Protecting your Electronics in the Tropics


 

Living in the tropics has many advantages; for one, I’ll never have to shovel snow again. However, living on a tropical island poses many problems for electronic equipment. There is high humidity, dust, sand, and a variety of heat-seeking bugs that would love to invade our TV, computers, and surge protectors, and make a new home for their eggs.

I’ve removed thousands of ant eggs from my surge protector, my neighbor discovered a family of lizards nesting near his sound component in his TV, and once, a rat peed on my keyboard frying my motherboard.  It’s a never-ending battle, one that requires vigilance and constant cleaning. Oh, one more thing to bring to the tropics, ant traps that you can buy in Lowes. They are really helpful. The ants go into the little boxes, and take the liquid back to their nests. It has reduced the ant problem significantly in my house.

My biggest problem is guarding my electronic equipment from electrical surges, spikes, and brownouts. If our neighbors are welding, our electricity is low. If it rains, we can usually expect a blackout until the storm passes. Brownouts cause a quick death for electronics, so I had to research the best protection.

Cyber Power..note voltage is 109v, neighbor is welding.

Meet Cyber Power CP1500AVRLCD, my constant companion in the electronics world. It is a Universal Supply System that displays real-time system vitals, protects against brownouts, and offers battery backup in the event of brownouts or total power loss. As soon as I turn it on, it displays the voltage, which is hardly ever 120v. in the campo. Today, our neighbor is welding *sigh* so our voltage fluctuates between 105v and 110v. But, I have no fear, because Cyber Power regulates the voltage with its built-in battery and keeps the voltage at a constant 120v. The Cyber Power System is the king of the campo.

Inexpensive cool tray that my laptop sits on.

Another helpful gadget for the laptop is an inexpensive cooling tray. When my laptop is on, the cooling fans are always running. My laptop tends to run hot anyway, so it helps to keep it cooler. In addition, I clean the fan filters of the laptop regularly.  They get clogged with dust, dirt, and stray ants.

Next post, I’ll discuss other handy household items to bring that are unavailable in Nicaragua or poorly made.

 

 

 

 

My Woktenna


My computer desk

I confess that I am an internet junkie. I can’t imagine life before the internet. With reliable access to the internet, I can teach online classes, find online games and activities for ESL, contact my friends and family through Skype, update my blog, check daily news, and post on Facebook.

Seven years ago, we had to walk into town to the internet café because there was no access to the internet in La Paloma. When a rat peed on my laptop and fried my motherboard, it was time for me to return to the states. Even without internet access, I was constantly on my laptop, writing my Nica News, playing Spider Solitaire, and writing a book about our lives on Ometepe Island. Ron commented, “Sometimes, I feel like a computer widower.”

When we returned to live on Ometepe Island in 2010, I was thrilled to discover that Claro sold a dongle that I could attach to my laptop for instant internet access. I purchased an 18 month contract and Guillermo built me a special computer desk. The only problem was that the darn volcano in my backyard blocked the Claro tower, thus I received a weak signal. In order for me to get a stronger signal, I had to take my laptop into the garden and face the dongle toward the Claro tower. Well, that was going to be a big problem during the rainy season, so I had to come up with a creative solution for a stronger signal.

“Hmmm, I need to make a trap or a funnel for the signal,” I thought. One day, I was in my favorite secondhand store in Rivas. I spotted a wok lid under a pile of used sheets and pillowcases. My creative juices started flowing. A wok lid is aluminum, lightweight, and could work as a little satellite dish. I bought the wok lid for 10 cordobas and hurried home to experiment.

My woktenna

I removed the knob of the wok lid and poked the dongle through the hole. Then, using a 12 foot USB cable that Cory brought from the states, I attached one end of the cable to the dongle, and the other end to the USB port in my laptop. I attached a long pole to the woktenna dish with duct tape (Did I tell you how much I love duct tape?). Then, I wired the pole to the bookcase above my laptop.

It was a miracle! I had a strong signal. I can get access to the internet easily and quickly. It is unbelievably reliable. And all for 10 cordobas! Cory paid for the USB cable, which was about $30. I am in internet heaven again, while poor Ron, the internet widower, waits patiently for me to finish my blog posts.

Next post, I will tell you the essentials that you need to bring to a tropical climate for your electronic equipment. A tropical climate and constant brownouts wreak havoc on electronic equipment.