Saturday, April 19, 2014

Broadband Leakage (K2 #84)

Question of the Week 
My broadband account gets depleted very quickly. How can I check what the problem is?
— Aby T., Thimphu

Answer
Dear Aby,

Internet in Bhutan has rapidly evolved from being a luxury toy for occasional usage to a necessary utility used on a daily basis. With such usage, your broadband Internet bills can therefore add up rather quickly. Prepaid broadband costs about Nu 100 for every GB these days (and slightly cheaper if you happen to recharge using the Nu 1499 or 2499 packages). Some users find that their balance quickly vanishes into thin air, and they often tend to blame Bhutan Telecom for faulty bookkeeping. But the truth is that there can also be other causes for a quick drain. If you suspect that you are overcharged, here are a few steps to take before rushing to Bhutan Telecom.


  1. Change your broadband password. The Bhutan Telecom system is set up in such a way that multiple users can use the same account (dnetxxxxxxxx) from multiple fixed lines at the same time. So, if a “friend” got hold of your password, they might be logging in from their home and downloading the recent Bollywood blockbusters at your expense. Changing your password will hopefully put a stop to that (but hopefully not to your friendship).
  2. Secure your wireless network. More and more homes in Thimphu have wireless routers, allowing laptops, smartphones, and tablets to connect to the Internet without cables. However, if your network is not secured with a password - or, if your password is simple to guess - your lovely neighbor might be taking your Internet connection for a free ride. Secure your network by setting a strong wireless password. Check the documentation that came with your wireless router for further instructions.
  3. Protect shared computers. Is there any chance other members of your household — brothers, sisters, spouse, children — are using your computer to watch their favorite YouTube videos when you’re at the office? It’s not a bad idea to password-protect your Windows account. Visit the Windows Control Panel to password-protect your user account, as well as disable any other accounts that are not password protected (such as the Guest account).


Say you've done the above, but are still puzzled about how your data is used. This is where a bandwidth monitor comes in handy. A bandwidth monitor keeps track of the data used by your computer, and shows you how your data is used. A recommended utility for Windows computers is the free NetLimiter 2 Mon, which you can download at www.netlimiter.com/download.php. Other creatures can also feed off your wireless network: if you connect an Android phone or tablet to your wireless network, you can check the data usage by using the built-in counters at Settings > Connections > Data Usage > Wi-Fi. If you happen to own an iPhone or iPad, you will need to install an app that monitors Wi-Fi usage, such as the free Cisco Data Meter (available at the iTunes app store).

Taken all the above steps? If you still think DrukNet is overcharging you, take a printout of the bandwidth monitor’s statistics with you when you pay the Bhutan Telecom office a visit.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Luxury mineral water brand @VEENWaters operating in Bhutan?


I was rather surprised to learn that VEEN, a luxury mineral water brand from the far-away land of Finland, will soon be starting a bottling operation in Samste, exporting Bhutan's water to India:
"The company will now be introducing two new variants - VEEN Still and VEEN Classic. VEEN Spring will be bottled from Samste, Bhutan ... The source, which VEEN purchased in November 2013, has a flow capacity of 25 million litres of water per year. The Bhutan facility will be fully functional by this month-end." — Business Today article
Bhutan has a good track record of carefully managing its environment, and thus I find this puzzling. Water is a natural resource - like timber, minerals, or oil. And bottled water is a very controversial issue. Who has the rights to Bhutan's water? I am surprised mainly because I don't recall ever hearing any discussion or reading about this initiative in the Bhutanese media or anywhere else.

PS: There are enough status-obsessed Indians who have no problem paying exuberant prices for water. The 660ml glass VEEN bottle will be sold at an MRP of Rs 110, while the 330ml will be a bargain at Rs 77.
This translates to anywhere between US$2700 and US$3500 per 1 m3 (one cubic meter) of water. How much of that, by the way, will find its way back to Bhutan?

© VEEN

Biodegradable plates available in Thimphu

Biodegradable plates and bowls manufactured in Chuzugang from the areca nut palm tree (with the help of SNV Bhutan) have finally hit the Thimphu market. We happened to notice them in Sharchhogpa Tshongkhang on Norzin Lam, on a shelf behind the cash register. They are sturdy, visually pleasing and environment friendly. 


PS: In addition to plates and bowls, there are also biodegradable spoons. However, they are not polished, have rough edges, and can scratch your mouth. Beware of these quality issues. Hopefully SNV Bhutan will be able to fix these problems.

Monday, April 14, 2014

The benefits of a Dzongkha Typing Tutor: DzType 2.0 (Beta) released

With the growing reliance on computers for authoring documents, filling forms, writing essays, articles, books, etc., knowing how to type has become an essential skill. How does one learn how to type? You can take a course (IT classes at schools or courses at IT training institutes), or you can teach yourself.

Typing software (also called typing tutors or typing trainers) are a useful tool to self-learn using a keyboard for typing. There are plenty of options (free and paid, online and offline) for learning to type in English. In contrast, to the best of our knowledge, for Dzongkha there is only one: DzType, developed by our Rigsum Research Lab. DzType 1.0 was released in 2010 and DzType 2.0 (Beta) was released this week. DzType is a free, lightweight tool that can help complete beginners gain proficiency in a short time. It has a simple interface and takes the user gradually from simple to more complex (from single characters to words to sentences; from single-key pressing to key combinations). Color and audio cues are used to reinforce correct and incorrect typing.

Type the letter in gold; on-screen keyboard image shows which keys to press. Available at dztype.rigsum-it.com

Page used in classes
The need for a typing tutor in Dzongkha is especially dire, since it is more difficult to get started compared to, say, English: you can't simply look at the keyboard and hit the right key, because most keyboards in Bhutan do not have the Dzongkha letters etched on the keys. In most typing classes, students are given a printout with an image of a keyboard with the Dzongkha and English letters (with four keyboards, each with different symbols - see image), and they need to map each of the image keys to their keyboard. This means that to type some text you have to look at the text to be typed, then refer to the page with the keyboard image, then look at the keyboard, and finally at the screen to check your typing. Four sources! Not only is this slow, but it also requires space for all the extra paper. One workaround that avoids the extra keyboard image page is sticking small stickers with the Dzongkha Alphabet on the keyboard. However, because each key is used for multiple symbols, it requires multiple stickers per key, and stickers tend to wear off quickly.

Another aspect in which typing in Dzongkha is more complicated than typing in English is the prevalence of key combinations in Dzongkha typing. To type most text in English, one needs to press a single key. For capital letters, we hold the SHIFT key and press another key. In contrast, to type most text in Dzongkha, one needs to learn not only single-key pressing (called "normal keyboard") but also combinations while holding the SHIFT key ("Shift keyboard"), while holding the left-ALT key, and even holding both the SHIFT and the left-ALT keys while pressing other keys.

DzType 2.0 can be used by perfect beginners as well as by those who want to upgrade from two-finger typing to "touch typing" where you use all fingers and don't stare at the keyboard.

DzType 2.0 (Beta) is available online for free. The offline version will be packaged with the forthcoming Rigsum Sherig Collection 3.0. We welcome your feedback on the DzType Facebook page.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Detachment and Liberation (K2 #83)

Question of the Week 
I feel that Facebook is bad for me and I want to delete my account. How do I do that?
Facebook addict

Answer
Dear Facebookaholic,

There’s a small but growing trend of people quitting Facebook. Some are worried about their online privacy. Many find that using the social network depresses them. Yet others are worried that they spend way too many hours chatting or playing Candy Crash instead of spending face-to-face time with their family and real friends. Whatever the reason, leaving Facebook is not difficult.

Initially, you may want to deactivate your account. What does deactivation mean? When you deactivate your account, your timeline disappears immediately. Your friends will no longer be able to find your information, photos or old posts. Deactivation is reversible — all your information is still stored on Facebook’s servers. If indeed you want to deactivate your account, click on the account menu at the top right, select Settings, then Security at the left column, then click Deactivate your account. One caveat: if you administer any Facebook groups (or events), your admin status in those groups (or events) will not be automatically restored upon reactivation.

As long as you keep away from Facebook, your account will remain inactive. To reactivate it, simply log back into Facebook. That’s it - you are back in the trap, with all your status updates, photos, and old friends (unless they happen to “unfriend” you).

Deactivation can be a good way to test the waters and see if you can survive without Facebook. If you decide that that’s it - you are 100% sure - you can go the whole hog and permanently delete the account. This can be done by visiting www.facebook.com/help/delete_account. Before you do that, however, you might want to “liberate” your information that is stored on Facebook’s servers, including those unforgettable Pattaya photos, by downloading the entire archive of your account content including photos, wall posts, and more to your computer. To download the archive, click on the account menu at the top right, select Settings, find and click Download a copy of your Facebook data, and follow the instructions.

Many heavy Facebook users admit that even a 30-day “detox” period has tremendous benefits. Perhaps its worth giving it a try.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Domain Ownership (K2 #82)

Question of the week
How can I find the real owner of a website?
— T. Dorji

Answer
Dear T. Dorji,

Indeed, website ownership is often more than meets the eye and some detective work might be needed. Start by visiting the website. If the website has an “About us” or “Contact us” page, the answer to your question might appear right there. Some website owners, however, do not provide that information on the website. In that case, your next best bet is to try and find out who owns the domain name for the website (the domain name is the address that you enter in the browser, for example www.google.com).

The domain ownership information is often stored online in a special database called WHOIS database, and you can use free WHOIS lookup services to query this database. One such free service is the excellent DomainTools. To look up a domain, visit whois.domaintools.com, enter the website address, and hit Lookup. If the lookup was successful, you will find plenty of information about the owner, which might include their address and phone number. For example, when you look up www.google.com, you will find that the owner is (surprise!) Google Inc. in Mountain View, California.

Sometimes the output from the lookup will send you to another website, requiring an additional step to uncover the ownership information. For example, if you search DomainTools for www.bpc.bt, you will get the following response: “For more information, please visit http://www.nic.bt”. That’s the case with all Bhutanese domains. The website www.nic.bt indeed has ownership information for Bhutan-registered websites, and it will tell you that bpc.bt is registered by Pema Tshering of Bhutan Power Corporation in Thimphu.

Some website owners do not like the idea of having their personal details available online, so they use a domain privacy service. In such cases, the website owners’ details in the WHOIS database are replaced by the name of a company which acts as their proxy. Popular domain privacy services include “Domain by Proxy” and “Domain Privacy Services”. To find out who is behind a privacy-protected domain, you will need to contact the owner’s proxy and convince them why you need the name of the domain owner. If you have a good reason (for example, the website is doing something illegal), and a good lawyer, you might be successful.

Readers are encouraged to submit technology-related questions to boaz@thimphutech.com

Here, there and everywhere (K2 #81)

Question of the Week
I bought the Galaxy Grand Duos smartphone but found out that it does not work in Bhutan. What can I do? Will it help if I “root” the device?
— Samten Dhendup, Sr. Survey Engineer, NLC

Answer
The Galaxy Grand Duos model that is sold in India supports the 3G bands of 900, 1900, and 2100. The bands used for 3G by Bhutan’s operators are 850 and 2100. Thus, wherever 850 is used (Thimphu, Paro and a few other locations), your phone will not be able to use 3G. This is a limitation of the phone’s hardware, and “rooting” the phone – which means gaining complete control of the smartphone’s software – will not help. In fact, it often means voiding the manufacturer's warranty as well as running others risks, including making the phone totally unusable. Due to BICMA’s user-unfriendly decision to use the North American band of 850 instead of the standard Asian 900 band, quite a few other Bhutanese customers are in your situation and will need to buy new, expensive phones; if it’s any consolation, they say shared sorrow is half a sorrow.

Question of the Week
Is the Sherig Collection available online? How can I download it?
— Yeshi Choden

Answer
The Sherig Collection is a set of educational resources for teachers and students in Bhutan. It includes offline Wikipedia, thousands of educational videos, Dzongkha dictionaries, e-books, audio books, exam banks and more. It can be installed on any Windows computer - no Internet required. The size of the collection is pretty big - it’s about 25 GB, and it is not available online. Why? Given the speed and stability of broadband Internet in Bhutan, it would take days to download the Collection (assuming that the connection or the power did not drop half way, in which case you’d have to start all over again…). The only practical way to get the software is by copying it using an external hard drive or a 32 GB pen drive. You can get the software in many schools in Bhutan. For more information, register at sherig.rigsum-it.com.

With the new school year starting soon, let me take the opportunity and wish all teachers, students and parents a happy year of learning!

Readers are encouraged to submit technology-related questions to boaz@thimphutech.com