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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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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What Software Should You Have In Ecuador Part Two

Anti Virus Software:

This is one of those “if not when ” scenarious.  In the antediluvian days when I was a Windows user I used a freeware program called AVG Anit Virus which did the trick.  Now that I’m a smarter guy and a Mac User  I use Sophos Anti Virus Software . There is a good link to compare Anti Virus Sofware programs here

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Screen Capture Software: 

Skitch runs on both the Windows and Mac OS platforms. One of my favorite programs. Powerful and easy to use. Plus you can integrate your capture into Evernote

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Another good entry and free is Jing from Techsmith. It captures areas of the screen as well as jpgs and movies.

Mapping Software – Google Maps

I know their are good alternatives to Google Maps but to me it meets the 3 part litmus test – Free, Powerful and Easy.

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Sound Editing Software – Audacity

Again this program runs on both platforms . It is free and powerful. The biggest advantage is the ability to convert to different sound file formats. For example – Someone gives you song as wav file and you want to play the file on your iPhone. Audacity gives you the option to convert the file to one that can run on OS 7(iPhone &iPad)

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VPN Software:

This is a must if you want to watch TV or view movies that require you to have an IP address outside of Ecuador. I have used a variety of free and paid software. Presently I am using STRONG VPN. But, I have also used “Hide My Ass”. I cover many aspects of VPN software and hardware on this blog. For more information go to the Search Bar on the right and search with the word “VPN”.

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As always you can leave your comments and observations and I’ll reply to them.

Television In Cuenca – Revisited

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 from Sabai 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.  I received a great deal of help from  Larry Schunk.  He is a rep. for Sabai in Cuenca. I have his contact info and you can send me an email (graygeek@gmail.com) for that info.

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
  • Yearly Amazon Prime Subscription $70

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.

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What Electronics Should You Bring To Ecuador (Part 4)

Now that I’ve lived in Cuenca, Ecuador for 26  months and have experienced some of the opportunities and limitation of  High Tech I thought I would update my list. These are just my recommendations based on my needs and prejudices.  Your mileage may vary. Keep in mind that I worked for Apple.  There are great windows machines out there but the windows operating system is too vulnerable to bloatware, malware, viruses and Windows 8 is an admitted failure.

Computers:  I highly recommend coming down with a notebook computer. The latest engines on the notebooks make them as or more powerful than desktops and you have the added advantage of mobility.  My wife has a MacBook Air and I have the MacBook Pro with Retina screen.

Tablets: No surprise that I would recommend the iPad or iPad Mini.  Again the recommendation comes from the >700,000 apps that are available in the App store. We also have an active iPad Users Group that meets twice a month on Thursdays. Samsung, Asus, Acer and Amazon manufacture excellent tablets but the key is the number of free and paid available apps. Plus the Kindle Fire has a some difficulty receiving Amazon Prime media without a VPN. If you’re purchasing an iPad make sure you pick up a bluetooth keyboard.  Except for photo editing and video editing I think the iPad replaces a computer. There are some decent Android Tablets but again it’s the Itunes App Store that makes the difference

Printers: What worked for me was bring down my Brother Wireless Laser Printer from Oregon.  The cost was $90 and the printer works all over the house and prints from the two notebook computers and the iPad.  I know that several expats have purchased ink jet printers but I have heard several complaints about the quality of ink in Cuenca. I’m seriously leaning towards a recommendation of not bringing a printer.  In the last 5 months I have used my printer 3 times.  Might be easier and cheaper to print at a local Internet cabina or copy place.

Phones: Duh, again no surprise that I have an iPhone 4s.  I purchased the phone from Claro for $480 and my plan runs about $55 per month. Samsung’s Galaxy is a great rival to the iPhone and I have several Cuencano friends who really like that phone. If you’re not in the market for a smartphone I would still bring an unlocked phone from the U.S. In addition to the iPhone I have purchased a used Motorola Razr for $30 in Oregon and brought that with me.  The cheap phones ($30 – 60) in Cuenca have terrible reception.

Camera: Digital cameras are super cheap in the United States.  I have two cameras in Cuenca.  I have a Samsung ultra compact that I purchased in Costco for $130 two years ago . I take 80% of my photos with that camera. Why?  Good to Very good results and it doesn’t draw attention in the middle of a busy street.  The other camera is a Canon T4i (looks expensive) DSLR.  I only use this camera when I am with another person or I am on a trip with a lot of other people.  I just think it’s good street smarts not to draw attention to yourself and your vunerable when changing lenses.  Another advantage to the iPhone 4s is that if you’re not an experienced photographer then the iPhone takes exceptional photos and video.

Hard Drives: They are smaller and super cheap.  If you’re shooting HD video then it’s a must to have one.  I just purchased a 1 TB Seagate Drive for $79.  Higher densities are available at similar prices.

Wi Fi Extender: An absolute must purchase if your apartment/ house is on two levels or you need to obtain a Wifi signal that is more than 30 ft from your router. I purchased the Diamon Wifi extender for $70 on my last trip to Oregon.

TV & Blu-Ray Players: I purchased both of these in Cuenca.  I purchased a 40 inch Samsung 1080p HDTV and paid a 30% premium. The LG Blu-Ray player only cost my $15 more than a similar one in the U.S.  If you have the opportunity to share a container and bring a big screen TV –  Do It!

Apple TV:  OK, The last Apple Product I will recommend on this list. However, this is a must have device if you want to watch Netflix, Free Podcasts from Network TV or subscribe to the NBA, NHL or MLB subscriptions and display them on your big screen TV.  The hockey puck sized hardware is $99 and requires an HDMI cable. There are alternatives such as Google TV and RoKu but I am not familiar enough with these devices to recommend them.

Slingbox: If you have a source for good American/Canadian TV programming in North America then you should consider bringing a SlingBox.  This device attaches to your your TV and you can view the same programming on your TV in Ecuador.  The source is usually a friend or relative in North America that has a Slingbox attached to their TV.

Magic Jack/Plus: This is a device that is sold in North America.  It is similar to Skype in that it uses the Internet to make and receive calls. Magic Jack is only voice but the advantage is that you can make and receive unlimited calls to cell/land lines for about $39 per year.  Less if you purchase a multi -year contract.

Miscellaneous: Cables, SD Cards, Surge Protectors etc. Bring them . A 4 ft HDMI cable (connection from your device to a HDTV) cost $18 compared to about $6 in the U.S.  The same is true of of memory cards and surge protectors.

I welcome discussion and suggestions on this topic.  Yes, I said in the beginning that I have a prejudice for Apple products and yes these products are more expensive. For me the Apple products work.

**** New Addition****.

Subscriptions:

 I highly recommend for anyone interested in viewing  Movies,  Present and Past TV Series to purchase a Netfilx, and Amazon Prime subscription. The Netflix subscriptions  is $7.99 per month and the Amazon Prime Subscription is about $70 per year. They each supply a vast amount of movies and TV programs to stream.

VPN subscription  – About $80 per year – allows you to view programs that are blocked in Ecuador. 

VPN router – To be seamlessly connected via your browser as a Non Ecuadorian Connection.  More on your choices in a future upcoming post.

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VPN: Tools For Better Movie & Television Viewing

At the June 20th iPad Users Group Meeting we will be reviewing VPN solutions for your computer and mobile(iPad, iPhone) needs.  Although we will concentrate on the Apple Brand all the products will also work on Windows Machines.  We will review both subscription and free services.

There are many benefits of VPN’s but the meeting will focus on being able to connect to Movie and TV sites that without a VPN would be inaccessible.  Stay tuned for more information. Reserve your seat now because the capacity for the meeting is 12 people.

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