Category Archives: Technology

The Virtual National Museum of Modern Art: The First of Its Kind In Lebanon

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vm2

The Ministry of Culture officially launched on Wednesday the Virtual National Museum of Modern Art in Lebanon. This is the first museum of its kind in Lebanon and will feature over 800 artworks including paintings and sculptures from different Lebanese artists.

I was invited to Rome for a couple of days to attend the opening of the Lebanese museum of modern arts last week but it turned out to be a cool stunt by the Ministry to introduce the virtual museum and I got the chance to meet the Minister who explained everything related to that museum, and the gigantic effort that it took to bring this large collection online.

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The virtual museum aims at digitizing the large collection that the Ministry of Culture has, as well as introducing Lebanese here and abroad, and of course art enthusiasts from around the world, to our local talents. You can explore it on [artmodernemv.gov.lb] and there’s an app also available for iOS (iPhone, iPad) & Android users.

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The website is available in four languages (English, Arabic, Spanish & French) and once you click to experience the virtual museum, you will be prompted to enter 4 different “rooms” organized periodically where you will be able to explore the artwork of various Lebanese painters and sculptors. There’s also a section called “Exhibitions” that will showcase artwork by a prominent Lebanese artist every 2-3 months. The first exhibition on display online is for painter Georges Daoud el Korom.

Technically speaking, the website is user-friendly and quite fast. I also tried the Android app and it works perfectly fine. There are few bugs and issues with the website though that I communicated with the concerned people.

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All in all, I loved the initiative as it aims to promote Lebanese modern art to locals and the whole world and will help maintain Lebanon’s arts heritage by digitizing it. Let’s just hope that one day, the Ministry will have enough money to establish a real museum and showcase the 2000+ artistic pieces in its possession.

Here’s a short video to help you experience the virtual museum. (Thank you Wajid from Uf concepts for the editing and the help!)

[YouTube]

PS: If you happen to have an Oculus VR machine, you can enjoy viewing the museum in VR mode.

Note: This post will be sponsored on BlogBaladi’s Facebook page by the Ministry of Culture with my consent of course.

Get Connected to Syrian Mobile Phone Carriers from Within Lebanon

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welcoem

Two years ago, I was driving from Kobayat to Andkit and we ended up somewhere where I got a message welcoming me to Syria and telling me to enjoy roaming with Syria’s operators. I thought that was normal given how close we were to the Syrian borders but apparently this also happens in the Bekaa and a lot of Syrians have figured out ideal spots to get coverage from Syrian mobile phone carriers and make calls to their home country at half the cost of Lebanese tariffs.

Ideal locations for Syrian coverage stretch between Hosh al-Harimeh and Ghazze in the West Bekaa, as well as the areas between the towns of Jdita and Chtaura, as well as the Kroum area in Zahle sometimes.

Needless to say, and given the current circumstances, a lot of Syrians cannot afford getting a Lebanese line to call and check up on their relatives but this is a security compromise as well and the signals should be jammed in my opinion. My friend got the message shown above right before an army checkpoint so this is inadmissible.

The authorities can easily set up special call centers for Syrian refugees to check on their relatives at reduced costs or even for free but this needs to stop. The worst part is that you could be charged for data roaming if you’re spending the whole day there.

Hey Najib, is Everything Secure Enough?

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secure

I seriously have no idea who came up with that ad, but this guy acts exactly like me. I lock my car at least 3-4 times and if I’m leaving the laptop in the car, I check all the doors like 5 times. I make sure our building’s gate is properly closed and don’t get me started with my daily house inspections. I check everything twice every morning before leaving and twice before sleeping.

My wife couldn’t stop laughing when she heard the ad.

PS: As far as online payment is concerned, I only use one specific card with a low limit and always make sure the website is secure enough. Of course with 3D Secure, payments are even more secure now so it’s great news for me and that other “Najib” lol!

The Authorities Can No Longer Monitor Your Whatsapp Messages & Calls

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whatsapp

WhatsApp just got a whole lot more secure after rolling out full encryption to all its users. All the text, photos and calls you make are now fully encrypted and can only be read by the recipient, which means that it’s practically impossible for the authorities to intercept messages and access the content of Whatsapp users’ messages.

If you still didn’t receive the notification shown above, then you probably need to update your Whatsapp version to be the latest. The end-to-end encryption also applies Windows Phone and Blackberry. More importantly, you will be able to detect a user running an older version and not supporting encrypted messages as Whatsapp will notify you if the messages are secure or not.

I’m not sure if the Apple-FBI case or the #Panamapapers data breach triggered this move by Whatsapp but I support any move that protects our privacy and keeps our conversations outside the purview of authorities.

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Lebanese Dream Of High Speed Internet

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intenret via @haidcar

The above table was being shared yesterday as an April Fools’ joke. I have no idea whether it’s all fabricated or inspired from the 2020 plan announced by the MOT, but what’s sure is that we are still far from getting these speeds.

Few days ago, I asked people to share speedtest screenshots on Facebook and some of the speeds I got were deplorable. We are talking about 0.13, 0.47 and 0.12Mbps download DSL speeds here. The majority had speeds below 2Mbps while the highest speed I got was 4.69Mbps from a local cable provider in Achrafieh.

I’m glad that the internet topic is all over the news recently and as I stated previously, slow internet is as important as the garbage problem, whether you like to admit it or not, because technology has a huge impact on every country’s development and falling behind will cost us dearly in the future.

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What Age Should You Get Your Kids Mobile Phones and How to Keep Them Safe?

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KidsMobile_Cover

I always said that I’ll never give my kids mobile phones before they become teenagers. I was even constantly bashing my friends for doing so, but all this changed when we got kids of our own, and I realized the pressure parents face on the topic.

If you decided to give your child a connected device, then make sure you are in total control and constantly monitoring your little one. It’s a big, dangerous virtual world out there, and you don’t want to send them all alone unprotected. Here are some tips to help you make a safer decision:

Which Devices Are Suitable For Your Child?

JG KidsMobile Cover
I am an Apple user myself. For me, Apple is always a safer choice when it comes to children. Of course, you can set parental control on Android and create users for your kids to give them limited access on apps and content. But still, the many combined features on Apple provide a full hands-on parental control experience. We’ll be covering Android in a later post.

Ages 2-6

iPad - iGuy Freestanding Case

iPad: I prefer the iPad more than the iPad Mini as it has a big interactive surface for those little clumsy fingers, larger screen which makes it easier on the eyes, and plenty of educational and entertaining apps on the store. You can also find many child-proof covers that most importantly protect the children from hurting themselves, make it easy for them to hold the device and reduce the risk of getting the device broken from the guaranteed falls to come.

Ages 7-12

iPod Touch - 6th Generation

iPod Touch: Many kids this age become more mobile and independent, they are on the move, they go out with family members, they want something easier to carry around, smaller and cooler. The iPod looks and feels like a smartphone but it comes without mobile cellular connection, only WI-FI. This is important because your kids can only connect to a secure and monitored network. Without a mobile number, nobody can call your child or chat (Whatsapp) with them behind your back. With Parental control, you can pre-approve your child’s address book and messaging contacts to make sure they only contact / Facetime / iMessage people you approve.

Old is Gold: (Get a GSM Mobile Handset)
Whether your child has after-school activity, is invited to spend a day-out with friends, or is sleeping over at a family member’s house, there are times when you need to make sure that your child has constant access to a phone and can call you anytime. The best solution is to give them a temporary mobile access for the duration of the trip. The trick is to avoid giving them a smartphone.

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The solution is simple, invest in an “old school” GSM mobile phone equipped with a prepaid SIM card capable of voice calls and SMS only (the $20 Nokia would do). The phone is to be kept at home at all times and only provided to your kids whenever they have an outing.

Ages 13+
If you haven’t purchased a mobile phone for your kid by now then you’ve got superpowers, I salute you 🙂 Dealing with teenagers is tricky since they are technically savvy.

Here are a few things to remember:
Find My iPhone

– Restrict adult content by enabling parental control or restrictions on the device itself and on the home WI-FI network.
– Enable Find My iPhone in order to track the whereabouts of your child.
– Limit screen time, especially at night and in their bedrooms. Make sure they use their devices in the family rooms.
– Make sure you talk to your kids about the risks of sharing confidential information about their home, family and friends.
– Make sure that your kids don’t take sensitive photos (private parts) and share them with friends.
– Always be aware of their latest password and constantly check their devices for inappropriate photos, chats and apps.
– Talk to your kids about what is appropriate and inappropriate content online, and why it’s important to steer clear of the dark areas of the web.
– Monitor your kids for any sudden change in mobile behavior, change of password, hiding the device, etc.

Set Up The Device Yourself And Create An Apple ID For Your Kids:
When you purchase a device, take it out of the box and set it up yourself. Every device requires an Apple ID for it to work properly. On the device, create an Apple ID specific for your child and save the username and password. You can prevent your kids from changing them in the parental controls. However, children under 13 are not allowed to have an Apple ID without a parental consent and without being part of a family plan.

JG KidsMobile AccountsNote: Never login with your apple ID on other devices, your pictures and messages will show up on those devices as well.

Create A Family Plan:
As the family administrator, activate the family plan on your iPhone and add all your family members, this is really helpful on several fronts:

Family Sharing

– You don’t need to issue several credit cards to be allocated to each of the users. You can have one credit card on the main admin account and all the family members will be able to use this card to make online purchases.
– Your kids won’t be making any downloads and purchases without your approval. Every download, purchase, or in-app purchase will need parent/guardian approval before it happens. The parent receives a notification on their device asking for approval on behalf of the child, you can approve or reject.
– The family members can also benefit from apps that are already purchased on different accounts without having to purchase them once again, you can simply re-download these apps for free on the different family accounts.

Activate Parental Controls:
Make sure to activate the parental control feature or restrictions on your kids’ devices and protect it with an admin password. Doing so will give you peace of mind making sure your kids are safely using the device as they will have:

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– Limited access to apps, they cannot download an app without your approval, your next phone/credit card bill won’t arrive jam-packed with surprise app purchases,
– No Access to adult-related content, it can be blocked depending on age of the child and will show age appropriate content.
– Controlled chat environment: One of the greatest threats kids face is chatting with complete strangers and pedophiles. With parental control you can prevent your kids from contacting someone who is not on the safe contact list.
– No or limited Internet access, of course depending on your internet allowance quota.

All in all, we should not fear technology, we should embrace and be on top of it. Yes, we live in a different era, we can no longer raise our kids the way we were raised and act as if these devices don’t exist. In the next 20 years, 50% of the future jobs will be ones that don’t currently exist. We need our kids to be on top of trends, technically savvy, connected with the world and most important connected with us.

Illegal Internet in Lebanon Explained

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internet

I would add these one point to Farid’s spot-on video:
– The illegal Fiber optics cables that were installed between several regions were mistaken for rat metros, given that the rat population has been booming in Lebanon lately. So you can’t really blame the authorities here.

Watch carefully and help the authorities find more illegal networks!

Ma fi shi bye2ta3 3layna. #bigachievement

Posted by FarixTube on Monday, March 28, 2016

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Who Doesn’t Want a Better Internet in Lebanon?

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internet Speedtest on a 4MB DSL Ogero connection in Beirut

The Lebanese government has been busy investigating illegal internet companies for the past couple of weeks. We are talking about large communication devices and towers installed in several areas across Lebanon and a 40GB per second bandwith bought from Turkey and Cyprus and equivalent to 1/3 of the bandwith set by the Telecom ministry. The worst part is that a lot of sensitive official departments were using these free internet services and therefore compromising our security.

One of the areas where illegal internet equipment was found is al-Zaarour resort, which is owned by Murr. However those in charge of the resort and MTV (also owned by Murr) have been attacking Ogero, LBCI and Al Jadeed for the past week over these claims and stating that there’s nothing illegal there, and they may be right based on what I’ve heard and read.

Needless to say, we are all against illegal internet networks but there are bigger questions that need to be asked at the moment: Who doesn’t want a better internet in Lebanon? Where do we stand from the 2020 plan? Who’s responsible for the delay?

I keep hearing people blaming Ogero and Abdel Menhem Youssef on the internet slowness and they are right to do so but Ogero is not the only one to blame. Blaming Ogero for the internet slowness is like blaming Sukleen for not recycling enough. The real problem is that the parties that are behind Sukleen don’t believe in recycling in the first place and don’t see the point from doing so, and similarly those covering for Ogero and most of the people that covered for Youssef over the past decade (or even stood against him) don’t understand that a cheaper and faster internet is better for everyone and will bring them more money (since that’s all they care about).

Deploying fiber optics in a fancy street in Solidere or equipping Beirut Digital District offices with the fastest internet is not what we’re after. Internet should be free, abundant and fast for Lebanon to become a tech hub and we should put more focus on schools, universities, households and more importantly areas outside Beirut. The only fast and reliable connections nowadays are the 3G and 4G mobile data plans (4G+ coming soon) but they are relatively expensive and the quotas are ridiculous.

via Executive-Magazine

What can we do?
Assuming that most of the Lebanese people agree that we need a faster and more abundant internet, we should keep asking for a better internet through social media channels and other online methods. The internet problem is as important as the garbage problem, whether you like to admit it or not, because technology has a huge impact on every country’s development and falling behind will cost us dearly in the future. We must question Ogero, the Telecom Minister and the government and push them to improve the internet at all cost. Even if our demands will probably fall on deaf ears, we should keep this topic alive at all time.

As far as the TVs and media are concerned, most of them, except for Executive-Magazine, don’t seem to understand the importance of having a better internet yet unfortunately and this is reflected in most of the news reports and talk shows that tackle the internet situation in Lebanon. Yesterday, MTV had a special episode with Walid Abboud on the illegal networks and the internet as a whole and it was extremely disappointing. Walid’s guests talked about everything except the imminent need of a proper internet connection for the sake of our country and the future generations. They turned the topic into a religious (and sectarian) one and one of the guests wouldn’t stop talking (more like yelling) about Christian rights and Christian representation and it made no sense.

What we need are responsible and knowledgeable hosts that are willing (and able) to tackle this internet problem and send out the right message to politicians and concerned parties. The last thing we want to see on these shows are corrupt parties and individuals accusing other corrupt parties of corruption and theft, or hosts praising ministers and MPs for a small and pointless achievement while the country is in ruins.

All in all, we will have over 3 million internet users in Lebanon by 2017, Lebanon has the 4th highest internet penetration in the region and we still cannot get a proper 2MB DSL connection outside Beirut, and sometimes even in Beirut. This is embarrassing and unacceptable especially when the solution is out there and only needs a political decision.

4G+ Coming Soon To Lebanon, 5G To be Introduced by Mid-2018 by Alfa Telecom

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alfa1

Last year during my visit to the MWC2015, I witnessed what a 5G connection looks like at Ericsson’s booth and wondered if we will ever see similar connections in Lebanon. As it turns out, Alfa Telecom is planning to introduce the 5G technology in Lebanon by mid-2018 after signing two Memoranda of Understanding with Ericsson and Nokia to ensure that the Alfa network will be ready for the 5G technology by then.

5G connection at Ericsson’s booth – MWC15

Until then, Alfa is planning to roll out 4.5G LTE coverage on the entire Lebanese territory offering speeds reaching up to 300 mbit/sec as part of the 2020 plan launched by the Ministry of Telecommunications. Touch is also partnering with Huawei and Nokia to make 4.5G available all across Lebanon by September this year.

alfa3 Alfa signs 4.5G LTE deployment contracts with Nokia and Ericsson in all of Lebanon and two MoUs on 5G

All in all, I can’t complain much about my 3G/4G connection as it’s always reliable and fast (Alfa & Touch). I haven’t had issues for quite some time but my only problem is with the quota especially when you’re always using 4G. We need bigger quotas and cheaper plans right now and we will need them even more when 4.5G becomes available. Also, we need both the ministry to revise the extra consumption because it’s ridiculous (700MB Of Extra Data Consumption Costs As Much As A 10GB).

On another note, DSL connections are still slow. I am not hoping for fiber optics to be rolled out anytime soon but we desperately need an upgrade to +VDSL the soonest.

Beware of Fishy Contractors Digging Up Your Neighborhoods

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Update: The company who was digging is called Caporal and Moretti on behalf of the Ministry of Telecom. They came today and fixed the lines and everything.

A couple of weeks back, I was visiting a friend at his place and we were working on an online project when the internet went off for some reason. We tried resetting the DSL router but then noticed the landline wasn’t working anymore. At this moment, my friend remembered spotting few days ago a couple of workers digging up the street outside so he went to check out if they were still there and had anything to do it and soon realized they had cut some phone lines by mistake while trying to install a different cable. The workers had no costumes, no logo, no signs and they looked like they didn’t have a clue what they are doing.

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When my friend asked them who’s in charge, they had no answer but one of them stated they were Ogero contractors so we called Ogero (1515) to register a claim and tried to reach the 1516 hotline but no one was answering.

Few days later, an Ogero guy passed by to examine the phone line and it was working somehow, but when my friend asked him about the digging, he had no clue who was behind it. Then he went out to the street to check out the works but it started to rain so he left.

IMG-20160124-WA0009 The workers were kind enough not to cover the hole with garbage bags

The day after, the phone line stopped working once again and someone had closed the hole in the street as if nothing happened. My friend tried once again calling but the answering machine told him his claim was already registered (it’s based on ur phone number) so there was nothing he could do at this point except wait.

All in all, my friend is still without internet or phone for almost two weeks now because of a reckless contractor and he didn’t get any feedback yet from Ogero. Personally speaking, I’ve had previous issues with Ogero and they usually answer quickly but it looks like they have no idea who was doing what this time.

Morale of the story: If you ever spot random workers doing works in your neighborhood, check out who they are working for and make sure they know what they’re doing. Even if they are legit, they could be bazzi2 wou lazzi2 workers and not technicians, and could ruin things. Report them to Ogero or the municipality or the police if needed.

PS: I will update the post as soon as I have new information