Goodbye ANZ, Hello Westpac

Switching banks is a big deal. I have been with ANZ since I was about 14, it was my first bank that my first job salary went into.

But times change and now I’ve switched to Westpac. Whom I also got a mortgage through as well.

There were many deciding factors, but a couple of biggest ones were:

I was stuck on a legacy account

Even though my bank was Visa Debit enabled, I was told at the bank I was on a legacy account they stopped offering years ago.

What is the problem you ask? My card didn’t support PayWave, every time I got a new card, it wasn’t PayWave enabled.

After many phone calls of being told I would be sent a new card with PayWave and that they don’t have cards that don’t have it, I finally got onto someone.

I was told because I was on a legacy account, I couldn’t get a PayWave enabled card. They then explained if I wanted it, I would need to close my current account and open a new one.

As a developer my brain was asking, “Isn’t it just changing a accountType field in the database?” apparently not.

Tap and pay isn’t always a great feature, but it is convenient and being repeatedly asked if I was paying on PayWave and having to say I didn’t have it frustrated me.

Third world online banking experience

Even though ANZ went through a recent redesign of their online banking, it’s friggen archaic. I mean, literally, you are limited in what you can do.

You can’t change your pin number online, you can’t remap accounts, you can’t setup direct debits or intelligent recurring payments and the list goes on.

The first time I logged into my Westpac online account, I was blown away with just how many settings I could access, how I could customise the UI and even change my card pin numbers.

Westpac also seems to support two-factor authentication for most operations (especially transfers), from what I could see, ANZ offers nothing like this.

For a big 4 bank, you’d expect ANZ could afford to hire some decent designers/developers to create an awesome online banking experience.

Horrible mobile applications

I don’t think ANZ realise that it is quite common to check your bank and do transactions via your phone. Doing this via the ANZ app was cumbersome, buggy and painful.

On the contrary, the Westpac mobile apps support logging in with your fingerprint, considerably more useful, better designed and offers features like cardless cash at Westpac ATM’s.

Not first home buyer friendly

ANZ are the least first home buyer friendly bank out there. I would have loved to get a mortgage through ANZ, but they seem to favour those with large deposits or investors.

This is a massive difference to Westpac who have packages tailored for first home buyers, including taking rental history into consideration in lieu of a deposit, realising not all renters can save massive deposits.

I could seriously keep going on about why ANZ is horrible and why I am smitten with Westpac thus far, but I’ll leave it there. Avoid ANZ if you like nice online banking experiences and features that banks like Commonwealth offer as standard.

Fixing Slow Optus Wireless 4G

I recently moved house and while I wait for my Telstra cable connection to be sorted (address issues) I got myself an Optus home wireless broadband modem which is 4G based. For $80 per month I get 200gb of data at capped speeds of 12/1mb.

One problem I encountered however was Netflix wouldn’t work for me, literally wouldn’t load. I soon came to realise that basically a lot of sites were slow to load. But oddly enough OzSpeedTest, Speedtest.net and Optus’ own speedtest were all reporting 13mb speeds.

Were the speedtests all lying? Was traffic fast initially and then dying off? I was determined to fix this.

After some debugging and snooping of the traffic, I isolated it to https only traffic. After some Gooling, I came across something that has existed in Windows since Vista called autotuning.

What this seems to do is change how the traffic is sent and received. To make my 4G connection sing again, all I had to do was open a command prompt window with admin permissions and type:

netsh interface tcp set global autotuning=disabled

After that, browsing my lightning fast, Netflix started working and all was well again. I was ready to really give it to Optus, but this saved them a berating. Upon further reading, this seems to be a problem affecting only Optus for some reason, Telstra and Vodafone are not affected by this.

My MVP Workflow, How I Create Web Applications: From Conception To Creation

Everyone knows coming up with an idea is often the easiest part of an application. I come up with a lot of ideas on a regular basis, too many some would say. What is the best way to take an idea and actually build something usable, a working MVP (minimum viable product).

I recently released a couple of quick ideas that took very little time to create, Pokego.run and Built With Aurelia. In the case of Pokego.run, I knew I needed to add in Google Maps, support authentication and ability to add markers to a map. For Built With Aurelia I knew I just needed to display submissions and allow registered users to submit projects.

In most scenarios, this is how I approach building an MVP application as quickly as possible as of September, 2016.

This won’t be a step-by-step detailed process, how I approach fleshing out an idea is actually quite basic.

A notepad

I realise it’s 2016 and you can just open up a notepad on your computer, but I find pen and paper is the best way to sketch out the basics of an idea. It doesn’t need to be a drawing, just bulleted dot points will do.

I find if I am on the computer, it is far too easy to open up Hacker News or do something else instead of jotting down the basics of my million dollar idea. With a notepad the only thing you can do is write or draw, so you’re more inclined to actually do it.

Before you start developing your idea, you need to have a rough idea of what you need. Is the app going to allow login via Facebook? What platforms/devices/operating systems will you support? What will all of the sections that make up the app be?

Writing things down on paper is less distracting and I personally find it easier. And no, you don’t need an expensive and wanky Moleskin notebook, a cheap 79c notebook from an office supply store is enough or even a blank A4 sheet of paper.

Depending on what I am wanting to build, I might do some poorly drawn sketches as well just to get a rough idea how it might look. Most of my design work is done as I go along. I also take “inspiration” from existing sites and applications I like the look of.

Bootstrap

Bootstrap is a big time saver. The grid alone in itself can save you a lot of time getting your application ready for desktop and mobile. It comes with various Javascript components for things like dropdown menus and modals, stuff that is annoying to implement piece-by-piece.

In many cases I will use Bootstrap, especially if I have an application that contains forms or items in a grid. Foundation by Zurb is also a good option, I just find Bootstrap is easier and faster to get running in my apps.

Aurelia

I used to use jQuery, then it was Angular, followed by ReactJS and now I have settled on Aurelia for the foreseeable future (1.5 years and counting). A robust client-side Javascript framework that is convention over configuration based: perfect for quickly creating an app.

For most ideas I actually use the Aurelia CLI to quickly bootstrap a working application with all of the annoying stuff like build tooling, transpilation and the other time consuming aspects of modern Javascript development.

The thing I love about Aurelia is you get the basics you need; routing, eventing, templating, binding support, modules for working with network requests and a clean way of writing applications without needing to learn Aurelia specific concepts or conventions.

If I am working on something that is going to have a HUGE codebase, I’ll leverage the Aurelia Webpack skeleton instead which gives me a little more power and works better for large applications.

Firebase

I hate setting up databases, configuring servers, finding/configuring/installing a server-side framework to create an API. This isn’t accounting for other things like basic CRUD and the dreaded complexity of configuring oAuth authentication.

Firebase is a Google owned, cloud hosted key/value store with a few other features modern applications need like; hosting, analytics, data storage, authentication and databases. It literally negates the need to worry about setting up a server or configuring a database.

The limits for Firebase are quite generous as well, so there are no upfront costs to use it. As your idea scales, stick with Firebase or setup a server. The point here is Firebase gives you everything you need to create an MVP quickly. Because it’s a key/value store, you don’t need to create database tables and fields upfront.

Github Pages

You probably think that you need to pay for a server to create an idea: wrong. Surprisingly, not a lot of people know that Github offers free project hosting from within Github itself and it even supports custom domain names. It’s called Github Pages and literally all you need to do, to enable it is create a new branch in your repo called gh-pages and a site is created at: http://username.github.io/reponame/ where username is your Github username and reponame is the name of the repo in Github.

You can’t run things like PHP scripts or anything that is not static, but for a client-side single page application, you don’t need such scripts anyway in most cases.

Fun fact: both apps Pokego.run and Built With Aurelia that I mentioned earlier are running on Firebase and they’re hosted on Github Pages.

Get people using it

You’ve got something that works. It might not look pretty, but let’s be honest, not every single web application out there is well designed anyway. You need to get some people testing it, ask friends and family to try it out, even if they’re not your target market. Then ask people to share it on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and anywhere else.

Submitting it to a relevant subreddit on Reddit can also do wonders. In the case of building an Aurelia application you can submit it to both /r/aureliajs and /r/sideproject

This can be the hardest part of the process. I created a site a few years back for converting Gifs to image sprites called Gif2Sprite. It actually gets a bit of traffic from Google searches, but when it launched, it laid dormant for a while and I was its only user.

Pokego.run: Now Open Source

As promised, I have open sourced my quick Aurelia CLI project Pokego.run which you can find here if you just want the code and don’t want to keep on reading.

I am open sourcing the work I have done on this because I want to see the Aurelia Javascript framework grow and I realise there are not a lot of apps out there for reference which are public using Aurelia. Consider this a helpful learning exercise.

The app shows how to use Firebase in your Aurelia application as well as Google Maps. The styling is done using Sass, Autoprefixer for browser prefixes and CSSNano for reducing CSS size. The app itself is actually quite simple.

To setup the app and run it yourself you will need to create yourself a free Firebase account and project, you will also need a Google Maps API key (also free). The database creation is automatic, you’ll also want to make sure in Firebase under auth you enable Facebook and Google if you want to allow both methods of login.

Feel free to make pull requests with new features, fixes and whatever. If they’re beneficial, they’ll get merged in to the actual site.

Introducing Pokego.run: An App Developed Using The Aurelia CLI

I work a lot, so it was nice to get some downtime to play with the Aurelia CLI. Like many others of my generation, I have been caught up in the Pokemon Go hype. So I decided to build a simple app where you can plot where you have found Pokemon called: Pokego.run.

The idea stemmed from the question: what if you could determine with close accuracy what area has what Pokemon and eventually work out when they would appear.

I am aware a lot of these apps are appearing, most of them seem to be focused on mapping where gyms and pokestops are located. I think knowing where to find unique and rare Pokemon is a lot more exciting to be honest.

The app itself was written in TypeScript, using the Aurelia RequireJS based CLI tool. It is hosted off of Github Pages, Cloudflare for the https and caching, with Firebase being used for both the authentication and data store behind the app itself.

To get something workable it took me a couple of hours and most of that time was spent getting the Google Maps and Firebase stuff to work nicely. Since then I’ve spent a little more time getting it to look nicer and work nicely as well.

The eventual goal is for Pokego.run to be able to tell you where you can find specific Pokemon. This of course depends on the crowdsourced data. So if you spot a Pokemon, record it in the app and eventually you might be able to track down that hard to find Hitmonchan.

Will you open source the code?

While I plan to continually improve Pokego.run, I will be open sourcing the code on Github for it shortly. I realise there aren’t many examples of functional Aurelia apps (especially using the CLI) which you can reference out there, so hopefully it helps you.

I just need to clean the code up first before releasing it. Make sure you star and watch the public repository here if you want to get your hands on the source code when it’s released (hopefully in a day or two).

Is It A Good Idea? Things To Consider Before You MVP

I have been toying with an idea I have had for about 5 years now. The idea is rather simple: Airbnb meets yard advertising. The idea is to allow homeowners to rent their front yards to businesses who want to place a sign for a fee.

The idea came about after seeing businesses who put their sign up while working on your house, building a pool or painting in exchange for a discount on the overall cost of the job.

I thought, “What if businesses could cheaply advertise their business and homeowners could make a little money?” – I convinced myself that it was a good idea, everyone I have told thinks it is a great idea as well.

However, I soon realised that I had entered a confirmation bias bubble. Unknowingly I had been so excited about this idea, when I would tell people I realised they were probably too nice to say it was a bad idea because they could see how great I thought it was. That and the fact that the people I was telling had no idea of the niche I was thinking within.

Even after five years, people were still saying it is great and, “why doesn’t this service already exist?” – I have been re-evaluating my ideas lately now I am a little older and more experienced if my idea is actually good or I just think it is good.

The trap

This is one of the traps that a lot of first-time and even recurring entrepreneurs fall into it: asking the wrong people. If you’re trying to validate an idea, don’t ask your friends or family, they most likely won’t be as honest as you would hope.

Let’s face it: your mother probably thinks you are great and everything you do is great. Pretty much anyone in your immediate family will think anything you do is great (unless it is developing a destructive meth addiction).

Even if you consider one or more of your friends to be “brutally honest” there is probably a strong possibility they are not familiar with the industry you are trying to “disrupt” nor your idea itself to provide any insightful honest feedback.

Realising I was in this artificially created confirmation bias bubble, I aimed to break out and do what anyone starting a business should do: ask your target market.

Know your audience

It occurred me to that maybe my idea didn’t exist because it wasn’t that good, it is far too hard to implement or businesses just didn’t see it as a necessary thing. I aimed to find out.

So I started emailing businesses. I tried to keep it varied, so I emailed; plumbers, electricians, mechanics and even florists. My initial blast was to about 15 businesses using the same worded email.

I carefully worded this email to sound like I was a student researching an idea. Devious I know, but like most rational human beings, if we feel as though we are being sold something we kind of switch off. I wasn’t selling anything (yet) I just wanted to know if businesses would see the value in the idea.

Not surprisingly, I got some responses from businesses. Some said they already put signs in yards when they’re working on a job and have branded vehicles, others said yes they probably would.

After kind of validating businesses might be interested, I realised the idea has two customers; the businesses and the yard owners. So I then had to find people who were not family and friends to see if they would see value in the idea.

It turns out I got mostly no responses from businesses and people. Concerns were raised about signs being paid for and taken down, with no way of knowing if they were always visible for the paid duration of time. Other concerns ranged from council restrictions, housing development bylaws (many housing estates forbid signs) and a few other things I never even considered.

So, before you MVP…

Some people actually believe that you should create an MVP (minimum viable product) and then shop it around. While for some ideas this could work, for the most part, why bother wasting time on something you don’t even know people will want or use?

In my situation, I almost created an MVP and used that as the basis for getting feedback. Then I realised I could just sit down, come up with a simple explanation for my idea and ask people directly.

I just wish there was a cheap platform out there where I can solicit feedback on my ideas like this without needing to pretend to be a student. The ability to target specific audiences and get honest feedback, that would be great and from what I could find, nothing like that exists.

Youi: Their False Advertising “Gets You”

As Youi’s advertisements say: At Youi, we get you. Spoken by a smug looking guy with a face you can’t help but want to punch (I’m sure he is a nice guy, maybe).

After my recent experiences hunting down insurance for a brand new car, I have come to the conclusion that Youi are a bunch of scam artists who cannot compete with any other insurer out there. Considerably more expensive than any other insurer (even Suncorp) even though their ads claim they can save you hundreds.

Do not buy into the hype. If you are considering Youi or perhaps with Youi, you will definitely save a lot of money shopping around. Whatever you do, do not put your number into the online quote form. They will harass you for days and weeks trying to get you to signup. Even if you tell them you are not interested, they will still persist.

I think Youi operate on this business model of not wanting you to drive. If you perhaps only drive your car on the weekends and it is garaged during the week, Youi might give you a decent rate. However, what if you need to drive somewhere during the week out of routine and you get into an accident? Does Youi pay the claim or do your answers get used against you?

This leads into another line of questioning. If you hardly drive your car and Youi impose restrictions based on your answers, they are essentially taking your money knowing that the chances of you making a claim are probably extremely low (depending on how often you drive), what is the point?

The Youi that you see in the television advertisements is considerably different to the Youi that you get when you call them up or deal with them. I never thought to do any online sleuthing about Youi until I recently did some Googlegating and came across some pretty hairy stuff.

When you actually look, you see some horror stories. They have a really low rating, their social media team even seem to acknowledge that they are more expensive, albeit, indirectly. Just from their Twitter account, here and here.

Then I came across an article about an investigation into Youi New Zealand. Even though I only dealt with the Australian branch of Youi, it really highlights what kind of company Youi is on the inside. Systematically engineered to make their staff resort to dodgy tactics to make sales because Youi are more expensive than any of their competitors.

Then I came across this product reviews site which has close to 649 reviews of Youi. Of those reviews, 442 were rated the worse “terrible”, 62 were bad and a few other more neutral ratings. Only 87 of those were rating excellent which is the highest.

I will not post any of the reviews here, but go check them out yourself. The recurring theme in the negative reviews is cost, pushy sales staff and questions that should have no bearing on insurance like marital status and weirdly enough, what type of phone someone used. Is Youi just a market data collection front? Would explain how they afford their TV spots and that smug guy they use in all of them.

It is obvious Youi do not want to insure people who actually drive their car. The ideal customer that Youi seems to want is people who like spending lots of money, hardly drive their car and fall victim to to their sensationalist tv ads that claim to save you hundreds of dollars per year.

In the end I chose RACQ because they offered everything Youi did, they did not ask me stupid questions because I could do it all online and best of all: I was not forced into choosing them.

At the end of the day, you should make your own informed decisions when it comes to insurance, shop around and play companies off one another. Just don’t expect Youi to negotiate any less than a 10% discount on their quoted price. Stand firm.

Let this post serve as a warning that the Youi you see on TV is not the Youi you will get when you call them up and get a quote, after their gruelling 30 minute question process. Perhaps you might get a good quote, you would be the exception and definitely not the rule.

When Youi say “they get you” they literally mean it. They’ll get you good, just like those people standing in the middle of the shopping centre trying to get you to buy overpriced cosmetic products that do not work.

No: Netflix Cannot Block VPN’s

If you are a Netflix subscriber you have probably heard that Netflix recently announced they are going to be cracking down on customers using a VPN to access content outside of their own country.

You could almost hear the collective sigh of all the Australian Netflix subscribers. Instant anxiety set in, people were worried: could Netflix really block VPN users?

Had Netflix’s engineering department done a deal with the devil to block VPN’s, proxies and DNS providers using techniques never before seen in tech so far?

The simple answer is: no.

It is impossible to detect a VPN user, even more impossible to truly block them. The only reliable way that Netflix can pinpoint and block out users who are skirting geographical borders is creating a blacklist and blocking IP addresses and ranges from these Netflix catalogue unlock services.

But it is a lost cause. All it takes is for the provider of the service to spin up new DNS and VPN server instances with new IP addresses and ranges to get around the block.

There are ways:

  • Netflix could match the billing address of the subscriber’s credit card to their location. But this would mean that the concept of a travelling account would cease to exist. It would mean a Canadian visiting the US and wanting to watch Netflix in their Airbnb place would not be able to. Using gift cards and voucher codes would skirt this yet again.
  • Give subscribers warnings and terminate their account after the third violation. This would be pretty bad for Netflix’s core model, banning your paying customers would not be an ideal strategy.
  • Strong arm content/rights holders to allow their content to be geographically unlocked. We live in an age where we can video call relatives on the other side of the world, but we can’t get access to the same content as others can

The real crux of the issue here is Netflix are not to blame. As long as you are a paying subscriber, Netflix really does not care. Obviously they will not admit nor take that stance publicly, but they do not care.

The end goal with Netflix is to make the catalogue and platform accessible to everyone. If Netflix truly wanted people to stop, they can make it harder to access the coveted US catalogue, but they won’t.

These stories of people finding their third party unlocking services being blocked and not working are short-lived. Netflix is rattling cages and showing Hollywood that they will do something.

But we can’t forget that others have already tried and failed, like Hulu which unsuccessfully tried to block VPN’s using the same blacklist approach.

So, relax. If the service you are using to bypass geographical constraints stops working, it does not mean you can’t use another service or your current provider will not find a quick way around the block.

Ask Me Questions On Wiselike

I have been a member of Wiselike for quite sometime now, before it was even called Wiselike I was a member of CareerDean which preceded it. I have been so busy that I kind of forgot about it until recently. I realised that a lot of people asked me questions and it is kind of addicting.

If you want to ask me anything, head on over to my Wiselike page and ask away. I am planning on being as active as I possibly can be. It is a good chance to not only ask code-related questions, but also my views on things and other stuff.

Smoke Detector Randomly Goes Off Early Hours of The Morning

Oh man. In the house we are currently renting until we buy next year, we have had a problem with the smoke detectors going off in the early hours of the morning randomly.

I do not mean a chirping sound to indicate a flat battery, I mean they actually go off like there is a fire. Nothing rouses you from bed faster than fearing for you and your families life.

So we called the real estate and they sent someone out the same day (the 3 times we have called). The first time they thought it was the batteries, so they replaced them. A couple of days go by and then: BEEP! BEEP! BEEP! causing the early morning panic to set in.

The second time they came out they used a can of compressed air and changed the batteries again. A few more days passed in silent, safe bliss and then they go off in the middle of the night again.

These are hard-wired electrical smoke detectors which use both AC power and batteries (for backup). The third time the guy came out, he changed the batteries again and used some more compressed air and said that is all he can do.

The smoke detector guy was quite nice. He mentioned changes in temperature and humidity can cause the detectors to go off and apparently in buildings like ours, it is quite common. And if it happens again, they will look into changing them.

We could take the batteries out of the smoke detectors, but the thought of perishing in flames and smoke does not sound too appealing.

As I actually write this at 1am, the smoke detector has gone off twice randomly. I was woken up and decided to write this post as I waited anxiously for them to go off again.