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‘Letters from the Atlantic’ – by Barrie Mahoney

Barrie Mahoney was a head teacher and school inspector in the UK, as well as a reporter in Spain, before moving to the Canary Islands to launch and edit a new English language newspaper. He enjoys life in the sun as a columnist and author, and continues to write a series of popular novels, books for expats, as well as designing mobile apps and websites to promote the Canary Islands.

Techie Toys for Expats: Stay Smart with DNS

As a newly arrived or intending expat, you will be given many pieces of advice; some will be useful, whilst it is best to ignore others. The best piece of advice is, of course, to learn the language, because by doing so you will add a new depth and valuable dimension to your new life in the sun. The second piece of advice that I often hear is to only watch TV and listen to radio in the language of your adopted country. In other words, forget ‘Eastenders’ and ‘Strictly Come Dancing’, in favour of some of the endless quiz and reality shows on Spanish television; I think not. I have come to the opinion that to remain in touch with the language and culture of birth is important, which helps to ease some of the lonelier and unsettling aspects of expat life, even if the sun is shining. So, in order to continue to enjoy watching ‘Coronation Street’ and ‘Dr Who’, and films in your home language, it is important to be able to watch television from your home country.

One of the most frequent questions that I am asked by both would be and newly arrived expats is "Will I still be able to watch British television?" Although not strictly legal, the answer is "Yes, of course you will, and things are getting better all the time." However, you do need to be a little tech savvy to ensure that you are getting the best connection, and that doesn’t necessarily mean spending a great deal of money on monthly TV contracts.

When we first moved to Spain, the choice was either installing a large and expensive satellite dish, or having a baking tray kind of contraption strapped to the highest point of the building. Both systems worked, but were not always reliable, since providers and connections changed and, indeed, satellites moved to other positions, which required adjustments, upgrades and yet more expense. Over the last few years, things have moved on, and it is now perfectly possible to receive a good television signal from your Internet connection; indeed, it is now the preferred choice for many reasons.

Watching television through your Internet connection doesn’t mean sitting in front of your laptop all evening. We now have the option of purchasing Internet ready TVs, although my own personal preference is using a computer (in my case a Mac Mini) linked specifically to our main television for only Internet television and film viewing.

Of course, television programmes from the UK and other countries are blocked, to prevent them from being watched in other countries. However, there are many ways around this. Until recently, my preferred option has been the use of a Virtual Private Network (VPN), which basically tricks the television provider into thinking that you are in your home country. The signal is diverted to your home country and then forwarded back to the sender. Clearly, the downside of this process is that VPN reduces your signal by around 30 per cent, reducing picture quality or producing that maddening buffering, and spinning ‘circle of death’ that we all hate so much. In many parts of the Canary Islands where I live, and rural Spain, France, Italy and Portugal, Internet signals are very slow offering maybe only 3 to 10mbps. I am fortunate, since I now have a connection called VDSL (Very High Bit Rate DSL), which offers a speed of around 30mbps. Even so, I managed to get a decent signal on a speed of only 10mbps. It is important to shop around and obtain the highest speed possible. Try to request VDSL if a fibre optic connection is unavailable in your area; it is a little more expensive, but well worth it. Secondly, if you can afford it, dump the modem and router provided by your telecoms provider, since most are of the most basic quality and purchase the best, high-speed version modem/router that you can afford. It will be worth it in the long run, since speed is the key to success.

My much-preferred option now is Smart DNS, which is simply a case of changing the DNS numbers on your computer or router. It sounds complicated, but isn’t and full details of how to do this are given by the company providing the service. Smart DNS has the advantage of maintaining the full strength of your signal, which in areas with low Internet signal strength is highly important, but has the disadvantage of not being secure in the same way as VPN. My best advice is to get both, and then you can use Smart DNS to receive television programmes, access films etc., whilst using VPN for security and to hide your presence if, for instance, you are using your laptop in an Internet cafe to access your bank account.

For space reasons, I cannot go into more details in this article, but you can find more information, as well as details about the companies and products that I use, on the Expat Survival section of my website.

If you enjoyed this article, take a look at Barrie’s websites: http://www.barriemahoney.com and http://www.thecanaryislander.com or read his book, ‘Expat Voice’ (ISBN: 9780992767174). Available in paperback, as well as Kindle, iBooks and Google Play editions.

iPhone/iPad and Android Apps: ExpatInfo, CanaryIsle and CanaryGay now available.

© Barrie Mahoney

Filed under: http://www.theleader.info/article/46668/

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