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.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Upgrading Windows (K2 #53)

Question of the Week
When I tried to install Windows 8 on my Dell Inspiron N5110 laptop, it didn’t work and the screen became black. The same problem happened to my friend who owns the same model. Please help.
— Kencho Nima, Sherubtse College

Dear Kencho,

Welcome to the risky world of Windows upgrades! Luckily for you, other owners of the same laptop model (Dell Inspiron N5110) have had similar issues, and there are a few workarounds. In fact, when you search Google for “windows 8 dell inspiron n5110” , some of the top results are forum discussions around the infamous black screen issue. Many of these discussions also include solutions. I suggest you follow the threads, and try the workarounds. Here are two such threads: and

One needs to think carefully about such upgrades. If your current operating system is serving you well, a major upgrade is something that you should avoid or postpone. One of the main advantages of Windows 8 is support for touch screens, but most existing laptops do not have a touch screen. Windows 7 is a good, solid operating system, and will serve people’s existing computers for years to come.

For people still set on making the leap, Microsoft offers the Windows 8 Upgrade Assistant utility at Download and run the utility to check if your hardware and software are compatible with the new operating system. Even if you get the green light, upgrades often go wrong, so you should always backup your computer first and have a Windows 7 CD in case the Windows 8 installation fails.

New Year Celebrations Around the World

The first place in the world where the New Year is annually celebrated is Kiritimati, an island in the Pacific Ocean. Also known as Christmas Island, Kiritimati is in the furthest timezone (UTC+14), which is 8 hours ahead of Bhutan (UTC+6). To see when 2013 starts around the world, check

Time zones can be confusing, so to find out the current date and time anywhere in the world, Google is your best friend. Search for “Time in Kiritimati” (or any other location) for a quick and authoritative answer.

Readers are encouraged to submit technology-related questions to

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Unplugging devices (K2 #52)

Questions of the Week

Should we click on the green arrow button before removing an external drive? If we don't, can this cause any harm to the external drive?

— Rinzin


Dear Rinzin,

Indeed, it is good practice to use the “Safely Remove Hardware” icon before unplugging external drives or pulling out a pen drive from the computer. You can find the icon in the system tray - this is the bottom right corner area of the desktop that shows the time and has a bunch of different icons. On Windows XP, the icon is a green arrow, whereas on Windows 7 it looks like a USB plug with a green checkmark.

Before unplugging the device, click the icon and wait. A list of all removable media will soon be displayed. Select the device you want to disconnect, select the Eject option, then wait until a confirmation message is displayed.

If you unplug a device without following this procedure you run the risk of corrupted files, or even worse, an inaccessible device, which is guaranteed to ruin your day.

How can I order stuff from eBay to Bhutan? Can I receive the item to any place in Bhutan? Does any courier service collaborate with eBay?

— Jambay Dorji, Teacher, Mongar HSS


Dear Jambay,

eBay ( is a huge online marketplace, connecting crores of buyers with lakhs of sellers who offer everything from shoelaces to cars. You always buy the goods from individual sellers, never from eBay. Shipping is usually not the problem: many sellers agree to ship their items to Bhutan using the postal service, sometimes for free (especially if the item is lightweight, such as a pen drive), so just make sure Bhutan Post can deliver packages to the required address. Some sellers also offer the option of a courier service such as UPS, although this can be quite expensive.

The main hurdle in Bhutan, however, is not the shipping - it’s the payment method. For payment on, you need access to an international credit or debit card that is accepted online. Once you have access to one, let the shopping spree begin!

Readers are encouraged to submit technology-related questions to

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Data recovery from external drive (K2 #51)

Question of the Week
My 1TB external disk got spoiled. I have thousands of photographs stored in it and now I am unable to retrieve those pictures. I don't have any idea how I can get those pictures. I did take consult with IT vendors in town but they said it would not be possible. Can you please suggest if it is possible to retrieve the photographs, and if yes, how?
— Kinley Tshering, Thimphu

I have an external drive of 500GB capacity, almost fully occupied with files. The last time I unplugged it from a computer, I pulled it out directly, and now it won’t read on any computer, though there is the power bulb dstill on and machinery sound when I bring it near my ears. I tried on a lot of computers, still not working. Please help me. I have a whole lot of files and contents there.
— Namgay Rinchen, Thimphu

Losing important data can be very stressful. So first, the good news: Recovering data from failed disks is often possible. Now, for the not-so-good news: no computer vendor in Bhutan currently offers professional data recovery services

Time for DiskVival?

With more and more of our personal and business information stored on disks, memory cards, and smartphones, a data recovery lab represents an interesting business opportunity in Bhutan.
If you are lucky, your external drive has a simple hardware issue that is relatively easy to fix by a technician - for example, a crooked USB connector or a failed disk enclosure (the box that holds the actual disk), or perhaps a software issue that can be corrected by a disk recovery utility such as TestDisk (

If the issue is more complicated than that, well, your disk will need to be handled by a professional. My recommendation: Keep the drive, and seek the services of a data recovery professional when you (or a friend) are outside of Bhutan. Note that depending on the specific issue, recovery can range from expensive to very expensive.

The inconvenient truth is that all hard disks eventually fail, often within a few years. Experts recommend replacing hard disks every 3-5 years, but even that is not a guarantee against failure. Prevention is better than cure, so back up your files. And please don’t wait - do it today!

Readers are encouraged to submit technology-related questions to

Monday, November 26, 2012

Yet another Facebook hoax

If any of your Facebook friends copy-pasted the following text to their wall, kindly let them know it's yet another hoax. The truth is, once you agreed to the Facebook's terms, posting a piece of text on your wall is not going to change that. Sorry!

A viral hoax, albeit a convincing one

Bhutan Government Portal, hacked again

We wrote about the hacking of RGoB's web portal a couple of weeks ago. Now hackers have modified the portal's home page to redirect visitors to a domain ( which expired a few days ago. The domain, by the way, is registered in Iran.

The Bhutan Government Portal


The Injected Code

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Upcoming 3G frequency change (action required)

There are five standard frequencies used around the world for mobile broadband services (3G/UMTS): 850, 900, 1700, 1900, and 2100 MHz. Different phones and data cards support different subsets of these frequencies, and you always need to make sure that the device you use supports the frequency used by the mobile operator.

Here's a list of the frequencies used in different countries.

On November 30, Bhutan Telecom is changing the frequency of the 3G data services from 2100 MHz (used by most countries) to 850 MHz, in order to "improve 3G services coverage".

To guarantee a smooth transition, make sure your data card or smartphone supports 850 MHz.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Recovering deleted files from a pen drive (Part 2 of 2, K2 #50)

Question of the Week
Is there any way to get back our files which we deleted from a pen drive?
— Rinzin

Answer (Part 2 of 2)
Dear Rinzin,

In the last column, I explained how to recover files that were accidentally deleted from a pen drive. Undeleting is possible because when you delete a file, it is only marked as deleted, but the content is still there. This is true for operational as well as failed devices. For this reason, a hacker can often recover data from a discarded pen drive or hard disk! To make sure no one can ever access your confidential files, the data must be securely overwritten (or the media physically destroyed). Organizations, such as governments, businesses, and ISPs, typically have special procedures for discarding hard disks and pen drives in order to safeguard their data and make sure the data do not fall into unwanted hands. Of course, individuals often also need to protect their digital information by securely deleting files.

How can you securely delete a file? Last week we recommended using a utility for recovering deleted files (Recuva, downloadable at This same utility can also overwrite deleted files. Once you overwrite a deleted file, it will be extremely difficult for a hacker to recover it. Overwriting is easy: After launching Recuva, search for the deleted files as you did in the case of undeleting. However, instead of undeleting, check the files you want to overwrite, then right-click and choose “Secure Overwrite Checked”. This will overwrite the checked files. These files are now gone forever, and it will no longer be possible to recover them.

If you need a more advanced tool, Eraser is the utility for you. Downloadable at, Eraser has many options to securely delete files, directories, the Recycle Bin and any unused space on a hard drive. It even has a scheduler, so the overwriting can occur when you’re out for a lunch break.

Bored with your generic pen drive? The Magic Mushroom is the gadget for you: Studded with diamonds, rubies and sapphires (as well as 32GB of storage, in case you’re concerned about that), this is the most expensive pen drive in the world: a bank loan of Nu 20 lakhs is all you need. Just remember to securely erase confidential files on the Magic Mushroom - it will help you sleep calmly if you ever lose it...

Readers are encouraged to submit technology-related questions to

Monday, November 12, 2012

Unpleasing screenshots

DrukNet's own servers (, are hacked, and Google Chrome reports that these sites (and other sites hosted by DrukNet) now distribute malware.

Suggestion: Refrain from browsing and other DrukNet-hosted websites for now.


Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Trends over time: effective and misleading line charts

Chart from, Nov 7, 2012
Today's Kuensel's cover story "Good fences don't always make good neighbours" featured a series of three charts showing trends in cordyceps harvest, export and average price from 2004 to 2012. While line graphs are excellent for displaying trends over time, there are several guidelines that must be followed to avoid creating a misleading picture. The Kuensel charts suffer from the following issues:

  1. While the x-axis conveys years (2004 to 2012), the points are not equally spaced. For example, in the middle chart the distance between 2011 to 2012 is larger than between other pairs of neighboring years. A trend can appear much more (or less) dramatic if the time axis is not properly spaced.
  2. The three charts all use year on the x-axis. Most readers would expect the same placement of years on all charts, yet that is not the case here due to the over-stretched distance to 2012 in the Export chart.
  3. Values that appear on a line graph typically convey the y-axis value (harvest, export or average price). Including the year label just below these values is confusing and difficult to read.
  4. Using dashed lines for interpolating missing values works well. However, the extrapolation for Export in 2012 is suspect. Why is it assume to be equal to the 2011 value?
  5. It is good practice to keep the same number of decimal for all years. We automatically use the length of the number to infer its size (longer=larger). If some values include a decimal and others do not, we mistakenly infer the longer number to be larger.

I recreated the charts in Microsoft Excel using the numbers from the Kuensel charts. These charts avoid the above pitfalls -- see for yourself whether a different story emerges. 

Note that I also chose to overlay the harvest and export lines in the same chart, since they share the same units and have the same order of magnitude. Line graphs are powerful for comparing trends by overlaying multiple lines on the same chart (if the scales are different, we can use double y-axis scales or normalize all the series). 

The two sets of charts (left and right) differ only by the inclusion of values near the lines. Note that it is easier to compare trends when there are no numbers near the lines. However, if you must include values, make sure that those are only the y-axis values, and that they have the same number of decimals. 

More effective use of line charts for conveying the cordyceps trends. The trends in the charts on the left are easier to grasp, compared to the right charts, which are identical but also include values.

Lost in translation

2002 soft cover
A Dzongkha-English dictionary is an invaluable resource for students and anyone studying Dzongkha. The DDC produced three versions that are supposed to be identical: a 2002 soft-cover edition, an online version, and a CD version (also downloadble from the DDC website). It appears that the two digital (online and CD) versions were created by simply copying the entries from the 2002 soft-cover. However, the replication was less than perfect, resulting in a major error: complete entries are missing from the digital versions. There are two types of missing information: One is due to files that do not exist on the server, leading to error pages in the online version but not the CD (see screenshot).

Error #1: Broken links due to missing pages

The other error is trickier and occurs in both online and CD versions: the file exists, but it is mistakenly empty! This leads to the impression that there are no words starting with that letter. An example is shown in the screenshot below, where it seems as if there are no words starting with ལོ ("Lo").

Error #2:  Empty pages. No words starting with ལོ ("Lo")?
No words starting with "lo" is clearly incorrect (the 2002 soft-cover lists over 50 such words). Several other pages also erroneously list empty pages.

The needed fix: DDC should upload the missing files, should update the erroneously empty files and carefully test each and every webpage. Unfortunately, new CDs will have to be burned.

A note about usability: While the erroneous missing webpages reflect an oversight, there are indeed cases where there are no words (at least in the 2002 soft-cover) starting with that letter. An example is ཙེ ("Tse"). In such cases, rather than displaying an empty page, a comment is in place such as "there are no words starting with this letter".

Usability: When no entries exist for some letter, a clarifying comment is in place.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Recovering delete files from a pen drive (Part 1 of 2, K2 #49)

Question of the Week
Is there any way to get back our files which we deleted from a pen drive?
— Rinzin

Answer (Part 1 of 2)
Dear Rinzin,

It could have been nice if files that are deleted from a pen drive would magically shift to the Recycle Bin, wouldn’t it? Still, never lose hope: It is often possible to recover deleted files from pen drives (as well as external hard drives and memory cards). When you delete a file, it is marked as deleted, but its contents are not immediately erased. As long as the data is not overwritten, there is a good chance that the file can be undeleted. So first, make sure not to create any new files or edit existing ones in this pen drive. By not tampering with files on the pen drive, you increase the chances of recovery.

Next, we will need a utility that scans the drive, looks for deleted files, and then salvages your treasures. One such utility is Recuva, a small but powerful program: In addition to undeleting files from your pen drive, Recuva can also try to recover files that were deleted from the Recycle Bin! First, download Recuva at After installing, run the program and follow the prompts. You will be asked which types of files you wish to recover (pictures, music, documents, all files), and from where. Choose “Media card” for your pen drive. Recuva will scan the pen drive and find your files, which you can then magically retrieve by clicking the Recover button. Recuva is a snap to use.

The ease of undeleting files, by the way, also means that if you hand over a pen drive (or hard drive) to your friend, then if she is curious (and computer savvy), she can easily find information on that drive that you thought she’ll never see. How to deal with that situation? That will be the topic of our next column.

Reduce screen time

Does your child spend hours in front of the TV, computer, iPhone, or PlayStation? There is mounting evidence that excessive screen time is linked to various health and development problems, from obesity to attention deficit disorders. American teenagers spend around 8 hours daily in front various screens, and their urban Bhutanese peers are probably not too far behind. Experts recommend limiting exposure to ½ to 2 hours daily according to age, but not for babies: While it's tempting to use the TV or an iPhone as a babysitter, the American Academy of Pediatrics advises zero screen time before the age of 3.
AgeDaily Screen Hours
12-151 ½

Readers are encouraged to submit technology-related questions to

Friday, October 26, 2012

Another one bites the dust: DPT's website hacked

We've recently blogged about Bhutanese websites that have been secretly hacked . Now Druk Phuensum Tshogpa's website was broken into as well, and probably by the same hackers.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Visually beautiful, but scientifically ineffective

Congratulations to the new Raven magazine that was launched this month. The first issue is beautifully designed. Kudos also for reporting on a scientific survey about Pedestrian Day opinions. The reporter clearly explained issues with the previous surveys (which we wrote about in an earlier post). There is also an attempt to use charts for telling the story, and I am a big fan of charts as storytellers. However, creating effective charts requires more than Excel skills.

With all this good work, the last mile is to replace the current ineffective and confusing charts with effective ones. Below are some charts from the article on Pedestrian Day. Start from this chart. What does it teach us?

The pie chart is trying to convey the "percentage of respondents wanting Ped Day to be discontinued". A main feature of a pie chart is that its parts should add up to 100%. Yet, the percentages on the slices here do not add up to 100%, causing confusion. A careful look uncovers that the person creating the chart was trying to convey the percentage separately for each sector. If that's the case, then the pie chart is not set up correctly! You would need separate pies for separate sectors (civil servants, H-wives,...), and then each pie would have a breakdown of  that sector's opinion of Ped Day. Using a pie chart incorrectly is very misleading.

But even using a pie chart correctly is known to be ineffective at best, and misleading at worse. Our brain is not good at comparing sizes of pizza slices. With 3D pizza slices, we are even worse off! The best solution: use a bar chart.

Here's a simple bar chart of the same data, using Excel. See if you get a better idea of responses to this survey question by different sectors (by the way, might a truck driver also be "Business" or "Pvt Employee"?)

While we're on the subject of 3D charts, you can ruin a perfectly effective bar chart by turning it into a 3D bar chart, as you can see in the following charts (from the same article). I included the original 3D chart alongside an ordinary bar chart of the same data, which I created in Excel. Not only is there no need for the third dimension (it does not represent any information in these cases), but it makes the comparison between bars much more difficult on our brain.

Left: original 3D chart. Right: ordinary bar chart for the same data

Left: original 3D chart. Right: ordinary bar chart for the same data

Creating effective charts is not rocket science and does not require expensive software. It does require learning key principles and implementing them meticulously. The media should invest in training editors and reporters in effective data presentation -- not only creating effective charts, but also being able to critically assess charts presented by their sources.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Power cuts and computers (K2 #48)

Question of the Week 

There are many power cuts lately. How do I protect my computer at home la?

--R.C., Thimphu


Dear R.C.,

I've also noticed more blackouts. With the increasing number of urbanites, we might be heading into rougher times, especially in the winter months. It is a good idea to be prepared for planned - as well as unplanned - blackouts, “brownouts” (drops in voltage), surges (a sudden increase in voltage) and other power instabilities.

All equipment is affected by these voltage irregularities, but in different ways. For example, a light bulb will be dimmer when there’s a “brownout” (that is where the name comes from), but the bulb itself will not be damaged. Other types of equipment can be more sensitive and more expensive to replace. IT equipment falls into this category: Computers, monitors, modems, and routers definitely need protection. Not to mention that if you are working on important documents and the power suddenly disappears, you’ve lost your work. That’s where an Uninterruptable Power Supply, or UPS, becomes indispensable.

A home UPS - a small but heavy box-shaped appliance - provides stable, surge-protected, battery-backed power for your equipment. It’s simple to use: First, you connect the UPS to the wall socket. Next, you connect your computer and monitor to the UPS sockets. Normally, the UPS will use the wall electricity to power your equipment. The moment there’s a power cut, however, the UPS will start using an internal rechargeable battery to provide power to your equipment. The switch from the “wall” power to the battery power is instantaneous. As the internal battery does not last forever, you will probably want to save your files and gracefully shutdown the computer as soon as possible after a power cut starts. When that’s done, it’s time to start searching for candles and matches!

Which UPS to buy?

When buying a UPS, make sure that its power ratings are suitable for your equipment. For example, if you want the UPS to power two 80W desktops and two 50W monitors, make sure that the “output power capacity” of the UPS is at least 260W. Also, UPS batteries have a lifetime of around 4-5 years, so check the manufacturing date carefully.

The most popular UPS brand in Bhutan is APC (, and their products are generally very good. The market is currently flooded with the bare-bones APC Back-UPS 1100 (660W) model. Its fan is noticeably noisy, so unless you can tolerate a very loud noise round-the-clock, I would not recommend this model for the home. On the other hand, I found the “fan-free” models - such as the APC Back-UPS ES 650VA (390W) and 700VA (420W) - to be excellent.

Got an unplanned power cut?

It’s time to call BPC’s toll-free complaint line (1250). The sooner BPC knows about the disruption, the sooner power will be resumed.

Readers are encouraged to submit technology-related questions to

Friday, October 12, 2012

Most media houses in #Bhutan are not participating in the big party

Many media houses in Bhutan have set up their own websites: BBS, Kuensel, Bhutan Today, Bhutan Observer, Business Bhutan, and The Bhutanese all run news websites (the last two, by the way, having the most user-friendly interfaces).

Obviously, media outlets want as much traffic as possible to their websites. This can be seen by the "visit our website" promotions in the local print and broadcast media. However, currently the private newspaper websites - as well as BBS - are missing out on millions of potential readers outside of Bhutan. Why? Two words: Google News. Launched exactly ten years ago, Google News aggregates news articles from more than 50,000 online sources, and automatically compiles a 'front page' every few minutes. Google News has become the de-facto news destination for millions of users around the world. Users visit Google News to check out the recent happenings around the world, then click on news articles which takes them to the source (the website of the media house that published the article).

Some staggering statistics: About 1,000,000,000 (one billion!) unique users visit Google News every week. And each month, indexed news websites receive more than 4 billion visits that originate from Google News, as well as from the automatic news links generated by Google Search.

Bhutan's private newspapers are currently not participating in this party. When you search for Bhutan on Google News, the only Bhutanese news source that currently comes up is Kuensel. The other websites - Business Bhutan, Bhutan Observer, BBS, etc. - are not showing any results. Why? They are not indexed by Google News.

The solution is quite simple. If you are the publisher or editor of a media house in Bhutan, read Getting into Google News, then fill the form. and expect a surge in international traffic. More information for publishers is available here.

Internet service interrupted (again)

Thousands of broadband and mobile users were not able to connect to the Internet this morning. Service disruption started sometime after 3am and was finally restored after 9am. Mobile Internet was restored first, later broadband. This happened a few days after the country suffered from network hiccups after one of the two main gateways showed signs of exhaustion.

Like electricity or water, Internet is an essential utility these days. Governments, corporations, small businesses and private citizens have learned to depend on a reliable internet connection. It is not a novelty or luxury any more. ISPs in the country should support Bhutan's effort to become an ICT hub and a knowledge-based society. This means that ISPs should  (1) install systems for monitoring Internet availability 24x7, rather than waiting for users to complain (2) proactively dispatch technicians to fix any disruptions 24x7 (3) provide regular status updates to users.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Hackers enjoy a free ride using RGoB, OAG, TCC, and other Bhutanese websites

It is not a secret that many websites in Bhutan are prone to hacking. Some hackers just enjoy showing off their abilities, and leave a noticeable trace on the website - perhaps a militant message accompanied by loud and scary music. Other hackers are more subtle. They take advantage of a vulnerable website by adding or changing its content in a way that is beneficial to them, but is not easy to detect by a casual visitor.

Case in point: The main portal of the Royal Government of Bhutan, The portal has a pretty good page ranking by Google (6 out of 10). When a website with a good ranking has links to other websites, Google sees these links as recommendations, and so it improves the ranking of the linked sites.

Apparently, hackers were eager to take advantage of RGoB's ranking. So what did they do? They silently broke into the website and changed the content of pages to include links to websites that they wish to promote.

Take a look at the following source code snippet from RGoB's home page (by the way, if you want to view the source code of any web page, open that page in Google Chrome or Mozilla Firefox, then click Ctrl-U. If you are using Internet Explorer, click on View, then Source).

Hackers are taking advantage of RGoB's portal
As you can see, there are some strange links in this page (that's the web addresses starting with http://). Just by looking at the domain names, it is apparent that these links point to websites that are - well, how to put it gently - not very "family-friendly". And there are many more similar links in this page, as well as on many other pages in the RGoB portal. The hackers, by the way, cleverly made sure that these links are readable by search engines, such as Google, but are not visible to humans (that's the style="display:none" part). So just by browsing the page you will not see anything special.

Here is a partial list of other Bhutanese websites that are currently being used in a similar manner, and serving as hosts to parasite links. All these hidden links, by the way, point to Turkish websites.
Bhutanese websites continue to be highly vulnerable to outside attacks. And as more and more websites, databases, and other systems are coming online, the potential harm that can be caused by malicious hackers increases.

Hat tip to our reader Anonymuse , who provided the impetus for this post.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Where are the T & C?

The DrukAir website is running an online campaign for the "Special Promotional fares" on its new PBH-SIN route.

These special fares often comes with a long list of Terms and Conditions (T & C). There might be specific embargo (blackout) dates, minimum/maximum length of travel, requirement for a return ticket, ticket validity period, maximum number of sectors, specific classes, specific payment requirements, minimum/maximum of passengers, etc.

Unfortunately, the website doesn't list the T & C. To find out what they are, you will need to walk into the Druk Air office (or call).


Monday, October 8, 2012

Internet in Bhutan crawls. What's going on?

Ever since Sunday morning, Internet in Bhutan has been patchy. International websites either load very slowly, or do not load at all.

I could not find any updates by DrukNet on their website ( or their Facebook page. And the most recent tweet by @bhutan_telecom is "Missed Call Alert is soon gonna be launched........good news for customers...".

So what's happening here? One can only guess. There are currently two international gateways from Bhutan: P/Ling and Gelephu. According to my cursory examination, the Gelephu gateway has been displaying erratic behavior starting yesterday, but for some reason traffic was kept being routed to both gateways. Destinations that were routed via P/ling (e.g., were doing much better than those routed via P/Ling (e.g.,

At around 9:10 this morning (Monday) all traffic started flowing via P/ling, so hiccups should be less frequent. On the other hand, it means increased load on the only operational gateway.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Accessing an E-book (K2, #47)

Question of the Week 
My friend from the USA gifted me a Kindle e-book from, but I cannot read it since I don't have the Kindle tablet. Please help.
-- Rinzin, Changangkha, Thimphu

Dear Rinzin,

Books makes wonderful gifts, and “a book is a gift you can open again and again”. Luckily, the same applies to e-books! So keep on reading, and you'll find out how you can open your e-book (again and again) even without a Kindle tablet. But first, what are e-books? An e-book - short for electronic book - is a file that contains text, and sometimes other media, such as photos and videos. There are various e-book formats. To read an e-book, you need an e-book reader that supports the format of your e-book. An example of an e-book format that you might be familiar with is PDF. Reading a PDF e-book is easy - you just use the free Adobe Acrobat Reader (downloadable at to open the file and view its contents.

E-books purchased (or gifted) on use the Kindle format. These files usually have the extension .azw. Amazon sells special tablets that can read Kindle e-books. Reading e-books on these devices is often a pleasant experience due to their special technology, and in particular a technology called electronic paper, which is a special display designed to mimic real paper. Electronic paper can be read in direct sunlight and is less strenuous on the eyes compared to a computer monitor.

Now for the good news: it’s not mandatory to own one of these devices to read your gifted Kindle book. Amazon avails free Kindle applications for PCs running Windows or Mac, as well as other devices such as iPhones and Android phones. These apps enable you to read Kindle books. Go to to find these apps. You can even read Kindle books using a web browser using the Kindle Cloud Reader (go to

In addition to books available on Amazon and other retailers, tens of thousands of e-books are downloadable for free (and legally) on sites such as and - my favourite - You'll find all the classics there - from Jules Vernes to Shakespeare to Dickens. And the e-books are downloadable in various formats, including PDF and Kindle.

So while some people - including yours truly - still enjoy the whiff of a moldy hardcover, there is no denying that e-books have a few advantages: they don’t take space, they are instantly available, and they save plenty of trees. Like it or not, e-books are here to stay. Enjoy your new e-book!

Readers are encouraged to submit technology-related questions to

Monday, October 1, 2012

40 years ago: Bhutan steals the show at the United Nations

Bhutan joined the United Nations in 1971. The following year, in the 27th General Assembly - exactly 40 years ago - the Bhutanese delegation made quite a splash.

(c) Associated Press, September 20, 1972

Monday, September 24, 2012

iPhone 5 nano-SIM update

The Instructions
In "Will the new iPhone 5 work in Bhutan?", we suggested waiting until more information becomes available about cutting down a full-sized SIM (or a micro-SIM) into a nano-SIM.

Well, here's some good news for iPhone addicts. Reports are now surfacing that such a conversion is possible by carefully cutting down the bigger SIMs. And although nano-SIMs are thinner than the larger SIMs, the iPhone 5 socket can also accommodate a cut-down SIM, which means thinning down the card is not necessary.

To cut your SIM, either use a special nano-SIM cutter or follow the instructions in this post.

My recommendation for B-Mobile and TashiCell: Until (and if) nano-SIMs are procured directly, equip the sales offices with nano-SIM cutters.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Business Website (K2, #46)

Question of the Week 
I am starting a business and I need a website, so what are my options?
-- Sompel Tashi, Thimphu

Dear Sompel,

Your options depend on the type of business you have in mind. For a small, local business, a Facebook page often suffices. It is simple to create and maintain, totally free, and offers good exposure as most Internet users in Bhutan are active on Facebook. The page can include basic information such as opening hours and phone numbers as well as photos and events. By “Like”ing your page, users will get your updates on their news feed. Examples of local businesses using Facebook pages are Radio Valley, the Folk Heritage Restaurant, and Junction Bookstore. To start, go to and click “Learn more about Pages” or “create your own”. Once you have enough fans, visit to claim your own ‘vanity’ Facebook address (such as

If your business is facing customers outside Bhutan, or you need more than what Facebook has to offer, you will need a “real” website. There are some fantastic, free and secure services that will host as well as help you build and update your website. Examples are Google Sites (, Yola (, Wix ( and WordPress ( No IT degree is necessary to use these services, although it usually helps to sport some gusto and computer savviness. To compare the various offerings, visit

Tip of the Week

Apple’s newly announced iPhone 5 uses a nano-SIM card, which is smaller and thinner than the micro-SIM used by the iPhone 4, which in turn is smaller - but not thinner - than the full-size SIM sold by B-Mobile and TashiCell.

If you are fantasizing about using an iPhone 5 in Bhutan, wait until it is confirmed that a standard SIM can be cut down to fit the tiny iPhone 5 socket. 

There is also a possibility that our local mobile operators will procure nano-SIMs. For updates on using the iPhone 5 in Bhutan, check out my blog at
If you are not comfortable with taking charge of your own website, or you just don't have the time or the will, you will need to hire the services of a web developer. Initial costs can be quite high, and as web sites need constant updating and patching, consider also a maintenance contract. Make sure you hire someone reliable; many businesses in Bhutan have had a disappointing to disastrous experience due to hiring unreliable web developers. It is therefore important to insist on recommendations, and make sure you talk to past clients.

Good luck with your new venture!

Readers are encouraged to submit technology-related questions to

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Upgrade your Google Search skills in an upcoming free online course!

Looking for something interesting and useful to do during the long holiday? Power Searching with Google, a free online course by Google, opens September 24. In this course you'll learn tips and tricks for finding what you're looking for using Google Search.

The course is two weeks long, with three 50-min classes per week. You can take the classes according to your own schedule during the two-week window. An official certificate is provided upon completion.

This course can be useful to teachers, librarians, school and college students and to anyone who uses Google to find answers to simple questions or conduct deeper research.

This is the second offering of the course. According to the Google Blog, the first offering in July was quite successful:
During the course’s first run in July, people told us how they not only liked learning about new features and more efficient ways to use Google, but they also enjoyed sharing tips and learning from one another through the forums and Hangouts
Register to join!

Does Windows Phone 8 support Dzongkha?

HTC's new 8X, running Windows Phone 8
Dzongkha on mobile phones still presents a major challenge. The Dzongkha-enabled Nokia N900 that we developed back in 2009 as a proof-of-concept is still the only phone that has full support of both the official Dzongkha keyboard and perfect rendering of Dzongkha/Tibetan fonts.

HTC and Nokia have recently announced new phones running Windows Phone 8, Microsoft's recent attempt to grab some market share for mobile devices.

Will Windows Phone 8 support Dzongkha keyboard or display? Well, not according to the specs. Here are the official lists of languages:

Display. The following display languages are supported: Chinese (Simplified and Traditional), Czech, Danish, Dutch, English (UK and US), Finnish, French, German, Greek, Hungarian, Indonesian, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Malay, Norwegian (Bokmål), Polish, Portuguese (Brazil and Portugal), Russian, Spanish, and Swedish. The specific display languages that are included in your phone are chosen by your mobile operator or phone manufacturer.
On-screen keyboard. The following on-screen keyboard languages are supported: Chinese (Simplified and Traditional), Czech, Danish, Dutch, English (UK and US), Finnish, French, German, Greek, Hungarian, Indonesian, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Malay, Norwegian (Bokmål), Polish, Portuguese (Brazil and Portugal), Russian, Spanish, Swedish, Turkish, and Ukrainian. These input languages are available on all phones, regardless of which display languages your mobile operator or phone manufacturer chose to include.

None of the supported Display languages requires complex rendering (such as letter stacking), which might hint that Windows Phone 8 has no support for complex scripts. Whether the support is there but just not enabled remains to be seen. In the meantime, if what you need is a Dzongkha-enabled mobile phone, don't count on Windows Phone 8.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

What's Kelly Dorji's Bacon Number?

"My Bacon Number is 0!"
In an effort to demonstrate some of its capabilities, Google Search has recently added a fun feature: it can often find an actor's "Bacon Number". The Bacon Number is a person's "distance" - known also as 'degrees of separation' - from actor Kevin Bacon. Here's how it works:

  • If a person appeared in a film with Kevin Bacon, the person's Bacon Number is 1. 
  • If person appeared in a film with someone who was in a film with Kevin Bacon (and so has a Bacon Number of 1), the person's Bacon Number is 2.
  • In general, if you appeared in the same film with someone whose Bacon Number is N, your Bacon Number is N+1.
  • Kevin Bacon's own Bacon Number is 0.

To find a person's Bacon Number, just type his or her name in Google, followed by the words 'bacon number'. For example, Bhutanese actress Sonam Lhamo's Bacon Number is calculated to be 5. Here is the path found by Google that leads from Sonam Lhamo to Kevin Bacon:

Kelly Dorji, BN 3
According to Google, Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse Rinpoche has a Bacon Number of 2, and Kelly Dorji has a Bacon Number of 3.

Google's system, however, is not perfect. Searching for Tshewang Dendup's Bacon Number does not return a result, although he played alongside Sonam Lhamo. And Google was not able to compute Jamyang Jamtsho Wangchuk's Bacon Number, which is 2. Jamyang played the young Dalai Lama in "Seven Years in Tibet" alongside Brad Pitt, who played with Kevin Bacon in "Sleepers".

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Beware: Twitter phishing scam

If you are a Twitter and you got a DM (Direct Message) from someone you follow which is similar to this one, avoid clicking on the link. It's a scam.

If you do click on the link, it will take you to a website which looks like Twitter, but it's not Twitter. It's run by scammers. They will ask that you enter your Twitter username and password, which they then use to take over your account and send similar messages to followers. That's how the scam spreads around.

Here is the website that steals your credentials. It looks like Twitter, but it's not. How to tell? Look at the address bar, which shows the website you are on. It doesn't show It shows It's also not secure - the green lock is not there.

Who owns According to the records, a Shanghainese named "Chen Wen" . Maybe. And maybe not.

If you are a victim, follow Twitter's guide to "My Account has been compromised". And this time, take a look at the address bar!

Upcoming on K2: What are my website options?

Question of the Week
I am starting a business and I need a website, so what are my options?
-- Sompel Tashi, Thimphu

For the answer, check out the "Ask Boaz" column in the upcoming issue of Kuensel's K2 weekend magazine.

iPhone 5 Price Comparison: USA is cheapest, UK most expensive

It might take a while until Apple opens a store in Bhutan. In the meantime, Bhutanese will need to shop for iPhones in other markets. We have collected information about the price of the unlocked iPhone 5 in various markets which might be of interest. Note: the iPhone 5 is still not available for sale in Thailand.

iPhone 5 prices, local currency

16 GB
32 GB
64 GB
USD  649
USD  749
USD  849
CAD  699
CAD  799
CAD  899
SGD  948
SGD 1088
SGD 1238
AUD  799
AUD  899
AUD  999
GBP  529
GBP  599
GBP  699

iPhone 5 prices, Ngultrum (September 17, 2012)

16 GB
32 GB
64 GB
USABTN 35,240BTN 40,670BTN 46,100
CanadaBTN 39,120BTN 44,710 BTN 50,310
Singapore BTN 42,160 BTN 48,390 BTN 55,060
Australia  BTN 45,700 BTN 51,420 BTN 57,140
UK BTN 46,590 BTN 52,760BTN 61,560

Monday, September 17, 2012

How do you say "Access denied for user" in Dzongkha?

I've been trying to reach DDC online dictionaries for the last few weeks, but I keep getting the following warnings:
Warning: mysql_connect() [function.mysql-connect]: Access denied for user 'dzongkha'@'' (using password: YES) in/home/dzongkha/public_html/online/config.php on line 2
Warning: mysql_select_db(): supplied argument is not a valid MySQL-Link resource in /home/dzongkha/public_html/online/config.php on line 3
What's going on here? DDC's web server cannot access the back-end database. But in the process, it prints diagnostics ("Access denied for user ...") which I, as a user, should not see. These messages can help an adversary to hack into the system, since now the "bad guy" has information about the database server and the username. The web server should not print these messages. A webmaster can easily turn off diagnostic messages in the production system. In addition, it is highly advisable to employ a monitoring mechanism which will periodically check that the web server is functioning correctly.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Will the new iPhone 5 work in Bhutan?

"I need it, and I need it NOW!"

Two years ago we wrote one of our most popular posts ever, "Will the new iPhone 4 work in Bhutan?". That post still gets plenty of hits. Visitors to the Kingdom are eager to know whether they should pack their unlocked smartphone before that hair-raising landing in Paro. The answer to that question was a definite yes - one just needs to chop the B-Mobile (or TashiCell) SIM card down to the micro-SIM size.

The iPhone 5 was launched yesterday. It has a bigger and taller screen, a sharper camera, more processing power, as well support for LTE 4G, which is a high-speed data network (currently unavailable in Bhutan). One 'upgrade', however, will affect Bhutanese subscribers. The iPhone 5 uses a nano-SIM. The nano-SIM is even smaller than the micro-SIM:

SIM evolution according to Darwin

In theory, one could carefully cut a SIM (or a micro-SIM) down to a nano-SIM, since the physical contact sizes are the same. Nano-SIM cutters are already selling on E-bay. However, there is a caveat: In addition to being smaller, the nano-SIM is also thinner than the previous SIMs (0.67mm compared to 0.76mm, which is about 15% less), and so there is a chance that a cut-down SIM will be too thick to fit into the iPhone slot.

Update (24/9/2012): Cut down SIMs fit the iPhone 5 tray.

A nano-SIM cutter
As far as I know, B-Mobile and TashiCell have not put out orders for nano-SIMs. The only option left for iPhone owners is to shave off that extra 0.09mm of plastic, perhaps using sandpaper. Whether this is possible without affecting the internal circuitry remains to be seen. The best strategy is not to jump and order an iPhone 5 (yet), but wait until more information is available. Watch this space for updates!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

India to use new EVMs, this time with a voter-verified paper trail

In January 2012, the Delhi High Court ruled that the Indian Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) used in the Indian elections are not tamper-proof. These machines are manufactured by Electronics Corporation of India (Hyderabad) and and Bharat Electronics Limited (Bengaluru). Two days following the ruling, the Election Commission of India (ECI) has ordered the manufacture of new machines: EVMs with Voter-Verified Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT). These modified machines will include printer that will issue a human-readable ballot of every vote.

The first Bhutan democratic elections in 2008 employed the Indian EVMs manufactured by the same two Indian manufacturers. In August 2010, after a research group first demonstrated the vulnerabilities of the Indian EVMs, Chief Election Commissioner of Bhutan spoke to Business Bhutan about the EVMs' security. But all that was before the Delhi HC ruling.

Should Bhutan keep using the same EVMs in the 2013 elections?

If you want to learn more about the security of electronic and Internet voting, it's not to late to join the free Securing Digital Democracy course. Details in the video.

Monday, September 10, 2012

BBS on YouTube? @namgayzam @dawabbs

I often enjoy watching Dawa's People's Voice and Namgay Zam's Talking Matters. The most recent episodes of these (and other) programs are available for streaming on the BBS website. (In fact, since BBS1 is still not available off-the-air, the website is currently my only of watching BBS1) Older episodes, however, are taken offline because the server cannot handle the load.

YouTube can offer serious help. BBS can create an official channel on YouTube (it's free), upload all videos to that channel, and then users can watch all programs directly on YouTube. This approach has various advantages: An unlimited number of videos; people around the world have a fast and reliable access to the BBS content; the BBS servers are now totally off-loaded;  and lastly, a copy of the content is stored on Google's servers for free - a crucial backup in case of a disaster.

A YouTube channel can be of use for other organizations as well. Here's more information about YouTube for Businesses.

How to know if (and when) your SMS was delivered

The B-Mobile SMS service has recently been erratic. Incoming international SMSes, like Google Calendar Mobile Alerts and Twitter updates, are sometimes delayed for hours or days. And sometimes they are delivered on time. A recent tweet by @dorji_wangchuk shares the following information:
People using BMobile b mindful of d fact that SMS service is not very prompt. Often the messages are delivered the next day.
What can you do about it? There's no way to expedite delivery of messages - it's up to the mobile operator. You can, however, request a "Delivery Report" to track your outgoing text message. A delivery report is a short message confirming that an SMS was delivered to the recipient's phone. Note that whether the recipient actually opened the message and read it is a different matter.

How do you enable the receipt of delivery reports? Most phones have a setting for it. Read the phone's manual or just fiddle with your phone message settings. For example, in the ultra-basic Nokia phones you can try:
Menu > Messages > Message settings > Delivery Reports > Yes
In the more advanced Symbian phones:
Messaging > Options > Settings > Text message > Receive report > Yes
On Android phones:
Messaging > Menu > Settings > Delivery Reports (Check) 
If you own an "unbroken" iPhone, you're out of luck. The late Steve Jobs decided not to expose this option. Why? I guess we'll never know.

2GB + Chillies = 1GB!

These chillies, they are not good for your brain. That's why we Bhutanese people haven't made much progress! If you have a 2GB memory, you'll go right down to 1GB with all these chillies."
Tenzin Norbu, Thimphu