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Archive for the ‘Business’ Category

Domestic Help – BPS

Posted by urufish on March 22, 2008


When you hire a person to work for you your household, you are supposed to subscribe them into the BPS (Social Insurance) scheme in Uruguay.  The heading for cleaning staff is ‘Servicio Domestico’.

The fees have changed in the past several months–upwards.  Our cleaning lady works for us 3 days a week.   We listed her total monthly income from working for us as UYP5300/month.  We pay her contributions to the BPS.  They’re UYP2600/month – about half of her salary again. 

It’s very important that you do this for 2 reasons.  The first is an ethical one.   These people make very little money, even by Uruguayan standards.  Paying for their BPS entitles them to a better health program (well, it used to before the reform – not sure what it means now), and to a pension when they retire.  Many Uruguyan domestics aren’t enrolled and when they’re old and cant work any more, they wont have this pension.   The 2nd reason is CYA.   If your employee reports you, especially after years of neglect, you’ll be backbilled, with fines.  No matter how wonderful the relationship is with your employee, times change.  In this case, not subscribing an employee really is a fool’s game. 

This is a copy of what the monthly bill looks like, complete with all the various deductions and what they’re for.   Double click to be able to read the details. 


Posted in Business, Taxes | 3 Comments »

Dedicado vs Anteldata – Round 2

Posted by urufish on November 19, 2007

And the winner is….  Anteldata by a KO. 

 bad-dedicado.jpg  Dedicado is struggling today.. I’m being kind. 

Today, after a month of peace, Dedicado fell off the wagon… again.  This is the 3rd or forth time in the past couple of months.  This is what Dedicado looks like when it goes bad…  uuggllyyyy. 

It’s at these moments, one appreciates having their 2nd connection..  I just switched over to Anteldata and life goes on. 

If you’re planning on working here, and you value your time, the extra 50-60 bucks a month is worth it.  I’ve got a teleconference at 17:30 today…   Making excuses when you’re a few thousand miles away isn’t a smart way to keep your job.  No one wants to hear your excuses. 

Based on the last 2 years, I’d give Anteldata the nod if you must work with a single supplier.  Dedicado simply is too flaky if you need serious connectivity.  If your only option is Dedicado, have a backup plan.  Maybe a friend somewhere you can drive to who has Antel.  My friend in Arica, Chile made a deal with a local Cybercafe to cover her before she got her 2nd connection. 

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Dedicado vs Anteldata

Posted by urufish on October 24, 2007


For those of you considering an internet connection here in Uruguay, these tests below are indicative of each provider’s performance, on normal days, when nothing is going wrong. 

For work, I prefer the Dedicado service at UYP 1900/month for 512/512 (up and down).    I need at least 256kb upstream to support multiple, concurrent VoIP connections. 

The Anteldata service is UYP1268/month for 1mb/128 (down and up).  My family uses this connection unless Dedicado is struggling, at which time I comandeer it for my use. 

Separating connections like this protects me from my daughter’s indiscriminate use of Limewire and spurious downloads, video streaming and other bandwidth hogs, intentional and otherwise. 

I use Visualware’s MySpeed Voip to monitor performance and generate these graphs below.  The picture at the top is from Visualware’s Visualroute program.  This picture represents a graphical and mapped analysis for the connection between Montevideo and Toronto, Canada.  This specific route is the most common.  Notice the large delay between Uruguay and Miami.  This has been there for at least the last 3 years.  For greater detail, click on the graphs for larger images. 





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Caveat Emptor

Posted by urufish on October 22, 2007


Charles and Luba are coming back to Uruguay this week.  Charles asked  us to pick up a cellphone for them.  I usually go to Motociclo to pickup inexpensive CTI phones.  I biked there around 8pm, but they close at 7pm.  A friend told me there’s one at Montevideo Shopping, so we drove over there.  Wrong…  But there was a CTI agent. 

We saw the selection of inexpensive pay as you go phones.  We chose a nice looking, colour pantalla from Samsung with a big, bright screen.  Easier to see in the daylight.  It was advertised for UYP799.  We asked the clerk and she said it includes UYP100 of usage.  We said OK… we’ll take it.

While she was preparing it, we read the promotional material at the booth.  There were 2 items that caught our attention.  The first was a sign that stated you get UYP200 off if you buy a pay as you go package. 

The 2nd was another sign that said you get UYP300 worth of calling and UYP250 worth of SMS messages if you purcahse the UYP799 Samsung,.  

We asked the girl for these discounts.  As soon as she opened her mouth, I knew this was going to be the Uruguayan shell game I’ve seen several times before.  My interest now is in hearing how they explain these things away, without you getting what is promised….  

First was the UYP200 discount.  That was an easy one.  She said the prices of UYP799 reflected the UYP200 discount.  It was really UYP999.   Duhhhhhhh…  Are you for real???  My wife, having lived in Canada for 30 years, pointed out that the phone was marked at UYP799.  There was a sign in full public view that said you get a UYP200 discount.  Subtract one from the other and you get UYP599.   If the phone really was supposed to be UYP999, it should be marked as such OR the sign should be removed.  You cant have it both ways.  OK.. Here’s the part I actually knew was coming.  She said she mentioned this to her boss before, but he said the signs stay.  We ask can we speak with the boss.   The boss is neither available nor reachable in these situations.   I kind of like this ‘the boss made me do it’ defense.  It’s clean.

 The next question was about the UYP300 and UYP250 discounts in the other promotion.  OK… Here we get a little deep.  This is more like the shell game defense.  Now you see it, now you dont, but dont worry, you will.   This one works this way… Every time you buy a calling card, you get bonus minutes.  Eg.  You buy a UYP150 card and you get an extra UYP50 pesos worth of calling/SMS, whatever.  For me, the problem is that I know about that promotion.  It’s generic..  covers all CTI card purchases.  It’s not specific to the two phones that show it as a unique promotion.  But that’s the explanation. 

I figure it’s worth it just to hear these stories…  The only problem is if you do this enough, they all sound like the same story after a while.  The entertainment value is gone.  You’re just left with the feeling someone passed their hands through your pocket 🙂    

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Technical update for the geeks

Posted by urufish on October 20, 2007

Sometime ago, I wrote about internet here.  I rated the two providers, Antel and Dedicado pretty much even.  It’s time to revise that.

As you know, I work from home.  I consider my work pretty important.  I’m sure my employer considers it important enough that they rely on me to be reachable and workable 24/7 and to be there during my regular hours, because other people rely on me.  Because of that, I have redundant connections in the house.  One from Antel and one from Dedicado.  Until last week, both performed equally well.  But this past week, Antel has definitely pulled ahead.

Most of us who use the internet, measure the quality of our connection subjectively.  We’ll say things like yesterday was creal crappy.  Or today it was unusuaually fast.  Because of the work that I do, I am familiar with LAN and WAN management but until recently, I’ve never applied it to myself.  Usually, I get involved with connectivity management when there’s a problem with the corporate LAN/WAN.  But this week, I’ve had to deploy those tools here on my connection. 

Early last week, we had bad weather.  I heard stories that Dedicado doesn’t like bad weather.  That during bad weather, its service worsens.  I never found that myself.  Not even sure I found it this past week, but I sure did find something. 

Starting late Monday or Tuesday, I started to get outages that lasted 2-3 seconds.  To most people, in most applications, this isn’t a big deal.  But in my job, I’m connected via a couple of technologies that get upset when things go dark for a few seconds.  I also take calls, mostly from staff.  Losing speech for 2-3 seconds on and off isn’t an ideal way to communicate. 

So I downloaded one of my favourite tools, a product from Visualware which measures several aspects of the connection in real time, and allows you to slice and dice it to analyze it.  The most interesting day was Thursday with Dedicado.  My service is 512/512 (like Glen’s).  When I first got it, I ran a day of tests and it pretty much delivered what it promised.  But Thursday was a treat.  When I sat down at my desk, first thing I noticed was my PBX connection was gone.  So I logged back in.  By the time I’d booted up, it was gone again.   When I ran the connection diags, I was getting 48kb down and 250kb up.  Jitter was all over the place.  Packet loss was 1-2%.  To us geek types, this is interesting, but nothing particularly unusual for a crappy connection.  Rather than call Dedicado and complain, I had work to do..  So I switched over to Antel and that was the end of that.

But I kept monitoring the Dedicado connection and the strangest thing was going on.  The quality of the connection (a combination of all the measurement features), was slowly going up.  And I mean slowly..   Over a period of 10 hours, it climbed all the way up to around 170kb downstream…  nearly 400kb upstream.  On Friday morning, I turned back on and voila, everything was back to normal.  high 4’s up and down..  0% packet loss.  No jitter to speak of..  Weird….. 

I’ll be running these diags now 24/7 for the next month.  I find it interesting.   

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Trade show Uruguayan style

Posted by urufish on October 20, 2007


Went to the Feria de Construccion yesterday evening.  I thought this was like our ‘home shows’ back up north.  Wrong.  It seems targeted to professionals in the construction industry–not to the consumer. 

We spent about an hour there nonetheless, soaking up as much information as we could.  When you’re in a new country, everything, regardless how seemingly unimportant it is, adds to that tapestry you’re weaving upstairs. 

A lot of floor space is dedicated to paints.  We saw a lot of world class equipment there.  Some of it very, very expensive.  This tells me that just because I have never personally seen this high end stuff being used here, doesn’t mean it doesn’t exit here.  This tells me that next time we need something that I would have thought isn’t avaialble here, we’ll try harder to locate a company with it. 

The thing that struck me most about this show was the aisles.  I spent my business life doing 12-15 tradeshows a year.  Some I worked at and others I visited.  I visited shows in Canada, the US and Europe.  None were like this one.  The aisles are set up so you follow a specific path, from beginning to end. 

After years of being able to roam freely, having to discipline myself to remember where I was so I wouldn’t miss something, I found this structure real smart.  It’s virtually impossible to miss a booth.  Even if you wander into booths, they’re designed to bring you right back on track. 

And another thing that I’ve never experienced anywhere else.  There was a cantombe group, drumming and dancing their way, tortuga style, through the booths, winding their way around displays, like a snake.   I’m used to the girls dressed in skimpy costumes whenever I’ve seen this, but this is a trade show, so they were dressed up top in logo’d t-shirts, like Home Depot.   Can you imagine that kind of noise winding it’s way through trade show booths, where salespeople supposedly are trying to sell to customers.  In North America, this would be unheard of.  But here, everyone stops what they’re doing for 10-15 minutes, until the noise gets far enough away, and simply enjoys it.  There were even customers who followed this troop around, behind them, taking in the booths.  Definitely, a cultural thing. 

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Posted by urufish on September 22, 2007


Dont know if that’s a real word, but it gets the point across…

When you’re telecommuting from a place like Uruguay and you’re NOT stuck in a pod like Ant, you can get into trouble very quickly if there’s a major crisis back at the office.

A couple of years ago, I was in the Geant, at the rear of the store in the electronics section.  My phone rang.  I couldn’t make heads or tails of the call because Movistar, in the electronics section of Geant sucks.  I thought it was one of my staff, so I ran out to the parking lot and called the office.  It was one of my staff.  She was hysterical.  She had just uploaded something and it wiped out a large section of our processing facilities.

The fix required myself, her and a few other people, all in the Toronto office. Together, with them altogether at head office and me in the parking lot of the Geant, we got everything back up in a half hour. 

Today, we’re spread over a much wider area.  So what happens the next time a crisis comes along?  Blackberry is what.  Blackberry has a conference function in chat mode, just like MSM, Yahoo, etc.  When something requires more than 2 heads to collaborate on, we initiate a group chat and we ticktack type back and forth until we get agreement on something.  Of course, if it doesn’t lend itself to ticktacking, we can always set up a conference call… but most of these things are better done on a white board so to speak.. 

I had a chance to use this a couple of days ago…  Very kool…  

Posted in Business, Technology | 12 Comments »

Telecomuting for technicians

Posted by urufish on September 21, 2007


This is a short little post tonight about an interesting little twist that we’re implementing in the next 2 weeks..   Adds another dimension to those of us in the technical world, working thousands of miles away from the sites we support….

One of my responsibilities is making sure the devices that report back to our facilities in Canada and the USA work 100% of the time.  These devices are similar to those swipe machines used with your credit or ATM cards.  Imagine how many swipes there are every day in the USA?  Mind boggling.  We dont do swipe machines.  But it’s similar.  A couple of hundred thousand of them chattering away 24/7 and they’re supposed to accurately transmit the information without fail. 

So what happens when they dont do that?  When they dont work.  Well, when I worked in the core processing facility, I could flick a switch and scope (when you do it enough, you can just listen.. but it sounds better–like Fubarrio’s multi-zero’s money transfer post) it and go, well this is the problem.  But that’s not possible when you’re telecommuting.  So we’ve decided to record all those calls, just like voice calls, and when I need to find out why something didn’t work, I transfer the recording of the call down here and scope it locally. 

The point is that if you break out the components of many jobs, even tech support that required physical presence to see or listen to something, you can probably build solutions to each of them that works with a remote employee.  Remoting extensions, remote access to computer systems (Citrix, TS), VoIP are ‘blue sky’ fixes that cover the major elements of working remotely.. but I am a firm believer that most (if not all), jobs can eventually be done from a remote office or even home. 

Once Uruguay gets real broadband… like we have back home, a lot more possibilities will open up for us telecommuters down here. 

Posted in Business, Technology | 10 Comments »

More on Blackberry

Posted by urufish on September 4, 2007


Yesterday night, I had an hour to kill so I went surfing for information on my little amigo, mi Blackberry.  After a few days, I got used to it and I decided it was time to move to the next level.

 For a long time, there were no decent 3rd party applications for a Blackberry.  A few years ago, there was a good selection.  I dont see a big improvement now, but what I was looking for was there–an English/Spanish/English dictionary.  I had this back in 2005.  I used it a lot.  When I switched to the Nokia in 2006, it didn’t have this.  Yesterday I downloaded it and started using it this morning.  Makes a huge difference when you can find words quickly without having to arm yourself with a 2nd device or worse, a dictionary. 

I like this particular product.  It’s very clean.  And extremely fast.  It always finds what I’m looking for.  I dont think it conjugates verbs though.  Once I’ve got the infinitive, my french kicks in and I’m usually OK. 

I also downloaded a 2nd piece of software.  A bluesky messenger program.  MSM, ICQ, Jabber, Yahoo, G-talk, etc.  All in one.  I’m not a chat person, but I loaded up MSM because few of my friends or relatives have Blackberries.  This way my wife can get to me from her desktop instead of having to pick her way through an SMS message.  My daughter uses an Oggo and she’s running MSM 24/7.   It works great…  except I have to get around to turning off the ‘knocking’ when someone appears on line.  I was sitting watching TV last night (on a break), and I heard a knock and walked half way to the door before I realized it was my Blackberry. 

There’s a pile of software avaialble at Handango.  Lots of games.  I’m not a game person.  I bet a lot of business people sitting at airports and on planes are though.  I noticed something funny about Handango.  Lots of comments from Argentinos.  They could be checking my ISP and presenting more ‘local’ information.  Dunno.  Tonight if I have time, I’ll tunnel in from Toronto and see if the comments still have a lot of SA content. 

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Getting Dedicado

Posted by urufish on August 27, 2007


Called Dedicado and ordered the 512/512 service last Monday.  The salesman said it will be installed 72 hours after we sign the contract.  They sent the contract over for signature that night.  I expected it to be installed nlt Thursday.  I was wrong.

Installations called on Friday and told us the contract was no good and we had to sign a new one.  When they wrote the original contract on Monday, they wrote in the wrong speeds.  When I signed the contract, I changed the field to 512/512 and initialed it.  In Urugyay, you cant change a contract… You cant initial something.  It has to be rewritten, by the supplier.  Urguay is a little anal (perhaps a little behind the times too), that way. 

I told the installations guy that you dont call a customer 24 hours after you’re supposed to install something to tell them you need to redo the contract.  He assured me if I signed Saturday, the installation would be done Monday.  I believed him.  Stupid me. 

Today we called and asked where the installation crew was.  They said they’d check and call us back.  Normally, I wouldn’t believe this but the Movistar guy had called me back he next day so I figured maybe I was on a roll.  No such luck.  Came 5pm, still nothing so we called in.  With the same information we first called in with (the contract number–they dont have a name or address search), they happily told us our installation was set for Wednesday morning.  I asked what happaned to Monday’s installation.  They said there never was a Monday installation.  I thanked them and said goodbye.

So goes our 72 hour quest for Dedicado service.  I wonder what will happen on Wednesday.  I went up on the roof of our house to see if I could see a tower from here.  We have a 3 story house surrounded by 11 story apartment buildings.  But I did see another house about a block away shooting up Scoseria so I hope we can use that angle.  If not, we will have wasted 10 days for nothing.  Then my only choice will be a 2nd Antedata connection.  Not looking forward to that. 

Update Wednesday morning:  Well, Dedicado showed up while I was in the shower.  I told my wife to tell them to bring it in through the window of my office.  I asked her to ask them if they could get line of site to a Dedicado xmitter and she said they already said they had that figured out.  I finished my shower and went upstairs to check on the guys.  They had already installed the radio.  Turns out there’s a Dedicado tower sitting on one of those apartment buildings that surround me.  Turns out this was the best canyon to be stuck in–200m, uninterrupted view.  

The cable installation didn’t work out as well.  I asked the guy to drill it through the wall, just below my desk.  When he came out the other side, he drilled through a sewer vent, phew.  My office never smelled so delicate before.  I told him to drill another hole to the right of the previous one, 6cm.  He drilled it 20cm.  Oh well.  Sometime this weekend we’ll fix it up.  Plugged both holes for now.  Smell has gone away.  You wonder why techs dont measure out distances before they drill here, but that’s the way it usually is here. 

At the end we measured speed.  I ran a dozen tests spread over a 30 minute period.  Got what we paid for.  The connection will support 3 or 4 simultaneous VoIP connections..  More than sufficient for my needs.  Sometime later this week, we’ll get the VPN going, (we use a pre-IPX NEC so it’s got some quirky requirements.. like it needs dozens of ports to function).  Cant wait for my extension to start ringing.  I used to be the only person in teh company without V-mail.  Hope to continue that wonderful tradition. 

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