Category Archives: Technology

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.

IMG-20160123-WA0036

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

8 Things to Consider Before Signing up to Netflix

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Netflix11

If you’re just getting started with Netflix, here are 8 tips for making the most of a Netflix streaming subscription:

1- Choose the right subscription plan:
Netflix subscription plan

It offers three types of subscription plans; Basic, Standard or Premium.

The Basic subscription plan is perfect for mobile-only users especially for people with a limited data plan, because movies will stream in SD and not HD.

The Standard or Premium plan work perfectly on multiple devices (for a single user or multiple users) whereby you can watch a movie or TV show at the same time, on different devices in different locations.

2- Create Multiple Users:
Who's Watching

If you are not the only one at home using Netflix, then make sure to create multiple users before you watch any movie. Netflix, and similar streaming platforms, work on a recommendation engine. The more you watch, the more will Netflix recommend shows that you might like. Your favorite shows will also be neatly displayed on the home screen under “shows you watch”.

If everyone in the family is watching under the default user, then your favorite shows will be mixed with the ones your family members have picked and Netflix will start recommending shows that will be tailored for all the members and not just for you.

3- Parental Control:
Parental Control

Netflix contains content for all ages. So, if you have kids, you surely need to turn the parental control setting on. This can be done from the website and it will automatically apply to all the devices you use.

You must create a user for your kids, as there’s a huge variety of animated movies and series that are tailor-made for your little ones.

Netflix Kids

I would also recommend the family movies section, it has a wide selection of films for parents and kids to enjoy together.

4- Watching on a big screen:
Big Screen

If you have any of these devices (Apple TV, PS4, Xbox, Amazon Fire Stick, Google Chromecast…), then you can enjoy watching Netflix on your big screen.

My favorite is the Apple TV because the interface is slick, and the new Apple remote control experience is fully optimized to get all the features out of the app with a few swipes and minimal effort. It is far better than controlling it with your console controller.

5- Mobile Data:

If you are watching movies on your mobile, then make sure you are always connected to WIFI for if there’s a streaming movie, it will drain your data plan and it will cause additional unwanted charges.

6- Internet Connection:

If your internet connection is anything less than 2Mbps then Netflix will NOT work properly but if you are on a +2Mbps connection, like most of the Lebanese, then here are a few tips to better optimize your experience:

Take your time to choose the movie and check the reviews on IMDB before watching. You don’t want to start a movie and then drop off 15 minutes later. It’s a waste of time and data consumption. The movie usually starts the first couple of minutes with a low quality pixelated video. But, you don’t have to worry about that as it will adjust automatically to enhance the quality. Avoid constantly skipping through the movie as it will increase the data consumption taking more time to reload the video with every leap.

Average data usage: Low-Medium (0.3-0.7GB per Hour), High (up to 7GB per Hour).

7- Watchouts:
Netflix Shows

One of the disadvantages of Netflix is that you cannot watch the currently running season of your favorite series; it will only be released after all the episodes have been aired. On the other hand Netflix has lots of original content that is not found elsewhere, noting that not all content is available in Lebanon due to legal rights.

Remember, ONLY the first month is free of charge by default but it will renew automatically by the end of the month cycle.

8- Alternatives to Netflix:
Amazon Prime - Hulu

Hulu: My personal favorite; a similar service to Netflix with an even better option whereby you may watch your favorite shows directly on the next day after the episode has been aired on TV. Unfortunately, this service is only available in the US.

Amazon Prime: Its library is not as rich as the others but it does include some original content like “The Man in The High Castle”.

Finally, here’s a useful link to easily browse all the Netflix content by genre.

Happy streaming!

CES 2016 Day 1: Meet The Five Coolest New Products by LG

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LG

The world’s largest innovation event kicked off yesterday and LG’s ultra premium Signature products and impressive booth stole the show on Day1. The new LG Signature line of products, which was introduced one day before CES started, features an impressive lineup of gorgeously designed signature products aimed “for people who seek an extraordinary life”. Basically, what LG did was take its existing premium products and made them ultra premium, as well as introduce cool new features.

The LG Signature includes astonishingly thin 4K OLED TVs, a new signature fridge, an air purifier and a new washing machine. If you had asked me a couple of years ago if I was interested in home appliances, I would have probably said no but I carefully chose all of our home appliances and the innovations that LG introduced are quite useful and interesting to look at.

Here are my favorite new 5 items from LG’s booth:

1- New astonishingly thin 4K OLED TVs
oled

LG’s 4K OLED TV is incredibly thin at 2.75mm and the picture quality is ridiculous. You honestly don’t need to understand all the geeky specs to notice the difference in image quality. Just look at the difference between LED vs OLED and LCD vs OLED.

There’s one model that caught my attention there, the UH9800 98-inch 8K model but there wasn’t much information about it yet.

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2- The new Signature Fridge
fridge

I already have a four-door LG Fridge that I’m very satisfied with especially with its door-in-door feature yet the new LG Signature Fridge provides an even better experience and has cooler features, such as the “knock on fridge door to reveal what’s inside” and a door that you can automatically open with your foot thanks to a sensor that is able to detect the difference between a person and a pet. Also, the new fridge has a door-in-door design on both sides not just one.

3- The Twin-wash New Signature Washing Machine
washing

That’s one heck of a washing machine and it could prove very useful in Lebanon where we can only wash our clothes during specific hours where the power is not out. The new LG Signature washing machine has touch controls on the front door and washes two loads at the same time. It also automatically doses out detergent from the reserve and works as a dryer as well.

What else can you possibly want from a washing machine?

4- HOM-BOT Turbo+ cleaning robot
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LG’s robotic vacuum cleaner is a pretty cool gadget that uses augmented reality technology and features camera sensors which record the surrounding area to track where it has already cleaned. It also allows users to inform the vacuum clear to clean spots it has missed by using any smartphone’s camera.

It would really cool to test it out but pricing and availability weren’t announced yet.

[YouTube]

5- LG Signature hybrid air purifier
LG air purifier

Ever since we had a baby, I’ve been looking for a proper air purifier for some time now and LG’s new hybrid air purifier is exactly what I need. I love the transparent window that shows how “dirty” the air we are breathing is. I still need to check its price though.

In addition to these five items, there are other exciting things to look at, such as the newest LG V10 smartphone which I will be reviewing separately, the new kitchen range, the dual-view flat OLED and dual-view curved tiling OLED and the LG Smart Home Ecosystem.

[YouTube]

Netflix Finally In Lebanon: Here’s How You Get It

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netflix2

I was few meters away from the Netflix keynote that was taking place at CES 2016 when they announced they are finally launching their service globally to over 130 new countries (except China) around the world. The expansion included the Middle East and Lebanon of course. The service actually went live during the keynote which is pretty cool!

Since I’m not in Lebanon right now, I cannot check what’s available but I’ve been told not all the series are available yet. In fact, Netflix mentioned that they will be adding throughout 2016 “31 new and returning original series, two dozen original feature films and documentaries”.

How To Get It?
netflix1 (2)

It’s really quite simple.
– Go to netflix.com
– Choose your plan
– Enter your credit card details during signup. First month is for free so you won’t be billed for now.
– You will probably get an SMS with a small charge, which is an authorization check that you won’t be charged for.

What Are The Plans Available?
The plans are identical to the ones in the US:

– Basic at $7.99: You get to watch on 1 screen and HD is not available.
– Normal at $9.99: You get to watch on two screens at the same time, HD is available.
– Premium at $11.99: This plan will get u Ultra HD content on up to 4 screens simultaneously.

Will it affect my internet usage?
Our internet is still not so good in Lebanon, and the real problem is not only with the speeds but the data caps which are very low. I recently signed up for Ogero’s unlimited 2Mbps service which costs me $50 and the speed is almost stable at around 1.6 1.7Mpbs which should be good enough to stream Netflix videos and TV series.

In terms of consumption, “Watching movies or TV shows on Netflix uses about 1 GB of data per hour for each stream of standard definition video, and up to 3 GB per hour for each stream of HD video”, so it really depends on how frequently you will be using Netflix.

If you look up the data usage settings for your account, you can actually reduce the amount of bandwidth used while watching Netflix by selecting the lowest plan which consumes around 300MB per hour:

Low (0.3 GB per hour)
Medium (SD: 0.7 GB per hour)
High (Best video quality, up to 3 GB per hour for HD and 7 GB per hour for Ultra HD)
Auto (Adjusts automatically to deliver the highest possible quality, based on your current Internet connection speed)

Will NetFlix Be Censoring Any Content?

I don’t have a clear answer for that but as far as I know, Netflix doesn’t censor any content. We will have to see though what will happen if a movie or a TV series that’s on Netflix gets banned in Lebanon.

All in all, I’m still in Vegas so hopefully by next week I will have a more elaborate post on Netflix. Till then, netflix and chill (If your internet connections allows you too)!

I’m In Las Vegas For The CES 2016 Expo!

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vegas

I’ve never been to Las Vegas or to a CES expo before so it’s pretty exciting to be here with the LG Levant team to attend The International Consumer Electronics Show 2016, one of the world’s most renowned and biggest electronics and technology trade shows.

Of course I will be enjoying my time in Vegas as well, especially that it’s my first visit to the US and more specifically to Vegas so if you have any tips on things to do here please do share. The trip was a hectic one unfortunately as security checks took a lot of time in Chicago and Amman but you can’t really blame anyone for being too cautious these days.

Anyway, I’m here in Vegas now and a couple of hours away from the much-anticipated LG Press conference prior to the CES 2016 opening where they will be announcing among other things an impressive 18-inch rollable OLED TV, or in other words a TV that rolls up like a piece of paper. This might be this year’s most exciting announcement so stay tuned as I will be covering it and other announcements live.

You can follow me on twitter @LeNajib and Instagram @LeNajib and on the blog’s Facebook page [here]. You could also follow the hashtag #LGrocksCES.

roll up tv The leaked 18 inch rollable TV

LG also recently launched the V10, an impressive new smartphone and a major upgrade from the previous LG G4. I will be reviewing it soon and how it’s different from the G4 which is one of my favorite smartphones from 2015.

v10

#NERD16: Let’s Build Robots To Collect/Recycle Our Garbage & Prevent Fires

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nerd16

#NERD16 is an open nationwide tournament that is hosted at AUB on March 2016 and the biggest robotics tournament in Lebanon. This year marks the sixth edition of NERD (National Education Robotics Day) and it will feature more competitions and challenges than the previous years. Moreover, this year’s theme “Robots for Nature” is related to our current situation and the robotics challenges are about waste management and environmental issues.

I guess this is a good opportunity to figure out solutions to our current garbage problem. Who knows? Maybe students will come up with robots that recycle and collect garbage for us. I heard Volvo is working on something like that already, so here’s a chance for Lebanese students to offer a solution. I’d love to see someone design a robot that can be deployed in forests and prevent fires before they take place as well. That would be very helpful especially in Lebanon.

lebanon

I know the ideas that I’m proposing may seem impossible to achieve, but we have a lot of talented young students participating in this competition and one of our Lebanese teams (Fast & Curious) has won the first place in at the Arab Robotics Championship last year and a World Robotics Festival in the US.

fast and curious

#NERD16 is open to all Lebanese student teams or individuals aged 6 or more. The registration period for schools, universities and teams starts on October 23 and ends on December 31. It’s the best opportunity for smart and geeky students to shine so don’t miss out!

PS: For school students, their schools must register. For university students, they can register by themselves. Registration can be done on the website www.etclb.com where anyone can find the rules of all the different competitions and challenges.

[YouTube]

BlogBaladi Is Lebanon’s Most Influential Blog And The Blog Of The Year 2015

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most influential

[LebaneseBlogs] has just published this morning its blogging statistics and awards for 2015 and BlogBaladi emerged as Lebanon’s Most Influential Blog of 2015, also known as Lebanon’s Blog of the year which is awesome news!

What I love about these statistics is that they are not based on subjective opinions, but on hard data gathered and analyzed from the thousands of posts that were published and indexed this year, and I thank Mustapha for going through this effort to pull out these results because I know it’s not easy.

BlogBaladi was featured in all the top lists as follows:

Lebanon’s 20 Most Shared posts on Facebook:
fb shared

My post on the Facebook Safety Check following the Burj Brajneh attacks gathered over 30k in terms of shares and ranked #7 in the most shared Facebook posts list.

Congrats to Elie from A Separate State of Mind for topping the list.

Lebanon’s 20 most shared posts on Twitter:
twitter

It’s very hard to compete with KarlRemarks on Twitter but I managed to sneak into 10th spot with my post on Lebanese journalist and activists and my friend Joumana Haddad being denied entrance to Bahrain.

Ambassador Tom Fletcher topped the list this year with his farewell tweet.

Lebanon’s most viral blogger:
viral

BlogBaladi was ranked as the 3rd most viral blog in 2015 with an average of 35.9 over 50. Virality is a “score for each post that combines its Twitter shares and Facebook shares while normalizing extreme variations”. Last year my average was 21.72 so this is a huge improvement and I’m glad that all the hard work I put into generating better content this year paid off.

Congrats to Elie from A Separate State of Mind and Ralph from Blog Of The Boss for the top 2 spots.

Lebanon’s most prolific blogger:
prolific

Last year I was the most prolific blogger with over 1,557 posts throughout the year, and I could have probably topped the list this year but I decided to cut down my posts to 2 or 3 per day and try to improve the quality of the posts even further and it surely paid off in the virality average and user engagement.

Congrats to Anthony from NoGarlicNoOnions for topping the list.

Lebanon’s blog of the year:

I’m very proud to top the list and be Lebanon’s most influential blogger for 2015. Blogging is hard work and it’s always great to see your work being appreciated, especially when it’s based on objective results and hard data.

Check out all the results [here].

How Lebanese Ayah Bdeir’s #littleBits Is Changing The Engineering Landscape

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aya

Even though littleBits was launched in 2011, Ayah Bdeir’s award-winning platform is still making headlines worldwide and the latest was this interview with WIRED on the cult of littleBits, and how “this tech toy is changing the engineering landscape”.

Who is the Founder & CEO of littleBits?
Ayah Bdeir completed her undergraduate degrees in Computer Engineering and Sociology at the American University of Beirut then earned a Masters of Science degree from the MIT Media Lab. She’s the founder and CEO of littleBits, a TED Senior Fellow and an alumna of the MIT Media Lab. She has received several awards for her startup in the past years and has been named one of Inc. Magazine’s 35 Under 35, one of Fast Company’s 100 Most Creative People in Business and one of MIT Technology Review’s 35 Innovators Under 35 among others.

How does littleBits work?
littlebits1

littleBits is a platform of easy-to-use electronic building blocks that empower you to invent anything, from your own remote controlled car, to a smart home device. The Bits snap together with magnets, no soldering, no wiring, no programming needed.

It’s actually very simple, as simple as assembling Lego blocks, and that’s the beauty of it. littleBits makes the learning process fun and easy and is accessible to everyone from age 8 and above. In fact, I was checking their Christmas gifts and they have gift sets for young inventors, music lovers, minecrafters and professionals. If you have a geeky kid, you should consider getting him a littleBits kit.

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All in all, littleBits is making technology simpler and encouraging everyone to be an inventor. The platform has been growing steadily over the past 4 years and has recently raised $44.2 million in new funding. It is currently being used in more than 100 countries, 2100 schools and universities and by more than 8000 educators. Moreover, littleBits is “partnering with Barnes & Noble stores to empower the spirit of invention in its retail stores across the U.S” which is awesome news!

Everything you need to know about littleBits is on their website so check it out [here].

Is The Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge Plus Worth The Upgrade?

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s6 edge plus

I’ve been carrying The Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge for almost 6 months now, and I still didn’t get bored of its unique design and curved side screens, but I missed having a bigger screen and I’ve been struggling with the memory and the battery. In fact, battery life is much better than the S5 but it’s still relatively bad especially when your memory is near full (which is the case almost always with me).

20151210_142422

I basically needed a bigger S6 Edge with a larger battery and that’s exactly what Samsung delivered. The Samsung S6 Edge Plus was launched along with the new Note 5 and even though I loved the new Note and tested it out for a while, I opted for the S6 Edge Plus because I got used to its slick design and edged curves.

Samsung Galaxy S6 edge+ vs. Galaxy S6 edge: What’s the difference?
charge

The Galaxy S6 edge+ is basically a bigger version of the S6 Edge but there are five key differences that are worth mentioning:

1- Bigger Screen: The hardware is the same, the design is almost identical but the display jumped from 5.1 to 5.7 inches which is quite significant (25% more screen).

2- Bigger Battery: The (non-removable) battery is 3000 mAh vs 2600 mAh for the Edge, which is normal since the phone is bigger.

3- Fast Wireless Charging: If you thought Fast Charging is great, Wireless Fast Charging is amazing! It’s mostly useful at the office as it keeps your battery charging and your phone unplugged. Personally speaking, fast charging is one of my favorite features in the new Galaxy series and compensates for the lousy battery life.

4- Improved Performance: The S6 Edge plus has 4GB of RAM instead of 3GB, which means a better performance and improved multi-tasking. The S6 Edge was already ultra fast so I doubt that I will notice a significant change.

5- No IR Blaster: I never used my smartphone as a remote so this feature is pretty useless for me to be honest, but I don’t understand why they removed it.

There are other features that were first introduced with the S6 Edge Plus, like the Apps Edge, Video collage and Live broadcast but they are all available on the S6 Edge now. As far as cameras are concerned, I read somewhere that the S6 Edge Plus camera was slightly improved but I didn’t notice any improvements yet.

Is It Worth The Upgrade?
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To be honest, I usually wait a couple of months till the prices drop before upgrading but Samsung CTC’s swap campaign helped me speed up the process, especially that I got an extra discount as gift. At first, I wanted to swap my S6 Edge but then I decided to swap an old iPhone 5S I have for the new S6 Edge Plus because the price I got for the iPhone was better than most cellular shops and I ended up paying a difference of around $300 for the new phone (+ I got the Wireless Fast Charging for free). For those interested, you can value your phone [here] before doing the swap.

All in all, I recommend upgrading to the S6 Edge Plus if you love big screens and want a better battery life. If you are a Note fan and make use of the pen, the Note 5 is a major upgrade from the previous models and comes highly recommended.