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.

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