What Electronics Should You Bring To Ecuador ?(Part 8)

My wife and I have been living here almost 6 years and two things all expats can agree on.

  1. Electronics are  25% – 30 % more expensive in Ecuador. Even more if you lived in a state with no sales tax.
  2. This is a subjective matter. Some of us are geeks and need the latest and greatest. Others, especially on a retirement budget need the basics.

I have added some new items and subtracted some others. As always I encourage your feedback.

Computer: When we first moved here I rented space in another person’s container and brought down a desktop computer with a 24″ monitor and and oversized keyboard. I sold that computer in less than a year and that is why I am recommending a laptop or notebook computer.

  • I have a Macbook Air – Moderately priced and extremely simple to use
  • Chrome book -Inexpensive and uses mostly cloud storage
  • Microsoft Surface Pro – combines a tablet and computer and an affordable price

Tablet: When we first moved I owned an iPad . I have since sold the iPad and  my tablet of choice is an 8 inch Fire Tablet from Amazon priced at $59

Smartphone: Personally, this is my most used piece of electronics. I now own the Google Nexus 6. I have a $32 a month data plan that gives me the convenience of being connected all day but also the ability to connect via magic jack to my business contacts and family back in The States. I also use my Smartphone for:

  • Maps and Navigation
  • Free Worldwide texting via What’s Ap
  • Photos- I sold my DSLR and now use my Smartphone as my only camera
  • 4K Video
  • Podcasts – PBS, NPR and tech shows
  • HBO, Netflix
  • Social Media
  • Audio Recording
  • Skyping and Magic Jack
  • Remote Controls For TV

I highly recommend the Google Nexus but would also highly recommend the iPhone

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 Version 3 – $150 *** I have sold the Apple TV since I find the Roku and Amazon TV take care of all my needs ***
  • Roku 4 – $130
  • Amazon Fire TV $100;

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 ) wirelessly  to your TV. Important note ***. To fully utilize these services you need to purchase a  IP address Blocker so you can connect to these services from Ecuador.  .

All three device have voice search and the Roku and Amazon devices have lower priced stick versions that have less power but basically give you the same services.

Printer: This is second  year I am not recommending a printer. Unless you are using the printer for business then it’s easier and cheaper to put your document on a thumb drive and bring it to and easily available copy shop.

Camera: This is the second year  I am recommending using a Smartphone instead of a point and shoot camera.

Miscellaneous recommendations:

  • Netflix subscription- $9 per month – Invaluable
  • Amazon Prime subscription $8.35 per month – (Music, Movies, Books, Unlimited Photo Storage)
  • Bluetooth keyboard for your tablet or smarthone
  • Thumb drives (32 gb) for transferring information or bringing data to be printed
  • IP Blocker   – I use Block US for about $60 per year
  • Skype subscription – Free Video Calls to other Skype users.
  • MagicJack – Practically free phone calls to any cell or landline in the U.S.
  • Wifi Extender – Invaluable for folks living in a house made of Adobe Walls or condo dwellers 30 or more feet from wifi router.

Amazon Echo, Dot or the Google Home Smart Speaker

These gadgets are cloud based devices that will be the next paradigm shift. The Amazon platform has a two year head start. But,essentially both devices accomplish the same goals.

I installed the Echo in the living room next to the T.V. The Echo will pick up our voices from the living room, hall, kitchen, dining room and sun room. So far we have used the Echo to:

  • listen to our (separate) Amazon Prime Music collections
  • Kitchen timers
  • News Updates from local and International sources
  • Calendar and todo lists
  • Manage our Capital One Account including making payments
  • Listen to Podcasts
  • Movia Trivia
  • Control the lights in our house.

The Dot which is the smaller and less expensive version of the Echo is paired with a bluetooth Speaker and is upstairs in Sharon’s Office. She mainly uses the Dot to listen to her music but she likes the “Good Morning Command” which is has an interesting fact of a synopsis of some famous person’s life usually when it is their birthday.

Ok, do you need all these devices. Of course not. But, I think these devices make life much more enjoyable in Ecuador.

My three favorite devices are:

  • Google Nexus Smartphone
  • Amazon Dot
  • Roku Streaming Device

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Watching TV In Cuenca 2015

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

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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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A Great New Way Of Watching More T.V. In Ecuador

Roku Users rejoice! Now you can add the “Google Play” Channel to your Roku Streaming Media Device.

Here is what the popular Gizmodo blog has to say:

Roku was already the best little streaming device money could buy. But now, Google has gone and given Roku players access to all your Google Play movie and TV goodies. Which, more than just being an unprecedented move on Google’s part, makes Roku pretty much unstoppable.

My home setup now has the three major services( Itunes, Amazon Prime and Google Play) just a remote click away. When you install the free Google channel on your Roku player Google treats you to the X-Men movie. And, here is a link of a survey of why users prefer Google Play ove Itunes. However, I highly recommend purchasing both Apple TV and Roku because of the eas of use of Apple TV and the Airplay which allows your Apple Product to wirelessly transmit to your TV.

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Sunday Morning- What’s On TV In Ecuador?

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”.

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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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