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Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Trinidad overlay on different cities

I wanted to see how the size of Trinidad compared to different cities around the world. This is purely an academic exercise and not meant to imply anything.

Trinidad overlay on Jamaica

Trinidad overlay on London

Trinidad overlay on Miami

Trinidad overlay on New York

Trinidad overlay on Toronto
Trinidad overlay on Abu Dhabi

Trinidad overlay on Canberra

Trinidad overlay on Caracas

Trinidad overlay on Tegucigalpa

Trinidad overlay on Malaysia

Trinidad overlay on New Delhi

Trinidad overlay on Paris

Trinidad overlay on Tokyo

 How big is Trinidad compared to New York City
Map overlay or Trinidad and Tobago on Toronto

Digicel DL755 and DL810 review

I recently got my hands on both of these and here are my thoughts.

Digicel DL755
- Android 5.0.1 Lollipop
- 8GB internal storage
- SD card slot
- Flash on camera (can be used as flashlight)
- Clear colourless silicone case included with phone
- Option to choose order of buttons back,home,preview or preview,home,back
- FM radio available with headset plugged in

- Very narrow viewing angle on screen (screen cannot be read easily if looking at it from any angle except directly ahead)
- Phone feels slow even though it has a 1.2Ghz dual core CPU it has a lot of lag and apps are slow to open.
- Calls were stable but the speaker and mic were low volume during calls.
- No update for OS yet
- Quadrant score of 4744

Digicel DL810
- Decent sized 1780mAh battery giving a long standby time
- 8GB internal storage 
- SD card slot
- Flash on camera (can be used as flashlight)
- Screen has a wide viewing angle and is responsive when touched
- Speakers loud and clear
- Android OS version 5.1
- Quadrant score of 9648 (double the score for DL755, higher is better)

- No case or screen protector included
- No OS updates yet
- Screen is not very sharp as it is 480x854 on a 4.5 inch screen.

Final words
If I had to choose between these phones I would choose the DL810 since it runs more smoothly, has a better screen, better camera and newer OS version. If you take a M or higher post paid plan it is definitely worth the $99 extra for the handset.

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should I buy Digicel dl 755 dl810 phone
quadrant scores for digicel handset

Saturday, April 23, 2016

How to set up a skybox account

This is a basic guide on how to set up a freight forwarding (skybox courier) account from the US, Canada, UK etc to Trinidad and Tobago.
This first part assumes you have your own credit card. The credit card can be from any country as long as the website you are purchasing from accepts it.

1. Choose your provider. There are many to choose from. A quick search on the internet shows a long list. I suggest one with free membership and that charges you on weight rather than volumetric size. Many things ordered online come in over sized boxes. This means you may be charged a lot for a large box which is very light because it has a small item in it. Ask your friends to see what they recommend because there are many factors to consider such as your location, delivery schedule, customer care attitudes etc. Some do not deliver or charge extra to deliver to 'remote' areas or on certain days only.

2. You will receive an address within the US, Canada, UK etc from the provider. Make a purchase online and ship the items to this new address. Leave the address format as it was given to you, do not let the shopping sites auto-correct or edit the addresses. This could make the address wrong and you can lose your package.

3.  Pre-alert your package if you have the option of doing so. You can notify some couriers of a purchase you made and they would supposedly have its processing in a more advanced state than if you do not pre-alert. This is supposed to cut down the time it takes to get to you. Notify them of the same value that you spent and not less otherwise you would be breaking the law.

4. Track your packages. You should track your packages to ensure they are delivered to the correct address or if they are late. Some delivery companies within the US deliver goods to a collection facility before their final destination and still mark the item as delivered. The item may stay there a whole week or more until a substantial pile collects and is then carried across to the courier's facility. Do not be upset with the courier for this as it is out of their control. The US postal service regularly does this. The courier may notify you that a package was received at their US facility when it is actually received.

5. Wait for item to land in Trinidad. Most companies notify you a package was received in Trinidad and the cost to you. The cost may be broken into separate sections such as shipping and then customs or may be combined into one single figure. I have noticed that customs charges are very erratic, sometimes you get a low charge and sometimes high for the same type of item. I am wondering if it is just based on the customs officer at that point in time and how thorough they may choose to be.

6. Wait for delivery. It may take a couple days after the item lands for it to come to you. This depends on the volume of goods received as well as traffic conditions. You pay the courier on receiving your item. If your courier does not deliver or you choose to collect at their office you can go in as soon as your get notification of it being in Trinidad. This may be quicker than waiting for them to deliver.

If you do not have a credit card or prefer not you use your own, some freight forwarders offer the service of purchasing the item for you as well as importing it. After they purchase it the process is similar to what is explained above.

If you like this post please support the blog by clicking on ads. Please comment about what courier you use and how it is working for you. 

How to set up a skybox for myself
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Tuesday, April 12, 2016

How to save money during a recession

Prices of everything have been going up at what seems to be an increasing rate in the last few months. Here are a few suggestions which may help you spend less and have a little more at the end of the month.

1. Analyse your current spending. Make a list of your spending for the month and make a pie chart in a spreadsheet (Excel). This can help you see where your major spending is and you can prioritise your spending.

2. Get the best plans you can for internet, cable TV, and phone. This logic is for any recurring service you use. This takes a little bit of research since what works for you may be completely different to what works for your neighbour. For the internet plan check out my post here. You may be able to downgrade your internet speeds given that some providers have upgraded all package speeds or even switch to another provider in your area.

You can make calls and send messages using data on your smartphone instead of minutes and SMS. Cell providers may have unlimited social plans you can take advantage of. Research any special that may be going on - Digicel has free minutes and SMS after a certain amount to other Digicel numbers.

Also consider watching less TV and spending less time on facebook/social media and concentrating on learning a new skill. This could allow you to downgrade your phone or internet plans.

3. Buy in bulk for the basic items you know you would always buy and that can be stored for a long period. This includes toilet paper, diapers, hand and bath soap, shampoo, cleaning/mopping solutions, insecticides, bulbs, canned foods etc. Liquids can be bought in larger containers such as gallon size instead of liters. Multi-packs of items are usually cheaper per item compared to buying them singly.
Some perishables can be frozen to keep them fresh longer.

4. Share. You may be able to borrow or lend tools tools, a ladder or an appliance if it will only be used once. One use may not justify buying equipment that would not be used enough to cover its cost.

4. Cut out the frills. You do not need to make purchases for bragging rights. Buy used, items of sufficient quality and only what you really need.
You may be putting premium gasoline when your car is able to run on super. To check this read your car's manual or ask the dealer.
Do you need to smoke as much or have as many beers? Your money may be going up in smoke or just pi**ed away. 
Do you really need all the cable TV movie channels? If you only look at a select few movie channels you should choose a smaller package. If you only use 100 minutes or 1GB of data a month you could downgrade you plan. Is there another provider that has a better plan you could switch to?
Consider going to a different store or restaurant that may have a similar or the same item for less. It should not matter where you bought clothes once the quality is what you want.
Consider buying an older model of something which may be at a lower price. Some car dealers offer a discount on the older model when a new one arrives with fancier lights or a new shape. If you shop around enough you can get a relatively young used vehicle for a good price. You can buy last year's model phone instead of this year's. I have a personal limit of $300USD for my cell phone.

Buy used video games. They are typically much cheaper and still work perfectly.

Cancel any club memberships that are not used or not critical. Estimate how much you save by having the membership versus being without it. At the same time research which ones may be more valuable and switch to them.

Make a list of grocery items before you go. This helps remove temptation for unnecessary things not on the list. Then at the grocery, when putting it into your cart, ask yourself if this is necessary or just a 'nice to have'.

5. Be child smart - do not let your children dictate what they must own. It may feel like you are denying your children by not giving them what they ask but spending quality time with them is more valuable than spending your money on them.

6. Reduce, reuse, recycle. You can keep your old frames when your glasses prescription changes. Car pool with people in your area.
Switch off lights and any devices when they are not in use. To be even more thrifty unplug devices (eg. chargers, TV's, microwaves, stereos) because they each use a tiny amount being in standby, waiting for you to wake them up.
Unplug your water pump when you are not at home. The lines lose pressure and the pump comes on to maintain the it even though no one is using water. You can also switch off your water heater tank when not home. It takes a few minutes for the water to get heated up so you can switch it on when you get home.
Switch to CFL bulbs, they cost more but do save a lot in the long run. Do not leave a fan or air conditioner on in a room without people and especially when leaving the house. Consider putting meshing over windows and leaving them open to allow cool air in and keeping insects out.
Do you really need a new electronic gadget? Can you connect your laptop to a TV instead of buying a smart TV? A non-smart TV or laptop that is a couple years old can be upgraded. Devices such as a Chromecast or Roku makes your regular TV smart. An older laptop can roar back to life with a solid state hard drive and more ram. Mend clothes instead of tossing it out.
You may not need a new smart phone if you can get a new battery for your current one. The battery degrades and loses storage capacity after a couple of years. If you do not have a data plan you do not need the latest smart phone. Check if your smartphone has the ability to disable data for apps you do not use. Only update apps on Wifi. 
There are many groups on facebook with ads for people selling second hand furniture, appliances and anything in between because they are upgrading or moving out. Keep an eye on them for a couple weeks before you get a brand new one.

Clean out your closets - your may be able to sell things you have not used in years. Advertise on a facebook group or classifieds or just a poster in the yard.

7. Get good health insurance. The most common health costs are for dental and vision. The company you work for may have a company plan which is usually cheaper than if you had the plan as an individual. Your spouse may be on a plan that covers you and your children. With a good health plan you can save thousands. The insurance company can cover a big part of your bill and you would pay a fraction. Bills are cheapest when using a dentist or eye care provider that is part of the insurance company's network. 
While approaching your employer ask about all the benefits you are eligible to. You may get allowances for exams, store discount cards, or even time off for certain things. I am surprised at the number of people who do not know what their own companies have to offer because the companies do not offer the information and employees do not ask. 

8. Do jobs yourself. Some people may not have the time to spare to do repairs or cooking but as with most things you pay for convenient services or faster times. Mending a button or loose thread is not difficult. It does not take very long to wash a car yourself.

Eating home cooked food is a huge saving compared to buying meals. You can spend over twice as much for a meal outside. Invite friend home for dinner instead of going to a restaurant.

Painting a room is not difficult. The internet could be very useful when troubleshooting issues with tools or appliances or to learn a new skill. You may figure out what is wrong with your dryer, stove, or computer by getting advice on your particular device or job.

9. Shop around. Do not assume the most advertised brand or company is the best. Speak to different providers for any service - insurance, repair men, painters, caterers etc. Do not be persuaded by a smooth talker when parting with your money. 
Ask for discounts, you may be surprised to find out you could get something off or a generous employee may share their discount with you. This may not work at groceries.

Try a test - When considering a purchase find what you want and then leave it alone for a month. If you still feel the need for it after the month then go ahead. This may not work if the item is unique or on sale and may be gone after the month.

10. Save more money. As hard as it is to have your money put away and not get anything in return, you must save some money for a rainy day. If you can save as much as 30% or more of your income do it while you can. We live in a very volatile society and you may need your savings to cushion you when you least expect it.

11. Get healthier. Drink more water. Not only is it much healthier than drinking soft drinks or alcoholic ones, you can have a big glass of water with your meal and this helps you feel full longer. Carry a refillable water bottle with you when going out to save on buying drinks.

Quit smoking. Cigarettes are expensive. The cost of all the packs add up at the end of the month. 

By exercising and eating properly you make yourself healthier. In the long run this means less doctor's and medicine bills. Even if you have amazing insurance they can be very costly.

Ensure you and the people your are around maintain proper hygiene. Wash your hands before eating or when returning home. This simple acts can keep many germs away from making you ill. If you are ill you need to spend money on doctor and medicine bills and you may have to miss work which may mean less salary. 
There are many free areas to exercise in. You can stay at home or use public fields and perform effective routines. Gym memberships could be costly.

12. Take care of your belongings. A vehicle is one of the most valuable possessions for most people. Take care of it otherwise repairs can add up. Do not worry about cosmetic problems like a small dent or scratch. Concentrate on ensuring the car is roadworthy. Check your car's health by following the recommended service intervals. You can change an air filter yourself. A bad filter can decrease your efficiency and make you burn more fuel than necessary. You air conditioning filter may also be an easy job depending on your car. 

Ensure you have the proper air pressure in your tyres. Too little or too much air can cause excess tyre wear and make your tyres die long before they are able to last. 

You may not be able to control the state of the roads but you can control your speed and behaviour on the road. Driving aggressively by accelerating quickly, taking corners sharply, braking suddenly etc is not only idiotic but ends up costing you more money and causes more strain on all parts of the vehicle.

Clean dust off your appliances. Look behind your dryer, air conditioners and refrigerator and clear any build up. Keep all fan blades as clean as possible, a little dust on them can drastically cut down the amount of air they push. Remove dust from between your laptop or desktop heat sink and the cooler fan. This requires opening up the devices but it is not difficult if you are careful. Heat buildup is bad for all electronics. A dry paintbrush can be used. 

How to save money during recession
Cut back spending in Trinidad and Tobago

Alcatel one touch phone cutting off

I have an Alcatel One Touch 2001 that goes off randomly. I found that the issue is the battery is loose and loses contact inside the phone even though the cover is on properly. The phone gets flexed or squeezed when in a pocket or purse.

The trick to fixing it is to add some padding between the battery and the back cover. I folded a strip of paper to make the spacer, took the back cover off and let the paper sit on the center of the battery. The cover should be more snug now.

I used this trick because it solved similar issues I had with old Nokia phones. It may work with any brand and model phone with a loose battery. If your battery is swollen or dented you should replace it. It should be flat on the back and front and no corrosion or water marks.

Please let me know in the comments if this works for you too.

Nokia Lumia Azumi Digicel smart phone cutting off randomly
Samsung cellphone losing power frequently
LG phone cuts off in pocket
Motorola cell shutting down all the time

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Compare prices of fuels in different countries

I found this site interesting. Note that this excludes every single other factor related to travelling like cost of vehicles, crimes/safety, efficiency of public transport/if available, prevailing type/size of vehicle, standard of living etc. While fuels may be cheap it may not be the only factor that should be considered when comparing countries.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Tech gadgets for people new to broadband

This is a follow up article to The best internet connection in Trinidad and Tobago

This post is my recommendation for gadgets or equipment which people can best take advantage of when they have access to reliable and fast broadband internet. Trinidad and Tobago has recently seen the introduction of new internet service providers and as competition becomes more fierce the offerings are more appealing. You can get a decent package for approx $200TTD per month. Many more people have access to broadband and many even have multiple options. Technology globally has reached a level where a high level of computing power is now affordable to many people. Many quality devices can even be purchased second hand. This is amazing.

My definition of broadband internet is a connection at least 5 Mbps download and 512 Kbps upload. Multiple users on this level of connection would see major degradation in service as more users are added and online simultaneously.

1. Wireless router - a fast connection can be easily broadcast throughout your home to your multiple devices with a relatively inexpensive wireless router. Some internet providers supply these devices for free or for a fee and some no not offer it at all. Be sure to choose a strong password for your wireless network. A capable device can be purchased for under $300TTD at a local computer store. You should aim for one that is 802.11ac capable, gigabit ports and external antennas such as the TP-LINK Archer C5 AC1200.

2. Tablet (PC) - A small tablet PC is very convenient for the consumption of online content. A tablet is not very good to do a lot of inputting (typing, editing, creating) content as typing, selecting and modifying content is difficult on a touch screen. For most people a 7 inch tablet would be quite sufficient. You can easily browse Facebook, stream movies, chat on Skype, etc. Note that these are not very heavy on inputting data into the device. I recommend aiming for a quad core device with an IPS display panel and front camera for under $100usd. Get a case also since a fall is likely for a portable device. If you already have a smart phone this may be sufficient if the phone has enough horsepower and a decent screen and speakers.

3. Laptop - Laptops should be purchased if you do a lot of typing or editing and creating content. A full size physical keyboard and mouse are much easier to use than a touch screen on a tablet. Yes, I know you can connect a full size keyboard and mouse to tablets but I am considering using the tablet on its own. A capable laptop can be purchased for under $500usd online. You also have the option of upgrading an existing laptop by putting in more RAM and a solid state hard drive to revive it. You need to research if your laptop has a SATA connector and the model of RAM required.

4. Surveillance cameras - Security is a major issue in the country and camera systems are more affordable then ever. It is even possible to install these systems yourself. After it is properly configured you can view the cameras from anywhere on the internet any time you wish or even have alerts coming to you when an alarm is triggered.

5. Smart TV - I recommend shopping around for a decent non-smart TV since the price difference to step up to a smart one can be large. You have the option to make a non-smart TV (not CRT) smart using a smart device such as a Roku or Chromecast dongle. The big name plug in dongle devices would typically have a longer support life for bug and security fixes than a TV. The Roku would plug into an HDMI port on your TV and can be controlled remotely via your phone or an included remote. Note that a large amount of content is restricted in our region and you may not always have the latest and greatest shows. These dongle devices can be purchased used for under $50usd online. Now that you have a smart TV you will need a way to interact with it like a wireless keyboard and mouse. An excellent choice is the Logitech k400 plus keyboard and mouse combo. Also consider a line conditioner or uninterruptable power supply (UPS) to ptotect your expensive devices.

6. VPN - this would not be an option to most people, but know that broadband now enables you to do this if you were allowed to. With broadband you can check your work emails, access server files and be productive while out of the office. This would have to be configured by your workplace. 

You can also remote control your PC from outside your home once it is set up properly.

Related to this is you can also play games online with people in other parts of the globe.

If you like this post please support the blog by clicking on ads. You support this blog by clicking through the amazon links above.


Best router for Flow
Good deal laptop computer
Is smart tv worth it
What can broadband do for me
Should I take digicel fibre internet
Smart tv in trinidad
Security cameras in Trinidad and Tobago
Tablet computer on wifi