Why should missionaries pay special attention to make sure they have just the right computer apps before they go overseas?
For at least two reasons:
- Bad internet connections.
- Bad governments.
(I’m assuming you already have a VOIP service like skype. If not, get a Skype account and pay to get a phone number in the US.)Discover the Top5 Online Resources for Missionaries Raising Support… (that aren’t for Missionaries).
Bad internet connections can require special computer programs.
Many in the West use more data on their smartphones each day than they could squeeze out of their internet connection all month overseas.
If you try to download something with a painfully slow connection overseas, it can take hours. Not only will your connection be slow, it will often be inconsistent. That means after downloading something for an hour (and expecting four more hours!), your internet connection could stop working. You might have to start that download over. Bummer.
If you are paying by the megabyte, that can get expensive real fast if it takes multiple attempts to download something!
The solution: get a download manager.
The Free Download Manager does this:
- You can schedule when to download multiple items and queue them.
- You can pause and restart downloads.
- If your internet connection stops working, it will resume downloading where it left off without starting over.
Some people may have unlimited data, but the connection speed may be painfully slow, and with the free download manager, you can let it run all night.
Note: You can also find specific downloaders for YouTube videos, and even a downloader that just downloads the audio into mp3 format.
That way, you don’t have to use up internet data to watch a video multiple times.
Before going overseas, search on CNet’s download site for such programs.
Bad governments can block your favorite internet sites.
Many governments make popular sites unavailable in their countries: YouTube and Facebook are examples of websites that you can’t access overseas in many nations.
Often, this is to prevent access to materials that are perceived to be a threat to the government.
Or, you may be concerned that a government would have access to your emails.
What you need is a VPN – and you need a good one.
The best for years has been Witopia.net.
With a reasonable annual fee and an easy set-up, you simply click a button or two before you open your web browser, and you are protected.
Want to watch a YouTube video critical of the king? Go ahead.
Interested in why the government is so oppressive? Read all about it.
Want to make Facebook posts about the despotic ruler where you live? Make my day.
Witopia.net even lets you pick which city you connect through, and so you can “fool” internet websites into thinking you are in New York, for example. You will also bypass all of the restrictions that a government can place on the internet. Through my own personal experience and the testimony of others, I have yet to meet a country in which Witopia did not work.
Bad governments, or just plain bad people, can steal your computer.
For some missionaries, it is a hassle to lose all of the information on your laptop. For some missionaries, if your laptop falls into bad hands, then there is going to be trouble.
One way to mitigate this risk is to use a program that will encrypt a big chunk of your data. That way, even if your laptop is stolen, which is still a hassle, at least you know that they won’t get their paws on sensitive data.
The best (free) program for this is TrueCrypt.
It allows you to set aside large parts of your hard drive that can then only be accessed with a special password. It can even be tricky for others to find out how to access this part of your hard drive, let alone figure out the password. If you are really hard core, you can totally hide the encrypted portion.
Now, getting it set up is a little tricky for those of us not computer savvy, but the peace of mind is worth it.
[Update: There is a great review of the more user friendly BoxCryptor over at Financial Ramblings.]
Be sure you get these computer programs before you go overseas.
Install the VPN from Witopia before you go overseas. Get your sensitive data encrypted.
Install the download manager before you overseas.
Practice using them so that you can familiarize yourself with how they work and iron out any glitches that may occur.
Do yourself a favor and overcome the biggest problems you will have with the internet overseas: bad connections, and bad governments.