More on the Technology Front

This post will be 100% on technology. It may not be of interest to you, but I have found that some technology has been absolutely necessary living in Panama and therefore, I keep writing about it.

Internet

Connecting to the Internet is an absolute necessity for me. I could not exist here without it. I am happy to say that the Internet has improved a tremendous amount, since I moved here. A lot has been because I live in David, but a fair amount has been because of upgrades by the Internet Service Providers (ISP) in Panama as a whole.

I routinely have 10 Mbps download speed. While this is minuscule compared to what is normal in the US, if is fine for me and allows multiple rooms to simultaneously be accessing the Internet at the same time. When Lilliam’s family comes to visit, I may have as many as 8 people connected at one time.

Most of my news and entertainment come from the Internet, which will lead me to my next point about KODI.

KODI

If you have followed Chiriquí Chatter for a while, you have seen several posts on KODI. By far, it is where I get most of my news and entertainment. It has allowed me to take the minimum cable package which primarily gives Lilliam the local news as well as Costa Rican news. I eliminated all of the premium services and reduced my cable bill by over $50 a month.

It also allowed me to cancel NetFlix, which was another $9 a month. When I bought my Amazon Fire Stick, I signed up for one year of Amazon Prime for $99. To see the Amazon Prime US content, I used UNLOCATOR. I had used UNLOCATOR to watch NetFlix too, but NetFlix is preventing all proxy services from accessing it now.

My feeling is that the licensing entities are going to have to change. In a global environment the old region licensing no longer makes sense. However, as long as it remains, products like UNLOCATOR will continue to be used. To watch US contentment UNLOCATOR was better for me than a VPN, because it had much less overhead and allowed better streaming of media content.

UNLOCATOR obviously didn’t help me access my TaxAct service in the US and I had to temporally use a VPN. UNLOCATOR is only good for streaming media.

With the costs of content from the US, NetFlix ($9/month), Amazon Prime $99/year, HULU $8/month and a VPN or UNLOCATOR around $5/month you can add $25/month or more to your entertainment budget. Enter KODI. With this product and some available ADDONS, you can access equivalent content for free.

KODI was the main incentive that moved me from Apple TV to the Amazon Fire Stick. A move to a $39 Fire Stick from a $99 Apple TV which has become more expensive. The Fire Stick is an Android based system and more open than Apple’s closed systems. While there are hacks available to jailbreak the new Apple, Apple continues to defeat ann jailbreaks with each new upgrade.

It is hard to justify a new Apple TV for $150 when you can watch all the content for $39. I am now up to two Amazon Fire TVs and one Amazon Fire Stick.

I have recently switched user interfaces to KODI and am using one called Wolverine. It has been the most complete front-end and provides content in both English and Spanish. This is good for me because sometimes Lilliam would like to see a movie in Spanish.

It has been easy to upgrade all of my Amazon products to later KODI releases once I had done the initial install of Fire Starter. I can now upgrade Fire Starter and KODI with no further need to use my laptop. The laptop is require to add Fire Starter to the Amazon Fire product.

Once Fire Starter has been installed on the Fire device, then it will install the latest KODI, which at this writing is release 16 (Jarvis). KODI is merely a media manager and only provides the interface to view all of your movie DVD or music CDs. It is the ADDONS that provide access to content that is on the Internet.

The best thing about KODI is that you can try it out on your PC, using any OS (OS X, Android, Linux, Microsoft Windows and others). Just go to KODI.TV and install on your device.

That is the easy part. The simplest and most dependable and one that has never failed is TVADDONS. HERE is their site with very simple installation instructions.  It has instructions for adding KODI to any device and while the Amazon products are a little more difficult, their instructions are pretty good. I add another step by adding Fire Starter, but their instructions will be a good learning experience.

There are many User Interfaces or ADDONS that give KODI a new look and ease the learning experience. If you search Youtube, you will find a ton of videos on KODI installation and user Interfaces. Most are out of date, but might be interesting to get an idea of what capability there is with KODI.

One of the largest sources of User Interfaces is the ARES Wizard site. HERE is a page which shows the installation of the ARES WIZARD to KODI.

Any installation of a new interface should be done on a clean KODI install. If you install a new skin over a previous skin, you may wind up with problems.

A security note: KODI is a good product and I have no concerns installing it. However, all of the ADDONS are from unknown 3rd party providers and there is always a risk that you could be installing a problem. I feel that the top 20 ADDONS in the ARES site are reasonably safe. Many have had several hundred thousand downloads and the forums would be screaming, if malware was embedded. None the less, i feel I should give you that caution.

The front-end I am using is from Dr. H Arias on the ARES WIZARD site. The install I am using is The Wolverine No XXX. As a side note, most of these Builds (as ARES calls them) have adult (XXX) and non adult content. Most of the builds have XXX in the download title to indicate an adult build. This provider has reversed that and if you click on The Wolverine, you will get adult content. Just a heads up.

A second side note. Many of the builds take into consideration the features of the KODI release. Therefore, you have to know the KODI release you are on and whether the “build” will work with it or not. Don’t try to install a Jarvis build on a pervious version of KODI.

I have been so impressed with the Wolverine No XXX build, that I suggested that I put it on a friend’s Premier Smart TV BOX.

That gave me some more experience on Android differences. Up until KODI went to the Jarvis (release 16) version, the Premier box would run all addons as well as my Amazon products. However, with Jarvis, the only build that seems to work is the TVADDONS build. It is fine, just not quite as nice of a presentation as I would like.

The Premier box is running Android 4.4 of 4.2, I don’t remember which. I don’t now if the problems are related to the old release of Android of something else. Just another heads up incase you are thinking of buying an Android box to check the version of Android OS that it is running.

Android vs Apple OSX

Transitioning to a new subject. KODI pushed me away from Apple TV (IOS) to Amazon Fire Stick (an android derivative). I couldn’t install KODI on the Apple TV. The price of upgrading Lilliam’s Apple 4S to a better phone gave me a reason to move to an Android phone. I have also bought an Android tablet, which has KODI on it as well. I still have an Apple iPad, which is Lilliam’s.

Now I am in a Apple OS X, Apple IOS and multiple Android system environment. This has given me several new experiences and I feel better equipped to evaluate the pros and cons of Apple vs Google android.

I and Lilliam love our LG G4 android phones. Hardware wise I think they are pretty comparable to the Apple products. I replaced my iPhone 6+ with my LG G4 at about a third the price. Many things, I like better about the android system than IOS and there are still a lot of things I like better about Apple and IOS.

Photos – For me, I personally like the Google Photos cloud storage better than Apple’s iCloud. There is no upper limit to the photos I can have in the Google photos. Apple has a fee to use more of its cloud. I have had to learn how to manage my photos in a MacBook Pro using the Google Photos storage. It added a little hassle, but not enough to be a real problem.

GPS – The LG G4 GPS is not as good as Apple’s. That caused me to invest in a Garmin Navigation device for our upcoming trip to the US. This bothered me for a while, but for the US, it will actually be better. I don’t have to schedule my first stop in the US as a cell phone store to buy a chip. Since most of our communications in Panama are via WhatsApp text and voice, I may be able to get by without a phone chip since I will normally be close to a wifi hotspot. I also have Magic Jack on my cell, so I call call US numbers if I am at a wifi hotspot as well.

A poor functioning GPS is a little of a nuisance in Panama because I had used WAZE when navigating in Panama. I have to blame that problem on LG as the manufacture of the phone. I haven’t tried WAZE on Lilliam’s phone to see if it is across the entire G4 family or just my phone. It could also be the android version on the LG phone.

Android updates – This has been a sore point and one where Apple blows Google out of the water. I never had and still don’t have a problem staying current with Apple updates OS X and IOS. An upgrade comes out and it is available.

That isn’t true with android. Android 6 (marshmallow) has been out almost a year and only about 4% of the android phones have it. I use Claro and have 6.0 on my phone.Lilliam has C&W and her phone still doesn’t have 6.

The only way to insure getting all the android updates is to have a NEXUS phone. That is the name of the phones that Google first distributes updates too. The bad thing is that the NEXUS branded phones are the higher end phones and prices start getting closer to Apple’s.

I saw that Steve Wozniak advocated that Apple make an android phone the other day. If they did, I would consider buying one. The android system is more fun than IOS, more tailorable than IOS, just not as secure. I am not talking encryption, I am talking about having the latest security release installed on a phone. With multiple manufacturers, multiple delays by cell providers it is almost impossible to be current.

It is not as important to me, as it used to be, to have all Apple. I need my calendar and contacts synced in all devices all the time. That is my one necessity. I have accomplished that by establishing my primary email account as gmail. Now a change made on any device shows up within seconds to all devices just as it did when I was all Apple.

In a previous post, I had mentioned I purchased an Nvidia K1 8” tablet. It was distributed with android 5.1. However, it had a pending update waiting for android 6.0 when I received the tablet. I had read about problems with android 6.0 on this tablet and I still haven’t updated. Many didn’t do their research and updated and the forums are filled with unhappy people. Moving to android does require you to understand more pay more attention to technology than Apple does.

Don’t want any problems, stick with Apple. Want your life to be a little more exciting, try android.

Oh, and I love my ASUS ZenWatch 2. A forth the price of an Apple watch and does everything I want.

Microsoft Windows

This writeup would not be complete without something about Microsoft. I have recently had three Windows 10 experience on three different devices. I think that Windows 10 is a decent OS on most PCs and Laptops.It appears that Microsoft’s plan on keeping the OS the same on their tablets as their PCs is starting to bare fruit. Who knows, when my MacBook Pro plays out, I might consider a Microsoft device again.

There is even a small chance that the Windows phone may start to gain in sales. Stranger things have happened.

However, upgrading to Windows 10 is not perfect. I still have not been able to get Natalie’s laptop to accept the upgrade. I purchased a VIOTEK device that runs Windows 8.1 and have not been able to get it upgraded yet. That device has not accomplished what I wanted t accomplish and it may be for sale one of these days as another KODI TV device. I’ll make you a good deal.

If you made it to this point in the post, I will give you a few reasons why technology is important if you move to Panama and may even determine where you live.

Most people moving here leave family in other parts of the world. The Internet is going to be your best friend. I consider it so important that it is one of the reasons I live in David. I have 10 Mbps download speed. I had 6 and it was fine, but Cable Onde upgraded me.

Many living in remote areas will be lucky to get1 Mbps and will pay more for that than I do for Cable TV, Internet and landline phone. My current bill is around $70.

If you are living in a remote area, your cell provider will be an important consideration. I have heard from many that when power outages occurs in some areas, they even lose cell connectivity. From a home security standpoint, that is something to think about. When criminals are trying to break into your house, you certainly want to be able to call for help.

I also want to be able to check on my home when I am away and be notified if my alarm is activated. My camera systems allow me to see what’s happening and notify the appropriate person.

I enjoy living here and don’t regret the move, but healthcare, home and personal security and technology should be on your decision list.

My stomach is growling. I guess it is time to take a break and go get something to eat.

13 thoughts on “More on the Technology Front

  1. Good writeup as usual, Don. And I absolutely must get on the (fire) stick and try out KODI. It has been on my list since you first wrote about it but retirement never leaves me enough free time to get it working. One problem with retirement is that I don’t get weekends off anymore!

  2. I’m loving my KODI more and more as I learn how to navigate my way around. Thanks so much for suggesting it and helping me figure it out.

  3. Hi Don: you certainly have come a long way since I turned you on to XBMC. Very good post and as usual very informative.

  4. Hi Patrick. I don’t believe you turned me onto XBMC. If you did, it was in 2005 when I was using Linux and the product was not very good and I only used it a short time. My recollection was finding it in the Linux Forums. However at my age, my memory could be bad. Maybe you were reading my blog in 2005.

  5. Ah, the olden days of the “new AMD 64 processor”!
    Now, what were we talking about? 🙂

  6. Question please? So your 10 mbps is from internet service in David? How fast are the remote services, e.g. activo, telecomm? Does anyone know? I currently have 1.5 with active but not satisfied. I live via volcan. I also have Claro modem which is sometimes better, sometimes worse than activo, depending the time of day. Thanks.

  7. My 10 Mbps is from Cable Onda. Most of the remote services I know of hit about 2 Mbps max and in my mind you pay a fortune for that. Remote providers are Active, Planet Telecom, Cable Onda (Having bought out Mobilnet) and some others.

  8. Dear Mr. Ray: I want to setup a system like you speak of. Aside from the Amazon Fire Sticks……..which other apparatus do I need to buy? Is KODI a box or just software? Please post a detailed list of hardware needed to get the system rolling. Thank you.

  9. KODI is software. It will run on most devices as the links in this post will explain. Any system having android Play Store can download it. Many Smart TV can install KODI if they have enough memory. It is hard to beat the Amazon Fire Stick at $39 though.

  10. So, I don`t need to buy the Amazon Fire TV ? I decided to buy three Amazon Fire Sticks. Is that enough to run the system you mention in your article?

  11. The Fire Stick is fine as long as you have a good WiFi network connection in your house to your router. If you run 3 simultaneously you also have to have sufficient Internet bandwidth to support the load.

    I will soon have two Amazon Fire TVs and one Amazon Fire Stick, but normally they all won’t be running at the same time, I have had a Fire TV and a Fire Stick running at the same time with no problems.

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