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.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Help a baby owl

I re-posting an email from Hendrik and Marianne of the Pilou Animal Shelter.
This may seem off-hand a bit of a weird request, but we are looking for small dead rodents and birds. We have rescued a baby owl and for his nutrition it is important that s/her eats fur, skin, feathers and small bones next to meat. Since we do not want to kill any animals, so we would like to ask anybody who may find a dead small animal to give us a call so we can pick it up. Of course we need to be careful, especially concerning the rodents, that they are not killed by poisons or pesticides, since that would also pose risks to the owl. So if you know this is the case, please do tell us!

Your help is really appreciated, since without this kind of food the owl will have very little chances of survival. That one dead mouse you find may just make the difference!

Thank you very much in advance!

Pilou Animal Shelter
Hejo – Thimphu

Mob: 17605878 or 17603516 (Marianne)
Home: 02 336519

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Upcoming online course: Interactive Data Visualization

Interpreting data is first done with our eyes. If you deal with data in your job, you may want to expand your knowledge to state-of-the-art techniques and tools for visualizing your data.

I will be instructing the online course Interactive Data Visualization, starting this Friday, April 29. The 4-week course is fully asynchronous, so there is no specific time that you must be online. Each week includes materials to view online and offline (including videos, online resources, and more), and a hands-on assignment that you can complete at your own pace and receive feedback. Participants can post questions and have discussions with the instructor on an online discussion board. The course will require around 10 hours per week. You can find more details here.

The course was designed and is taught by myself (Professor of Statistics and Data Mining) and Dr. Catherine Plaisant (expert in human-computer interaction and user interface design) from the University of Maryland.

This is a great opportunity to interact with other participants world-wide and to experience the potential of online learning. You can also obtain a "certificate of course completion".

Feel free to email me for more information and for the special terms for Drukpas.

Tashi Delek,
Prof Galit

Graphic depiction of the shrinking size of Napoleon's army (width of strip) as it progressed into Moscow and back. From

Monday, April 25, 2011

Happiness hacked

Yet another cyber-security victim: This time it's the Gross National Happiness (GNH) Commission. GNHC's website was hacked by "SCARYBOYS", who was actually careful to leave a lot of traces. The hacker probably just wanted attention, which made it easy for me to find the breach. But what about the hackers who are trying to create damage and are careful not to leave these kinds of traces?


Saturday, April 23, 2011

Is there any way to get my photos back? (K2 #13)

Question of the Week
My hard disk crashed. Help! Is there any way to get my photos back?
- R. Chhetri, Thimphu

Answer (Part 2 of 2)
In the last column, I wrote about backing up your files to an external hard drive, and promised to discuss another option. Thanks to broadband Internet, there's now the attractive alternative of storing your files online. This is also known also as storing the files in "the cloud", a phrase that originated from cloud computing. The idea of cloud computing is that you buy a computing and data storage service from a provider and then access it using the Internet, instead of the hassle of buying and maintaining your own hardware and software. This is similar to buying electricity from BPC, which is much simpler than running your own diesel generator.

Many of us are already taking advantage of "cloud computing" without even knowing it. For example, if you use web-based email, such as Yahoo! Mail, Gmail, or Hotmail, then you are already using "cloud computing". Your email messages are in "the cloud". You don't know (and don't care) where the data is physically stored, but you can rest assured that after signing into your email account, your messages will be magically waiting for you.

Like web-based mail, quite a few services now offer free online file storage. Storing your important files online is an excellent way to back them up. Even if your hard disk crashes or your laptop is stolen, your files are still in up there in "the cloud" (and being here in the Himalayas, the clouds are never too far!). To use these services, you must first create an account, sign in, and then follow the instructions which will explain how to upload your files. You can then access your files from any web browser. Many of these services offer various additional features, such as the ability to share photos with friends.

Note: If you use a broadband connection at home, remember that uploading 1GB-worth of data (1024MB, or about 250 songs) will cost you around Nu 160.

Here's a list of recommended services, sorted by alphabetical order:

Amazon Cloud Drive ( The newest of the bunch offers 5GB of free storage. A nifty feature is the Amazon Cloud Player which plays mp3 songs that you saved on the Cloud Drive.

DropBox ( Simple to use but requires software installation. After installing the DropBox application, a special folder is added to your computer. To store your files online, you simply drag-n-drop them to the folder. The first 2GB are free.

Google Docs ( and Picasa Web Albums ( These two very popular services from Google are convenient for storing files and photos, respectively. Each offers 1GB of storage, are packed with various features and definitely worth a try, especially if you already have a Google account.

SkyDrive ( Microsoft's entry offers a huge 25GB of free online file storage. You can use the SkyDrive to share photos and even edit Microsoft Office documents online (see

Readers are encouraged to submit technology-related questions to

New phishing scam using RMA's name

Today's Kuensel has the following ad by RMA (see image):

We reproduce this notification on to alert our readers. In a recent Kuensel article, Boaz warned about phishing:
"[Boaz] Shmueli said that with more local financial institutions offering internet banking, people should be careful about "phishing". Phishing is when an email falsely claims to be from a legitimate organisation and attempts to acquire personal information, usually accompanied with a threat that the account will be closed unless such information is sent back."
Quick notification of phishing scams is therefore of paramount importance. While posting notifications in the paper-version of newspapers is important, an equally if not more effective way of spreading this information quickly is including it on the newspaper websites, on the Royal Monetary Authority's homepage, and even on social media sites such as Facebook or Twitter. Bloggers quickly pick up on such online notifications and spread the word.

Planning to point our readers to the original notification on the RMA website, I discovered that it was very awkward and user-unfriendly to find the notification, not to mention the format in which it is displayed (or rather, hidden). Browse to the RMA homepage and you will find nothing. Here's the secret path: From the abundance of links, find and click on Notifications and then again on Notifications in the sub-menu. You will then see a page as in the image below. Now scroll all the way down (why are the most recent notifications at the bottom?). Then click on the PDF icon (the text itself is unclickable) to reach a PDF file with the notification . Unfortunately, the notification "design" is much less appealing than the Kuensel notice.

Well hidden announcement!
Organizations should use their homepage in an effective way. This is their prime virtual real-estate and their window to the public. The main page should include announcements or notifications that are visible, updated regularly and easy to view.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Business Opportunities Corner: Making Ice-Cubes

"Thimphu is a cold place" is the sentence taught at our schools. Whether summers are getting hotter from year to year or else Thimphupas are becoming more sensitive, there are quite a bunch of shops in Thimphu now selling air-conditioners.

But how about "cooling from within"? A few entrepreneurs have already started offering great services: Sonam Tshoey's ice cream cups, Willy's ice cream parlor, and the cafes offering frozen drinks are some examples.

This brings me to our Ice-Cube Making business opportunity. We volunteered to run a small lemonade stand at the upcoming sports day at a local school to revive the many sweating & thirsty kids. I therefore went in search of ice cubes but nobody seems to know of any such joint.

Using social media for classified ads

 Need to sell your auntie's rice cooker, a used Alto or your "old" iPhone 4? Check out B-Bay, an open Facebook group for "Buying and selling second hand stuffs in Bhutan". Created about two months ago by Passang "Passu" Tshering, the group already boasts more than 850 members.  Using Facebook for classified ads has an interesting advantage. While scams are common on websites such as E-Bay and Craigslist (which are very popular in other countries), it is much harder to cheat on B-Bay: You often know the real person behind the Facebook user, especially in a relatively small and tight-knit society such as Bhutan.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

A small favour from Google

From Afghanistan to Zimbabwe, search giant Google has online presence in over 180 countries, including Bhutan's long-time football rival, tiny Montserrat at

Thus, the obvious question: Isn't it prime time for Surprisingly, the domain is currently available for purchase, arguably one of the last Google domains still not taken. Yes, I know: International companies have to pay a hefty Nu 3,000 per year (around US$70) to register a .bt domain ("exclusive of bank transfer charges"), but with Google's last year's revenue at around Nu 1.3 trillion (!), I have a gut feeling the company can afford this lavish expense.

So please, if you happen to meet Google's CEO, Mr. Larry Page, kindly ask him to consider And please let him know that these types of things are better resolved in a civil manner, or else Google might be running the risk of a well-organized campaign via a Facebook page... ;-)

Artist's rendition of Google Bhutan's future home page © 2011

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Raising the next generation of "Fair & Lovely" consumers

"When I grow up, I want to look Indian!"
If you want to help your "dark-skinned" child to develop a slight inferiority complex, I have a simple recipe: Take her to any Gini and Jony shop. This high-end Indian retailer of children's clothing has hundreds of outlets all over the subcontinent, and a branch was opened recently in Thimphu. Naturally, I went to see what the buzz is all about.

New server to improve response time, not bandwidth

The Kuensel recently reported that according to Bhutan Telecom officials, "internet services would be much faster" following the launch of a new DNS server. Unfortunately, this is not accurate. While we might notice an improvement in the response time  - i.e., the time it takes until the download or upload starts - the download and upload speeds are not expected to improve dramatically.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Is Bhutan becoming less "interesting"?

One of Google's most fascinating tools is Insights for Search, which lets you compare search patterns across time and geography (a more basic version is Google Trends). I've decided to see whether more people are searching for "Bhutan" lately, which might indicate a rising interest in the country. Looking at the results, searches shot up during historical events - around the mock elections, the actual elections, and of course the coronation of His Majesty. But otherwise, the trend line demonstrates a slow but constant decline of searches beginning in January 2004 (when Google first started to collect this data) and reaching the bottom in December 2009, when activity slowly started to pick up again. Now whether interest in Bhutan is desirable or not is a whole different question.

Bhutan Post takes advantage of SMS technology

Yesterday morning I received an SMS from Bhutan Post:
You may kindly collect your parcel from our General Post Office, Thimphu during working hours - BHUTAN POST - Your Friendly Service Provider
I rushed down to the post office and a package was indeed waiting for me. I found out that the IT department at Bhutan Post recently installed a system that sends out these messages to the recipients of parcels. A fine use of SMS technology, and another example of Bhutan Post's all-around fantastic service.

Man's best charo

No, this post is not complaining about the stray dogs or sleepless barking nights in Thimphu. It is also not about high-tech ear plugs. Instead, I'd like to share information about a high-value service that might not be easy to find.

A few months ago a couple of dogs have adopted us. Over time the relationship became mutual (they bark in both Hebrew and Dzongkha), and so we thought that it would be a good idea to vaccinate them. Back in the West, we'd look up "vet" with our zipcode on the Internet, check customer reviews (and people can get very sensitive when it comes to their pets!), call a vet, make an appointment, bring the dogs over to the clinic, get them vaccinated and shell out a big amount of cash.

How to do this in Thimphu? Looking up "veterinary" in the Thimphu section of Bhutan Telecom's telephone directory gets you a few leads (see image), though you'd have to figure out which is the right one. Searching online for "Thimphu vet" doesn't take you too far... I took the low-tech old-fashioned way and contacted our friend Marianne from Pilou Bhutan Animal Rescue & Care, who gave me the information. Let me supplement it with our excellent personal experience:

Vaccinating dogs and cats in Thimphu is done by the Chubachu Veterinary hospital (02-322432). Their immunization service beats my Western experiences hands down: Being car-free, we couldn't bring the dogs to the hospital. Instead, the wonderful Dr. Kinley arrived after 30 minutes with a team of two helpers. They vaccinated our dogs (free!), gave de-worming tablets (free!), and registered them (Nu. 120 per dog). The dogs were a bit surprised, but it's for their own good. No wonder that Thimphu hasn't had a rabies outbreak since 1992.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

The importance of strong passwords

I've recently encountered more incidents of hacked email accounts in Bhutan. This time it was a Chinese spammer sending thousands of "you've won the lottery" fraudulent emails to unsuspecting recipients. Other hackers abuse email accounts by sending out emails of the infamous "Mugged in Pataya" type to the victim's contact list. And one can think of even more sophisticated ways of taking advantage of hacked accounts, especially if the hacker takes the time to delve into the victim's messages.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Reading Lolita in Thimphu

Married to the Kindle
There's recently been an explosion of Bhutan-focused travelogues and memoirs. Or at least so it seems. Three of the newer works are currently not available for sale in Bhutan: Radio Shangri-La by Lisa Napoli, Married to Bhutan by Linda Leaming, and Beneath Blossom Rain by Kevin Grange.

So what do you do if you're here in the Kingdom and desperate to get a copy? The public library would be a natural place to find such books, but as far as I know, copies are still not available for loan. Eventually a few will end up there. Another option is to find a local friend who has a copy. If that didn't work, keep on reading.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Upcoming online course: Acceptance Sampling (opens Apr 15)

I will be instructing an online course that can be useful to those working in organizations who receive or send goods to/from multiple sources (the hospital, large shops, Bhutan Agro, UNDP, printers, Yogurt production plant, traditional medicine, BioBhutan, and more).

About the Course:

Mindfulness essential when emailing subscribers

One of Bhutan's leading newspapers has recently made an embarrassing - if common - mistake.
When emailing the PDF version of the newspaper to the list of its online subscribers, the sender absent-mindedly added the recipients to the message's Cc field. Anyone who received the email was now able to browse the entire recipient list and see who the other subscribers are. So I now have the newspaper's entire online subscriber list, which includes a few dashos and other VIPs, among others. And of course, they now have my email address as well...

Will a new plastic card revolutionize retail in Bhutan?

Bhutan National Bank is launching a prepaid Visa card today. Other banks are offering or have plans to offer similar cards. According to the information provided by BNB, the card can be used for Internet online shopping.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Subscribers or users?

The MoIC recently released the 2010 Annual Statistics Bulletin. According to the bulletin, there were 84,458 mobile broadband subscribers in Bhutan in 2010. This figure has also been reported by the Kuensel. Mobile Internet technologies include GPRS (very slow), EDGE (slow) and 3G (sometimes fast). The latter is only available in Thimphu. Out of the 84,458 subscribers, the bulletin reports that around 2% (1,998) are 3G subscribers, and the other 98% (82,462) are GPRS/EDGE users.

Business Opportunities Corner: Data Recovery Service

If your hard disk just crashed, you are probably having one of those blissful, blood-pressure-lowering, mantra-inducing Buddhist moments, realizing that indeed nothing is permanent.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

RBP's website hacked. Time to reconsider online SCS?

The official website of Royal Bhutan Police ( was broken into. One of the pages displays a "We Love Iran" message, signed by "Ashiyane Digital Security Team".

New poll: Broadband satisfaction

It's definitely time for a new poll! The number of broadband customers is growing, and our poll question is: How happy are you with broadband Internet in Bhutan? Let your voice be heard by checking the appropriate button. The poll, as usual, is displayed on the right bar our blog.

And for the results of the previous poll. The question was "Which BBS News Edition do you usually watch?": The winning language is English, with 52% of participants. Dzongkha came in at14% of participants. 23% watch both English and Dzongkha, and the remaining 9% of participants watch neither.

Is there any way to get my photos back? (K2 #12) (Part 1 of 2)

Question of the Week
My hard disk crashed. Help! Is there any way to get my photos back?
- R. Chhetri, Thimphu

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Ten tips for eating healthy in Thimphu

The Bhutanese diet is changing rapidly, and mostly for the bad. The causes and effects (most of which are not specific to Bhutan) have been discussed extensively elsewhere. But with some attention to detail, it's still possible to manage to eat well. Here are tips on eating healthy in Thimphu. Many apply, with some adaptation, also outside of Thimphu. I would like to thank Dr. Thimmaiah for sharing his vast amount of knowledge and for being the inspiration for many of these tips.
  1. Produce: When shopping for fruits and vegetables, start your shopping in the sabzi bazaar's top floor, as that's where the seasonal local produce is sold. In addition to supporting local farmers, vegetables will be fresher, more nutritious and with lesser quantities of chemicals. Some of the local produce is organic. Most vegetables on the ground floor are imported from India.
  2. Milk: Avoid Amul Taaza and other UHT milk. Fresh milk is available around town. Find a reliable source (you can try the dairy shop in Hong Kong market). Instead of boiling the milk (which changes its taste and destroys many of the nutrients) get a good food thermometer and try pasteurization.
  3. Salt: Go easy on the salt shaker. Bhutanese dishes tend to be extremely sodium-heavy. Some experts suspect this is the main reason for the surge in kidney-related diseases in the Kingdom. When eating out, ask the chef to cook with zero salt, and then add to taste.
  4. Datsi: When preparing datsis, use the fresh local cheese over processed cheese. The taste is different, but just check the ingredient list on Amul Cheese and you'll quickly understand why. 
  5. Packaged food: Most packaged food from India is loaded with various additives as well as trans fats. If you insist on packaged food, get the chocolates, biscuits, crackers, and noodles which are imported from Thailand or Malaysia.
  6. Bread: Rotis (aka chapatis, phulkas) are made from wholemeal flour and water, nothing else. They are a much healthier choice compared to the white sliced bread that you can find around town.
  7. Rice: When offered a choice, opt for the local aromatic red rice and cherish the amazingly low local price compared to the US price...
  8. Sweets and snacks: Try to avoid packaged junk food. Find healthier alternatives. Look for copra pieces in many small shops (Nu 1). Chugo is great if you're into smoked cheese and your teeth are in good shape. Sugar cane is often available in the market. Apples and bananas are incredible in season. Or prepare your own trail mix with a mix of almonds, cashew nuts, raisins, and fresh walnuts.
  9. Oils: There's a great selection of heart-healthy vegetable cooking oils around town, such as mustard oil, sesame oil, rice-bran oil and olive oil. Experiment and enjoy the variety!
  10. Local treats: Enjoy the fabulous local stuff. Bhumtang cheeses, incredible mushrooms, local confitures and honey, Sonam's swiss-style ice cream, fresh tofu (available at Sharyang's), local soft-shell walnuts, unfiltered Red Panda beer and a sip of ara from time to time. Did we forget anything? Let us know.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Business Opportunities Corner: Key duplication

The topic of youth unemployment has been discussed constantly in every possible medium. Starting a small business can be rewarding and interesting, but it is never easy. Should one open yet-another-shoe-shop? A few individuals with entrepreneurial spirit have recently launched great businesses, such as ShoeVival and Greener Way.