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24/7 Banking Convenience with BPI

Online banking has really brought so much convenience to depositors these days.

I remember what it was like in the 80s. If you walked into a bank’s branch, the first thing you’d notice is that the area allocated to backroom operations was so much larger than the area for its depositors. Signature cards were contained in several, long metal file containers; deposit slips were filled out in duplicate or triplicate and different types of checks (on us, local, regional, out of town checks) would require different, color-coded deposit slips; and perhaps the biggest inconvenience was that you could only transact from Monday to Friday and oftentimes, only till 3:30 pm. Clearly, banking processes then were designed more for the banking institutions rather than for the depositing public.

Fast forward to today and we see all banks having some kind of online presence. But even then, not all banks are the same. More banks are better at bringing greater convenience to its depositors than others. In my personal experience, having banked with several banks over my lifetime, BPI’s 24/7 online banking channels are among the best, if not the best.

ATMs

Not many may know this but BPI was probably the first local commercial bank to introduce ATMs in the Philippines. I was then working in the Computer Audit Group of SGV and was a witness to this as I had a chance to look into BPI’s IT systems including ATMs (by saying this I am dating myself, haha). It was a challenge then. BPI not only had to ensure its ATM software and processes were airtight so that everything was balanced and accounted for daily but it also had the pioneering task of changing the mindsets of depositors who were quite reluctant to deal with a machine, especially when it came to dispensing money.

But look where we are today. ATMs are everywhere. And BPI’s ATMs can be found in any nook and cranny, within bank premises, in malls and even in some schools. An ATM’s 24-hour convenience has become part of the Pinoy’s daily life.

EXPRESS ONLINE BANKING

So far this is the one I use a lot. I never have to leave home because I can pay bills (immediate and scheduled), load my mobile phone (and that of my kids), check my investment and credit card accounts aside from my bank accounts, and even get a queue number before I go to the bank, all right from my laptop. Did you know that last one? It’s an option available inside BPI’s Express Online Banking website, right after you log in. Just identify which branch you’re heading for, choose date and time, and it gives you a queue number! This, to me, is a killer feature of BPI’s online banking as it saves me so much time.

Look for this button inside your BPI Express Online account
Screenshot of appointment page of BPI Express Assist Online

BPI Express Mobile App

The latest addition to BPI’s 24/7 banking channels is the BPI Express Mobile App for iOS and Android.

This is really a convenient alternative when I cannot go online on my laptop. On-the-road checking of my balances, being able to pay bills on the fly and even loading up our mobile phones is so easy. In fact, the mobile app allows you to transfer funds to any 3rd party account (as long as you have activated this feature) — something you can’t even do yet via the Expressonline account on the web.

Like me, you can enjoy the painless convenience of BPI’s 24/7 online banking channels. In these times of busyness and traffic, being able to do all these banking transactions from wherever you are truly cuts time, effort and cost for BPI depositors.

BPI Expressonline homepage: www.bpiexpressonline.com

Bata at SM Makati

Halloween giveaway: WinX HD Video Converter Deluxe

I love special holidays because these are the times when I could be lucky to get a paid app for free or at a hefty discount. And Halloween is one of those times.

So I’m sharing this find with you. From Oct. 27 to Nov. 6, 2011, Digiarty Software, Inc. is giving its video converter software, WinX HD Video Converter Deluxe for FREE!

WinX HD Video Deluxe is an all-in-one HD video converter, DVD burner and YouTube video downloader. Convert your DVD collection so it can play on your iPhone/4s, iPad, iPod, PSP, PS3, Android, Blackberry and DVD player. You can watch your videos on the go.

Just a reminder.

This is a Windows version and does not come with free upgrades or tech support. The software also must be activated before Nov. 10.

To download it free, click HERE.

Digiarty has also discounted its WinX DVD Ripper Platinum from $49.95 to $35.95. This is a full license version that entitles you to lifetime upgrade. The link to promo for this is same as the one above.

Bata at SM Makati

Metro Manila Traffic Navigator launches – with more to come

Last August 1, 2011, the Metro Manila Traffic Navigator (a web-based, real-time traffic situationer) was formally introduced to the riding public by executives from both the MMDA and TV5 present, as well as media and bloggers. When I last blogged about the Metro Manila Traffic Navigator last June 29, the first day its beta version was opened to the public, I was delighted to find the page so easy to read, clean and as real-time as you can get (with updates every 5 to 15 minutes).

The Traffic Navigator was a personal savior for me. While MMDA was already doing a good job of announcing traffic situations in the Metro via their Twitter account, it was still difficult to filter the timeline. For example, in the case of Tropical Storm Falcon, I was attending a despedida for a friend and it was raining cats and dogs outside. I went online before going home and checked MMDA’s Twitter timeline to see if the route I was taking was going to be flooded. I did find out but not after some amount of scrolling through the timeline searching for the tweet specific to what I needed.

With the Traffic Navigator, you get a visual image of the initial 6 lines that are up (EDSA, Quezon Avenue, Espana, C5, Roxas Blvd and SLEX), the various points along each line and the traffic situation in any of 3 colors – red, yellow and green. Just on the homepage alone, it’s easy to check the red (heavy traffic) points and make plans for an alternate route. The Traffic Navigator has a system view, line view, and a Google Map view so you get the situation from a macro or micro level.

At the formal launch, MMDA Chairman, Atty. Francis Tolentino; TV5’s Chief of News and Information Division, Ms. Luchi Valdes;  and TV5 Interaksyon.com’s editor-in-chief, Mr. Roby Alampay, talked about how the idea of Traffic Navigator was born and what they hoped it would achieve in terms of upping public service levels. MMDA’s Yves Gonzalez also explained how the app was being updated to reflect real-time traffic situations. Since it began operations, about 6,000 drivers and commuters have already consulted the Traffic Navigator.

The Traffic Navigator is so versatile that it will run on, and is optimized for, any PC-based or mobile browser. It has been tested to run smoothly on Wintel computers, Macs, Linux machines, iPhones, iPod Touches, iPads, Android phones, Windows Mobile, Opera, and any web browser currently installed on mobile gadgets.

Watch this short video to get a bird’s-eye view of Traffic Navigator:

Here’s more good news. While version 1.0 currently has 96 points and 6 lines, version 1.1 will have 140 points and 9 lines (plus an extended C5 line). Here are the additions:

* The C5 Line #4 which currently stops with Libis Flyover will be extended to include the following points: Bonny Serrano, P. Tuazon, Aurora Boulevard, Xavierville, Ateneo de Manila University, Miriam College, C.P. Garcia, UP, Capitol Hills and Tandang Sora.

* An Ortigas line will be added to include (from point to point): C5 Flyover, Greenmeadows Ave., Lanuza Ave., Medical City, Meralco Ave., San Miguel Ave., EDSA Shrine, POEA, La Salle Greenhills, Connecticut, Wilson, Club Filipino, Roosevelt, Madison, and Santolan.

* A Commonwealth line will be added to include (from point to point): Batasan, St. Peter’s Church, Ever Gotesco, Diliman Preparatory School, Zuzuaregi, Gen. Malvar Hospital, Tandang Sora Eastside, Tandang Sora Westside, Central AVe., Magsaysay Ave., University Ave., and PhilCOA.

* A Marcos Highway line will be added to include (from point to point): San Benildo School, Robinson’s Metro East, F. Mariano Ave., Amang Rodriguez, Dona Juana, LRT-2 Station and SM City Marikina.

Carlo Ople then announced another new thing coming soon: Traffic Navigator will soon become a native app for the iPad and iPhone. This means you can fire it up directly without having to open up a browser. Analysis shows that about 14% of those who use Traffic Navigator do so via a mobile device. It makes sense then to make a native app.

The app will contain TV5 news, TV5 tweets and Traffic Navigator. Social media features are included, allowing you to share the traffic situation on Twitter and Facebook for friends who may not have the same access.

First view upon firing iPad app are top stories from TV5 as well as its tweets.
Each row can scroll left-right to reveal even more news.

How the Traffic Navigator renders on an iPad

How the app renders on an iPhone

Of course, while the team behind Traffic Navigator tries their best to keep the data accurate, there will be instances when information may be inaccurate. MMDA calls on us to help them keep the information accurate by tweeting them at @MMDANavigator or texting them at 0933-7401258.

Metro Manila Traffic Navigator
http://mmdatraffic.interaksyon.com

Bata at SM Makati

MMDA + Interaksyon 5 = Metro Manila Traffic Navigator

(UPDATE: Read my newer post, featuring the Traffic Navigator during its public launch, by clicking HERE.)

The Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) has been getting a lot of praise as one of the government agencies that has been in the social media forefront, rendering public service via Twitter and Facebook. Now, they’ve levelled up once more! Partnering with Interaksyon (TV5), they have created a web-based, real-time Metro Manila Traffic Navigator.

When you go to the homepage, you are presented with the System View. At first glance, it reminds me of a subway map but it covers the major thoroughfares where the MMDA cameras (I presume) are located.

Using the red, green, yellow colors to signify heavy, moderate and light traffic, you can see at a glance where traffic is bad and where it is okay.
To get greater detail, you can also choose the Line View. In this view you can select any of several lines: EDSA, Quezon Ave., Espana, C5, Roxas Blvd, or SLEX. In this screencap, I had chosen EDSA and was presented with several streets intersecting with EDSA and their color-coded traffic status.
And when you click the Google Map icon on the extreme right of each street, this is what you see (in this case, I chose Quezon Ave.):
The website is interactive. At almost any page view, you have the chance to share the info via Facebook and Twitter as well as chat interactively with MMDA. You don’t need to open Twitter or Facebook as a separate window or tab anymore. 
I was told that updates to the website are done every 15 to 30 minutes. That’s not bad at all!
At the height of Tropical Storm Falcon, I was out of the house attending a despedida. Following the tweets of MMDA then helped me plan my route home. But this is one-up over the MMDA tweets. Why? Because if you want to check the status of EDSA-Shaw Boulevard, like I wanted to, it took a while to scroll through all the MMDA tweets to find one that reported on EDSA-Shaw. But with a visual map like this one, you can immediately check the EDSA line view and see the status of Shaw Blvd. there.
In the works also is the mobile app version of this so that it is easier for those with mobile phones to use the application.
The website is still in beta (as it says in the logo) and I think that’s because some links are not yet working. For example, I clicked on their About, FAQ and Contact Us links and was directed to the System View page. Looks like those links are still under construction.
Try it out now and see for yourselves. If you love MMDA already, you’ll love them even more after this. And thanks to Interaksyon TV5 for making this possible.
To go to Metro Manila Traffic Navigator, click HERE.
Bata at SM Makati

Free Mac App: MacX iPad iPhone DVD Video Converter Pack

From April 20 to May 3, 2011, this $35 Mac app is FREE as an Easter giveaway.
Maybe you’re wondering if there’s a need for this since iTunes and QuickTimeX offer iOS export settings. But this application comes in handy for formats that both programs above may have a hard time recognizing. It’s a pretty nifty utility for converting video formats into those compatible with your iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch. 
The download gives you two free two-in-one programs:
DVD Ripper

Just load your DVD into the Mac, select your output format (iPad, iPhone, iPod, mp4, MOV or even Music) and click “Start” to begin conversion. EASY!

Video Converter
With this second application, you can likewise convert video files into the output formats as in DVD Ripper above, with the additional output format suitable for YouTube.

Note: Since this is being given away for free, the site says that no update or technical support is provided with this version.

To download this free dual pack, go to the link HERE and use the generated license code to register your app after download. Remember, you only have till May 3, 2011 to download this for free.
HAPPY EASTER!!!

Bata at SM Makati

Royal Wedding Apps Flourish!

Prince William and Kate Middleton
(photo by Mario Testino)
The excitement over the upcoming royal wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton this April 29 has given birth to so many ‘royal’ apps – some free, some for a fee (yes, this is clearly business for some).
Even Buckingham Palace will be releasing today, April 18, its first “Royal App” by the Royal Collection. And it has a royal wedding website as well! Goes to show that the British monarchy is now adapting technology to help bring them closer to their loyal subjects. What a change from the distant, put-on-a-pedestal-to-be-admired-from-afar royal family of old.
In my other blog, Here’s To Life!, I wrote about why this royal wedding is particularly fascinating to me. And, since I own an iPad, I’m eagerly awaiting the release of the official app from Buckingham Palace. For starters, I’ve already got the FREE app, The Royal Wedding by Hello! on my iPad.
Here are some of the more interesting ones I’ve found (pls note that not all these apps may be available to Philippine users):
FREE
1. The Royal Wedding by Hello! (Hello Ltd), iPhone and iPad – So far, this is the best app I’ve seen. The UI is very clean and the info is almost comprehensive in nature.

2. Royal Wedding Video App (ITN), iPhone and Android – the video content is linked to ITN’s ‘Royal Wedding Channel’ on YouTube.
3. A Royal Wedding Celebration: William and Kate (Onteca), iOS Universal – also has impressive content on how the couple met to the guest list. There is an ‘iPad only’ version of the app but it is priced at $0.99.
PAID
1. Royal App (Royal Collection), iOS Universal and Android, expected to sell at £1.79 beginning April 18.

2. Royal Wedding Essential Guide (BlueYellow Media Ltd), iOS Universal, $0.99 – Has a wide range of content and features an interactive map using GPS showing locations relevant to the wedding. It has a lot of trivia about the couple as well as a Royal Personality Test to show which royal person has the same personality as you. Right now, this price is 50% off so I don’t know how long it will be on sale.

3. Royal Wedding Invite (Ryan Stevens), $0.99 – you have a “pretend” invite to the royal wedding.It used to be a free app but having seen its content on my iPad just now, I won’t spend to buy the app.
4. Royal Wedding – The Wills and Kate Story (Trinity Mirror Digital Media Ltd), iPhone and iPad, $1.99 – This is a hefty 183MB download because it contains video and audio narratives from James Whitaker, world’s foremost Royal Correspondent. 
One more thing, don’t fail to visit the official royal wedding site. CLICK HERE.
Bata at SM Makati

Send SMS within the Philippines with Gmail

Chatting using the computer has been around for some time now. This technology has allowed people to communicate without having to pick up a phone or call/text using a mobile phone. The drawback though was that both parties had to be online and both had to be on Gmail.

Now, Gmail makes it even easier to contact friends via their mobile phones. You can send FREE SMS to a friend from within your Gmail account.
I took this screencap from Gmail’s site:
(click on image to enlarge)

1. Log into your Gmail account. In the Send SMS box above Chat, enter the phone number you want to send a SMS to.

2. In the dialog box, enter Contact name of the SMS recipient and check that country and phone number are correct. Then, click Save.

3.Type your message in the chat window and hit Enter.

4.Your message will be sent to the phone number you entered.

When your contact replies to your SMS, it appears on your Chat window, which is great because your exchange is saved as chats in your Chat History, just like ordinary chats.

Any messages you send or receive from Gmail are FREE. Your contact, on a mobile phone, also gets your SMS free but the reply from phone to Gmail will be charged a regular SMS rate by the mobile provider.

This is good news for those who are online at work or at home. Best example: ME!!!

Now I need not pay SMS charges and still be able to contact my family and friends on their mobile. You can do the same from work. Well, that is if Gmail is not blocked in the office. 🙂

If you already have a Gmail account, you can log in right now and try it. If you still don’t have Gmail, create an account now.

NOTE: SMS with Gmail is available as of now only for Smart and Sun Cellular subscribers.

Read about Gmail SMS HERE.

Bata at SM Makati

I have radio and TV on my iPad!

(Update: In a disappointing move, the latest update of Radio & TV Philippines deleted ANC from its list of TV streams without any explanations. I hope they bring this back because many of my friends bought the app precisely due to ANC content.)

I’ve had this app for some time now on my iPad and let me just say that this is one of the best $0.99 app purchases you can ever make if you’re in the Philippines or just want to have access to Philippine radio/TV.

It was initially launched as Radyo Natin, developed by Rowel Atienza, but it’s been recently changed to Radio and TV Philippines. It’s a universal app so it will work on your iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad.
The app streams AM/FM radio stations (wifi and 3G) and select TV channels (wifi only) to your iPad. You can also get online Pinoy music stations, world news stations (like Voice of America) and over 100 Christmas stations on it as well. In case of an emergency I know I can always tune in to radio or TV even when out of the house, as long as I have internet connection.
This app works in multitasking or background mode so even if you switch to another app, it does not disrupt the streaming. It even plays the audio stream in sleep mode or when your screen locks. And when internet connection is interrupted, the app reconnects automatically when internet is restored.
What made this app have even more value for my money was when a recent version upgrade included the ABS-CBN news channel, ANC. I tune in often to ANC for news and to follow live Congress/Senate hearings. What is better than having this channel on the go?
You can download the app for $0.99 from your iPhone, iPod Touch or iPad by going to the App Store.
Bata at SM Makati

Have You Kik’d Anyone Yet?

Got an Android, iOS or Blackberry smartphone? Then you need to check out Kik Messenger, the latest viral app that allows free texting crossing all 3 platforms.
It’s FREE. It’s pretty fast (real-time). And it’s VIRAL! 
According to the Kik blog, they launched Oct. 19, 2010 with 0 users and hit 1 million in just 15 days. If that’s not viral, I don’t know what is!
I downloaded it just tonight after reading a Tech Crunch article about it being viral. Then I posted notices on my Plurk and Facebook accounts. In just a few hours, several of my friends and family have already joined my network. Here’s what the screen looks like.
(Source: Kik Blog)
I also got to text back and forth with friends using all 3 platforms and it works. Beautifully! The user interface is very simple and a new feature it has that was not present in Ping Chat which I used to use (only good among iPhone users) is that it has 3 icons that change status beside each of your posts. S = Sending. D = Delivered. R = Read. Woot!
To download Kik from your smartphone, click HERE.
Congrats to the entire Kik team. I really hope you guys can sustain the amazing exponential growth and keep downtime or lag to the barest minimum.
As for me, if Kik works as they tout it, this might just be my solution to this carrier that did away with their unlimited text promo for Christmas and New Year. Cheers!
The Kik Team celebrating the 1M crossover
(Source: Kik Blog)
Bata at SM Makati

Social: Facebook App for the iPad

(UPDATE: This app has been taken off the App Store already.)

One beef that I have with Facebook up to this time is that it does not have a version for the iPad. While Twitter and my other social networks and blogging platforms have already come up with tablet versions, Facebook seems to be taking its sweet time.

Since moving to the iPad, I have been making do with the iPod Touch version I used to have. So imagine holding the iPad but seeing a teeny tiny iPod Touch screen. Really frustrating.

Well, tonight I made a great discovery after searching the App Store. Social does well (actually, very well so far) as an almost native Facebook app. There is a similar Facebook alternative app called Friendly but from forums I saw, more people prefer Social.

Social has beautifully incorporated most of what I need to do on Facebook. Macworld’s article describing it enumerates several things you can do with Social:

• Add friends, groups and pages to your favorites for quick and easy access • Post new messages • Send private messages • Upload pictures and create new albums • Create groups, events and pages • Easily search through your friends, groups and pages • Browse the full Facebook page, but customized to the iPad touch-screen






And those are not all. I discovered to my delight that I could actually change the privacy settings of each message I posted just like in the real Facebook application. I could comment, LIKE on my friends’ posts.  And to refresh the page, the downward swipe action works!!!

Here are some screenshots I took off the Macworld page (I tried taking my own pics but the shots came out bad). You’ll find that pretty much what you could do on Facebook, you could do with Social.

And here’s a great motivation to get the app right now. It retails for almost $3 but at this very moment, it is being offered at 66% off as a special fall sale — but only for a limited time. In fact, Macworld isn’t updated yet and its site says the app is only being offered at 33% off or $1.99. 
So, download Social app now for only $0.99 (remember, it’s only for a limited time)!