Category Archives: Technology

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

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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?
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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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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.

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

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#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.

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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.

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#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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[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:
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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:
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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:
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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:
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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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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?
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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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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).

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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?
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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.

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.

traffic

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?
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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.

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.

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My friends at AbsoluteGeeks.com 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.

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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 Netflix.com, 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.

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