Friday, December 28, 2007

The Free End joins Amazon's Associates Program

Over the past week or so while people were off involved in Christmas shopping and celebrations I have been adding Amazon content to The Free End. As you read down through my posts you will observe Amazon content running down the right hand column. The Amazon text is pretty self explanatory so I won't elaborate here except to say that if you click on a product because you want more information, or want to purchase the product, you will be routed to the site for more information or for order processing.

Some products Amazon displays are automatically chosen by their software based on the text that I have written, the purpose of The Free End and other factors. There are also products that I personally have chosen because I use them, or in the case of books because I have read them or others have recommended them. At the bottom of the page you will find The Free End Store sandwiched in front of the CommunityWalk map of Xalapa. This store section functions as a complete order processing facility. You add desired products to your shopping basket and then checkout and never have to leave The Free End.

Based on feedback I get I will be "tweaking" the content of the store to insure the products you see are appropriate for the site and will be of benefit. I invite you to let me know how you feel about the Amazon upgrade. I continue to look for topics of interest to site visitors.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Internet banking with HSBC

After more than a year in Mexico coping with the inevitable lines at my bank branch (which is no different than other Mexican banks so far as I can tell) I finally committed to working through the signup procedure to gain access to my visa and checking account via the internet. I was resigned to facing a frustrating procedure, but in the event, the process went pretty smoothly. Perhaps this result is a testament to the fact my Spanish is really improving. I was actually able to figure out all the forms displayed and confidently make choices I was offered, or submit information the forms demanded.

Well, wouldn't you know, there was a crucial question on the last step in the process where I was asked to say yea or nay. I worried over that one because had I answered nay, about 45 minutes of suspenseful decision making would have been wasted. Finally, I was confident I understood what the program was asking and haltingly elected yea. Since the question was security related, I´m afraid you will just have to forgive me for not describing the details. If you yourself decide to go for online banking you can sweat that one like I did. Later I was able to confirm with a Mexican friend that I did in fact understand what I was about.

Perhaps one reason I did not have too much trouble with HSBC´s process relates to my long years of experience with home banking, which began almost from the time it was offered by my bank. As an early adopter I recognized there would be benefits but along with that would came some pain. However, because the bank was eager to entice customers into using online banking, when I did encounter problems, bank representatives adopted a very conciliatory attitude. Here in Mexico, I was not sure HSBC would do likewise. I hasten to say I have no complaints with HSBC in over a year doing business with them. The other sticking point, was over account security. Would HSBC provide a secure platform to bank on the web?

My fears are allayed. During the registration process I was subjected to inordinate scrutiny and had to provide three questions that no stranger could successfully devine answers to or devise a program to break on the basis of brute computer power. On top of the multiple security question precautions (which many financial sites are now implementing) HSBC offers a one time password (OTP) device that generates codes to use when accessing their servers. So it seems like everything is up to date in Mexico as far as keeping online financial transactions secure.

If you are still struggling with the cash only way of doing business and are tired of waiting in long lines at the bank, perhaps you should investigate electronic banking here in Xalapa. I can now pay my visa, electric, water, and telephone bills online. Who wants to waste time when they are retired?

Disclaimer: I did not read all ten pages of the contract, but then, I stopped reading financial contracts and web agreements years ago. Why change just because I live in a foreign country and the contract is written in Spanish? Even when agreements are written in English, who can understand the gobbledegook ? Can Spanish gobbledegook be any better?

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Western Xalapa and beyond

My bedroom window provides a sweeping view to the West and I have been curious to investigate what the western side of Xalapa is like. So, after reading about the Club Hípico Coapexpan that is out on the extreme western border of Xalapa I decided to drive out there and pin down the exact coordinates for the CommunityWalk map featured on this blog. Now I wish I had gone the day before when there was an international riding competition going on for young riders. The facility is very large, obviously very well financed and even though I have not ridden a horse since I was a teen, intriguing. The next time they hold competitions out there I will make it a point to attend. (For those without cars, I noted there were buses running out in this part of the city.)

Directly across from the club is a gated residential community, which looks pretty toney. From the Google Earth image one can spot a few swimming pools in the backyards of some homes.

Continuing on west from the club the avenue turns into a narrow paved road that meanders through some beautiful countryside. I passed several haciendas, a dairy farm, and eventually wound up at a country resort, Bosque de las Cipreses. Their sign says join them for desayuno on Sunday. Perhaps I will do that and afterwards continue on westward so I can investigate a settlement you can see on the Google Earth image, but that I cannot find on any map. From the Google Earth image I think I can make out a road leading to Coatepec.