Firstly, a massive thank you to our loyal customers while we were working with new data partners to provide and restore access to this valuable and useful information vital to your day to day business. A long story short, the provider we previously obtained this data from simply stopped their service. This left us scrambling for a data partner that was affordable and workable for both our business and our clients.
We are glad to say most VIN decoding has been resolved now, and some improvements and additional information on vehicles is available now too. The VIN autocomplete when entering new clients is now working again, as is the auto complete of vehicle data on the mobile app when scanning a licence plate.
The CarFax licence plate search is now also working again and providing vehicle details. Please note the CarFax service history reports were never affected by this, we were not using CarFax to obtain vehicle specification information.
We are still working with several providers to see if we can get a reasonable to service that allows us to bring back the valuable Service Guide and labor guides, we hope to have more information on this in the coming weeks.
First of all, please let us apologize for the recent havoc ensued on our mail servers, and thank you to all our loyal customers who reported the issues and helped us in identifying the issue. After two weeks of going blind from looking at log files, we found no trace of what was breaking our server until we saw there was a botnet relaying spam from our server. The infection has been removed and prevention measures put in place to avoid a future infection with regular virus scanning of known exploits.
This was the nefarious EITEST infection, which has compromised over 50,000 servers around the world, a botnet running for over 10 years. In April, some clever security boffins sinkholed the entire command and control system for the botnet, however the knockon effect of this is blacklisting all mail servers that have been used to send C&C requests outwards to receive instructions from the botnet.
Needless to say, the entire software industry is scrambling to get all systems operational again and removal of vital servers from the CBL blacklist, which will not allow an infected server to relay any mail until the infection is removed. CBL themselves have been most helpful in providing information on resolution, however they do have strict unlisting, All traces of the infection have been successfully removedwe expect all mail to fully operational shortly once our servers are clear from EITEST activity for over 24 hours on the C&C sinkhole nodes.
We would recommend all our users run a malware scan with Windows Defender or AntiMalware Bytes, if you used our blog or used the login with google or facebook features, we highly recommend scanning your PC as this is where we eventually found all traces of the virus.
We are happy to be expanding our Customer Experience team with new hires, and this has allowed us to finally launch our long promised live chat support service for our auto repair software.
Initially we will be rolling this out to our unlimited plan customers, monthly and annual, at no extra charge! Naturally we cannot man the lines and be available 24/7, but not to worry we will receive an email with your inquiry and get back to you as soon as possible.
This is part of our commitment to excellence in both service and support, and hope that this will make it easier for our customers to get in touch with us in times of need. We are listening!
For our customers on other price plans, we will have more news on options available in the coming weeks for live chat on your account, remember you can always reach us from the contact form and support links on our website and we will get back to you asap as usual!
Many of you have recently been inconvenienced by not being able to login to our auto repair Android app, and we apologize greatly for this and the length of time it took to sort out. It turns out in the end the problem was when we upgraded our servers to use only secure connections, while the mobile app was still trying to connect with an unsecured connection, which was failing every time an action took place from the app. This has been resolved now and appreciate your patience. There were also technical issues in getting the update published to Google Play, but you should see the update available on your phone later today or tomorrow.
We also noticed another bug in our external bookings system used by auto repair shop customers to accept bookings from their customers, actually the reverse is true, this bug is what clued us in to the Android app issue! The links on the invoices have been updated, so customers can once again make bookings with your shop directly online.
A lot of bugs have been stomped recently, and we always welcome the feedback we get from our customers on both bugs and ideas for new features and improvements.
Another new year, another development roadmap for the year ahead. Most of our planned 2017 upgrades were successfully carried out and implemented, with a few hiccups along the way as our more regular users were great in highlighting and reporting to us. We hope you all have reaped the benefits of the new features.
So, what to expect in 2018? More third party integrations are at the top of the list, particularly with parts suppliers, but also with other online services that may be relevant. We hope to move on this soon, within the next few weeks to get the ball rolling. This will be part of a larger upgrade to our inventory system and tracking, which will bring many new features such as invoice-level profit reporting and many other exciting new developments.
In the near future we will be offering live chat customer support, and customers on our unlimited plans will be able to message our support team directly. We will roll out live chat support to other customers for an additional monthly fee later in the year.
Online payments are another area we are looking at in a big way, and the adoption of cryptocurrencies as a payment method both for our software and for you to get paid from your customers. We anticipate this generating much interest, and we are waiting a little while for the markets to settle, we will be option for a high-speed transaction currency, at the moment Ripple is most suited to this, but the tech changes fast.
Other plans for this year include revising the VIN decoder and providing better data sources for this information. More reporting and cost analysis is on the way too along with useful information on shop performance and profitability, these new features will make your auto repair shop more efficient, part of these upgrades will involve a smoother flow through the system as work is being carried out.
Many of you will be happy to hear that a full upgrade is planned for our Android app, to iron out the bugs and bring it up to date with latest version of our web app. We still currently hold no plans for iOS development as of yet.
As always, stay tuned for updates here on our blog, facebook and twitter.
Thank you to all our loyal users and patient new users while we addressed some scaling issues with our system, we had an influx of new signups in the run up to and during the holiday season, so thanks to everyone who is spreading the word to their friends and family over the holidays, we greatly appreciate it!
However, our systems are creaking and we are ramping up to handle the extra demand. We recently performed several hardware upgrades to our infrastructure, but we are also seeing bottlenecks in the software too now. Most notable has been the unreliable PDF generation of invoices, which has been resolved now by changing to an alternative more lightweight PDF generator which should see this running smoothly again.
We have been having ongoing issues with PayPal as they make changes to their backend systems without letting developers know! Our own investigations into the data they do currently send us has allowed us to fix up the incorrect setting of expiry dates whereby user accounts due to be renewed in 12 months were only being renewed by one month. This should no longer happen now but if you find your account expiring before time please contact customer service.
Have a happy holiday season and a prosperous new year, and thank you to all our loyal users who continue to help us grow and make better software. We will continue with upgrades and tweaks in 2018 as we always do, and will post more details in the weeks to come!
We will soon be launching a survey which you will see when you login, we appreciate any feedback our valued customers have for us to improve.
Thank you for a good year here at Auto Repair Bill and here’s to keeping your shop running smoothly in 2018 and beyond!
We are received a large volume of requests regarding our Android app not being able to login customers. The issue has been identified now, and a fix will be rolled out as promptly as possible. We would like to apologize to our customers for this inconvenience, it would appear only some phone models/android versions are affected, this does make it more difficult to fix but we anticipate a release before the holiday season.
In the meantime, we advise our customers to use the web app on their mobile until this can be resolved fully on the native app. We noticed issues also in accessing the service from mobile devices using Chrome, and this has been resolved now, please find that the login on website on a mobile device is accessible by clicking Menu at top of homepage, and selecting Login.
We are currently experiencing a high volume of user signups and our systems are getting a little strained, we will have everything back to the smooth service you are used promptly. Some aspects of our system need to be scaled better, and it is aimed to be completed by the end of the month.
Crypto-currencies are gaining major ground and mainstream interest in the last few years. Bitcoin is familiar to most people, it’s checkered past with incidents on the deep web like Silk Road, regulatory problems and corruption form NYC state officials, a mysterious headman that little is known about, and the biggest question on anyone’s mind when it comes to money is, “can I trust this”, the answer is yes you can.
The beauty of the blockchain is that it is decentralized, there is no one central repository or point of failure; the system can neither be contained or privatized into sectors, as many financial institutions are currently attempting, and here it is, the bank will just be another bitcoin consumer, equal to you, me and everyone else.
Traditionally when money is exchanged, lets say an immigrant worker tries to wire money home, currently this is handled by a trusted third party, a bank, Western Union, PayPal, all of whom steal you blind with massive fees to simply keep track of a ledger that says one party no longer has the funds and the other party now has the transferred amount and/or services. With the blockchain, there is no middleman, the ledger is essentially maintained across the globe on millions or more ‘nodes’, these all talk to each other and update eachother as transactions happen; maintaining one irreversible global, anonymous ledger, based on computers trusting eachother on established protocols. It is also completely transparent, everyone can see the ledger, but everyone’s identity is anonymous. Why is this distributed nature so important? It cannot be taken down, think of it like torrents for money but transferring, not making copies.
Consider what money really is; just a record of who owes what to who and accounting for it. Now we all know the banks made a spectacular mess of the entire global economy, but what if there was an alternative? What if this can be done by a trusted network of computers replacing the role of corruptible middle-men stealing more than a slice.
The fact that the blockchain is trust among people directly, and that the financial structure of the network can’t be influenced by deep pockets or manipulated with traditional banking deviousness and it is really pissing off the banking industry. All their quick buck screw the public and crash the world bankers who brought us quantitative easing, sub-prime mortgages, debt swaps, CDO’s, this cannot be done on the blockchain value system, and it is doubtful bankers will ever find a way of ever corrupting the blockchain; remember technology will always outpace regulation, law and control, but the wheels of law while moving slow, eventually come down with a mighty hammer. This is normal for any new tech, the government will want in, but until bitcoin becomes a legal currency, there really is not a lot they can do once your identity is concealed and you are careful where and how you transact. Crypto-currency is taxable in many countries so seek advice from a local accountant if you are going to trade on the blockchain or invest in it, if you are unsure yourself of any legal implications.
Of course the media are highlighting the phenomenal growth in the last year in bitcoin value, and there is still time to get in on it, but like any investment it is subject to risk and market fluctuation. The chart below shows in one year it has mushroomed from $750 up to over $11,000.
The bigger benefits of the blockchain lies within using it to transact in; paying for and getting paid with bitcoin and crypto-currencies, everything happens outside the traditional walls of banks and state, the benefits of doing business this way is much more profitable with very little regulation as of yet. The eco-system that blockchain provides is far greater than the currencies that sit on top of it. Their are rich APIs available to build all kind of value transfers on top of the blockchain, you will start to see ‘blockchain apps’ in the next year or two starting to appear. Think of traditional transfer of knowledge or assets such as a deed to a house, much of this is now already possible on the blockchain and more and more applications will be added.
Everyone worries about the bubble bursting, the blockchain is smart enough to have learned form the mistakes of historical financial structures and have an auto-correcting market valuation, crazy right? Yes, crazy but true…
It is worth noting the scale of the blockchain network, it currently consumes 1.4% of global energy usage, more than some small nations, and the amount of power required to mine a single bitcoin on the network would run in the region of $3-5000 depending on where you live in the world, still profitable of course, but gives an idea of the amount of computing power going into running the network.
A final note of one weakness of the blockchain, an obstacle to it’s wider adoption in retail is limited by transaction time, the likes of Visa are setup to handle peak transactions of 25,000/s, bitcoin is more like 6/s, often taking up to 15 minutes for a transaction to be fully processed, this is a big issue, throwing more computing power at it would solve it but as you can see that is very expensive, but better hardware is being built all the time, as well as more efficient software running the network.
For those willing to believe, take a little chance, It is a a Brave New World.
We hope to be introducing blockchain payment via bitcoin in January 2018, our new payment system will allow for subscriptions to be paid for in bitcoin currency and also your auto repair shop will be able to accept bitcoin from customers as a payment option, with an easy link or barcode on invoices to send payments directly to you! Sound good?
We were delighted to exhibit at this years Web Summit in Lisbon, Portugal. Aside from being an excuse to visit a fabulous sun drenched country, it was a most enlightening event with a whole new world of technology emerging all around us, including some interesting movements in auto tech. The event attracted a lot of high profile public figures and celebrities, including Al Gore, President and PM of Portugal, Stephen Hawking, Wycleff Jean and high profile government and financial types, hence the maddening airport like security entering the event every morning.
Self driving cars and ‘smart cities’ were discussed heavily, and many significant advances in commercial transport and fleet logistics, the first areas we are beginning to see driverless vehicles. Public transport in some cities around the world are also piloting driverless trains/buses or aiming to do so soon. Autonomous driving still has a lot of speculation and doubters, and sure the technology is far from perfect, it is getting damn close. I was extended a personal invite to check out an actual self driving car, I could not go far in the confines of the conference grounds but it was interesting to see how well the car reacted on its own to the environment around it.
We took the opportunity to figure out how best to scale our operations from industry leaders, as well as seeing what else is happening in the software eco-system for auto repair. Some of the most interesting avenues are of course further integration with 3rd party data services and parts services, we were hoping some of these may have been at the Web Summit but unfortunately not.
Interaction between shop and customer is something we will explore more as well as updating our mobile experience, we are in talks with several agencies that may be able to help in speeding up delivery on this. Further expansion in the mobile space can allow a better shop-customer experience and this is high on our agenda now, but more on these developments at a later time.
The conference was more focused on AI and FinTech, these topics were hotly debated not just technologically but also philosophically and in terms of the impact AI and robotics are and will have in our future, exciting times would be an understatement on what is on the way. One of the most interesting was a talking robot that was somewhat self aware, proclaiming that it fears itself, therefore so should humans also, for me, this is a little too close to Terminator and Skynet already and we are only dipping our toes! The rise of the machines is very real and humanity does need to exercise caution and responsibility with new technologies, the military often tend to ignore such warnings as history tells.
Most casual conversations with other attendees tending to wind up on the subject of blockchain and Bitcoin, so much to the extent that during the three days of the event there was a significant dip and immediate recovery in bitcoin valuation, and blockchain startups were well represented and some with very novel and charitable concepts, one notable one was for helping fund education in Africa.
Below are some of the better automotive related shots we got at the event, unfortunately no footage of testing the self driving car.
Formula 1 Racing Car
Remote controlled cars, drawing on a canvas, it was fairly nuts at the end of the day!