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I have seen and heard lots of discussions about the best way to achieve financial independence via some means this way to van life or this way to becoming a couch surfer. All valid and with merit, but I have not seen or heard much discussion about the overseas work option for fast tracking financial freedom. I will present my personal journey on that here and now, as I think it is a serious contender as well as a great opportunity to see the world.

Here is the TLDR:
If you are in the life position where you can stomach some time away from America, there is serious money to be made in the Middle East working for American companies and NOT and I repeat NOT being in physical danger. There are positions of all shapes and sizes and these come with housing and car paid for typically along with federal tax savings and high salaries. How to find them: google around what country you are willing to work in such as Kuwait, Dubai, or Qatar specifically looking for DoD contractor jobs in these countries for positions with your skill sets. This can be anything from Accounting, to IT to Gym management.

Here is a Villa tour of my 3 bedroom, 3 bathroom apartment rented for the exact allotment that my company gave me per month. This gives you an idea of the living conditions you can expect there within reason. This was a pretty nice place. There are better and there are worse.

My journey and experience: I became a DoD contractor in 2011 when I took a position working on an Air Force base in Florida doing Windows Active Directory support for the base network. That was my introduction to the contracting world. You don't need to do this step, but this is what I did. I always had in the back of my mind that I would like to do some work overseas if I came across something and the timing and location were right, but until then, I would do this job and be satisfied with it.

Government contract work in the US is like any other job, short of dealing with coming on and off base and occasionally hearing machine gun fire in the background. I had military experience so I knew what I was getting into, but this is not a requirement. Lots of contractors don't have military experience.

Regardless, in around 2016 my life was in a place where I wanted to start looking for overseas work. I brushed off my resume, googled around, asked around and eventually got in contact with a company recruiter for Vectrus. They happened to have several contract listings and I applied for some that I found via google and their web site directly. I found a position I was interested in - in Kuwait, went through the interview process via phone and after some time, an offer was presented and accepted by me. Because I was contracting on base with coworkers with overseas experience, I knew some info before agreeing and did some research of my own. I knew somewhat what I was getting into that Kuwait was a safe country with lots of overseas workers there supporting the local population and that I could get by speaking English there and that the base I was going to would be fine. The company would provide me about $1k to live on the economy on my own, or I could live in their free company housing. They would provide me a car as well.

The salary I was to be making in Kuwait was double what I was making for the similar position in the US (At the time, I had moved from AD support to Virtualization support, but that is not really relevant) This does not include housing provided nor housing allowance, as this was additional compensation.

To fully understand what costs you can slash, here is how my costs shook out for me.

Pay: 200k

Fixed Expenses:

Food - varies in cost

Cell phone - 15 bucks a month unlimited calls and data

Internet - 35 bucks a month (Internet is provided and included free with company housing, but I lived out on my own in a 3 bed 3 bath villa with company housing allowance.)

Excellent, Full, $0 deductible 100% paid, no copay healthcare was also like $30 bucks a month taken out of my paycheck. This is an 'overseas plan' with 0 out of pocket costs for any medical issue in any country other than America. If I was to need medical care while on vacation in America, there would be a deductible and copays in America only. Any other country, and I was fully covered 100%. I had no major health issue while in Kuwait, but did see a dermatologist and dentist while there a few times and the experiences were top notch and 100% free.

Federal income taxes are also a benefit while working overseas. The first $105ish thousand (it varies and changes every year) of your pay is not taxed at all. Make less than 100k, and you will pay zero federal taxes. State taxes vary by state, but they typically not tax you if you are not living there. I live in FL, so no issue.

If you make more than the untaxed rate though, you will be taxed a the full rate for your tax bracket for the remainder over 105k. So this means that the first 105k is not taxed, but if you earn 200k and are in that tax bracket, you will be taxed on anything over 105k at the tax bracket of an earner earning 200k.

Compare that to what you pay in America for housing, vehicle, taxes, healthcare, insurance, repairs, etc costs and you can see that this is simple and cheap living that almost can't be beat under any circumstances short of living with mom and dad and driving their car.

Kuwait charges you no income nor sales taxes, nobody in the country pays electric bills nor water bills, the fuel for the company car and insurance for the car is covered by the company. The base has a base exchange store for shopping for dry goods and electronics with the US dollar, but you can also get anything you need on the Kuwait economy, which can be expensive as everything is imported there and the exchange rate is not favorable for the US dollar. The Kuwait Dinar is very a strong currency. It fluctuates, but is generally 3 US dollars to 1 Kuwaiti Dinar. So you want to cook your own meals as much as possible, as eating out is pretty pricey. There is also a law against drinking any alcohol of any kind there, so you will save money on booze.

Almost every penny of my paycheck went to savings while I was there. I saved a ton of money and learned about index and other investing and all of the stuff I didn't know much about because I mostly didn't save much before going there short of 401k and IRA investing.

The shifts there for my work were long 12 hour shifts and a mix of day shift and night shift, so the days melded together and the work was only somewhat rewarding. It is not something that I would recommend spending many years doing, as it is hard on your mind and body, but every job is different and you might find a groove and be completely happy.

The best thing about being over there (short of the good pay and no bills) is the location as far as travel. Being on that side of the pond opens up reasonably quick trips to the side of the world that is not conveniently reached from America. The company I worked for had a generous 6 week vacation offering plus lots of holidays off. They were very free about approving vacation and we pretty much could come and go as much as we wanted. (pre covid) We were always going or talking about going or giving trip reports to each other while we were there. It was awesome. I saw Qatar, Dubai, Thailand, Greece and the Philippines. All easy trips from the Kuwait International Airport, as well as similar trips to anywhere from the massive airports in Qatar or Dubai as well.

Living in these places is HOT. The weather is not awesome if you need rain in your life, but you get used to it and there is A/C everywhere of course. It is also nice to get a more worldly view of life and get more of an appreciation (or not) of how things are in America. Do your research as to the safety of these countries, and you will find that each of these entire countries are likely safer than even just your town in America. That is what I found with Kuwait, and what made my decision to go there much easier.

If you made it this far and would like to see my personal recommendation if I was to go overseas now knowing what I know from having lived it:

I would look at Kuwait, but just to see what they are paying there. Kuwait pays a bit better than the others from my experience, mostly because it sucks to live there the most.

I would compare pay to Kuwait, but take a position in Qatar or Dubai. I prefer Qatar, as it is really nice and less crowded than Dubai, but either are nice. Lots of touristy crap to do in Dubai, but all expensive and you can hit it on a visit if you need to, you are going to be doing that stuff daily.

You can get a near direct flight from either country to darn near anywhere in the world from their excellent airports, they have excellent infrastructure and clean and modern facilities vs. Kuwait, which is not as touristy and has not invested in infrastructure as much and the roads suck.

Best and most important maybe to you is that you can have an alcohol drink in both Qatar and Dubai, as they are legal in hotel bars. They are not cheap, but you can at least hit a happy hour up with your buddies. Happy hour in Kuwait is not a thing, or if it is, it amounts to dinner and maybe a sheesha or hooka if you happen to smoke. I never did that crap.

So I suggest one of those two countries and also suggest purchasing this cheap book to help you direct your income once you have paid off all of your debit and don't know what to do with your incoming money. It is a really easy read and it truly is simple.

Good luck to you and I hope this helps you reach your own financial freedom goal.

In a previous post, I provided instructions for getting Plex Hardware Transcoding working on your 11th gen Jasper Lake Celeron CPU Server running Ubuntu.

The Aerofara system I am using here is outfitted with 8 gigs RAM and is running in dual channel mode.

For this one, let's talk about the hardware transcoding capabilities of this processor vs. 4k content. Frankly, it blew me away when I first investigated it. See images below to see it powering through some top shelf 4k bitrates.

I want to show repeatable scenarios for you to test with your systems, so I am using the Jellyfish bitrate test files as test dummies for this effort. You can download them all for you own testing here:

I created a Video Test Files library in Plex and added all of these files to it. I then played every single file. They all played, and the 4k ones hardware transcoded down to 1080p, as that is my monitor's resolution. I was amazed. This is a $220 crap computer. My previous crappy Plex server running on a Celeron N4100 struggled with anything 4k.

Then I wanted to know how far I could push it. I put the largest video in this collection (jellyfish-400-mbps-4k-uhd-hevc-10bit.mkv) into a repeating play loop and got two streams going before it fell over with excessive stuttering and buffering.
This was playing over a wired connection and my destination computer had plenty of power remaining. I am assuming that the integrated GPU was at its max. The CPU was doing fine with plenty of available capacity as well as plenty of available system RAM.

This is a rough test, as these are 30 second clips set on a loop, so it gets going and then has to stop and start again every 30 seconds. It is maybe possible that with a longer video that this CPU could do more hardware transcoded streams as it had more time to compute and buffer more streams rather than starting over every 30 seconds.

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I purchased a new China Aerofara mini computer to use for Plex serving to replace my aging Kodlix that had been working fine as a Plex server, but I wanted to see what a new CPU and the new Intel graphics could do with my media library. (I have nothing in 4k except video test files.)

I messed around with it for a while in Windows 10 and since it was Windows 11 compatible, I went through the upgrade to see what that looked like. I think went back to the task at hand and did a wipe and install of Ubuntu Server to prepare it for its Plex serving duties.

Tried Ubuntu Server 20.04 LTS and it did not recognize the Intel integrated graphics at all. I noticed that during the Plex server install, it didn't see the Intel integrated GPU.

I figured it was the old kernel, so instead of fighting with upgrading Kernel and getting an unknown status as a result, installed the latest Ubuntu Server. (21.10) That got the GPU recognized, but still no Hardware Transcoding.

After messing around, here is the fix I found:

Create and then edit the file:


Add the line below and save the file:

options i915 enable_guc=2

then run this command:

sudo update-initramfs -u

That is it, you should now have Plex doing hardware transcoding with your Jasper Lake Intel IGPU.

I've been using Synology Network Attached storage devices for years as my iSCSi and NFS storage location for VMware ESXi hosts on my home lab. (The Synology is also my shared media storage location as well.)

I choose to use 7 of the 8 bays in my Synology device as a RAID 5 volume for media and file sharing storage and the 8th drive bay houses an SSD drive that I use for my iSCSi based ESXi VM datastore storage shared between my ESXi hosts.

The problem I have always had is how do I efficiently backup my VMs in the event that the datastore SSD drive that they are on dies? I have tried scripts, Veeam One year free trials, etc, but nothing was simple and set it and forget it.

Then my buddy turned me on to to the existing and free application that is on the Synology Package Center just waiting to be discovered.

The app is called Active Backup for Business. enter image description here

Once installed, you can schedule backups and do restores of Workstations, Servers, Virtual Machines, etc all from the Active Backup for Business interface.

The best thing about it is that it can work similarly to Veeam, such that doing a restore can be instant if you select that option during the restore process. It mounts your VM .vmdk that was backed up and attaches an NFS datastore to your ESXi host and boots the VM up instantly. This is really sweet and gets you back to basic functionality quickly.

This scenario happened to me over the weekend: My single drive SSD housing the VMs datastore died and my Synology started beeping at me to tell me there was a failure. I used Active Backup for Business to restore my VMs and had them back up and running (on the NFS datastore it placed on my existing media share to be used temporarilly.) in a few minutes. Once they were running, I went ahead and addressed the failed SSD by pulling it out and popping in a replacement drive I had on hand. After creating a new iSCSi datastore on the new drive, I did a storage vMotion from the NFS restore location to the SSD datastore to get my normal VM drive performance back and was all set from there.

Active Backup for Business is an effective, limited down time, no cost and very effective backup and restore solution, especially for VMs.

Additionally, I use vCenter for my home lab. I got a legit license for it quite cheap on Ebay. I suggest you look there if you need a license for your homelab products.