VPN vs Unlocator

I met a couple at yesterday’s Embassy’s Outreach that had read some of my original posts on VPN and were using WiTopia to allow themselves to access some US sites that only allow US IP addresses.

They had also read my first post on Unlocator and had tried it and had some problems while Unlocator was in their early stages. I had two days of problems when I first signed up too.

However, since I have been using Unlocator now for over two months without any problems, I thought it might be worth another post.

First, if you are not aware of the benefits of a VPN, read this. Everything mentioned in my previous post about VPNs is still true. I have kept WiTopia on my laptop and use it if I am traveling to insure I have a secure connection.

I have moved to Unlocator for my home access to Netflix and Hulu for one big reason. Unlocator does not do any of the encryption that VPNs do and my Internet speed for movie streaming has doubled. My IP address shows up as a Panama IP address and Unlocator provides you with DSN addresses that solve the problem of accessing many sites.

Unlocator is still in beta and it is currently free to try, but will charge $5 a month when it leaves beta. I will have no problem paying to use them.

VPN is an advantage if you travel a lot and are using a lot of free Internet access points. If you are not aware of how dangerous it is to use non password protected Internet access, study up a bit on Internet Identity theft.

A final note on Unlocator. It will work on a PC, a router, Apple TV, Xbox or PS3, Roku and other devices. The Unlocator site specifies all supported devices, sites and has installation instructions.

Try it while it is free and see if it will work for you. I have it installed on my Apple Time Capsule (Apple’s router with automatic backup) and all devices in my house receive the benefit.

Two For Two

Carlos Arauz has done it again. I don’t know if my iPhone had been hit, but about a 1/4 inch of the screen has been dead for several months. This problem prevented me from changing to numeric or changing languages.

I took it to Carlos and had him replace the front screen. Now I have a brand new (hardware wise) iPhone 4S. It is working perfect. I am super happy!

I dropped off an original Apple Mac Mini to be diagnosed when I picked up my iPhone. I also have another friend that has an iPad with a busted screen that I think Carlos will get the opportunity to work to work on.

I am very pleased with the work Carlos did. He is a very professional young man and very experienced with Apple, having worked for Apple in Panama City for five years.

If you are in need of Apple service and don’t want to wait for the item to be sent to and from Panama City, drop me a note and I will provide you with Carlos’s contact information.

Apple TV Update

Today Apple rolled out the update to their Apple TV software matching some of the new features of IOS 7. The new 6.0 firmware added support for iTunes Radio and purchases from the iTunes Music Store. In addition it added podcast syncing, viewing of shared photo streams and AirPlay from iCloud.

For me, the addition of iRadio is really nice. Now I can listen to the music I like on larger speakers. Today, I have been listing to Paul Simon, Guy Clark, Fleetwood Mac and other of my favorites.

I think the update was originally scheduled for the same day as IOS 7, but the demand caused by everyone downloading IOS 7 postponed it until today.

Now my toughest decision for the day is deciding to have some sangria or a margarita to go along with the music. I hope the neighbors can stand some non-Latino music for a while.

I may have to put on some Selena. That’s it, I will go with sangria.

iPhone Migrated To IOS 7

I really intended to wait a week or so before making the upgrade, but curiosity got the best of me.

Late Wednesday, I downloaded the new OS and installed it on my iPhone. Everything went smooth.

It is just like having a new iPhone. I tested it for several hours and think I now understand most of the changes. I definitely like it better than the previous OS.

The only problem I am expecting is to have some battery shortage , since that is the typical problem with most Apple OS upgrades.

One of the big changes is having access to Apple iRadio. I am anxious to see how it works away from the house. I also like the improved security in case a phone is lost or stolen.

I have never upgraded systems as easily as I have with Apple.

Now I have to wait another month until the desktop OS is updated.

The following email was sent by Apple following the installation.
IOS Email

Some Apple Experiences

My first PC was an Apple II. I loved it. It started the PC revolution. However, Bill Gates landed the contract to provide the operation system for IBM and my work required my migrating to the Microsoft environment. My second PC was an IBM.

Once parts started becoming available, I built all of my PCs. I could build a higher quality system than you could buy from a vendor. The same is still true. Dell, HP and others are caught up in the commodity market and that tends to drive quality down to have competitive prices.

When Jobs returned to Apple, I liked Apple’s equipment, but I could never justify paying more than it would cost me to build an equivalent system.

My last Microsoft system was a Gateway, because I found a very good deal. It was well built and a screamer. Once I moved it from Windows Vista to Windows 7, it was a fine PC. Windows 7 is the best OS Microsoft ever built in my opinion. I know there are still XP advocates, but I liked 7 much better. However, it required a lot of power to run 7 and many stayed with XP because it ran on older hardware. Continue reading

Mac Mini Back UP and Running

I mentioned, the other day, that I had a hard disk failure on my Mac Mini. I also mentioned that I had turned it over to Carlos Arauz, who works at PanaFoto, to replace the failed disk.

I am happy to report that he contacted me this afternoon and it was ready. To have it fixed in two days without having to send it to Panama City is fantastic.

It is good to know that there is someone in David that has worked on Apple hardware for Apple.

He returned it to me with the latest OS on it and all I had to do was use Time Machine to restore my data.

If time would have permitted, I would have ordered a 500 GB SSD from the US and had him install it, but that would have cost me at least two weeks and I wasn’t willing to wait that long. Next time will be the time for the SSD upgrade.

I give Carlos two thumbs up. If you stop into PanaFoto, and happen to be in the Apple area, tell Carlos you read about him on Chiriquí Chatter.

What An Improvement!

Last night I got the memory upgrade to the Mac Mini. I went from 2 GB to 16 GB. The PC had been about to drive me crazy, in fact I only used it when I had to.

Now, I can have multiple tasks open, email, photo editor, multiple tabs on the browser and nothing slows down.

One more task off the “To Be Done” list. Now I am ready for Apple to release their next OS upgrade which is scheduled later this year.

All is Not Lost – Almost

This is a good news – bad news story. I have a friend that recently invested in a MacBook Pro, based on my recommendation. One of the things I told him was that if you have an Apple PC, one feature that is in the OS that should be used is TimeMachine.

TimeMachine backs up your PC every hour without you having to think about it. You never know when trouble is going to strike. You do have to invest in an external hard drive, but other than that, it is pretty much plug it in and go.

If you have a hard drive with books in progress, tons of photos or other information that is critical to you, and it crashes, you will say, “Why didn’t I back my system up?” Of course that is after you uttered 5 minutes of expletives.

With TimeMachine, it remembers to back up for you. You will still utter the expletives, but at least your data is safe.

Joe BtfsplkMy friend reminds me of Joe Btfsplk from the old Li’l Abner comics. Remember, he was the fellow that always walked around with a black cloud hanging over his head.

As I said, my friend, a writer, purchased the MacBook and loved it. He would toss it in his backpack and take it wherever he went and was finding it very dependable. That was until the day he tossed it into his backpack along with a thermos of hot coffee. Apparently he had not made sure the top was secure on the thermos and coffee ran into the MacBook.

He learned that Apple’s warranty does not include bathing with a laptop, washing it in a washing machine or pouring coffee on the keyboard. To make it worse, the cost to repair (at least in Panama) is as much as buying a new MacBook. Yikes! Since I had recently upgraded my MacMini, my old Mac Mini was available and he is now up on it.

Now here is the good news of the story. We set up the Mac Mini yesterday. Signing on to iCloud immediately restored all his contacts and calendar. We plugged in the TimeMachine backup and restored all his files (documents, works in progress, and photos).

He did lose a very expensive piece of equipment, but more importantly he did not lose any of the data that he had spent years and many hours creating. Many items on his laptop were irreplaceable.

I can’t emphasize how important it is to backup your data. It is not that hard to do, but if it is something you have to remember to do, you will remember to do it after it is too late and something will be lost.

I know many of you coming to Panama may be using PCs more than you ever did back home. Storing photos of this beautiful country, writing your experiences on a blog, using Skype to keep up with kids back home, banking or what not. Learn from a resident Panama “Joe Btfsplk”. Back up your friggen PC before it is too late!

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.


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. Continue reading

The Same Is Now Different

I have spent the last couple days migrating my PC operations to a new PC ( New for me at least). I was lucky enough to learn of a fantastic 2011 Mac Mini that was for sale. Another person was considering it and had asked for my evaluation of the system. I said it was a fantastic buy.

However, the individual was looking for a system to run Windows and multiple displays and by the time memory was added to the new system and the Windows OS was purchased, it would have cost more than a new Windows 8 PC, so it wasn’t purchased. Also, running multiple displays would have required using at least one of the Apple displays and they cost as much as many PCs.

I said I would take it when it came available and it is replacing my 2010 Mac Mini. For me its only shortcoming was its lack of memory. It had 2 GB of memory and I tend to have many tasks running and operating in that manner, it doesn’t run, it creeps. In fact until I get the memory upgraded, I will probably only use it to store my files for backup.

I have ordered 16 GB of memory from the US for $107 and it will arrive in July. Current price from Apple would be $400. With that memory, it should should do everything I want.

The difference between my PC and the new one is minimal, when comparing compute power, but the new one communicates to my Apple TV and my 2010 mini didn’t. That was the main reason for the switch.

I have a friend that has been looking for a PC for some Native Panamanian Indians so they can continue their education. They will be using my old PC. One transaction and many beneficiaries.