Why I like Uber

parking_ratesUber has been in Sydney for a year now, and I really like it (Although it has not quite changed my life, like it has others‘). Let me explain why:

I live in Bondi, a beach suburb of Sydney. In my experience cabs in Sydney were not very user friendly in the past. The cab licensing was highly restricted with licence plates going for several hundred thousand dollars. Drivers were not well rewarded and often lacked the knowledge required for a good passenger experience. Payments were monopolized by cabcharge, which at one stage added 10% automatically to any bill paid not in cash. Cabs in Bondi were hard to get: calling a cab to my home was unsuccessful more often than not. Cabs just didn’t turn up, there was no way to find out if one was on the way, phone lines to the booking centre were usually busy and it was not a rarity to spend 20 minutes on the phone just trying to find out if a cab had been despatched.

There are a lot of hire cars and limos in Sydney, but they are not easily accessible to private clients, they can’t be waved down on the street and they are expensive.

On weekend evenings in the city outside of busy night spots cabs wait and look for attractive fares. They ask before they let you in, and if you don’t live far away you won’t get taken. I walked home many times from the city because there was no cab willing to take me for the 20 minute trip.

So, I don’t use cabs very often, and when I did or tried to, it was almost always a frustrating experience.

Uber (Story of Uber’s foundation and growth) has the potential to change that and has certainly made a difference to me.

Calling a car via the Uber app gives instant feedback about who has accepted the job and how far he/she is away. You also get the driver’s contact number, so if there is anything to discuss or clarify, you can. Uber drivers have to accept any destination, so you always get a ride. All payments are made by pre-registered credit card, the transaction happens automatically as soon as the job is closed, the bill is emailed to you immediately. The direct connection and the fact that Uber drivers are rated by their passengers result in a different relationship between driver and passenger, much better in my experience. Not only drivers are rated, so are clients, I understand that if a client has a bad rating, their success when calling a car will be limited.

Uber does put a booking charge on every fare, nowhere near as much as the ten percent I had paid previously for cabcharge. However, Uber uses surge charging in busy times, for which the company has been criticised.

For me Uber has made taking a cab much easier and reliable. I can understand that they are often seen as the first step towards a better personal transportation: If I was able to combine this system with driverless cars, could I live without my car, just calling one from the pool of cars as I need it? If you have experienced Sydney’s traffic you’ll understand the attraction. Uber also has started a low cost car sharing option, Uber-X, which enables anybody to make money and offer a ride via their platform. This service is more disruptive than just organising cabs and limos through an app, it gives anybody the opportunity to work as a driver. There are insurance issues to be solved, and there is massive resistance of the established industry all over the world, but the opening up of the market has many positive effects and has drastically changed personal transport.

And to continue dreaming: could cars park (themselves) somewhere else than in our city streets (Carless cities?) and make cities less car dominated, more human liveable if there was personal transportation on demand?

Unpacking the Replicator 2

It has arrived! The Makerbot Replicator 2 is here. It came in a practical carry bag, although I’m not sure it will move too much. The Rep 2 is a desktop printer, not much bigger than an MFD.
Unpacking and setup took less than an hour, thanks to an easy to follow manual and very simple setup software. From memory my last print-on-paper device took longer.
Levelling the plate is easy through an interactive script that runs on the Re2 as soon as you switch it on.
Inserting the filament is a matter of seconds and after a couple of minutes of heatup the printer prompts you to start a first build.

The List Of Must Try IOS Apps

Below my favourite IPad/IPhone apps.

This list is dynamic, please name your favourites in the comments and I’ll add them to the list.

Managing Documents

The IPad does not have a filing system like a PC and exchanging and managing files needs getting used to. These applications make it easier:


This indispensible app allows you to store web pages for later reading when you’re offline or when you find the time back on the sofa at home. Instapaper makes this very easy by installing a button in your browser(s), it is also linked to by many reading apps like Flipboard and most Twitter clients. (Free/Commercial) Link

Docs to Go

Documents to go is a file management and file format translation app. It can view many popular file formats and it can edit word and excel files. Doc to go can sync with cloud services and it can also synchronise automatically with your PC through the free Windows/Mac app. (Free/Commercial) Link

Good Reader

Very good at reading even long pdf files and able to read a number of other file formats. (Free/Commercial) Link

News and Magazines


Beautiful, magazine style display of your customised news feed. Pick your sources from your twitter feed, your facebook stream, linked in, news papers and magazines and Flipboard will compile a digital magazine that is perfect for the IPad. Articles you like can be shared or sent to Instapaper for archival. The IPhone app is also worth downloading, making good use of the small screen. (Free) Link


Another digital magazine, grouping news into sections and learning from your choices. Zite learns what you like and gets smarter every time you use it. (Free) Link

news360 degrees

The idea here is that you get a number of sources for the same news article, so you can compare how the New York Times writes about the US elections to the Sydney Morning Herald, which can make for interesting reading. (Free) Link


The best tech blog! (Free) Link

Social Networking / Branding


IPad and IPhone app. No need to explain. (Free) Link

Google +

At this time IPhone version. (Free) Link

Linked In

At this time IPhone version only. (Free) Link


A customisable Twitter client. (Commercial) Link


A Twitter client with multiple columns to follow several accounts. (Free) Link


IA Writer

If you need to write a text with more than 144 characters, IA writer is best. It is for writing only, nothing else, no frills, no fiddling with fonts and formatting. The keyboard has all the controls you normally miss on the IPad keyboard, which means that you can actually control the cursor. Writer counts words and letters and that’s about it. Documents can be saved locally or with several cloud services. (Commercial) Link


The Apple word processing software, compatible with word, and therefore required if you are part on an MS office workflow. (Commercial) Link


The Apple presentation software, compatible with powerpoint, and therefore required if you are part on an MS office workflow. There is also a remote control app, which lets you control a presentation on your IPad from your IPhone. (Commercial) Link

Prezi Viewer

Prezi is a web tool that allows you to make presentations that don’t just move from slide to slide. The viewer allows you to store and display prezis set up on a web based app. Funky presentations using free software. (Free) Link

Education and Learning

ITunes U

There is so much good content accessible via ITunes U, and it’s totally free.
(Free) Link

Khan Academy

Thousands of educational videos, at this point mostly sciences and maths, available for free. Videos can be downloaded to the IPad to view when offline. (Free) Link


What digital textbooks should look like. Inkling has interactive materials from major publishers like Pearson. Books have to be bought on the web (used to be in-app) and are not cheap. (Free) Link

Google Earth

The best atlas, perfect for the IPad. (Free) Link

CIA World Factbook

Facts about every country, always there, even when not online. (Commercial) Link

Working with Images and Movies

Apple IPhoto

IPhoto does most of the things you need to do with images on the fly, quick tuning, crop, minor adjustments. (Commercial) Link


Very good application to tune your pictures with one touch. Many predefined actions make it quick and easy to get the best from your snaps. (Commercial) Link

Adobe Photoshop Touch

Not quite the functionality of the desktop application, but the app to work on pictures. (Commercial) Link


Cutting and post processing videos on the iPad. (Commercial) Link



A fantastic app to compose music on the IPad or IPhone, multiple tracks, range of instruments, “smart” assisted mode makes almost anyone sound like a . (Commercial) Link

Books and Magazines


Apple’s free app reads epub and pdfs, and it reads them to you if an audio file is supplied. (Free) Link


The Kindle app (Free) Link

Google Play Books

Gives access to Google’s book shop (Free) Link

Our Choice

Al Gore’s follow up book to An Inconvenient Truth is a multi media book with movies and infographics, well worth the 5 bucks. (Commercial) Link


Magazines on the IPad (Free) Link


Beautiful travel and photography magazine (Free) Link



IPad 2 & 3 display comparison

Got it! Could not resist, I went into the store just to have a look. Despite the hype it wasn’t that busy on the first day, and they had almost every model on hand.

Ok, so now I have the new IPad. Setup took hardly any time and I really appreciate Apple shipping with a full battery. It is slightly heavier than version 2, and a little thicker. Obviously we still have a long way to go in battery technology. It feels a little faster when calling up apps, but that could be only the screen.

About that screen: even to my slightly aged eyes it looks great. A comparison to the v2 model looks like this:

Text display comparison IPad 2 / 3 (click to enlarge)






When looking at the display with a loupe, the added pixels show:

Close up comparison IPad 2 / 3 and print (click picture to enlarge)