Quitting Stripe for Braintree Payments?

I’ve written a lot about Stripe on here in recent years, mostly singing it’s praises as a great new, easy and cheap way to accept credit card payments from clients. Lately however it’s begun to annoy me that no progress has been made with getting the bank transfer times down for Irish customers. It still takes 7 – 9 days and I find myself groaning a little each time someone pays me via Stripe as I know it’s going to affect my cash flow. I’d prefer if they used PayPal or Bank Transfer at this stage so I get my money within a day or 2 max. Stripe are pretty slow to respond to support queries too and any time I ask them about the slow transfer times they roll out the same cut & paste response. This is my only real issue with Stripe however. It’s still pretty cool apart from that.

Braintree Payments are a newish credit card processor that I seem to keep hearing about this year. They are a PayPal owned company and offer essentially the exact same service as Stripe, ie – you sign up for a free account with no monthly fees and they offer credit card payment integration on your website, virtual terminal etc, charging just a percentage of each transaction. Braintree like Stripe also integrates easily with my invoicing system Zoho Invoice and you can get scripts, plugins etc for your website though the choice/range might be slightly smaller than for Stripe. At the minute the fees are pretty much the same as Stripe.

Here’s the things that interest me the most and what might make me switch from Stripe:

Fees

Braintree currently take NO fees for your first €50k income which could be a saving of hundreds each year for me for about the next few years at least. The fees are zero for the first €50k whether you use Braintree itself or the integrated PayPal payments option*.

Transfer Times

They also guarantee bank transfer times of 2 – 4 days max (including Ireland*), nearly half of Stripe’s which is damn significant. Braintree also integrates with Paypal so you can easier accept PayPal payments via a credit card form on your site so you can still get PayPal’s 1 – 2 day max transfer time.

Having just signed up for a Braintree account I must say I much prefer the Stripe website and dashboard. Braintree’s site seems awkward and overly complex but money talks! It’s worth giving Braintree a bash for a while at least I think.

Leon

*  Confrimed by Braintree support.

IMPORTANT UPDATE:

After a month or so of using Braintree I can confirm that it works fine and transfers are a little quicker than Stripe although the first few are only marginally quicker. HOWEVER I have had to abondon my Braintree account and revert to Stripe because of a series of fraudulent transactions that happened on Christmas Eve and day. There were over 100 un-requested payments totaling over €3,000 made to me by people I don’t know over those 2 days ranging from a few cents to €1,000 and all were made via a third party script on my website but were processed by Braintree and lined up for transfer to my bank account which could have caused all kinds of chargeback hassle and fees with my bank. I was in contact with Braintree’s support and risk departments and feel that they were of almost no help. They seemed to suggest that I may owe them money if the fraudulent transactions weren’t dealt with quickly by me and went to a chargeback situation which I didn’t understand at all. Braintree doesn’t appear to have any risk, fraud or security prevention setup by default and some of the payments that were made to me were different names with the same credit card number which shouldn’t be allowed happen by any modern payment processor in my opinion. Nothing else like this ever happened during my 2+ years with Stripe and I feel they are a safer bet still despite the slow transfers.

NOTE:

Also, since I started using Braintree, Stripe have reduced their fees considerably from about 2.5% to 1.4% so if they can just get those transfer times down and answer emails quicker they could still be the perfect solution.

Nest Learning Thermostat Review

Why Buy!?

I have to admit, this was an impulse buy for me after I seen it mentioned on Facebook. It was pretty hard to resist a cross between an iPhone and a “smart” thermostat and rarely have I got so excited about a household appliance type thing! It’s kinda pricey at about €220 from Store.nest.com/ie/ and it had only just gone on sale in Ireland when I bought it so it was kinda unproven here but the promise of smarter heating and possibly reduced heating bills helped me justify the expense to the wife. The reports online were all pretty positive too and the caliber of the companies behind it put me at ease further.

Nest Thermostat
Nest Thermostat

Background

Apparently, the guys behind it used to work in Apple on the iPhone and you can definitely see similarities in design and interface. Google bought the company behind the Nest earlier this year for billions and has plans to add cool new features such as voice control and integration with other home automation products and even Mercedes cars! Everything about the process of buying and installing the Nest “Learning” Thermostat was fairly smooth and professional from their website and checkout etc to device control, except maybe the delivery time as mine seemed to get lost for over a week somewhere between The Netherlands and here. I was also slightly disappointed to see that there was an extra box (Heatlink) and level of install complexity over and above what I had seen online for the US version which meant I had to get an installer out to put it in for me. Luckily, I just caught a free install period though. People handy at DIY should be able to manage the install themselves though. For the Irish market, the extra Heatlink box basically connects to whatever wires your old controls were connected to and the Nest can then be wired directly to the Heatlink or moved anywhere else in the house within 30m. The Nest communicates with the Heatlink wirelessly but needs to be plugged in if it’s not wired directly to it.

Nest Android App
Nest Android App

Control

The Nest website, web control dashboard and mobile apps are all very user friendly and simple and everything worked flawlessly straight out of the box including connection to home Wifi and your Nest online account so it can be controlled remotely. The unit asks all kind of questions on start up from the year of construction of your house, to fuel type, to floor size, to room location in an effort to teach itself as much as possible about your setup and run as efficiently as possible which makes it pretty reassuring. It also updated itself on first run. I like devices that update themselves and add new features & fixes all the time! There’s a nice feel to the unit too. It’s has a heavy, quality feel to it and using it (by pressing the face in and turning the frame clockwise or anti-clockwise to go through menus, temperatures etc) is very smooth and satisfying.

My Schedule
My Schedule

How it works?

The basic idea of the Nest is to “learn” your patterns of activity in the house so it can provide heat only when you really need it. What you are supposed to do is tweak the temperature by turning the dial left or right whenever you need it and over a week or two it will learn the times you do this and start doing it automatically for you. I personally didn’t like the sound of having to remember to adjust the heat every time we walked into or out of the kitchen so I just picked a base temperature of 16 degrees (mimimum “Cosy” house temperature recommended by ESB) and setup a schedule (see above) that basically tells it to make the house 18 degrees from 7am and go back to 16 from 8am. We get up at about 7:30am so the house is warm when we’re up. I set a temperature of 12 degrees for around 10pm for the night while we’re asleep so the heat doesn’t come on. If we ever have to adjust the time manually then the Nest will apparently add this to the schedule info and do it’s thing automatically!

Night time and Empty House

The first night we had it I wasn’t quite sure what would happen if it went below 16 degrees. I didn’t particularly want the heat maintained at 16 overnight while we were asleep. I guess the way around this is to just set a much lower temperature for sleeping hours, ie around 12 degrees or something but it’s not clear whether the “Auto Away” feature kicks in overnight or not. The Nest can be set to sense when you are away for long periods like at work or on holiday and it wont turn on at all except to maintain whatever temperature you set as the “Away Temperature”. I have that set to 4 degrees just to prevent freezing but I’m not sure how it differentiates between away times and sleep times. Perhaps the on board sensors can tell when it’s dark or bright?

Conclusion

Overall I’m very impressed with the Nest. It has quality written all over it but you’ll have to wait a few months if not a full year to try see if it saves on heating bills or not. At the very least though it’s very cool to be able to dial up the heating on your phone from bed before you get up or before you come home and it’s great to have a heating control and thermostat all in one that focuses on the actual house temperature rather than a simple on/off schedule. I’m also looking forward to seeing what future software updates will bring.

Leon

UPDATE: I’ve been using the Nest for a few months now and it’s not generating any data for the monthly reports I get via email. Without the report data, I’m not sure whether it’s saving me money or not. Also, every couple of weeks it seems to slow down and become unresponsive and I have to reset it. I’ve downloaded the latest firmware update but no improvement. I’ve tried emailing and ringing their support for the last month or 2 and I’ve got nowhere. Communication is very poor from them.

WordPress Newsletter Embedded Images Extension Review

Images are disabled by default in a lot of email clients these days in order to protect users from viruses etc. You’ve probably got emails in that look awful because the images have been blocked? Maybe some people don’t know how to easily unblock remotely loaded images so your newsletter may never look as intended. Images are probably the most important thing in an email as the viewer is naturally drawn to them rather than a chunk of text. Images normally contain call to actions and information re offers etc.. so having them disabled is not good.

Embedded Images Extension

This handy little extension for the excellent WordPress Newsletter Plugin from Tribulant when installed and activated disables the remote loading of images and instead embeds and attaches them to the email itself so it displays in the receivers client as intended. Once activated you just create newsletters and add images as normal. The plugin handles the image embedding automatically on sending.

A single site licence is only $15.

Features:

  • Upload and activate as a regular plugin.
  • Once activated it integrates with the settings of the main Newsletter Plugin.
  • Specify a folder to contain your embedded images.
  • Image embedding is automatic.
  • Images load immediately on opening email.
  • Emails are cross client compatible.

Download the Embedded Images Extension now.

Leon

Hootsuite Social Media Manager Review

I think I’ve tried most social media apps for phone and desktop at this stage and was happily using one particular one for ages when it suddenly dropped support for Facebook so off I went to look for another one. My requirements were simple enough. I needed to be able to update multiple social networks and profiles at once, mainly the different Twitter and Facebook profiles I manage. I needed a desktop or browser plugin version and I needed it to run without bugs, be intuitive and easy to use and be free. After a long enough search I settled on Hootsuite. Here’s my review.

Hootsuite Features:

  • Multiple Social Network Management,
  • Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, Google+, Foursquare, WordPress,
  • Social Profile Analytics,
  • Scheduled Posts,
  • Update multiple social networks at once,
  • Teams and In-Company Communication (Pro only),
  • Pull in and re-post RSS feeds,
  • URL shortening,
  • iOS & Android apps,
  • Browser apps/plugins (Chrome & Firefox).

You can add 5 different *social profiles in the Free version which will probably be enough for most people but I’ve upgraded to the PRO version at about €7.70 per month to get 50 social profiles and extra reporting/analytics features.

* A social profile includes for example 1 Twitter account or 1 Facebook page OR personal profile etc.. A single Facebook account with personal profile and multiple pages does not count as just 1 profile.

Standout Features for me:

  • Nice layout,
  • Easy addition of new Tabs and Streams,
  • Posting to multiple networks simultaneously,
  • Android app syncing,
  • Analytics,
  • Track brand/keyword mentions,
  • Hootlet (Chrome plugin that lets you share a url you’re on via Hootsuite).

Here’s how my Hootsuite desktop app looks:

Hootsuite

Sign up for a free trial of Hootsuite Pro and check it out..

Gravity Forms WordPress Newsletter Extension Review

My favourite WordPress plugin development company Tribulant have recently added a number of extensions for their popular commercial plugins to extend their functionality and integrate with other well known WordPress plugins. One that caught my eye and one I’ve been using for a while now is the Gravity Forms extension for their excellent Newsletter plugin.

Basically it adds new options to the best WordPress Forms plugin, “Gravity Forms“, that allow you to add a Newsletter Subscription box to any form you create on your site. And I’ve added it to all of mine!

Here’s some features:

  • Simple activation through the existing Newsletter Configuration screen,
  • Seamless integration with the Gravity Form builder,
  • Adds a “Newsletters” field under “Advanced Fields” in the Gravity Form builder (see below),
  • Auto check option,
  • Choose Mailing List option,
  • Routing/Custom Field options to grab the Name and Email fields from the Gravity Form.

Here’s a screenshot of the settings screen:

Gravity Forms Extension

Check out my Contact page to see it in action.

Get the extension from Tribulant.com now.

Leon

Jack L The 27 Club Review

I’m not a CD buyer anymore really but I’m a big Jack L fan and fan of a lot of the ‘27 club‘ – the club of rockers that died at the age of 27 and the music of which Jack covers on this album. My favourite 27 clubber is Jim Morrison so I had to hear Jack singing the Doors covers if nothing else and of all the artists Jack covers on this album, he’s chosen more Doors songs then any other artist (at least jointly!) which is cool! I have heard Jack and Jim mentioned in the same breath on many occasions and while he can’t scream like Morrison, he was made to sing Doors songs.

Jack L Club 27

This album might finally be the one that moves Jack Lukeman onto a higher level of popularity than he’s had so far in his career. I’ve always put his lack of international success down to the simple fact that his songs are not exactly ‘pop’ and have a fairly dark edge, after all it can’t be for lack of talent. Through all the gigs I’ve seen Jack at from a boat in Leitrim to the Olympia, I don’t think I’ve ever heard him sing a bum note!

Some of the songs covered are not written by 27 clubbers themselves but covers they done which is slightly at odds with the marketing for this album but I guess the songs might have been made famous by their illustrious coverers. First off, the Doors songs. Wasn’t too impressed with “Touch Me” or “Alabama Song” the latter of which I would have thought suited Jack down to the ground but “The Crystal Ship” is class. It’s one of my favourite Doors songs anyway so that helped.

With “Love in Vain” by Robert Johnson, Jack playfully turns off the mic as I’ve seen him do in a few gigs to try recreate the old style sound of Johnson’s recordings. Works well..

For me, Jack L is best when he’s singing slow ballads so the slower songs on the album are standout for me but here’s a few of my favourites:

  • Purple Haze – Probably the best song on the album, great ‘slow’ version with lovely electric piano. Reminds me of AIR,
  • Smells Like Teen Spirit – Up there with Purple Haze, great to hear such a different version of the song,
  • Paint It Black – Dark feel with lovely strings,
  • The Crystal Ship – Lovely tune anyway! Some great Piano too,
  • The Killing Moon – Lovely arrangement and strings,
  • Love is a Losing Game – Moving version for obvious reasons.
 Conclusion:
I think I would have preferred an over produced studio version of the songs rather than a live take. Not huge on listening to live music on a CD, only live music when I’m actually there. Having said that it’s great to hear Ireland’s best singer let loose on some of the best songs ever written/recorded. Worth a purchase and listen.
Listen to some demos here.
Buy the album here.

Track List (Track – Band/27 Club member):

  1. Paint It BlackThe Rolling Stones/Brian Jones
  2. Touch MeThe Doors/Jim Morrison
  3. The Killing MoonEcho and the Bunnymen/Pete de Freitas
  4. Purple HazeJimi Hendrix
  5. Voodoo ChildJimi Hendrix
  6. Goin’ Up The CountryCanned Heat/Alan Wilson
  7. Mercedes BenzJanis Joplin
  8. Motorcycle EmptinessManic Street Preachers/Richey Edwards
  9. Smells Like Teen SpiritNirvana/Curt Cobain
  10. Ruby TuesdayThe Rolling Stones/Brian Jones
  11. Up On The RoofThe Drifters/Rudy Lewis
  12. The Crystal Ship – The Doors/Jim Morrison
  13. LithiumNirvana/Curt Cobain
  14. Love Is A Losing GameAmy Winehouse
  15. Keep Dancing – Jack L (This song is Jack’s own ‘dedication’ to the dead)
  16. Thirteen – Big Star/Chris Bell
  17. Jumpin’ Jack FlashThe Rolling Stones/Brian Jones
  18. Love In VainRobert Johnson
  19. Alabama SongThe Doors/Jim Morrison
Leon

Eventbrite Review – Online Event Registration & Ticket Sales

If you are a business or organisation that organises Events and would like to take registrations or sell tickets for events, then you could do worse than use Eventbrite.ie. It has pretty much been the worldwide market leader for online event registration and ticket sales now for a number of years and they now have an Irish site!

Stand out Features:

I’ve used Eventbrite one or twice as a booking engine for client sites thanks to it’s widgetised code which can be pasted on any site. Here’s some features which stood out for me though.

  • FREE to use (unless you take payments),
  • Take ticket payments via Credit Card, Paypal or ‘at the door’,
  • Show the Eventbrite booking system on your own site or a customised page,
  • Send attendees pro, bar coded tickets they can print off and bring,
  • Easy event promotion,
  • Social Media Integration,
  • Save attendees email addresses for mailshots,
  • Auto Name badges and attendee lists,
  • Multiple ticket types,
  • Personalised event links/URL’s,
  • iPhone and Android apps,
  • Add Google Analytics to Event Pages.

Here is a full feature list:

  • FREE Event creation,
  • Professional Ticketing,
  • Event Pages,
  • Event Reports,
  • Sell from your own site,
  • Events Widgets,
  • FREE event promotion,
  • Save email lists,
  • Send customised email marketing,
  • MailChimp Integration,
  • Event tracking links,
  • Accept Donations,
  • Absorb paid ticket processing fees or pass on to customer,
  • Manage reoccurring events,
  • Wait lists.

Here’s a screenshot of the Create Event process so you can get a feel for how simply it all works.

Signup for FREE at Eventbrite.ie today!

Create Event