New Smartphone Photography/Video Course

In late July I am going to offer a course on how to take great photos and videos on your smartphone or tablet. The course will offer the following

  • Framing better photos and videos
  • Editing on your smartphone
  • Presenting and Storing your media

I will announce dates, and costs the first week in July. Comment or email me with any questions. Below is a sample of what you can do on your smartphone.

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Send Directions To Your Android Phone

Directions to a new location just got easier and cooler. Now you can open Google. com type your address and click on send directions to your phone. Open Google Maps on your phone and voila it automatically appears.

You can then choose car or walking as the options to arrive with the approximate time to your location.

The Verge Website gives detailed instructions

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Apps To Make Your Life Easier

I guess there was a life before iPhones, iPads and Android but I can’t seem to remember it :-). All the apps that are reported here work on both the IOS and Android platform.

I am probably on my Nexus (smartphone) and iPad 2-3 hours a day. Some of the apps are repeated each day. For example:

  • Moves – A pedometer and maps of my walking and bus routes
  • Magic Jack- I can call back to my friends and family anywhere in Ecuador
  • Evernote- Taking notes and reminders
  • Flipboard – Personalized news
  • Pocket Cast – Listening to NPR and other news stories

Other apps I use for customized purposes. For example:

  • Bridge Base – Playing Dupiicate Bridge with partners around the world
  • Netflix – Viewing Movies and TV programs
  • Easy Taxi- calling a taxi on a rainy day
  • Weather Timeline – finding the weather for a future travel.
  • DuoLingo  – Language Tutorials – I use this to practice my Spanish

The TedBlog Website has a fantastic post on

25+ apps to make your everyday life easier

What are your favorite apps?

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How Much Time Do You Spend On Your Smartphone?

The answer for me is about 3 hours a day – which translates to about 16% of my day interacting with my Nexus 5. Too much? A minute percentage is talking on the phone. In fact my Claro records say that I average about 120 minutes a month which is about 4 minutes a day.  I use my phone for research, email, photos, podcasts, movies, reading. I’m never bored and I feel that the phone is an aid rather than a dependent.

NPR has a brilliant story – Bored… And Brilliant? A Challenge to Disconnect From Your Phone.

I encourage everyone to listen. And lets start a dialog.

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Why I Use My Smartphone More Than My Computer

The other day I was clearing the daily Smartphone apps in memory and I noticed that I had used 23 for that day. Here are some of the more interesting ones:

  • Kindle – presently reading “Target Churchill”
  • Moves – my personal pedometer
  • Amazon Cloud Drive – All my photos uploaded automatically
  • Duolingo – My Spanish learning course
  • Easy Taxi – Request a taxi any
  • GPS Test – Automatically tells me the elevation
  • PocketCasts- Listen to TV and Radio anywhere
  • Bridgebase- Play bridge with anyone instantly

I guess my favorite is “Google Now” App where I can verbally ask for anything like directions, conversions, facts etc. I also find myself dictating my emails which has a 95% accuracy rate on my phone.

Personally I find it easier to carry my computer in my pocket. This TED BLOG Link gives 25 apps that make your life easier

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Unique Phone Apps

I owned a iPhone for 3 years in Cuenca and recently sold my iPhone 4s and purchased the Google Nexus 5 which is an Android device. I strive to make this blog Platform agnostic so in all the Apps listed below run on both platforms (Android, IOS )

Below are some unique apps that I use everyday.

  • Pocket Casts – Everyday I spend about 90 minutes listening to news and geek shows (i.e. NBC Nightly News, Fresh Air, Android App Arena)
  • Duolingo – I try and spend 10 minutes a day brushing up on my Spanish vocabulary and phrases. The best part of this program is that you can speak the words into your phone for feedback.
  • Amazon Cloud Drive–  Someone asked me the other day to show them a picture of a cockatoo I owned while liveing in The States. No need to tie up any spance on your phone memory. Amazon Cloud Drives gives you unlimited storage. You do have to have a Amazon Prime Subscription.
  • IMDB – Internet Movie Database is owned by Amazon. Being retired gives me more time to watch TV and Movies. Yesterday, whicle watching a Danish movie I could look up the actor’s other credits on the App.
  • MagicJack– Free North American Phone Number. You need to buy the MJ for incoming calls but you can make unlimited outgoingphone calls using the App on your Smartphone.
  • Moves – How far did you walk last Tuesday, last week, last month. Every step is recorded on the Moves app. For me its vital because I’m 15 years into a Total Hip Replacement and need to limit my walking to less than 25 miles a week.

What are your Unique Apps?

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What Electronics Should You Bring To Ecuador ( Part 6 )

It’s now a year since I wrote Part 5 and my wife and I have lived in Ecuador for 3.5 years.  This post is largely subjective based on my usage and mistakes in Cuenca.

This advice is meant for those on a limited budget and not bringing a container to Ecuador. I am going to start with the most important device and work by way down to the small items that you can’t find or that are expensive in Ecuador.

Smartphone: Invest in an unlocked Nexus 6 or iPhone 6+. These are relatively large phones sometimes called Phablets but they will be your best techonology friend in Ecuador. I also suggest you buy a data plan. In Cuneca I pay $32 a month for minutes and data and never run out of either one.  Below are some uses other than voice and texting.

  • Maps and directions
  • Photo and video ( I haven’t used my expensive Canon in 4 months)
  • Easy Taxi – requesting taxis at night and in bad weather
  • Learning Spanish (Translate, SpanishDict, Duolingo)
  • Music listening ( Amazon complete music library)
  • Netflix (watching movies)
  • Playing Bridge

Tablet: I have the iPad Mini w/ retina screen but I can highly recommend the Nexus 7. I recommend the larger tablets ( The iPad Air is an excellent choice) if you are not going to bring your computer.  I’m sticking to my recommendation of not bringing a computer if you don’t need it for business or serious photo/video editing. A large tablet with a bluetooth keyboard will be powerful and very portable.

Streaming Boxes: These hockey puck  devices will be your night time companions if you enjoy watching movies and TV series. You can’t go wrong with the ones below:

  • Apple TV
  • Roku 3
  • Amazon Fire TV

Basically you can watch TV series and movies with these devices connected to your TV. They also have the added advantage of wirelessly connecting some of your devices ( computer, iphone tablet ) wirellessly to your TV. Important note ***. To fully utilize these services you need to purchase a VPN (virtual private network) Router. I use the Sabai Cisco router because of the excellent technical support. I go to great lengths to describe the challenges of watching TV/Movies in Ecuador. I recommend using the search facility on this blog and typing in “VPN” and you will see several posts with recommendations.

Google just came out with their own streaming box called Nexus Player but I haven’t seen enough reviews to recommend buying that device.

Miscellaneous recommendations:

  • Netflix subscription- $9 per month – Invaluable
  • Amazon Prime subscription $8.25 per month – (Music, Movies, Books, Unlimited Photo Storage(
  • Bluetooth keyboard for your tablet or smarthone
  • Thumb drives (32 gb) for transferring information or bring data to be printed
  • VPN subscription  – I use Strong VPN and it’s about $8 a month
  • Skype subscription – Free Video Calls to other Skype users.
  • MagicJack – Practically free phone calls to any cell or landline in the U.S.

Some of the subscribers of this blog have great success with Ooma. It’s  worth a look for cheap and dependable calls back to the U.S.

Again this are my recommendations based on my experience. I haven’t used my DVD player in 2 months and my camera in 4 months.  Save the room in your suitcases for good sheets and towels  🙂

 

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What’s Your Favorite App?

I consider myself to be Platform Agnostic. I own a Nexus 5 phone, and a iPad Mini. I use these two device approximately 6 hours a day. Here are 2  apps that run on both platforms and make my day a lot more productive.

Flickr:

You can store over 1/2 million photos free and immediately recall photos from your own albums or from the entire Flickr collection of 2 billion photos. Below is a favorite rose shot from 2005

rose

Pocket:

Did you ever find an interesting web site and wanted to save it for offline reading. After acquiring a free pocket account the user just needs to click on the “share button” on their favorite browser. Below are some examples of some saved web sites using Pocket.

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You can find the iPad/iPhone App at the App Store and the Android apps on the Google Play Store

 

What are your favorite apps?

What Will $1.32 A Day Buy You In Ecuador?

A Nexus 5 Smartphone and a monthly Data Plan from Claro. Let’s do the numbers. My plan costs me about $30 a month. I amortized the phone($350) for 3 years and got the $0.32 cents a day.The Data Plan is the same amount for the iPhone.  Doesn’t seem like a lot of money for all the advantages of a smartphone.

I am presently recovering from Eye Surgery (Vitrectomy and Cataract) and have to spend 12 hours prone. I didn’t realize all the advantages of a Smartphone until I had the time to explore them.

I’ll list the obvious ones first:

  • Better reception when talking and listening to phone calls
  • GPS location for maps, walking and directions
  • Texting with photos and videos
  • Constant contact with email
  • Free long distance phone calls
  • Superb camera for photos and video
  • Translation apps for words and pictures

Here are some of the extra and esoteric advantages

  • Listening to your music collection collections from Amazon, iTunes, Pandora
  • Watching Videos from all over the world including YouTube, Vimeo and Podcasts
  • Playing Contract Bridge worldwide
  • Editing Photos and Videos
  • Voice Recorder for personal thoughts and interviewing
  • Listening to any worldwide radio station
  • Studying Spanish
  • Office Applications (word, excel, powerpoint)
  • Reading any online newspaper
  • Playing trivia with anyone in the world (Quizup)
  • Exchanging files with just a touch of the phone
  • Purchasing items without cash
  • Projecting on your Smartphone wirelessly to a Big Screen TV

Feel free to add your own favorite app in the comments.

***Prices quoted for the Nexus 5 is for the 16GB version purchased in the U.S.***

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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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