Sal Aguilar's Adventures in IT

computers are easier to deal with than people

From Managua to Miami, Orlando & Tampa — June 17, 2016

From Managua to Miami, Orlando & Tampa


Every once in a while you need some vacations right? Well this is the story of how I kept my cost low using internet deals and other websites.

Plane tickets

To buy a cheap plane ticket you have 2 options, you buy it online either on Kayak or CheapoAir (expedia.com is another good option)or you use your credit card points to buy it from local travel agencies like Aeromundo or Schuvar Tours.

Usually on websites, you can subscribe to your desired destination and you will get deals and even coupons with 15-30 USD discounts.

If you pick to use your credit card miles, they are usually exchanged at USD 0.016 per mile, so if you have 100 lines, then you have USD 1.6 to spend! To travel to Miami you usually need between 15,000 to 20,000 miles. Buying airplane tickets is the best way to cash out your miles, if you rather get stuff on stores or hard cold cash, then each mile is USD 0.008, which mean that if you have 100 miles, then you only have USD 0.80 (eighty cents) to spend.

Some tips:

  • Buy the airplane ticket at least 1 or 2 months ahead, the more the better.
  • Be sure to put flexible dates, that way  you check which one is cheaper.

Some feedback about flights from airlines departing from Managua (Aeropuerto Augusto Cesar Sandino – MGA):

United

 

  • Their route is Managua to Houston (MGA-IAH).
  • Flight duration is about 3 hours.
  • Snack included; breakfast, lunch or dinner available for purchase only.
  • Movies and TV available for purchase.

 

American Airlines

  • They have two routes: Managua to Miami (MGA-MIA) & Managua to Fort Worth (MGA-DFW).
  • MGA-MIA duration is 2:30 hours. MGA-DFW is 4 hours.
  • Snack included; breakfast, lunch or dinner available for purchase only.

Delta

  • Their route is Managua to Atlanta (MGA-ATL).
  • Flight duration is 4 hours.
  • Snack included; breakfast, lunch or dinner available for purchase only.

Avianca

  • Their route is also Managua to Miami (MGA-MIA) – but it can also be Managua to El Salvador to Miami (MGA – SAL – MIA).
  • MGA-MIA duration is 2:30 hours.
  • Includes breakfast, lunch or dinner depending on the time.
  • Movies and TV available for FREE with headsets.

Car Rentals

Once you got the tickets purchase, next step was to get a car. I searched on Yelp  for reviews, and I found a winner: Family Rent a Car – all the others Sixt, EZ Rent A car had awful reviews.

However we had to make sure that we had a car, so after some research on the big brand rent a cars like Budget, Dollar, Enterprise; I signed up with Alamo. They a membership program called Alamo Insiders. A few days after signing in, I received a coupon on my email for a FREE upgrade. Upon comparing with Family’s quote. I was saving USD 60 with the coupon, so I kept Alamo.

Upon arriving to the Miami Airport, you look for the Miami Mover (a train on the airport) that will take you to the Rental Car Center, which is a building outside the airport. Then you go to the counter and you can either go to the self serve station or talk to a clerk.

Some tips:

  • Pay full price with a credit card. The credit card includes an insurance so you can reject the rental car insurance and all the other charges that they ask.
  • They will put a USD 200 charge for deposit on your card. The amount gets reimbursed once you return the car back.
  • Tolls, tolls & SunPass. In Florida, you pay tolls everywhere!  So Alamo cars have a SunPass program where they charge the car and then they debit the total tolls charge to your credit card. That way you do not have to pay cash. Simply go thru any SunPass toll at the speed specified and you will be good to go.
  • Gas is cheaper in Florida than Nicaragua, enjoy that!
  • Nicaraguan credit cards are not accepted on most Gas Pumps on Gas Stations, so you will always need to go to the clerk and prepay your gas. Be sure to specify the pump number.
  • Miami to Orlando via the TurnPike highway is about 3 hours.
  • Orlando to Tampa is about 2.5 hours.
  • Tampa to Miami is about 5 hours.

Hotels

This was the most exhausting task of all the rest. We did the reservation 3 times and we used trivago.com, expedia.com and booking.com – we cancel with expedia and then moved to booking because of a lower rate and another FREE UPGRADE.

Be sure to pay directly on the website to get a lower rate instead of paying at the hotel to get the lowest rate possible.

Phone, GPS & Internet

Since I do not own an unlocked phone, I took my Movistar phone and made use of the Roaming Sin Fronteras program which charges you USD 5 per day for internet. So with Internet on my phone and Waze. I was all set. As soon as we got the car, I launched Waze and put the address where we were going and a couple of minutes later we where there. Simple. I drove over 700 miles using Waze in Florida and it went awesome!

It was very very cool. And cheap by the way. I hope some of my tips work for you and if you have any tips for me, be sure to let me know so I can use it on the future!

 

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How websites get hacked? And WordPress meetup Managua — June 11, 2016

How websites get hacked? And WordPress meetup Managua


On May, I had the opportunity to participate on Desarrolladores WordPress Nicaragua (You can find them facebookmeetup ) monthly meetup.

Both my business partner and co-founder of SenorCoders.com and myself gave talks. While I talked about How Websites get Hacked, Kharron talked about Developing a Mobile App using WordPress as the backend.

My presentation was based out of the work that I do each day as part of the Remediation team in Sucuri. You can find my presentation here:

 

Special thanks to:

  • Daniel Gordon & Steven Hansen from Rain for sponsoring the venue, sodas and pizzas.
  • Tom Sepper @ Site5 for sponsoring the web hosting accounts

 

 

My Credomatic credit card was cloned —

My Credomatic credit card was cloned


Yes, I went to California back in May for work, and a couple of days after I came back to Nicaragua, I received a call from BAC Credomatic, the guy who called me identified himself as part of their Security group. It was odd why was my credit card issuer’s security department calling me ?

He asked me if I was aware of some charges done to my card in Russia (I mentally shouted WHAAAT?????), I denied any charge and he informed be about  4 charges of which they only approved one for about USD 250 (ouch!). But that for security purposes they blocked the other 3 because I have never reported traveling to Russia, nor made any purchase there, EVER!

The representative informed me that the credit card was disabled and that they would issue a new one and send it to me in no more than 3 business days. It was Friday, so that meant that I would have the new card with me on Wednesday, which honestly was fine for me.

The very next dat, a Saturday, I went as requested to the nearest branch of BAC, and went to Customer Service and explained my case, the representative, filled out a form, printed it and then had me sign it. I was informed that in 45 days, I should have my money back (I mentally shouted YES!!!).

I honestly expected further bureaucracy, but was relieved that it wasn’t the case. I have another good reason why keep using BAC!

Please note that I do not have any special insurance, since as per VISA/MASTERCARD/AMEX you do have 90 days to put a claim about a purchase you have not performed and they investigate and usually credit the money back to you. Unfortunately the business where the purchase was made will get a charge back on his statement, which is basically their merchant removing that amount of money plus a penalty which varies depending on the merchant.

Thank you VISA & BAC Credomatic, you have a happy customer 🙂

Alternative to PayPal in Nicaragua: Costa Rica — March 10, 2016

Alternative to PayPal in Nicaragua: Costa Rica


After an overwhelming traffic to my previous post 2 Alternatives to Paypal in Nicaragua, I was asked to expand my comments on each case, so today I am bringing you more information about using Paypal in Nicaragua, and yes its thru our southern neighbor country, Costa Rica.

As many of you already know, we can receive payments but we can’t cash them out locally. So after research online and conversations with many friends, such as Hosmel Quintana, an awesome Nicaraguan Developer working on UpWork and making a living.

So let’s now get straight to the point. The how-to begins now.

How this works?

Simple, Paypal works in Costa Rica, for both making and receiving payments and cashing them out. But there is a trick, it ONLY works with Banco Nacional but you will be able to transfer your money from Paypal to your Savings Account, which is what we want access to our money!!!

What do you need?

  1. Go to Costa Rica with a valid passport.
  2. Go to any branch of Banco Nacional.
  3. Open a Savings account with your passport. Do not explicitly state that you only want it for Paypal.
  4. Be sure to get the token that they give you to access BN Internet Banking, you will need it afterwards when enabling Paypal.
  5. Once your account is activated. You would need to open a new Paypal account and provide address of Costa Rica. You can look online and even  use any address listed here. You can check out this guide for step by step guidance.
  6. Once your costa rican Paypal account is activated, you would need to link the bank account using the information of your Savings Account from Banco Nacional. Upon activation it will ask you for the token, which you will use to finish the setup.
  7. You are done!

Restrictions and warnings: its not that simple

  1. You can NOT transfer from Paypal to Banco Nacional USD999 or more. This will raise red flags and would probably be forced to legally open a business in Costa Rica pay all the according taxes.
  2. If you want to cash out USD1,000 or more you would have to legally open a company, and open a business account with them. You would have a limit of USD10,000 per transaction and USD50,000 per day. That is a LOT if you ask me. These are the requirements for the business account. 
  3. You need to use an email that was not previously activated on Paypal. Be sure to follow the proper instructions listed here.
  4. The commissions, the ugly part, are these:
    1. Banco Nacional will charge you 0.5% if its more than USD 2,200.
    2. Banco Nacional will charge you USD 11 if its less than USD 2,200.

Getting the cash: How to transfer from Paypal to Banco Nacional?

  1. Login to your BN Internet Banking with your username and password.
  2. Once inside, look for PAGOS and then select PAYPAL.
  3. On the left menu, you should see the following option: Retirar fondos de cuenta PayPal. Click there.
  4. You will then have to type the number that was generated on your Token.
  5. Banco Nacional will now list the terms and conditions, which you have to accept if you want to continue.
  6. You will then select the Paypal account to which you want to perform the transfer to.
  7. Next step is to define how much money you want to transfer.
  8. Then you will have to confirm the transaction. Be sure to review the amount.
  9. Once confirmed, the transfer takes up to 5 business days to hit your account.
  10. After 5 days you should have your money ready. Awesome!

Conclusion

Even though is not the best option, it’s an option if you want to be able to cash out your Paypal funds on any ATM. I am still not sure about the specific ATM withdrawals fee, but that is something I am working on currently. If any one has already done it, I would appreciate you share the fees so I can include them here, and give you the proper credits on this article as well.

Thanks for reading and feel free to contact me for questions or suggestions. Jokes are welcomed too!

2 Alternatives to Paypal in Nicaragua — March 2, 2016

2 Alternatives to Paypal in Nicaragua


Last year I wrote an article about how Paypal is working on Nicaragua, and its 2016 and we are still on the same place: we can get money in, but we can’t cash it out locally 😦 , we need to spend it again via Paypal, which on my particular case has come in handy when paying for servers in Digital Ocean (please use this affiliate link – thanks for using it), Domains & Hosting in Site5 (please use this affiliate link), Games on the XBOX store (I’m a HUGE batman fan).

But at the end of the day you need hard, cold cash. So below are some options you can use instead of Paypal if you work with foreign customers.

PayOneer

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This is a very known Mastercard debit card that is used by many freelancers who work and get paid via UpWork.com and other similar sites. This is a service that provides you with a US based checking account in Bank of America that companies on the US can deposit money and it will be linked to your card. Unfortunately that only works to get deposits from business or corporate accounts.

They do offer however a credit card based service, which it was suspended a couple of years ago and it seems is working again. The service will basically send an email to your client and they will go to a page from Payoneer where they can put their credit card information and perform the payment. They can even decide who is going to pay the fee for the transaction.

In Nicaragua, you can use this card on any ATM from banks who take Mastercard, I have being told by some freelancer friends that ProCredit ATMs offer the lowest fees, followed by BANPRO and lastly BAC being the most expensive one.

Payoneer Fees

Debit Card Annual fee: USD 29.95
Deposits to US Checking account: 1% (if you get paid 500 USD, they will charge you USD 5). Maximum is USD3000 per transaction.
Credit Card payments: 3% per transaction, the only take MASTERCARD & VISA, Maximum is USD2000 per transaction.

ATM Withdrawal fee:  3.15% per transaction (some ATMs add another charge on top of this percentage)

As a conclusion, this is a very good solution if you are getting payments from different customers and your transactions are below the USD2000. My suggestion is to use it when you can and instead of cashing out, to avoid the fees, try to use it as a debit card to pay for stuff like groceries, internet, gas or entertainment!

You can use my affiliate link to ORDER YOUR CARD TODAY FOR FREE

PaypalPanamá via LAFISE

This is a solution that has been suggested to me recently and for which I am still on the process of requesting it to LAFISE, since they are a regional bank with offices in Panama, you can open a bank account in LAFISE PANAMA without ever even leaving Nicaragua. You will have to go to your nearest LAFISE branch and talk to Customer Service (servicios bancarios in Spanish) and they will provide a list of the requirements to do so. Once you have filled all the requirements they will give you the bank account information. It cost around USD 20 since you are required to get LAFISE ID, which is their security method to login plus around USD200 cash to have there to keep your account opened.

They you will need to open a new Paypal account, but open it as if you were living in Panamá. After that you will link your LAFISE PANAMA Bank account to Paypal so you can start getting payments. Since LAFISE also has offices here, the transfers between countries are free.

All normal Paypal fees apply.

 

2Checkout

2co_logoA friend of mine, who owns a business directory website, has used their service for many years now. What they basically do, is they provide a back end so your customers can login there, put the credit card information and process the payment. 2checkout would then give you the option to wire you the money to your Nicaraguan bank account.

They do ask a lot of questions and are very strict about knowing exactly who you are, so they will ask you to provide a lot of documentation, but in the end you will be able to get payments internationally, so on my humble opinion, it’s worth it.

2checkout fees

Credit Card Transactions: 3.9% + 45¢
Wire Transfer cost: USD40-65

What’s next?

There are some options I didn’t include on this list because they would need you to open legal companies in other countries or ar alternative methods of sending money to Nicaragua so I am just going to list them briefly:

  1. Open a US company or LLC on any state, file with the IRS to get EIN, open a bank account on the business name and then start using services like Stripe or Authorize.net.
  2. Open a bank account in Costa Rica, in Banco Nacional and  create a Paypal account as if you were living in Costa Rica and link it to that account.
  3. Use Western Union, Moneygram, Xoom, etc.

If you have any tips or other ways that we as Nicaraguan Freelancers and entrepreneurs can benefit from, please let me know!

Tapping on all WordPress users, what is your focus ? — February 26, 2016

Tapping on all WordPress users, what is your focus ?


DLNA on Mac: The Ultimate Guide — February 24, 2016

DLNA on Mac: The Ultimate Guide


Well folks, many of you have read my article from Streaming from Mac OS X to a Roku Streaming Device and Stream Media from Debian to XBOX One, now it comes this guide, which is basically a different way of using DLNA on your Mac OS X (El Capitan).

Requirements

  • Mac OS X El Capitan
  • Internet access
  • Brew
  • Any DLNA capable device (Android device, Roku, Windows based computer, Playstation 4, XBOX or any SmartTV. The device needs to be on the same network as your Mac OS X computer.
  • Time, and willing to geek out!!

Step 1: Install Brew

Brew is the missing package manager for Mac OS X, it’s what aptitude is for Debian, yum for Red Hat based Linux distributions (RHEL, Fedora, CentOS, etc).It makes your life really easy if you are a developer or sysadmin. Install packages just like you would do on linux. Forget about downloading sources and compiling. This is the way to roll.

  1. Open your Terminal on your Mac OS X computer.
  2. Type the following command:
    ruby -e "$(curl -fsSL https://raw.githubusercontent.com/Homebrew/install/master/install)"
  3. Wait for Brew to be installed. If it fails for any reason, please visit this link for further information.

Step 2: Install minidlna

On linux, we have minidlna which is a daemon used to share media contents in your network using DLNA. The daemon is now called ReadyMedia. The full description is:

ReadyMedia (formerly MiniDLNA) is server software with the aim of being fully compliant with DLNA/UPnP-AV clients.

  1. Once Brew is installed, go back to your terminal and get ready.
  2. Type the following command on your terminal to install minidlna:
    brew install minidlna
  3. This will download & install minidlna on your device. If you get any errors, then please run this command and then go back to step 2:
    brew update
  4. If minidlna installed without problems, move to the next step.

Some clarifications:

  • The software is installed on the folder /usr/local/Cellar/minidlna/x.x.x (x.x.x would be the version of minidlna installed.

Step 3: Setup minidlna sharing folders

This step is about to setup all the following: device name, folder where your media is stored and that you want to share across your network.

  1. Go back to your terminal.
  2. Open a text editor to modify the configuration file. So type the following command:
    nano /usr/local/Cellar/minidlna/x.x.x/share/minidlna/minidlna.conf
  3. Now customize your settings, please make sure that you customize the media_dir with the actual path where your media is stored, below is an example that you can use :
    friendly_name=Mac DLNA Server
    media_dir=/Users/salvador_aguilar/movies/

    Please note that you can name it what ever you’d like and the media_dir NEEDS to be an existing directory/folder on your computer so be sure to put the right path.

  4. Brew does not creates the symbolic links for minidlna to work well, so we are going to have to do this:
    ln -s /usr/local/Cellar/minidlna/x.x.x/sbin/minidlnad /usr/local/bin/minidlnad

    What you are doing here is basically creating a shortcut from our recently installed minidlna on the brew directory to our /usr/local/bin directly which is where most used commands are stored. In a few words to make your life easier. Less is more, enjoy!

  5. Launch minidlna with the following command:
    minidlna

    If you have OS X firewall turned on, then you will get a prompt that you will need to approve to give permission to minidlna to serve files on your network.

  6. Voilá! Now you can turn on your TV, XBOX, Android Device or any DLNA capable device that is connected to the same network as your Mac, and you should be able to see your Mac serving media files via DLNA.

    No need for Apple TV or any other Apple branded media devices. This will make your Mac talk to EVERYONE using a STANDARD that they have refused to use or implement! Bad Apple!

Let me know if you need a guide for a specific device, XBOX, Playstation, Roku, etc. I’m always eager for new challenges!


					
Top 5 WordPress Tools for any WordPress Developer — February 18, 2016

Top 5 WordPress Tools for any WordPress Developer


As a professional working on WordPress sites, I wanted to share what are the tools that I use on my day to day WordPress Development and Management tasks, I hope these tools will make your life easier, as they did to me, so without further comments, let’s begin:

Chrome Developer Tools

faster-htmlcss-workflow-with-chrome-developer-tools
It’s incredible that many people who do WordPress sites are not aware of how useful your Chrome browser is. Google has made very great things with it and Dev Tools is a biggest part of it. You can find Javascript errors, see HTTP headers, do performance analysis and much much more. Its an essential part of what I use to diagnose issues with websites.

Website: https://developers.google.com/web/tools/chrome-devtools/

YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dJR-n8szgBc

wp-cli: Command Line Interface for WordPress

wp-cli

If you are a console lover like me, you’d appreciate this tool very very much. wp-cli is a terminal application built on PHP, that allows you executing a lot of wordpress management tasks such as updating & install plugins, adding users, password resets, etc and everything from the comfort of your favorite shell environment (I use and ❤ Oh my zsh). It requires you to have a unix like environment and PHP installed.

Website: http://wp-cli.org/ 

Twitter: @wpcli

GitHub: https://github.com/wp-cli/wp-cli

YouTube: WP-CLI – A Practical Guide For The Rest of Us WordCamp

Wocker: Docker for WordPress

Wocker Rapid development environment for WordPress

Wocker is a rapid development environment for WordPress. It’s based on Docker. It works on Linux and Mac. Since I am using a Mac, it made my life easier as I don’t need to setup Apache and MySQL each time I have to setup a new WordPress boilerplate! (AWESOME)

This allows you a great way to locally develop a site and then you can migrate it over to your web host using any of the available methods!

Author: Kite Koga (@ixkaito)
Website:
 http://wckr.github.io/

YouTube Tutorial: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F3OAm7qMeic

Presentation: http://www.slideshare.net/kaitokoga9/wocker-create-a-wordpress-development-environment-in-seconds

WordPress Codex

One thing I love the most about WordPress its all the documentation is available online, and codex @ wordpress.org is the best online resource for anything wordpress documentation, whether you are starting or you need a quick reference about any function of the CMS. +1 to Automatic for making such an awesome resource online available to us all.

Website: https://codex.wordpress.org/

The IDE: PHPStorm by JetBrains vs SublimeText

highlight-comparision

I know this is a very personal decision for each one of you, but to me PhpStorm is better than SublimeText when it comes to being a real IDE. Sure SublimeText has a lot (I seriously mean A LOT) of plugins that extend its functionality, but PHPStorm comes with everything I need from scratch.

Download PHPStorm: https://www.jetbrains.com/phpstorm/

PHPStorm & WordPress Tutorial: WordPress Development using PhpStorm

Download SublimeText: http://sublimetext.com/

SublimeText & WordPress tutorial: Setting Up Sublime Text for WordPress Development

Conclusion

This are the tools that I use and work for me, let me know if I missed other tool that you use on your daily tasks that simplify your work with WordPress. I would love to learn new tools!

Avoid SSH Timeouts on the Mac Terminal —

Avoid SSH Timeouts on the Mac Terminal


I admit it, I’m always with a lot of applications opened, Chrome with at least 6 tabs, Skype, Slack, PHPStorm or SublimeText, Airmail or Outlook for Mac, Photoshop and terminal.

I regularly login via SSH to VPS in Digital Ocean and AWS EC2 and then run some commands like:

wp plugin install wordfence

Then I go to the wordpress site and start adjusting the settings, but by the time I get back to the terminal (5 – 10 minutes), the SSH session is frozen, so I’m forced to open a new one. I honestly became tired of this, and I remembered that SSH was built on TCP and as such it should have some “Keep Alive” settings like on SIP (sorry I come from the call center world). And after some search online, I found that you can make this change both from the server side (SSHD: Secure SHell Daemon) or from your CLI (*nix, Linux & Mac).

Reduce SSH Timeouts from the server

Reduce SSH Timeouts from your computer

All you need to do is to setup your ssh client to send a “Keep Alive” signal to the server every certain amount of seconds. So you can add the following text to your ~/.ssh/config file:

Host remote-host
HostName remote-host.com
ServerAliveInterval 120

This basically tells your computer to send “keep alive” signals to remote-host.com every 120 seconds (2 minutes). That way the session will not get frozen for that server.

If you want to enable this for all of the hosts that you connect to, then simply add the following strings instead:

Host *
  ServerAliveInterval 120

This will setup the “keep alive” signal interval to 2 minutes for any host that you connect to via SSH.

After you finish editing the file, please make sure to change the permissions on the file using the following command:

chmod 600 ~/.ssh/config

And there you go, as simple as that! No more timeouts on my terminal app on my Mac OS El capitan MBP!

WordPress Security: your responsibility as a website owner — February 17, 2016

WordPress Security: your responsibility as a website owner


As part of my job, I help customers on a daily basis to overcome hacks, defacement and malware infections on their WordPress. Most of them are just business owners or WordPress developers who don’t mind much about security.

A website is like a car, if you don’t do regular maintenance then you can’t expect it to last forever. The software: WordPress, themes and plugins,  have bugs that are discovered thru time and that is why WordPress is updated pretty often and same for themes and plugins.

Since WordPress makes up for the 25% of all the website in the world wide web, it has become an usual attraction for hackers and script kiddies looking for an ego boost, or simply to use your site as a proxy to attack someone else.

I regularly have a tough time trying to explain this, but I was lucky enough to find this amazing talk by Tony Perez, the CEO of Sucuri (@perezbox on twitter). Sucuri is one of the leading Malware cleaning companies that are helping website owners and developers to protect their sites & help them recover from malware infections.

Below is his talk from a WordCamp from 2015:

Navigating Today’s Website Threats!! – A Stroll Through WordPress Security

 

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