Why I Write About Technology

I realize I write many posts related to technology. Every time I do, I receive comments and emails that tell me that many readers tune out when they see one of these posts.

So why do I do it? Well, for one thing, technology has always been a large part of my life, both as a hobby and as a profession. However, a bigger reason is that if you are a person moving from the US or Europe or any first world country and have most of your family ties back in your country of origin, then you will have to become more familiar with technology than had you not moved.

Even though I realize you have to be a little conversant with technology or you would not be reading this blog, and even though I have written similar posts in the past, I will do one more.

MAIL

As you can see from the recent posts, on Proof Of Life, the mail system in Panama is not very dependable. Most people use a Mail Forwarding Company to receive normal mail and packages. Not cheap, but dependable. I currently use Multiservicios International De Chiriquí.

Most of these types of services are similar. None are perfect, but if you find one you like, switching will rarely be worth the trouble.

For the amount of mail I get from the US, this has been the cheapest I have found.

To satisfy a Proof of Life address, I am now using a PO Box in David. I will use it only for Taxes and Social Security. I also will not count on it being 100% dependable. I am still waiting for my first letter from the US which was sent a month ago. Next week I will chat with the management. I hope they don’t go postal.

Internet

You may think you can live without the Internet and maybe you can. However, I can’t and I have to believe most can’t any more. Because of the slowness of the physical mail systems, email is mandatory.

Since it has become a necessity, you should spend a little time getting to understand it’s strengths and weaknesses. What it can do for you and how it can harm you.

The first thing you should realize is that email is not secure. It is sent in the clear and can be read at many points on its trip. Do not send sensitive information via email.

If you are going to use the Internet, you need to know how to make yourself more secure. No one wants to have their friends receive emails addressed from them that contain viruses. Email accounts get hacked and PCs are taken over by viruses.

Also, identity theft is becoming a great problem and the latest NSA revelations demonstrate that the Internet waters have become very dangerous.

Protecting yourself on the Internet is a large enough subject to write a book on, but I’ll keep it to a short list.

Passwords

Probably the most fundamental thing you need to do is to use unique and strong passwords for all email and website requiring passwords. I have written about this multiple times with the most recent being HERE. I still give LastPass two thumbs up.

Intelligent Net Surfing

If you use the Internet, you will visit multiple sites from searches. Not all sites are safe and most capture information about you as a user of the Internet. A comment came in recently about a product called DoNotTrackMe. I am impressed with this product and it can be installed on most browsers.

One of the most carnivorous information gathering sites is GOOGLE and as I wrote in a previous post, I have switched to BING. On my tests DoNotTrackMe gave me no alerts on BING and a major warning on GOOGLE.

VPN
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A virtual private network can also provide benefits and more safety. I use WiTopia, but there are several out there. I have a WiTopia CloakBox router with VPN installed so all PCs in my house get the benefit. It also allows me to use many sites that I could not otherwise use if I didn’t have it such as Pandora.  HERE is one of the first posts I did on the benefits of having a VPN.

PC Backups

Many people just getting started with PCs forget the obvious and that is that devices fail. If you have thousands of photos on a PC and the hard drive fails, you have lost a lot of memories.

Backups are an absolute necessity. I use Apple PCs and tits TimeMachine function continuously backs up all of my data. When I was using a Windows based OS I used a product called Oops!Backup. It was a very good product and both prevented losses of data for me.

ET Call Home

If you have moved here permanently from another country, it is likely that you have left friends behind and will want to stay in contact with them. You may find the need to call banks, credit unions and such on occasion as well.

International calling is not cheap especially when you are waiting on hold to talk to a real person at your bank.

The solutions here are many and varied. FaceTime on Apple is great for family that is using Apple. Skype is another product I use a lot. Video and voice does make a difference with family.

For telephone calls I am still using MagicJack. I have found them to be extremely poor at customer service, but the quality of my calls is still good and as long as I can keep my account paid, I won’t change it out. MagicJack uses a physical phone and I can call the US and Canada for a very small amount a year. In fact usually a single call to the US pays for the entire year. MagicJack now has several competitors, but I have seen none cheaper.

PC AntiVirus

Another requirement if you are using the Internet is to have a reliable AntiVirus. I use AVAST on my Apple gear. I used Microsoft Security Essentials on Windows.

You will hear some Apple users saying that an AV is not needed with Apple. They are living in the past. No OS has ever been designed that hackers can’t break into if given the right incentive.   Both products are free and in my opinion as effective as those you pay for.

Printer/Scanner

Another piece of technology that I think is essential is a printer with a scanner capability. There is not a single government office in Panama that I have seen that makes copies and they always require them. Being able to make your own is almost a necessity. Searching for a copy place can be a challenge and it always happens when you don’t have the time.

Besides you need to be able to print out some of the photos you will take of this beautiful country to hang over you PC.

Cell Phones

Just like American Express used to say, “don’t leave home without it”. I doubt that anyone reading this blog doesn’t have a cell phone. However, cell phones are becoming obsolete and Smart Phones are more of a necessity. The Apps for the cells pay for themselves. I have several apps that allow me to call all over the world for free if the other person has the same app.

I get my emails from the Embassy as well as phone calls. I use Wase to help me navigate around Panama.

I just wish it hadn’t just been bought by Google. Oh well, I will still use the product.

So this is my dissertation on technology for today. I firmly believe if you are going to move to Panama that you will have to become a little more conversant with what is available to help you and also how it can hurt you.

Now get off this blog and go have a great day. I am getting ready to do just that.

11 thoughts on “Why I Write About Technology

  1. Don Ray:
    “I did it my way…” from Frank Sinatra’s song. No explanations, is your blog, you write whatever you want to.
    Jaime^

  2. Don, we have been preparing for our retirement to Panama for about 2 years now, and the information you have posted here has been an enormous help. I am in the process of upgrading all my equipment to Apple products based on their capabilities and your information. Please continue to post about your experiences and knowledge on these subjects for the ones of us that want to be as prepared as possible once we step off the plane in our future home.
    Oh, and bye the way, I also enjoy all your other blogs and interesting tidbits!
    Looking forward to meeting you soon,
    Tom & Lourdes

  3. Don, we recently discovered that the VA offers free shipping address. We have been paying a lot of money to Airbox Express and are thrilled to learn this gem of information. Please verify with JR at WeCare Clinic in David. There are quite a few VA Clinics in Panama, and Beterans need to know this. I am a gadgetholic and have learned a lot from reading your posts. I have iPad 2.

  4. I can’t believe some would complain about how you write your blog. No…I’m really not surprised. I find the information helpful as I plan my relocation. Thanks for posting!

  5. But I LIKE technology!
    And if someone hadn’t explained the technology, we would all still be getting dressed up to watch television because everyone “knew” that if we could see them, they could see US.
    jim
    PS, you really don’t need to plug the unused electrical outlets to prevent being charged for the electricity leaking out.

  6. I obviously didn’t write this post the way I should have. I never meant to leave the impression that anyone complained, but that they preferred, understood or enjoyed other posts more. My lead in paragraph was merely intended to let you know that I understand this may not be one of the favorite topics of most readers of Chiriqui Chatter.

    Written language is so difficult to interpret the tone.

    One of my favorite sayings is, “I know you think you understand what you thought I said, but I am not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant”.

    I have, since this post, had three people write me and apologize and tell me if they had offended me or hurt my feelings they apologized.

    For that, I apologize for my ineffectiveness in communication.

  7. It’s one of my favorite topics, Don. It seems like one can always learn something new in the ever-evolving world of technology, especially from people like you, who can relate developments in straightforward, relatively non-technical language…

  8. Thanks to your Blog I ordered my WiTopia Cloakbox Pro today and my Apple TV is on it’s way.

  9. Just got this in email and had to repost it —

    I was visiting my neighbor last night when I asked if I could borrow a newspaper.

    “This is the 21st century,” he said. “I don’t waste money on newspapers.”

    “Here, use my iPad.”

    I can tell you this. That fly never knew what hit him!

    Ah, technology …

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