7 BBM Questions Answered

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1- Do I Need To Subscribe to the Blackberry Service?

No, you don’t. BBM used to be a service provided by RIM (the Blackberry company) and you used to get an email too back in the day. Today, it’s a cross-platform application which only needs Internet connection (WiFi or a mobile data connection)

2- Where Do I Download it From?

Last month, it was a “leaked” version, that’s why we had to supply you with links to file sharing websites like 4shared, Zippyshare and Dropbox. Now, it’s finally been officially released on Android and iOS, and here are the download links:

ANDROID  // iOS

3- Why Do I Have to Wait if I Downloaded the App?

If you already had a BBM account (like I did), you just need to sign in. If not, you have to wait for RIM to send you an email since they wanna roll the app out gradually to make sure the servers don’t overload like it did with the leaked version. So, have patience, or try to remember the account you had if you ever carried a BlackBerry before.

4- What’s a BBpin?

The BBpin is sorta like your username, it’s one way others can add you on their BlackBerry Messenger. To access your pin immediately, all you need to do is type: “mypin” and hit space in the app, and it’ll automatically turn into your pin (which is an alphanumeric code that’s a bit hard to remember). Of course, you can also text it to someone, scan their barcode or just search for their email.

5- I Added Someone, But Can’t Talk to Them

Make sure they accepted your request. Unlike Whatsapp, people need to confirm you before you can chat with them. Also, having their number in your contact list doesn’t mean they’ll automatically appear like with Whatsapp. Think of BBM as more private, user-controlled chat platform.

6- What’s S, D and R?

S meant sent, which mean the message was sent from your device to your contact’s

D means the message arrived to your contact, but they haven’t read it/opened the chat

R means that they read your message/opened the chat

This is awesome because you can ignore someones’ message without worrying they’ll see your “last seen”. I’m sure this will make a lot of relationships less stormy =P

7- How Can I Remove the BBM Icon from my Status Bar?

On Android, all you have to do is go to the BBM app, hit settings, and turn off “BBM Connected Icon” (that’s one new thing in the official version)

8- If You’re Cool, Add Me

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Special Thanks to Georges Asmar for his help gathering these FAQs

Samsung Galaxy S4 Review + Video

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I love Androids. They’ve been my main phones for 4 years now, and I’ve carried the S1, S2, Galaxy Note 2 and now carry the S4. The beauty of a Samsung Android is that it combines the cool perks of Samsung hardware with the versatility and customizability of Android. I’ll walk you through the main features and hope you’ll enjoy the video shot by my good friend Carl Halal.

Design

It’s a revamped version of the S3, with almost equal dimensions and very similar shape. The most obvious differences is a larger screen (with arguably the crispest, most vivid resolution on the market now) and slightly less-rounded edges. It’s also extremely light, and has a nice, subtle polka-dot like pattern finishing. The flash is also under the lens, instead of to its side.

All in all, the device looks gorgeous, and even though the polycarbonate unibody might be more appealing to many, I still prefer the ability to pop the hood and remove the battery whenever I want to without using hairpins to open up my SD and SIM card slots.

Camera

I’ll let my Instagram feed show you how magnificent the camera is (first two dozen or so photos for now). It’s fast, has a lot of new Samsung-perk modes in it and the bug that was causing the camera to crash on launch sometimes has been fixed. Turns out the app watchdog, which reboots your machine if an app misbehaves, had a glitch in it, and I’m glad it’s been fixed. What’s nice about the camera is that night photos don’t turn out grainy, but are crisp enough to make the photos pretty to look at instead of a hazy, blurry, uneven one we usually take when out clubbing.

The Perks

galaxy-s4-hidden-featuresI demonstrate most of the cool perks in the S4 in the video below, but I’ll go through them here too fast. The S4 has the hover-finger capability where you just hover your finger over a text message, song or album to preview the contents before actually opening it. The touch screen is also sensitive enough that if you are wearing gloves (not only the smart phone gloves) it’ll work too.

The air-gestures are also cool, and allow you to switch between photos or windows by merely waving in the desired direction in front of the device. Also, if you can’t use your hand to answer, you can just wave to your S4 when you have an incoming call and it’ll answer for you and put it automatically on loudspeaker.

Another fantastic feature is the eye-recognition technology, which if you are looking directly at the device, never powers down the screen, so you don’t have to keep tapping it if you’re reading. Also, if you’re watching a video and look away, it’ll immediately pause and restart when you look at it again.

The drop-down drawer is also awesome, and has most of the features accessible there for you to toggle between them: turning off most of the gestures, connections and screen lock options by just swiping down the drawer and tapping the toggles.

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In Short

I love this device, and think the video will demonstrate a lot of the features you are thinking about. Battery life is impressive and it’ll easily last you a full day with 3G/WiFi on. It also is sturdier than previous devices, I have dropped it 3 times, and all that happened is a chip on the side guard, screen stayed intact and in perfect condition. It’s light, feels good in your hand and never crashes or hiccups (apart from the fixed watchdog glitch). I loved the S4, and I think you’ll love it too and would be happy to let you test out my personal device anytime. I’m also making the shift from mainly written reviews, to mainly video ones. So, lemme know what you thing!

The Fully Electric Nissan Leaf Now Available in Lebanon

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I was the RYMCO Chiyah showroom yesterday with a bunch of other cool people for a few special announcements for Nissan in Lebanon. Before getting to it though, I need to mention that I loved the event set-up and catering, and trust me, I’ve seen a lot to know this one was especially nice.

IMG_20130523_203046The Buddha statues and different tables dedicated to meat lovers, veggie lovers and sushi and everything else lovers, looked brilliant. Honestly though, they had me at the soy sauce droppers planted into the maki pieces, which I found very geek-chic and made me miss my Genetics lab days at AUB!

Anyway, apart from unveiling the new Pathfinder and Sentra, Nissan finally brought the Leaf to Beirut. I saw that car a lot in the US, especially in San Francisco, where places like the Googleplex have dozens of them spread out all over the campus for anyone to use, for much cheaper and a lot more environmentally friendly (since it’s fully electric, not a hybrid).

Now, I’ll beat you to it and crack the jokes we’re all thinking about: how will we charge them when we never have electricity in Lebanon? And, if we do, will it be cheaper than plain old gas given that our electricity bill is astronomical too?

I have some faith though, I hope big malls and venues will have a charging station or two, maybe even gas stations will start incorporating that as well. I’m not sure what the price is yet, but will definitely share when I find out.

LBC’s Kif El Seir Traffic App

unnamedSo, LBC has taken its traffic watch to the next level and released an app called “Kif El Seir” back in March. When I revisited to see how it was going, I was pleased to see hundreds of folks using it and updating it.

Basically, it is a crowd-sourced platform where drivers can post status updates on major routes in Lebanon, especially those going in and out of Beirut and other major cities. This makes it somewhat prone to misinterpretation, after all what is “khabsa” to you, might not be for someone else.

On that note, I like that they’ve used Lebanese lingo to describe it, such as “wsolet” “aw” “khabsa” “fi amal” “meche” and “msakar”.

I would have loved to see the routes highlighted on a map, with colors like green, yellow and red indicating the traffic status. It’d make it easier, especially if you’re not particularly familiar with all the names of the areas you might be passing through. (EDIT: silly me, there is that functionality! I love it, that plus the live feed from the webcams)

I like it though, will definitely use it when I’m in Beirut before getting into my car! What’s sad though, is that the only colors we see are red and orange!

All in all, this truly raises the bar when it comes to app development in Lebanon. Usually, it’s poorly design and practically useless. This one is beautiful, hip and most importantly, extremely useful with multiple channels to deliver information you need on your daily commutes!

Download: Google Play Store and the Apple App Store

Silicon Valley Trip Round-Up

As many of you may already know if you follow me on Twitter and Instagram, I toured several major tech and web companies with Lebanese telecom minister Nicolas Sehanoui and two of his advisors, Karim Kobeissy and Ralph Aoun. The reason I went there was because I won a competition after writing a blog post about “reinventing the world” from Lebanon which was selected by a panel of 4 judges of Lebanese origin in top exec positions at silicon valley.

Here’s what happened at each stop

Cisco and the Internet of Everything

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Cisco is the biggest company the average consumer has never heard about (myself included). However, they’re behind a lot if not most of the networks that connect the world. From VoIP solutions, to integrated systems between usually incompatible components, Cisco wants everything to be connected.

Several Cisco execs including George Akiki, who’s originally Lebanese and very involved in Cisco’s 15-million dollar investments in Beirut gave us a run-down of what they’re up to and where they’re headed. It would take a lot of words and sentences to try and explain what connecting every single device and appliance to the internet would be like. From cars to fridges and even lightbulbs, imagine if everything is connected and smartly coordinates to make life easier. Like red lights turning green if there’s no cross-traffic, or them changing to let an ambulance of fire truck through faster, and while en-route, patient files and history would be pulled up by the paramedics, who in turn update the doctor waiting for them at the ER. Pure heaven, yet unbelievably complex.

Here’s a cool video that illustrates how that would work.

The guys at Cisco also showcased their disaster-response vehicle, which in 15 minutes, can have a disconnected region connected to the world via satellite, 3G, and radio. Doctor trips will also become more and more connected, since most visits to the doctor do not necessitate the patient’s presence, but can happen remotely, with connected devices to measure biometric data like blood pressure and heart rate. This would be awesome for remote areas without access to enough healthcare professionals for example. It would also save you the trips to the waiting room for a 15-minute check-up.

Cisco also explained how since 2006, it planned to invest 15 million dollars in Lebanon, and has already trained and sent back over 100 interns from Lebanon. Oh, and by the way, 2 million dollars of those 15 are still uncommitted, so, if you have the brilliant ideas, especially something within the Beirut Digital District, Cisco might be the investor you’re looking for.

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The Googleplex

This was a dream come true for me. Visiting the legendary Google Campus was surreal, to say the least. Najeeb and Eessam, Googlers of Arab origin, took us on a tour of many of the fabled buildings and then we sat down for a meeting with 3 other originally Lebanese Googlers.

The topics discussed were across-the-board, but the main focus and something I think we can innovate in (and Google agrees) is content on YouTube. With better Internet connection, streaming on YouTube has been steadily growing in Lebanon. The problem though, is intellectual property and rights respect, which is still lax in Lebanon. One really interesting project suggested by the guys at Google was digitizing and uploading Tele Liban’s vast archives of copyrighted material.

I loved this idea because, let’s face it, TL is struggling today. It wasn’t always that bad though, and in its golden days, animated and drama series aired on it were the hottest thing out there. Converting them to a digital format and immortalizing them online would be an amazing project that would help preserve Lebanon’s cultural and artistic heritage, but also give an example of how to successfully shift to YouTube and make shows like Mamnoo3 (which the Googlers are big fans of btw!) hits that’ll captivate the entire nation, Arab World and maybe even the rest of the world.

We also urged Google to come set up shop in Beirut and discussed how we could make the Google News Lebanon edition even more comprehensive and relevant.

LebNet Dinner At the French Club

At the end of a long and fruitful first day, we headed to The French Club in San Francisco. There, some 45 successful Lebanese businessmen and women held a dinner for the occasion of the delegation’s visit and attendees which included success stories such George Harik, one of the founders of Gmail and Elie Khoury, founder and CEO of Woopra, got to ask the minister questions and give their feedback on what they think should happen in Lebanon and how they would like to be part of its future.

This dinner was a fantastic experience to network with everyone there. You’d be surprised how well-connected and extremely successful so many originally Lebanese folks are, and how they appear at times more concerned about Lebanon than us locals! It was a pleasure meeting so many amazing people, and I am especially grateful to have met and become friends with folks like Jessica Semaan, Elie Khoury, Nathalie Issa, George Harik, George Akiki and many, many more folks I hope to stay in touch with and keep you up to date with what they’re up to.

Facebook is just starting

The next morning, we made our way to 1-Hacker Way in Menlo Park to visit Facebook’s campus. I was honestly blown away by how awesome a work space it was. Everything felt real and authentic, as if designed, named and created by the employees themselves, with names of Star Wars-alcohol-inspired areas like “Brewbacca” and “Vader Bombs” and conference rooms named after viral video clips like “Charlie bit me”.

The shared working spaces were nice and gives you the feel of a shared view on where the company is headed, instead of corporate-looking cubicles and offices that split instead of unite employees. One major thing I did notice in our trans-continental conference meeting though, is that Facebook thinks its just starting to do what it intends. You’d find that quite surprising from a social network that has changed the entire world and boasts over 1 billion active users around the globe.

They’re looking to expand slowly and surely, and the MENA region is one of their most exciting sites. They plan on opening up new field offices, and we made the case of why Lebanon could be a perfect spot for them to open in, to which they were really receptive and decided to follow-up on with whoever is in charge in Lebanon.

Another major impression I got from Facebook’s reps, is how important mobile is. A London-based public policy expert explained that in the past, Facebook was a website with a mobile app as an addition, but that today, the focus is on the mobile world and that he feels that shift is already happening, with mobile traffic skyrocketing while web traffic is staying steady. So, if you’re a developer, I’d definitely get into the mobile world and away from the desktop one.

Skype Lunch

After Facebook, we went further into Palo Alto for a business lunch with the President of Skype, Tony Bates, who gave us some very cool numbers and explained where he sees Skype going after its acquisition by Microsoft.

One interesting topic the Mr Bates and I engaged in was how social media was shifting how we interact in our societies, and the fact that Skype adds video and voice to our online interactions, adds the much-needed and craved for facial expressions and body language that we have evolved which are reduced to emoticons and 140 characters these days. He also explained how every day, one billion minutes are spent on Skype and how Skype is already the world’s largest telephony operator.

We also explained how important Skype was to so many Lebanese folks that have friends and family across the world and how we could optimize that by for example, giving free Skype credit to users of Lebanese operators, who in turn will generate revenue from the data being used. So, for example, you might get X amount of free minutes from Skype (to call a phone, not another Skype account that is) every month or with each refill.

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Airbnb

I adore Airbnb. I travel a lot and I do so on a tight budget. Hotels are usually out of the question for me and crashing at friend’s places isn’t always an option. Airbnb is arguably the largest player on the emerging “shared economy”, where folks rent out their personal property or belongings to others for much cheaper, while generating some revenue on the side for them. So, for example, I have an extra room in Beirut. I rent it out for 20$ a night, a far-cry from the 400-something-dollar rooms in some Beirut hotels. I make some money on the side, a tourist gets to stay for a bargain and most importantly for me, the tourist gets to befriend a local, which I have done in several cities across the world.

How awesome would it be to save so much money, stay with amazing hosts that can give you an experience of the area you’re visiting no guidebook or app ever could. In Lebanon, there are 109 properties listed, which I was thrilled about! The shared economy concept is fairly new, but already exponentially growing to a  multi-billion dollar industry. The awesome gals at Airbnb, Molly and Jessica (who’s Lebanese) walked us through the extremely elaborate process that has so many people around the world finding all sorts of accommodation in tens of thousands of cities with a few taps on an app or clicks on a website.

Ways of promoting more Lebanese folks to list their properties on Airbnb were discussed and the rest of the delegation who wasn’t as familiar as I was with the awesome platform, were quite intrigued. Airbnb was arguably the most enlightening visit since so much of its inner workings and models were obscure and new. I will be reviewing Airbnb in-depth soon after interviewing Jessica so that those of you who still haven’t, make sure you use it next time you’re abroad!

PayPal Finally in Egypt, Lebanon is Next

Screen shot 2013-04-22 at 1.36.10 PMSo, look what I found today. It looks like PayPal Egypt is now a reality, and much sooner than rumors we had heard (November 2013). We did hear that Lebanon will get PayPal right after Egypt, so, this means that, maybe, just maybe, we’ll have PayPal sooner than we were hoping. Maybe this summer instead of December?

There’s no “Lebanon” in the list yet, but I’ll keep checking in every few days and let you know as soon as PayPal Lebanon is activated!

Uber, Lyft and Zimride: Cheap and Fun Ways to Get Around in the US

We see a lot of promising startups springing up everywhere. It’s rare to see one actually take off and become a part of our daily days though. Speaking of successful startups, I love going to San Francisco because everything cool and techie gets tested out there first. It’s just a stone’s throw away from most of the big tech and internet companies’ headquarters and the perfect urban setting to test out new apps and services and further develop them before launching them on a wider scale.

Here are 3 apps/services I used in SF and LA over the weekend, maybe it’ll help you save time and money and make some friends if you ever visit, or, better yet, maybe you can develop something like that back home. Some are still new and limited, others are now all over the US and different parts of the world. I hope you find them as useful as I did!

Uber

So, Uber is everywhere now. It’s in dozens of US cities and even places outside the US like London, Paris, Lyon Rome, Milan, Munich, Melbourne, Sydney, Toronto and Amsterdam. The idea is you sign up on your iOS or Android device and keep your credit card on file. If you need a taxi, all you do is tset your location and choose what type of car you want sent: plain-old taxi, an UberX car (hybrid, small usually), a black car (classier, spacier) or an SUV (for luggage and big groups I guess).

I tried it in SF and here are the screenshots I took to sort of walk you through the super-simple process. All you do is hop on, sit, get off and once you’re off, it’ll be charged automatically on the app for you to verify and rate.

Lyft

Lyft is the really cool service I discovered thanks to Nick in San Francisco. One thing I hate in SF is how expensive getting around can be, with two separate metro systems and varying metro fares depending on how far you go (unlike the simple 2.5USD fixed rate in New York’s MTA to anywhere in the system, buses included). Also, the BART system closes at 2:00AM, cutting your night short. You can find Lyfts well past that, so even more reason to love it.

Lyft is basically a service that links people looking for a ride with folks that need one, but within a certain region (not cross-country trips). Drivers sign up and get a background check, and they get sent a huge pink, furry mustache they attach to the grills of their cars. Then, all you do is pinpoint your location and request a lyft. In minutes, the driver arrives and you hop in. Drivers are normal people and these are their private cars. Often, they’re young and hip and the conversations are very pleasant.

Once you complete the trip, since this is not technically a taxi and cannot charge fares, Lyft suggests a “donation” amount based on the distance and time. You can of course be an asshole and donate a dollar only, but then, you’ll get blacklisted and no one would wanna pick you up. You can also rate the driver so that you let others know if he or she was bad or unpleasant. Luckily, the 5 times we used Lyft, all our drivers were really sweet and accommodating.

This is epic and the fact it can function is a loophole I hope never gets closed. It’s also really good money on the side if you have a car and some free time. A perfect occasion to use Lyft would be on weekend nights, so you don’t drunk drive and get to go back and forth between the several happening parts of the city cheaply and in a fun way.

Zimride

This is like Lyft but for longer distances and roadtrips. I went down from SF to LA for just 35$ with two very fun people in a very comfortable and scenic ride. Faster and cheaper than a train, more comfortable and faster than a bus and definitely cheaper than a flight. You punch in your route, check who’s offering seats, get in contact and if the driver OKs you, you call up each other, set a meeting point and then it’s roadtrip time!

I loved this because it’s cheap, but more importantly, fun. You get to meet strangers and by the end of the trip become friends. Of course, I did have a wee bit hard time getting a driver which isn’t afraid of a fat, bearded Arab guy, but, after a few attempts, it did work out and I ended up with two new friends in LA.

Update on PayPal Lebanon

Proof: the PayPal guys gave me this, and look which flag was on there too =P

Proof: the PayPal guys gave me this, and look which flag was on there too =P

As Mustapha and Najib have already pointed out, PayPal is coming to Lebanon. I got the chance to hound the two PayPal reps at ArabNet and ask them the Whys and the Whens. Several readers have asked me about that, and I promised to try to find out cause I need and want PayPal as much as you!

The good news is, the reason there’s no PayPal is because of supply-demand and business models and priorities, NOT because Lebanon’s issues with “terrorism” and “money laundering” as sometimes suggested. Of course, the absence of a law that properly regulates and safeguards e-transactions is a hindrance, but the markets cannot wait for Lebanon’s defunct institutions to catch up. After all, if we waited for the government, we wouldn’t have credit cards right now…

So, let the folks at PayPal know that there are lotsa people in Lebanon that want their services. Having PayPal would make online shopping and transactions so much easier and more accessible, allowing the plethora of startups and budding businesses and websites to generate the revenue the deserve and consumers in Lebanon at least part of the luxuries many other nations enjoy when it comes to online shopping and services.

Let them know by commenting on their Facebook page as the rep suggested to me, maybe email them if you have the patience, or just answer “yes” on this poll so the folks working on the Lebanon case can have some numbers to showcase. They did promise that it will be “soon” I asked “months soon or years soon?” he just smiled and said soon. Apparently though, Alfa says that it’s gonna be this year!

IMPORTANT Post from JoeSolutions.net About What Devices to Buy to Use 4G/LTE in Lebanon

 

Joe is an extremely good friend from my AUB days who is a prodigy when it comes to all things techie (mainly Apple products). If you have any problem at all, need to jailbreak, update, unlock, etc. Joe’s your man. He posts very helpful posts all the time, but also is more than happy to answer your specific questions which he may not have tackled in the post. So, head on over to JoeSolutions.net and enjoy some freedom with your Apple products!
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Just a notice for anyone who is buying a 4G capable phone. If you phone is an iPhone 5 please make sure that its the European model (look on the back, the model should be A1429 NOT A1428, A1428 is the USA/Canada model and will not work on the 4G network that will be rolling out hopefully in April). If you are getting a phone other than the iPhone 5, make sure that the 4G/LTE band that the phone supports is Band 3 at frequency 1800 Mhz.

The reason for this is that Apple discovered that 4G networks are not created equally, in the sense that a 4G network must run on a reserved frequency (which costs money obviously to reserve it), so what Apple did is create 2 iPhone 5 models: A1428 and A1429. Model A1428 will work with 4G/LTE networks on band 4 and band 17 and model A1429 will work with 4G/LTE networks on bands 1,3,5,13, and 25. For anyone doubting my claim, please refer to this link from apple: http://www.apple.com/iphone/LTE/

Now that you know which model supports which bands, please direct your attention to this link which shows that Lebanon’s 4G/LTE network will use band 3:http://stateofmind13.com/2012/11/17/telecom-mobile-tv-and-lte-4g-in-lebanon/

Don’t believe retailers who tell you that this is just a ploy and that it is not true. I highly doubt that the minister would tweet what he tweeted (check picture) if it were not in fact true.

Moreover, iPhone 5 retailers have been claiming that the new iOS 6.0.2 firmware targeted especially for iPhone 5 fixes this 4G/LTE support issue. This is another hoax for two reasons. First reason is that this update is not just for iPhone 5, it is also for iPad mini, and not just for the 4G model, even the Wifi model, so one would ask why woul a 4G/LTE patch be released for a device that doesn’t even support cellular communication. Second reason is that if you would go to apple’s website and check the changelog for iOS 6.0.2 (a changelog is a file that tells users what is different in this new firmware), you would find that iOS 6.0.2 addresses a potential Wifi issue (a glitch actually that would cause iPhone 5 and iPad mini to disconnect from a Wifi network even when they are in range and already connected to that network).

Sorry for the long post, but I’ve had enough to retailers trying to cheat customers.

Finally, for all who already have an iPhone 5 with model number A1428, it is not the end of the world. The only implication is that you will not be able to connect to 4G networks except in USA and Canada, and that you will be restricted to the 3G networks (which should operate better and faster when 4G rolls out since some users who have a supported 4G/LTE capable phone will move over to 4G lessening the traffic on 3G networks :D )

Source: JoeSolutions.net