviewed by KEYE, but he had to work and referred my name.  So I ended up meeting both of them at the Austin Airport.  Below is the news story.


Update: On April 9th KEYE used some of my previous video clips to edit a story about the State debating making TNCs legal statewide.  I dont say anything in this clip, but my face is shown a view times..  Link ->  http://www.keyetv.com/news/features/featured/stories/bill-sets-up-transportation-network-company-battle-at-capitol-11556.shtml

Thursday, February 12, 2015

My New Car - Lexus GS 450h

It was time to replace my LS 400.  I got a little money from my totalled car and started looking for a new Lexus.  I have had great success with my RX 400h and wanted to get another Hybrid.  Usually it does not pay to buy a new Hybrid.  The added cost really is not a good return on investment, but buying one a few years old is a smart choice.  The increase mileage is not super high, but it is significant and everything little bit helps.

I decided on the GS 450h.  It is the Lexus' sport's sedan model   One notch lower than the LS line.  The GS a bit more sporty than the LS, but also has a little less room than the LS model.  It is rated to get 22-25MPG and I have been able to get 26-27 MPG by inflating the tires on the high side and driving efficiently as possible.


Sunday, January 4, 2015

New 55 Gallon Fish Tank


I finally broke down and decided to get a house pet.  A neighbor was giving away his 55 gallon freshwater fish tank and we took it.  It had 5 Angelfish in it and a sucker fish (plecostomus catfish).  Unfortunately the Angelfishes didn't make it a week.  Only the Pelco made it.  We found out our tap water had high Ammonia and Nitride in it using a test kit.  You can also get a free water test at any PetSmart or PetCo store.  

I also 'cleaned' the filter, which I learned later was probably a bad idea since I killed good bacteria that is needed to absorb the Ammonia from the fish waste.  So I had to wait for the filter to regenerate itself before adding fish.  I could not wait so I purchased Nitra-Zorb which will absorb ammonia, nitrite and nitrate.  It seem to work, within a day of placing the pouch in my filter all 3 items measured zero.  Now I first added 2 Clown loaches to the tank.  We had pond snails growing like crazy so I read that Clown Loach would eat them up and they did.  Most of the snails disappeared after a few days.  A few days later we decided to stock the tank and added 2 Crayfishs, 2 Blue Botia Loach, 2 Blue Mbuna, 2 Yellow Labs, and 2 Red Parrots.



Here is a picture 4 months later  with my Lytro camera.