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, April 19, 2014

Broadband Leakage (K2 #84)

Question of the Week 
My broadband account gets depleted very quickly. How can I check what the problem is?
— Aby T., Thimphu

Dear Aby,

Internet in Bhutan has rapidly evolved from being a luxury toy for occasional usage to a necessary utility used on a daily basis. With such usage, your broadband Internet bills can therefore add up rather quickly. Prepaid broadband costs about Nu 100 for every GB these days (and slightly cheaper if you happen to recharge using the Nu 1499 or 2499 packages). Some users find that their balance quickly vanishes into thin air, and they often tend to blame Bhutan Telecom for faulty bookkeeping. But the truth is that there can also be other causes for a quick drain. If you suspect that you are overcharged, here are a few steps to take before rushing to Bhutan Telecom.

  1. Change your broadband password. The Bhutan Telecom system is set up in such a way that multiple users can use the same account (dnetxxxxxxxx) from multiple fixed lines at the same time. So, if a “friend” got hold of your password, they might be logging in from their home and downloading the recent Bollywood blockbusters at your expense. Changing your password will hopefully put a stop to that (but hopefully not to your friendship).
  2. Secure your wireless network. More and more homes in Thimphu have wireless routers, allowing laptops, smartphones, and tablets to connect to the Internet without cables. However, if your network is not secured with a password - or, if your password is simple to guess - your lovely neighbor might be taking your Internet connection for a free ride. Secure your network by setting a strong wireless password. Check the documentation that came with your wireless router for further instructions.
  3. Protect shared computers. Is there any chance other members of your household — brothers, sisters, spouse, children — are using your computer to watch their favorite YouTube videos when you’re at the office? It’s not a bad idea to password-protect your Windows account. Visit the Windows Control Panel to password-protect your user account, as well as disable any other accounts that are not password protected (such as the Guest account).

Say you've done the above, but are still puzzled about how your data is used. This is where a bandwidth monitor comes in handy. A bandwidth monitor keeps track of the data used by your computer, and shows you how your data is used. A recommended utility for Windows computers is the free NetLimiter 2 Mon, which you can download at Other creatures can also feed off your wireless network: if you connect an Android phone or tablet to your wireless network, you can check the data usage by using the built-in counters at Settings > Connections > Data Usage > Wi-Fi. If you happen to own an iPhone or iPad, you will need to install an app that monitors Wi-Fi usage, such as the free Cisco Data Meter (available at the iTunes app store).

Taken all the above steps? If you still think DrukNet is overcharging you, take a printout of the bandwidth monitor’s statistics with you when you pay the Bhutan Telecom office a visit.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Luxury mineral water brand @VEENWaters operating in Bhutan?

I was rather surprised to learn that VEEN, a luxury mineral water brand from the far-away land of Finland, will soon be starting a bottling operation in Samste, exporting Bhutan's water to India:
"The company will now be introducing two new variants - VEEN Still and VEEN Classic. VEEN Spring will be bottled from Samste, Bhutan ... The source, which VEEN purchased in November 2013, has a flow capacity of 25 million litres of water per year. The Bhutan facility will be fully functional by this month-end." — Business Today article
Bhutan has a good track record of carefully managing its environment, and thus I find this puzzling. Water is a natural resource - like timber, minerals, or oil. And bottled water is a very controversial issue. Who has the rights to Bhutan's water? I am surprised mainly because I don't recall ever hearing any discussion or reading about this initiative in the Bhutanese media or anywhere else.

PS: There are enough status-obsessed Indians who have no problem paying exuberant prices for water. The 660ml glass VEEN bottle will be sold at an MRP of Rs 110, while the 330ml will be a bargain at Rs 77.
This translates to anywhere between US$2700 and US$3500 per 1 m3 (one cubic meter) of water. How much of that, by the way, will find its way back to Bhutan?


Biodegradable plates available in Thimphu

Biodegradable plates and bowls manufactured in Chuzugang from the areca nut palm tree (with the help of SNV Bhutan) have finally hit the Thimphu market. We happened to notice them in Sharchhogpa Tshongkhang on Norzin Lam, on a shelf behind the cash register. They are sturdy, visually pleasing and environment friendly. 

PS: In addition to plates and bowls, there are also biodegradable spoons. However, they are not polished, have rough edges, and can scratch your mouth. Beware of these quality issues. Hopefully SNV Bhutan will be able to fix these problems.

Monday, April 14, 2014

The benefits of a Dzongkha Typing Tutor: DzType 2.0 (Beta) released

With the growing reliance on computers for authoring documents, filling forms, writing essays, articles, books, etc., knowing how to type has become an essential skill. How does one learn how to type? You can take a course (IT classes at schools or courses at IT training institutes), or you can teach yourself.

Typing software (also called typing tutors or typing trainers) are a useful tool to self-learn using a keyboard for typing. There are plenty of options (free and paid, online and offline) for learning to type in English. In contrast, to the best of our knowledge, for Dzongkha there is only one: DzType, developed by our Rigsum Research Lab. DzType 1.0 was released in 2010 and DzType 2.0 (Beta) was released this week. DzType is a free, lightweight tool that can help complete beginners gain proficiency in a short time. It has a simple interface and takes the user gradually from simple to more complex (from single characters to words to sentences; from single-key pressing to key combinations). Color and audio cues are used to reinforce correct and incorrect typing.

Type the letter in gold; on-screen keyboard image shows which keys to press. Available at

Page used in classes
The need for a typing tutor in Dzongkha is especially dire, since it is more difficult to get started compared to, say, English: you can't simply look at the keyboard and hit the right key, because most keyboards in Bhutan do not have the Dzongkha letters etched on the keys. In most typing classes, students are given a printout with an image of a keyboard with the Dzongkha and English letters (with four keyboards, each with different symbols - see image), and they need to map each of the image keys to their keyboard. This means that to type some text you have to look at the text to be typed, then refer to the page with the keyboard image, then look at the keyboard, and finally at the screen to check your typing. Four sources! Not only is this slow, but it also requires space for all the extra paper. One workaround that avoids the extra keyboard image page is sticking small stickers with the Dzongkha Alphabet on the keyboard. However, because each key is used for multiple symbols, it requires multiple stickers per key, and stickers tend to wear off quickly.

Another aspect in which typing in Dzongkha is more complicated than typing in English is the prevalence of key combinations in Dzongkha typing. To type most text in English, one needs to press a single key. For capital letters, we hold the SHIFT key and press another key. In contrast, to type most text in Dzongkha, one needs to learn not only single-key pressing (called "normal keyboard") but also combinations while holding the SHIFT key ("Shift keyboard"), while holding the left-ALT key, and even holding both the SHIFT and the left-ALT keys while pressing other keys.

DzType 2.0 can be used by perfect beginners as well as by those who want to upgrade from two-finger typing to "touch typing" where you use all fingers and don't stare at the keyboard.

DzType 2.0 (Beta) is available online for free. The offline version will be packaged with the forthcoming Rigsum Sherig Collection 3.0. We welcome your feedback on the DzType Facebook page.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Detachment and Liberation (K2 #83)

Question of the Week 
I feel that Facebook is bad for me and I want to delete my account. How do I do that?
Facebook addict

Dear Facebookaholic,

There’s a small but growing trend of people quitting Facebook. Some are worried about their online privacy. Many find that using the social network depresses them. Yet others are worried that they spend way too many hours chatting or playing Candy Crash instead of spending face-to-face time with their family and real friends. Whatever the reason, leaving Facebook is not difficult.

Initially, you may want to deactivate your account. What does deactivation mean? When you deactivate your account, your timeline disappears immediately. Your friends will no longer be able to find your information, photos or old posts. Deactivation is reversible — all your information is still stored on Facebook’s servers. If indeed you want to deactivate your account, click on the account menu at the top right, select Settings, then Security at the left column, then click Deactivate your account. One caveat: if you administer any Facebook groups (or events), your admin status in those groups (or events) will not be automatically restored upon reactivation.

As long as you keep away from Facebook, your account will remain inactive. To reactivate it, simply log back into Facebook. That’s it - you are back in the trap, with all your status updates, photos, and old friends (unless they happen to “unfriend” you).

Deactivation can be a good way to test the waters and see if you can survive without Facebook. If you decide that that’s it - you are 100% sure - you can go the whole hog and permanently delete the account. This can be done by visiting Before you do that, however, you might want to “liberate” your information that is stored on Facebook’s servers, including those unforgettable Pattaya photos, by downloading the entire archive of your account content including photos, wall posts, and more to your computer. To download the archive, click on the account menu at the top right, select Settings, find and click Download a copy of your Facebook data, and follow the instructions.

Many heavy Facebook users admit that even a 30-day “detox” period has tremendous benefits. Perhaps its worth giving it a try.