Application virtualization, IoT and Cloud Computing, Blog of Sacha Thomet

Hands-on

Virtual bank accounts – FinTech compairson

Some weeks ago, I created my first FinTech blog post about using ApplePay without an expensive Credit card instead of using a Revolut card.

Now I try to share a bit more my experiences with different virtual bank accounts I’ve tested. If you have read the other blog post you have maybe seen in the comments that I was asked about Boon. I’ve used Boon already some years ago and I also had the chance to test TransferWise more than a year ago. Last days I gave the Neon-free and ZAK a chance, this was the first two Swiss virtual bank account I’ve found.

I’m not working for a bank and so I can give now with my current standpoint my view and insights as a normal customer.

First I have not focused about fees, more about functionality and created the following table:

Boon Revolut Transfer
Wise
Neon
(Hypothekarbank
Lenzburg)
ZAK
(Bank Cler)
physical Card No Yes Yes Yes Yes
virtual Card Yes Yes No No No
Disposal Card No Yes,
only
Premium
No No No
ApplePay Yes Yes No No No
Instant Card Freeze
in App
N/A Yes Yes No No
Instant Info by Transaction Yes Yes Yes Only SMS No
Advanced Payment Security

N/A Yes,
Location Based,
ATM, Contactless,
Magnetic stripe
(Swipe),
Online Transactions
Yes,
ATM,
Chip&Pin,
Contactless,
Magnetic stripe
(Swipe),
Online Transactions
No No
Payer authentication
(e.g. 3D Secure)
N/A Comming soon
with RevP (I’m
currently in beta test)
No No No
Location of the Company UK UK UK CH CH

There are also other virtual banks like e.g. N26, but honestly I had not the time to test all what is currently existing. Also my insights are a snapshot in time snapshot in time from now July 2019. New features are coming fast and things are gonna changing every week.

physical cards of virtual bank accounts

Now I can say Revolut has the most comprehensive offer! But I have some friends here in Switzerland which don’t trust to a foreign bank and they are sceptical about the worker conditions in this company.

Everyone needs to do his own choice, the world is changing and the disruption of the classic banks has started. I’m sure that this is not only good for the Country I’m living in, but I really hope that it has it’s good sides for the consumer of banking services.

If you have any questions to the virtual bank account’s I’ve tested feel free to add a comment to this blog post. If you have your own experience and want to share, a comment is also appreciated!

If you want to sign-up for Revolut, ZAK or Neon, feel free to use my invitation Link and get some perks.

Revolut: Sign-up with my link and get a physical card for free as soon you topped up 10.- and used your card.
ZAK: Ask me for an invitation and get 50.- CHF
Neon: Use my invite code BTNN4F and get 10.- CHF

How to use ApplePay without an expensive Credit card even in Switzerland and other countries

Those who follow me on Twitter and Facebook have already seen that I promoted the Revolut card multiple times. This was just as a happy customer! When I’m really convinced of a product I love to spread the word and want that others also can use the new cool stuff! I was a Revolut User since the beginning of 2018 and until today I spend over 8000 CHF over Revolut in 8 countries.

Yesterday 2 very important things happened

#1 Revolut introduced ApplePay for every customer (Standart, Premium & Metal).

#2 Revolut added me to the Pioneer Programm.

#1 Means you can now open a Revolut account in seconds and you are ready after some minutes to use ApplePay!

#2 Means not only that I receive from Revolut nice influencer perks, but it also means when YOU open a Revolut account with my link, but you should also receive your first physical card free of charge. Now you ask yourself why a physical card when you have ApplePay …Ok, first, a backup is always good, e.g. what if your iPhone battery is discharged. Also, you need the card if you want to pull money from an ATM. Revolut does not charge you until up to 200.- month on Standard for cash withdrawals at ATMs!

Ok, wait… was is Revolut precisely?

Revolut is an e-money service, which means app plus physical or virtual card. With Revolut, you can spend at home or abroad at the real interbank exchange rate (without unfair bank fees), set spending budgets, split bills, exchange currencies and withdraw from foreign ATMs for free (up to £200 month on Standard). With Revolut you can freeze/unfreeze your cards at the tap of a button. And with Premium and Metal account, where you pay a monthly fee, the possibilities are even more. But start with the Standard, you can do every time later an upgrade if you need.

Insider Tipps?
  • If you have to choose the currency during payment or at an ATM, ALWAYS choose the currency of the country you are currently in, so you avoid bad conversion rates outside of the force of Revolut.
  • You are on a weekend trip and use your Revolut card during the weekend in a foreign currency? Exchange the money you need on the weekend already on Friday and avoid “weekend-fees” from Revolut.
  • There are ATMs which have fees for the transaction by the ATM carrier, you will see this before of the transaction, keep an eye on it, I see fees between 0.- and 5.-! This is outside the force of Revolut.
  • If you are in a Hotel or a Car rental and you want to use the Revolut card, consider that they may block a larger amount of your money!
  • Don’t top up the Revolut card with a classic Credit card, there are Banks (e.g. Corner in Switzerland) who charge 5.- CHF fee to charge Revolut.
How to start?
  1. Click the link
  2. Enter your phone number (a text will be sent upon completion)
  3. To Download the app
  4. Create a new account in minutes
  5. Verify your account and top-up at least €10 or local currency equivalent
  6. Order your physical standard card for free
  7. You can create virtual cards and use those asap!

This Service is not yet available in all countries, but if you are not able to use the service you will see this already in Step 2. As I know there are some readers of my blog in the United States of America I have bad news … Currently, it’s not yet possible to open a Revolut account living in the US. As soon this will be available I will update this blog post.

And how can I use now ApplePay?

iPhone X with Revolut AppYou need a device that supports ApplePay e.g. an iPhone 6 or higher or an AppleWatch. Also, it’s mandatory that ApplePay is enabled in your resident Country.

ApplePay can be added directly in the Revolut App or in a classic way in the Apple Wallet app.

By the way, to use Revolut (even without ApplePay) you need a smartphone on which you can install the Revolut App!


Disclaimer: Some months ago I was pretty sure to never write a blog post about money or a Fin Tech company. Because this is about YOUR money YOU have to make your own decisions and be careful. What I suggest is to start with a free Standart account and just start with some pocket money. Revolut does not replace your today main account!

Virtual virtual Workplace – or my first VR experience with Citrix and Oculus Go

On Black Friday sale I ordered my first VR Headset, an Oculus Go (64GB) for 222.- CHF (about 222 US $), in my opinion, a good deal for my first step in the word of Virtual Reality.

The Oculus Go is a very entry level VR with the benefit that you don’t need an additional Computer. The integrated hardware with an Android OS does all the work. But this article will not be a review of the Oculus Go as there are many others already available.

Usually, you use your Oculus Go with the apps in the Oculus store, but there is a known trick to load also other Android Apps to the Oculus, called “Sideload” and Android application. You need to set up your Oculus in Developer mode and then you are able to add APK files to the Oculus.

Here a good description of how to Sideload works: https://headjack.io/tutorial/sideload-install-app-apk-oculus-go

“Sideloaded” apps appear in Oculus Tv app in the section “unknown sources”, but unfortunately, I was not able to see the just uploaded Citrix Workspace App. I also tried after the installation of the Workspace app to just launch the Oculus Browser and open a Desktop from our companies “Citrix Web Receiver” (Netscaler, Storefront Web):

After that unsuccessful try to launch a virtual desktop, I tried to play around with sideloading other apps. I found out that the app Kodi and ES File Explorer appears in the Oculus Tv app in the section other sources. Both applications can be used to see and start other Android apps installed on the System.

So I can use the Oculus Tv to launch ES File Explorer and this app as a launcher for the Citrix Workspace App. Ok agree, all in all, sounds a bit like in the Movie Inception … virtual reality to Oculus app to native Android app to virtual desktop to other virtual desktops or virtual apps …

Unfortunately, I didn’t find out how to record the content running in Oculus when a sideloaded app is launched, so I had to trick for the video above, the first part is screen recorded, the second part is with a camera in the headset …

Conclusion

It’s pretty easy to set up an Oculus Go to run with the Citrix Workspace app, and the Oculus Go is an affordable VR headset. This is a cool tech demo, but not sure if I want to work a long time in an Oculus Go provided VR because this headset is really entry level. Assume headache and “VR fatigue” comes fast. Also, I miss a real Keyboard in VR. But with Augmented Reality or Mixed Reality, I think it can be a solution on the future to work with a virtual virtual Workplace!

For my tests I used:

Downloaded APKs from apkmirror.com :

ES File Explorer: com.estrongs.android.pop_4.1.8.7.1-729_minAPI14(armeabi,armeabi-v7a,x86)(nodpi)_apkmirror.com.apk
Citrix Workspace App: com.citrix.Receiver_18.11.0.0-94_minAPI19(armeabi,armeabi-v7a,x86)(nodpi)_apkmirror.com.apk

If you are not yet “jumped” in the VR World I can really recommend the Oculus Go 64 GB as the first VR Headset. You can buy it on your local electronics store or on Amazon.

IoT, LaMetric and mouse issues …

In summer 2014 I became a backer for the Kickstarter project LaMetric. LaMetric was advertised as a smart ticker for life and business. To be honest the Internet of Things (IoT) topic was not so present for me in summer 2014 and I just decided to spend some money for a cool gadget.

Last week I finally received my LaMetric Time and today I need to say it’s one of the coolest gadget I bought in the last months. With the acquisition of Octoblu, what Citrix made early this year and promoted on Citrix Synergy (especially on the GeekSpeak Tonight …) I’m now more aware of IoT an it’s possibilities!

LaMetric is the perfect IoT output device!

First LaMetric app

The creation of apps is pretty easy! On the LaMetric developper portal you can create your push or poll apps. With push you can transmit data to the LaMetric servers in JSON code. W ith pull it’s also easy, you just need a webserver on which you have a file in the correct format.

On this way I created the EuroMillions app which display the current Jackpot. The data are fetched from www.euro-millions.com and formatted with a small and simple PHP script:


{
 "frames": [
 {
 "index": 0,
 "text": "<?php 
$host = "http://www.euro-millions.com"; 
$filestring = file_get_contents($host); 
$startpos = 0; 
// <div class="est-jackpot">&euro;30<span class="amount">Million</span></div>

while($pos = strpos($filestring, ">&euro;", $startpos)) 
{ 
 $string = substr($filestring, $pos, strpos($filestring, "<span class=", $pos + 1) - $pos); 


 //echo $string. " "; 
 echo str_replace(">&euro;","","$string");

 $startpos = $pos + 1; 
} 

?> Millions estimated in next Jackpot",
 "icon": "i616"
 }
 ]
}

Result:

LaMetric-EuroMillions

 

First IoT LaMetric Project

Problem

I’m living in an old farmhouse which is converted with some apartments, but it’s still a old house with a lot of wood. And the old problems … mouses. So I have now since some weeks 4 mouse traps installed, not the killing traps, only those which able me to take the mouse out of my apartment.

Problem: Every morning I need to check all mouse traps, because the traps are hidden positioned an annoying daily work. And with the risk that the mouse need to wait hours until I find them.

Concept

Now the concept of my first IoT project is to get alerted as soon a mouse get in a trap.

I want to solve this with:

  • a modified mouse trap with an attached window/door sensor, something like this http://store.wirelesstag.net/products/reed-kumosensor
  • an Octoblu workflow
  • and LaMetric as Output device.

The result must be this:

LaMetricMouse

Implementation

Need some hours … I have to learn how to handle  octoblu and learn a bit of JSON.

Citrix X1 Prototype Mouse – hands-on

On Citrix Summit in Las Vegas back in January 2015 Citrix presented the X1 Prototype Mouse. This mouse is not just another mouse with a Citrix logo on it. It’s a mouse that works in Citrix Receiver with iOS-Devices! Yes it’s the truth, normal bluetooth mice doesn’t work with the Citrix receiver on iPad.

Even when I was not on Citrix Summit, with the social media channels I was pretty fast to get that Info and I was the 7th on the order form to request this cool gadget for a described use case.  I want to demonstrate this in my company because we are currently in a VDI initiative project with up to 2000 VDIs.

Today almost 4 months later I received my Citrix X1 Prototype Mouse and can start test and maybe show off in my company 🙂 To be honest, the design don’t give me the chance to show off …

Mouse MouseBottom
The X1 Mouse appears in a nasty 80ties style, the power switch on the bottom has three possible positions, up- and down for ON and OFF in the middle.

Connect the mouse to the iPhone? Really? 4,7 inch ? 

Not only the iPad is the only use case for the mouse, remember 2010 the Vision of the Nirvana Device and the Motorola NirvanaPhone . With the new version of the Citrix Receiver for iOS you can connect a Screen on your iPhone, a Bluetooth Keyboard, that mouse and you can work with the iPhone as “Thin Client” on you television connected with Airplay or on your 24″ Office Screen connected with a Lightning VGA adapter.

I made some quick hands-on test:

I’ve used the following infrastructure to test:

  • XenDesktop 5  on Windows 7 x64, Citrix Webinterface behind Netscaler Gateway.
  • XenDesktop 7.6 on Windows 7 x64, Citrix Webinterface behind Netscaler Gateway.
  • XenApp 7.6 Desktop on Windows 2008 R2, Citrix StoreFront 2.6 behind Netscaler Gateway.

For all tests I used my Apple iPad mini with the R1 Receiver which is mandatory necessary to use the X1 Prototype Mouse. I didn’t install anything special on XenDesktop or XenApp.

11210509_10205552449102835_7320258021443610820_n

iPad Mini, Belkin Keyboard, Citrix X1 Prototype Mouse

 

 

The next points where I mention what is ok and what needs improvement I will complement as soon as I have new points.

What works fine:

  • No issue to connect and use the mouse if you follow the instructions from Citrix.
  • I can use the X1 mouse inside my virtual desktop like a normal mouse, I can launch applications from start menu, change the active cells in MS Excel – most things I usually do with my mouse works.
  • I can configure in mouse pointer options a “mouse track” which also works fine.

What currently doesn’t work or need still improvement:

  • I tried to resize an Internet Explorer window and was irritated because the mouse pointer doesn’t change his  shape on the edge of the window to a “double-arrow”:

    mouseedge-expected

    Expected mouse pointer on window edge, with a classic mouse on my macbook

    mouseedge-UNexpected

    Unexpected mouse pointer on window edge, from iOS with the X1 Prototype mouse

     

  • Most mouse properties (Mouse speed, pointer scheme, etc.) has no effect.
  • I can see my mouse pointer in my R1 Receiver for iOS on the Webinterface but I cannot click anything. Possibly I need for this the X1 Web Receiver (StoreFront 2.7)  and not my legacy Webinterface …

 

Conclusion: For iOS the Citrix X1 Mouse can be a game changer, but to be honest that what is now possible with this mouse on iOS is already long time possible with an Android Tablet and a commercial of the shelf bluetooth mouse.

By the way, the X1 Mouse can also be used with other OS than iOS, so if you have an X1 Mouse but you decide that your iPad is to small to work you can use your “cool” mouse with a computer that supports Bluetooth 4.0 as a classic mouse.

 

Update 5.5.2015 06:10 GMT+1:

From now it’s possible to use the normal Recevier with the X1 mouse:

X1-Receiver-info X1-Receiver

Update 5.5.2015 22:20 GMT+1:

The final version of the X1 mouse will be launched on Citrix Synergy: http://blogs.citrix.com/2015/05/05/the-mouse-that-roared-for-business and what sounds exciting:
“…this is a unique Bluetooth Low Energy mouse (BTLE) with custom firmware that provides full-function mouse support to specific Citrix Mobile apps including Citrix Receiver, GoToMyPC, ShareConnect and WorkDesktop.”

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