Afterword

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, May 3, 2014

Being there (K2 #85)

Question of the Week
I discovered that Facebook only allows changing a Page’s name if you are in the United States. How can I do that without leaving Bhutan?
— Namgay Zam, Thimphu

Answer
Dear Namgay,

Facebook’s policy is annoyingly discriminating against non-Americans, but luckily – as is often the case – there’s a workaround. First, how do the folks at Facebook know your location? Whenever we access a website, the server on the other end sees our “IP address” – a unique number assigned by the Internet Service Provider to our computer or smartphone. The IP address discloses our location in the same way that someone calling from India will have her phone number displayed as starting with 91. So, when Facebook (or any other website) sees, for example, a DrukNet-assigned IP address, it knows that you are in Bhutan. Open any browser and visit www.WhatIsMyIP.com to watch this in action.

One way to fool Facebook into thinking that you are in the USA is to use a proxy server, which acts as an intermediary on your behalf. You connect your browser to a proxy server (which “happens” to be in the USA), and the proxy server then connects to Facebook; the latter sees the IP address of the proxy server. The sad news is that finding and working with free proxy servers is a major hassle.

Luckily, there’s another option: you can use the free software called Tor (The Onion Router). This software was originally designed to protect the identity of the user, including concealing the user’s location. When using Tor, your information is first encrypted many times, then passed on via many randomly-selected relays around the world. Each relay only “peels” one layer of encryption (hence the Onion metaphor), until the original data reaches the destination. By the time the data reaches Facebook, your original IP address is long gone, and Facebook only sees the IP address of the last relay (also known as the exit node).

To start using Tor, visit goo.gl/AkrVGL, then download and install the Tor Bundle Package. Launch the Tor browser by double-clicking the Start Tor Browser app in the Tor Browser directory. Once the browser is open, visit www.WhatIsMyIP.com and check the displayed country; this is the random country where the exit node is located. Any site you use will now think that you are in that country instead of Bhutan! Since you want Facebook to think that you are in the United States, the last piece in the puzzle is to force Tor to use a USA-based exit node. This is done by using a text editor (Notepad for Windows, TextEdit for Mac) and adding the following line, exactly as written, to the torrc file inside the Tor Browser\Data\Tor directory:

ExitNodes {us}

This tells Tor to use an exit node in the USA. Now, re-launch the Tor browser, go to facebook.com, and voilà – you should now be able to change your Page’s name!


Readers are encouraged to submit technology-related questions to boaz@thimphutech.com