Electric car: owning one and realising the future

So I finally got an electric car, thanks to Tiago, my friend and partner in crime, who had a wonderful ideia and encourage me to get hold of a piece of the future, a not that far ahead future it seems.

Disclaimer: we both got one, Renault Zoe’s, my 2nd favourite color for the car was sooner there. My first pick was red, a choice that would end my carrier as an exemplary husband in seconds. Tiago’s choice is dark gray.

Are electric cars a thing of the future?

Electric cars are no thing of the future. They’ve been around for some time already, but I don’t know if it is because of all the publicity Tesla is getting, or because there are much more brands making 100% electric cars, or if it is the fact that people from closer friendship circles are talking and getting themselves this cars. There is certainly a growing hype about this vehicles. More than you probably think!

So why are electric cars getting more popular?

Well, there is another subject that is trending, and that is autonomous vehicles. It’s going to happen, take note, but not to an extend where, as Mercedes tends to sell it, a vehicle where you turn your seat around and turn your back to the streets, it’s more like Nissan is doing it with an upcoming version of the Leaf in 2020, where it takes you from point A to point B 99% autonomously. All this is happening within electric cars for the big majority of cases.

So automation and electric car equals technology of the future?

See Tesla, they were the most popular ones providing driving aid with some level of automation. Volkswagen were the first ones parking their cars automatically. Geohot, the first being able to successfully crack (jailbreak) the iPhone, was assembling a system where the car was able to drive pretty much by itself. Technology is moving forward very fast. When you see what Apple is capable of doing with augmented reality, in real time, it’s no wonder how the 10-12 cameras in an prototype Nissan Leaf can read traffic lights, pedestrians, crossing bikers, barriers, and other day to day road obstacles. It is pretty impressive! Also, take note, Tim Cook says Apple is “very interested in autonomous systems”.

But how wide are electric cars spread?

An electric motor has a lot of power, it is energy efficient, it’s batteries can go a long distance already, they can charge very quickly, and if the energy they receive is created through a clean source of energy, such us 28% of the energy in Portugal is created, 17% average in European countries, then I think there’s only so many oil dependent countries that can do something about it. The shift is happening. Technology is here. The only thing missing is the buyers trust.

What about China?

According to this Fully Charged video with Roger Atkins, China is investing a lot of money in creating electric vehicles, and sees more business opportunities in this type of transportation than in thermal vehicles. China is already mass producing batteries and electric cars, for me this was a complete surprise, see it for yourself. It is not a situation where the brand gets its bucks from repairing vehicles anymore, it’s about giving them electric cars and charging for the energy. It’s a long term deal, a more profitable one, so they say.

And in Europe, what can we except to happen?

If that wouldn’t be enough, take this into consideration: Germany is prohibiting thermal cars production starting 2030, Volvo is stopping their diesel motor production this year, expects to have its offer on 100% electric cars expanded in the coming 3 years, 29% of Finland’s automobiles are 100% electric already, being it the biggest marketshare holder in the world.

So to sum up

It is clear that the future lies within the electric motor, be it a car, a motorcycle, a bike , train, or even skates, whatever means of transportation. Electric is the future, and we citizens of Portugal, have a privileged country regarding clean energy production and geographic location. Autonomous vehicles are here coming, 2020 will be the year of technology driving cars and making everyone’s life easier. Now mix that with augmented reality and machine learning algorithms. Exciting times are coming!

Elon Musk is right, artificial intelligence is not that far away and could be potentially dangerous. But at the end of the day, it will be us, the consumer, having benefited from technology.

Love to talk more about this particular theme or any other with me? Contact me!

DJI Spark – First impressions: is it the perfect drone?

DJI Spark near a 10 Euro billI finally got my DJI Spark past Tuesday after a 22 working days waiting period, since first ordered June 16th. Yes, I’ve ordered the red one. I saw on YouTube it was fast, really fast, so I though I would get a matching color with that statement. And after seeing it live, I fully convinced that this is the most beautiful color for this device.

First let me say that this isn’t in anyways a comprehensive review, it’s just my first impression about the DJI Spark, described. I previously owned the Phantom 3 Standard model and made a lot of movies with it, so for me, even though this is considered an entry device, it was a big jump in terms of embedded technology: sensors in the front and bottom, smaller size, better range with the controller, no constant interference warnings, being able to fly with the iPhone only (no controller), multiple flight modes and a much quieter machine. Overall, a big jump in technology, that makes me feel the Phantom 3 models are indeed something old, of the past.

The complete DJI Spark Fly More Combo package elements

The unboxing of the DJI Spark feels almost like opening an Apple product, it is very well packed and has that smell of new tech that I simply love. I got the Fly More combo, which is definitely the only way to go. Forget the less expensive version. You have to get the controller and extra battery if you want to use it properly. Otherwise, you will have it stored somewhere and never use it.

After charging the batteries, I gave it a go inside the office, just to see how the auto-flight mode works. It simply works. Then I went outside to see how the controller feels. It feels solid! The overall first experience is absolutely amazing. A lovely little flying high-tech machine. The controller fits very well in your hands, it gives you a steady grip, the sticks are rigid enough, the drone itself is fast and it feels not like flying a toy drone, as many people state. It is a prime product for sure.

Now about speed: tried the sport mode and… it really is super damn fast. You have to be careful though, as it takes some space in the air to “brake”, and you might miscalculate that needed space at first, so try it in an open space, not between buildings as I did. This sport mode is super handy when you want to quickly get to point A and start shooting. It takes more battery, sure, but at the end, you’ve spent less time taking that shot, which is one of the biggest advantages of this model.

Holding the DJI Spark in my hand for size comparisonThe noise of a drone is something that lets people around it uncomfortable. The DJI Spark is less noisy, still sounds like a drone though (duh!). Well at least you can’t hear it when you’re flying 30m high in the air anymore, which is cool for everyone around it, not cool for the pilot, as it is a lot smaller and difficult to see. You can’t hear, you can’t really see it, so you have to rely on the image on your phone. Can you fly solo by looking only at the streamed video? I can’t!

The stability of the drone is ok, too. It is lighter, so less resistance to wind. Although it can hold quite a bit, it only takes a bit of wind to get it out of a straight lined course and have your short ruined. That is something that doesn’t happen with a bigger model. The 2-axis stabilisation system isn’t an issue. Forget about it. It is super stable, as you can see by the footage I’ve presented. Now if you want to fly fast, sideways, and make quick movements and have a steady image, you cannot achieve that with the Spark. Why would you want to do that anyways?

Speaking about image quality, the 1080P footage in ok, it’s decent, you can work it out ok. I don’t care it not having 4k. I see so many people obsessed with it, but we aren’t there yet with the 4K adoption rate. It is only expected to be in more than 50% of households by 2025, you’ll get a new drone by then, I’m sure! I just hope DJI will give us color profiles in upcoming releases. Until than, I crank the contrast and saturation a little bit down and have it restored in post. It feels just like D-LOG, although it isn’t, it give a bit more range. Don’t ask me why. Also, a big improvement over what I had previously is the streaming quality on the phone. It is amazing how clear the image is. Now I hadn’t have the chance to try to connect the remote controller with a cable to the iPhone, will do that soon and change this article to reflect my opinion. It is supposed to have less latency in the image transmission, as it is not streamed via WiFi. I’m ok with WiFi, it is pretty good. Sharp, colourful and fast.

The DJI Spark inside the included carrying bag

At the end of the day, all I wanted was a device capable of being carried anywhere without being noticed, quickly set up, with quality materials and imagery, where things like battery time and 1080P “only” files aren’t an issue for sure. For now, I just cary it with me all times, and will try to use it more for photography than for videography, as I think this devices gives you more freedom in that field of creativity as well.

Are you willing to buy the DJI Spark but are unsure about it? Let me know through my Twitter, I’ll try to make my best answer your questions.

Until then, safe flying!

WooCommerce, The Do’s, Don’ts and Should’s

WooCommerce has become the greatest e-commerce framework / platform / system for building a fast, reliabe and all around cheap web store. It’s popularity has grown very fast since the early days and even more after Automattic’s acquisition back in May 2015. What does this platform differs from the others and why did it become the number one choice for online businesses?

Today I had the opportunity to talk about WooCommerce (slides are here) at WordCamp Lisboa 2017. In fact, if all did go well, this post should be publish 20th May 2017 at 2:45pm GMT. This is my opinion around WooCommerce, where I try to tell all the experience I had personally within my company around WooCommerce, and dissert a bit on how it could become an even better platform / plugin.

The Beggining

I think it is very important to go back to September 2011 where WooThemes and two of their developers first announced WooCommerce version 1.0. This was created of the necessity to have a framework that would support multiple themes around e-commerce, that would provide them with all the tools needed to take the customer form the product page to having a purchase going through and delivering the product. So the starting point are themes, themes that would give the ability to provide with a catalog, shopping cart and checkout page. So WooCommerce, from the get go, is a plugin, born out of a theme.

The Aquisition

Automattic bought WooCommerce and all the other products done by WooThemes in May 2015, where it had by then more than 7 million downloads. It was more than time enough to proof that the platform has its potencial and all the glory to become the greatest e-commerce platform for young companies who want to put their feet for the first time into the online selling business. This would provide WooCommerce the infrastructure needed to get updated by a specilized team of developers and still maintain its democratized characteristic as an open source resource for developers to jump in and extend functionalities and non-coders to build their businesses with a solution that works out of the box.

The Present

The numbers says that if you take the 4 most sucessful e-commerce platforms, WooCommerce has the same market share as their 3 top next platforms combined. All together, it is estimated that WooCommerce owns 52% of the top 1k e-commerce sites listed by Alexa (May 2017, source: datanyze.com). Where back in 2011 Magento was the king, now WooCommerce dictates the rules and is the prefered system to go with.

What WooCommerce Does

So as of today, WooCommerce is at its major version 3. It does some pretty good things out of the box, the framework (in my point of view it is more than a plugin) is solid, mature, offers great infrastructure to extend, and solves the most important challenges a webstore can face. Emphasis on the most important challenges, there are a lot of features that in my opinion should be bundled, not disregarding the fact that some of them are offered by a high-end pricey plugin, in most of the cases, developed by Automattic itself. Business is buisness, after all, but when it comes to compiting with other frameworks, if you want to race for the pole position, you have to grind, hustle, offer more and more.

Let me state this clearly so everyone knows my opinion: WooCommerce is a gigantic work, and we should all just be thankful for the rest of our lives for the people behind all the work, not only you as an enduser that has a business and can use it for free (!), but also for us developers, who can benefit from this, financially and spiritually. But, but, it is not perfect, far from it, it has flaws, it has solved problems in a way where other platforms offer better solutions, but this is all because it is a very complex problem to solve. None of the existing online solutions are perfect. Far from it.

So with zero coding knowledge, you can setup an on-line shop for very cheap, the cheapest (taking into account service quality and existing a support team) WordPress hosting you can get is GoDaddy and costs you no more than $100 yearly. That’s “nothing”.

Breaking down into the most important features, WooCommerce offers you OOTB this:

  • product catalog (shop)
  • product categorisation
  • product review and comment
  • checkout system
  • shopping cart
  • thank you page
  • account pages (for checking
  • multiple types of product
  • upsell + cross sell
  • simple invoicing system
  • order management (status, notes)
  • simple inventory
  • simple taxing system
  • reporting
  • coupons
  • shipping zones
  • payment gateways
  • emails
  • simple bulk edit

Uau, that’s a lot, right? Having an on-line business is not easy. There is always a different need in every case, something that the shop owner thought of that would be cool to have and that differentiates its business from the competition. Although this might be the case, the above features are the result of what most, if not all, online business need.

What WooCoomerce Doesn’t Do

Taking into account that there are other services that offer some extra features comparing to the standard WooCommerce installation, the competition is definitely on and from my perspective, there are some adjustments that need to be done for WooCommerce not to loose it’s leadership, in terms of adding features.

I know, people choose WooCommerce because of it’s flexibility and ability to add a lot of extra features that overcome this situation, but as good as that is, that ’s also bad. Why? Most of these extra tools are from third party developers, that are sometimes not architect taking into consideration the norms of good coding, stability and scalability. So you’re site gets cluttered very quickly with different bits of code that in most cases do not play together vey well.

I also understand that we’re talking about open source software, free software, and that extra features should come with an extra cost, but that’s a whole different discussion. My whole point here is that WooCommerce needs to keep up with its game, and provide more solutions to more common problems.

So the following list is a list a features i think WooCommerce should bundle over the corse of the following 2 years.

Note: when I say “we use” I mean my team at hellodev. (links coming up soon).

Advanced Bulk Editing
There is the possibility to bulk edit products already, but it is limited and the UI is not optimal. This needs to be improved and have a better way to change all the existing fields. Also, there’s no support for bulk editing variable products. For this feature we use an alternative plugin called Advanced Bulk Edit. A lot of features, to much perhaps.

Import / Export
This is a big flaw in my opinion, since people use external software for creating and maintaining information about products, and there should be a quick way to import product information, being it for creating or updated.  For this feature we use an alternative plugin called WP All Import. This is a real life saver when dealing with creating stores from scratch.

Because you have to. WPML (do I really need to link this up?). There’s no way out. Sorry… If you’re not willing to install WPML at all, because you just need multicurrency, here’s what you can install: Woocommerce Multi Currency Store By Code-Ninjas or Woocommerce Currency Switcher

Analytics & Reporting
The simplest way to deal with this subject is to take the Google Analytics code and put it in your site. Done. Google Analytics is an amazing tool and there is nothing simpler to get the most info about your website than adding the code.

Bookable or Bundled Product
If you want to setup a product that is like a tour around a city, an event, or a room or an apartment, if you want to rent spaces and need a booking system, there are two plugins that we used a lot called WooCommerce Booking and Pinpoint Booking System PRO.

Promotions and Discount Rules
This is propably the most asked resource every shop manager wants for their business on-line. WooCommerce Dynamic Pricing & Discounts does the job and it feels like it is really integrated with WooCommerce, giving you the same “WooCommercy” look and feel.

Shipping Rate Methods
This is also a vey requested feature if you have to calculate the shipping rate according the shipping country and weight or size of the product. There are two plugins that solve this problem greatly: WooCommerce Table Rate Shipping and Advanced Fees for WooCommerce. This last one also allows you to create acculumating rules for the shipping process, offer shipping, discounts on shipping, etc.

What WooCommerce Should Do

What we at hellodev and up having is a sum of other requests and plugins usage that go a bit further away from what most people want. This are the topics that we’ve colloeted so far: additional gateway payments, advanced tax regulations (for portuguese companies, we’ve developed a plugin that integrates an online invoicing system called WooCommerce Billing with InvoiceXpress and another plugin to deal with the international companies called WooCommerce EU VAT Assistant), advanced inventory management (we’ve develop a plugin to solve this called WooCommerce Warehouses), subscriptions & membership systems, store credit, dynamic pricing and marketing automation.

At the end

We live the most fantastic times ever where setting up an online business is super easy and where there are a lot of online resource that we have at our disposal that are free. The competition is definitly there, and if WooCommerce wants to keep up with their competitors, benifiting from being at the top of the table, they should setup up their game and rethink what features should come bundled.

Travelling in 2017, The Amazing Jorney

The year of 2017 is going to be the year where I’ll be doing the most travelling I ever did, at least the most travelled distance combined, both professionally (heavily #wordpress related) and with the family, and it couldn’t be for better reasons. This gets me excited and motivated all year long, and it’s so good!

I read. I travel. I become.

… said Darek Wallcot, and that is what I also believe. Travel is the greatest school you can have, and for all the travelling I’ve already done, I can only say this is absolutely true… I’ve already experienced a bunch, god bless!

I found the featured image of this blog post, my current iPhone background picture, in Gary Vee’s collection – an idol to me, gives me daily shots of inspiration and motivation – and until I don’t have photos of my own to put in here, this fits like a glove! What a coindicende to find this!

So to give you an idea what’s ahead of me, this is the schedule for this year.

May 19th-21st – WordCamp Lisbon, Portugal [work]

This year’s edition takes place in Lisbon, and for the 3rd year in a row, I’ll be sepaking at the event, this time around all things about WooCommerce. It is always a pleasure to share my experience as a developer and all the knowledge we’ve collected with client / service work at my company hellodev. So pumbed, hope everyone enjoys it! Buy your tickets now!

May 29th – June 5th – Oklahoma City, USA [work]

There is only so little I can talk or write about this, I’ll do another blog post about this insane and exciting jorney when all is revealed. For the meanwhile, I can only say this: it’s going to be a blast! Can’t wait to share! Stay tuned!

June 14th – 17th – WordCamp Europe 2017 – Paris, France [work]

I’ve been to previous editions already, and it is by far the biggest WordPress related conference in the world. I can’t express enough how important, fun and exciting conference it is, with a lot of talks and tracks going on, side meetings, parties, just simply an amazing experience. If you’ve never been to such an event, please stop reading, right now, and go buy your tickets. This year’s edition is in Paris! What other excuse do you need?

Mid August – Madeira Island and Algarve [leisure]

We have two amazing group of islands in Portugal, and this year, instead of visiting yet another fabulous country with sunshine and beaches and great weather, we thought we wouldn’t let it escape from us again, the chance of finally visiting one of Portugal’s finest destinations, the islands of Madeira. More on this experience on a later blog post.

October – WooCommerce Developer’s Conference [work]

We wanted so badly to attend last year’s edition that we thought we couldn’t let this opportunity go by again. We’re still on the planning phase for this trip, but it is definitly going to happen. My area of expertise in WordPress is e-commerce, WooCommerce is the leading platform, tool, plugin, framework, whatever you want to call it. Staying informed about it, getting to know new people and exchange ideas, thoughts, opinions and experiences is what everyone should be doing about their passions. There’s no way we’re missing this year’s edition. Also, it’s a great way to get informed of what’s to come.

December – WordCamp US 2017 – Nashville, USA [work]

Last year I had the most amazing time of my live at a WordPress conference, where I got to meet so many amazing people and companies. On the top of the list, Cory and Matt, amongst other business owners, entrepeneurs and developers. If it wasn’t for this trip, most of this year’s activity wouldn’t be happening. Again, not much I can say for know, stay tuned! It’s all related!

December – New Year’s Eve – Azores, Portugal [leisure]

So with one island down the list, there’s still another group of beautiful islands, or archipelago, I want to get to know, the Azores. This completes my visit through all of Portugal, mainland and islands. I’ve been almost everywhere. What a better way to finish out what is going to be for sure, the best year ever!

Oh, and did I mentioned I wanted to document all this on video? Yest! I don’t know if it’s going to be somethig worth sharing and watching, but I’ve been doing some crazy things and experimets around Instagram stories and watching Gary Vee and all his speech about documenting vs creating, that I really wanted to give it a try. Let’s see how that turns out.

Hope I can bring you with me on this rollercoaster and share with you all the experiences and help me become…