This post is mainly for my subscribers who do not live in Ecuador. Peter Greenberg comes to Ecuador and is given The Royal Tour by El Presidente Raphael Correa. There is a very positive chemistry between the President and Greenberg. Thhe viewers get to see (what Ecuadorians already know), a beautiful country full of bio diversity. Don’t miss this one.
Competition is good for the consumer. Amazon just made it super affordable to buy a powerful tablet. Last year I purchased a 16 Gb iPad Mini with retina screen for $300.
If you’re already an Amazon Prime Member ($99 per year) with these benefits then purchasing this tablet for portability or backup in case your other device breaks is a no brainer.
- Unlimited Photo/Video Storage
- Extensive Streaming Movie & TV selection
- Amazon Music
- Kindle Lending Library
The tablet is available for immediate ordering on Amazon and is shipping Oct 1st.
Last year I posted my 2014 TV watching experiences. This year I have added the Amazon TV Fire Streaming Box to the Roku 3 (1st ed.) and the Apple TV (720p). Below are some of the additional benefits from last year
- Amazon Fire TV has a dynamic voice search and phone app to search and control your TV
- Amazon Prime continues to add original production (Transparent) and added HBO series
- Netflix also produces original productions (House of Cards, Orange Is The New Black)
- HBO NOW is available for the Apple TV and shortly for the other two streaming devices. Well worth the $14.99 monthly subscription
- The new Roku 3 has a voice search and has the most add channels of the 3 streaming boxes.
So which is the best box? If I were to advise you on one box it would be the new Roku 3 with voice search. Why? The Roku 3 has the most channels including Amazon Prime. If your budget is flexible and you have the HDMI ports for the other two I would definitely purchase them.
- Fire TV has the best voice search and the most memory
- Apple TV has Airplay to easily project your IOS device to your TV
There are also stick versions of the Fire TV and Roku available
- The Apple TV (1080p) is now $69
- The Fire TV is $99
- Fire TV stick (limited memory and expansion) $39
- Roku Stick(limited memory and expansion) is $49.99
When I lived in Oregon there was a routine for watching LIVE TV on a Sunday Morning. First it was CBS Sunday Morning with Charles OsGood followed by NBC’s Meet The Press. Well now that I’m living in Cuenca the routine has changed but the content has only got richer.
Before I go any further I should say that I have two streaming media boxes (Roku & Apple TV) connected to a VPN router so that my presence on the Internet is somewhere in the U.S.
I start the morning off with CBS Sunday Morning. This Sunday there were two especially interesting stores.
- Top Secret World War II POW housed in Alexandria Va.
- The history of the Queen Mary Cruise Liner and the role it played in WW II
The great part of viewing TV programs on the Streaming boxes is that I can go back several weeks and view programs I may have missed.
After watching Meet The Press. I viewed the week’s new TED TALKS. TED is a nonprofit devoted to spreading ideas, usually in the form of short, powerful talks (18 minutes or less). This week’s winners were:
- Underground Parks in New York City
- Children’s Literature
- Amazon Rain Forest
The last two hours were devoted to watching the PBS Ken Burns Series “The Roosevelts”. An intimate story about Ted, Eleanor and Franklin Roosevelt. I did not know that Ted was shot while making a speech and went on for an hour with a bullet in his chest.
I highly recommend owning a media box and a VPN in Ecuador. I discuss media boxes and VPN on my blog. You can conduct two different searches by using the terms “VPN” and “Roku”.
The short answer is- “It depends”. After living in Cuenca for 3+ years I think I have a realistic idea of the monthly costs. I presently live in a 2200 sq. ft 3 bedroom 3.5 bath unfurnished house.
Let’s first find data we can all agree about:
- Electricity is subsidized by the government. My monthly bill(which includes refuse pickup and a Firefighter tax) has never been over $30
- Propane Gas is also subsidized by the government. A 15 gallon tank delivered to the house is $2.50. I have never used over $10 a month which includes a propane room heater.
- Water – We have over 60 plants and the monthly water bill has nver been over $6
- House Phone My house phone bill has never been over $4 per month.
- Gasoline is $1.49 per gallon all over the country. Diesel is $1.04 a gallon
- Taxis are plentiful and cheap. A two mile trip to El Centro from my house is $1.70
- City Buses – 25 cents and 12 cents if you’re over 65. More about buses later in the post
- If you are over 65 have a cedula and a bank account you can get *all* your IVA (12%) taxes back
- General Labor is cheap. The minimum wage in Ecaudor is about $2.40 an hour.
- Dental and Medical Care is a fraction of North American costs
- IESS Medical Insurance with a Cedula is $70 per month + $11 per dependent
OK, now for the variables. (Single, Married, Roomate, Age.)
I am a married 69 year old in relative good health. I do not own a car and I prefer city living (within 2 miles of Parque Calderon). I walk every day (3-5 miles) and take the bus everyday. I do eat breakfast out 4 times a week. My wife and I go out once a week for dinner and twice a week for lunch. We shop at the organic markets, Feria Libre and SuperMaxi.
Apartment, Condo, House. Rent or Buy?
The majority of my friends rent their housing. Can you still find a rental for $300 per month? The answer is totally dependent on where you want to live and how far you need to commute to Cuenca. For my wife and I we chose location and the need for a garden. We are within 3 blocks of shopping, banking and 7 bus lines. When the Light Rail is completed the stop will be 400 ft from our door. The big question for most is whether to rent furnished or unfurnished. Our first two rentals were furnished. After 15 months we decided to furnish an entire house. You can surely find cheaper or used furniture but we spent $7000.
Pets, Poker And Plants
We have two rescue cats. Generally, vet care is cheaper than in North America. But, good healthy cat food is twice as expensive and cat litter is 3 times as expensive as in the U.S. Good quality dog food is also expensive. The reason I bring up Poker and Plants is that I find that a few expats don’t have hobbies because they are on tight budget. Plants are generally cheaper here and there are many Poker, Bridge games in Cuenca.
Medical, Dental, Health Insurance
Both my wife and I had disastrous results with two private health insurance plans. The first one was always a problem getting reimbursed. The second one cancelled the plan one day for almost 200 hundred epats because they realized that we were submitting claims higher than the monthly premium. Presently we have the Ecuadorian Social Security Plan which has no copay or age restriction. As mentioned the premium is $81 per month for a couple. For certain you have to have lots of patience and a understanding of Spanish (or an interpreter) to navigate the system. Recently I had complicated eye surgery (vitrectomy) and there was no doctor in Cuenca to cover the operation. The alternative was to travel to Quito and convalese 1 month in Quito. I chose to pay out of pocket and have the operation outside of the system.
Time, Technolgy, Travel
In my past business life and now in my retirement I have lived by the motto that “Time is the currency of the workplace. In my case its retirement. I am not handy and will more often than not pay a professional to fix something.
I also invest in the best and latest technology for my myself and my wife. Retirement should be fun and relaxing.
We travel back to the U.S. once a year to visit friends and family in 3 different states. We are fortunate that we don’t haveto rent a hotel in 3 different states. Flights, food, rental car costs, presents, and returning clothes and technology make this a $6000 trip which amortizes to an extra $500 per month on to your budget. I am sure people can do this for less. Again, its a style of retirement we want in our lives.
My guess is most readers use the Google Search Engine. This link will show you 10 very interesting Google Features. The three below are my favorites.
- Google Flight Search – I quickly found the cheapest flight and went to Orbitz to book the Senior Fare.
- Atari Breakout – I am not a big gamer but this game brought back memories from when I first started using a computer.
- Conversions – just type in your two variables
The whole list is worth a long look
Full disclosure. All my family devices are Apple (Macbook, iPad, iPhone, iPod). I also worked for Apple many years ago and finally my television viewing is in Ecuador. If you have enough ports on your HDTV and the budget to connect both devices I think you should purchase both boxes. The total cost is less than $200 and you will surely get at least 3 years use out of both boxes giving a per month cost of about $5. Plus the Apple TV Box has the benefit of connecting all your devices without wires via Airplay.
The next statement is going to surprise most people who know me but if you only have a Windows machine or Android tablet then I suggest you buy only the Roku Box. Here are my reasons.
- Many more channels (Amazon Video, Blockbuster, PBS, CBS News etc) to view via Roku
- Better UI( User Interface) and Remote than Apple TV
- On the Roku 3 you have the ability to mute the TV and listen on Headphones connected to the Remote
- Free online support via the Roku website
- Ability to add a usb drive for extra movie viewing
- ***MOST IMPORTANTLY – THE ROKU STREAMS VIDEO MORE EFFICIENTLY ***
Be aware that the Roku box requires a VPN router which i discussed in length at this post
Conclusion: I am thoroughly enjoying my Roku experience and am very pleased at the diverse channel selection available to me.
No sooner than I thought my TV experience was complete in Cuenca a friend loaned me a Roku Box to test on my system. In my TV revisited post
I mentioned all the hardware and software service I used. The summary is below
- VPN Router with Strong VPN software
- Apple TV
- Subscriptions to Netflix, and Amazon Prime
The Apple TV gave me the ability to stream via wif anything from my MAC, iPad, iPod or iPhone. Having a significant investment in Apple products I thought gave me the advantage to see everything that I wanted without the Roku Box.
Here are my findings after testing the Roku box for 3 days.
- A significant increase in video and audio channels over Apple TV
- I like the Remote better than the simple Apple TV remote
- Amazon Video Selection is a channel on the Roku rather than streamed from my iPad
- USTVNOW is a channel on Roku – I can easily watch Football games on my Big Screen TV
- Searching is more complete and easier on the Roku Box
- I can attach headphones to the Roku Box
- Netflix streams better on the Roku.
What would I recommend?
If you have the available HDMI ports I would say buy both. Apple TV has the very impressive Itunes store for unlimited movie and TV shows. Airplay is only available on the Apple TV so if you have Apple hardware this is a hard one to pass up. Also in mid October Apple is making a major announcement that includes improvements to the Apple TV.
- Apple TV – $99 (one time)
- Roku Box – $99 (one time)
- VPN Router – $149 (one time)
- VPN Software- $90 (per year)
- Netflix – ($8 per month)
- Amazon Prime Membership ( $70 per year)
The video below features the music of Jorge Triano, a local entertainer in Cuenca. He plays often at different venues in Cuenca and is on Facebook. I love many things about Cuenca and high on the list is the amazing work ethic of the citizens. I also love the churches and the architecture. Enjoy the video and Jorge’s music.