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Uber for Business review: simple small business transportation

Uber, Lyft, Gett, and other ridesharing services can be more attractive than taxis for many reasons: they often cost less, are more convenient to hail a ride, and do not require physically exchanging any money or a credit card.

Uber for Business enables employees to charge normal Uber rides to a single business credit card. This makes it simple for employees because they just need to use Uber as per normal. Administrators get the advantage of consolidated expense reporting, and the only required setup is that the employee is added to the Uber business account. No additional credit cards are required.

For an employee, Uber for Business works just like normal Uber. Using the Uber app, you enter a pick-up location and destination, pick a type of ride (from among all of the usual uberX, uberPOOL, uberXL, and other options) and request a fare estimate:

Uber: fare estimate

Before officially requesting the ride, you can select a payment profile for the company, or for yourself:

Uber for Business: selecting a payment profile

Then, you can optionally enter some expense notes to describe the trip:

Uber for Business: expense notes

Then, you just wait for the car to arrive!

Uber: ride arriving

En route, the app shows you a map of where you are and an estimated time of arrival.

Uber: map of route

When you’ve arrived at your destination, you can just step out of the car and the ride is automatically charged to the card on file. Since Uber does not offer a tip option in the app, if you want you can tip the driver with cash, although that is not required.

For administrators, there is a web interface where you can do the following:

  • Generate a list of trips taken by all company users, and export that list to CSV
  • Download monthly PDF statements
  • Add and remove employees by e-mail address
  • Add and remove credit cards
  • Manage settings to limit pick-up locations, and days and times during which employees are allowed to take rides. Or, just allow trips to be taken at any time of day from anywhere.
  • Forward ride e-mail receipts to specific administrators

Uber for Business: employee trips report

For me, the account setup process was intuitive and straightforward. Once everybody’s accounts were set up, the booking and reporting worked exactly as advertised!

Flintan IKEA office chair review: simply comfortable

As someone who works on a computer all day, my favourite office chair is the Flintan from IKEA.

Flintan IKEA office chair

I’ve tried many chairs over the years — IKEA and non IKEA — and have found them to be either too much in the “executive” style without proper lower back support, or too rigid for when I want to lean back.

The Flintan has the right back support and a nice tilt action. I prefer the Flintan to the more expensive IKEA Markus (which makes it on a lot of “best chair” lists).

With the “Nominell” arm rests, the Flintan is $99 CAD.

There aren’t many options to adjust the Flintan. The arm rests are fixed, but you can change the height of the chair and lock or unlock the tilt action. The tilt action is unique (compared to many other chairs I’ve tried) in that it is easy to lean back in it, but its resistance adjusts based on how much you lean back. Therefore, it does not take any additional effort to keep the recline position at the exact angle that you’d like. It is sturdy but forgiving. With the Markus, I don’t like the fixed recline positions and I find the resistance when leaning back to be a bit too much.

How to create a PayPal Payments Pro developer account

It’s been a while since I used a PayPal sandbox account. Years ago, the developer / sandbox account was completely separate from a live PayPal account. Now, the PayPal Developer website links directly to the normal PayPal account creation page.

PayPal developer signup link

If you are looking to get a PayPal developer account, you are likely doing so to test out a merchant account to receive money. The regular signup process lays out the 2 main options of PayPal Payments Standard and PayPal Payments Pro:

Payment Payments Pro account option

This is misleading for a developer account, because in order to test PayPal Payments Standard or PayPal Payments Pro, you technically only need a normal personal PayPal account. I don’t know why PayPal does not make this clearer, but then again they have a history of hiding other information such as their toll-free support number.

PayPal Payments Pro has a monthly fee and quite an involved application process, including a manual approval process where they call you. This is fine for when you and/or your clients are ready to start accepting real payments. However, there is a much faster way to get started in order to work in a sandbox environment!

Simply create a normal, personal PayPal account if you don’t already have one. Then, sign in to the PayPal Developer website. From there, visit the dashboard and then click on the “Sandbox > Accounts” link. There, you will see test buyer and seller accounts:

PayPal sandbox accounts

You can edit the seller account and click the “Upgrade to Pro” button:

PayPal sandbox account update to Pro

This is apparently a permanent step, but you can easily create additional accounts. The important part is that you don’t have to create a full, paid PayPal Payments Pro account in order to have a PayPal Payments Pro developer account!

New Westminster downtown train whistle cessation September 2015

According to a New Westminster City engineering report from May 2015, train whistle cessation downtown is expected to be completed in September 2015.

The noise from train horns at all times of the day has long been an issue for residents and businesses in and near New Westminster. A steady increase in residential developments near the water and thus next to the train crossings has coincided with an increase in complaints, and it was reported in 2013 that the train whistle noise had become the top complaint in the city.

An effort that began many years ago as part of a general Downtown Community Plan and that is estimated to cost at least $3 million (paid by some combination of the city and the railway companies) is seeing its first results. Train whistle cessation has already started at the Port Royal crossing; upcoming highlights include the completion of upgrades to the downtown crossings (Begbie and Front Street as well as Front Street at Fourth Street) in September 2015 and to the Quayside Drive crossing some time in 2016.

More information about the silencing of the train horns can be found on the New Westminster City website on the Train Whistling FAQs page. Quietly exciting times…

New Westminster downtown internet options

I recently moved my web development company‘s office to downtown New Westminster (at Columbia Street and 4th Street). I was very surprised to discover that Telus’s maximum download speed for my building was 6Mbps (which is not feasible for a web development company!), and that Shaw did not service the building at all. By contrast, 15Mbps is effectively the minimum speed at home. As it turns out there are a few blocks in downtown New Westminster where the internet speeds are awful.

After multiple calls to both Telus and Shaw, I was resigned to the fact that they weren’t going to add or improve service any time soon. There is old copper wiring more than 10 kilometres to the nearest substation and neither company said they had plans to install new wiring. The only thing I was offered was something called “managed internet” where you pay Telus to build the fibre for you (tens, if not hundreds of thousands of dollars) — not even close to a realistic option!

Some of the other service providers such as Teksavvy weren’t able to offer anything better, since they simply lease capacity from the “big 2″ of Telus and Shaw.

After reaching out to the City of New Westminster and talking to some businesses in the area, I found that the bad internet speeds are well known in my area, although the speeds are much better a few blocks further west. I also found out about the Intelligent City initiative; a major component of this initiative is to build a fibre optic network through the city. The City of New Westminster does not intend on being an internet service provider, but they would build and own the network, leasing out the capacity to other service providers. This is an exciting development whose general plan has been approved, but will realistically take at least a couple of years before it is ready for commercial use.

Other options included:
* Wireless cell phone plans, where LTE networks now offer great speeds. However, the bandwidth offered with the Telus, Bell, and Rogers plans (as well as some of the smaller companies) topped out at 20GB per month, at which point the costs per GB skyrocket.
* Satellite internet from a company such as TeraGo, although it would cost at least $350 per month for a 5Mbps connection, and a 15Mbps connection would cost $950 per month.
* A “bonded” connection through Lightspeed Internet — this involves combining multiple connections into a single connection. They lease capacity through Telus’s lines, but Telus does not offer this bonded connection. The cost for my building for 3 bonded lines for an effective speed of 15Mbps is $340 per month.
* As suggested by my building neighbours Techno Monkey Media, get a company or building down the street (where they have decent internet speeds) to agree to let me get a normal Telus, Shaw, or other wired connection in their building, then send the signal to my building via rooftop satellites. This has some modest up-front costs, and the ongoing costs are no more than a standard connection.

I ended up moving forwarded with the bonded connection. However, the cost is not something I want to be paying in the long-term. While I wait for fibre internet to come to New Westminster, I hope to set up the “beam an internet connection via rooftop satellites” connection. In any case, this is a problem I would have never expected for downtown New Westminster!