ThimphuTech was the first technology blog in Bhutan. We started writing it in 2009, just as broadband and mobile internet started to take off. (Although internet in Bhutan was launched in 1999, it was either super-slow or super-expensive, and was only used by a selected few).

In the blog, we wrote about technology and food, but also about plenty of other stuff. The blog became popular and influential in Bhutan. A companion bi-weekly column -- Ask Boaz -- was published for many years in the Kuensel, Bhutan's national newspaper. (The complete Kuensel columns are available as an ebook, Blogging with Dragons).

We stopped updating the blog when we left Bhutan in 2014, but the information within the posts can still prove useful, and thus we decided to keep it online.

We thank all our readers.
Tashi Delek,
Boaz & Galit.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Bloggers & Twitters, Unite!

Ms. Andrea Williams, Thimphu's local map maven, is organizing the Kingdom's first meetup of bloggers cum twitters. This will be an informal event, where people can - often for the first time - meet the real person behind the online persona. Business Bhutan is media-sponsoring the event. If you're interested in joining, here's the event's Facebook page.

Raw-milk raid in the U.S.

Can you imagine the Royal Bhutan Police, guns drawn and ready to shoot, storming a shop in Thimphu because it is selling the ubiquitous plastic bottles filled with fresh, raw milk? This kind of scenario sounds like a weird joke in most countries. People here and other countries in Asia can buy raw milk, boil or pasteurize it, and otherwise use it as they like.

But in many states in U.S. - "land of the free and the home of the brave" - raw milk is outlawed, and authorities sometimes take extreme measures to enforce the law. Take a look at the following video clip, describing a raid on "Rawesome", a raw-food store in California.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Reporting statistics in the media

Today's front page Kuensel article, Where bullocks beat power tillers, described how in most Dzongkhags bullocks are still the main farming "technology". The article included a table that compared the percentage of households using bullocks, power tillers, bullocks and power tillers, and manual digging, broken down by Dzongkhag. Here is the table:

From Kuensel Newspaper (22 Nov, 2010)

While the table gives the exact percentages, it does not give the big picture, which was well described in the text. In such cases, as they say, "a picture is worth a thousand words". I have reproduced the statistics in a set of Dzongkhag-level bar charts. Each bar color (grey, blue, green, yellow) corresponds to a farming "technology" (bullocks, power tillers, bullocks and power tillers, manual digging). You can now directly compare the 20 Dzongkhags (the scale is identical in all charts).

From this visualization it is easy to see that indeed, most Dzongkhags are dominated by the use of bullocks only. Bumthang, Gasa, Paro, Punakha,Thimphu, and Wangdue are the heaviest users of power tillers. And what about manual digging?

% of households using each of 4 farming technologies, by Dzongkhag
While the chart might not convey the exact percentages, it allows readers to quickly see the large picture and even the approximate percentages.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

All about SIM slot (K2 #2)

Question of the Week
I recently found a SIM slot on my Dell Vostro 3400 laptop. When I inserted a SIM card, nothing happened. Is there something wrong with my laptop?
-- Tashi Dubjur, College of Science and Technology

Friday, November 19, 2010

B-Mobile Broadband: Four plans, but only two worth considering

B-Mobile has four different plans for post-paid mobile Internet subscribers: The Lite, Easy, Supreme and Unlimited plans. Each has a monthly rate, a data limit, and an over-the-limit usage charge. Here are the plans, copied verbatim from the B-Mobile website, but arranged differently ("transposed") for easier comparison:

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Searching for the hospital

Bhutan's national hospital - officialy JDWNRH - is one of the capital's landmarks, and very much part of daily life here in Thimphu. Go to the hospital, and you're likely to run into someone you know. From the infamous "cough and cold" to more serious conditions, people arrive for treatment at the country's flagship medical facility.

A few days ago I had to find information about the hospital, and so naturally turned to all-mightly Google to locate the hospital's homepage. Google usually does a fantastic job with such searches. Surprisingly, this turned out to be quite a challenge.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Kala chana!

The hole-in-the-wall
Finding non-animal-based protein in Bhutan is a daunting challenge. A couple of restaurants in Thimphu serve tofu-based dishes, and yes, lentils have managed to cross the border from India and thus some kind of dal preparation often accompanies the ubiquitous heap of rice. But otherwise, eating out usually means little protein and lots of carbohydrates: noodles, rice, potatoes, roti.

Seven free online tools co-blogger Galit Shmueli was recently covered in Business Bhutan, sharing her favourite free online tools with readers. Here's the online version.

Bhutan & IPv6

Google has gone IPv6, Facebook has an IPv6 website, and now Bhutan wants to be the world's first "IPv6-ready" country. Let's talk a bit about IP, IPv4 and IPv6.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

A new poll. Topic: BBS News.

Our Facebook poll is now closed. 42% of participants - almost half - check their FB account more than once a day. 29% of users check their FB about once a day. 19% log on to FB less than once a day. And only 10% do not have an FB account.

And now to this month's poll: BBS news. We are interested to know which editions of the news, if any, you watch. The English version, The Dzongkha one, both, or neither?

Monday, November 15, 2010

Kill two birds with one stone

Got a few minutes to kill online? Here's a great way to increase your knowledge and help end hunger: For each correct answer, 10 grains of rice are donated through the UN's World Food Programme. Subjects available are English, maths, geography, and more.
Got 10 right answers? 100 grains. 100 answers? 1000 grains. Well, you get the idea! And remember that a cup of uncooked rice contains about 6000 grains.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Streaming audio and/or video for free

Today we met Ron, who is trying to help a local radio station stream their programming via the Internet to listeners worldwide. I mentioned to him a great free solution that I used in 2008 to stream seminar talks -- This is a free service that "enables anyone with a camera and an Internet connection to quickly and easily broadcast to an online global audience". It means that you can stream audio and video, and then even keep an archive hosted on their website. has a few big advantages:
  • No special software needed to broadcast or to view (beyond Flash)
  • Easy-to-use interface
  • It's been running since 2007 - this is a good record for such a service
  • "Users can broadcast events to an audience of unlimited size, and enable interaction through chat and Social Stream" (from their website)
  • A player can be embedded directly into your own website
  • Free! This is key in Bhutan, not so much because it saves money but because it means that a credit card is unnecessary (given that there are no credit cards here)
You might ask what is Ustream's business model if this is all free. The answer is advertising, and as in many other "freemium" services, they also offer a more elaborate paid version called Watershed. is a really cool option not only for small radio stations but also for journalists on the go, who have a laptop with mobile Internet connection, a microphone and a webcam. No need for a camera crew in order to report live!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Four ways to share files - without getting infected

In a interesting recent PaSsu Diary post, Passang Tshering wrote about his USB flash-drive being infected by a rather nasty virus after inserting the drive into a student’s laptop. Since so many laptops and desktops in Bhutan are infected with viruses, exchanging flash-drives is extremely risky. In fact, this is the most common way by which viruses are spread.

Here are four ways which enable file exchange with a very low risk of infection. They might need a bit more work that just swapping the flash-drive, but they will save your laptop.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Ema, or perhaps something else?

There was a story in today's Kuensel about  a team of American physicians - the "Flying Doctors" - who are helping hundreds of patients in Zhemgang. They are definitely performing a great service! However, one sentence in the story caught my eye:

Finalizing a CD

I recently discovered that the CD burning software that comes with Windows 7 does not allow you to "finalize" a CD after you burn files to it. Finalizing a CD means that you can no longer write to it. This is unfortunately true also for the burning software that comes with Windows XP and Vista. Their option "Close Session" does not finalize a CD.

Why do I need to finalize a CD? To avoid spreading malware (viruses, trojans, etc.). We use CDs for installing software on different machines, some of them might be infected by malware. A finalized (that is, un-writable) CD is safer than a USB pen-drive for this purpose, because even if inserted into virus-infected computers, the viruses will not transfer to the CD (whereas, they can transfer to a USB pen-drive or to an un-finalized CD!)

Note that CD-R does not mean that the CD becomes un-writable after burning, just like CD-RW.

The solution: Use a CD burning software that allows finalizing. We use Power2Go (paid). A free option that comes recommended (I haven't tried it) is CDBurnerXP. In the screenshot below you can see the option "finalize disc" (below "Device") in CDBurnerXP.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Ask Boaz (K2 #1)

Last month, a few remote villages in Laya gewog were added to the B-mobile network (just in time for the Miss Bhutan SMS voting!). When I read the news, it struck me that life has now changed forever for the Layaps.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Using Cleartrip for online booking on Indian Railways

Is there anything more romantic than riding the train in India? From the early morning cries of the chai wallahs to the breathtaking scenery to being fed by a Marwari family, this is, truly, incredible India.

And booking tickets online on Bharatiya Rail has never been easier. Until a couple of years ago, IRCTC's chaotic website was the only option. But now there's a much better alternative: Apart from the much cleaner design and a very fast and intuitive user-interface, accepts international credit cards, which IRCTC does not. cleartrip also offers airline and hotel bookings.

Another neat feature of cleartrip is its always-in-beta Indian Railways availability calendar. Just enter any two stations, the desired class, and a date range, and cleartrip will quickly display a color-coded availability matrix.

N900 Dzongkha support now included in ukeyboard

We previously blogged about Dzongkha support for the N900 smartphone. Some more good news: Our Dzongkha keyboard is now included as one of the standard languages in the popular ukeyboard package for the N900.

Mr. Roman Moravcik, the developer of ukeyboard, has kindly agreed to include Dzongkha in the software package.

You're probably asking yourself, what does this mean? Well, this means that if you have the N900 phone, you can easily and simply enable its Dzongkha capabilities by simply installing the ukeyboard application. No special tweaking or hacking required!

Here are some more Frequently Asked Questions the N900 and Dzongkha:
  1. You keep mentioning the N900. Can this work on other phones?
    Unfortunately, the answer is no. N900 runs Linux which supports the rendering of Dzongkha and easily programmable keyboards. These features are not currently available on most other phones, including the iPhone, Android-based phones, and most other Nokia phones.
  2. Can you send an SMS in Dzongkha to other phones?
    You can send an SMS in Dzongkha, but the receiver - unless he or she also has a Dzongkha-enabled Nokia N900 - will probably not be able to read it, since most phones cannot display Dzongkha characters. The Dzongkha characters in these phones will usually appear as empty squares.
  3. Where can I get the N900?
    Nokia started selling the N900 in India a few months ago. The MRP is a whopping Rs 25,000 (around US$570 in today's exchange rates). The price of the N900 in the U.S. is "only" $399 (about Nu 17500). Hopefully the price of Dzongkha-supporting mobile phones will become affordable in the upcoming years.
  4. What about those cheap Nu. 1500 Nokia handsets that are sold in the market?
    Most cheap-and-best Nokia phones (and also the more expensive ones) do not support Dzongkha. Technically, these handsets have enough computing power to support Dzongkha rendering, but it basically up to Nokia to provide this support.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Want to learn how to use the Dzongkha keyboard? DzType is here!

We are glad to announce the launch of DzType, a first-of-its-kind web-based application that aids in teaching the Dzongkha Unicode keyboard.

Learning to type Dzongkha using DzType is fun and easy. As you move from one unit to the next, you learn how to master more keys on the keyboard. By the end, you will be a pro.

The software is free for all. You can run it online or offline (download the package here). Installation is simple and does not require high computing power. Even old and slow computers can be used.

The audience for the tool includes schools (today's students love technology!), colleges, monasteries, and any government, corporate or private organization where individuals can benefit from knowing how to type in Dzongkha.

This is the first project of the Rigsum Centre for Advanced Learning Technologies (CALT), who's mission is to research and develop technologies for advancing education and learning in Bhutan.

Disclosure: The writers of this blog are the directors of CALT (the low rate of blog posts in the last days was due to the DzType launch - we will now resume to our usual blogging rate.)