Category Archives: Internet

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. Continue reading Why I Write About Technology

Reflecting on a Rainy Day

Have you ever sat back and asked yourself if there was anything you are really missing in your life? You know that special item that would make you complete. I do that often and I am always relieved when I come to the conclusion that I have it all.

Oh, sure I could wish that my kids had more money and in my son’s case better health. However, I would never wish that they had so much money that they would lose the appreciation one gets from the simpler things in life.

I have mentioned this before. I have had more money in the past, but I have never had more happiness. As I sit on my terrace a gentle rain is making circles on the swimming pool. The air is fresh from the cleansing the rain is providing.

I have beautiful music playing on Pandora, my tummy is full and I finished reading the book I just wrote about in a previous post. I think the the book was even improved by the environment in which it was read. There is nothing like reading in a music filled stress free setting.

Even the occasional thunder added to the chemistry of making me think all is right with the world. I wish more people could feel as good as I feel today.

The biggest challenge I am facing is deciding what type of bread to bake tomorrow. I promised I would cook lunch tomorrow, and I think some fresh baked bread will be a welcome addition. I normally bake a Dill Bread recipe, but this time I want something different. Suggestions are welcome.

I will, go by El Rey in the morning and pick up a couple items I am missing. Maybe a little wine will be called for as it will have been a long time since I took on the cooking duty. The wine will will either help celebrate a success or make everyone forget how bad it is.

“…A Jug of Wine, a Loaf of Bread – and Thou Beside me singing in the Wilderness – Oh, Wilderness were Paradise enow!”

Have I told you that it really doesn’t get better than this?

Internet Security and Passwords

I am in Panama City for a couple days. Today and tomorrow, I will be meeting with the Embassy for Warden’s Appreciation meetings and training sessions. Luckily, this time I am in PC with a capable laptop and don’t feel cutoff from the Internet.

Connecting to the Internet here has reminded me of a couple security items.

First, I am connected to a secure router requiring a password. However, when I turn on my PC I can see it and another 30 available routers. Most require a password, there are two InternetParaTodos free connections, and a few routers that the owner has not secured.

I have advised the owner, of the router I am on, to turn off broadcast mode so his router is not visible. If no can see your router, it is practically impossible to break in. Not impossible, but almost. If you use the default settings on a router, then others can try the various manufactures general settings.

Moving past router connection security, I want to talk about password management again. I have covered it several times, the last being HERE.

I started using LastPass as my password manager about 8 months ago. With it, I only have to remember one HARD TO CRACK password. I let it remember all the rest. I still currently use the free version, but am considering moving to the premium version so it will be available on my iPhone and iPad.

The primary reason for using a password manager is to have different HARD TO CRACK passwords on all sites. When you have multiple email accounts, multiple credit cards, multiple banks, multiple websites requiring sign-in, then remembering them all is impossible.

I can’t do it and doubt if many can, so they just use the same simple password on all sites. I just used a password tester on my password and it said it would take 500 iterations to crack it. I will change that in the next week by a factor of ten.

Since my need to improve my own security was on my mind, I thought I would post another awareness post for others. The Internet is less safe each day and you have to practice safe behavior. You can’t cover your PC with a condom and expect it to do any good. 😉

Whew!

The other day I received the upgrades for my Mac Mini that I had mentioned in a previous post. Normally, when I work on PCs I don’t worry too much, because I have always had a spare.

This time was different. Since downsizing, I am depending on my 2010 Mac Mini. The biggest problem I foresaw was that it had a relatively small hard drive and I didn’t think it would hold all the data from the iMac I sold. It also needed a small speed increase.

It took me literally two days to accomplish the upgrade. The installation of the SSD was a little more difficult than I expected. However, I got the SSD installed and installing the Snow Leopard OS that came on the system was no real problem.

With this done, I could see that all components of the PC still functioned. First deep breath taken.

Next I needed to install the Mountain Lion OS. This was my first mental challenge. The previous hardware installation required a little manual dexterity. This one just required mental agility, apparently more than I had after the SSD install. Continue reading Whew!

Neat Stuff


This is pretty neat. I am doing this post on my iPad which is tethered to my iPhone. I am in a location where I need to access the Internet and my iPad is WiFi only.

While viewing the Internet on an iPhone is possible and I do it all the time, it is really difficult to type much on an iPhone.

Tethering allowed me to connect to the Internet on the iPhone, but use the iPad for all viewing and data entry.

 

Technology and the Olympics

If you want to keep up with the Olympic standings and info on all the competitors, there is an app for that. Samsung has done a great job with their app.

For a non Spanish speaker, one of the annoyances is having to watch the Olympics with Spanish commentators.

I decided to see what I could find on the Internet. NBC has streaming in the U.S., but you have to have U.S. cable to see it. Bummer.

Then I found that BBC was streaming the live events. BBC doesn’t have their streaming requiring cable, but you do have to be in England.

I decided to configure my router VPN location to London. Bingo! I now can select the live event I want to watch and am getting the broadcast in English. Granted, it is the British form of English, but better for my ears than Spanish.

It is not perfect. I am getting some spooling, but it is still watchable. The benefits are English, and I can select the live event I want to watch.

I do live in David and have Cable Onda for my Internet. My contract is for 4MB and I get pretty close. Under VPN I get less, and I am getting less with the London server, than the San Francisco server I usually use.

This is the first time I have found a need to use a server outside the U.S. and it has been a good test.

WiTopia Renewal

I am completing my first year using WiTopia’s CloakBox on the 12th of June. Today, I just paid my next year’s renewal fee of $99. I am still happy with the service. Their site said it was going to be $129 for the second year and I was surprised when the cost was $99.

At $99 a year that costs me $8.25 a month or just 27 cents a day to have the benefit of having access to sites that I would not have access to because I live in Panama. WiTopia’s plans for single PCs start at $39 a year.

CloakBox is WiTopia’s VPN service provided via a router and is therefore available on all PCs that are connected to my router.

WiTopia was the second VPN provider that I tried and they have done nothing to make me regret my decision. If you are not familiar with the benefits of having a VPN, you can read this post.

The renewal process was pretty painless. I just signed onto their site and clicked on my renewal notice in my account. I used PayPal which allowed me to use Discover. This gives me an additional 2% discount.

I have no problem streaming video or musical content over the Internet. If you have a bandwidth challenged Internet provider, then a VPN might not work for you.

Lost in Music

Music is like medicine for me. Sometimes I forget to get my required dose and I forget what an uplifting experience it is. I have recently gotten my surround sound going and I have a MacMini hooked up to my receiver.

While I usually use the MacMini for watching movies from Amazon, this morning I signed on to Spotify. Sometimes I like Spotify better than Pandora because I can put on a complete album and listen to it from beginning to end.

This morning’s selection was “The Spanish Guitar – 60 Favorite Songs”. Absolutely beautiful!
I was immersed in music that I know and love, but all of the selections had been arranged for the Spanish guitar. It is strictly an instrumental album and while it was playing I was absolutely lost in music.

If you want to get a taste of the music that captured me this morning, you can go HERE and sample some of the selections.

I am having a great day and hope you are too. If your day is not quite up to par, then maybe you are missing some music too. If you have Spotify, listen along with me.

Magic Jack Final Effort

In some previous posts, I wrote about my problems in buying international time on my Magic Jack. If you are not acquainted with magic Jack, it is a product that allows you to make unlimited calls to the U.S. and Canada for a mere $30 a year. I use if frequently and it has save me a bundle.

Other than the problems mentioned above, I really have no complaint with Magic Jack, but I want this problem fixed.

I finally decided to try to resolve the problem once again. While doing some Internet searches, I stumbled upon a recent review of Magic Jack in PC World. While they gave it pretty good ratings, they did mention the difficulty of getting service via the Internet.

At the end of the article was several comments and one was from the owner of Magic Jack. It provided his email address (dan@magicJack.com) and he acknowledged that there was a problem and that he was addressing it. I took advantage of his providing his number and have written him. It will be interesting to see when or if I get a response.

However, in the same article, they mentioned another competing product called NetTalk Duo.

This appears to be an interesting product and I am going to study it more. In looking at its website, in some regards it may be slightly more expensive. However, I see another possibility. It has a plan for unlimited international calls for $120, if I am interpreting it right. Unfortunately, it doesn’t cover Costa Rica and Panama, there are 60 countries covered in the plan. Still, $10 a month might be worth it just to have unlimited calls to China for Lilliam.

Here is a feature comparison with its competitors, including Magic Jack.

That is the problem with providing poor customer service. People start shopping around and they may find a reason to switch providers. Oh, did I mention that I can transfer my existing Magic Number to NetTalk? If I don’t hear something soon, I may make the switch.

Planet Telecom

UPDATED March 23, 2011 –

I just received an email from Dave saying that Planet Telecom now has service in Volcan, Paso Ancho and parts of Cerro Punta. I will leave this notice on the front page of CC for a few days to get the word out.

Feb 6, 2011 – I received the following information that may be of interest to anyone living in a rural area of Chiriqui.

For some, living in a paradise like Panama is a dream come true. Warm weather, friendly people, and an excellent value for the dollar.
But, there are some challenges that residents have historically had to learn to live with, one of which being a lack of quality, reliable Internet access.

Since the arrival of Planet Telecom Panama, that is beginning to change. Residents now have an alternative to what was being offered before, opening up the online world for things like shopping, online reading and research, remote offices, Skype and IP telephones, and even web browsing – allowing clients to better communicate with the world at large.

Continue reading Planet Telecom