AF News

Friday, August 21, 2015

VPN Service and Smart DNS Service Providers for Streaming US Only Content most people know that live out here in Okinawa, and specifically in the Kadena housing areas, is that your Netflix/Hulu/DramaFever/etc. will not work out here.  There are a couple of ways around this, and they are usually low cost as well. I will detail what we have ended up going with so far during our time here on Okinawa. Oh and I will be using some technical terms, with no explanation, just so I can keep this post small. However, if anyone needs more info on this technical stuff, I will have links to help you educate yourself. Just know at a high level view, these services allow you to do something you want. You don't need to know HOW they work for them to work for you. =) Anyways...
Well first, why care about all this? Well if you don't want to use Netflix/Hulu/etc. out here, then yea, who cares! BUT if you do, you have two primary methods to bypass the region restrictions most US based streaming services use. And that is use a VPN or a SmartDNS service, both are usually pretty cheap. But before I get into those services, I wanted to clarify something on using these services out here though...
1.  I would try using Netflix/Hulu/HBO/etc. first, before getting these services. Why get them, when you don't need them, right? However, I live on Kadena and use Mediatti, and while it looks like a have a US based IP address, it still gets blocked by those streaming services. This may be the case for many living on-base, but that is why I say try first, before jumping the gun.
2.  For those that live off-base, will I heard they get it a little better, in internet speed and services. Basically, most off-base internet providers give you a router that has a special port on it that gives anything plugged into it a real US based IP address. So super cool and convenient, but yea, I live on-base...
Ok,  so VPN and SmartDNS services, what are they?
1.  VPN is basically a encrypted connection between your computer/devices to another computer/server located else where. What that means for us and our streaming services is that you can use this services to make it SEEM like you are located somewhere else; like the US! It also has the added bonus of hiding all your internet traffic from your pesky ISP and shady government orgs =). It may not be the best method for non-technical type of people, but if you know how to read, you can set it up in 30 mins or so. The service I am using is linked below, but there are a lot of them out there you can use. However, I went with these guys because they are cheap, accept Bitcoin for payment, it works on iphones/ipads directly, and they allow you to use torrents on their service; oh and of course you can stream through them too. Your best bet is to find a VPN service within your budget and provides what you are looking for. 
Get smart on VPN's!
2.  SmartDNS service is a rather complex thing to explain, so basically just understand it will "spoof" your IP and make it seem like your computer/devices are in the US. This service does not encrypt your internet traffic, however it will be "faster" than using a VPN service, so that feature alone may be best for people that just want to stream movies/shows. I service I am using is linked below and I am using it directly on my Samsung smart TV, so now my wife can stream all the DramaFever she wants! Oh and I am using these guys just because they are cheap and accept Bitcoin too!
Get smart on SmartDNS!
So there you have it, the keys to your streaming nirvana await you! lol Enjoy!
P.S. For those that care and are technically inclined, here is my setup currently with all these services.
1. VPN service: I use OpenVPN with this service and have it loaded on my iPhone/iPad. I used this VPN service at first to get around that damn pesky "censorship" of the country I was deployed too before. Worked like a charm! I also use the VPN when I am on open public wifi hotspots, better safe than sorry! Additionally, I have dd-wrt loaded on my home router and it can set up as OpenVPN client as well. Super cool and I have it set up to only route traffic through the VPN by a list of local IPs I have set; bonus points for that!
2.  SmartDNS service: I got this for my Samsung smart TV and it is set directly on the TV, no need to fuss with your router. It works great and all the TV apps think they are in the US! haha. I guess I could use it for other things, but that is all I need this service for.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Getting JCI done on Okinawa!

So….I guess I need to do the JCI on my Honda Fit now. I can’t believe it has been two years already, but yea, I guess I need to do the “dreaded” JCI haha.  Well let me tell you it is not actually hard to do, but it is going to cost you some coin to get it done, that is for sure.  I will lay out what I had to do and any pitfalls that can come up during this whole process. All this is current as of August 2015 and with a 500 series Y plate car.

Basically, you get this done at the JSVRO on Foster. It is right across the street from the Commissary on that base, so it is easy to find.  Basically, you go through the Foster gate right off the Hwy 58. See below on the hours and a map.

JSVRO Map - Foster

Here is also some info on what to expect and the process on getting JCI done Foster…


JSVRO - JCI Process - Foster

Additionally, you can find more official info here and some more unofficial info at Okinawa Hai (it is dated though, but still correct)…

Ok, here is what I did...

 1.   I started on a Tuesday morning and basically followed the handout procedure up above. I started early in the morning and I am glad I did, as you will read why later on.

2. Ok, my first stop was at my insurance office in the Kadena USO building by gate 2.  I renewed my insurance early since I was doing this and you can buy the JCI policy there as well.  It sucks that we, SOFA members, has to have both insurance types, but it is what is out here.  I will itemize my costs at the end of this write-up.  Oh, you have to pay YEN cash for the JCI policy, however I can pay dollar/yen/CC for the insurance policy.

3.  My next stop was the JSVRO on Foster and there was no lines/waiting at the time I went in the morning, which is great, since I hate waiting! Inside you will have to pay weight tax in YEN only and make sure you bring all your car paperwork in there with you. They will be stamping papers, paper clipping, and stapling a bunch of stuff together too, so you end up with a packet of paperwork. Once you take care of all that, you will have to go to the Inspection office on the back side of the JSVRO building to pay the inspection fee. I paid in cash, but they may or may not take credit card/YEN. See image below on where it is…

JSVRO - Office #6

 4.  Now once you have that take care of, it is time to get your car inspected. You pull into this lane…

JSVRO Lane #5
HOWEVER, this is where things can go awry.  As in, this is the part that can get expensive! Let me break it down for you…I have a “newer” Honda Fit, low miles, great condition, well maintained.  It is not a beater basically or a lemon lot special. So I figured I will throw the dice and just get it JCI’d, well guess what, it didn’t work out for me! Arrghhh!!! Actually, I need to back up a little bit. Remember that weight tax and what not you just paid? Take a look at the little note they attach to the receipt…

GOJ Weight Tax - 2015

So what that means is, if you fail your inspection and cannot get whatever fixed by the time they close that day, you are out that money. Yup, you will have to pay that tax AGAIN to JCI your car if you can’t get it to pass that DAY! A little crazy if you ask me, since it isn’t chump change, but now you should start seeing where things can get expensive if you try to wing it, like I did. So back to my story…So yea, I winged it and they failed me on two items! Sorry for being all dramatic about it, but they were really small things, but I was annoyed never the less. I guess if you fail, they will ask you to pull up in lane 3, the lane of shame, and that is where they will break down what failed. I will detail that stuff in a minute, but here is some pictures of the process of them inspecting your car and I will go over what they check…

JSVRO Inspection Bay Signs

JSVRO Inspection Bay - Brake Test

JSVRO Inspection - Headlight Test

JSVRO Inspection Bay - Lift

So what did they ding me on? See below…

JCI Inspection Form
It was basically a cracked rubber boot and a headlight adjustment.  However, use this form as a guide to make sure you car is good to go, before you get there. A lot of stuff on there is simple and easy to fix on your own.  I would be pretty pissed at myself if I failed because of a burned out bulb or something.

Well luckily, or more like “conveniently”, there is a AAFES service station just behind the inspection area, and they do first come, first served service. I am sure that is out of necessity of being so close to the JSVRO and then having frantic soccer moms freaking out that they failed their inspection, and they will be damned if they can’t get their mini-van JCI’d…TODAY! How are they going to get their 7 kids to plays/practice/ the BX?!?! Haha Anyways, I was lucky it was simple stuff and cheap to fix, and they even got it done within an hour actually. But here are my thoughts on this part so far…

I know there are plenty of local car shops that offer JCI pre-inspections and what not.  I think those services prey on people’s fear of the JCI, but that is just me. So do you need to use those services? If you have a beater, you might want too. Shop around of course, but if you have decent ride and well maintained, I imagine you will be alright; basically don’t waste your money. Put it this way, if you wing your JCI inspection and they find stuff, well just fix that stuff, and you should be good. You will be out that same money (or more) doing a pre-inspection as well, since they “should” identify that same stuff, and of course they will offer to fix it; How convenient…But you open yourself to being sold stuff you don’t need, just to be “sure” you will pass the JCI. It think that is a racket, but that is just me again. So all this being said, I believe this part is what puts the “DREAD” in the dreaded JCI. We all heard the stories, “It cost me $1000+ just to JCI my car, what a nightmare!” I put money on that they did the JCI pre-inspection somewhere, and got oversold on service/parts. Yea they passed their JCI, but did it need to cost them $1000+ when it was all said and done!? Nope if you ask me! I can only hope they didn’t waste that money on a shitty car to boot, because if it was going to cost me that much to JCI any car I had, I will be looking for a different car and junk the old one.  Ok rant done, moving on…

5. OK round two…I went back to the inspection lane after they fixed my car at the AAFES service station, however it was their lunch time! Yes, they have lunch time, see the handout up above for the hours. Well, I just waited in the lane by the inspection bay, so I would be first in line when they got back.  When they did get back, they basically just checked what was failed from before and moved me through. After the inspection, I was told to pull into the lane of glory, actually lane 4, and they give you your JCI sticker then. You are not done though! Once you pass you have to go back in the JSVRO to update your paperwork/records. Bring everything in there and you drivers license and IDs. I mean they check everything, so like if you have an expired license, they will get you there. Just saying…my wife’s license expired the very week I did this, and they were giving me crap about it. But that is another write up for next time….

6. In summary, I winged it, and made it through relatively painlessly. The key to all this is good planning and giving yourself time to get this done. Fix the stuff you can first on your car before going of course, but be prepared to fork out cash if you car is “suspect”. Oh, don’t do this last minute! I am sure you can see why now…Well here is my detail cost for all this, however you mileage may vary…

a.  Insurance Renewal = ¥23,730 or about $192

b. JCI Policy = ¥13,230 or about $107

c. Weight Tax, etc. = ¥11,600 or about $94

d. Inspection Fee = $20

e. AAFES Service Station Cost (not everyone of course) = $51

GRAND TOTAL = $464 for a 500 series Y plate / Honda Fit

Not cheap in my opinion just to “drive” this car on the island, but it is Japan, it is what it is. Hopefully you enjoyed this write-up and good luck on your JCI adventures!