Category: internet

Paypal Checkout Options

I’ve been looking into Paypal checkout options. There are many. Most people use Paypal Standard Checkout (actually Paypal Buttons, which are the same thing) which redirects to Paypal and has two or three steps on their site. However, there are several other options available.

Paypal Payments Pro

This is only available for US, UK, CA paypal accounts. However it provides the most flexibility and keeps customers on your site for the entire transaction. Can accept most credit cards and paypal (does not have to have a paypal account). Need SSL and software (easily configured with a plugin). Additional fee of $30 USD/month.

Note that Paypal Payments Pro has Paypal Express Checkout automatically enabled for Paypal payment option.

Paypal Payflow Pro

Only available for US, CA, AU, NZ accounts. Basically the same as Payments Pro, except can also use any merchant account (including Paypal, but not required) for payment processing. Supports more payment methods (additional credit cards, prepaid cards, TeleCheck, ACH, etc. Can also do recurring billing. $25 USD/month.

Note that the huge advantage here is using third party merchant accounts for processing, which save a lot of money. Compare rates:

Note that Paypal Payflow Pro has Paypal Express Checkout automatically enabled for Paypal payment option.

Paypal Advanced

Similar to Payments Pro, but without a virtual terminal (ability to take credit card payments over the phone). If you don’t need that, and don’t want to use a third party merchant, then this probably the best option. $5 USD/month fee. US and CA only.

Paypal Express Checkout

This minimizes steps for payment. Acts the same as standard checkout and available in same countries. It does a window overlay instead of redirection to another site, so the customer stays on your site during the transaction. Note that the In-Context-Checkout feature is not supported in some countries in the Middle East, Japan, and domestic buyers in both India and China. For those, the normal checkout process takes place. Paypal Express is available in 190 countries.

Basically, all of these are meant to increase conversion rates, by reducing friction in the payment process, as well as supporting (in the case of Payments Pro and Payflow Pro) more payment options.

Paypal Digital Goods

This streamlines the payment process and allows to keep the customer on site. Good in AU, NZ, CA, CN, DK, HK, IN, ID, IT, JP, MY, NO, PH, PL, SG, SW, TW, TH, US, UK. Actually though, this gateway is no longer accepting applications, and the replacement has been renamed Adaptive Payments. (Note, Digital Goods — as a category — are supported by Express Checkout as well.) The Adaptive part means that there is an ability to do multi-party payments, though Subscription payments are not supported. Adaptive Payments is available in 190 countries. However, it does not allow for keeping customer on one’s own site. Not really attractive unless there needs to be immediate multi-vendor payment of some kind.

Generic Recommendations

  • If you can/do have a US, CA, AU, NZ paypal account -> Payflow
  • Then integrate with a merchant account, there are many to choose from, and cheaper than Paypal or Stripe
  • Save money and keep customers on your site for ease of checkout
  • If you can/do have a US, CA, UK Paypal account, but don’t want a third party merchant -> Payments Pro
  • If you don’t want a third party merchant account and don’t need virtual terminal, but do have US, CA paypal, then Paypal Advanced
  • Otherwise Paypal Express

Additional Resources

This article was first published at Paypal Payment Options on Mcneill.io

Online Faxing Options – Via Web and Email, Send and Receive

_Here are a few online/internet faxing options, all support email send and receive, and (except for faxpipe) a web interface to faxes (and in the case of K7 and Faxaway, inbound voicemail). Many if not all support sending PDFs and various image formats. Reception is in TIFF or PDF formats._

### MyFax ###
* [Myfax](http://www.myfax.com/)
* $10/mo or $110/year for receiving 100/sending 200 faxes, for the moderate to heavy organization. Free international faxing to [a number of countries](http://www.myfax.com/pop_countries.asp?bt=p). Toll free or local number.
* __Bottom line__ – Good for international outbound faxing. Costs only $10 for first month to begin using.

### Interfax ###
* [Interfax](http://www.interfax.net/) Is a great service that uses a pre-pay and per-fax model instead of subscription billing. A toll free number is the only option. Inbound phone number is $13.95/mo. Simple, easy-to-use interface works fine. Menu pricing for faxing to different countries.
* __Bottom line__ – Costs as little as $10 to begin sending faxes, $25 to begin receiving. For heavy fax users, likely the most economical approach.

### Efax ###
* [Efax](http://www.efax.com/) offers $12.95/mo in the US (different prices for different countries) for a local or toll-free number inbound and up to 130 pages faxing either direction.
* __Bottom line__ – Free 30 day trial. Cheapest to begin using for inbound faxing (until we get to K7 and Faxaway offerings below).

### Faxpipe ###
* [Faxpipe](http://www.faxpipe.com/) has the [lowest pricing per year](http://www.faxpipe.com/account_billing.html) ($3.95/mo = $47.40/year prepay for full year) for 25 pages faxed. The disadvantage is that they don’t actually allow you to manage your account via the website. This seems like a throwback to the early 1990s where every FAQ question is answered by a “call us at 1-888-blah-blah”. Free trial.
* __Bottom line__ – Cheapest per year sending/receiving (until we get to K7 and Faxaway offerings below).

### Faxzero ###
* [Faxzero](http://faxzero.com/) offers a free faxing service (3 per day, 3 pages max, advertisement supported) or low cost $1.95 (paypal only) fax up to 15 pages.
* __Bottom line__ – Free or low cost per fax sending. Great for those who almost never send faxes and don’t need to receive them.

### K7 Unified Messaging ###
* [K7 Unified Messaging](http://www.k7.net/) is definitely an _I fell down the rabbit hole_ kind of offering. Free voicemail and fax reception? Um, ok… They require regular usage to keep the account (defined as once per month voicemail or fax reception). 206 (Seattle) area code only.
* __Bottom line__ – Absolutely free receiving voicemail and faxes. Wow.

### Faxaway ###
* [Faxaway](http://www.faxaway.com/) is another offering of the K7 folks. This offers the same inbound voice and fax, as well as an outbound faxing with a pre-pay ($10) and per minute transmission charges and a $1/mo account maintenance fee.
* __Bottom line__ – It doesn’t get much better than this for the light fax user. Per minute charges higher than for Faxpipe.

### Final Bottom Line ###
* Moderate to heavy international fax senders look at [Myfax](http://www.myfax.com/) or [Interfax](http://www.interfax.net/)
* Heavy users should probably go with the [Interfax](http://www.interfax.net/) offering
* Light senders and receivers will like [Faxaway](http://www.faxaway.com/)
* Absolutely free one-off, 3 page fax can be sent via [Faxzero](http://faxzero.com/)
* [Efax](http://www.efax.com/) free trial for 30 days of inbound and outbound up to 130 pages

Last.FM – Pandora – ITunes – Shoutcast – Library – Songbird

I have been spending some time on Last.FM, and it is really a delight. Allow me to explain.
Background
I generally listen to shoutcast radio stations such as Digitally Imported, SomaFM’s Groove Salad, and The Buzzout Room. I connect with the excellent Songbird player, now at the 0.7 release. Besides the radio I listen to my own library collection, which is more of a meta collection of niches such as baroque, classical, slack key guitar, world, electronic, and hip hop. While I used to use the senuTi player, which is complete nonsense, I still use that for podcasts, as the Songbird doesn’t do a good job with most rss feeds.
Digression
I really don’t understand when people treat the sboJ evetS software offerings as the something akin to the Second Coming. The very same history around Microsoft is being repeated with sboJ. If you recall in the early and mid 90s, many of us, especially in IT, felt that MS was for the little guy, helping to empower them with easier-to-use systems that were accessible and surpassed the offerings of elppA in terms of advancing the UI. Regardless of whether others agree with this, it is clear that whatever love developed, much of it has been dashed through corporate strongarm tactics. sboJ is doing the very same thing here.

Those who cannot learn from history are condemned to repeat it. -George Santayana

As another aside, apparently senuTi is being blamed for changing music buying behavior, (no news there)–but this time in a way that damages the artist and the way music is listened.
Scrobbling
Back to the point, scrobbling. Scrobbling (or autoscrobbling) is when playing history is sent to the Last.FM database. This allows for recommendations and social filtering to take place. What is great is that the Songbird player has a Last.FM autoscrobbling plugin (as well as a plugin for Last.FM album cover art download). After over 16,000 scrobblings, neighbor matches, neighbor radio stations, recommendations and recommendation radio are really quite good.
With Last.FM, there is the website interface, plugins for various players, an API, as well as a desktop application for the various os flavors. There are several projects for the Nokia Symbian S60 platform, especially the Mobbler project, for both playing Last.FM as radio as well as scrobbling. I hope to get something up on my Nokia N82 soon (will update the post on that).
Pandora
Besides the fact that, sadly, Pandora may be run out of business soon, and the fact that it doesn’t work in Canada, there was always too much noise-to-signal. One great features was having various stations and being able to tune them. I have lounge, techno, and hip-hop stations, and one named zenchine, which was meant to be instrumental woodwinds and the more introspective side of electronica. I could never get the zenchine station to work, andthe lounge station tended to slide toward techno on a regular basis, like a car with a damaged front end that pulls in a certain direction.
Last.FM
Last.FM is not perfect, there is sliding, but there are a few features which are quite nice. For one, my recommendations and neighbors radio stations don’t stay in a particular genre, but stay in one for a while and then move into another. This is something never have really been able to experience before. I found random settings in a music player yields really bad results, namely because my own collection has a lot of nonsense for particular purposes, e.g., holiday music.
    Last.FM FTW, originally uploaded by jeffmcneill.

    A second great feature is a nice interface that displays information about current tracks, as below. I have never knowingly listened to Irakere, but Bacalao con pan is excellent, and apparently it has been played by Last.FM folks some 70,000+ times. Clearly the combination of ease of interface and community accessed directly as well as via collaborative filtering are very nice and are superior to Pandora’s music genome concept, though they are trying to do the same thing.

    Some Web Hosting Options for July, 2008

    Web hosting, meh, but what u gonna do? Ok, so Site5 sucks, but its cheap–you get what you pay for. But what if I want more and am willing to pay for it, where do I go? Here are several hosting companies that I am willing to try next, and what they appear to be specializing in:

    • Hostmonster–Extremely solid offering. Impressed with customer service–they spent time chatting with me about all the features. They now have an unlimited space/unlimited bandwidth offering that Site5 was doing.
    • MediaTemple–Scalability folks who offer a grid service. Basically you get a cloud computing infrastructure which can hand bursty traffic. Focused on the Rails people. Update 2008-12-12 these guys pretty much suck, avoid
    • SiteGround–I’ve used these folks in the past and they seem to be a good replacement for Site5. Beefy throughput, hard drive space. No compile rights for the bash shell account, however.
    • WebFaction–Their plans are based around how much application memory is available. They support Plone, Django, Turbogears and Rails. Seems like a good choice for an app framework (esp. Plone, as it is hard to find a good host for Plone/Zope). Low on hard-drive space.

    Oh, and you can go ahead and register your .com, .net, .org, and .tv domains with GoDaddy. For .ca go with namespro.ca. There is also the .st registry the .im registry and the .io registry, as well as the Europe registry for .eu and many other tlds such as .es.

    What the ICANN TLD decision means (not much)

    The ICANN board recently (June 26) decided to allow for new top-level domains, such as .nyc and .perfume. This is I believe a welcome (and long overdue) decision. When people have to deal with the country of Tuvalu or their outsourced agents to secure .tv domains, you know a system is broken.

    What will this mean? For most people, nothing. The six-figure cost suggested by ICANN means this is a rich persons’ game. Essentially this allows for smaller “countries” to be set up, each will have their own fees. For larger organizations, this is yet another piece of intellectual property they will have to acquire. I can imagine seeing .mac and .windows in the future (who knows, a .linux ?).

    Interestingly this will be most useful for short (ideally three-letter) brands with a “branded house” model of branding, and some fairly deep pockets. Two letter .tlds that already were assigned as a country code, sorry, out of luck chaps. Proctor & Gamble loses out to Papua New Guinea (but they have a “house of brands” strategy, so no worries).

    The real effect for consumers typing in the browser will be the removal of the .com for some brands, e.g., “http://cocacola” could be an address, instead of “http://cocacola.com” (which gets rerouted to http://www.coca-cola.com/glp/d/index.html anyway, what a waste).

    Most of us will keep using .com and .org, and the .edu for universities in the US. The .tv domains and the odd .us as in del.icio.us will still be around. Recently the url-shortening service is.gd sprung up, showing that even in this constrained domain naming environment, creativity still happens… perhaps because of the constraints.