Confessions of a Geek Girl

“Just move to the Internet, its great here. We get to live inside where the weather is always awesome.” ― John Green

IMG_3799I’m giggling at that quote! It’s perfect for a geek girl like me. I’ll confess…I have to have fast internet. I’m addicted to the internet. My husband is an internet widow. (Or is it widower?)
Living on a small island in the middle of the sweet sea, in the middle of Nicaragua, in the middle of Central America is not conducive to fast internet.

If you’ve followed my posts about my slow internet struggles for four years, and you live in a rural area or abroad where technology isn’t readily available, this post is for you. I’ll take you step-by-step through my process of connecting to the world rapidly.

It started after a Skype call to our son. He bought a Roku streaming-video box because he couldn’t get cable in Yosemite National Park (where he works and lives). I wanted to stream Netflix on my TV, but I had two problems: a slow internet, and a dysfunctional  router for wi-fi. Make that three four problems…our TV was slowly dying and I needed my VPN to go to my TV so it looked like I had an internet IP address from the U.S. Without a VPN, many of the channels are not accessible from abroad. For example, Hulu and Pandora. Using Netflix without a VPN restricts some shows as well.

1. We installed a microwave internet tower on the roof of our casita. Our microwave tower needed a direct line of site to the server on the mainland and we are surrounded by tall trees. They configured a new router so we could have wi-fi throughout the house.

2. With speeds of 4-7 Mbps, we were ready to stream video. I chatted online with my Strong VPN technician. How do I put my Strong VPN on my router so that I can stream video to my TV? He explained to me that not all routers can be configured for a VPN. I ordered a NetGear router from my Strong VPN service and had it shipped to the U.S.

3. I ordered a Roku 3 streaming video box and had it shipped to the U.S. After a quick trip to visit my mother, I returned to Nicaragua with a new router and a Roku 3 streaming video box.

4. Next, we had to buy a new TV. I had no need for a smart TV because I planned on connecting  through wi-fi. I just had to make sure that the TV had a HDMI connection. I am pleased to report that I could buy our Samsung flat screen TV on our island. In fact, we rarely need to leave the island anymore because almost everything we need is right here!

5. I accidentally reset our router that came with the tower. When I called the GGnet technician, he told me never, never, never reset a router with a microwave system. Apparently, it resets the entire system and I lost our network. The technician came the next day, and instead, I had him set up our new NetGear router that was VPN ready. I’ll save the other router for wi-fi in our casita.

6. Next, I chatted with Elmer online, the Strong VPN technician to configure the NetGear router to accept my Strong VPN. He told me to install a program called Teamwork, so that he could get access to my computer remotely and configure my VPN to my NetGear router. I watched in awe as he moved my mouse, opened windows, and configured my router. Five minutes later, wi-fi with my VPN was accessible on all of our electronic devices.

7. I had to buy a different subscription for my VPN. It is called Open VPN. My old VPN would only work with our laptops. Instead of $55 yearly, I now pay $80 yearly. I love Strong VPN. They offer 24/7 technical service. If you live abroad, a VPN is a necessity. If you are interested in Strong VPN, please ask me for a referral because I get a discount on my yearly bill with each referral.

8. The last step was to hook up the Roku box to the TV. Only four simple steps, and we now have access to 1,500 channels.

IMG_3837This process took about a month, mainly because I had to go to the states to pick up my Roku box and my new router. Our laptops, tablet, iPhone, and TV are all wi-fi connected with our VPN IP address from Miami. The total cost for our tower, TV, Roku box, and router was less than $1,000.

And to think that we live on a rural tropical island! It amazes me! I’ve moved to the internet. It’s great here! The only thing left to do is ground the internet tower. It’s the rainy season in Nicaragua. I can live inside where the weather is always awesome. 🙂

44 thoughts on “Confessions of a Geek Girl

  1. This is a great site. Thanks. We live on the mainland of Nicaragua, near Tola. We would like to get better internet. We’ve been using the Claro modem for years and didn’t know we could set up our own tower thru GGnet. How do I contact them to see about doing the same thing? Thanks again

    • Hi Victoria,
      I am in Colombia now and only using my iPad, so I can’t send you a link for GGNet because I don’t know how to do it on my iPad. Lol You can do a search for GGNet in San Jorge. They have a website. I also have telephone numbers, but I will have to wait until we return home to give them to you.
      Let me know if you find the website and how it goes with setting up a tower. It is much better than using a modem, which we did for 4 long frustrating years. Buenos suerte.

  2. Hello Debbie,
    My wife and I are retiring in NIcaragua (we have dual citizenship). I teach online and I have been looking for a decent internet option, Alfanumeric in Nicaragua is offering me 120 dollars for 1 megabit and up if I want more. They said it is a point to point dedicated line and I was thinking to give it a try until I saw your blog.

    I could not find any reference link to ggnet in your blog (that appears to be your internet provider). Can you be so kind to provide me the link of your company so I can call and compare prices and options?


    Armando Paladino

    • Hola Armando,
      I understand your dilemma because I taught online, too until I moved to Nicaragua and my internet was too slow with the Claro dongle. It will depend on where you are located for GGnet. GGnet used to have a website, but they don’t have one any longer. They are located in Rivas with a 30 mile radius for their server. Since we live on the beach only 5 miles across the lake from Rivas, we can get fast internet with our microwave tower. Alfanumeric is much more expensive and slower on Ometepe unless you want to pay a lot of money. I pay $100 a mo. for speeds of 4-7 mbps, but I usually get 4 for download and sometimes 5 for upload. I’m pleased with their service and the speed is better than the Claro cable for internet. If you are planning on living within a 30 mile radius of Rivas, let me know and I can give you the phone number. They also send me the bill monthly online and I can pay it at the bank.

      • Debbie,

        Thank you for the quick reply. Unfortunately my residence will be way up at north in Ocotal 25 miles from the Honduras border.

        Can you send me the GGnet phone anyways? it may be an option via Honduras in “El Paraiso” . This is a honduras’ city very close from Ocotal.

        Is this GGnet company based on the US?



  3. I, too, love this kind of stuff and my husband just waits for me to figure out 1) that we need it 2) why we need it and 3) how to get it! Right now, since we’re traveling, we don’t have the luxury of setting our own stuff up and so, are dependent on the “kindness of strangers”! However, I have a virtual file where I tuck away posts like these for the day when we set down roots again…

    • Haha! If you like to watch Netflix, you are all set-up. Now, we’re working on a chain link fence behind our house, so Cappy can run around without us constantly watching him. When we’re watching “Orange in the New Black” on Netflix, Cappy goes crazy wanting to play. So, we can just open the back door and he can run around safely.

  4. Great post. I’m seriously looking at moving to Ometepe for at least part of the year, but the internet was a definite concern.

    What is your cost for the internet connection on the mainland? How reliable is it?

    Do you know of a website or map that shows the location of the mainland tower? (So I have a rough idea of where on Ometepe Island one can get a direct line-of-sight?) Or do they have more than one tower in the area?

    • Trevor, We have only had the internet tower for a month, but it is very reliable. Our speed fluctuates, however it is always fast enough to watch Netflix on our TV. Depending on the speed, for GGnet service you will pay $35, $70, or $100 a month. Installation of our tower cost $250 including a router.
      I don’t know of a map or website that shows the locations of the tower(s) on the mainland. I do know that GGnet comes from Rivas, which is fairly close to Ometepe Island. We are on the beach near Moyogalpa, so our direct line of sight is pretty good. Our biggest problem is the large trees all around our property and on the beach. We may need to extend the tower so it is taller. If you need a phone number, I can give you Denis’s number. He owns GGnet.

    • Yep! It is still simple. I won’t turn the TV on until 6 pm, when it gets dark here, because I am always outside doing something. Today, I’ve been on a weed pulling extravaganza. There are these long rooted weeds called Escoba.They use the long tap roots to make the straw for handmade brooms. They are everywhere, and I can’t stand them. After a little rain, they are usually easier to pull out, but we haven’t had any rain for a while, so I have to dig them out with a shovel one small patch at a time. Now, I’m so tired, I’m ready for some couch surfing.

  5. We live in such a connected world but it is so frustrating when our internet doesn’t work or is slow like in Cuba ! I can only imagine how nice it is to be better connected! What exactly is a
    Microwave tower? Never heard of that term before!

    • If you want wi-fi, you need a router. If you want the wi-fi to configure your VPN, so all your devices have a VPN, then you need a special router configured for your VPN. You could hook the Roku box directly to your internet cable and then the TV, but without a VPN, you won’t get all the channels. I hope this makes sense.

  6. Dean, it’s a Virtual Private Network. This is from Wikipedia:

    “VPNs allow employees to securely access their company’s intranet while traveling outside the office. Similarly, VPNs securely connect geographically separated offices of an organization, creating one cohesive network. VPN technology is also used by Internet users to connect to proxy servers for the purpose of protecting personal identity and location.”

    Basically, I think it prevents people hacking in to you and you can use all the software and stuff that’s on the network.

    • Thanks, I am reading up on this as it seems like something I want. Everytime you turn around now a days there is something new to learn!

      • Dean, yes, you probably want to get a VPN. I used to use the free ones, but they came with annoying ads. With Strong VPN, I can choose where I want my server to be in the states, and they offer great tech service. If you choose Strong VPN, let me know and I’ll send you a referral.

    • Thanks, Sandra, for answering Dean’s question. The main reason I use it is because many of the videos, documentaries, and programs from Hulu and other sites won’t let me go to their videos. Usually, I get a sentence over a black screen that says, “This country is not recognized for viewing this program.”

      Here’s a strange thing that happened to me the other day. I usually turn on my VPN when I check for airline ticket prices. It’s much cheaper to purchase hotels, rental cars, and airline tickets if you use a private browser. Now that my VPN is on all the time, I went to AA site to buy tickets from Managua. I didn’t even think about the pull down menu that says, what country are you purchasing from? After I bought the tickets, I waited 2 days to receive confirmation. Nothing. So, yesterday, I called AA to find out what happened. Apparently, my VPN crashed my reservation because it looked like I was in Miami purchasing tickets from Nicaragua. It didn’t know what to do. Thank goodness the AA rep solved the problem for me.

      • The VPN is masking your real IP address which can also be done by setting up a proxy server in the USA. So you log into the computer in USA and access the internet from that location (IP).

        On the flip side if you like to watch YouTube videos then being in Nicaragua is great as there are no ads. People do not have money to buy things. Also you are lucky to be close to Rivas for your connection. On East side (Altagracia) would be far more difficult to get decent speed. So where you live on Ometepe depends how good your internet will be!

  7. I just spent 3 weeks in Nicaragua and I am now in the process of moving to Granada in December to do a 6 month Social Work Practicum. I have been reading your blog for months now and I just wanted to let you know how much I appreciate all your posts! I have lofty goals for what I am trying to accomplish in Granada ( starting a Food Bank ) and I hope we can meet sometime when I return in December, I did not make it to Ometepe, Island, but it is one of the first places I want to go to when I return. Thanks again for all the beautiful pictures and your posts about life in Nicaragua, you have been instrumental in making my move a reality! : ) Joy

  8. That sounds awesome… but I don’t understand most of it. I work remotely and have a VPN, and when I need help the IT guys do that whole ‘taking over my desktop’ thing (and yes, it IS pretty cool to sit and watch the cursor magically flitting around the screen). My question is, could you get this sort of setup to work on a sailboat on the high seas?

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