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Posts tagged travel related goods

MagicJack update

magicjack

Since last posting about magicJack I’ve actually had the chance to use the magicJack USB device on a daily basis. Initially I was really excited. Then there were some problems, but now my hopes have been bolstered, somewhat, again.

The problems:
– Sometimes incoming calls wouldn’t connect. I had this happen three times on the second day I was using it full time. One time I was the caller. The incoming calls were coming from different places so it wasn’t a problem on the other end. This hasn’t happened since.
– Initially there was lots of static on my calls. Once I removed the cable connecting the magicJack to the USB port (the USB extension cord pictured here), the static disappeared.
– An echo or lag sometimes happens. This is heard more by the person on the other end than the caller on the magicJack end.

The possible solutions:
– I think the first problem was solved by a reboot of the computer.
– Don’t use the cable to connect your magicJack to your USB port. Connect the magicJack directly into the USB port.
– I believe the echos and lags occur because of an upload speed that is too slow. Something I have done that has made this better, if not made for perfectly clear calls in most cases, is the following.

1. Go to an internet speed test site like this one: http://www.speakeasy.net/speedtest/ Test your speed and write down your results.
2. Download TCPOptimizer.exe from here: http://www.speedguide.net/downloads.php and run the program. Move the Connection Speed slider bar to the far right. Click on “Optimal settings” and then hit “Apply changes.” Reboot.
3. Run the internet speed test again and see if your results aren’t better. My test results weren’t much better, but my phone calls using magicJack seem clearer with less echo and lag on the other person’s end.

Is my magicJack connection crystal clear and perfect in the US yet? No. I’m hoping with a better connection in Japan it will work better. I’ll let you know soon. Until then, I’ve got my fingers crossed.

Electricity (power converter, adapters) for Japan

power supply electricity volts watts hertz conversion japan usa canada converter plugs outlets

Some of the most often asked questions on the travel Japan boards are “Will my electronic devices work in Japan?”, “Can I bring my hair dryer to Japan?”, “Do I need an outlet converter or adapter when traveling to Japan?” and other similar ones. The answer depends on where you are coming from and what you are bringing.

Japan’s electrical outlets work on 100V and either 50 or 60Hz. The outlets are two pronged like those in the US and Canada. Most devices (NiMH or camera battery chargers, AC adapters for laptop computers, games, small appliances, etc.) will run and plug in just fine in Japan if you purchased them in North America. To be sure check the back. I’ve shown a few examples in the photo above. Notice that all four items (computer AC adapter, DS game AC adapter, rechargeable battery charger, and camera battery charger) were made in China for both Japanese and North American consumers. North America works on a slightly higher volts 110V instead of 100V in Japan. Even if your device says 110V-240V it should work fine at 100V.

Hair dryers may not heat up well in Japan if they are made to work at 110V or 125V. If you are going to be in Japan for an extended period of time you may want to purchase your hair dryer there. They can be had for under $20. In addition to possibly functioning better, it will be one less thing you have to cram into your suitcase.

If you are going to Japan from a high voltage country (Australia, Europe, China, etc.) then you will need a converter for some devices. You will also need a plug adapter.

One final note, three prong plugs are less common in Japan than they are in Canada and the USA.

Cell phone plan for a family in Japan

I’m one of the last people on the planet to own a cell phone. Being that my family can’t speak Japanese, they are pretty adamant that I get one in Japan in case they ever need to call me to help them out of a sticky situation. That being the case, I plan to obtain my first (and hopefully last) cell phone in Japan.

The first plan I was referred to was by NTT. The NTT family plan appears to be about $16 a month. Not bad. But then I found that Softbank has an even better plan at only about $10 a month.

Given that nearly all of our calls will be to each other, the fact that both of these plans allow for free calls to family is great.

We’ll also have to purchase phones. However, I understand that if you get the bottom of the barrel variety the phones are almost free. And I’ve heard that the worst cell phones in Japan are better than the best elsewhere so the cheapest Japanese phone is fine by me.

Most of these plans have large penalties if you don’t continue the plan for at least a year. Since we will be in Tokyo for a year that shouldn’t be a problem for us. If you plan to go to Japan for a shorter period of time then you probably just want to purchase some prepaid minutes.

Do you have any experiences with a cell phone plan in Japan that can be of use to me (or others reading this)? If so, please respond to this message with any hints, feedback, etc.

magicJack

magic jack cables magicjack

A friend recommended that I pick up a magicJack before heading to Japan. Yesterday I did. What is magicJack you ask? It is a device/service that allows you to make free phone calls. I picked mine up at RadioShack for $40. You can also buy them online, but with shipping you’ll end up spending about $47.

I set it up at home on my laptop and at work on my desktop without incident. The installation process worked a little differently on each, and in neither case did it automatically install like it was supposed to. In both cases I had to launch an executable file that was supposed to run on its own. The install was fast and easy once I launched the correct file. I had no further problems.

Currently I spend about $25 a month for unlimited calls using voip.com. Hopefully by the time I get back from Japan in 2010 magicJack will have local numbers in my area so I can use it instead.

With no local numbers available, I opted for a Eugene, Oregon phone number. I can still call anyone with this device in the U.S. or Canada for free even while in Japan.

The marketing on the package is a bit deceptive. It says “Free International Calls.” When you read the fine print what you will find is that “International Calls” means calls to the U.S.A. and Canada from anywhere in the world–not calls from the U.S.A. to anywhere in the world. So, when I’m in Japan, I can call the U.S. for free but I can’t call other numbers in Japan for free. It costs about $.02 a minute to call Japan landlines and about $.15 a minute to call Japanese cell phones.

One of the nice things about magicJack is you don’t have to have a headset, nice computer speakers/microphone, or a webcam to use it. You can simply plug in any phone and speak and listen through it. It does work through a headset or webcam though. Another nice thing, compared to Skype, is the other person doesn’t have to be using magicJack. You can call regular phones and regular cell phones without any additional fees.

The cost is really incredible. $40 gets you the device and your first year of unlimited calls. You can then pay $60 for 5 more years of unlimited calling to the US and Canada or $20 a year on a year-by-year basis. That is not a typo. $20 a year–not month–for unlimited calls, voice mail, caller id, etc.

Finally, not only will I be able to call from Japan for free, but since this is a U.S. phone number, friends and family from the U.S. can call me for free or for much lower rates than they would normally have to pay when calling Japan.

Canon 15 x 45 IS Image Stabilizer Binoculars

The fire sale around here continues. 😉 I’ve been going through some things in an effort to reduce the amount of stuff we will be putting into storage when we move to Japan. I came across a nice pair of binoculars that I haven’t used in years. In fact, I never used these much.

Canon no longer makes the 15×45 IS Binoculars. They’ve done a minor upgrade with the Canon 18×50 Image Stabilization Binoculars which list for $1,600, but they can usually be found online for about $1,200.

I saw a pair of the 15×45 IS binoculars (which were probably used much more than my pair) go for $850 + shipping on ebay. If you are interested I’ll let these go for $750 including shipping to addresses in the U.S. A guy recently sold these same binoculars for $250 more than what I’m asking.

Included are the binoculars, shields for the lenses, neck strap, and the hard case–all original and all in outstanding condition. These binoculars freeze whatever you are looking at with the touch of a button. They are great for astronomy, viewing wildlife, and sporting events. I haven’t used them for anything else, but I’m sure there are many other applications. Spying perhaps?

Check out the online reviews of the Canon 15×45 IS Binoculars. You won’t find any unhappy owners.

Don’t let these beauties sit in storage. Take them off my hands, enjoy them, and put them to good use.

Specs from the Canon website:
– High-magnification (15x) binoculars with built-in image stabilizer.
– Ultra-low dispersion (UD) glass elements for outstanding image quality.
– Doublet field-flattener for sharp, distortion-free images from edge-to-edge.
– Water-resistant non-slip rubber coating for superior protection and secure handling.
– Long eye relief (15 mm), wide field of view (67 degrees).

Canon PowerShot S3 IS 12X zoom 6MP camera for sale

In my ongoing efforts to liquidate my possessions that aren’t coming with me to Japan in a few months, I’m selling the camera that has taken most of the pictures you see on this blog.

The condition of this camera is like new. There are no scratches, it functions perfectly, and it includes everything you’d receive if buying it new (except software as a more recent version can be downloaded for free here). I’m also throwing in a Gear camera bag ($20 value) for free. The Canon S3 will be shipped in its original box.

The retail price is $499.99. Take it and the camera bag off my hands for $200 plus postage. For more specs see this page.

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