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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.