Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Computer Update and Electronics in General

Ah, my dear faithful readers--the computer saga continues. This might be a good time to tell you about general electronic issues in Ecuador.

Starting with my laptop, a Dell Latitude D820, approximately five years old, is considered ancient when in need of spare parts. This isn't unusual. I read somewhere about someone who forgot their power cord in the States when they came here and ended up sending off for a new one back where they came here from. It was a costly enterprise when you consider the cost of shipping and, more importantly, it was a lengthy process. Their advice, which I heartily second, is to start with equipment that is on the new side, be sure you have everything you need for it, then get spares of things that fail with more regularity than others. I would add that it would be a good idea to have a genuinely excellent electronics technician go over all your electronics and advise on which might be best either replaced or at least have a backup on hand if it is needed.

Also, think about what kinds of electronics you might want to purchase after you arrive and think about whether or not it might be to your advantage to purchase them in advance. This applies to more
than just traditional electronics such as computers and such. It also applies to anything electrical and their peripherals. More on that in a minute.

Let's finish up with the computer-type electronics.  The other consideration is cost.  Electronics and parts (when they're available) costs at least 40% more here.  I purchased a little 4 GB memory stick to use when I'm at the Internet cafes and for somewhere around $16.  It seems to me I remember seeing them for quite a bit less in the States. So, you see, even the little things are important.

I've addressed this before but it's worth another mention. If you're a reader, even occasionally, remember that you aren't going to be able to find many (if any) English language books you actually want.  To have a book shipped for the States costs between $10 and $20 (or more) depending on how heavy it is and how it's packaged.  If you're OK with that, you're in good shape.  If not, you definitely want either a Kindle (or similar device) or a small computer tablet, like an iPad.  Each has its advantages and disadvantages and a little thinking about what you want from it and your budget will probably solve that decision for you.  The main differences are cost and size.  The Kindle is both smaller and less expensive and the iPad is, obviously, the opposite.  Amazon has a Kindle app that can be installed on your computer so getting books is no problem.  The Kindle Fire is small enough to put in most purses, is in color, and has access to the internet.  I can't imagine being without my Kindle.

Cell phones: check with your provider to see if the cell phone you currently own is locked or unlocked for international use. I wish I knew more about what that means but the important things to know are that it must be unlocked and that your cell phone provider will be able to tell you if your phone is or isn't. There are the same two ways to get minutes for your cell phone as in the States and, I would guess, most other places--buy minutes as you go or have a plan.  Since I rarely use my phone here, I buy minutes.  The price varies and they also have 2 for 1 sales and I even heard of a 3 for 1 sale some time before I got here. I just learned Saturday that in order to get a cell phone plan, you need to have had a bank account for six months.

Land Lines: Very few people have land lines here so I'm not overly familiar with those.  I've heard that you need to get on the waiting list if there are no new numbers available and you get a line when one becomes available.  The person I know here who has one didn't have that problem but it might be worth checking out if you really want one.  Some of the forums will undoubtedly have people who have gone through that in various parts of Ecuador who would be happy to help you.

Magic Jack: I just discovered these when I was doing my pet sitting gig this past three weeks.  You would be well advised to go to their website and magicjackhelp.com if you are thinking about getting one.  They work great but prior research is a good idea.  The cost of buying one down here seems to be about $100 and I don't know if that includes a free year of service.

Now, on to less gadget-y things. These are the things I took for granted in the States: a toaster, sewing machine, mixer, and other such things.  You can get them here but trust me when I tell you the quality is definitely not the same and, if it is, it's very expensive to purchase them.  My personal examples: I bought what I thought was a great thing--a toaster oven for $30.  I didn't expect it to be top-of-the-line for that price but what I discovered is that the it doesn't have a heat selector, and it burns the outside of the bread before the inside is nicely warmed.  I decided to take it back and purchase the toaster I saw at a store down the street.  They don't do returns here.  Once you buy it, it's yours.  I did a bit of fast talking and managed to get them to let me purchase $30 of other products that day and they took it back but from the looks of the clerks who witnessed the manager doing this, it might have been a first.

Once I had that taken care of I went down the street and purchased the toaster for $23 (if memory serves, I could get one on sale for $10 in the States).  It didn't do much better on the toasting operation and, after using it 5 times, it refused to push the toast down and start the toasting process.  There is still no return possible.  They took it to repair and told me to come back in a week.  Then they said another week, then they said two more weeks.  I still don't have it back.

I'm not angry because this is Ecuador, not the United States.  One of the reasons I love living here is the culture and this is part of it--not the part I love but part of it nonetheless.  I may have an opportunity to have some things shipped down here along with someone else's things and, thankfully, I hadn't gotten rid of everything when I came down here.  We weren't sure I'd want to stay.  So, I still have my Kitchenaid Mixer with grinder attachment, pressure cooker, sewing machine, toaster, etc., and even though I probably won't get them for a year (long story) I'll have them at some point and that makes me happy!

As for my current computer issue, it looks like another two weeks.  Yep, I know you've heard that before but it's how it's looking right now.  I'll stop being so whiny and write more often in the meantime, just sans photos.  I keep waiting to write, thinking I'll have my computer up and running in no time and, well, that just isn't happening, is it?  So, I'll see what I have to tell you about that doesn't include photos and go from there. I won't be posting one a day as I was before but I'll have some done for you.

I miss all of you very much.  I look forward to having more posts with photos very soon.


  1. Cynthia,
    To prepare us for a problem like this in the future, Can you please tell us what the computer problem was? And was the delay in getting it repaired because parts are not available in Ecuador? Have you asked the computer repairman which computer brands are more easily fixed in Ecuador because parts are more readily available?
    Thank you, I am sure a lot of your readers will be happy with your reply to this comment.

    1. So sorry, Edward--with all I wrote, I thought I had included that. Thanks for asking.

      It was my RAM chip. The part wasn't available at the biggest computer store in the area and he said he wasn't able to get one because the computer was too old. It's hard to know if a part is going to be available or not. It really depends on what access the store owner has to parts and such. It's not a simple question and no one really has a good answer for it. What I know for sure is that if your computer doesn't use proprietary parts (I think you have to get Dell parts for a Dell computer but I could be wrong), you're far ahead of the game.

  2. Cynthia, so nice to read your new post. We both have relatively new laptops but I know from past experience the parts and repairs are more expensive than on a desktop.
    We just had an auctioneer here to discuss having an auction in October so things are moving right along. Again, hope your computer gets fixed and you can post all those neat pictures I know you've been taking.
    Best, Ken in Wisconsin

    1. Hoe exciting that you're looking at a potential auction in October! I'm so looking forward to sharing all those photos with everyone. Soon -- very soon. I have faith.

  3. Your computer is definitely one thing you’ll find hard living without, given the fact that many activities of modern life now revolve around the use of one. Like that American guy you were talking about. I’m sure it cost him quite a lot to ship a power cord for his computer from where he came from, but I'm sure it was necessary. In your laptop’s case, it is something that causes you some pretty wearisome troubles, but it is also one that helps make your life easier and more productive. In fact, I think it’s a good thing that it has lasted for such a long time under your care. It reflects your personality. But if you do find the troubles much weightier than getting a new one, then it may be time to switch over to a new computer.

    Darryl Housand

    1. Yes, I'm really looking forward to the new one. It's a huge expense but I know it will be well worth it. The thing I'm most looking forward to is being able to get network television shows now that I have a VPN account. Hurray!

  4. Have you bought a new one yet, Cynthia? It’s too bad to let go of that laptop that you have been using for so long, but hey, getting a new one will sure make you more productive. Since you’re looking forward to catch television shows on your new laptop, you better get the one with an upgraded video card for better graphics. =)

    Max Nilsen

  5. True, it's about time you get a new computer, Cynthia. Your laptop has served you well. :) You can definitely use a new one with updated feats that can cater to your needs. And best of all, you wouldn't be having computer problems for some time. :)

    -Benita Bolland

  6. I know this is a somewhat older post, but I hope you kept your old laptop. Ram is very cheap - you could have it mailed from the U.S in a simple shipping envelope. Also very easy to replace, for $20 bucks or so you would have a back-up laptop. I can tell you how to replace the ram in about 30 seconds if you give me the model #.

    Love your posts by the way, been catching up on your old post lately.

    Thanks for all the info,


  7. Thanks for sharing your experiences! We are pondering a move to Ecuador with our three children, and one of the things that is the biggest challenge for me is letting go of EVERYTHING. I can let go of almost everything... but, we're healthy eaters, with allergies and specific food preferences and make a lot of our food at home. We have high end blenders, a nice food processor, juicers, a dehydrator, pressure cookers, etc... There's no way that's all fitting in a few suitcases, and it doesn't sound like those items will be replaceable there at the same quality, even for a higher cost. What's the deal with shipping items to Ecuador? Is shipping secure? If I order a few higher end, expensive things, will they actually make it there? Computers are a whole other story... letting go of my desktop computer will be a challenge, too! :-)

    1. Ah, Tara--yes, letting go of everything is, indeed, a challenge. I left behind things I regret but, like you, could figure out no way to get it here without spending a small fortune. Shipping costs are very high (around $5 per pound) and not always reliable. Many things have tariffs on them when they are shipped in as well. Of course part of the issue is how much you can afford to spend. I flew Delta and discovered they have small containers you can ship for several hundred dollars but I didn't research it because it wasn't an option for me. Many people ship their household belongings down here in containers (the ones you see being loaded and unloaded from ships). Of course that wasn't an option for me either. What I've considered is trying to find someone who is having a container shipped down here who would be willing to put a few boxes on it for me. It's a complex process but it might be possible. Then it's just a matter of getting the boxes from my daughter's to that person. I figure it's worth investigating at some point.

      Why don't you drop me an email at cynthia [dot] collett [at] gmail [dot] com and we can talk about it in more detail. I can give you a call on Skype if you'd like.

      Once you get all of this taken care of and get down here, you're going to absolutely love it here!

    2. I'm heading to Ecuador very soon myself... Luckily, I know someone who has yet to get their "household" tax-free shipment... but this does involve working with very slow middle men and women. After some thought, I have decided to wait until I get my residency and my own household shipment, mostly because I will know more about what I need. In the meantime, I have employed a my dear mother as my middle-woman stateside because the packing of your crate or containers must be exact... and done only by a professional. Anything less than that and you will experience delays or even damage to your goods.

      However, it seems I can fit a great many things into my luggage.... and here are details I've gotten in last few weeks from Delta. Please don't consider this as gospel. These people are a bit flakey... but I was forced to chose them because of their sway with the Ecuadorian customs regarding animals. Delta is the only carrier that does not require the animals be kept overnight (or longer) in a warehouse until customs clears them.

      You can take *10* bags total with a first class ticket, provided you get flights on a larger jets (be sure to ask before you book). I had to call back several times and talk to a supervisor before I had all the facts on flying my cats and belongings. The cats / dogs are considered baggage. You get 2 - 70lb bags at 62 total inches each for free... after that you can bring 8 more bags at 50lbs / 62 inches, for $200 additional per bag. Overweight items are an additional $75 for 51lbs to 70lbs on top of the $200 extra fee. From 71lbs - 100lbs, it's $200 extra. I don't have notes on the oversized fees... but I think you can take up to 120 inches.

      While these prices might seem high, they aren't in comparison to mailing items, shipping crates, and especially shipping full sized containers.

      For my two 70lb bags...hardside Samsonsite F'Lite 30 spinners on sale for $170. They are strong and zipperless. Most zippered luggage can be broken into with a pen (except PacSafe). Yes, a pen!

      To be safe, I suggest a TSA die-cast lock (others are easy to break or pick)... like this one.. http://www.padlocks4less.com/searchalert-luggage-locks.html

      Beyond that, I'm taking plastic lockable foot lockers. With two locks on each side and carefully packed items in foam... I feel fairly confident that my things will arrive in Ecuador safely.

      I do suggest something I heard... Video all the things you are packing... as well as you on film... putting them in the container and locking it. I am putting luggage IDs with a code to distinguish one box from another... so if I *have* to dig something out in Quito before my flight to Loja... I can find it easily. Between the film and the luggage coding, dealing lost luggage should be an easier affair. Buena suerte!