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.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Upcoming Workshops

We are glad to announce two upcoming workshops:

Build a Website (Using Google Sites)

Can you surf the Internet? Then you can also build websites. No computer degree necessary. In this 2-day, hands-on workshop you will create your own free website using Google Sites. Instructed by Mr. Boaz Shmueli, the workshop will take place on Nov 14-15, 2011, and is intended for small business owners, schools, tour operators, various organizations and anyone tired of chasing a webmaster...

Risk Analysis for Project Planning (Using Excel)

How can data be used for planning, decision making, and assessment? Learn basic and advanced Excel skills for risk analysis. A two-day workshop by Professor Galit Shmueli (USA) will take place on Nov 21-22, 2011. The workshop is intended for decision makers in the government, corporate and private sectors. Fee includes the book "Practical Risk Analysis for Project Planning".

For details and registration visit

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Web-Based Medical Diagnosis (K2 #25)

Question of the Week
My friend is having a bad cough and is afraid to go to the doctor. She checked on the Internet and saw that it might be lung cancer. I told her that you can’t trust medical information on the Internet. Am I right?
-- Chandra M., S/J

Dear Chandra,

More and more people are looking for health information online, in order to get quick answers, to avoid going to doctors, and for other reasons. While having access to health information can be helpful, you must be careful about self-diagnosis based on online information. It is easy to get carried away and suspect a dangerous or rare disease, especially when searching online. For example, searching for "headache" might bring up online articles about brain tumors. Some people become very anxious when looking up their symptoms online and are preoccupied about having a serious disease - this sounds like what your friend is experiencing. There is even a name for this online phenomena: cyber-chondria.

Previously, we didn't have access to all this excessive medical information. We didn't worry as much! Your friend's cough is more likely caused by the seasonal flu, especially in this time of the year. However, I am not a medical doctor and therefore this is again just one more opinion. To be sure, and to rid herself of the scary thoughts, she should check with a health professional. She can even print out the information that she found on the Internet and discuss it with the doctor.

A plethora of websites provide health and medical information. Some information is useful and reliable, but much of it is misleading, wrong, or even harmful. Remember that anyone can publish anything on the Internet; the fact that it's out there does not mean that it's credible or true. So when looking at a health-related website - or any other website - it is useful to check who runs the website, who pays for it, and for what purpose. Check out the "About us" or "About this site" section of the website.

Even if a health website is very popular, it might not have genuine intentions. Some websites - such as the popular WebMD - are sponsored by giant pharmaceutical companies and have a commercial agenda, so they will often steer users towards drugs or surgery, when in fact basic lifestyle solutions (diet, exercise, rest, etc.) are healthiest.

Here are three of my favourite websites for health-related information, which are considered trust-worthy:

MedlinePlus ( is run by the US National Library of Medicine and provides useful reliable, and ad-free information about hundreds of health topics, including medical drugs, for consumers.

Mayo Clinic (, one of the best hospital systems in the world, runs a useful, balanced, and reliable website. The website also features a Symptom Checker.

CDC (, the website of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, has excellent information on disease outbreaks, child vaccinations and travelers' health.

To summarize: While some websites are useful and educational, they are meant to complement - not replace - a doctor.

Readers are encouraged to submit technology-related questions to

Friday, October 28, 2011

BBC's What's Your Number: A Brilliant Way to Collect Private Information

BBC's webmaster
Nobody knows the world's exact population figures, but the United Nations decided - partly to raise awareness, partly as a publicity stunt - to arbitrarily pick October 31st, 2011 as the date when the number of people on earth will cross 7 billion. There's a lot of discussion about the 7B mark all over the place, so I'll leave that to the experts. What I wanted to talk about is BBC's What's Your Number application, launched just in time to coincide with the UN's announcement.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Nu 100 Royal Wedding notes pop up on Ebay

The special Nu 100 notes sold by the Royal Monetary Authority, which were printed especially for the Royal Wedding, have unsurprisingly popped up on E-bay.

Prices start at US$24.99 - about Nu 1250 - plus shipping.

According to Kuensel, two million commemorative Nu 100 notes were printed. The local price for the notes was Nu 500, or about US$10.

B-Mobile to Increase Capacity

B-Mobile subscribers are lately facing disconnects and other congestion-related issues, including complete loss of network signal. Although this is very apparent when the Bhutan-wide load is high, such as during the recent earthquake, we have noticed that these issues occur also during non-emergency times, although much less often.

But don't despair, as relief is coming: B-Mobile has announced that by the end of 2012, capacity will be doubled, which will allow more simultaneous calls. This is very good news.

I'm not sure, however, that this will solve a related issue that occurs when many users concentrate in a small area. For example, when tens of thousands of people congregate in Changlimithang stadium, the load on the local "base station" is increased dramatically. For this type of issue, increasing the total capacity is not enough.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Goldilocks and the Three Bears (Bhutanese version)

In the classic fairy tale "Goldilocks and the Three Bears", it is a little girl, Goldilocks, who enters the empty house of a family of bears ("the old papa Bear, the mamma Bear, and the little boy Bear") enjoys some porridge, breaks a chair, and finally falls asleep. But recently in a village in Laya, in an incredible reversal of roles, it was a 122-kg she-bear  (Blacklocks?) who entered into a empty house, and for a few days ate, drank, slept and generally had the time of her life:
"[The Himalayan black] bear had eaten from 20
bags of rice weighing 25kg each, three bags of 25kg wheat flour, locally known as ‘kapchi’, 50 kg of yak butter and a kilogram of salt. Rice and apchi had been scattered all over. The bear had also drunk water stored in a huge traditional brass bowl."

Bhutanese cannot access Kuensel, others can

While we have verified that users outside Bhutan are able to access the website of the national newspaper, the Kuensel, access within the country is currently not possible, and visitors are getting a "Cannot find the server at" error. This can be a server issue (the Kuensel server is currently located outside the country), or an Internet Service Provider (ISP) glitch.

My solution: Go and buy a copy. It's only Nu 5...

We will update you when (and if) we get more information about this bizarre technical issue.

Update: Just saw the following notification on Kuensel's FB page (via their Twitter account):
"To all our online readers who haven't been able to access our website: We are sincerely apologetic. Our tech people have been and are currently still working to fix this issue. Will update you as soon as it's fixed."

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

BBS Thimphu Transmitter Down

While most people in Thimphu watch BBS via fee-based cable service, some of us are still using the old (and free) antenna ("off-the-air") method. A few days ago I turned on the TV to watch the news, but there was no signal. I tried again yesterday, but again to no avail. I called BBS today, which is a challenge by itself - their phone number is neither listed in the phone directory, nor available on their website (the number, for future reference, is 02-323071).

I finally managed to get hold of a technician who explained that their transmitter is undergoing maintenance, and is expected to be back in operation within a few days.

BBS has a few venues for disseminating information about outages: BBS TV, BBS Radio, the BBS website,  the BBS Facebook page, and BBS twitter page. Let's hope these will be used in the future.

PS: BBS live streaming, which was set up just before the royal wedding, is also dead.

Update (26/10/2011): Transmitter is now back to service. Just in time for Diwali!

TEDxThimphu on "What Matters" scheduled for November 14th

TED is an bi-annual conference devoted to "Ideas Worth Spreading". Over the years, the world's most innovative doers and thinkers have been invited to give 18-minute presentations in an attempt to change the world. All of these talks are available on They have become extremely popular and for a good reason. Topics range from science and technology to design, business, and education. Click on the "Most viewed" button to see the most popular lectures.

TEDx are local, independently-organized events which are similar to TED. They are approved - but not organized - by TED, and must adhere to a given format and other criteria. There are hundreds of TEDx events around the world every year. TEDxThimphu, under the theme of "What Matters", is scheduled to happen on November 14th in the Terma Linca Resort. More information about TEDxThimphu, as well as attendance information, is available here.

The TEDx event is organized as part of a movie that will be made about a 4-strong American team that is planning to cross Bhutan on foot and mountain bikes. Their 42-day, 484-mile trek is planned to start on November 4. Read more about the expedition here.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Online course "Interactive Data Visualization" (Opens next Friday)

I'll be instructing an online course on Interactive Data Visualization, starting Oct 28.

This course is about the interactive exploration of data, and how it is achieved using state-of-the-art data visualization software. Participants will learn to explore a range of different data types and structures. They will learn about various interactive techniques for manipulating and examining the data and producing effective visualizations.

This is very practical and hands-on course. We use real data and discuss practical issues.

This is also a great opportunity to interact with professionals worldwide (through an online discussion board) and to take advantage of online learning for expanding your knowledge. The course is completely asynchronous -- not need to be online at a certain time.

Who can benefit from this course? managers, journalists, researchers and others who handle and present data. Feel free to email me for more information and for the special terms for Drukpas.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

RGoB website reportedly hacked by Nepalese group

A new group of Nepalese hackers claims that it broke into the official website of the Royal Government of Bhutan ( The group, calling itself Team Swastika, published a database table that allegedly includes live credentials (user names and passwords) of accounts. The table is currently posted online in one of the most popular pastebins. user credentials (passwords erased)

The hacking group also claims to have penetrated the website of the Indian Embassy in Kathmandu. In addition, the group made available a list of 10,000 Facebook user names and passwords, but this list was most likely copied from other online sources.

Check here for more information.

Monday, October 17, 2011

One Queen, two Facebook pages

There are currently two popular Facebook pages for Ashi Jetsun Pema Wangchuck: The official page (which is  "Liked" by the official Facebook page of His Majesty), and another page, titled Jetsun Pema [Queen of Bhutan] which apparently is not official.
According to the Facebook Terms regarding pages, "only an authorized representative of the subject matter may administer" official pages. Given past experience, it is likely that the unofficial page will eventually disappear. Thus, if you would like to "follow" Her Majesty, make sure to "Like" the official page.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

True or False? (K2 #24)

Question of the Week
I recently got an email that claims that eating cut onions causes many cases of food poisoning. Is this true?
-- Z. S., Samtse

Dear Z. S.,
The Internet is packed with these types of scary stories, rumors, misinformation and "urban legends". Such emails, which appear to be written by some “expert” and usually forwarded to you by someone you know, often look believable: they are backed up by a convincing story and detailed "facts". However, most of them are completely bogus. My dear mother is an especially enthusiastic forwarder of such emails, which are forwarded from her friends (who received them from their friends, and so on).

Here's how to find out if the information is true or an “urban legend”: There is a highly-recommended and trustworthy website called which collects many of these stories of unknown origin, and either verifies their validity or - as is often the case - exposes the falseness of their claims. Whenever I get a forwarded email of a dubious source, I log on to to check it out. There's a search bar on the top of the homepage. To check out the horror onion story, I just searched for "cut onions" and clicked on the first search result, which proved this scary claim to be - surprise! - totally FALSE.

Avoiding sliced onions never harmed anyone, but following the advice in some of these “urban legend” emails can sometimes be downright life-threatening: A few days ago I received an email that started to circulate in Bhutan after the recent earthquake. That email contained earthquake survival "tips" and other claims by a self-proclaimed "renowned rescue expert" who allegedly manages the "world's most experienced rescue team", and who promotes an earthquake survival method called "triangle of life". The email looked suspicious to me, so I quickly searched and found out that not only is the information in this email disputed by disaster experts, but also that the expert mentioned in the email is under investigation for fraud in the United States. Apparently, this guy has a history of exaggeration and self-promotion with very little evidence of real rescue work. Blindly following the advice in this email can be downright fatal.

If you've got a few online minutes to kill and are looking for amusement, get off Facebook and check out some of the items collected by A splendid time is guaranteed for all!

Readers are encouraged to submit technology-related questions to

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Analyzing tweeters' personalities

The cool website uses text mining to analyze personality traits based on tweets. You enter a Twitter handle and within seconds get a nice graphic analysis of the tweeter in terms of Emotional Style (upbeat, worried, angry, etc.), Social Style (arrogance, personable, etc.), and Thinking Style (analytical, sensory, in-the-moment)

The website is the brainchild of Professor James W. Pennebaker, a cognitive psychologist, who is an expert in psychological trauma research. The underlying engine uses text mining -- it counts words of various types (such as "angry" words), and uses the counts to get a picture of the writer. To learn more, see Pennebaker's new book.

My guess is that the results are culturally-dependent in the sense that they reflect North American language use. However, it might just give an interesting glimpse into Bhutanese tweeters' personalities as well!