Saturday, April 2, 2016

Technology Breaking Through!

After much concerted effort - and the legendary required Ecuadorian patience - in seeing several technology related projects through to their completion, we're making actual headway on them.  You have no idea how glad I am to report on these developments!

Our concerns and problems developed back last December, as my December 13th post entitled "The Long and Winding Road Towards Computer Functionality" will attest to.  Since then, I tried to enlist the services of what I have termed Tech guy(s) #3, but after the Christmas and New Year's holidays they were no longer living in Cuenca!  One had moved back to the States, the other was now in Quito.  Young guys that never bothered to tell me their very near term living plans.  Not at all professional.  Well. . . cross them off the calling list.  (sigh)

I soon engaged the technical services of Tech guy #4, who I don't mind revealing as Tony Bishop, easily the most recommended and perhaps most used computer tech guy in Cuenca from an expat perspective, according to Gringo Post, at least.  Week after week, month after month, Tony has come here to our condo to do the necessary troubleshooting, repair, removal and reinstallation of software on both the laptop and the desktop computers.  Rarely has Tony had to take a computer home with him to his home shop, but when he did, he brought it back the next day (or business day if picked up on a Friday).  We have gotten to know Tony (and via telephone, his wife Kathi) rather well, and are definitely as of now "heavy users" of their services.  Unlike the previous tech guys, Tony is unfailingly reliable, honest and fair in his dealings with us.  Everything that needed looking after and repairing or fixing has been done to the computers, to our relief.  Onward to the non computer technology areas that have needed attention for so long.  

As you may recall, we recently purchased an Android version Smartphone through the help of our landlady last January.  With it, we can make standard calls to people we know in Cuenca (limited time per month on our Claro plan, which is the second highest featured/expensive two year contract plan Claro offers), and make unlimited WhatsApp calls in Ecuador for *free.*  

Yesterday I finally had the time and opportunity (when Carolyn Anne leaves the condo with the Smartphone, I don't have the opportunity) to finally pay for and test/verify the international calling capabilities of Skype Voice (Skype without the camera and live video feature).  Another new project done and completed, having never done this type of activity before.  You have to pay via credit card (or PayPal or other choices if you prefer) and wouldn't you know it, my first choice in credit card declined the sale twice.  That's due to the increased fraud policing the credit card companies are doing, btw.  I later had a talk with Capital One and got the issue resolved to my satisfaction.  The credit card issuers really want to hear from you before you make a purchase, obviously.  So noted. . . (sigh)

I used our Credit Union's credit card to complete the purchase of service from Skype, and I even had to answer some security questions on the secured Internet site, as well as having to input the password for the credit card itself.  Not knowing what that password was, I reset it and the transaction went through just fine.  Good thing I had spoken by telephone to the Credit Union in the last two weeks, though.  Without that, I likely would have been declined by them as well.  

Now that I had "loaded" our Skype account with funds, and had chosen where in the world we would be calling (the United States at $5.99 a month when purchased for 12 months: worldwide coverage is currently $13.99 a year), I had to find out if our friends and family would be able to call us via Skype Voice.  Perusing the Skype Internet site, it appears the answer is no.  Though we are living in Ecuador, Skype doesn't have the software set up to allow for calls from the USA to Ecuador.  It *does* allow us to call from Ecuador to the US. . . the main point of our efforts).  That's to any cell or landline telephone, btw.  One can(for an extra cost) get a Skype Voice telephone number for folks in the USA to call you if you lived in Mexico or Brazil. . . or other selected First World nations.  But since we live in Ecuador, it's not possible.

So, we can at least make telephone calls we haven't been able to make in months from our residence.  It's never happened while living in Ecuador until yesterday, either.  We'd always walk a block away to a neighborhood cabina de Internet and see Juan, the ever smiling dueno of the Internet cafe/telephone booth calling center and pay 10 cents per minute for the privilege.  No more.  No need to.  Yes, there's been the upfront costs of purchasing the Smartphone, getting the Claro telephone service, and getting Skype international calling service.  But that 10 cents per minute adds up quickly.  Nine hours is the equivalent cost of having the monthly Claro service and the Skype service, and anything over that spent to a rented service such as a cabina de Internet is money misspent.  Making calls using our own Smartphone with the Claro service and Skype Voice to the USA is unlimited minutes, and after nine hours a month, essentially "free."  Knowing how my dear wife loves to talk on the telephone, believe me, we've made the economical choice. . . and it's much more convenient, too.  No more not making calls on holidays - Ecuadorian or not - when family run businesses such as a cabina de Internet is closed.  No more having to wait until the local cabina de Internet is open.  Now we have real utility and convenience at a much more reasonable price overall.  

We made a number of calls to the US yesterday, and I know our friends were glad to hear from us (the flip side is also true: we were glad to hear them, too).  Voice quality using the VOIP technology was reasonably good to very good, and overall better than when we last used regular Skype (with video camera).  So we're pleased.  We'll be making calls to the US on a regular basis over time, and will do our best to be regularly in contact that way.  Again, unfortunately, there apparently is no Skype Voice service that allows for calls from the United States to Ecuador at the present.  

Meanwhile, on another technological front, we now have a new flatscreen television that is connected to our VHS/DVD recorder/player we brought from the States ($395 from our tech guy Tony Bishop).  It's a TCL model 28 inch screen, which fits the entertainment center supplied by our landlady (our condo comes furnished).  TCL - The Creative Life - is a Chinese brand, allegedly the third largest television brand in the world.  The television we purchased is made here in Ecuador.  Our landlady's old tube type television can only be used for cable television and does not have the HDMI jacks necessary for playing DVDs, etc.  We did bring over some DVDs to watch that we transported from the US, and have enjoyed a couple so far.  The DVD player will also play our CDs as well. . . nice bonus!

With both of these developments fully completed and available to us to use, Carolyn Anne is beside herself and is in a delightful mood.  Just in time for our wedding anniversary, too.  Great timing, Lord!  But then again, proper and persistent diligence has provided a way to get these projects fulfilled.  We have to do our part, too.  

Coming up *very* soon (as in next week): the arrival of an Amazon Fire streaming box for television (no need to turn on higher cost cable TV service).  More economical, too.  Cost: $100 and comes direct from the US via a "mule" Tony Bishop uses.  (A "mule" is expat talk for a courier that travels internationally on an airplane, carrying items of value for those on the receiving end of their journey).  The main reason why Amazon Fire is being used is due to its ability to be used in a condo building/dormitory environment, where there are several other residents connected to similar gadgets.  One of the goals in using VPN technology such as Amazon Fire is to "trick" the provider(s) desired into thinking you are in a different country than where you actually are (in our case, we're actually in Ecuador, but want United States programming).  It also has 4K capability and offers plenty of programming, albeit slanted towards whatever Amazon offers or sells.  Tony states that there's a way around that via the Roku app available on the unit.  I definitely want to see how that all works out.  

So as you can see, we're getting caught up techwise to where we may enjoy communicating with those we love, and experience some worthwhile programming of choice as well.  Lots of $1.50 pirate DVDs out there for us to buy, and as long as we don't take them out of Ecuador on an airplane, we're essentially good to go.  Difficult to find regular DVDs that are not pirated versions in the tiendas here, so we're kinda stuck with the pirate versions.  As far as newer original programming goes, that's where the Amazon Fire TV streaming device comes into play.  Looking forward to it, and enjoying the hard weeks and months of tech development that has allowed us to get to this point.      


  1. Glad you got it all sorted out, David. I'll be interested to see how you like the Skype calling. Most of our friends we taught to use regular Skype before we left, but some haven't so we haven't been in touch. Might be an idea for those credit card phone calls as well.

  2. The Skype Voice calling is generally of very good voice quality. I've called several times now, and those we call cannot tell the difference from regular US based cell phone calls when we use Skype Voice here in Ecuador. It's like "being there" without actually being there. (smile)

    A good number of our friends are either disabled in some way, retired, or both. Trying to get them to use anything other than a standard wired telephone or cell phone is either not possible or not affordable (them not being able to afford a smartphone or computer). We tried before we moved to interest as many of our friends as possible in communication modes such as Facebook and/or regular Skype, and Facebook is the clear winner there. We still have friends who use nothing other than a standard telephone, though, and don't have such basics as an email address.