Category Archives: Technology

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.

Nokia 105

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:

JG KidsMobile -restrictions-iphone-6s

– 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

illegal

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.

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.

98

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