My smartphone’s not too swift

I TOTE a smartphone, but it’s not the brightest bulb in the pack.

It’s the only one I’ve owned, and I’ve had it about four years. I bought it “pre-owned” on MercadoLibre for 1,000 pesos, which is about $53 U.S. today, but it was a bit more when I bought it.

It’s a Sony Xperia, and it’s so small that when I use my bank app to get a 12-digit code to use at an ATM when I don’t have my debit card, the phone cuts off the final digit of the code, making it useless. If only the screen were wider.

My phone is never connected to the internet except in my house where it uses my WiFi, and the only thing I do online is check balances at my two banks. I don’t do email or Google or anything of that sort. The primary reason is that my fingers are large, and the phone’s keyboard is small.

I use it 98 percent to send text messages to my wife and, occasionally, call someone, usually my wife. It’s a phone, fer crissakes.

I’m not averse to technology, but phones are too small for me. My child bride has a larger Samsung Galaxy, but I still find the keyboard annoying. I don’t like to be annoyed.

Some people type fast on a phone, and they do it with their thumbs, which is my biggest finger. Anyway, I don’t want to learn that because it would confuse my typing on my Hewlitt Packard All-in-One desktop machine.

I type 100 words per minute on that baby, something I learned in typing class in high school where I was the sole boy in a sea of girls.

Not only is my Sony keyboard small, the phone has limited storage. Usually, if I want to add a new app, it tells me that I first have to delete some other apps, just not enough room for a new one.

I don’t use many apps. I have the obligatory call blocker, a flashlight, a bluetooth skimmer to use around ATMs. You know about that? That pretty much sums up my phone apps. I’m a simple fellow. The Hacienda has no landline.

One might think, hey, he’s an old guy, so he cannot grasp high technology, but lots of people my age, probably most, carry high-tech phones. But not me.

Maybe one day, and I prefer “pre-owned.”

Life is change

SOME ASPECTS of life I like to change. In other aspects, I am rooted deep into the soil, loathing change. But, like a woman, I do enjoy rearranging the furniture at times.

Not actual furniture. In that I am deep into the soil. Leave the dang furniture where it is, so I won’t trip at night.

But the internet furniture is very susceptible to change at the Hacienda. Here are some changes I’ve made over the last couple of months, just for the sake of conversation.

I’m not much of a conversationalist in person, but I like to chat with my internet amigos, most of whom remain mute.

* * * *

First furniture:  I changed browsers. After years of using Google Chrome, I switched to Opera, a Norwegian company. Years back, I tried Opera for a few months, but was not entirely satisfied, so I embraced Google Chrome.

A couple of months ago, I decided to give Opera another look, and I’ve been using it since. I like it. In Belarus, it’s the No. 1 browser. In the rest of the world … not so much.

Anytime you can dump anything Google, you should. I also shun Google Search, and I rarely say I’m Googling something. I prefer to say online search. My search program is the oddly named DuckDuckGo. Its claim to fame is that, unlike Google, it does not track you. But I don’t give a flip if I get tracked.

Tracking is to fine-tune ads directed at you, but since I use an ad-blocker, I almost never see ads anyway.

* * * *

Second furniture:  I changed my email provider. The last time I did this was two years ago. I described the process in The Email Safari. I switched to Fastmail, a paid and good service that’s run by a bunch of Australians. Only $20 a year.

But the $20 plan offers just 1 GB of storage. I wanted more, so I was faced with two options. Buy a slightly pricier plan, or go elsewhere. I choose Option #2.

One of the services I tested two years ago was Zoho, a company that’s officially Californian but is mostly Indian. The gripes I had about Zoho two years ago have been resolved.

Zoho does all kind of stuff, 90 percent of which does not apply to me, but its email service is free up to 5 GB, five times what I’m getting from Fastmail for $20 a year.

I’ve used it for about month now. When I complete a year with no headaches I’ll let Fastmail go.

I still have my Gmail address, and I always will. Like my U.S. citizenship,  it’s something you don’t surrender. Both Fastmail and Zoho allow me to send virtually all email with my Gmail return address even I’m using Zoho or Fastmail.

* * * *

Third furniture:  I’m a big fan of password managers. Sure, the browser (at least Chrome and Opera do it) will save your passwords, but I just don’t trust the browsers  for that. It’s not their primary focus.

Over the years I’ve tried most of the major password managers, and I’ve found all of them buggy. The best so far is Dashlane, which is what I was using until I switched to the Opera browser and found Bitwarden by chance.

It was on Opera’s extension list.

I’d never heard of Bitwarden. It’s a relatively new company, and doesn’t try to do too much. It does not save your passport number, your driver’s license number, your bank acount numbers or the address of your crazy Aunt Mildred.

Bitwarden saves passwords, period, and it’s quick in coughing them up when you need them. It also generates safe passwords. I’m bewitched by Bitwarden.

Sometimes you have to shuffle the furniture around. The internet is fun, ¿no? I think so.

* * * *

(My internet life does not apply to a smartphone, tablet, laptop, none of that stuff. I’m strictly an H-P desktop man.)

Epic cluelessness

HERE’S A priceless demonstration of the divide between bona fide black people and leftist, elitist nincompoops.

The video showcases the usual leftist complaint about voter-ID requirements, that they discriminate against blacks who are, of course, too helpless to obtain official identification.

And then it gives a sampling of black reaction in Harlem to this condescending, leftist attitude toward them.

It’s fun. However, you can’t help but be mystified by blacks’ habitual support of the leftist Democrat Party.

And don’t forget the official election schedule: Republicans vote tomorrow, Nov. 8, and Democrats vote Nov. 9.

Another cord cut

IT SAT IN my email folder at dawn on Monday. Your account has been canceled. Your credit card, that is.

My last Gringo card. Zapped for inactivity.

I moved south 16 years ago with four credit cards, all issued by U.S. institutions and all paid in full every month via the checking account I opened in 1999 at Banamex USA,* the U.S. branch of the Mexican behemoth Banamex.

I’d been a longtime Wells Fargo Bank customer, but I was planning my move to Mexico.

sailor-knot-9-ana-maria-edulescuThe four cards were a Wells Fargo Mastercard, an AT&T Universal Visa and two other Visas from another bank, somewhere in the Dakotas, the name of which I have long forgotten.

The two Visas from the Dakota bank were the first to go. I had to cancel them both 12 years ago after one was skyjacked by Sky cable television down here. Never give Sky your credit card number for recurring charges.

That is very good advice for most Mexican firms.

That left me with two credit cards, which didn’t concern me.

A few years later, Wells Fargo sent a renewal card to my post office box here. But due to living in Mexico — a shady land, you know — they insisted I go to a bank here and jump through all manner of hoops to prove I am who I am.

Screw that, I muttered to myself as I cut up the card.

That left me with just one card, the AT&T Universal Visa. I was starting to get a little nervous. To have a backup, I went to Banamex here where I had a checking account and requested a credit card. They gave me one with a $10 limit, only a slight exaggeration, and there was a fat annual fee too.

About a year later, I got a hair up my keister about something, and I canceled the card. I hadn’t used it much.

So, back to just one credit card.

THE LETTER

Then the letter came in 2014 from Banamex USA. Your checking account will be canceled shortly. That happened due to a new U.S. law known by its initials, FATCA.

It’s all Barry Obama’s fault, of course.

Banamex USA was my only way to pay off the U.S. credit card. No other option existed.  I do not now qualify for another U.S. bank account. No U.S. address or driver’s license.

That effectively nulled my last credit card. But I never canceled it because, I thought, maybe one day I might need it, though I could not imagine how, where or why. I held onto the account, my final Gringo credit card, a lifeline.

There was no annual fee.

For many months, I was left only with a Banamex debit card, which is not as secure as a credit card, especially online.

I asked for my Banamex credit card again. They wouldn’t reissue it. It was due to FATCA, but they danced around that fact. Irked, I canceled my Banamex account that I’d had for 14 years. They didn’t seem to give a hoot.

Heartless, greedy capitalists!

HUNTING ALTERNATIVES

I opened a checking account just up the street at HSBC-Mexico. I asked for a credit card. Not just yet, they told me. Later maybe. Later came and went. No credit card.

So I went even farther up the street and opened a checking account at Bancomer, still keeping the one at HSBC. Again, I requested a credit card. Wait three months, they said. I waited, and they gave me a credit card. Yipee!

And another for my child bride. For this and other reasons, I’ve become a yuuuge** Bancomer booster.

I requested a credit card from HSBC many times, and they always said no with little explanation. I gave up. Months later, out of the blue, they asked if I wanted one.

I said sure. Go figger.

So now I have credit cards at both Bancomer and HSBC. I also had my AT&T Visa, the Gringo card, till this week, useless as it was, an emotional tie to the old country.

Gone now, like so many other cards and cords.

FORGET AMERICA

My goal these days is to have as little to do with that troubled land above the border as possible. The norm, it seems, for Americans living in Mexico is the opposite, to keep connected to the greatest degree possible.

They keep bank accounts, addresses, homes, relatives. You name it, they keep it. Their Mexican ties seem tenuous.

They’re always visiting up north. They’re always having friends bring down “stuff” they can’t find here, stuff they think they can’t live without. Someone recently posted on a Yahoo forum catering to local Gringos a list of “essential” stuff one needs from above the Rio Bravo. I guffawed.

  1. Workshop tools, as if you cannot find tools in Mexico.
  2. Down comforters, as if Costco doesn’t offer them, and so does Bed, Bath & Beyond.
  3. Mosquito nets, as if they’re not easy to find here.
  4. Smartphones. We Mexicans still use tin cans and string.
  5. Up-to-date laptops. Best Buy, Walmart, Sears, etc., in Mexico just sell crusty Commodores and dusty Ataris.
  6. Linens “to fit your bed.” Somehow, my Mexican linens always fit my beds, both king and queen.
  7. Walking sticks. Certainly, no walking sticks can be found here. I wonder where I found mine?
  8. Good binoculars. Only defective binoculars are sold in Mexico, of course, leftovers from pirate times.

That’s just some of the stuff I saw on the list, all of which is available in Mexico. Do they cost a bit more at times? Sure, but factor in your minuscule electric bill and fresh, cheap veggies and low restaurant tabs, you’re way ahead.

And the beautiful women.

I don’t go north anymore, nor do I have things smuggled down. It ain’t necessary. You can live quite well here with what’s available, and that’s what I try to do.

And now I have no Gringo credit cards at all.

If you read all this, you’re a better man than I am.

* * * * *

* Banamex USA is closing entirely this year. There has long been talk of its involvement in money laundering. HSBC’s reputation along those lines isn’t much better.

** Trump allusion.

(Note: There is a Mexican credit bureau. It has no connection with credit bureaus in the United States, so you start from scratch below the border no matter how good or bad a credit rating you had in the United States.)