Caveat Emptor

I buy all of my tech products in the U.S. The most important reason is that 99% of the time the item is cheaper and comes with a reliable warranty or recourse if something goes awry. I am aware that one may not be able to return to the U.S. or Canada to buy the product or they need an instant replacement for family or business reasons.. I have been watching the “for sale” tech items on Gringo Post for over a year and have been amazed at some of the prices being charged.  Yes, I know there should be a small premium built into the price since some of the items can not be purchased here but the other day I saw a used laptop compouter being offered at $900 +. The same item with a warranty can be purchased on Amazon for $320 less

Here are some guidelines when purchasing a high tech item.

1. Make sure you have the model # of the item. An Acer laptop doesn’t  fly since there are many confiqurations  of that computer.

2. When buying a smartphone make sure the phone is factory unlocked and ready for a sim replacement. Jailbroken phones have to be jailbroken with each new upgrade in operating system.

3. Plasma TVs need to be a model specially manufactured for high altitude or you will have problems.

4. Make sure there is someone in Cuenca that can fix it. My wife brought a computerized sewing machine from the States and there is noone in Cuenca that can fix it.

5. Look for reviews on Amazon.com, Cnet.com, pcmag or just google the product with the word “review”

6. Find the product on Ebay and see what it is selling for

For those of us with smartphones there is a new app called  Poachit.

If you can wait then inquire if someone is going back to the States and offer them an incentive to bring back your item.

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Watching TV In Cuenca – Revisited

Technology changes every day and TV Watching in Cuenca is no exception. Last year I wrote this post. I have revised and changed some prices and and added a few recommendations. The revisions are in bold and the new products have *** before them.

 

In April of 2012 I wrote a post about our TV services in Cuenca. A lot has changed in 18 months. We no longer have DirecTV and now our TV viewing is based on the following services.

I have installed a VPN Router. For the non geeks in the audience my VPN router came fromSabai Technology

This router basically is configured with VPN software and every time I  turn my computer, iPad, iPhone or Apple TV my Internet presence is in Miami and not in Ecuador. This allows me to watch anything on the web, Netflix, Amazon, Hula etc as if I was living in the U.S.

You also need to subscribe to VPN software. I use Strong VPN as my service. Good customer support and very reliable.

Summary of Costs:

  • One Time Cost: VPN Router $150
  • Yearly VPN subscription $90
  • Monthly Netflix Subscription: $8 – Now $9
  • Yearly Amazon Prime Subscription $70 – Now $99
  • One Time Cost  Apple TV – $99
  • One Time Cost Roku Box – $90

My monthly costs including the amortized hardware is about $25 per month

Pros:

  • No configuration of VPN software
  • All your devices are connected
  • Full Netflix and Amazon Prime Video collection available to you >10K titles
  • Watch any TV website on the Internet

Cons:

  • Initial Expense
  • Yearly recurring fee
  • Slight loss of Internet connection speed

I highly recommend this route. We watch great BBC and American TV series with no limitation.

*** Amazon Prime is now better than ever. They have added all the HBO Season 1 Shows and many more movies.

*** Netflix has added more movies and solid original productions like House Of Cards and Orange Is The New Black

*** Amazon has come out with a Streaming Box similar to Roku and Apple TV called Amazon Fire TV. The initial reviews are excellent

 

On a separate note. A quick reminder that I do Skype consulting for those of you that are permanently moving to Ecuador. The charge is $25 and last night a happy future expat said that after the call she saved $150 by planning to bring certain electronics and eliminating others.

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The Almost Final Word On Smartphones In Cuenca

Last night at a restaurant in Cuenca I polled the 8 people present and only 50% of the table had smartphones. Statiscally that may defeat my argument for the need of a Smartphone in Cuenca. However, for me the Google Nexus 5 ( I previously owned an iPhone 4s) is a necessity. In my previous post – The Case For A Smartphone in Cuenca, I gave 8 personal reasons that worked for me.

I just read in an interesting statistic that a child with a smartphone in 2014 has more information available to him/her than President Clinton did in 1996. – Triple Yowza.

Yesterday, in preparation for this post I jotted down on my phone all the ways I used my phone to save time. The first couple of bullet points are obvious ones.

  • answering email instantly
  • Being available to my children and grandchildren through the magic jack app in an emergency
  • Winning a bet with a friend having coffee
  • Playing competitve Bridge with players around the world
  • ** Tethering to my laptop when the Internet went down yesterday**
  • Navigation when the taxi driver could not find his way
  • Listening to Amazon Music’s amazing music collection

I just started a Facebook Group called – Cuenca Smartphone Users. The purpose is to share apps and interesting uses of Smartphones.

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Amazon Fire TV – New Streaming Box

Amazon is entering the Streaming Movie/TV Market that is dominated by Apple TV, Roku and Chromecast. I have the Roku and Apple TV with a personal recommendation edge to the Roku Box for more selection and faster streaming. I just might buy the new box from Amazon because the bandwidth is not as dependable in Ecuador and the review seems to suggest that Amazon media is cached in the 2 gb of memory.

Good review by CNET

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Best Media Streaming Service

Presently, in Cuenca I am using the following hardware

  • Apple TV
  • Roku 3
  • Cisco E 2500 Router with Sabai firmware

And the following software subscriptions

  • Netflix
  • Amazon Prime
  • Hula Plus(Free Trial)
  • Strong VPN

My total subscriptions cost per year =$265 which comes out to $22 per month. With these services I don’t ever run out of movies and TV to watch. When I need to watch a movie or TV program that is not provided with these services then I rent it from iTunes or Amazon.

Below is a good summary of the available streaming services with a winner that I agree with.

And The Winner Is…

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What Electronics Should You Bring To Ecuador (Part 5)

My wife and I have lived in Cuenca for 2.5 years and my thoughts have changed considerably since I first suggested what Electronics to bring to Ecuador when you permanently make the move.  Feel free to check the past posts. The most recent (Part 4) being here

I’m going to assume that the majority of readers will not be bringing a container and will use their available suitcases. In the next couple of paragraphs I’m going to surprise some readers and friends with my new recommendations.

You Don’t Need A Computer

It’s not a typo. if you are not doing proprietary work (i.e. video editing, accounting, database work, programming) then the latest tablet with a bluetooth keyboard will suit you fine.  Although my preference because of my Apple background and equipment would be an iPad Air or an iPad Mini, I don’t think you can go wrong with a Nexus 7 or Samsung Galaxy and they are considerably cheaper than the iPad.  The iPad does have the advantage with the 1 Billion strong app store but I know several people in Ecuador that are very happy with their Nexus 7.

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You Don’t Need A Printer

Most expats are retired. they are not working for a living anymore. Printers are bulky to bring and they are more expensive to buy in Ecuador. Initially we brought our Laser Printer with us when we first moved.  The paper jammed and I can’t find anybody that knows laser printers to repair the machine. For the past 6 months I have put anything I needed to print on a thumb drive and walk two blocks to a local copy shop and they print my documents in color or black and white.

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You Need A Smarthphone

The<$100 cell phones that you buy in Ecuador have inferior reception and transmission. I can always tell when I’m not speaking to someone on a Smartphone when there voice cuts out 3-5 times during a minute conversation. The benefits of a smartphone are numerous.

  • email availabiliy
  • Skype/MagicJack  ready
  • Spanish/English Translation
  • Web Access
  • GPS Map Apps
  • Great Camera

If you can afford an iPhone then you can’t go wrong. However, for what you would pay for 1 unlocked iPhone 5S you can buy 2 Nexus 5 phones. Data plans are about $35 per month. Half of what they are in the U.S. and you don’t get charged for incoming calls.

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You Need A VPN Router

For those people who want to have a seamless experience with their computer, tablets , Apple TV, Smartphone, or Roku Box then this is the easiest way to go. Yes, you can individually connect your devices via software to a VPN service (i.e. Strong, Witopia, HMA etc) but you can’t connect an Apple TV or Roku box any other way but through a VPN router. A Roku Box won’t work at all unless the device sees you with a U.S. IP address. I  extensively cover the benefits of a VPN router in this post

You Don’t Need A Point And Shoot Camera

Although I do own a Canon DSLR camera most of my shots are snapped on my iPhone. I have my iPhone all the time. I never miss a shot and I don’t have to lug a bulky camera kit with lenses around with me. I initially brought a Samsung point and shoot and now I don’t use it all. The iphone shots are great and you can also shoot video. The same can be said for the Samsung Galaxy and new Nexus 5 smartphones.

You May Need A Wifi Extender

We live in a 40 year old 2 story adobe house and need a wifi extender for the signal to reach from my office(router and modem location) to the second floor bedroom 40 ft away.  Wifi signals cap out at about 30 ft and don’t do well going through concrete floors or walls.

You Need A Roku Box

The Roku 3 Media Box is a little larger than a hockey puck. There are over 300 channels you can receive (with a VPN router). Netflix, Amazon Prime, NBC News, PBS, CBS News are just a few of the channels we can receive. If you have an investment in Apple equipment I also suggest you purchase and Apple TV for the Airplay facility as well as having access to the Itunes Store.

I look forward to your comments, and suggestions. There is no strict list of what you should bring. These items work well for my family. Your mileage may vary.  I’m available via Skype (at $20 per hour) to anyone who is considering moving down to Ecuador. During that hour I can suggest brands, vendors and installers that will save you hundreds of dollars and share with you mistakes that I made choosing the wrong equipment and ISP.

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Apple TV Or Roku Box?

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.

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