Category Archives: Technology

How To Enable Google Traffic View In Lebanon

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The “Traffic” feature on Google Maps shows current traffic conditions on highways and roads but it is not available in Lebanon and several other countries. I always thought that Google didn’t have enough data to activate this feature but that’s not the case apparently. In fact, Google has enough data as it uses crowd-sourcing from people driving around and sharing their location, pretty much like Tari2ak works, and my friend Rita el Khoury figured out a work-around to activate Traffic view in Beirut.

Here’s what you need to do:
1- Open Google Maps. If you try to activate Traffic in the left menu for Lebanon, you won’t be able to.
2- Scroll to a nearby country (like Turkey or KSA for example), where Google Traffic is available and activate it.
3- Once you see the colored roads, move back to Beirut et voila! You will have Google Traffic for Lebanon.

I tried it this morning and it was pretty accurate and useful.


What’s great about this work around is that it will keep on working even if you exit Google Maps or restart the device. However if you try to click on the Traffic option while over Lebanon it will stop.

PS: If your Google account is not set up for Lebanon, you can activate it directly and it should work. My friend just tried it.

14-Year-Old Lebanese Wins Apple’s WWDC 2015 Scholarship

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Jake  el Mir Jake al-Mir is only 14 years old and has developed two apps already – Picture from the DailyStar

Jake al-Mir is a remarkable 14-year old Lebanese high school student that taught himself how to code at age 12. He came up with an app called “Emoji Escape” two years ago and was invited this year by Apple to attend its World Wide Developer Conference in San Francisco thanks to his app on speeding and driving “NoSpeed”.

Jake is one of 350 students worldwide to qualify for a paid scholarship to the conference and presumably the only Arab participant at the event but I can’t confirm that. Some are claiming he is also the youngest developer to be awarded Apple’s WWDC 2015 scholarship, which is awesome news!

How does the “NoSpeed” app work?

Jake Al-Mir developed the “NoSpeed” app to tackle the problem of speeding and try to decrease car accidents especially in his home country Lebanon. The app functions even when the mobile phone is locked by sending the driver a notification whenever he exceeds the speed limit, therefore also helping people avoid speeding tickets.

Here are the key functionalities:
• Track the speed of your car and when it surpasses the speed limit it will send you a voice notification to slow down. IT EVEN WORKS WHEN YOUR iPhone IS TURNED OFF (IN BACKGROUND)
• Customize your speedometer with your favorite color
• Track your altitude while driving
• Benefit from the included compass
• Switch between MPH or Km/h mode

It’s a smart idea to send notifications when the phone is locked but I think there are apps that do the same thing already. However Jake’s app is different as it sends a voice notification that plays without the driver’s intervention. Of course I know for a fact that new cars have smart systems that allow drivers to set thresholds and get alerts for almost anything but I don’t know if they are linked to a mobile app. On the other hand, I’m not really sure if we are allowed to use this app in Lebanon. According to the new traffic law, you can’t even hold your phone to check the time so you risk getting fined for checking notifications. A car phone holder could work of course but we have to check if it’s allowed or not.

Nevertheless, Jake is only 14 and is obviously very talented. I studied Computer Science and I don’t even know how to start writing an app while he has two apps on iTunes already!

Thumbs up to Jake for this awesome achievement and I hope we will see him working for Apple one day.

“NoSpeed” is available on the Appstore for $ 0.99.

The Middle East’s First Official Apple Store Is Now Open In Dubai

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The first official Apple Store in the Middle East will officially open tomorrow to the public in the new Mall of the Emirates extension in Dubai, followed by a second launch at Yas Mall in Abu Dhabi. This is obviously big news for the UAE but also for Apple fans in Lebanon. I know a lot of people who prefer to buy their Apple products from the Apple Store itself, experience the official Apple retail experience and get the proper service and warranty. Moreover, the closest Apple Store to Beirut is in Europe right now and is usually expensive because of the Euro and taxes. Of course what would be ideal is having an Apple store in Beirut but we all know that’s not gonna happen anytime soon.

Apple store

My friends at were among the first to visit the Apple Store in Dubai and shared their experience. I’m sharing a couple of sneak peek pictures from inside the store and few things you need to know about the first Apple Stores in the Arab World.

– The last time Apple opened two stores in one day was back in 2001 on the same day in the USA.
– More than 150 products will be sold at the Apple Stores. The Apple TV and the Hermès edition of the Apple Watch are not available though yet.
– Apple will be hosting women-only workshops in the coming weeks besides the usual calendar.
– The store’s design components were done in partnership with Foster + Partners, the same team which designed the Apple Campus at its headquarters in California.
– There are two Genius Bars in the middle of the store in Dubai surrounded by self-watering trees.
– The two UAE Apple Stores will have over 150 employees who speak 40 languages and represent 30 nationalities.

I recommend you check out the full article [here] for more info.



Netflix Might Be Launching In The Middle East Soon

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According to IGN, Netflix has confirmed they will be launching in the Middle East soon. In an email to IGN ME, Netflix’s Joris Evers said, “We plan to complete our global expansion by the end of 2016. Of course the Middle East is part of that, hence our hiring.”

If you look under Jobs on, you will find that there’s one specific position for the Middle East area. This is definitely great news but we still have to see what will be available on Netflix once it starts here. Currently, people are using VPN services to access Netflix.


The State Of Broadband 2015 Report: Lebanon vs The Arab World

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According to Ogero’s July 2015 report, there are 3,638,051 internet users in Lebanon as of December 2014, out of which 2,505,875 mobile internet users. The internet penetration is 86% which puts Lebanon in 4th position regionally after Bahrain, UAE and Qatar. Unfortunately, the speeds and quotas are still lousy but things are moving in the right way hopefully especially after the fiber optics joint announcement done by the Telecom Ministry and Ogero.


About the BB Commission:
The Broadband Commission for Digital Development was launched by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in response to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s call to step up efforts to meet the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Established in May 2010, the Commission unites government leaders, top industry executives, thought leaders, policy pioneers, international agencies and organizations concerned with development.

As far as broadband is concerned, the 2015 State of Broadband report was released few days ago and Lebanon’s indicators were relatively good when compared to other Arab countries. Broadband is seen as foundation for sustainable development by the UN and an “affordable and effective broadband connectivity is a vital enabler of economic growth, social inclusion and environmental protection”.

Where does Lebanon stand in the Arab World?

– Lebanon ranked first (47th globally) in terms of fixed-broadband subscriptions per 100 inhabitants with an average of 22.8 over 100.
– Lebanon ranked 8th (57th globally) in terms of mobile broadband per 100 inhabitants with an average of 53.5 over 100. Kuwait ranked first regionally and third globally with 139.8 subscriptions per 100 inhabitants.
– 68.4% of households in Lebanon have internet (vs 98% in Qatar, 94% in KSA and 90.1% in UAE)
– 74.4% of Lebanese have used the internet in 2014 (vs 91.5% in Qatar, 91% in Bahrain and 90.4% in UAE).

Check out the full report [here].

While Lebanon’s indicators are promising, it is still important to get cheap, fast and abundant internet to all the Lebanese. Telecom Minister Boutros Harb was tweeting yesterday about the latest fiber optics updates and promised a monthly report to highlight the progress. Of course I’m not expecting fiber optics before 2-3 years but I’m still waiting for DSL services to be upgraded to VDSL2+ because we desperately need those especially in regions outside Beirut. I just applied for a DSL connection last week for my new house and I’m still waiting to see if I can get more than 1 MBPS.


Thanks Rami!

Review: Should You Buy The Apple Watch?

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First Impression:

I wasn’t very impressed with the Apple Watch when it first launched as I thought it was too big but I changed my mind when I saw a friend wearing it. He had the 42mm Space Gray Aluminum Case with Black Sport Band and it fit his hand (and mine) perfectly. Since I was already looking for a smart-watch for myself and mainly for my wife (iPhone user) as she doesn’t like carrying her phone all the time, especially with the new baby, I decided to get her the smaller 38mm Apple Watch Sport from Virgin Megastore in Beirut. I thought she’d find it more convenient to receive texts, emails and calls on the Apple Watch when she’s taking care of the baby at home, taking him out on her own or even at work during meetings. I basically wanted to see if getting notifications on the watch was truly more efficient and whether the health tracking would help her get more active.

Needless to say, I was more excited about trying the watch than she was as I’ve been hearing so many mixed reviews and wanted to see how it compares to other smart-watches and health trackers that I’ve tried. More importantly, a lot of people have been asking me if they should consider buying the Apple Watch or not, so I needed to try it out first.


To Buy Or Not To Buy The Apple Watch:

Instead of posting a long and technical review, I’ve compiled the pros and cons that I’ve encountered into three key points that will hopefully help you decide if you should consider getting the Apple Watch or not.

1- The Apple Watch is a “nice-to-have” but not a “must-have (yet)” accessory:

The Apple Watch was just released this year and is still a relatively expensive iPhone accessory that has limited functionalities and needs an iPhone (5 or later) to operate. It does feel like a mini iPhone and is fun to use but there’s a lot of room for improvement and I’m sure the second version will be better. Nevertheless, Apple fans desperately looking for a smart-watch and early adopters should definitely get the Apple Watch. I’d recommend you buy the least expensive model (opt for the 42mm size) as they all have the same specs and there’s no point in buying an 18 Karat Gold Edition Apple Watch unless you need a reason to spend your money.

2- Limited battery life is not a deal-breaker:
apple watch2

The Apple Watch’s battery life is supposed to be 18 hours, which means a full day but just like smartphone batteries, it really depends on how much you’re using it. In my first week of testing, the battery would last half a day because I was making calls all the time and exercising with the heart rate monitor while listening to music. However, in the weeks that followed, the battery would easily last a full day and sometimes even more which is good. If you are just wearing it to check the time and go through notifications from time to time, it can last up to 36 hours.

Of course the battery life is a disappointment to me as it’s a watch after all and I don’t want to charge it every day but battery life sucks in pretty much everything “smart” these days, especially mobiles, so I don’t consider it as a deal-breaker. Nevertheless, Apple should seriously consider improving the battery life in future watches especially if they add more functionalities to them. If we look at the current one, it only does basic and necessary functions (except the sending heartbeats part) so chances are you’re never going to drain the battery unless you spend hours tapping on the screen and making calls.

What sucks though is that the Watch has a different charger than the Mac or iPhone so you need to carry it around with you. The battery charges in around 2 hours.

3- It’s fun to use
apple watch 1

The Apple Watch offers a new exciting way of organizing things and can prove useful when grabbing your phone isn’t that easy. If you only need to take calls and receives/send texts all day, then you can keep the iPhone in ur pocket and use the watch at all time. Getting notifications on the watch allows you to send quick responses (make sure to use Siri!) and keeps you from missing important notifications and phone calls. You can also check the weather, set up appointments, keep track of your schedule and much more. Unfortunately, there are plenty of features missing like adding contacts, edit functions, built-in GPS, sleep tracking and I find it quite silly that the time is not displayed at all time on the watch. It’s the most basic thing that a watch should offer. I was expecting Apple to introduce it in the latest Watch OS 2 but they announced instead a “night mode stand” which still requires the user to click on the watch to get the time. On other hand, Watch OS 2 had some really exciting new features like the time travel feature, the new apps introduced (The Ping App to measure the speed of your golf swing is really cool!) and we can finally reply to emails.

As far as health & activity tracking is concerned, it’s basic when compared to professional fitness trackers and can be drastically improved. There’s no built-in GPS, which really sucks for professional runners, and the heart rate monitor is not very accurate but that’s always the case with wrist straps, whereas chest-straps are usually more accurate. I currently use the Polar chest-strap when I’m exercising and I’d rather use the FitBit or Polar Loop (or my Polar M400 watch) as a fitness tracker, unlike my wife who loved the Health App and got used to it. I think this is a matter of habit as well as it takes time to get used to a new health app. What I loved though about the Health App is how your move/exercise/stand goals are beautifully into a circular graphic to help you track your daily progress.

Overall Verdict:
apple 4 Touch Lebanon recently released an app for the Apple Watch that’s very useful to keep track of your balance and data usage.

As I’ve stated earlier in the post, the Apple Watch is not meant to replace your iPhone and probably never will. Moreover, this is Apple’s first attempt at making smart watches and just like any first-gen gadget, the second generation is guaranteed to be considerably better, so there’s no need to rush and buy it unless you’re too eager to try it out (like myself) and don’t mind paying $400+. The Apple Watch is fun and managing notifications on it is pretty cool. It saves time and comes in very handy during meetings, on the run, or even when you are in the living room and charging your phone elsewhere.

One last thing, someone had asked me why I bought the Apple Watch from Virgin Megastore as it’s relatively more expensive than other places there. To be honest, I’d rather pay a little extra and buy it from a decent shop than get the watch from shops that look more like grocery stores than tech shops. I’ve been buying stuff from Virgin for quite some time and I’ve worked with them on several projects and competitions and they are quite friendly and professional. When I went down to get the 38mm sport edition, it wasn’t available so they checked for me the availability in other branches and sent it to my office once it was available.

IMAX Finally Coming To Lebanon

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IMAX-screens-get-smaller_ via digitaltrends

Three IMAX theatres will be added to VOX locations in the MENA region, including one in Beirut, marking IMAX’s entry into that country. VOX Cinemas are expected to get IMAX by end of this year based on what I’ve been told, but the date hasn’t been confirmed yet. I’ve been to an IMAX theater once and it’s quite an amazing experience. The technology and architecture makes you forget you’re in a theater and makes the movie so freaking real!

I will keep you posted if there are any updates but this is very exciting news for myself and all movie-goers in Lebanon.

IMAX Corporation (NYSE: IMAX) and VOX Cinemas, a leading exhibitor in the Middle East, today announced an agreement for three IMAX® theatres to be added to VOX locations throughout the region. IMAX theatres will be added to existing complexes in Abu Dhabi, UAE, and in Beirut, Lebanon, marking IMAX’s entry into that country. In addition, IMAX’s next-generation digital laser projection system will be launched as part of a completely new development of their flagship VOX Cinema, located within the landmark Mall of the Emirates in Dubai, UAE.

“Moviegoers in the Middle East want only the best cinema technology and movie watching experiences when visiting our cinemas and IMAX is a brand that is regarded as the best among our guests in the region,” said Cameron Mitchell, CEO of VOX Cinemas. “Our commitment to delivering a customer-focused cinema experience is a perfect fit with IMAX’s cutting-edge technology and blockbuster film slate. As we continue to expand our circuit throughout the Middle East, IMAX will serve as an anchor attraction that we are confident will be embraced by our guests. [Source] “

Review + Giveaway: Sony QX10 Lens-Camera A Great Smartphone Companion

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The black plastic cylinder shown above is not just a lens but a camera that features a 18.2 million pixel 1/2.3 inch sensor and a 10x optical zoom. The Sony QX10 doesn’t have a screen, mounts directly on your smartphone and is paired to Sony’s PlayMemories Mobile app through WiFi. This pocket-friendly compact camera is meant to complement just about any smartphone and enables users to take high quality and more versatile photos and instantly share them on Facebook or Instagram.

I’ve been using the QX10 for 3 weeks now and I’m quite impressed by the ease of use, the image quality and the performance of the camera as a whole. The setup is quite easy, the camera options are simple and straight to the point yet the most appealing thing is the size and weight (around 100g) of the QX10 and the ability to place it anywhere you like and control it remotely. It’s something that you can really have fun experimenting with at gatherings, outdoor events, parties, street photography and I’m giving away one to one lucky reader :)


I prepared a brief review of the QX10 to help you understand how to set it up, how it works, how good is the image quality and other useful information. Enjoy it and make sure to check the competition details at the end of the post:

Ease of Use, Performance & Battery Life:

The QX10 is very easy to set up and start using. You will find in the box the lens camera, a detachable smartphone mount with an extending arm, a wrist strap, a battery pack and a micro-USB cable for charging and transferring images. You will only need to buy a microSD card but you can already start using the camera without it. The QX10 has three main controls, the power (on/off) button, a zoom and a shutter button. There’s also a small screen that shows you the battery life. I tried the small smartphone mount with an iPhone 5 and iPhone 6, Samsung Galaxy S5 and S6, Galaxy Samsung Note 4 and LG G3 and it fit them all perfectly. Personally speaking, the ability to shoot without the lens attached to the smartphone is the QX10’s biggest advantage. You can hold it overhead, place it almost anywhere you like and take unique pictures. Moreover, and since the camera has a flat bottom surface (bottom also includes tripod socket), you can easily rest it for long exposures or videos.

Whether you wish to mount the lens on your smartphone or use it remotely, you will need to download the Sony’s PlayMemories Mobile app to connect through WiFi to the camera. The application is also straightforward and gives you the option to automatically store pictures on your smartphone, which is very practical if you want to upload them right away on Instagram for example.


In order to connect the camera to the app, you will need to turn the lens on, open the application from your smartphone and then wait around 5-6 seconds for the connection to be made between the two devices. If you don’t want to wait that long and wish to snap instant photos at a race or event, then you can always leave both devices on all the time but this will quickly drain the battery life of both the camera and the smartphone.

In terms of battery life, I’ve only recharged the camera 3 times in the past 3 weeks but I haven’t been using it heavily. From what I read, you can take up to 200 images before battery dies out, which is more than enough even for a full-day shoot. What you should worry about though is your smartphone’s battery as using the display for long hours will drain the battery even if you’re not using your smartphone’s camera, so keep a battery pack with you just in case.

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Fiber Optics Finally Coming To Lebanon In 6 Months, Full LTE 4G Coverage Expected In 2 Years

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fiber optiocs

After years of false promises, it looks like we are finally getting fiber optics in Lebanon. That’s what Minister Harb announced today in a joint-press conference with Ogero CEO Abdul Moneim Youssef. I’ve been following up on this issue for quite some time and I even managed to meet with Minister Harb recently and with some people who are working closely on the project, and it looks like it’s the real deal this time. In fact, my friend who has been involved since Day1 told me he’s moving out of Lebanon if this project doesn’t come true so let’s hope it does work!

Before getting into details, the first question that comes to mind is who will be financing this project and will it stop once we get a new Telecom Minister? The cost of the project is in the hundreds of millions of dollars but the good part is that it will be auto-financed by the Telecom Ministry’s revenues which are set to increase year after year with the implementation of every phase. Moreover, the municipalities and all stakeholders will be encouraged to implement this project on time as they are getting more money out it. For example, 10% of the Telecom Ministry’s revenues are distributed to municipalities. More importantly, Ogero is committed to this 5-year plan so the administrative delays are no longer there.


Moving on to the juicy stuff, here’s what happening in the next 5 years in Lebanon:
1- Lebanon will be fully connected through fiber optics.
2- DSL Services will be upgraded to VDSL2+ with 40Mbit/s .
3- DSL will be introduced to areas with no internet and exiting copper networks will be replaced by better ones temporarily.
4- 4G/LTE network will cover all of Lebanon within 2 years.
5- Launching the Internet support hotline 1516

Fiber Optics all over Lebanon!

The fiber optic infrastructure is already there and most if not all internet stations in Lebanon are interconnected by fiber optics but the real challenge is in connecting these stations to organizations, businesses and households of course. This will be done in four different phases:

– 2015-2017: FTTO Organizations SME/SM
This phase will last 18 months between material request delivery, network design, implementation of work orders, testing of cables and putting customer in services. Organizations and Companies should start benefiting from fiber optics after 6 months.

– 2015-2020: FTTC (+VDSL) cabinets (& Houses)
Internet stations will be connected to the cabinets in this phase and current DSL connections will be upgraded to +VDSL. DSL will also be made available to areas without coverage.

– 2016-2020: FTTH1 (Houses)
– 2019-2022: FTTH2 (Houses)

In the last two phases, fiber optics will gradually become available in households and for end users. Just to give you an idea about the speeds that we will start getting at home hopefully, we’re talking about an upgrade from the current 1 MBPS (up to 20 MBPS but no one is getting this speed) to 25-50 MBPS and up to 100 MBPS on VDSL2 before we move to fiber optics and gets speeds between 100 and 1000 MBPS!

4G/LTE Coverage all over Lebanon
lte after 18 months

Only 7% of mobile users in Lebanon are enjoying 4G/LTE connections and Alfa and Touch’s coverage is still limited. Moreover, 3G coverage is still poor in several areas. Given that the infrastructure is already there, both companies will commit throughout the next 18 months to install new sites and expand their coverage to all Lebanese territories.

Alfa is expected to install over 600 new sites in the next 18 months and cover 75.5% of the Lebanese territory and provide the 4G/LTE service to 95.2% of populated areas. Similarly, Touch will install over 1000 sites to cover all of Lebanon. The expansion plan will also include an upgrade of all hardware and software to meet the increasing demand and network usage.

lte after 2 years

Launching the Internet support hotline 1516

With the ever increasing number of internet users in Lebanon, the Telecom Ministry is introducing a new hotline (1516) that will consist of a dedicated team (a sort of emergency unit) aimed at helping customers with internet issues. I will be calling them this week to see how efficient they are. Just to give you an idea of the internet situation in Lebanon, there are 3,638,051 internet users in Lebanon, out of which 2,505,875 mobile internet users. The internet penetration is 86% which puts Lebanon in 4th position regionally after Bahrain, UAE and Qatar.

regional internet

All in all, I believe we all agree that we need to catch up with the rest of the world and that mobile internet is the only thing keeping us connected. This project is desperately needed to put Lebanon back on track and maybe turn it into a regional tech hub. We have the talents, we have the infrastructure and now there’s a will from our officials and Ogero (I’m still finding it hard to believe) to make this happen so let’s hope for the best. Needless to say, enhancing the internet connectivity has to be accompanied by a drop in prices and a considerable increase in the quotas, but I’m sure this will come as soon as the concerned parties start thinking out of the box and realize that they will make more money and improve the economy by making the internet cheaper and more abundant.

Lebanon’s Youngest Entrepreneur Jihad Kawas Is Among 2015 Thiel Fellows, Will Receive $100,000 To Drop Out Of College & Start A Company

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ceo I want that shirt – Picture from TEDxBeirut

Few days ago, the Thiel Foundation announced its next class of 20 fast-tracked college dropouts to be the next Mark Zuckerberg or Bill Gates, and Lebanese Jihad Kawas is one of them. Kawas will be receiving $100,000 but more importantly a wealth of mentorship during the two-year program provided he drops out of college during this period. Jihad, who’s only 17, is the founder of Saily, a new and evolving startup that consists of an online marketplace aiming to make selling goods as quick and easy as possible for the public. Kawas attended the Worldwide Developer’s Conference at the Moscone Center in San Francisco where he took a selfie with Apple’s CEO Tim Cook who gave him the thumbs up for his idea with the advice “to just keep working on it.

What is the Thiel Foundation and why is this a big deal?

The Thiel Fellowship was created by Peter Thiel, who’s an American entrepreneur, venture capitalist. He co-founded PayPayl and was the first outside investor in Facebook. He’s also the “president of Clarium Capital, a global macro hedge fund with $700 million in assets under management; a managing partner in Founders Fund, a venture capital fund with $2 billion in assets under management”. Thiel has a net worth of US$2.2 billion as of Jan.2015 and is ranked 12th on the Forbes Midas list.

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