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Stats ‘N Stuff – Who Reads The REAL Costa Rica?

June 21st, 2010

Stats interest me.

I don’t push advertising on the main web site or Blog, but I do put up a few ads to sort of cover some of the costs. It is always fun, though, to see just who visits The REAL Costa Rica during the month.

The Real Costa Rica gets a bit less than 60,000 new visitors every month making it one of the most popular Costa Rica web sites on the Internet.

Here is a summary of the basic stats!

Interested? Read on!

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Secure Wireless in Costa Rica (and Elsewhere)

December 2nd, 2009

crookI have wanted to cover this topic for some time as I get a lot of questions from people who use a wireless connection (inalámbrico(a)) to access the Internet. This post will be a bit long… be patient.  It will be worth it.

There was no wireless when I arrived here many years ago  and just a few hotspots (wireless locations) until maybe 2-3 years ago. Since then, wireless has “gone viral” and has become available in numerous locations, especially in the central valley around San Jose. Nearly every hotel offers wireless and/or direct connects in the rooms. Internet cafes offer wireless as do bagel shops and pizza parlors.  More and more people are getting familiar with wireless both for home and for “on-the-road” use and they ARE using it.  A lot!

Sadly, the vast majority of the people I deal with think wireless is is a reliable, convenient, safe and secure form of communications. Reliable and convenient? Maybe. Safe and secure? Absolutely 100% NOT.

This is one of the topics I cover in my REAL Costa Rica Tour, and it is so very important, I have decided to add it here. Also, I cannot cover it sufficiently during a tour, so this will be a reference for my tour clients.

If this topic is of interest to you, (and it should be!), read on.

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Banco Nacional Gets it Right!

October 23rd, 2009

Safe Illaveronternet banking in Costa Rica has been an issue for some time.  In December 2007, I wrote this post about how insecure it can be and giving suggestions on how to make it less so.   It is clear that  I have not been impressed with Costa Rica online banking at least from from a security standpoint… until now that is.

I personally bank at three Costa Rica banks: BAC San JoseScotia Bank and Banco Nacional.  All were subject to various schemes that could easily cause serious security problems, especially if the customer did not use adequate security protection in their computers or worse, used Internet cafes or a wireless connection while banking online.

Now along comes Banco Nacional with a high tech but easy-to-use gadget that all but guarantees your security even if banking from an Internet cafe or using a wireless connection. I got one about three weeks ago and have since been trying to figure out how someone could get into my account. My conclusion?  They cannot or if they can, they are a whole lot smarter than I am.

If this topic interests you, read on!

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Internet & Commmunications in Costa Rica. Peace or War?

August 14th, 2009

leapFor a long time,  the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad (ICE and pronounced EEEE-SAY) has enjoyed a monopoly on a wide variety of services. The two biggies are communications (cell and home phone service) and Internet connectivity. The end began with the passage and ratification of the Central America Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) then last year the Ley General de Telecommunicaciones broke monopoly on telephone and internet services in Costa Rica enjoyed by ICE.

A lot of people think that now there will be wholesale changes now that ICE will face competition.  I am not so sure… at least in the short term.  Let’s examine what has been happening. If this topic interests you, read on!

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Huawei Wins $235 Million 3G Phone Bid

January 13th, 2009

huaweiAs most of you know, I am generally not a  fan of ICE, the nation’s soon to be ex-communications monopoly, but although they are, as usual, about three years late,  Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad (ICE) finally gave China’s Huawei Technologies the preliminary OK for a 235-million-dollar contract to install a third-generation (3G) system for 935,000 customers in Costa Rica.

Final approval must come from the Comptroller (Costa Rica’s equivalent to the General Accounting Office) before the deal is finalized.  Huawei won in a bidding war against Sweden’s Ericcson and China rival ZTE Corporation

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ICE’s Latest Fiasco

August 13th, 2008

Back in June, I wrote about ICE’s plan to discontinue the TDMA cellular phone system beginning in 2009. I had my doubts that this would happen, but I wrote about it anyway.

Some background for readers. There are two cellular systems here, TDMA being the oldest and the only one the works pretty much all of the time, and the GSM system, that should work better, but does not. In fact, it works poorly at best. Callers often get the “Try again later” message and even when there is cell service, connections are not always stable. In general, TDMA is the way to go though there are a few locations (Dominical, Nosara and Samara come to mind) where the only system that works well is a GSM phone. So you want a TDMA phone? Interestingly, there are no more new TDMA phones available in Costa Rica. Any you buy are reconditioned. Besides… there are no phones lines available anyway. Sheesh!

The plan to discontinue the TDMA system was based on ICE planned upgrading of the current GSM system to the Third Generation GSM known as 3G, a vastly superior communications system (and part of Apple’s new iPhone configuration). It is faster and offers a ton of options including Internet. Of course future success would also be based on having the towers available, etc… but that is a different story.

In any case, ICE’s plans were basically correct and once installed and the tower location issues fixed, it should have allowed for the discontinuation of TDMA and offered users a fine, though more costly, solution. Of course THAT was before ICE sent out the bids to install the new 3G system.

The bids went out and only one company bid the project, Huawei Technologies. Well that would be fine as Huawei is most certainly a capable business partner, but ICE planned a budget of $224 million and Huawei submitted a bid of $580 million. Oops! Did someone make a really big error in calculation? As ICE has a history of poor planning, this would not be a really big surprise. In fact, it appears that (though I cannot confirm this), ICE changed the bid specs in June, 2008 adding 500 terminals to the specs but expecting no increase in cost. Huh? I admit to not knowing what is a terminal… but adding 500 of anything would seem to me to be an additional expense that needed to be considered.

Of the six bidders, FIVE (like the Ericsson de Costa Rica (current provider of one of the country’s two GSM networks), Continuex S.A. (distributor of Samsung in Costa Rica, ZTE Corp. and Nokia Siemens Network) decided not to bid citing fears of not being able to deliver to ICE’s specs.

So now what? Who knows?? The $356 million difference is huge and ICE clearly will have to go back to the planning stage. It seems unlikely they will or even can accept Huawei’s bid. They do not have the funding… or maybe they do!

Just this week, ICE announced that they wish to expand services to other Central American countries. Of course those of you who are skeptics might suggest that ICE put its own house in order before planning such an expansion…. the more pragmatic might just suggest ICE forego expansion and use THAT money to get a good funcional and working GSM system.

As always… more shall be revealed!

A Reader Asks About the Effects of CAFTA

July 9th, 2008

Tonight I received a comment from a reader… and it pushed my rant button. I may be completely reading the comment incorrectly and assuming a wrong tone or meaning… and if I am, I apologize now… but the rant is still coming as I am replying to many others who I am sure I read correctly!

Here is her email, and if the topic interests you (and you can deal with my rant)… read on!

My family plans to relocate to Costa Rica, and I would like to know what your thoughts are regarding the recent activity by the Costa Rican Congress ending it’s 84 year old insurance, and telecom monopoly (CAFTA). How do you think this is going to effect the citizens of Costa Rica that have enjoyed a universal health care system, and what do you think the implications are for Americans residig in Costa Rica, that have been able to partake in this system?.

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Sketchy Characters

December 15th, 2007

The Internet connection in this country, Costa Rica, works slower than mold. There are days I will come up to work on the computer and poof! No Internet in the morning. Again in the afternoon, and on and on.

The Internet, I believe will – and is – changing the world. Living in a developing country and creating a viable income could really only be possible with the Internet. Democracy will grow much faster than mold through the Internet. Voices will connect, and no one can fight the power of souls connecting.

But the sketchy characters will continue to try. Instead of fiberglass lines, we’ve got cable and phone company monopolies. Thus back to our problem in Costa Rica. There’s too many people and not enough lanes of traffic. Sound familiar? The Internet takes planning and thought. It’s sketchy characters that benefit from a quick, short term buck that leave us all clicking that mouse with no results.

I’ve learned it can be a very good thing to be without Internet – our new life addiction. Many of us run to it like we used to dash to the answering machine the moment we walked in the door. Yet listening to a few messages wasn’t quite as time consuming as hours and hours and hours of Internet surfing.

Paradise has it’s bumps; bruises and blemishes. And when I get frustrated and want to scream at the computer, I grab a shot of morning sunshine or watch the stellar moon and listen to the palm trees rustle in the wind and connect on another level.

Safe Internet Banking in Costa Rica

December 6th, 2007

Internet FraudLately, there have been a goodly number of news articles about people having their money stolen from their Costa Rica bank accounts.

As some of you know, several of my companies here in Costa Rica are “high tech” related, especially the web hosting business where we host thousands of customers world wide. Server and computer security are paramount issues as you might guess.

So when I got a phone call yesterday asking me my thoughts about this rash of Internet bank fraud and seeking advice, I decided rather than answer her question immediately, I would BLOG about it and maybe pass on some ideas for my readers. While this relates to the banking thing, it is really germane to ANY Internet transaction that uses passwords, bank information, credit cards or ANY confidential data.

This will not be a “techy” post. I’ll try to keep it very basic so non-techies can understand what they can do (MUST do) to avoid Internet fraud.

I am sorry, but this will be a long post, but I cannot recommend strongly enough that your read this.

If this topic interests you, read on!

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ICE Incapable of Satisfying the Internet Needs of Costa Rica

September 14th, 2007

Wow! Whatta surprise, huh? That was one of the headlines in yesterday’s La Nacion. It seems that once again, our friendly local communications monopoly has been caught totally unawares by the now 15 year old Internet revolution. Apparently, someone in the “strategic planning group” felt that the unprecedented growth of the Internet world-wide simply was not going to affect little old Costa Rica. According to this article, some 36 localities are affected to the point where new connections are very limited.

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